krikitt downs

Today's Haul

Daily Photo

Swung by the house for mandarins and picked up an avocado. We'll see if this one ripens.

Lawn mower


My dad doesn't mow his lawn as much as the neighbors would probably like him to mow it. It's a big yard. It's a big yard on the corner, and a lower priority in life than other things.

It's a skill I, too, have mastered.

Over the last seven years, we've stripped out most of the concrete in the back yard, thanks to Doyle and Kevin. We've also removed a lot of the plants, which may or may not have been a good thing.


Unfortunately, the removal of the concrete and its placement with compost and good soil was an invitation for whatever seeds were blowing in the wind to start in our yard. Each year its something different, this year it was grass.

Kris wanted to dig up all of the grass, rototill it under, or rip it out and throw it away. The grass was growing too tall for him to be able to find the dog poop in the yard to clean it up. Somehow, I managed to convince him to wait a week, for me to order a lawn mower and mow the grass. I don't know just how I managed, but I did.

The mower arrived this week, but it sat there until this weekend. After I opened the box, Kris assembled the mower. He handed it to me and said "Have at it."

The grass was so tall, I had to get a running start on most of it. The backyard is mowed now, but I can't say it looks good.

At least Kris can find the dog poop now.



Sink repair


High on this morning's successful 5 minute light switch repair, I decided to change out the faucet in the bathroom. I had an hour to spare, I had light in the bathroom, I had a dog to keep me company, I didn't really see any reason not to switch out the faucet.

Ah, the ignorance of youth.

This "ignorance of youth" is also known as chucking one's common sense out the window by not asking oneself, "Do you recall how bad 2009 is going? Do you REALLY want to change out a faucet when your luck is so bad you've caught ONE green light in the last two weeks?" The answer to these questions is of course, "Oh shit! You're right! This is a bad idea, let me wait until February," and not "Bring it on!"


I pulled the faucet out of the box and looked at it. There was the faucet, but there was also the drain stop. Neither the sink nor the bathtub in this bathroom actually hold water, with both stoppers being removed by the cleaners who were "fixing" the sink and the time. I was pleased that I could replace the broken "fixed" drain stop with this new drain stop.

The first thing I did was unscrew the lever in the back of the drain stop. Oh, look at that, OF COURSE the lever didn't work, part of it was MISSING. I'm quite sure how the person who replaced the drain stop last time though it was going to work, given there WASN'T ANYTHING TO ATTACH.

Okay, fine, out came the drain pipe, which had been replaced a year or two ago by the cleaners. Simple enough, unscrew the bottom, unscrew the top, pull apart. I noticed a washer on the bottom of the top part of the drain pipe, the part that shows up in the sink, which was nice, as it meant that I might not need the plumbers putty (which Mark indicated should be avoided when possible). I started cleaning out the drain hole in the sink so that the replacement would install cleanly.


After cleaning for a bit, I noticed there was some putty in a groove in the sink between the top of the sink drain hold and the bottom of the sink drain hole. Thinking this was a little odd, I started cleaning it up a bit. I cleaned for a bit longer, until I realized that the putty was all the way around the sink, completely blocking the slot.

I looked up the sink, down the sink, around the sink, and through the hole, then realized that this groove was the bottom part of the drain that started at the overflow holes at the top of the inside of the sink. The person who had installed the last drain pipe replacement had completely blocked the drain holes, which meant that any overflow water would have stayed inside my sink. Worse, it would have stayed there, even after any drain had been unclogged.

Who the hell does this kind of crap?


As sure as I was about the idiocy I was witnessing, I wasn't 100% sure there wasn't some other rational thinking going on, so I called up my dad and described what I was seeing. Surely whoever had done this was retarded and I should clean out whatever putty was there, right? Dad agreed that, yes, the putty had to go. He, too, couldn't think of any reason for it being there other than stupidity.

So, I started digging. And digging. And digging.

Dad stayed on the phone chatting with me as I cleaned out the putty, and started disassembling the connections from the wall to the faucet. He laughed when I sputtered as water fell onto me when I didn't turn off the water QUITE ENOUGH (that last 1% is the difference between a drip and a drop), but encouraged me during the rest of the detachments. When I was stuck on removing one of the connectors near the faucet, he asked if I had the right tool: a wrench with a moon shape head and a T handle. The head rotated perpendicular to the handle, and either tightened or loosened the nut depending on which perpendicular you set the head.


I mentioned to Dad how I had a lot of tools, thanks to Mike, but didn't seem to have that one. Dad found his wrench, took a picture of it, then learned how to send multimedia pictures with his phone to send it to me. He was so adorable in his excitement. It's technology great? It's it great to be alive these days?

