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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/9/2020

WELL NOW...that was "fun".


Shoveling two tons of gravel in the August heat is a great way to burn off some weight.  I suspect about half of it is water of course, but still...

All of the various that needed patching have been attended to.  The section I think I'm happiest with is along the driveway where there were some minor ruts from drainage over the years.  There's a section below the driveway that has always been problematic as water coming down the hill moves a lot of it, and there are a couple of sections above the house towards the solar shed that also needed some top cover bolstering.  While I was up there I took the chance to clean up a lot of the larger rock that was clearly not part of the road and tossed them down into the culvert to amend that whole drainage concern another notch.

I think things went well enough.  Of course I won't really know until it rains.  If it's a nice and gentle rain a lot of the gravel will get set into the road.  On the other hand if it's a gully washer a lot of the gravel will get washed downhill towards the culvert I'm tossing the larger rock into.  I reckon we'll see of course....that's life in Colorado!


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/8/2020

So I'd been looking at the condition of the road thru Tanglewood for a bit and noticing some areas that needed some attention.  The culvert below the driveway is getting nicely filled up with the miscellaneous rock I pick up from along the canyon road, with about a half dozen or so every week (some more, some less).  But the normal rock of the road is what needed some beefing up, so I decided to move some rock.


I don't have the late lamented Blackie any more (he was a good truck), so I borrowed one for a day.  It took some time to get it up and operational (it was of course nearly out of gas, and the battery was virtually dead) but eventually I got one load brought up.  After a quick lunch I ran down for a second load, and now it's all sitting out in two pile on a tarp outside the garage apron.  Tomorrow I'll be spending some quality time shoveling two tons of gravel into various places--the Gator will come in quite handy here!

In somewhat related news, I decided to hold on the main driveway retaining wall for a bit until the various flowers that are in that section (mostly just thistles and wild raspberries, but they do still make flowers) have done their thing for the season.  The primary reason for this is because of the bees (I'm such a softie).  While the bees don't find much nectar in the flowers from either of those two plants they do provide a whole lot of pollen.  I just rip up those plants that they're getting food from--that would just be rude.....

So I'll hold on the retaining wall for now.  Certainly I have other stuff to do anyway (like that huge pile of gravel).....

Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/25/2020

When I went up to check on the girls this afternoon I found something a tad unusual.  When it gets hot enough outside many of the bees will often just hang around outside the hive to cool off, and that's exactly what was going on when I checked on them.  There's no problem, it's a totally natural thing and after all, they've been doing this for millions of years.


Anyway, I thought it was worth a quick pic!


Steven in Colorado

Photos

A few hundred of the girls just cooling off.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/24/2020

Thought I'd update folks about the bees!


They're doing fantastically.  Colleen and I opened the upper super (the one we just added a couple of weeks ago) to assess their status and they seem to be doing quite well.  Several of the frames have good comb and brood (the eggs) throughout and the overall patterning is good.  Colleen felt there maybe should have been a bit more capped comb but I thought it was good so we had a small disagreement there, but we both agreed we should be looking forward to possibly adding another super in a month or so.

If we do decide to add a third super, we'll insert what's called a Queen Excluder between the two existing supers and anything above that.  A Queen Excluder simply prevents the queen from laying any eggs into the comb "above" the Excluder, so the bees will only fill any comb they make with pure honey.  The plan for this year is purely to let the bees make as much honey as they possibly can--their one and only job is (basically) to live thru the winter this time around.  So even if we add a third super we don't plan to tap any of it....we're giving them room to make as much honey as they can.  On the off chance that we have a surplus next year, then we'll think about harvesting some.

But that's down the road.  For now they're doing extremely well, busily building out comb and making honey and doing what bees do best.  We're happy.


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/5/2020

So I drove my mother down to a plant buying frenzy down at Lowes yesterday (we couldn't do fireworks, so we could at least buy plants).  Today we got everything all planted.


It took a bit of time but we got it done, at least the first round of the planting.  I think there need to be a bit more but my mother wants to wait for a bit to see what takes and what doesn't, which makes sense.  In the pictures below you can see the iris I mentioned before at the far/shallow end (towards the woods) and everything else towards the patio door end (the deeper end).  There's a bit of an open space there in the bed that my mother is reserving for future expansion; after she's happy with what's there she might decide on some more.  We'll see.

I've noted to her that we probably should be putting some kind of mulch into the bed to help with water retention and such, and she's mulling over.  There are several kinds of mulch....various colored rubber bits, natural or dyed bark, etc.  We'll see.

Steven in Colorado

Photos

A shot from the "upper end". From this view the flower bed looks rather rounder than it is.
A better shot that shows the flower bed a bit better.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/21/2020

Now that we've got the bed all built as of yesterday morning, I spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening doing some quality dirt shoveling!  


I had had two tons of dirt brought up with the use of a handy pickup truck, and I had it all dumped onto a big tarp I had laid out.  Dirt was moved a couple of five gallon buckets at a time; I found that if I filled two of them at a time it went relatively quickly.  Using the buckets also allowed me a chance to more carefully lay the dirt in rather than dumping it all out of a truck which probably would have spilled all over the place.  It was dirty and sweaty work, but after about mid afternoon all the dirt had found its new home into the flower bed.

So after a well deserved lunch break (pizza!) it was time to get to planting.  While my mother hasn't yet made the trip into town to select the plants she wants (that's planned for next weekend), we did have a whole bunch of iris that Colleen had given us years ago from her grandmother.  Iris do amazingly well and are extremely hardy, and over the years they had spread around slowly around the "upper" area where the flower bed is now (see picture).  I had carefully dug up all of the iris that were in that area and temporarily transplanted them into several flat containers (used to be ferret litter boxes, actually).  

(Iris are pretty neat plants, as it happens.  They actually root very shallowly compared to most plants, maybe an inch below the surface.  The roots are large masses rather like a carrot but heavier; several individual iris can be trace back to a single large root clump.  By breaking the clumps up judiciously you not only can space them out better but the action of the "breaking" seems to stimulate the iris into making more flowers...a nice plus.)

So it took a bit of time this afternoon and it was amazing how many iris we ended up transplanting (there was a lot more than we thought there were!) but we've got the first set of plantings done.  Since iris like the shallower soil we put them more or less where they had been before, in the upper section of the flower bed where the soil isn't as deep.  There's a small minus that we'll probably have more grass trying to come up thru there for a while but we can deal with that.

Kinda like it myself....this thing worked out better than I'd expected!


Steven in Colorado

Photos

Long shot of the flower bed with all the iris at the shallow end.
Closer shot of all the iris. Eventually of course we'll be putting other plants in there, and one presumes the iris will start spreading as well.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/20/2020

Well it took some doing and more loads of retaining wall than I'd have thought, but the block is finally all stacked and whatnot.  I've got a couple of tons of dirt dumped on a tarp outside the garage that will need some moving into the flower bed yet but that's basically just quality time with a shovel and a couple of buckets.


Now it's time to take my mother into town to pick out plants!  (She loves this bit.)  Of course I'll get to plant the things but that's okay....it's still part of her birthday present after all.

I like it.....this flower bed was a good addition.  I'm sorry I didn't get to it sooner!  ;)


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/20/2020

The  high summer solstice has come and gone earlier this afternoon, so now we're at the height of summer.  And sadly this means it begins to get darker from this point forward...


WHOOP!


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/13/2020

I finally got a bit of time with the new weekend and so made some more progress with the flower bed project for my mother.  


I did about as well as expected.  I moved the retaining wall around a bit, lowering one side and raising up another, as I worked on getting the balance right on the stones.  What's in the picture is really close to what we're going to go with in the final product; I just need to snag about a half dozen more stones for the lower (patio) side to finish it off.  The stones under the window in the picture really ought to be a bit higher, but then they would block the window.  There's also an electrical outlet just to the left of that window (towards the patio door) that would either have to be blocked out or something, but my mother is pretty happy with it now.

