Always Something!

Seems we got busy on projects. Never looks like as much work as it is, and the pictures never really look right, but here are some the Quail Manor haps from lately.

Guest Parking

First. We always wanted to do something with the wall along guest parking. Then we went to Bisbee. Now Bisbee is a place for sure about an hour or so south and east of Tucson. Went with Ann's favorite sister. I'd been through several times on the bike so know where the steep places are, but that's about all.

It's a once grand Copper Mining town. That got ungrand. I knew that part from the bike rides. Then the artistes arrived and make it pretty grand again. New information to this musist.

It kind of hangs off the side of cliff. Or the cliff is what is left after all the copper was removed. Anyway, lots of stairs off of Main Street. We're a little hazy, but they have some kind of a stairs celebration event. I think it's monthly. 

We liked the heck out of Bisbee. It's got a proper Tucson funk to it. Not that gated suburban stuff in the new parts. The funk and characters of proper old school Tucson.

So we're schlepping around Bisbee. Nominally looking for a place to eat. There are lots, but we don't know that yet. We happen across Bisbee Olive Oil. It's a little too much flavored olive oil, but pretty good. So while the sisters are sorting oil I engage the proprietor. This is when I learn there are plenty of places to eat. We plenty of recommendations and some background on the bars and breweries. And when to avoid them! Now we have olive oil to schlep on our schlep.

After chow, we head up the hill. Walking along and come across a hat shop. Your musist has been looking for a Panama Straw Hat since we got here. Did not think to look in Bisbee. Turns out this is an old school, lots of hand holding and custom making and shaping place. People travel the world to get hats here. We bumped into it...

I learn that the hat I am wearing, purchased for a song on Amazon, doesn't fit right at all. Sits too high on what I now know if an oddly shaped head. It's (the head) quite tall when measured from the top of my ears to the top of my head. It seems the hat should fit about a finger width above the ear. No more. Another warranty claim against the parents.

So we find the right hat, then we have to find the right band. Then we (the head) have to be put into this century old contraption that measures the exact shape of your head. Mine looks like a figure eight. Not sure if in and of itself a warranty claim, but certainly adds fuel to the fire. The shape is recorded as a series of holes punched in a piece of paper. That they keep forever - just in case I need more hats. The paper is used to set another century old contraption that is used to steam the hat into the proper shape over the course of a couple of hours.

At this point I am presented with a set of instructions for caring for my new hat. How to pick it up. How to put it down. How to clean it - that one's easy, don't. With time to kill whilst the hat steams I am dispatched to learn the instructions. Which I don't. Which subsequently disappoints the sales lady when I have to be told how to do the picking up and putting down. I got the impression I was not the first male through there that did not memorize the instructions.

So I catch-up with the sisters and we continue the town cruse. Up the hill a ways farther is shop with brightly painted metal stuff. We've been wanting something brightly colored for the guest parking wall. We have time, so in we go. And proceed to buy a 3 foot diameter metal sun. In orange. In a bit of serendipity the sun is most likely a trade mark infringement on CBS's Sunday Morning. Which happens to be SWITBO's favorite show, on Sunday Mornings.

So now we have a Volvo, with buttery soft leather, full of stuff we had no intention of buying, and a focal point for the wall next to guest parking. Pictures are below. Plantings change daily so the pictures don't tell the whole story, but the general idea is bigger stuff up by the fence and columnar with not too major thorns and spines stuff down by where car doors will be opened.

So far precious little of the plants have been paid for. They have been someone elses junk. When they see what we are up to they are repurposed to the Quail Manor. The Barrio looks after itself. There are a couple of specimen things SWITBO is waiting for the semi annual plant sale at our local cactus nursery in a couple of weeks before she buys them.

Of course the planting was preceded by priming and painting that was preceded by digging to expose the bottom of the wall. Block walls absorb a LOT of paint. Then the sun was mounted, cleverly offset from the wall to enhance shadow lines. Used some 1/2 inch PVC pipe plugs that were inventory, painted black so they look like the shadow. Then she painted the bolt heads to match the sun. 