Off to the store I went to purchase a basin wrench for myself. It's times like these that I really wish, like most weeks, that Mike and Kate still lived four doors down from us. I suspect Mike would have a basin wrench (the term of which I learned at the store).


I returned home, took a picture of me and my new wrench, sent it to Dad in return, undid the faucet fittings with my spanking new wrench, cleaned everything up, including the now slightly dirty drain stop, quickly installed the faucet, wrapped the pipe fitting threads with teflon tape, reassembled the piping, and tightened everything up.

I brieftly marvelled at just how disgusting all of the parts I removed were: water damaged, eroded and dirty. I was more than a little surprised we hadn't had worse problems with this sink, and quite thankful we never tried the overflow drain holes.


The faucet isn't perfect, I've noticed. It has a dent on the side, and the handles are a little loose. I'm sure the faucet was a return at Home Depot, based on these problems, but I've decided to be pleased with my successful install, and the happy with the new faucet. The style matches the rest of the bathroom fixes fairly well, which makes me happy. I choose to focus on this, and not the wobbly handle.

Until it annoys me too much. Then I'll ask Andy to help me tighten them.


That sound? The disposal.


Some time last month, our garbage disposal stopped working.

It didn't have a spoon or a knife or a fork jammed into it. It didn't have an excess of food in it. It just stopped spinning. If I had to speculate, I would have guessed it was all the string from the string cheese going down the drain caught on the spinning parts. Okay, not really, but I do think that the stringy something or other that I've been pulling out of the garbage disposal had something to do with the stop. Of course, the something that ruined the pipes could have something to do with the disposal problem, too.

Kris had attempted to clear it, using the Intarweb™ to find solutions. Unfortunately, using an allen wrench and turning the disposal in a counter-clockwise direction didn't solve the problem.

So, we did the next best thing.

We bought a new garbage disposal and bribed Mark to help us install it.

We bribed him with dinner.

More importantly, we bribed Megan with dinner, and asked her to bring Mark along.

Mirabelle, Megan and Meter at dinner

Given our success with the kitchen lights, we were on a high, and ready to do the install ourselves. Mark, however, had recently installed a garbage disposal in his house, and commented that this install was going to be easy, and we didn't need the plumbers putty we had bought.

Turns out, garbage disposals have a part that attaches to the sink and is sealed. The disposal itself hangs off this part. If you need to replace your current disposal and have the foresight to purchase the same (or near enough the same) model as your old disposal, you can leave the attachment on the sink, and just screw the new disposal onto the attachment.

THIS is why I bribe Mark to help us with these things. I didn't know about these parts before today. This is also why I bribe Mark, and don't pay some recent college grad to replace the disposal. Two blinks after dinner, the disposal was in place and running.

Mark dealing with the disposal

So bright!


Despite my inability to raise my arms, Kris and I put up the kitchen lights today. The sole light in our kitchen for the last month has been a floor lamp next to the window. The light we actually received from the lamp is weak at best, meaning no clean up in the kitchen could be considered tolerable unless done in the daylight.

Chris Holley had painted the ceiling a month ago (uh, yeah), so the lights could be installed any day now. Any. Day. Now.

Today was the day.

Inspired by Andy's installation of our dining area light, we tackled the light installation ourselves. We did okay AFTER I added the washers to the light base to keep the screws from shooting through the base holes.





Not the only one with bad time estimates


Apparently, I'm not the only one with bad time estimates.

After going to bed after 2 this morning, Kris and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 6:00 am this morning to head to Home Depot for the shower hardware. The frustrating thing about purchasing shower hardware is finding the right finish, style AND functionality with the limited selection at any store.

I wanted a brushed nickel (or equivalent) finish, with a large circle back plate for the handle, and a dial/handle that controlled BOTH water flow and temperature. Controlling water flow is important to me, because I prefer a low flow shower until I'm rinsing my hair.

And then I prefer a Niagara-like flow.

Not one of the boxes seemed labelled with this "dual feature" I was looking for. The HD help person was exactly no help, her answers to our requests being, "I don't know. Look at the boxes."

So, I decided, if I can't have the finish I want, I'll buy something cheap with the dual flow and temperature control, even if it looks like crap, and replace it with some horribly expensive Restoration Hardware shower hardware that DOES do what I want. Hopefully that replacement won't cost another $1200. And, hopefully, we can do it ourselves.

Yeah. Life doesn't work out that way.

