Thursday, December 20, 2012

Identifying Birds At The Bamboo Lagoon

I did a post similar to this when we had our house in NC and several bird feeders in the backyard. It is always interesting to me to identify them and hear their songs and realize how familiar their sounds are.

So here at The Bamboo Lagoon, the bird population has started to diversify and figured it was time to at least get a list started of the daily visitors. We are limited a bit by the fact that we only have the one feeder and it only has black sunflower seeds in it. This list includes those that aren't just at the bird feeder but have been seen in the yard in general.
White-crowned Sparrow
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Oregon Junco
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
American Robin
Black-capped Chickadee
American Crow
Western Scrubjay
Stellar's Jay
Cooper's Hawk
Red-winged Blackbird
Rufous Hummingbird

That is it for now...the short list. I hope to see more as spring comes and they get used to seeing the feeder here. If you have time, you should check out the Sound tab on the bird's pages linked above and hear what they all sound. It is pretty cool that they have these recordings.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Electric Continues At The Bamboo Lagoon

As I mentioned in a previous post, right before this winter storm was going to hit, I made a dash to the DIY to stock up on parts for several electrical projects. In staying with my "one thing" goal, I decided that even if I didn't get it all done in one day, I was going to knock out a portion of it today for sure.

Easiest starting place was the masterbath and bedroom since turning off a breaker there doesn't affect any other part of the house. So I got all my parts and tools ready and set to work. If you remember, this is the end result of my brass removal project on the switch plates in the bathroom. Looked okay, but not great since the switches were still old and tan, and the plate wasn't very big (it was one I took from the downstairs bath).

So I removed the plate, turned off the power to the masterbath and bedroom, and pulled out the switches.

I removed both switches (which I have gotten really good at doing), and put in the new ones.

Then I put on a better white plate (so I could use the other one back downstairs when it comes time to fix that bathroom). Turns out the new cover is almost the same size as the brass one I removed so the line in the paint no longer shows.

This is the finished product. I hope to change the exhaust fan that one of these is connected to, at a later time. These were just two of the 5 single pole switches I did today. I also did 6 15A outlets, and their covers, plus removed a poorly set up workaround for cable that I am sure one of our shitty renters put in.

On top of the electrical, I also added insulation behind any outlets that were on outside walls. With the wind we have today, I could totally feel a breeze coming in through the electric boxes so hopefully the insulation will make things more efficient.

Next step is to replace outlets and switches in the laundry room and livingroom, along with insulating any switches or plugs on outside walls throughout the house.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just The Beginning

The snow at the Bamboo Lagoon finally hit and it is only the beginning of what we are forecasted to get this week. It was really only about 1 1/2 inches but it was still lovely to see. It will be nice to see more later this week.

Above you can see how pretty the pool looked with all the snow around, however, I would not want to take a dip in it.

I thought the snow on the garland for Christmas was just too pretty to pass up. It was below freezing and I am sure with the little bit of snow and the below freezing temps, the roads were icy. I did all my running around yesterday so I was free to hunker down and just enjoy the snow.

This is a beautiful look down the street during a moment of freezing fog we experienced. You can't even see the inkling of the mountains that normally would be within this view. By the afternoon, most of it had melted off but we supposed to get even more later in the week so I am sure there are more pictures to come.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sprinkling Instead

Well, we didn't get the full snow this week that we thought we might get but we still got a sprinkling for two mornings at the Bamboo Lagoon.

Looking out the front balcony across the street

Looking down the street

Looking up the street

Up on the pool deck
As you can see, it was just a powered sugar sprinkling that melted off quite fast, was the same way yesterday morning, but it was still pretty to see. Definitely looking forward to more snow later this season if it is in the cards.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Electric And More Electric

So it started off as a somewhat small project...just changing a set of switches out because one was a dimmer we didn't want and one was making noise that we didn't want, and lastly because the circuit didn't seem to be working right. All of this was in the circuit that runs the entryway light.

GFCI and 4-way switch

So opened up the offending switches, took pictures and headed off to the hardware store. Got what was needed, came home, and got to work. Turns out that the breaker box once again does not give us all the info that we need to avoid electrocution so after a lot of flipping of breakers and testing of wires, all hot switches were cold.

