More To Do

Moved this up from the previous blog with edits.

List updated 13 December.

Yet More To Do lists, priority ranked(?) (You'll recognize some of these from before)

  • We could get rain on Monday the 27th, so that means that I want to complete the downspout on my newly installed gutters. DONE. 0.31 inches of rain by my backyard rain gauge. Works well except the rain coming down the roof valley overshoots the gutter and splashes onto the patio. I can fix that easily enough. DONE2. Unesthetically fixed by cutting a piece from an aluminum baking tray and gluing it to the gutter.
  • My son has a family traditions day at school on Wednesday and we have to make a recipe from our culinary heritage, divide it in 25 bite size pieces, and send it with utensils to school. DONE (He thought it was tasty. His feelings were slightly hurt when his American cheese eating peers spurn our culinary traditions ;-) ).
  • Put front gutters in.
  • Get cotoneaster, morea, and jasmine out and down to chez frere. Jasmine DONE at the same time that I ferried cement board to his house Sun the 17th.
  • Get native plants in. Some done.
  • Call an electrician or three for estimates on service upgrades. Expecting $1500 to $2000 cost. Two sort of down (estimate of $1900 from Gene at One Stop Electric, but that doesn't include trenching the patio for a second ground rod attachment, $2400 over the phone estimate from Direct Electric Inc 310-978-8471 who advised me to call Edison to get my new meter "spotted" [approved as to location] at which point they would come by and give me a real estimate. Edison will be by on the 20th - I'll need to leave a map with preferred locations.), one to go. Apparently service upgrades have to be proven or justified somehow in the approval process with a "green sheet". Remodeling a kitchen seemed to pass as appropriate justification.
  • Pick colors and paint some sample areas on the house. Is there a service to color a digital photo beforehand? Step one complete: Called local favorite Supremepaint (Redondo Bch: 310-540-4456) . They have referred me to a computer product called Color Preview 2000 from Benjamin Moore and tell me that it will do the trick. Apparently they had it in stock until six months ago. I've managed to find and order Personal Color Viewer 2.0, on the Benjamin Moore web site which runs either as a web based application (free, but no digital imports allowed) and a downloadable / CD version (costs $10, but allows imported digital pictures). PCV 2.0 does not run nicely on my computer at home (Win2k). It works at work (Win XP).
  • Dump run Saturday early AM? Check with neighbor to see if they need anything hauled to dump. DONE. Got the neighbor's stuff too. The transfer station doesn't take large stumps, so I decided that my stump was medium. No one ran after me yelling.
  • Cut concrete on porch for weep pit - the second of my flood mitigation attempts. Tools are on hand. Dig pit as deep as possible. Need stackable concrete block, 12" grate, and gravel. Neither Lowes nor Home Depot have the stackable block that I need.
  • Cut porch concrete for ground rod placement. It's starting to look like I should just demo the porch concrete altogether now, before the electrical upgrade. Started by demoing the brick planter at porch's edge, but now am uncertain due to Edison requirement to "spot" the meter location. It could end up moving. I'm not too torn up though, the planter and the porch are going anyway.
  • Install attic vent (cut stucco, frame, paper, wire, repair stucco). I've now painted vent white. Need to cut a few framing members for inside the garage.
  • Complete electrical install near French Door. All parts at hand except outdoor lights.
  • Find a nice outdoor light or lights. Lamps Plus (18989 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA 90504) for purchase? Plenty of selection there, such as this one on sale. I really like this sale item - whimsical and not too "of an era" so that it would fit well into the no style / Ranch / Cal cottage / 50s tract theme that I have going chez moi. However, a tape measure confirms that it won't fit. Even the smaller one (not on sale at $134.99!! - Cotswold 12 1/2" High Down Mount Outdoor Wall Light) doesn't fit - too tall by 1.5 inches or so. Fiddlesticks! Home Depot has nothing and Lowes has only one possibility, based on several surveys of both stores' mechandise. Other places: Bellacor and Arcadian Lighting seem to have decent selection. DONE. Found a lamp at Lowes (at right) that was sized to fit, looks ok, and will do the job. At $13.47 I don't mind replacing it when I later decide I've found my ideal.
  • Establish Coverdell account. DONE (Had to use paperwork to establish the account at ETrade, but strangely my check hasn't cleared a couple weeks after it was mailed).



