Shower “Towel” Bar Replacement

Estimated Time Required: 10 minutes (plus trip to the hardware store)
Estimated Level of Difficulty: Easy breezy

If you, like me, live in a house that carbon dates back to the Mesozoic era, some home improvement tasks are difficult to tackle.  I have yet to track down replacement tiles for our cracked baby blue tile.  When I asked in the tile store, the kind, old salesman laughed over my head (he was too tall to laugh directly in my face) until he realized I was serious.  The only blue tile they had in stock was a horrid bright blue tile which I can’t imagine a use for (which is probably what he thought of my baby blue color description).

My shower “towel” bar (does anyone know the actual term?  No one in Home Depot knew what the heck I was referring to), however, was a much easier fix.  And, unlike redoing the tile in my master bathroom, it was cheap and quick.  Here’s how I did it, as part of my Finish It! May challenge.

IMAG0702

Can you see the crack that propagated along the bottom of the plastic bar?  While it still held its structural integrity, I have had more than one bottle of shampoo or can of shaving cream come careening down this wall before.  My soft, soggy pinkie toe does not appreciate the landing.  So I got proactive (for once).  The problem?  The Porcelain mounts on the end are adhered to the wall.  The solution?  I ended up snapping the bar into five pieces to get it out.

The replacement?  I found an oversized replacement bar at Home Depot for $5.  The best part is that it includes spring ends, which means I have a way of mounting it inside the unmovable Porcelain mounts without making it a week long ordeal with a lot of tears and booze.

The full solution only required a few minutes and a few tools:

IMAG0706

With a measuring tape, I measured the inside length of the bar (from Porcelain side to Porcelain side).  Mine was 20 7/8″.  I then measured the pocket depth on either end (how far into the Porcelain mounts the rod can go).  I ended up with .6615″ on one side and .627″ on the other (I used my digital calibers but you can get away with the tape measure if need be).  Both were similar so I added around .60″ – .70″ inches to my 21″ (rounded up from 20 7/8″ to account for the sawblade width) and marked my bar after removing the compression ends.  Using two c-clamps, I clamped it to a stool and with my handy dandy mini-hacksaw and cut off the excess of the 24″ rod.  Then I replaced the compression ends (I superglued one in just to be safe – and because I love the challenge of working with superglue without getting any on my fingers).  It popped easily back in and voila!  Easy, breezy amigos.  Good as new, and fits in with the design until we finally remodel the bathroom.

IMAG0709

Let’s Talk GMO and Gardening

My hubby – let’s just call him Holden – and I have a newfound utmost respect for old school farmers.  Ever since we started gardening last season, we’ve begun to realize just how hard of a task it is.  Mind you, we’re just trying to grow food to feed ourselves, not the world.  And for the time being, we’re just trying to work our way up to sustainability.  We’re glad for just a few crops.

Last year, our (I say our, but I really mean his) tomato plants were plagued by every problem conceivable.  Mold?  Check.  Caterpillars?  How many checks you got?  Ants?  Oh boy.  It was a daily battle against nature, and last year it actually rained.  This year, we forego the tomatoes and tried for heartier crops, though our friend reports her tomato plants grow strong.  Still it’s, as Professor Moody always said, constant vigilance.  Wasp like insects (my favorite) like to nest between the stalks and leaves of my corn.  Birds and rabbits eyeball the peppers and carrots.  The acidic nature of the soil is a constant threat to all of them.  And the unwavering heat, strong winds, and no rain fight on the other side.

Do you farm?  Have you ever tried?  My brother made a raised garden bed and grew strawberries in high school.  I can’t remember how much my parents invested, but I remember the small yield equated to about $3 per strawberry.  My next door neighbor had a little more success with hydroponics.  And I am still learning the ropes and doing my best.

So.  GMOs.  Why do I mention them?  Because there are missions of people starving all over the world everyday.  And we, spoiled First World citizens, complain about the abundance of food we have?  Give me a break (plus, almost all produce we eat today is a GMO hybrid from combining different varieties back in the day).  When the rest of the world can say the same thing, then we’ll talk.  I sprayed pesticide on my corn a week or so back.  It is “vegetable garden safe” and safe to use up until one day prior to picking.  But still.  Poison.  On my food.  I would have killed for the GMO corn seeds that have the natural “pesticide” gene spliced into it.  Seems a lot safer than poison.  You can counter with organic, but let’s be real.  Most “organic” food is hardly any better than regular crops (don’t even get me started on what classifies as organic to the FDA).  And while I compost our soil for planting season, that aromatic smell of decomposing food doesn’t deter pests like it does humans.

