Sunday, May 12, 2013

Making My Own Post Caps

Post caps can cost $20 or more each, and I had 16 posts to cap. I spent less on my first car. So, not that I am cheap or anything, I felt motivated to make my own post caps.

To start, Home Depot doesn't sell pressure-treated trim molding--I would have to make my own. A few years ago I made the pine molding in our guest room, and I was very happy with the notion of doing it again. Molding makes me happy (which is perfectly normal). I have a router table just for this purpose.

I routed out long strips of pine, and got enough molding from one piece of fencing (about $1.30, not that money had anything to do with it). Then I cut them into little picture-frame pieces, all exactly the same size (well, not exact at the molecular level, but close, possibly a few atoms one way or the other).

Then I taped the pieces together and rested them on back of the post cap top that I cut with my table saw. From one 2 x 6 (about $2.70, not that I care), I got 16 tops.

Cute. This keeps the frame square.

Then I centered the frame on the cap and fastened it with 8 nails. I wanted to use my nail gun but couldn't find stainless steel brad nails. Total nail cost: 48 cents (or 49).

Here's the assembled cap, with some pine knots on the top. Yes, I could have skipped over the knots, but that would have cost me 75 cents or more, and I'm not crazy. Besides, the pine knots add character.

Then I had to cut the posts down to size. I cut one, then put up a cap temporarily and asked Cheryl what she thought. "You want them that low?" she asked, but having already cut the post, it was too late for the others to be any higher. I thought they should be a little lower, so we are now both disappointed.

One by one I pressed the caps into place with a big glop of exterior construction glue (about $2.25 total).

Total project time: about 4 hours. Total cost: I don't care.

We only did the posts in back. The side-yard posts are still about 8 feet tall, and we're planning to run wires between them and coax some pretty vines to grow on them.

Next: landscape plan

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Zombie Landscaping

The clearing of trees has a single-minded thrust and wide-angled lens. I was determined to finish up this weekend, determined to clear-cut the yard and be finished with it. Normally I would take each plant into consideration and have some sympathy for it before I yank it from the earth, but this weekend I approached the yard with a zombie's sense of compassion and determination.

And this was no small number of trees. We had literally thousands of trees, though most of them were no bigger than a small weed, which is what cherry laurel trees are--weeds that spread underground, one of Florida's most invasive plants (not that I can be forgiven for what I've done). Only about 20 or 30 of these trees were too big for the lawn mower, and only about 10 were bigger than about 3 inches in diameter.

Of course, I had already decapitated them a week ago, leaving about 5 feet of trunk as a lever to help get out the roots. Have these plants been in agony this past week? Probably.

Cherry laurel roots run out laterally from the base of the tree. They typically don't have a tap root that grows straight down, like an oak. So my task was to uncover the main side roots, cut them with an ax, and then wiggle the trunk until it comes out. I discovered that these roots were often as big as the trunk. Cutting just the trunk would have been easier, but this would have left a visible trunk, and I never wanted to see these guys again.

With the trunks out of the way, I was able to run my lawn mover, and now we have a typical Florida oak hammock, waiting to be filled with new plants. Hopefully the new plants won't ever learn of the violence done here or of the zombie monster that did it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Big Jaws

The clearing of brush and stumps continues, and I have already moved an incredible amount of limbs and vines to the curb, so much stuff that knew I would be cursed by the city workers when they had to pick it all up.

In our previous house, which is only about two miles away, we had to put everything into plastic bags or the trash people would not pick it up. But here, and I'm not quite sure why, we can just pile our stuff at the curb. I've had big piles of stuff before, but this was the mother of all piles--three big piles, each more than 6 feet tall.

On Friday when I heard a big truck outside I ran to get my camera and peeked through the upstairs window, careful not to let them see me, because I am a coward and ashamed of the big mess I had made. I expected to see a small army of people working on the pile and hating me for it, but by the time I got my camera ready, the piles were already gone. All I saw was a large mechanical arm and a set of 8-foot steel jaws. I was amazed as it crushed and ate a pile in one bite, picking it up and dropping it into the truck with no effort at all, all before I had time to take a picture.

Two or three more bites, and it was done.

I'm only half done with the stumps but at least I don't have to worry about trash guys anymore.

Next: removing stumps