Since replacement of the switch was going to coincide colorwise with the cover plate, extra switches were purchased at the same time so all switches inside one plate would match.

One of the old outlets with 12 gauge wires

Started work on the 4-way circuit for the entryway light first. Turned out the dimmer was failing and the wires to the 4-way switch had been installed backwards originally so it took several hours to get it all figured out and working correctly. With the extra trips to the hardware store for advice and extra supplies, all in all, I ended up replacing:

1 4-way switch
6 3-way switches (one of those formerly had been a dimmer)
1 single pole switch
3 15A duplex outlets

all during this one project.

Installed 4-way and 3-way switches for entry light and hallway light

New switch plates were put in where needed and I am now a pro at switch and outlet replacement. Actually went to the DIY to get all the outlets, switches and plates to replace 3 more rooms worth in case snow keeps me inside next week. It is so nice to have safe switches and outlets in this place.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More Christmas At The Bamboo Lagoon

Finally got a tree from a local nursery and got it set up and decorated. Seem to have a bit of a penquin theme going on...purely by accident. No lights on the little tree, didn't want to damage it too much or dry it out.

Dwarf alpine spruce

Little penquin with ribbon that needed a home
Handcut snowflakes
Xmas lights from front
The tree has little penquin ornaments on it and there is a bigger penquin ornament that can't go on it because it is too heavy, sitting below. You can't see it in any of the pictures but he is silver with black markings and super cute.

I have been putting Christmas cards as they come in along the edge of the TV stand since there really isn't a mantle on the fireplace. Cut up two sheets of computer paper into snowflakes for one of the sliding glass doors. They are always so much fun to do.

I still have a couple more things I would like to add to the Christmas decor but I am not sure if I will get to it or not...we'll see.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snow At The Bamboo Lagoon

From a few years ago
It is forecasted to maybe happen. I don't have my fingers crossed but it would be a nice change if it did happen.

I managed to knock out some tasks over the last few days, in the errand running department, the Christmas department, the yard department, the garage department, the decor department and the writing department.

I found a small potted tree and am in the process of decorating it so I am thinking I will be done decorating for Christmas in the next day or so.

I cleaned up some serious leave debris in the backyard, and started on the daunting garage organization. Managed to get some blog posts done and birthday cards for December sent out. On top of it all, started two new books that I hope to have done in the next few days...have actually almost reached my reading goal for the year.

Still need to work on the electrical projects that I have all the stuff for and have just been putting off, and need to get up and check on the pool. We are mostly out of leaves at this point (they are all on the ground or have been composted) but there are some at the bottom of the pool that need to be cleaned up and I am sure both skimmers are ready to be emptied. I guess if we have snow tomorrow, that will help decide how much if anything gets done outside or in the garage.

I have a race coming up this week that I have not prepared for (it was supposed to be motivational to schedule it) but I am determined to do it anyhow. Will try to walk it in the next day or so and then run it before or during the weekend.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

One Thing

Recently I was on the phone with my dad and I was telling him about how I wasn't making headway on some projects because the mixture of my perfectionist and procrastinist personality was keeping me from starting anything that I couldn't complete in one attempt.

He said, "you need to just do one thing a day"...if you get more done, great but as long as you do one thing, you are doing okay. So today, I really wanted to settle in for a couple of movies but I told myself that I couldn't until I did my one thing.

My one thing today was to replace this outlet with a GFCI outlet since it is located right next to the sink in the masterbath. The key was that it has to be done during the day since I figured that turning off the circuit breaker for the bathroom would take out the lights.

One thing I have found in the process of projects at the Bamboo Lagoon, is that nothing is easy. And as simple as this seemed, it wasn't as easy as it looked.