And before we planted, we had to build the bed up so there was some dirt to plant in. Which required the hauling of "A" Mountain rock. A shocking amount of it. At some point we "stored" some dirt up at Peggy and Al's. By storing it I mean we got it away from the Quail Manor. Now we needed some dirt. I hope Al remembers... Up the hill we go. He remembers! AND he fires up his tractor that may be older than I am, so I don't have to move this a wheelbarrow at a time. We go out into his yard. Looks like Pioneer Sand and Gravel. I went to get that link and Pioneer is in Colorado and Arizona. No wonder they seemed so familiar. Anyway. Up at Al's what looks like random piles of stuff is actually organized piles of graded dirt. We take our pick and he brings two bucket loads. Now this tractor is not fast, but looks like the a hare to my tortoise of a wheelbarrow plan.

We "run out" of "A" Mountain rock. When I say "ran out", I mean ran out of conveniently located "A" Mountain rock. I'm kibitzing with Al while Ann does her thing with the dirt he brought us and we "run out" of "A" Mountain rock. Al has piles of that too that we would love to get off his inventory of in the way crap. So we go up the hill and fill the bucket, by hand but not too bad, with grade "A" choice "A" Mountain rock.

On the way back down the hill, Al has some Mexican Fence Post cactus he's trying to get rid of too. Turns out if you throw it on the ground, a whole bunch more will grow. Cactus. The worse you treat it, the more it grows. So we relieve him of that too. It's kind of the Peggy and Al bed at this point.

Dave the Welder's been busy too.

We have finally finished the cantilevered front courtyard gate. Thing of beauty. Here are some shots. Note the scribed jam at the house. If you look closely you will notice the stucco slopes out a good 3/4 inch at the bottom. He scribed the metal, I won't dwell on just how he did it, but it was nontrivial, to account for it.

You will also notice the quail framed by the cantilever carriage. Same one as on the other gates but scaled-up. Offset away from the wall a bit so the shadows look cool.

And. In his role as Dave the Concrete guy. He poured an exposed aggregate curb at the north gate into the back yard. He did this on the gates he built in the fence last summer for Jessie the Cactus Queen at her barrio adjacent house. We stole the idea. Kind of a cool process. He poured the concrete, with lots of rebar tied into the house foundation and the hinge post, but not the strike post because that one is attached only to the house and may have to come out at some point. Dave thinks of everything. So he finishes the concrete normally. They sprays a light brown sugar, it apparently has to be light not dark brown, solution on the surface to slow the curing process. Then you let it cure for a couple of hours. They to wash off the surface. Exposing the aggregate. Cool.

In his role as Dave the Swiss Army Knife guy, we replumbed the cistern. Eliminating leaks, adding the extra 9 inches or so of capacity I found out about when we intentionally overflowed it a while back, and moving the overflow to be along the wire mesh so we can support it and keep it plumb. Plumb plumbing.

What you see in the pictures is 4 inch and 3 inch PVC. Painted grey since the Sonoran Desert sun will eat unpainted PVC alive. 

What I now know is that 4 inch is just a bit hard to find. And. They are real proud of it! 3 inch is not so bad, but they're still proud of it. And. It is a bitch to work with. For readers that do plumbing, no not you Liberal Arts majors (but you're not reading this part anyway), you know there will be a certain amount of unforeseen redesign, fiddling and mistakes that must be allowed for in the purchase quantities. Or you are constantly running back to the plumbing supply house. You can get away with this at the Home Depot where you can assume everybody is making it up as they go, but harder at the plumbing supply house. Where they can already tell you are making it up, but you don't want to keep going back and be thought a complete fool. But. This is complicated by the fact each one of these fittings has a couple of digits to the left of the decimal so overbuying get's expensive. AND. At the Quail Manor space is at a premium and these big assed fittings take up a LOT of room. AND. No way in hell are they getting thrown away.

Fortunately I bought most of the pipe and fittings at an old school plumbing supply house. I'm guessing my behind the counter guy has been doing plumbing for at least 50 years. I asked for cement, which I now know is technically PVC weld, he looked at the pile of fittings he had collected and looked at me and got a proper size and slow setting cement. Turns out this is what the pool guys use, and they use a lot of 3 inch. I now understand why we got leaks. Hard to work with large fittings, and the folks that installed the cistern used the normal PVC weld which has a set time of 1 second. Not a big deal in 1 or 2 inch pipe, but huge deal with 3 and 4 where it takes awhile just to get the parts to mate much less fully seated and aligned.

