Saturday, February 24, 2018

Winter Update

Do you have any idea why I constructed these three things for the JayBee out of cardboard? The answer is at the end of this post.

Late last fall, after I made sure I had two working bottle jacks, I crawled under the JayBee to level up the house. I tried to wrestle a footing out from under there that had gone wonky and was in my way, but I couldn't do it; I couldn't leverage enough strength in that tight space. So, I enlisted my brother's help.

He was able to pull it out of there. Thank you!

Here was my view after I dug out a spot for the jack and put it to work.

I wedged a block under the northwest corner of the JayBee's trailer, which had previously been sitting on the ground, and got the JayBee leveled up. (The drain pipe you see is the one coming from the toilet.)

I got some primer paint on the shoe shelves, knowing that the access I have now is a lot better than it will be once the wall boards go up.

I put some sound proofing around the shower stall.

I spent a bit of time staining boards for the ceiling. I'd rather do all of these steps down where I can easily reach the boards than after they are installed. First I wipe them down (turns out they have caterpillar hairs on them, which give me a terrible rash), then I apply a coat of conditioner and two coats of stain/finish.

I've been storing stained ceiling boards by length up in the storage loft.

This winter, I have created a number of drawings of storage elements that go in the JayBee, and I'm getting eager to get started building them. When I go looking for wood, though, the door to the "shop" is still all iced in...

...and the door to the garage is behind a big snowbank. I guess I will wait awhile longer yet.

I caught two deer in the early-morning light the other day.

George outside today.

The JayBee as it looks today. It would be nice if I moved into it before it gets too much more weathered.

Answer to starting quiz: I made the two rectangular solids to use outside the JayBee's front door to discourage nest building. The larger, more angular solid is for the top of the air exchanger on the north wall. Nest Arrestors.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Yes, I'm Alive. The JayBee project is still alive, too. (another in the You Know You're Taking Too Long series)

Yes, it has been a LONG time since I posted a blog update. I guess I have crossed some tipping point, though, by letting it go this long; I have heard from a number of people in the last week who are tired of waiting. So, in an effort to regain some momentum--both with the JayBee project, and with the blog posting--here is a mish-mash post of random things from last fall.

Before the snow flew, I finally removed the nest from the top of the light outside the JayBee's front door. I was surprised by the amount of clay/mud included in its construction...

...and by how clean it was. Two birds were fully raised in this thing!

I also removed the nest from the top of the air exchanger on the north side of the house. Finally, once again, the JayBee was nest free!

Here is George happily curled up in a box. If you look really closely, you might see one of his eyes wide open (on the far left).

George looking skinny skinny. Thankfully, around Thanksgiving time, he finally put on some winter weight, so he looks better these days. I'll try to get an updated shot of him soon.

Here's a strange thing I just have to share: In a neighboring town, there is a house that always has a sign posted in its yard--with one word on the sign. Every few weeks, the sign is changed to have a new word. For example...

I go by this house on my way back and forth to my chiropractor, and I have gotten in the habit of making sure I look to see what the latest "word" is. Imagine my surprise when I drove by one day last fall and this enormous cat was in the yard along with the sign! After a few weeks, the cat disappeared. The sign is still there.

Here is a bald eagle circling overhead last fall. Bald eagles in the trees outside my bedroom window woke me up recently. My neighbors tell me it's now their mating season, which apparently explains why they are so active and loud these days.

Tomorrow I will post an update on JayBee progress and plans.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mucho Frustration...and, eventually, a Small Triumph

A number of years ago now, I purchased two 12-ton bottle jacks to use to level up the JayBee whenever it got off kilter. Right off the bat, I rendered one inoperable due to misinterpreting something in the instructions. I figured out my mistake before I ruined the other one and, ever since then, I have successfully used the other one (and just the one) to level up the house.

Now that the JayBee needs some substantial leveling, I've been thinking it would be nice to use the two jacks in tandem to level it up. I was determined to fix the inoperable jack so I'd have two functional jacks to use.

Normally, I love following directions. As in assembling things, or fixing things. You know, laying out all the parts, and following step-by-step assembly instructions. And, if I do say so myself, I write thorough, well-illustrated, easy-to-follow directions as well. Because of all this, I can be very critical of poorly-done instructions.

The puny instruction booklet that came with the bottle jacks is abysmal. I'm sure it didn't help that I really knew nothing about hydraulic jacks when I started this repair job. I didn't know how they work, I didn't know the terms used for the different parts, I had no idea how its internal parts look, etc. The only illustration in the entire booklet is the one below--without a single thing on it labeled.

My recollection from when I'd ruined the one jack was that I'd loosened what I finally decided is called the "release valve" too much, and hydraulic oil had leaked out. My plan for fixing the jack was to add hydraulic oil to it and see if I could restore its function.

In the "Checking Oil Level" section of the manual, the instructions said to "remove the inspection plate, and remove the oil plug." Does anything on this jack look like an "inspection plate" or "oil plug" to you? Exactly. I see a label, but nothing that looks like a plate. Frustrated, I turned the jack around and around, and puzzled over it for days.

I ended up deciding that this big piece on the top of the jack might be the "inspection plate."

I had a pipe wrench that would just barely fit around this part but, for the life of me, I could not loosen this "plate." Over the course of three different days, I wrestled with this task by brainstorming and trying various techniques. Finally, today, I managed to loosen the plate and remove it. (The successful technique involved standing on the jack on its side on the ground and applying my body weight to help torque the wrench.) It turns out that the "oil plug" is really this long cylinder (upside down below, with the inspection plate on the bottom). Not at all how I imagined an "oil plug" might look.

Next, the instructions said to pour in hydraulic jack oil until it is "level with the bottom of the fill hole." Look inside this thing--below. Do you know where the "bottom of the fill hole" is? Hmm, neither do I. I think it was at about this point that I started thinking, "I bet my frustration level is similar to most folks' frustration when they're trying to follow instructions I think are 'good.'"

I poured in a little oil, and watched it slowly sink down until it looked like the level of it was the same as it had been when I started. I repeated this move several times. The last time I added a dollop of oil, it didn't sink down. I worried that this might mean I'd poured in too much. I had no way to really know, though, so I re-installed the oil plug and inspection plate.

Sure enough, I couldn't fully retract the hydraulic lift. I figured that meant I'd poured in too much oil. I took the whole thing apart again, removed some oil, and reassembled it. I purged air out of the system following the instructions, and inferring steps where the instructions were incomplete.

VoilĂ ! I fixed this jack!

Even though the other jack had always worked, I thought this might be a good time to take it apart, check the oil level, etc. Nice idea, but I could not get it apart. Okay, I'm not a complete dummy. I cut my losses, and called this good enough. Two working bottle jacks!

I have been futzing around with several other small things on the JayBee recently, so I'll try to add more updates in the next few days.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

You Know You're Taking Too Long to Build Your House When...

...the posts your house has been sitting on are disappearing down into the ground. The big round cinder blocks I put at the base of each post stand 8 inches high, yet, in some cases, only a few inches are still above ground.

This is a problem now because I need to level up the house before I install the horizontal wall and ceiling boards on the interior. This is made all the more challenging because the northwest corner of the JayBee's trailer, the corner that has always been closest to the ground due to the slope of the hill, is currently sitting on the ground--making it difficult to fit a jack underneath it.