I ran out of the weed block sheeting, what's there is all I had.  My next trip down to the Lowe's I'll be getting one more roll together with those couple of bricks I still need.

After this is done (probably by next weekend) it'll be time to bring up some nice soil for the flower bed.

Progress!

Steven in Colorado

Photos

Definitely taking shape now.....the bed will be very deep towards the patio end and shallower at the upper end.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/13/2020

Well this was a fun afternoon....I got stung!  To be fair I totally deserved it though.


The bees are doing well enough now that we decided it was time to add a second super (box) to the hive.  The original installation we only put them into a single super so as to force them to focus on that box, and they did quite well in cleaning out the dead bees and making it their home.   We wanted to make sure they had plenty of room for growth, and so Colleen and I decided it was time to get that second bigger (deep) super installed.

The overall idea going forward is that it would be awesome if we can actually harvest some Tanglewood honey, but it's not necessary.  Having bees around and doing their bee thing is more than enough as far as we're concerned...but it would of course nice to harvest some honey eventually.

However we want to make sure the bees will have plenty of room dedicated to them.  So the idea is to install this second super and, if all goes well, eventually we might consider adding a third super eventually.

SO....Colleen got all suited up to work with the bees and I figured that since they had been very kind to me that I didn't need to suit up.  THIS WAS A MISTAKE.

It was thoughtless of me really, and as I said before it was totally my fault.  We took off the top of the hive and removed the feeder, and of course the bees were kinda all over the place trying to figure out what happened to the roof of their house.  As Colleen got ready to put the new super on there were naturally a zillion bees in the way, and I (without thinking) snagged the brush and tried to scoot them out of the way.

Yeah..THAT pissed them off.  I had one sting me almost immediately as the nearest obvious threat, and as I started to head for the house they followed me closely.  After all, the roof of their house had vanished, I had rudely brushed a bunch of them out of the way, and so SOMEBODY had to pay for that travesty.....and that was me.  I got stung another time on my hand before I was able to escape into the house.

Again, this was totally my fault.  I should have known better, and was properly punished by them for the indignity.

At least we've got the other deep super installed and they're already busy tossing out the dead bees from the first hive and exploring their new expanded home.  I tried to make it up to them by filling their sugar water to the brim later in the evening, but I'm definitely going to have to wear the bee suit for a while....

Oww....


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/9/2020

So here I am here at Tanglewood, trying to make a goodly home for my second bee hive attempt barely a month ago.  Things are going very well, the bees are finding some flowers and we're keeping them well stocked with sugar water for when they can't find nectar (or it's night).  They seem quite happy and the summer looks like it will unfold nicely for them...


...so then why the smeg was it 38 degrees (F) this morning when I got up?!?!?!? 

My poor girls.  I feel like I need to apologize to them profusely for this afront to their dignity....

It's warming up nicely enough as I write this though, but good grief...thirty eight degrees in June?!?

Disgraceful, that's what it is.


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/7/2020

And now for something completely different....


Back in April I found myself on the horns of a dilemma....I had absolutely no idea what to get my mother for her birthday.  I mean absolutely none....I was completely stumped.  Then I remembered that my mother kinda had been asking for a big flower bed outside her apartment door and so on her birthday I told her that I would be giving her her long awaited flower bed.  I think she was a.) surprised and b.) thrilled......I'm sure she had more or less forgotten about it.

And therefore I resolved to in fact get this thing going!

I had to start collecting retaining wall brick, and discussions with my mother hammered out some of the particulars.  She wanted it up against the house basically from the edge of the patio door up towards the house corner.  There's a slope going uphill that direction and didn't want it to be "geometric"...she wanted it a bit "flowing".  We laid out some lines and talked about where she wanted the bed, how deep it would be, etc., and then I started getting brick.

I had discovered that I could get between 10 and 15 of the retaining wall bricks I had in mind (smaller ones than most retaining walls, well sized for something like this) on a single trip with the truck, and after some thought she decided she wanted the light gray stones rather than the tan or reddish ones.  I liked that myself because that closely matches Tanglewood's color itself which of course made ME happy too.  I quick zeroed in a particular style carried at Lowes, and checked several to make sure they all had that particular stone and that it wasn't just a single store's oddball special (because if it was there was zero doubt they would run out before I got enough).  

Estimating exactly how many I would need was a bit of a trick, since the bed would be somewhat irregular and I would no doubt discover various obstacles along the way.  After I had amassed a good 60, however, I figured that was enough to get started.  I knew I'd have to get more as the bed was getting closer to completion but 60 as enough to get a good feel, and so I got started this morning.

It was an amazing amount of work, no doubt about it.  It seemed the trench was always not quite level, and I took bucket after bucket of dirt out of the area (it was dispersed into some smaller areas nearby where it was badly needed).  The "deepest" part of the bed turned out to be the area right by the patio door, where the shallowest looked to be the section uphill towards the house corner.  In the end I used a half dozen of the buckets of gravel I'd obtained during May while I was collecting a critical mass of the retaining wall stone, and I had the rough outlines sketched in enough that I would start laying out brick.

What I have so far is below.  I can already tell I'll need more retaining wall brick so I'll bring up a couple more loads during the week in preparation for the weekend when I get work on everything again.  My mother seems quite happy so far and she generally likes the shape....she'll be walking around it getting a better feel during the course of the week, so I can make some adjustments if necessary of course.

Still, it's a first step!  


Steven in Colorado

Photos

A view from the "upper slop" of the hill near the house corner. You can see the large amount of gravel I needed to lay in there to build a proper base for the wall.
A shot from the "side", as it were. Note that she's still not sure she wants the entire wall to be one height or stepped.
And another shot, this time more or less from the patio looking uphill.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 5/2/2020

Today was a glorious day indeed--our new batch of bees arrived!


Folks might recall that it's been a bit since I posted about the sad loss of our bees in February, and that's because of a couple of things that basically started messing up Reality.  The emergence of COVID-19 messed up a heck of a lot of plans and all of my schedules got tossed to one side....my hours basically went almost to six days a week with longer hours for most of April, and the run on grocery stores made us skip a couple of weekends of shopping just to avoid the crazy a bit.  Then I had to arrange the refill of the propane, and then Colleen said that the bees were coming a week earlier than I'd planned...and here we are!


The bees this time came in what's called a "package", and it's basically a three pound box of bees with a big assed can of sugar water in it for them to feed on while traveling.  The queen is kept in a small cage that's hung inside the hive; the bees themselves (which are measured by weight; they definitely don't count them!) can be from several different hives.  They are all acclimated to the queen by her scent; she's been with them for a while before they are shipped.

So basically it's pretty easy to get the bees into the super (the hive box)....you "thump" the box a couple of times, which causes them to all fall down to the bottom of the box.  then you pull out the can of sugar water, upend the box, and basically "pour" the bees into the super!  It sounds more dramatic than it really is and I found it was remarkably easy to do (Colleen couldn't be there so it was all me). After "pouring" the bulk of the bees into the hive I carefully inserted the last few comb frames into the super....there were still some bees left in the box, of course, but I just set it near the hive where eventually they all climbed out and flew home to the hive (they can all smell the queen, so they knew she was in there).

Other than spilling a bunch of the sugar water from the can I really didn't have any problems, and by the evening they were all gone from the box and I removed it.

