Monday, March 25, 2013

Tent Rocks

Our vacation ends tomorrow, but today we still had a fun time far away from projects and deadlines and responsibilities, starting with our hike to Tent Rocks, a beautiful area in New Mexico formed by an ancient volcano that deposited a thousand feet of silt and rock and that has since been eroding in an uneven manner, creating slot canyons and some curious ice-cream-cone formations.

We climbed up and through all these secret passages and gnome houses to a spectacular view at the top.

Meanwhile Cheryl is proposing that we build a traditional horno (oven) in the back yard. These little ovens are the traditional method of cooking outdoors here. I always thought it was a native American thing, but apparently this idea was introduced by the Spanish.

Another project for the list.

Monday, March 18, 2013

In Santa Fe

What better way to extend the project deadline than be leaving for vacation? And what better place to go than Santa Fe?

We are drawn back here every year. The food is green and red, the sky is turquoise and amber, the houses and earth mix together in hue with just the right beams of woods sticking up and out.

More to come

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lost Weekend

There could not have been a more perfect weekend to work on my new fence. The temperature hovered in the 60s, with a sunny sky and a breeze just strong enough to make the wind chimes tinkle.

Except Saturday was the dog walk and dog banquet. No problem, because both of those things are big fun. I could give up Saturday and work all day Sunday.

But no, by Saturday night my head was invaded with allergies and a cold. Coincidentally, Coach became very sick. I spent all of Sunday in bed and poor Coach spent some time in the ER.
Cheryl, trying to get Coach to eat. (He is better now.)

In the business world, this sort of event affects the timeline's critical path. Everything shifts to the right, and it invariably provokes management to call a meeting and analyze and discuss what everyone already knows--there has been an unavoidable delay. These things happen.

Willow, surveying the empty work area and wondering how to explain it to her managers.

Such is the lot for management: they take credit and get blamed for things that are mostly out of their control.

Coming next: taking a vacation.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Oak Sways in the Breeze

We have several oak trees in the fence line, more or less, and this first one is not so noticeable until I actually look up. For years the power company has kept it trimmed so that it is more like a dandelion than a regular oak--the leaves are in a puff at the top.

I knew that the fence would be very close to this tree, but I just didn't want to dwell on it. The top rail is so close that an ant would need to be careful crawling between the tree and the fence when the wind is blowing.

This is what happens when I defer the tough decisions to a later date.

In a few short years the oak will have grown enough to push the fence away and make it lean. I can't just ignore this and go on. After a night's rest I returned to my senses and came up with a plan. I'll cut the rail and attach some extensions so that the tree has room to grow, creating a sort of "U" shape in the fence.

Of course, I can't admit to Willow that I've made a second error in planning--she already is micro-managing me because of the screwdriver fiasco. I'll need to find a time when she's napping to make these changes.

Next: Making the oak detour, pretending that it was my idea all along.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Screw Them (the Pickets)

It's no surprise that following my colossal display of ineptitude and confusion on Saturday, the project manager showed up at the work site first thing Sunday morning. But what did I expect? I couldn't even decide how to attach the pickets. Willow looked at me with one part sympathy and five parts attitude. Time for a meeting.

Nothing tortures me more than a management meeting. There's no time to think, to sit and iron out the problem. Instead there's talking and--brainstorming. But when you drop the ball and the project manager steps in, there's no way to dodge the meeting.

The problem is this: I need to nail up some pickets in a very tight space, with no room to swing a hammer, not even enough room for a regular drill or screw driver.

Then Willow said something that actually caught my attention. "What about an angle driver?" she asked, bringing me back into the meeting.

And there it was in Home Depot--a screw driver small enough for the space. Sure it is taking forever, but it works. My little project manager will never let me live this one down.

There's only about 50 more feet of the tight fencing, and then I'll be able to stand on the other side to finish up, maybe by 2014.

Next: Going around an Oak tree. Dealing with Willow as she micro-manages my every move.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Nailing by Hand, Backwards and Sideways

My new palm nail gun was supposed to be the perfect solution to my biggest problem with the new fence: I only have a few inches between the old and the new fence--not really enough room to swing a hammer--and the palm nailer is tiny. This morning I hooked it up for the first time and gave it a try on my work bench. Perfect, but then it started leaking air and would not stop. One nail, and it was broken.

So back to Home Depot for another. It was after lunch when I got home. With Cheryl out of town for the weekend I have plenty of time on my hands, but the delay annoyed me. I wanted to finish the fence today, or at least a good portion of it.

Finally I get the saw set up, I fill up my tool belt with an assortment of nails and screws, I charge up the air compressor and get the nail gun ready. I get the level, some clamps, this and that.

The stringers on my first panel took a while, but I wanted them to be perfect. I'm not doing the math in my head because the math would tell me that, at my current rate of progress, it will be a very long time before I finish this project.

I'm standing on one side and reaching around to nail the other. Somehow I thought this would be easy, that my palm nailer would do the trick. But I found out soon enough that the nailer, which works like a little jack-hammer, does not work on a bouncy surface like the fence. The nails just bounce, bounce, bounce. Then I get out the hammer and go old-school. And I try not to think about it.

About two hours later, after hammering and hammering with short little hammer strokes, I've got my first panel finished. Only twenty nine to go.

Not only is the nail gun a bust, my hammer is not working. I don't even have enough room to use the hammer normally. I'm hitting the nails with the side of the hammer.

Then it hit me--I can screw on the panels, from this side.

At least that's my plan right now. I'm tired and going to bed.

Up next: Back to Home Depot to get screws that are just the right size. Willow senses my confusion and prepares to take charge.