What I now know is we had exactly the right amount of primer and glue (a PVC welding system). We did our last joint and had to tip the cans. What I now know is the extended set time was measured in seconds, not minutes. Large diameter PVC welding is not a place for indecision.

What you see in the first picture is an engineering marvel. The cistern is not moving. The pipe coming out of the ground is not moving. We have to get a Tee in there and some connecting pipes too. All cut, measured and glued at the same time. In 4 inch. You go into the cistern with a threaded piece too. That's a lot of degrees of not freedom to manage. All at once.

The slightly different color grey thing is called a union. It has two flanges and a big threaded cover that holds everything together. It provides a break so you can assemble the stuff to the left independently of the stuff on the right. As long as it all lines up. All well in principle, but when you're done you have to try to tighten that cover. We did. The outside diameter is about 8 inches so we figured this was not going to be easy. Used soap as a lubricant on the threads and a huge strap wrench Dave had. He's strong like an ox. We, OK Dave, tightened and grunted. I hoped.

After we finished everything. I ran city water to refill the cistern above our joints. Takes awhile to fill the cistern. On one of my visits I saw suds under the union and though oh shit. The union leaked. Nothing else though.

A spanner wrench is what you should use to tightened it, but a wrench that size is going to cost a fortune. Dave knows a used tool place called Kent's Tools. Follow that link. It's a horrible web site, but still worth it. Kent's sells used tools. Kind of a junk yard for tools. Ann came with. Pretty sure she was the first female to go inside. Absolutely incredible. Perfectly organized. Looks like hell, but everything makes perfect sense. Lot of scruffy looking guys milling about. Paths between racks are like 24 inches, rooms branch off in random directions. Only door I saw was on the way in. I'm guessing violates this place violates every fire code in the book. Most of these tools are greasy, hope nobody smokes...

Within minutes, I found the largest channel lock wrench known to mankind. $15. As I check out, what looks like just one of the scruffy guys, but who turns out to be a honcho at Kent's starts laughing. "I knew that would not last long" Seems it went on the shelf about 15 minutes before I found it! 

So I try the mongo channel lock. It kind of fits, but slips. Being a reforming coal miner I already had a Plan B. Which is technically Plan C, the channel locks were Plan B. I got a hammer and a bar and started "adjusting". No more leak.

We did make use of the mongo channel locks the next day to open some jam Ann's favorite sister had sent. So worth the price!

Cats may Prefer the Quail Manor

Plenty of sun. Plenty of birds. What's not to like.

The Catio has been a HUGE hit. We did a Barrio Super Bowl party. The cats retreated to the Catio and were quite happy to have their privacy. Mina actually spends most of her days out there. Good views when the garage doors are open. Real good sun if the front one is open in the morning.

Mina has escaped a couple of times during cleaning. But does not like walking on the driveway gravel so does not go far.

Both cats have "escaped" into the garage when the kitchen door has been left open. Both garage doors were closed so no big deal. Wren actually did not care for it. The floor is just a bit soiled so she had to clean her feet when she came back in...

Pergola Heat

We have gone native. Some evenings it gets below 70. It's cold. We need heat.

During construction we anticipated needing heat. There was a debate between gas or electric. I was convinced to go electric. Some preliminary research helped us specify 240V on a 20A circuit. Which requires 12/3 wiring. Which my buddy the electrician installed into one of the pergola light outlet boxes.

Fast forward to recently when real research was conducted to order a heater. There are many. The heat is infrared. Turns out all infrared is not the same. Some of them are like sitting under a heat lamp. Others emit a "warm ember glow". Guess which one cost more. We have two areas in the pergola, seating and dining. Potentially we will want to heat both, but want to try it out in the seating area first. So sizing becomes a factor.

I've got 20A to play with so I need less than 10A per heater. As even the Liberal Arts types can surmise, the amount of heat available has a direct relationship on the amps drawn. And. The height of the heater has a direct relationship on how much heat you feel. Our height is right at 9 feet. That'll give us about 8 feet by 8 feet. That is about the space 4 deep seating chairs and tables take. Cool.

Balancing all those factors, and wanting it to look cool, we got a 2000W Bromic Black.  