One of the mistakes we very probably made last year was not making sure the bees had enough food, so this year Colleen was ready with what's called a "top level" feeder (pic below) for the hive.  When I put things together I put that in as well, and filled them up with a couple of gallons of sugar water.  They took to it quite nicely (pics below); basically they climb up thru a hole on the top level of the  hive into a "half height" super into the bottom of the feeder.  There's a plastic cup molded into the body of the feeder which they climb up and then down to the sugar water; the plastic cup allows you to see what they're doing without them being able to get out (where they would promptly fall into the water and drown if they could).  It sounds more complicated than it is; take a look at the picture and it'll make sense.

Before we did any of the bee stuff I took the time to mount the hive on wheels so I could move it if necessary.  Of course I got wheels that I could "lock" so it wouldn't be moved around by the wind.  I had to search a bit to find wheel that would safely bear the weight, not so much with the hive as is but if we eventually have three or four supers that's going to be several hundred pounds of honey and whatnot.  Best to plan ahead here....at the very least I know that the time will come that I'll be working up there building a greenhouse, and I'll want to be able to move them then!

We're so glad we've got bees again, and we're going to go all out to make sure they don't run out of food this year, that's for sure!  Fingers and miscellaneous appendages...


Steven in Colorado

Photos

The bees in their bee box, ready to put into their new home. They're actually amazingly calm considering what they've been through.
Their future home! You can see the primary super (box) on the bottom, with the half-height one containing the feeder on the top.
The feeder with its lid on....
...and the feeder with the lid off. The bees will be inside the upside down cup (the clear part) when I put them in and fill it with the sugar water.
Another picture after I unboxed the bees. You can see the (mostly) empty box on the floor in front of the hive, along with the can (still dribbling sugar water).
About an hour after I'd unboxed the bees I opened up the top to see if the bees had found the sugar water....they HAD! :)



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 3/1/2020

Today was a sad day indeed.....we discovered that our bees were dead.


I'd suspected for a week or so that something was amiss, as I could hear no bees "doing their thing" inside the hive.  There weren't any bees flying around despite them seeming quite active a couple of weeks ago.  Today Colleen and I opened up the hive to see what was going on.

Quite simply, they didn't have enough honey to survive the winter and they starved.

We were somewhat afraid that would happen because they were started so late in summer last year.  There was an enormous number of flowers last year and I am sure the bees made all the use of it they could, but quite simply they couldn't make enough honey.  I had seen them flying around in late January/early February when the weather was good, but there wasn't anything out there for them to make honey out of.

Looking at the various bee-keeping magazines and such as it turns out this isn't at all unusual...a large number of bee-keepers lose their first hives.  

But we have learned from the experience and Colleen wants to try again, so she's already ordered another hive due in May.  Of course we can't say how the flower situation will work out this season, but we do know what we can do:

  • We'll get the bees a good month earlier than we got them last year, so they'll be able to get a start earlier on doing what they do best.

  • We're going to give the bees just the one super (basically that's the square box that has usually eight or ten honeycombs inside).  This will help force the bees to not do too much, focus on building comb and honey for this one, and gives them a specific area to work on.  If they are doing well we'll add another one later in the summer.

  • We'll be starting the sugar water feeder immediately when they are unboxed.  Last year there were so many flowers and consequently so much nectar out there than Colleen honestly didn't think a sugar water feeder would be needed, and so we probably missed when the nectar flows went down but the hive numbers had increased.  By providing them with sugar water from the very beginning and refilling it regularly they'll always have something to fall back on.
In the meantime while we're waiting for the bees to arrive I'll be doing some work to get their hive refurbished.  I'm adding wheels to the stand/hive so I can move it around if need be--I discovered several times during the summer last year when I wished I could move the hive to clean an area, position them better, etc.  We can leave all of the existing comb in the hive as new bees apparently find them as ready made apartment and hence it's less work for them to start using them, which is good.  And we're also of course laying in a good stock of sugar so we can steadily make sugar water as needed of course.  

The new hive arrives in mid- to late-May.  We'll be ready; we're going to work like the devil to not lose them again!


Steven in Coloardo


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 2/25/2020

Well it's all kinda "gelled" together but I do indeed believe I've got a solid plan for at least the first of the 2020 work here around Tanglewood.

There are two main goals to accomplish the first half of the year (I've learned the hard way that having six or seven balls in the air at once doesn't work well):

  •  I have been wanting to widen out the driveway a few feet, and to me I can "see" a double retaining wall with places to plant smaller/medium sized trees and lots of hardier flowers for the bees.  I've long wanted to get both sassafras and Meader persimmon trees up and going here in Colorado, so I've ordered a few that should arrive later this spring.  That means I have to get off my butt and get that retaining wall and planter stuff all built--so that's what I'm doing. 

    The trees have been ordered and so today I started picking out the retaining wall block.  By my estimate I'll need around six palettes, which coincidently is right at around six tons of block.  I can't possibly carry all of that up in one go, but I figure I can swing by Lowes every two or three days to load up about 20 blocks at a time (which is just under 1000 pounds).  That means a lot of hand loading and unloading but it's perfectly doable.  

  • Having worked with my new solar batteries for a couple of years now I can very much see that they don't perform nearly as well in cold weather.  That's why I built a whole new shed with ICFs (like Tanglewood itself is) to keep them as warm as possible.  My hope was that the heat from the equipment inside the shed would generate enough warmth that the batteries would stay warm--or at least cold.  That has not happened however, and as a result their overall system performance declines when it's cold.

    Here's where Solar LeRoy comes in.  As it happens Solar LeRoy had a bunch of old solar heating panels, and he happened to mention he was wanting to get some PEx for radiant heat for his new house.  I have leftover PEx from the build, and so a trade was arranged....I went down and got the panel over the weekend.  It's sitting in my garage right now; it'll need a bit of cleaning but it should work great.

    My loose plan at the moment (yet to be firmed up) is to install the panel on the sunny side of the shed I built, set up a pressure tank and some pumps/thermostats/etc, and fill it all up with glycol.  The system will hopefully keep things warm and toasty during our frosty-but-sunny winter days.  The tubing is already in place in the floor (I had planned for this when I built it) and there's a nice corner for the tank to occupy.  The heat from both the radiant heat in the floor and the big pressure tank full of hot fluid should (I hope) do the trick.  We'll see of course....
I've got a couple of pics of the solar panel resting in the garage where it'll stay for now.  I need to check a couple more stores yet to make the final selection of the block.

Still it's all progress!


Steven in Colorado

Photos

Here's a shot of the "front side" of the panel.....
.….and here's a shot of the back side (as much as can be easily seen anyway).



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 2/8/2020 9:00:34 PM

It occurred to me that I hadn't done a good job of keeping things updated here, though to be honest The Were Reasons since my last post at the Closing of the Year.

In contrast to the first half of the winter, which was mostly sunny days punctuated with brief snowstorms that actually cleared out so we had sunlight again, most of January and into February has been a lot of cloudy days.  As a result the overall batteries reserves are low, and I ended up having to fire up my back up generator a couple of times.  I dare say that worked out fairly well though and I now have good measurements on how long a "small" (standard BBQ grill sized tank) and a half-filled "large" (100 pound tank) lasts.  I'm pretty happy with its performance so far.  I need to make a note to check oil and such since it had a long run the other day and we have more clouds slated......

That's the single biggest minus to any off-grid solar system; it's all on you to provide power.  If the panels are covered with snow, or if there's three days of unending clouds, you're either out of luck or you  need to have some kind of backup....

On a somewhat related note, I had Solar LeRoy up at the beginning of the month we figured out why my generator was only providing one "leg" of power.  (A side note--if you're providing 240V of power it comes in on two connections of 120V and offset by phase.  The charging equipment is fine with that and turn it all into DC power for the batteries anyway for the most part, but I only had one connection/leg that was doing anything.)

We dug around and after about an hour found a remarkably simple explanation--one of the charging circuits had come completely disconnected!  We figure this probably happened when everything was moved into the new shed when it was dropped; not FAR, not HARD, but ENOUGH.  It wasn't at all obvious of course and I'm pretty sure Solar LeRoy was kicking himself.....