We strive for sustainable living on our homestead.  And while some studies show that GMO and regular crops can produce the same yield, I have to wonder how much less headache we would have with stronger crops that could fend for themselves.  How much less waste that can’t be composted due to disease and instead ends up in the landfill.

I’m working on hydroponics.  I hope it might lends some answers.  But today, as I stared at the first spindly silks on my one overachiever stalk and then looked down at the beady eyed devil hiding from the harsh summer sun from the plant next to it, I wondered how one goes about getting GMO seeds.

Kitchen Faucet Replacement

Estimated Time Required: 2 hours
Estimated Level of Difficulty: Easy breezy

Old Faucet to Replace:
IMAG0701

It’s been a while since I’ve done any home improvement or DIY projects.  This month, as part of my ‘Finish It!’ initiative, I am going all out.  First on the list was to replacement my old kitchen faucet.  I am not sure how far it dates back, but I think it may have been acquaintances with a pterodactyl.  The neck rusted through, creating small pocket holes that began to drip water, so I knew it had to go.  I did not realize Moen has a lifetime warranty, but I am hoping I will still be able to use it somehow.  For now, we are going to do a kitchen faucet replacement.

Resources I used:
How to remove a kitchen faucet
How to remove the U-bracket under a kitchen faucet
How to install a kitchen faucet

Tools I utilized: (see photo below)
– Adjustable wrench (x2 – one small, one large)
– Pliers
– Bowl/bucket
– Thread tape
– Putty knife and caulk (I did not use either as my old one was not attached well and my new one came with a gasket, but it doesn’t hurt to have.  I probably should have sealed it with caulk or plumber’s putty, but we are planning a kitchen remodel in the not-too-distant future, so I will worry about mine then)
– Two hours of time (this is generous if (1) you know what you’re doing, (2) the people who lived in the house before you weren’t complete idiots, and (3) your old setup is not from the Tithonian era)

View from the Bottom:
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0024.JPG

And that’s all, folks!  Do not waste your money on a $20 basin wrench/all-in-one faucet tool.  I bought one on the (first) trek to Home Depot and ended up taking it back still in the box.  A regular old adjustable wrench, some elbow torque, and a lot of patience will suffice.

So how is it done?  It’s simple with the guides I cited above.  Here’s my own two cents thrown in for good measure:

  1. Start with a little booze.  A plumbing project pairs well with a red wine or beer.
  2. To turn off your water supply, righty tightie, lefty loosie.  So, turn right (clockwise) to tighten it and shut off the valve.  When you’re done, lefty loosie (counterclockwise) to turn it back on.  My dishwasher and ice maker valves only took a half turn to do.  My main water supply went several turns.  Keep going until it stops.

Honestly, that’s about it.  I have little plumbing experience to speak of, and it wasn’t hard to figure out.  As with most projects, mine took two trips to Home Depot, as I discovered after I’d reconnected everything that the numrods who owned the house before us has the hot and cold lines backward.  When I tried to switch them, I realized the supply lines were too short, hence the second trip.  But it will be nice to no longer wonder why the faucet is so temperamental when I turn it on.

The Final Product:
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0025.JPG

Rocky Mountain National Park

Our second national park adventure from our recent trip to Colorado.  I didn’t know what to except, apart from mountains of course.  I thought the name to be a little unoriginal.  After all, I typically think of mountains as rocky formations.  My hubby – let’s just call him Shed – pointed out that the Rockies are more rocky than my coveted Appalachians.  So there you go.  I guess.

I expected hiking.  There seems to be a lot of hiking and a lot of trails in Colorado, a fact I appreciated.  I did not expect hiking (I use the term here loosely, as it was more along the lines of locking my knees and losing traction of my inadequate boots) through four and a half feet of packed snow from the winter.  I expected some snow to linger, as it snowed a few days before we dared the ascent up Highway 36 to Estes Park for the trip.  I did not realize that, at that altitude, much of the snow from the winter had yet to melt.  You have not hiked until you’ve hiked through four miles of a combination of packed snow and ice.  While we went for the easy to moderate trails – going to Alberta Falls, Bear Lake, and the Glacier Gorge (which was  frozen over), even the elevation changes we faced on the ‘trail’ (again I use the term loosely as there was only a five foot patch along the entire four mile hike where you could see the dirt trail) played murder on my legs.  It was slow goings, but the weather afforded us limited interactions with others dumb enough to pick this time of year to hike.  It was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful.  My first experience of a winter wonderland, even if it was April.  While I would love to go back in the summer, where more of the park is accessible and visible, I wouldn’t have traded this first experience for anything.  A day in the woods beats therapy by a mile.