Then comes the issue of turning it on and off. Installing a switch was going to require running conduit along the wall. Easy enough, but going to look like an unforeseen switch. I'd rather not. Some more research. Turns out Bromic makes two controllers. One does on/off and an automatic timer wirelessly for up to two heaters (maybe I'm not the first to this idea!). The other lets you control the amount of heat but costs 3 times what is already a rather expensive item. On/Off will be plenty.

Then I need to sort how to make all the wiring look cool. My initial thought was to run above the pergola. But then it is in the Sonoran Desert sun so I have to run and paint conduit. But if I run like black extension cord wire I can tuck it up under the pergola... Now I need to figure out what you call extension cord like wire. Turns out what I need is 12/3 and 14/3 SJTW. Further it turns out they have it, in black, at Home Depot. By the foot. Not cheep, but what is.

I go to installing. The heat tube is broken. In the shipping container. In sorting getting it replaced, which is not a problem, just takes time, I learn these baby's are $120 a pop. Can't find any indication how long they last. So potentially a rant coming!

Here are pictures of the install

Happy with how it looks. And happier with how it works! Will watch for deal for the same heater for the dining area. Figure as the weather warms up they will be shedding inventory...

SWITBO's been Busy Too

Frequent readers may recall about this time last year, Tony the Mason installed a flagstone patio at the back door. There was some product left. SWITBO figured we needed a patio over by the arbor wall between the Quail Manor and DnT's. Shady in the afternoon and kind of a nice location.

So she used the scrap, and a few extra pieces, to build a patio.

I neglected to get any action shots. We've done enough flagstone in Denver that she has a process. Dry fit in place. Move out of the way but in the same orientation. Level and grade the permanent location. Move back to the permanent location in the same orientation. Do fine fitting and leveling. Add crusher fines and compact. 

She plans to plant things along the wall but not irrigate. So the patio slopes slightly towards the wall to direct rainwater towards the plants.

And we were out of crusher fines. We ponder how to get a little bit of crusher fines. I'm loath to do it, but I guess we can fill-up some 5 gallon buckets and transport them in the Volvo. Yes, the Volvo of the buttery soft leather. So we pop down to the nearby Pioneer Sand and Gravel. Well. They don't carry what we need. But they do and the site way the hell and gone east of town. Off we go. 

Turns out the 5 gallon technique actually works quite well and will be done again I suspect!

And. She's been planting. And planting. And recording. She is a Plant Recorder (retired). I suspect a database is in our future, but for now there are handwritten lists that get copied to handwritten lists. I don't pretend to understand the process, but it is on-going.

And. She's been irrigating. Most plants get a drip tube. Which requires the finding of a main line. Which are getting increasingly well marked and mapped. Lately the maps are being enhanced with color coding. I can't wait to see where that takes us!

Bike Haulage

When Ann's favorite sister was here they took the mountain bikes out. On one, the front shifter would not work. On the other the back shifter would not work. Upon their return there was fussing. The shifting issues have been going on for a decade or so. A squirt of oil used to take care of it, but no mas. I take to the Internet to learn this is standard for the real low end shifters that show-up on low end mountain bikes of this vintage. Further I learn Amazon has all the parts for next to nothing. So I order two sets.

Replacing the shifters requires recabling. Which I knew. But, I forgot to order new cable housing. Technically I could have reused the old cable housing. But it's like 25 years old and fully depreciated. Off to the local bike shop I go. Their thing is transit bikes. I've been thinking about getting a trailer for our bikes so we can do light shopping. We talk. The price is reasonable. I order a trailer, get the housing, and let them I know I may be back with partially assembled bikes after I fail to the get the shifting working.

The rebuilds go surprisingly well. The trailer comes in. We love it. It's a Burly Flatbed.  Cheep, and good for upto 100 pounds. I don't really want to pull more than 100 pounds, so perfect! What the bike shop guy tells me is most folks get a plastic tub to put on the trailer to hold stuff. Our first ride then is to Target to get a tub. We took some dimensions and find exactly the right tub. I wonder if the trailer is sized for plastic tubs?

It pulls like a dream. It's about the width of the handle bars so if the bike fits, the trailer fits. These mountain bikes are so heavy you hardly notice the trailer's back there. Done a couple of shoppings and works great. Nothing heavy yet, so there may be a rant in my future...