At least we have proper generator power now.  AND after a day or two I realized that this MIGHT have also fixed the Ecogen Generator issue...

See, WAY BACK when we got the new shed built and everything moved over to the shed, connected up and whatnot, the Ecogen suddenly stopped working.  This was the second Ecogen I had up there and it was surprising to me when it stopped working.  Winter was coming, I wanted something up there, so I purchased a simple "work generator" that honestly performed adequately for two years. 

Over the course of time that generator just plain wore out and so I purchased another one a few months ago.  Every so often I would turn on the big propane tank, stick a battery into the Ecogen, and fire it up for a few seconds.  Every time it would chug a moment or two and then display a weird error--VSCF FIELD LOSS.  There's remarkably little information on this kind of error, with most information just saying you to call Generac.  Which I had done originally, and they had completely replaced it, and it still didn't work, and they never called back and I had stuff to do and......time went on.

BUT....

I'm an engineer after all, and it occurs to me that the Ecogen might not be able to generate a proper internal electric field if the load wasn't properly connected.   And it would indeed have been improperly connected given the accidental disconnection of one leg of the field.....it would not have liked that at all.

SO....once I get a replacement battery procured and installed (it'll be a couple of weeks) and I have a fair enough weekend day, I'm going to have to test the Ecogen now that it's properly hooked up.  Mind you this might be danged short test--or I might just have gotten that puppy running again!

Time will tell, but it's on my To Do List for 2020 now.

In other news....

I spent much of January getting the last of the blackout curtains installed around the house at last.  I had thought I was all done on that last week of January when I put up my last curtain, sighed with satisfaction, and reveled in the Awesome---for about three minutes as I took some tools down to put them away and then came back up the steps for another load.  And then I realized I hadn't put a curtain on the upstairs patio door leading out to the deck....

DOH!

So that's all done now, at least.  NOW the quiet satisfaction is indulged...huzzah!

We also had a bobcat come traipsing down the canyon earlier in the week after we  had a fast snowstorm.  I snapped some excellent pictures of where he'd been.

So all in all it's been an interesting month.  I have hopes I might be able to properly check out the Ecogen before the end of February. I've ordered some sassafras trees for the upcoming spring and this will drive me to get some retaining wall work done.  Solar LeRoy has offered to swap me a couple of old solar hot water panels for my remaining PEx remainders from building the  house and I've gladly taken him up on it; I'll use them to finish up the heating of the Solar Shed so that come next winter it'll stay much more toasty than it is so far.  And of course I've got that ceiling work to do where The Leak was; so far this winter I seem to have finally stopped it.

Busy busy!


Steven in Colorado


Photos

Tracks from the mountain lion wandering down the road sometime during the night.
Same prints, slightly different angle.
The left curtain by the circular stair....
...and the right curtain by the circular stair.
The "weird" octangonal window I put in just because.
The nearly-missed patio door curtains open....
....and closed.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 12/31/2019 8:08:08 PM

Happy 2020 Everybody!


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 12/31/2019 8:06:10 PM

Well now, it's been a fascinating 2019.  Overall I think we made some good progress around Tanglewood together with a couple of setbacks, but progress none-the-less.

The year began with my calculating the weight of the chandelier and then finding enough "stuff" to hang from the mount to ensure it couldn't possibly fall.  My biggest concern (I found another a couple of months later) was that the old ceiling fan was lighter than the chandelier, and that the chandelier might be too heavy for the mount.  That turned out to not be the biggest problem...more on that later....but the good news was that the mount was very firmly anchored and never provided an issue.

In February I had a couple of things happen.  The worst was that one of my charge controllers apparently blew up; suddenly I had power from two of my charge controllers with a  corresponding decrease in overall power production.  Fortunately since I have three charge controllers that wasn't a huge hit, and I of course contacted Solar LeRoy who came up to replace the dead one.  Found some badly melted wiring in the lower box.....two feeds that were a bit too close together....but we got it all properly fixed up.  I also got a bunch of curtains properly installed and did some finishing work on some of the furniture I had inherited (but which I didn't actually want).  

March found me continuing to hang up some curtains and getting some of the old furniture stained and cleaned up.  I also got some parts ready to get the chandelier up; this required acquiring some bolts and hooks and such so it would hang properly.  A couple of weeks after that I managed to dodge a near disaster, when I found out that the "ceiling fan ball and socket" hanger had stretched and wouldn't support the weight of the chandelier.  Fortunately we found this it out while trying to winch the chandelier up--we put a winch on the line to haul it up and almost immediately the fitting was pulled right out of the socket.  IF we had actually gotten the chandelier up there it almost certainly have crashed down about five minutes after we got it up there, which would have been DISASTEROUS!  It took me a bit to figure out....

In April I spent most of the month doing exactly that, figuring how to properly and solidly hang the chandelier.  I decided that rather than mount it as it was meant to be done (deep wood screws into the rafters) I instead elected to drill holes all the way thru the rafter and use long lag bolts to anchor the whole thing from the top of the mount.  That way there was no possibility of the whole thing falling short of the rafter itself shattering.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the builders of Tanglewood went over and above, installing a 2x6" cross-beam that was a significant upgrade as the Arlington called for.  

May was something of a wash; I did a bunch of prep work for the chandelier, getting the parts and test fitting them.  A couple of pieces had to be spray painted, and I had to spent a good weekend cleaning out the old (bad idea) hay we put in to try to keep some flowers overwinter.  That generated some really weird mushrooms though....

Our big event in June was the arrival (very late in the season due to weather) of the honey bees!  We'd been wanting honey bees up here for years and even did a trial run a decade or so ago that didn't work out very well, but this month we got them up and running and sure seemed very happy.  There massive plethora of flowers up and down the canyon made them very  happy I'm sure.  Honestly the bees kept me pretty danged busy, but fortunately.

July kept me pretty danged busy with work and figuring out ways to keep the ants away from the bees, so that pretty much up all of my time.  I got a couple more curtains hung at least as well as a couple more pictures properly put up in various locations.

August was the most significant month IMO, as Tanglewood's Crown finally was installed!  Yes, the chandelier was properly put up securely and firmly......it was a triumph and the capstone of a long journey. I was happy, Colleen was happy, everybody was happy.  It looks absolutely gorgeous.  We also had more fun with bees, and some baby turkeys made an appearance several times, and generally we had a solid end of summer and move into fall.

September allowed me to get a lot of the smaller jobs done now that the chandelier was up.  I cleared up all of the old plywood left over from the old shed and hauled it up to the house to be chopped up and burned.  Solar LeRoy came up to tweak a couple of the parameters, and I installed some big bookcases that had been somewhat waiting in the wings until the chandelier got put up.

September thru October was starting work on laying out additional drainage around the house.  I knew I couldn't do the full up install I had talked a couple of years ago with just a couple of months of good weather left, but I could at least get some of it done.  That's exactly what I did, installing the drains immediately behind the house and filling up the trench I'd dig a couple of years back.  I ran the pipe back around the house and then down to an outlet to the creek.  I also walked around to mark where the drains will run when I pick this all back up again in the summer.  In between I got some more curtains up all around the house, moved a bit of furniture around, checked in on the bees, and finally figured out what was (probably; I wanted more testing yet) causing the leak that I'd talked about so long ago.  I'll have to be sure by letting the winter snows and melts perform a proper test for me, but if that all goes well I may be able to at last work of repairing the ceiling there on the second floor.

