Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mending Good Neighbors

"Good fences make good neighbors" - Robert Frost

When we moved into this house, one of the reasons we picked it was the privacy fence. Little did we know that the fence was recently constructed, and on the cheap, to attract a buyer. The posts were not treated against moisture rot, nor were they standard 4x4s, and the rails were 1x3's instead of 2x4's. The result after two years is a leaning mess.

This fence leans because the post has rotted clean through at ground level. I blame the sandworms, personally.

the weight of the unsupported fence panels has cracked the concrete footer of this corner post. this one has to be replaced too.

The sagging rails and warped pickets are minor problems, mostly aesthetic. I'd have to rebuild the whole fence. The pictures above, however, show posts that have rotted clean through at ground level due to moisture rot. The only thing to be done is to replace them.

Step 1: Detach fence panels from post. Of course, as soon as you do that, the post has nothing to hold it up, and it falls over.
The base of this post has crumbled to worm food at the soil line. 

detached fence panels
closeup of rotted end of post. n.b. I counted 27 slugs living inside
Step 2: Since these posts are kept in the ground by a concrete footer sunk 18inches in the ground, that means we have to dig out the stub of the post, encased in concrete, before we can put in a new post. And because the old post rotted  off at the soil line, we have nothing with which to grab the footer. Time to dig.

most specs recommend at least 18" depth for these footers, so they stay deeper than the frost line, preventing heaving out of the ground. These were only 12" in, but since it doesn't get too cold here, I didn't bother going much deeper.

these suckers are heavy, even at only 16" x 8" cylinder

Step 3: Go buy some treated 4x4 posts and concrete. Put the new post in the old hole, plumb it, level it, and brace it. Then fill the hole with concrete.

refill the hole with dirt before adding water to the concrete. check your post level every time you touch the hole.

If the footer extends slightly above grade, water-to-wood contact is minimized.
Step 4: After 24 hours, reattach fence panels, and you are good to go.

Alternate method: For one of the posts, I tried a product called a Speed Post, which is esentially a 30" metal stake with a bracket to hold the butt of a 4x4 at the top.

You sink the stake into the ground and bolt the 4x4 into the bracket, eliminating the need for a concrete footer. It was certainly faster, and the post seems just as stable, but at over $20 each, it wasn't worth the dosh imho.

Remember folks, I do this shit with my bare goddamn hands.


Seen today while hiking the Cape Fear River Trail.

Lucanus elaphus a.k.a. the Giant Stag Beetle. No scale in the photos, but it was about 3 inches long.

This striking insect is easily among North America’s most distinctive and recognizable species by virtue of the enormously super-sized mandibles sported by the males. Its fearsome appearance belies the true nature of this harmless beetle, which spends its days feeding on sap that flows from wounds on the trunks and roots of trees

Males use their massive mandibles in combat with other males, not for “biting,” but rather as tools to pry and lift their adversaries before dropping them to the ground.
As a kid, I always imagined these were so terrifying and rare, that if I saw one, it would be the last thing I ever saw before I was decapitated and ground into paste. Plus, they are constantly stealing your energon cubes.

 But, hey, I'm still here!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Color

I meant to get around and take photos of the spring blooms earlier, but things have been bananas, so I missed the phlox, cherry, redbud and the jessamine blossoms. So just imagine them.

These other plants have managed to survive our both the recent tornado and our chronic mismanagement (so far):

snapdragons (yellow)

these little dianthuses (dianthii?) smell like clove  

planted three of these knockout rosebushes (pink)

also planted three of these mophead hydrangeas.
once the roots creep into our acidic soil, the flowers will turn blue

the redbud tree puts out some great color

coral bells (fore), japanese maple (aft)
patriot lilies

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This Season's Agenda

The temperatures are warming, and though the plants are still asleep, the legions of toads have resumed their nocturnal councils in the adjacent pine barrens. That can only means one thing: it's time to play Sisyphus as I fight to retrieve my house from the entropic clutches of the surrounding dank. Oh yeah, and there may be a toad uprising, so I guess that's two things.

Here's the to-do list so far...
1. Plant more creeping phlox, and a few showy annuals. Our droughty summer and cold winter have killed half of the phlox we planted last Spring. The rest are coming back, but not yet blooming. Hopefully, we'll get something like this going soon :
not our phlox, but beautiful all the same.

not our nandina, just an example.
I'd also like to put something taller with winter interest coming up out of the phlox, but don't have any ideas. Most folks around here do nandina, but that's a little too common. Maybe.

2. Powerwash the north side of the house. It looks like this will be a yearly thing. The siding and patio on the north side of the house grows algae readily in the mid to late winter. Yuck. Maybe someone can invent an acutely toxic house paint that will kill anything living that comes within 3 mm of it. That would solve my solicitor problem as well.

3. Replace the shingle molding (and maybe fascia) on the north side of the house. The molding installed when the house was built is a composite cardboardy stuff. It got wet, and when the ice hung from it this winter, it pulled it down in pieces. Who builds a house out of cardboard?? We found the same crap used in the bathroom trim.
cardboard shingle molding will disintegrate, but a pink work short is forever 

4. Replace fence posts / boards. I've got a number of warped fence boards, and even more ass-painy, 3 fence posts that have rotted away above their concrete footers. So, I've got to pry off the fence panels, dig out the footer and replace the post and pour new concrete for each one. The whole fence really needs to be replaced, using treated posts, 3 rails, and screws, not nails. But can't afford that this year, so it's triage patch repairs. 

Greetings from Fayetteville!