We rushed home and arrived around 7:00 am. Kris went into the office to start playing WoW. He's never been able to stay awake long enough at night to play at 7:00 am, how has the playing changed? What nuances would he find, playing at 7:00 AM? Or all day, for that matter. Because he played that damn game ALL FREAKIN' DAY. He paused 5 times: once to go to the bathroom, once to go to the store when I requested it and get food for himself to eat, once just for foot, and twice to feed the dogs. That's it. 5 times. Five times.

He sat there for SEVENTEEN hours while three plumbers walked in and out of the office behind him to crawl in and out of the crawl space door in the closet floor. The plumbers could have been painting graffiti on the bathroom walls for all Kris noticed.

No, I'm not bitter about that game.

Not at all.

Full of loathing, maybe.

So, the first plumber arrived at 7:30. The next one at 8. The last one, who I didn't even know was coming, arrived at 8:30. Work began in earnest around 9, after the inspection of the linen closet (empty), the office closet crawl space trap door (accessible), the bathtub (clogged) and the task requirements.

The wall opened up. The hacksaws came out. The pipes were cut.

The wall had been opened up before, based on the repair marks on the wall. WHEN they had been opened up is unclear. Completely unclear.

At 9:58 AM, the first two Master Gardeners show up for the website sprint. At 10:00 AM, the next one shows up. At 10:05, I return from the store where I managed to remember milk for Kris, along with the fruits and vegetable snacks for the Master Gardeners, but forgot, oh, water? I mean, plumbers, replacing a trap... water to house turned off. Who would forget water?

Good thing no one flushed in the second bathroom.

The plumbers were supposed to be gone by 2. The Master Gardeners by 4. The latter managed it. The former didn't.

Turns out, replacing the trap was easy. When they replaced the trap, they found the tub drain pipe was seriously clogged. The only open spot in the 2" pipe was the 3/8" hole made by the snake we routinely sent down the first meter of tub pipe.

They replaced that pipe, and sent a snake down the trap.

With no success.

They climbed onto the roof and sent a snake down the roof access pipe.

With no success.

I mentioned the backyard trap, so they went around back to send the snake down the lower trap access pipe from the kitchen.

With no success.

The three plumbers disappeared back under the house. Ten minutes later, there was sawing sounds. They removed another stretch of pipe to find the problem. I asked for all the removed pipes to be left, so I saw the 140 cm long pipe they removed, with T joint.

Turns out, a stick had been sent down the pipes and had lodged in that T joint where the bathroom drained into the main outflow pipe to the sewer line. My biggest fear was that the sewer line repair had failed and all of those repairs would need to be redone. A stick in the bathroom drain, though. How?

Now, a stick in the drain pipe had to have gotten there somewhere. Down the toilet is a possibility, but mostly unlikely given the traps around it. Down the sink wasn't possible given the size of the stick. Did we have a tree that was removed recently? A stick could have fallen down the roof pipe access. Is there a cover on that pipe? I asked. No, there wasn't. Okay, add that to the house task list.

There weren't any trees recently removed from the house, since we've been here seven years this month (hc, seven years?), and there weren't any trees. Either the stick had been in the pipes that long (slightly possible, given our fountaining toilet as a welcoming gift from the house) and not decomposed (unlikely, but maybe possible if the stick was submerged underwater with no microbe activity coming from, oh, THE TOILET?), or it had been dropped down the roof access pipe, maybe by a bird making a nest or an evil squirrel.

I'm partial to the evil squirrel theory myself.

During all of this drama, the Master Gardeners group (John, Allen, Caryl, Bracey, Karyn and Bob) kept right on working on the website. I was completely embarrassed (especially at asking all of them to use the same toilet but DON'T FLUSH!), but they seemed to just go with it. An adventure!

In my own bathroom.


The plumbers left around 6:30 PM, their six hour estimate shot by a lot. To my surprise, the bill was still $1200. When the snake didn't go down the first times, and they were still around after nine hours, I was sure the price was going up. The plumber in charge, however, said it was a fixed bid, and the amount was $1200.

The three of them were clearly frustrated by the end. Can't say I blamed them. They totally experienced Murphy's law today.

And the stubborn will of my house.

Step two: tub trap


A year or so ago, our tub backed up. Tub drains have always clogged for me, so I use a drain cover to catch the hairs before they head down the drain and cause problems. Kris is annoyed by the tub trap, mostly because it already has my hair in it, though it does have some of his, too. He usually kicks it away, and lets the shower drain normally instead of blocked by whatever hair was in the trap from my shower (even though I'm pretty good about keeping it clear, less good about putting the hair any place but the side of the tub).

We called the plumber, one who had been out before to fix the our fountaining toliet, but he didn't have any luck fixing the tub's draining, so we dealt with the problem was best we could: shorter showers, horrible chemicals down the drain much too frequently for my tastes, easier but less effective enzymes down the drain also too frequently. Nothing much was helping, and the backups were getting worse.