November saw a lot of work on the narrow windows once all of the curtains were done on the regular windows, and by the end of the month they were all properly installed and covered.  The remaining two windows, the big octagonal windows on the second floor and overlooking the Great Room, are the only two left.  I also got all of the radiant heat tubing all properly insulated, which should help overall efficiency of the heating system a bit.   I then got a mattress and springs and whatnot that had been sitting in the garage just taking up space moved up to one of the bedrooms where it belonged....that took all day, but it finally got done at least.

And that brings us to December where a bunch of little things that needed doing got done, nothing worth a journal entry per se.  I got a new UPS installed for the solar system, worked (unsuccessfully so far) on getting a personal alarm system up and running for my mother, and generally just goofed off more than not.  It was a fine and good stand-down, and I have no regrets.

So here we are, at the Closing of the Year.  I think 2019 has overall been a pretty danged successful one, with the highlight far and away being the Chandelier.  Looking ahead to 2020, I plan to work on extending out the drainage a bit.  Those two final oddball curtains need to get put up.  I want to pull up the rest of the computer room flooring to be replace it with some type of tile and double check how the radiant heat under there is installed.  I've also been pondering a couple of ways to tweak the placement of the solar panels so as to optimize them a bit for the winter weather....gotta think some more on that yet.  

Looking forward to it.....I do believe 2020 is gonna be GLORIOUS.....


Steven in Colorado
  


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 12/21/2019

At 9:19 PM this evening, the winter solstice passed here in the dark of the winter.

And now, thank Odin, it starts getting brighter again!  

WHOOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 10/11/2019 10:17:31 PM

While taking a look at the snowfall amounts from we got last night (Tanglewood got 4.75" of global warming) I figured I' put out a shot of the hive.  We tucked it in with an insulation jacket and then I put a towel across the "front" (their entry is on the bottom right) to help prevent wind from blowing right into their door.  It's not obvious but they can get in/out just fine with the towel there; turns out bees are very smart about figuring out things like that and they aren't slowed down hardly at all by the towel in the way.

Stay warm little girls!




Steven in Colorado

Photos

Straps to keep everything snug and tight.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 10/11/2019 10:12:46 PM

Back when Tanglewood was being built we had to use a product called LiteDeck to make the runs across top of ICF between the first and second floor.  It's an amazingly strong product that uses a mix of Styrofoam and steel beams for strength, and we ended up making the floors very thick (19").  We ran this all the way out across where the outside deck is, which they then covered with rubberized membrane for water proofing purposes and such.

Usually one never even thinks about the decking at all, frankly, but with our snowfall overnight I was presented with an interesting picture in the morning.  You can clearly see how the decking is run in this picture, with the "deep" snow being where each LiteDeck panels alternates between steel beam and Styrofoam insulation.

I thought this was pretty danged cool myself.


Steven in Colorado

Photos

Pretty neat to see how the alternating foam and steel translate up to the deck.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 10/11/2019 9:53:31 PM

Well now, one problem with having a wet snowfall is that you get to deal with the consequences.  On the plus side that means everybody got some badly needed water, and I was able to burn a whole bunch of trash and wood, and generally it kicked me in the butt to make sure things were tight against the cold and such.

On the minus side, however, it means your leak work gets tested....

SIGH.

I went upstairs about noon and halfway up the steps I could hear the water leaking into the buckets below.  It was a steady stream of water, not continuous but steady.  I cleaned up the immediate mess and then began to investigate where it was coming from.

Well, at least I have a better feeling for what's going now.  Last year I had determined that much of the leak was from around the patio door upstairs on the turret, so I did a lot of work to apply caulking and re-slope some sections and re-caulk around the windows and various lighting fixtures.  I checked the turret....no sign.  I checked the attic interior along that wall...no sign.  I checked the patio door...BINGO!

As I'd suspected last year the patio door and the incompetent flashing the contractors did was the cause of the problem, and that was quite evident here.  I had cut two sections around the door on either side to test for water, and while the subflooring was dry on the "outside" side but it was very definitely wet on the "house" side.  I quickly swept off all of the water from away from that portion of the roof and the dripping completely subsided about five minutes later, which helped convince me that was in fact the problem.  Then I took a closer look outside on that side of the door and it was very clear that this was where the water was coming in.....the rubberized surface in that section is all "bubbled".  That's normal in these cases; the bubbling is caused by gasses released by wood (the subflooring) decomposing underneath.  The section in question runs about a foot out from the door and perhaps a foot along the door as well.

So...while this is very annoying at least the snowfall helped to zero in on the problem.  There was nothing at all inside the attic, nothing at all along the turret walls....it was all coming in right there at that section along the patio door.  I'm going to see what I can do on a temporary basis to prevent any further leaking for the winter, and then I can start collecting tools and make plans for how I will fix that threshold.

A very annoying issue, to be sure, but at least the source has been confirmed.....that's always a start!


Steven in Colorado

Photos

Items pressed into service to catch the dripping (as I was pretty sure it was going to leak after this storm).
The poor ceiling that's been brutalized by the leaking. I figure I'm going to have to replace this section through here, probably next summer.
The section where the water is coming in and the wood has been causing badness.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 10/5/2019

It was a slow and chilly morning but things finally warmed up enough that I could continue doing some of the drainage work outside, picking up from where I left off last week.

I decided to start with the laying of the 4" socked pipe along the back (that big rolled pile shown in that last entry), installing it along the ditch I'd dug years and years ago.  There was a drainpipe from the gutters along the front of my mother's apartment, so I decided to route that water to the fastest exit, which turned out to be coincident with the 4" socked pipe I was running from up behind the house proper.  That was only a 3" connection, but fortunately I had several Y's so I could tie the 3" and 4" pipes together.  Once I dug out the run for the 3" pipe and then made sure it was properly sloped (so the water would flow away from Tanglewood) I then continued on out away from the house and towards the drop down towards the creek.

That took most of the day, getting the run properly sloped, but once I did attaching up all the pipe was easy.  After that it was just a matter of filling in the run.

Since it was coming up on nightfall I only got part of the run filled in, but some of it was done at least.  A lot of the dirt I'd made piles out of years ago I was finally able to put back where it came from!

Tomorrow I'll fill in the rest of the run going towards the back of the house, then start working towards the downhill side to connect this run to the pipe down the road.

Slowly but surely!



Steven in Colorado

Photos

Looking down towards the creek and the pipe buried there. You can see my portable water tank there to the right.
The as yet unburied pipe heading towards the back side of the house. It's hard to see but there's a big pile of dirt that will be tossed onto that pipe shortly.
The pipe coming down from that run of gutters. It runs into the ground and connects up to the 4" pipe shown in the last pic.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 9/22/2019

With summer past us and fall well upon us, it's a bit easier to dig outdoor now.  Because of this (and because I'd really like to get one of my garage bays back), I figured it was finally time to start installing some drain.

I had started this project literally years ago, when I started gathering socked drainpipe (i.e., pipe that is in a cloth tube to prevent dirt and stuff from getting into the pipe to plug it up) for this project. I'd amassed some 1900 feet of it (19 rools of 100' pipe) over the course of far too many trips to Home Depot. It all got stacked up in Garage Bay #3, and I even rented a small backhoe to start the drainpipe.

Then two things happened that changed a bit of direction in my plans. The first was we had a HUGE rainstorm, the gutters plugged up an filled the window well, and water seeped down into the apartment. That was indeed unfortunate, and in the aftermath of the cleanup I found a different approach than I’d originally planned. The plan was to install a drain and run pipe under the window well to handle any overflow; with the gutter inserts I installed they no longer can get plugged. SO….I had a whole lot of pipe and deferred installing it a bit for other, more pressing matters.

And then of course the second was my downtime at the hospital, that basically screwed up all of my plans there for close to a year. Very annoying, that.