1. Found all tools needed including headlamp.
2. Flipped breaker marked Masterbedroom and bath.
3. Checked lights, all were out, but thankfully, I also tested the outlet just to be safe and I found that it was still hot.
4. Spent twenty minutes flipping other breakers and testing outlet trying to figure out which circuit it was on without having to flip a main.
5. Found it was the circuit marked Bath and Garage, and when I hit it, it killed the power in the upstairs office (which used to be a 1/2 guest bath) which meant no Internet.
6. Removed the screws to pull the socket out of the wall. It was an older socket so removing the wires was different than what I was used to.
7. Turned on circuit breaker so Internet would come back up.
8. Watched tutorial and figured it out.
9. Flipped circuit breaker again. Removed wires from back.
10. Connected GFCI outlet. Pushed outlet back into electrical box, and attached with the two screws.
11. Turned on the breaker and tested the outlet, tester said it was set up right.
12. Screwed on new faceplate, noticed that outlet was crooked.
13. Removed the faceplate and unscrewed the outlet to see if something was blocking it in the back.
14. Cleaned up back of electrical box.
15. Rescrewed in the outlet and put faceplate back on.

Looks a lot better don't you think? This room is going to get patched and repainted as soon as some other little projects get done so the wall will eventually look better.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Xmas Decor

It is that time of year. While we still have pumpkins that are in terrific shape (and I plan to carve Christmas themes into them and put them back out), it is time to change over to the Christmas decor for the house.

Don't have a tree yet (want to get a little potted tree) so that part isn't done yet but the outside stuff is done as of last night. We have lights in three of the front windows, and around the garage door. I don't know if I can get a good shot of the lights (since night shots are difficult to get), but I did take a few pics of the other decor.

Front door swag, bow and bells

Balcony garland with red ornaments
Side view of the garland

Gel shapes for the sliding glass door
Since putting lights on the inside of the sliding glass door means not using that door for a month, it seemed easier to just put up some faux lights in the form of these cool gel shape lights. Once we get the indoor stuff knocked out, I'll do another post with more pics!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Siphoning The Bamboo Lagoon

Almost touching the wood
We have had some serious rain in the last few weeks. Even though the weather is colder, the pool still has a certain amount of evaporation each week so I haven't been too worried about the rain...figured it was just a cheaper way of filling the pool...haha. Anyhow, the other day, it was about 7 inches of rain and it raised the pool level to within a couple of inches of the deck, and definitely over the height of the skimmer basket. I still wasn't too worried until we found out we were getting another two inches of rain over the next few days.

Supposed to be middle of skimmer
This summer, the multivalve on the pool started acting up and each time I did a rinse or backwash, it would take several tries before I could get the valve completely closed so it wasn't dumping water from the pool. I didn't feel like dealing with the valve, so I decided to just siphon off some of the water using one of our garden hoses. Since the pool is on the hill above our house, gravity was in my favor. We have a trenching system that runs along our back deck to keep water from the hill running towards the house and I decided to use that trenching system to get rid of the water from the hose.
Running down the trench

I didn't even have to suck on the hose to get it started...the physics of putting it in the pool and then dragging the other end downhill was enough to get it started. I had to let it run for a few hours (it would have been faster to use the pump but then much more hassle) but mission accomplished and now there is some wiggle room for the rain coming this week.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Six Hours At The Bamboo Lagoon

Storm warnings on the horizon and only a few hours in between waves of rain and wind....what to do? Well, get dressed up in "yard" clothes and battle out the piles of leaves, full gutters, and clutter trenches...what else?

This was only one of three piles of leaves I raked up on these stairs today. I would get them to the bottom and then go up into the ground cover and find even more. I also cleaned out the trench that runs down the side of these stairs for drainage from the backyard and the neighbor's house. Fortunately other than evergreens, all trees in the yard and in the neighbor's yards seem to be naked now...whew!

 Nicely cleaned up if I don't say so myself.

We have two pines in the backyard that drop needles year around. Mix that in with a ton of oak leaves and you have yourself a little bit of work. Between the rock wall and the slab, is the beginning of the trench that runs down that side of the house to keep water away from the house. It was completely filled with leaves and needles as well.

After raking leaves off the rock wall and out of the trench all along the back deck and along this slab.

Second bin made and in use now. Amazingly enough, these two bins probably contain about ten 32 gallon trashcans of leaves. I just keep pushing them down. This saves me having to put them in the yardwaste bins and I will be able to use them as mulch in the spring.