Lumpy Ridge Trailhead to Gem Lake

Bear Lake

DSC07810

See the snowman out in the middle of the lake?  Four feet of packed snow on the trails or not, I would not have dared a trot across the lake.  But the snowman brought a smile to my wind chilled face.

Bear Lake Trailhead to Alberta Falls

Garden of the Gods

A small park, but worth a visit if you are in or around Colorado Springs.  The red rock formations are a beautiful backdrop to the short trails, and it’s an easy, quick visit if you’re heading from Denver to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  While it was crowded with a bunch of rowdy little kids out of school for spring break on our visit, I imagine if you go during a regular week it’s much more peaceful and serene.  While one of the shorter trips with the least amount of hiking, we still enjoyed the visit.  I wish we’d been able to stay until dusk.  I can only imagine the number of bats stuffed into the nooks and crevices of the formations.  Could have been an interesting sight.

 

Finish It!

I’ve had an easy couple of months in the challenge front.  While my annual BikingTheTrail challenge has kicked my butt, my monthly challenges have been nonexistent.  For May, I’m turning it up to 11.  May is my ‘Finish It’ month.  All the projects that have been on my self-made honey do list all year?  I will knock them out of the yard this month.  All of them (perhaps a bit far reaching, but heck if I won’t try).  What is on this list you ask?  Take a deep breath, because here we go:

  • Replace the kitchen sink faucet (if I manage to do it without calling a plumber, expect a DIY tutorial soon.  And a little bit of gloating)
  • Deposit my rolled changed (this task is harder than you think when you live twenty miles away from your closest bank branch)
  • Kitchen cabinet caulking (say that ten times fast.  I started this task way back 2016 sometime and only got about twenty percent of the way through.  Finish it!)
  • Stove replacement
  • Oven replacement (the joys of having the original appliances in an old house.  It is going to be an expensive month.  Time to tighten the purse strings elsewhere.  Good thing I’m on a diet/slimdown)
  • Garage door replacement (see explanation/complaint above ^)
  • Build a pantry
  • Build an entertainment system
  • Make my kitchen sign
  • Make a cubby for Starbuck (she needs attention too)
  • Surround sound system (maybe?)
  • Clean the yard (a monster in itself)

Sleep is for suckers!

What’s on your spring cleaning list this month?

Cops, Climate Change, and Composting

I replaced the Bluetooth speaker I left in Colorado (sounds like the premise for a bad country song) and finally got back on the podcast wagon.  A recent business trip offered ample time to make a dint in my backlog.  There were a lot of interesting listens, but I have curated the list down to my top five:

Numero Uno:
Shots Fired: Part 1: from RadioLab
Oh man.  You guys.  Bring the tissues for this one.  This two part story was the first two episodes of this podcast I ever listened to.  They hooked me at the start.  I cried in the car driving to work.  But it’s an important story, one I don’t think a lot of privileged people see.  In fact, it is a story – a problem – the privileged so often scoff at and turn their heads.  I hope others will listen and see.

Numero Dos:
Composting: Nature’s Most Interesting Process from Stuff You Should Know
This podcast proved I have a long ways to go on my compost in the backyard.  I did not realize I need to turn it every day, or every other day if I feel lazy.  I… can’t remember the last time I turned mine.  October?  Maybe?  Which means my compost is a passive pile.  Hello, methane.  This podcast energizes me to get more active in my composting.  Now I just need the time to spend on it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if days were eight hours longer?  I would spend four of them sleeping, but the other four would shoot my productivity through the roof.

Numero Tres:
Global Perspective Climate Change Panel from Quirks & Quarks
A Canadian podcast talking to Chinese and Indian gentleman about their thoughts on how, among other issues, the United States looks in the global perspective on climate change.  Spoiler alert: it isn’t looking good, folks.

Numero Quatro:
Stranger in Paradise from RadioLab
My sample size is small so far (a total of three episodes), but RadioLab kills it, you guys.  This podcast tells the story of a national treasure of Guadeloupe.  A raccoon.  A friggin raccoon, y’all.  And you know what?  It was fascinating.  I never thought I could be immersed in a story about a raccoon, but they did it again.

Numero Cinco:
The Great American Eclipse – Be Part of It from Planetary Radio
Get ready for August.  Are you ready?  You don’t look ready.  I need to freshen up my solar glasses/looking box building techniques.  I haven’t seen an eclipse since… well, I don’t want to age myself.  But it’s been a while.  I can’t wait for this full eclipse.  Make sure you can reach totality if at all possible.  Nerds rejoice!