SO…..now that the chandelier is up I looked at my list of Projects in Waiting and decided this was one I could get started on. The weather right now is just about perfect---warm during the days, cool at night, easy to dig the foot or so down I’ll need to get the pipe run. Some of the pipe I will simply bury, other sections I’ll leave open and put rock on top so water can run down into the pipe and away.

I got the first bit of work done by clearing out all of the sticker weeds and raspberry bushes that had basically enveloped the apartment end of the house so I could start running the pipe. Got rid of a lot of weeds that were in the way and deposited them down the road where they might (hopefully) take root and provide some good cover for that slope.

It’s a start at least. Clearing out all of the weeds took most of the weekend but I’m now ready to start laying down the pipe….that’s the plan anyway. I don’t think I’ll like get it all in before winter shows up to mess up my plans, but at least I’ll get part of it done! :)

After that I mostly assessed what needed to be done and started positioning pipe and whatnot, thinking through how the network of drainage pipes will connect to each other.  There's a lot of digging ahead...



Steven in Colorado

Photos

A shot of the area towards the back of the house, looking generically uphill.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 9/15/2019

I've been working on trying to get any number of things "done" now that the chandelier is up and solid.  I took down all of the scaffolding, moving one section up to the second floor for eventual ceiling work and the rest around the edges of rooms right now.  I moved some big and heavy bookcases I inherited from Colleen's grandmother to their desired locations (and they are indeed heavy; the man who owned them originally had them on rails and small tracks at his place).  

One of the issues that had cropped up over the course of the summer was some solar work I had Solar LeRoy do, and today he was back up today to finish the some final work and tweak some settings.  I had noticed that one of my charge controllers didn't seem to properly handle amperage and when the panels were in full sunlight it would seem as if all of the charge "moved" over to a different controller, leaving the original pulling zero amps.  It took some trial and error but we eventually figured it out, tweaking some voltage biases that had somehow been introduced that were throwing things off.

While waiting for Solar LeRoy to arrive I took the opportunity to cut up and haul up all of the remaining plywood from the old shed I'd stacked out of the way.  It was good to get this all cleaned up, and now I have a huge pile of stuff to burn once we get some wet weather again.  I know from experience that old plywood burns pretty well, and cutting it up gave me a chance to tweak the chainsaw a bit too in preparation for potential winter fun.

All and all a good and useful day all around!


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/27/2019

Now that I've got the chandelier up I spent the day cleaning up the huge mess that I'd accumulated in the Great Room over the last year of construction.  Much of it went back out to the garage where it belonged, a few things got redistributed to the designated locations, and generally there was much sweeping and cleaning and whatnot.

Once I got things cleared out I was able to deploy one of my toys.  A couple of years ago my company gave me a huge 20-year bonus gift voucher, and I selected to get a Roomba.  My intention was pretty much always to set it free in the Great Room, where it would rove around and keep that room clean.  It can't climb and the room is definitely of a specific size, so I figured it would work out quite well.

And today I got him up and running!

His name is Huey.  There's a short pic from one of the Arlos of him busily cleaning up the enormous mess that was on the floor.....



Steven in Colorado

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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/21/2019

In order to understand this posting I have to set the stage a bit.

About a month ago my mother decided she wanted a red hibiscus plant.  This took me a bit by surprise, but like a good son I went in search of one.

I checked several local nurseries....nothing but some yellow and white varieties.

I checked some of the local hardware stores like Ace, Lowes, and Home Depot since they all have nurseries for many flowering plants....nothing.

I checked Wal Mart since they sometimes sell plants like that....nothing.

And then, that following weekend I went into town to fetch groceries.  There are the grocery store was a huge collection of plants of various types....including a Red Sunset Hibiscus!

Okay, bought and presented and mother Very Happy.

Fast forward to today, and we spotted that it had put out a gorgeous red flower.....

Huzzah!


Steven in Colorado




Photos

Just a gorgeous flower I think.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/13/2019

This thing is so danged awesome.....you did good Colleen, spotting it and then convincing me to get it!


Steven in Colorado

Photos

A pic from the back and to the side.
A shot all centered against the fireplace behind.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/12/2019

They're growing up quick now!  Compare these pics from just a couple of weeks ago.  As near as I can tell we haven't lost any yet either....which is quite frankly amazing.


Steven in Colorado

Photos

They're all getting quite large now.
They are also moving a bit more "spread out" than they used to.
They're also much more energetic than they were.
Here my mom had tossed another cup of corn down for them.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/10/2019

At long long last, with many mistakes, false starts, re-trenchments, near-disasters, delays, breaking equipment, and whatnot else.....the chandelier is now IN ITS PROPER PLACE!

Yes, Tanglewood's Crown has finally been installed.

I had decided last week that after many trials and problems over the last nine months (great Scott has it been that long!?!?!?) I needed to stop with what, in retrospect, where half measures.  I'd tried a manual winch and I'd tried an old-fashioned come along, neither one of which worked properly while attached to the scaffold itself.  I finally decided to completely move everything and mount the winch to the railings outside the big door.

So after a brief bout of problems early in the morning with a pulley that decided to fall apart, I finally just checked everything about four more times, hooked everything together--and up it went!

I had initially thought that the chandelier was a tad low, but after a couple of hours with it I decided otherwise.

The. Chandelier. Is. Up.

HUZZAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tomorrow I'll caulk everything in properly and get the shades properly installed.  For now, I simply wish to bask in the glory...….   ;)


Steven in Colorado

Photos

A short trial run with everything connected....note the chandelier is in fact off the floor.
A close up shot.
Here you can see it's going to go Way Up There.
Look at it all ready to pull up....
Partway up!
At long last!
All lit up! Gorgeous!
A shot from the second floor.
A close up shot from that same spot on the second floor.
One more shot from down below.....so happy this is DONE.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/10/2019

SO....here I am getting things ready to make the final lift of the chandelier up to its proper spot.  I had hooked things up, done a couple of short test runs of the winch and the lift to make sure everything cleared properly and all, and to make a judgement on how long I'd need to run the winch and such.

And as I lifted the chandelier a couple of inches on the test......I was suddenly pelted by bits of metal!

What the heck....?

So after making sure the chandelier was well anchored I climbed up the scaffold to find out what was going on....to find that the main pulley I was using had apparently disintegrated!

It had just fallen apart.

Broken into pieces.

No longer a pully, just miscellaneous hunks of metal.

Good. Grief!

Thank you Odin for not having this happen when I was winching the chandelier up!

Pics of the debris below....



Steven in Colorado


Photos

What the heck happened here? It just fell apart!
No warning that I knew of either....just broken pieces....good grief....



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/3/2019

More footage of my awesome bee hive...


Steven in Colorado

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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/3/2019

Well now, I finally was able to turn my attention to the chandelier yet again after a few weeks of relative inaction.

In truth I had not been idle, but everything I'd attempted tended not to work as successfully as I'd wanted.  I could raise the chandelier but using the winch (which I switched to after trying to use a come along) ended up moving the scaffolding to which it was attached.  As I would raise the chandelier the scaffolding which actually creep towards the chandelier, with the upshot being it would end up in the chandelier's way--I couldn't raise it any further because everything was in the way.

Mind you I figured this out after various attempts to relocate the winch to different spots in and around the scaffolding.  I did actually succeed somewhat it getting the chandelier well off the ground (as you can see in the pics), but after a long day of failures one after the other I eventually decided I simply was not going to be able to lift it while attached to the scaffold...it is simply too heavy.

SO.  I figured out what I'm going to do to get this done.  It's well past time to get this done and off of my to-do list, to be sure.

I'm going to bolt the winch to a 4x4 (I have several left over from the deconstruction of the old shed) and then attach said 4x4 to the railings on the porch.  The line from the winch is long enough to reach up to the chandelier mount and back, so that shouldn't be an issue.  The winch will be pulling against the railings tied in with a half dozen or so strong tie-downs, which should prevent any unfortunate accidents.  I'll borrow a spare car battery I have up here in the garage which should maintain power long enough to get it up there.  I want to try to have the scaffolding nearby so I can untangle things or move the line as needed, but I also have to make sure there's a clear line of sight and such.  