Today, when the cleaners came over, I mentioned the tub wasn't draining, so don't fill it up too much before cleaning, otherwise it won't drain. "Not draining?" the one in charge asked. "I'll fix it," he said, and went to work.

After a short while, when he sighed in exasperation and I heard it two rooms over, I explained that the last time the backup was this bad, we called a plumber. He, too, was unable to clear the drain because he was unable to put a snake in the pipes. The trap in the tub was old enough (the original on the house, we think) that it wouldn't allow a snake down it. "Oh? The trap? Do you want it replaced?"



"How much?"

"Three hundred dollars."

Okay. $300 and the snake will fit and I can shower without standing in 3" of water? Okay, sure.

So, he's coming tomorrow morning early to fix the plumbing. Great.

Kris and I went off for dinner with Mike and Liza and Maeryn (fun time that!), and returned to find a note from the cleaner in charge, please call.

So, I call to talk to him. No, he's not going to bring over the shower hardware, so I'll need to purchase a new set. Okay, I'll go out to get it. Oh, and the full cost is going to be $1200.


Well, turns out to replace the trap, drain and showerhead, the wall needs to be opened up. Once that happens, the pipes can be replaced and the fixtures put in place. Then, when all of that is done, they can snake the pipes and clean them out. Voila!

The time estimate is about 6 hours, can they start at 7:30?

7:30 am? Ugh.

I asked Kris what he thought. Well, the last plumber quoted us $2000 to do the same work: replace the trap and clean out the pipes so that everything drains properly. He tried the snake through the drain without success, through the trap without success, down the roof cleanout without success and through the ground level trap without success. The longer we go without fixing this problem, the more expensive the fix is going to be.

But your decision.

Well, 7:30 am, six hours, $1200. I'm hosting another Master Gardener website sprint tomorrow. Done by 1:30, they don't arrive until 10, should be okay.

1000 words


After I wrote about my morning outdoor shower, Brynne wrote to me:

I really feel that the picture from last night (garden hose + naked Kitt =
priceless) would be worth way more than 1,000 words!!!

Kind of happy that i wasn't nearby. Perhaps I played a small, enabling part
which allowed a much more unique showering experience - awesome choice!!!


The showers have been quite fun, so I continued to head outside into the back yard for a morning shower. This morning, I was a little more nervous than usual, as I could hear neighbors talking from over the fence. Fortunately, the fence was the one diagonally from my house, so they'd have to look over the corner of their garden, and I have a tree somewhat in the way.


Their talk made me nervous, and, well, I brought out my camera just for Brynne:

Just for you, Brynne.

Definitely time to put some stones out there to stand on while showering. I bought gentle, biodegradable soap today, too, in hopes of minimizing the soap impact on the soil. We'll see. Right now, I'm having too much fun showering outdoors to worry too much.

Update: Gah! I am so white!

Morning shower


We've been having bathtub issues for a while now, maybe six months or so. Ever since I realized that my hair clogged the bathtub drain faster than than you can shower twice, I've used a hair trap in the tub, a trick that Allyse Manoff showed me way back when, like years way back when.

Fortunately, I learned this lesson in an apartment, well before we owned the plumbing that could get clogged and require expensive fixes.

Unfortunately, some hair still gets through, and after six years of showers, those little protein strings had their way, and clogged our tub's P trap.

The timing could not have been worse, with Ben, Lisa, Jake, Heather and Andy Fisher staying with us this past weekend. Ben and Lisa stayed over at Keith and Katie's more than our house, so that meant only four people showering in the tub.

When I called the plumber last week, he was able to clear the toliet and the main line, but unable to remove the cover from the tub's overflow (because the previous plumber who was out had cut the screws off, then put in broken screws in the remaining holes) and the drain cover. He told me when I had one of the two items off, give him a call back and he'd come out to clear the P trap.

Guess what Guy did yesterday.

Yep. Cursing the whole time.

Well, as much as someone as wholesome as Guy can actually curse, that is.

Five hours, and one good long lunch break, later, he had the cover off the tub, having drilled the broken screw out. Yay, Guy!

I called the plumber back, and, while I was having a massage in the back yard, he came over and started work on the tub. Kris managed to deal with him, thankfully. I have to honestly say there are few things less relaxing when getting a massage than hearing a plumber pound on your house's plumbing, the sounds reverberating throughouthe neighborhood.

Yeah, new plumbing is going in. Right along with that new wiring and new windows. I wonder if I can cancel the purchase of that other house without any penalty, use that money to do all these repairs now instead of later.

