Sunday, May 20, 2007

Grackle Proof Feeder

I never thought having dry walls would be so satisfying. Its the small things in life, you know? It rained pretty hard this morning, and there was nary a drop to be found inside the house. Now that's livin'.

Speaking of dry wall, some of it went up today. Its all in and taped, skim coat tomorrow. Things are coming together.

I had a little side project this morning. I was really tiring of chasing the grackles away from my expensive, grackle-proof feeder - you know, the one they love to feed on? Its got this spring-loaded perch mechanism - when a bird this size of a grackle lands on it, the feeding holes close up. Oh I'm not kidding - its a marvel of engineering. Except it doesn't work. It took the grackles a day or so to figure out that they could land on the perch, and by bouncing up and down, get access to the seed as the feeder doors open and closed. So I got really tired of chasing them away, and refilling the feeder every day after they emptied it.

So I made this NEW AND IMPROVED grackle-proof feeder. A marvel of engineering it ain't, but it works. It took me several tries. On the first attempt, I used some wire fencing material to make a circular basket, which I then fastened around the squirrel baffle - the feeder hangs down in the center of it. The idea is that the small birds would land on the basket, then go through the holes to get to the feeder. Worked like a champ, except the grackles were getting through the holes also. So then I made and installed a second basket, over top of the first, slightly offset. This doubled the number of holes, but they were twice as small. Perfect - the small birds were getting through, and the grackles weren't. Except they figured out that they could stand underneath the feeder, then fly up and grab onto the lowest rung of the basket, on the inside, then hop up onto the feeder, then bounce up and down as usual to get the seed. So then I made a hinged cover for the bottom, et voila! The grackles are going elsewhere to pillage and plunder. Though MANY have tried, not a single seed could be had by any grackle.

Now, I'll have so much more time to spackle and stone. I'd better get busy...

Update 4/28/2010 - These feeders absolutely work, and they've held up nicely for three years now. I found later that two squirrel baffles work best - one for the top, and one for the bottom. Drill three holes, evenly spaced around the outer edge of the baffles. Then build your baskets around one of the baffles so it fits tightly. When complete, attach a long-ish eye-hook bolt assembly through the hole in the middle of the top baffle - you can find these at bird supply stores. The eye-hook is used to hang the basket from a tree or other suitable place, and also to hang the feeder inside the basket. Then simply use zip-strips (wire ties) to fasten the top and bottom baffles (convex-side up) to the basket through the holes you drilled. Zip-strips (three to be exact, one through each of those evenly spaced holes) are the only method I've found that works to keep racoons and even squirrels from prying the baffles out. When you need to load the feeders, just cut two of the zip-strips off the bottom baffle and work the baffle loose - the third zip-strip will act to hold the baffle in place like a hinge. Load the feeder and re-zip it. The solid baffle on the bottom serves to collect dropped seeds, and some non-perch birds (like dark-eyed juncos) will go in and feed off the seed collected on the bottom baffle....

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Windows XP

Windows XPert? Oh yeah baby! Two windows are in. Two more to go.

The old windows leaked, leaked, and leaked some more. The water damage was so bad that I could put my fist through the floor, right into the basement. The moron we bought the house from had patched over the old, original windows. He'd put in some cheap vinyl replacement windows, covered the rotted exterior window frame and molding with aluminum, and patched over the interior rot. Uh, when I say "patched", I'm being kind. He actually framed it with foam and L-brackets. Then, rather than replace the rotted drywall, he put some cheap paneling over it. The guy was a freaking idiot.

Its all gone now, and everything is re-framed. Dry as a bone.

You know, when I think about how much I paid for this house, sometimes I wonder who was the real idiot...

BIG improvements

Just in case anyone thought we weren't making HUGE improvements to this house, well... the results speak for themselves. Here is the BEFORE picture - the boys' bedroom before we moved in.

And here is the AFTER picture - yesterday. HUGE improvement, n'est pas?!

Ahh... progress.

Well, the window is ready to go in. The rough opening is set, and the sill flashing is installed. I ran out of time, so it will have to wait until morning....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hangin' With The Homeys

It may appear that I am destroying my house, but there is method to the madness.

On this beautiful morning in May, I was out in the 'hood, hanging with my crew, which consists of 30 or so women, and 100 or so little kids. Ok, so gangsta I am not. Some of the dads were there, but I typically avoid talking to them cuz, you know, they have jobs and all. Seriously, sometimes I feel that my status as homeschool dad places me into this sort of netherworld where I can't hang with the dads, and can't hang with the moms. Case in point - later, in the afternoon, some of us went to a homey's crib to hang out ("homey" is street for "homeschooler"). I spent an hour or so going over curriculum for next year, and my head was spinning - um, I don't think it was the wine, though it was rather good. Those other moms - they are ALL OVER THAT STUFF (the curriculum, not the wine). They flip through book after book after book, detailing what it is, how effective it is, how it fits in to the comprehensive curriculum, what supporting materials you need (er, consumables), etc etc. I can't hang. No way. My head spins after the first minute or so.

Later, they all sat down to review pictures of "Mommapalooza", which is a homeschool mom's weekend at the beach (picture "Homeys Gone Wild"). No way my eyes could see THOSE pictures. So I watched from a distance. It sure looked fun!

There are times, in the middle of a day like today, that I have a MIFLAW moment. Remember that Shania Twain song, Man, I Feel Like A Woman? When I have a MIFLAW moment, that's when I come home, crack a beer, put on a dust mask, and fire up my saw.

So here is where we are with the house replacement project.

First, continuing the work I'd done on the front of the house, I had to undercut the sixth course of brick along the north side of the house - Tyvek Central. That done, it was a simple matter of using a large pry bar to start pulling those top six courses of brick off. Except that didn't go very well - the first ones to fall tore a huge gash into my carefully installed tarp.

Several rolls of duct tape later, the tarp was repaired, and I had to devise a way to pull it up onto the roof, out of the way. That was done by attaching long strings to the bottom of the tarp, and then attaching bricks to those strings. The bricks were thrown up onto the roof, where I was able to pull the tarp up a little at a time, by the strings.

With that out of the way, I could remove the remainder of the brick. Except that I had to rig something up to protect the new door and light in the stairwell. This is what I came up with:

With that done, I had to cut the brick monolith into smaller sections, to minimize the damage it might cause when it fell. I accomplished this by making vertical cuts every three feet or so, all along the top portion of the wall.

Then the brick came down. LOTS of brick. I'm estimating one ton of brick ($65 at the landfill), since the front of the house was 3/4 ton. Now I have a nice new surface upon which to install the new stone window ledges (when the windows finally come in, and after I actually make the new stone window ledges).

Once the ledge is in, I can lay the stone. Three tons, to be exact. I ordered it yesterday. Here it is, from the stone retailer's website:

So, I'm going to have to take a second job to pay for it. I'm thinking of selling cosmetics. Its a very popular brand - the stuff practically sells itself. Ever heard of it? Its called MIFLAW Cosmetics.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I had no idea the heck to get into my blog - that's how long its been since I posted.

To update on the project outlined so eloquently (with rhymes, even!) at, here are some pics of the brick demolition. Now that the first 6 courses are gone, the windows can be installed. After that, the new stone ledge goes in, and then I can install stone over the existing brick. I went and priced the stone today. Uh... maybe we'll install it one stone per week, for the next 50 years.