At least that's the plan anyway.  I started moving pieces parts outside to do all this but unfortunately given the time of day and other chores in waiting it'll have to wait until next week.  But I know what I'm going to do.

Until then the pics below are actually pretty good.  You can see how it's all mounted along with a  good pictures of the pulley Up There.

I will get this done!


Steven in Colorado


Photos

The chandelier sitting prettily on the floor.
The chandelier lifted!
Another a shot from the side, showing the chandelier is clearly off the floor.
A picture from above.
A longer shot showing the chandelier is a good three foot off the ground.
A shot of the mount and pulley Way Up There.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 8/3/2019

I just happened to be stepping out on the patio and caught this little girl busy on the flowers on the weeds hereabouts.  There were a bunch of them all over the place; they apparently are taking full advantage of the pollen and nectar.


Steven in Colorado

Photos

A bee happily doing its thing on a flower.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/31/2019

Captured this from one of my cameras during the day today.

The bees seem happy....


Steven in Colorado

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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/26/2019

I spotted this beauty running up the canyon after work.  I'ts a big, very "dense" white mushroom very well defined cap and base.

Colleen's gonna love it!


Steve in Colorado

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The top of this beauty, dirty but in good shape.
The underside.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/20/2019

This time I spotted a variety of unusual ones--some smaller "dense" white ones outside near the woods, a yellow that has a very dense undercap that looks exactly like a piece of foam insulation, and then a cluster of very "loose" and fragile ones on the back of the house.  The smaller ones were particularly interesting...they looked a lot like eggs, and contained a very liquid yellow center.  It was very difficult to extract these smaller ones since they were so very fragile, but I did what I could and set them out to dry for Colleen.

Amazing the variety of these things!


Steven in Colorado

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A whole bunch of white mushrooms here....
A larger white one definitely different than the others.
This one is very "dirty"; that's its natural coloration too.
This puppy is VERY yellow and "dense".
Another dense white mushroom, very similar to the red one I found a couple of days ago.
All of the shrooms all laid out to dry.....



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/20/2019

Looks like nearly all of the little babies we capture on camera a couple of weeks ago are still around....I counted around twenty in these shots.  They started over by my mom's apartment and then wandered over to the patio outside my kitchen.  I got a couple of pictures from down there, then moved up to the deck where they didn't realize I was there (they never look up, apparently).

Cute little buggers!


Steven in Colorado

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Not a great shot with the patio door in the way.
The mama turkey on the right stuck her head up to look at me, so I figured I needed to perhaps change my vantage point.
This one is from the deck, which basically is right above and to one side from the patio.
Another good shot of the many many babies.....
They're starting to wander off here.
You can see a couple of the babies wandering down through the weeds.
They sure are cute little things.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 7/16/2019

Colleen has asked me to start "keeping" mushrooms I find so she can dry them out and put them into bottle as decoration.  I am nothing if not accommodating so.....

Spotted a big red-caped (kinda pink, really) this afternoon while moving some old wood up from the old shed.  After I snapped a pic I dug it up for Colleen.....

Steven in Colorado

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Very nice big mushroom....it was very "dense" and meaty looking.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/29/2019

I happened to catch this clip of the bees "doing their thing" during the day.....they SEEM to be happy enough at least....  :)


Steven in Colorado

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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/21/2019

Summer, 2019 passed into history at 10:54 AM this morning.

From here on out, it gets darker......

Sad face.



Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/14/2019

Not really important enough to actually merit a picture, but I'd taken out the door lock late last year to test something.  I never put it back, just stuff insulation into the hole to stave off the colder weather.

I finally got tired of it lying around while puttering around my chandelier, so I put it back on.

So mote it be!



Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/10/2019

Tanglewood is exploding with hummingbirds and bees; now we can add a healthy crop of turkeys to our list of passersby.  We count roughly 20....it's difficult to be certain since they hide and dart around...but we think it's the combination of two clutches (the two larger hens in the center).

I suspect they will be coming by a lot....it will be interesting to see how many are lost to predators.....


Steven in Colorado

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Baby turkeys!



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/7/2019

One thing I may have mentioned in my very early posts is how Colleen and I really wanted to keep a honeybee hive up there at Tanglewood.  We actually tried it once but it did not take; we're pretty sure the poor bees were beaten up severely getting up our road and then we didn't do anything at all to protect them, so they were probably at the mercy of the ants once they discovered them while they were still weak.

Time passed.  The old hives were given away.

And then Colleen wanted to get bees again!  I was fine with that, so she ordered them way back in December, 2018.  They were supposed to arrive in early May of this year (2019).

We immediately had as many bouts of snow in a month as we'd had in the prior three!  So the shipping was delayed (since they would arrive in cold weather)....and then it got delayed again.....and then it got delayed again.....

BUT NOW THEY ARE HERE.  Tanglewood now has an official beehive, in as safe a spot as we could put it (out on the deck).  Colleen and a friend helped to put together a great video of the "unboxing" ceremony and it looks like it worked pretty well.  There are roughly 30,000 bees in a "nuc" (short for nucleus) in this shipment; bees are apportioned by weight  (since they certainly can't count the buggers).  A few were lose in shipment of course and I'm sure a few died en route, but as you can see from the video there are a heck of a lot of them. 

WHOOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Steve in Colorado

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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 5/25/2019

My mother finally got me to clean up the (misguided) attempted to keep plants over the prior winter by burying them in straw.  Not only did that not work, but it cleaning all of the straw out to prep her plants for this year's fun made a gigantic mess.  Straw everywhere!  Somehow the pile of straw I ended up with was roughly three times the size of the mass I put in there last winter.....not quite sure how that happened, but I assume it either involved swelling due to water and/or invading straw monsters attempting to hide among the pile.

While cleaning out this sodden mess I ran across some very oddball mushrooms, the type I had not seen before.  Given their pale structure and dark blue/black heads I'm pretty sure they would not be good to eat, so after I took some pics I pulled them out and tossed them down the hill with all of the other mass of straw and associated weeds I took out at the same time.

Lots to do, lots to do....!


Steven in Colorado

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Weird....
More weird.....
PRETTY sure I shouldn't eat these....



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 5/17/2019

A couple of shots here of the chandelier being lifted a little bit to test the weight.  It's only about three inches off the ground, which ought to be more than enough to test the weight of the mount while still allowing the chandelier to not be damaged should it crash to the floor.

You can see the windlass style winch I got over at Harbor Freight for this job.....I think it should work okay.  Not entirely happy with the way I've got the windlass mounted up there but it is solid, which is the most important thing.

Progress, slowly but surely.....


Steven in Colorado

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The mount WAY UP THERE.....
The chandelier a couple of inches off the floor....



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 5/17/2019

Okay, basically since I'm taking this incredibly, ridiculously, ponderously slowly I decided to hoist up the chandelier again to test its weight with all of the onyx light shades/covers.  I want to get the most up-to-date data before I execute my plan.

The chandelier and all of its fiddly bits comes in right at 147.5 pounds.

Okay, that's good.  Now I need to look for proper lag bolts that can handle the chandelier's load.

So here's my plan as of now:  I intend to drill out the two screw holes that had held the Arlington and the old ceiling fan so I  have two holes completely through the rafter.  I then intend to put long lag bolts--threaded completely--through the rafter, put the Arlington over those, and hang the chandelier's mount (which Dan so cleverly built) on that.  Nuts and appropriately sized washers will be liberally used throughout.