After the plumber left, and my massage was done, I walked into the house and asked, happily, if the shower was ready for me. Kris looked at me and said, well, no, we weren't showering in that tub any time soon: the plumber couldn't unclog the drain, and the suggested solution required the water in the tub to drain and then dry somewhat.

A tub. Dry out.


I looked at him dumbfounded. I needed a shower, and I needed it now. Tomorrow night was going to be way too late.

Who was closest to us? Where could I go shower? Brynne's old apartment was only 3/4 of a mile away. Thinking her lease didn't expire until tomorrow, the end of the month, I called her to see if she still had her keys. She did, indeed, have her keys, but she was in Los Gatos, hey, I could head to Los Gatos to shower. I thanked her, declined, hung up, and starting thinking.

Kris is always suggesting to me, encouraging me to be resourceful. Instead of giving up and asking for someone else to solve a problem, try for a few moments to think of an alternate, clever solution to a problem before asking for help. This is in stark contrast to my usual beat-my-head-against-the-wall-until-it's-bloody technique of gnawing on a problem until I'm completely frustrated, and only then ask for help. Fortunately, the latter problems are work related, and not shower related.

Nearest friend now that Kate and Mike have moved out? Max. He has a baby, that might not be good.

Next closest? Andy Crews. Might be awkward.

Next closest friend's house: Keith and Katie. Hey, that might work.

But, really, think about it, all I needed was running water. The hose outside would be fine, except for the cold water.

Cold water.

Hot water.

I walked to the garage and looked at the faucet on the laundry tub. What do you know? It had a hose hookup.

One connected garden hose, one rag, one bar of soap, two flipflops and two confused dogs later, I was in the back yard, standing in a mud pit, washing myself as the heathens do (that is to say, with a rag).

Kris didn't realize that the place I go for Tuesday and Thursday morning workouts doesn't have a shower when he talked to the plumber last night. He realized it this morning when I commented I was going to stand in a mud pile for this morning's shower.

As I was standing in my back yard this morning, naked with the hose splashing nice hot water, I recalled a story my mom tells of how she used to do yard work in the back yard, naked at Eric's old house. She'd just head outside and start on the yardwork, who cares about clothes, no one could see her over the fence.

She did this until she heard a noise, one day, turned, and saw the neighbor's kid on his roof looking down, watching her rake leaves with only her shoes on.

I looked around to see if any neighboring houses has a good view of my blinding white butt (nope, none did), as I showered again. Part of me is thrilled the extra water I use when I shower is going to the tree in the back yard, but another part worries about the soap going into the ground. I might need to purchase biodegradable, good soap and shampoo tonight if the plumber's fix doesn't work later today.

Thankfully, Guy is out of town for a week. He might be able to handle my scurrying from the bathroom to the bedroom in a towel when he shows up at the house, but I'm not so sure he'd be able to handle a boss' full frontal nudity upon arriving to work.

That would be just weird.

Not a Smith!


Today was Guy's first day of work at my place. As with Kevin and Kyle before him, I have a college student working around my house this summer, doing all of the little tasks I need done, but never seem to find the time to do. Having someone working at the house solves many of my issues: leaving the house empty all day, leaving the dogs alone all day, having a to-do list a mile long, being short (yeah, Guy's over 6' tall, so he can reach all of the areas above my reach that just need to be reached), you know, the usual.

Years ago, when I said I wanted to hire a high school kid for the summer to work on projects I needed done, Kris thought I was crazy. What person hires a kid for the summer? Businesses sure, but just people? And what kid would want to work all summer on random tasks? It's not like the tasks relate directly to the degree the kid will be pursuing in college.

Just like working in a Dairy Queen contributed little but a great story to my education.

Of course, Paul's parents hate me, so maybe Dairy Queen wasn't so bad after all.

As for who would work on random house tasks, Kyle Smith, Principal Engineer of Krikitt Downs was the first to say yes. Kevin took a little convincing. Guy seems to love the flexible schedule, even if the work is a little bor-ring (there is a reason why the items are still on my to-do list and not my to-done list).

And though Kris thought I was crazy, until all the house tasks started getting done, Mike never thought I was crazy. Instead, he was crazy jealous, and immediately asked if he could have some of Kyle and Kevin's time.

I think they liked him less than they like me. At least my work doesn't involve hard manual labor. Oh, wait, except those cement blocks. Sorry, Kevin, but it was an excuse to get you to take off your shirt, and what do you know? It worked!

So, Guy is following in the Smiths' footsteps. Adam recommended him to me, so I feel good about this working out this summer.

Guy, if you find this post, know that I'm really happy you're here. I'm sure I'll tell you that to your face, too.