The trench that leads down the other side of the house, and I found that it has a drain in it that was blocked up and wasn't draining properly. The leaves from this trench were soaked and made for much heavier loads to the yardwaste container.

After cleaning up this trench. Looks nice doesn't it? Won't last though, since there are still lots of leaves on the ground on this side of the house that I haven't gotten to yet, I am sure it will fill back up shortly.

On top of this, I also cleaned the front and back gutters (the front ones requiring me to get on the roof), and cleaned up some leaves that had gotten wedged in the space between the roof and our back deck covering. Then I skimmed the pool, removed a shelf from the pumphouse that some nasty animal seems to think is a litter box, and dumped out both pool skimmer baskets before calling it a day.

Overall, it was a fantastic workout and feeling of accomplishment.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brass Removal At The Bamboo Lagoon

We are making headway in getting rid of the brass in the master bedroom/bath at the Bamboo Lagoon.

Nothing major just yet since getting rid of the plumbing and the shower stall door are down the road, but for now, all lightswitch and socket covers have been replaced as well as the toilet paper dispenser, hardware on the cabinets (even though the cabinets themselves will at least be refaced at some point in the future), and the towel racks....and it looks so much better, even without floors.

The towel rack took more work than anything but that is how things go. The sheetrock anchors that were used previously were not only the strongest I have ever seen, they were stripped and of course the new rack needed a different bracket than the one there so the brackets had to be removed. There was no way to get them out without just grabbing them with pliers and pulling them out, which means another sheetrock patch to be done and the rack had to be moved just a couple inches higher than it was. I'll post a pic when the patch is done since it looks pretty crappy right now.

It is coming together. Yeah!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Beginning Of The End

Gotcha...I am referring to the eventual end of brass in this house. It will take some time, and money we don't have handy right now but since I had a lightswitch plate to change out, I thought I would at least get rid of one thing. In the masterbath, everything, I mean EVERYTHING is brass and it is all going...but not yet.

Against my nature, I am having to just take my time and not try to do everything all at once. So changing this one thing was a step in the right direction for me. I have taken down some things that we can either live without or that we have replacements for from the other bathroom (since it is still in disrepair). I removed the toilet paper dispenser and a couple of towel racks...all three of these, I have extras from the other bathroom.

So this one, obviously is smaller than the one I took down, but the bathrooms are eventually going to get painted so it will get fixed eventually. And I would like at some point to change out some of the outlets themselves (those that need it, and if we do, we'll do white ones to match). That is the word of the day it seems...eventually.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leaf Bins At The Bamboo Lagoon

I saw this idea on a snippet during the news a few months ago and thought I would give it a whirl. It involved making a cylinder shape out of some fencing and putting leaves in it and kind of composing/mulching them. I knew we were going to get a lot of leaves (we are not done yet), and we have some areas in the back yard that really need something added to the soil to make it better, so I thought this might be a good way to recycle the leaves.

I ended up using hardware wire instead of fencing because I couldn't get the fencing in a 10 foot piece and I really didn't need 50 ft of it. I actually bought a 10 foot piece and cut into two pieces and made two cylinders from it. I use tinsnips and pliers to cut pieces of wire to fasten the ends of the roll together.

I stood them up on one end in our driveway (which I thought would be a good place to have it so I could turn them easily when I need to later on), and started filling them with the leaves I raked up. This one is almost full and the second one is sitting in the garage for the next raking. This one is only about 2 feet across and it is holding almost three trashcans of leaves in it after compression. I put a piece of cardboard on top with a rock just to keep the leaves from blowing out.

Now we get to just see how it works!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Decor

Before taking off on this family trip, I wanted to get some of our fall decorating done. I planned to get all the Halloween stuff out too but that isn't going to happen...the lonely ghost and the glow in the dark skeleton will be the extent of it for this year (will post a pic of the ghost later).

The front porch has two pumpkins on it and some stalks tucked in behind the bamboo plant. The front balcony has two pumpkins on it (and now several different squash purchased for eating).

Anyhow, with the additions of a few pumpkins and some corn stalks along with the pots of mums, we have a fall feel going. As soon as all the trees in the yards really start to change over and drop, it will feel even more like fall here at the Bamboo Lagoon.