I'll need to find some longer lag bolts...the ones I had were only 12" long and that's not nearly long enough.  I expect I'll need a couple of feet.  And of course they need to be heavy enough to bear the weight.

SO....the hunt is on......this will take time, but I WILL NOT put this puppy up there until there is zero rational chance for it to fall...….

I also still need to figure out exactly how I'll  hoist it.....gonna look at a hand-cranked hoist, that should work I think...….hmmm...…...


Steven in Colorado


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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/16/2019 1:57:51 AM

Well it certainly took a much longer time than I'd thought it would, but I finally got the Arlington FB-900 down and got a good gander what's up there.  Found some good news too.

I got the screws out holding the Arlington into place and figured at that point it would be easy to drop it down.  Turned out to be a lot harder than I'd expected--it was definitely loose but I couldn't easily pull it down.  I tried for a solid hour, pushing and pulling it, double checking there weren't any other fasteners holding it up, comparing it against the one I'd bought on Amazon.

After a good lunch and a couple of other minor chores, I decided there was nothing at all "extra" holding it up....I just had to pull more harder.  So I got a pair of vice grips, gave it a good yank--and that worked!  Out came the Arlington!

And as suspected there wasn't anything holding it up at all, it was just pretty tight.

Once I got it down I dumped out the debris inside it (lots of mouse droppings, dead moths, etc.) and set it down next to the new one (picture below).  They were identical which was more or less as expected, but I had concerns that a newer model might be different.  At least they weren't.

Looking up into the hole I made a pleasant surprise.  The builders put a 2x6 across the rafters rather than the 2x4 that the instructions actually called for--this is good as it's heavier duty and less likely to have any issues.  I was duly impressed.

A minor minus however--I'd already bought lag bolts (in the picture below the Arlingtons) for 6" holes, since I thought that would be long enough to get thru the stud and anchor the chandelier from the top.  Since the cross-beam is a 2x6 I'll need to go get some longer lag bolts (8")….so it's Home Depot for me tomorrow!

Still it's all good.  I'd much rather do it right and if that takes more time, so be it!


Steven in Colorado


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The new Arlington is on the left, the old one on the right. The lag bolt (too short now) is below.



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/13/2019

Okay, it's taken a bit of time to figure out what I'm going to do but I've got a plan now.  Major pieces of the plan are in place, and the rest are more or less spread around the Great Room floor.

Folks might remember that a month ago we nearly had a disaster with getting the chandelier mounted properly.  Since then I've been able to re-examine the whole setup and what I really needed to mount things properly, and so now we've got a plan.

The first was the need for a true steel mount.  The old mount (the ball) worked fine enough but couldn't handle a truly heavy load, and wasn't really designed for that anyway.  Looking around I found a lot of various types of steel and solid mounts that would attach flush to the ceiling, needing only a small flat cover to tidy it all up.  Since I have a vaulted ceiling the Arlington FB-900 was more appropriate to the ceiling and so the canopy I'd purchased would be used instead.  Once the chandelier is up there it'll actually have a lot of "empty room" inside that cover, but that's all good....it'll be a good 14 feet up anyway.

A friend of ours volunteered to build a heavy gauge steel mount and it came out perfectly.  There was a slight need to make an adjustment to accommodate the sloping canopy shell but that was pretty minor.  It looks fantastic and is now undergoing repainting to get it ready for deployment.

With the mount being built the other issues was the Arlington mount itself.  The Arlington FB-900 is carefully built to allow for very long (three inch) screws into a cross-beam stud installed in the rafters; this beam is nailed into the rafters and then the Arlington itself is held up with two small screws and those two long screws.  It's then sealed with caulk to make it all pretty.

My issue wasn't with the Arlington itself but with the nature of how it's mounted.  Those two long screws are just wood screws, biting deeply into the cross-beam 2x4.  I know from personal experience that I myself have taken down those screws and put them back up at least three times as I write this, and very possibly four.  Quite simply, with all of the installation and removal of those screws I frankly I wasn't sure how well they would take the weight any more--screws do work loose over time, and having had them removed/installed several times made me uneasy.  Would the screws actually hold reliably a fourth time?

Quite frankly, I didn't trust it any more.  I needed to be sure that my 131-pound chandelier wouldn't come crashing down at 0300 in the morning when this screws pulled out.

So.....after some though I've come up with A Plan.  I have decided that what I'll do is to actually remove the Arlington, giving me a good 8-inch square hole thru which I can work.  After ensuring the cross-beam is solid, I'll go ahead and drill out the two holes which are already 3" in on the 2x4 (which means there's about a half inch left).  Then I will install heavy duty lag bolts, with double nuts and lock washers thru the holes, thus allowing the weight-bearing bolts to be sitting on the cross-bream rather than simply screwed into it.  This makes gravity work for me in this case rather than against me, and I think it will be vastly more secure as a result.  Once those bolts are in I'll reinstall the Arlington and caulk it all up cleanly, then attach up the newly-built mount with more lock washers and double nuts.  

THAT oughta hold that sucker.  IF it ever comes down it'll be because the roof came down too, so I'll have more bigger issues anyway....

Below are two pics, one with the (somewhat mangled) ball mount that Was Not Good and the other that is the big heavy gauge steel mount that probably could hold a car if we could get it in there.  

Next up I've got to get the holes drilled and the mount installed, then there will be another Weight Test.  Fingers and miscellaneous appendages crossed....


Steven in Colorado

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This is a picture of the older ball mount. It held up well enough, but not good enough for the chandelier.
This is the new 1/4" steel mount. This sucker is heavy!



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Posted to Tanglewood by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 3/23/2019

Well now, this was an unexpected development.....

As I'd noted earlier I had decided to do another weight test with less "stuff" on the chandelier (I decided the shades made it too yellow).  So today with Colleen and Dan up here I decided it was time to get this puppy Up There!

I had bought a small winch to help lift it gradually up to the ceiling and was busy putting all of the hardware together when Colleen suggested we use their vehicle winch to pull it up instead (with all of the appropriate offsets and pulleys and such).  I figured that was a good idea in general and wanted let her be a part of the fun, so I readily accepted.  We got everything all hooked up, drew tension onto the line in preparation to starting to pull the chandelier up.....

….and danged if the entire ball and socket mount didn't come right down!

This rather surprised us, so we figured we'd just not set the "ball" in the ball mount properly (here's one for reference).  There's a gap one side that allows you to lift the ball up over the edge of the "saddle", then set it back down so it's firm and solid in the mount.  So we put it all back up, cleared all of our lanes for pulling on things, began putting tension on the line again.....

….and danged if the entire ball and socket mount didn't come right down!

Well okay...what the heck is going on?

It took us a bit but we figured it out.  I'd used this ball and socket mount because that's what they used for the ceiling fan.  They're done that way so that the ball allows the fan to "wiggle" a bit with as the blades from the fan are whirling around.

However, that type of mount is NOT A GOOD IDEA if you just have a big heavy chandelier like, for example, one made of elk antlers.  The mount holding the ball had spread with the couple of weight tests I'd done and very likely would have fallen thru the mount at some point (probably at 2:00 AM in the morning), sending the chandelier to a probably fatal fall.....

Ouch.

SO.  We're regrouping.  The only reason I put the larger canopy up there in the first place was the ball and socket mount, and that was only there because the construction crew put in a ceiling fan as a temporary measure until we had the chandelier up.  Looking at it that isn't really what is needed though.  What we really need is just a solid cross mount (metal) that can support ~200 pounds, attached to the deep screw mounts that are with the Arlington FB-900 that we have up there.

With that in place I'll get another canopy of some kind to clean it all up and make it purty.

So....I'm glad we found this now!  We'll end up with a better and more solid installation anyway, and (hopefully) will avoid disastrous problems down the road.

That's life at Tanglewood!  BWAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Steven in Colorado



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