Thanksgiving was great for me. I hope it was great for you too. Besides the usual activities, we hiked to the top of Montecito Peak on Saturday. There was a ~1000 ft elevation gain and 10 miles of hiking. This was tiring enough for us city folks, so we were suitably impressed by the numerous people on the trail who were participating in the Santa Barbara Nine Trail Run. This is a 35 mile, 10.5k ft elevation change trail run.

Looking at the 9 Trails map, it's hard to believe that we hiked to the top of Montecito Peak. It looks so far up. I do know that we got up to a fire road and a beautiful view with quail and hawks. Along the way we passed trail markers #1 - #5 (unitless) which also gave elevation.

Native Plant Society - local chapters

My local chapters of the California Native Plant Society are the South Coast Chapter (Palos Verdes Penninsula and San Clemente and Santa Catalina Islands) and the Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter. I wonder if there's major differences between them? One might imagine so, based on their meeting places. The SC-CNPS meets at the South Coast Botanic Gardens mid way up to the top of snooty PV, whereas the LA-CNPS meets in the renter's paradise of Santa Monica. I admit I'm drawn to snooty, in part because it's easier to drive to.

If I ever check them out, expect a full report.


Food and Cooking Supply Stores Nearby

Surfas, Corner of W. Washington and National Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232.

Cash and Carry (division of Smart and Final) 4310 W. 190th street , Torrance, CA, 90504.

La Espanola, 25020 Doble Avenue, Harbor City, California 90710, Phone: (310) 539-0455.

I've been a long-time customer of Surfas and La Espanola. Cash and Carry is new to me.

How popular is your name?

  • There are 134,986 people in the U.S. with my first name.
  • Statistically the 433rd most popular first name. (tied with 5 other first names)
  • There are 353,963 people in the U.S. with the my name.
  • Statistically the 57th most popular last name.

I had no idea my name was so popular.

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?


Stucco; Bonus Chores

I spent 9 hours today working with Antonio on the house. Antonio knows his stucco, since that's his weekday job. At first he approved of my expanded metal mesh over paper and the other prep work I'd done, and he proceeded to mix up a wheelbarrow full of stucco. But when he went to apply it, he found my installation totally lacking. So we pulled it all off in a rush, since a wheelbarrow full of cured concrete wasn't our idea of forward progress, and backed it with with some 1/8" plywood sheathing that I had around. I have to admit that I'm still a bit confused about why he needed such a rigid backing for the stucco, and I'll probably explore that in a later blog to try and capture the lessons learned. Briefly, I think that he's used to completing a stucco job in a day, rather than the more traditional process of waiting days for each of three stucco layers to cure. A rigid backing allows him to do that. These houses didn't originally have rigid backing (just chicken wire over house paper which is basically what I supplied him), so I think that techniques have changed over the years. His technique makes sense if he's working for a contractor, since time is lots of money for those guys. The upshot is that he got it all done today.

Bonus chore #1 was to replace the front porch support posts. Until now, all construction action has taken place in the back. There were three posts, and all three were so dry rotted at their bases that the porch roof was supporting them, rather than the other way around. This became a matter of immediate high urgency when in the process of removing a section of porch rail to give me another egress from the porch (to accomodate my revamped native garden) I poked my screwdriver all the way through the thin veneer of paint that wrapped the dry rot. The posts are replaced now (well, 2 of 3) and I'll paint them with a rot preventer / water repellant before the house paint, making this an opportune time to pick my new trim colors, which I guess is bonus chore #2. This is following along quite well with my previous observations of Cascading Home Repair. By the way, the dry rot is undoubtedly caused by the long term absence of gutters in the front of the house. I guess I'll be fixing that problem too. Ah! bonus chore #3! Fortunately, I have recent experience. So I'll just whip all these bonus chores out before the first good rain of the year while keeping up on all the other planned ones.


Modern Wood Stoves

When I bought this house, I thought to myself, "Ah - no crummy fireplace to vent away the heat in winter. I like it!". As it turns out, I miss having a fireplace. I also like these stoves. Maybe next winter I can have one to warm my house.

There appears to be only a few brands of modern design wood stoves, Rais, Scan, and Wittus . A somewhat more traditional lineup is offered by Moresoe and even more so (hehe) by Jotul and Countryflame.

Availability is a problem for many of these. Some of the ones that I didn't even bother to mention appear to have appointment-only showrooms in Manhattan (the borough of New York, not the local beach city). However, Rais and Scan are available through Okell's Fireplace, located in Hermosa Beach . Okell's has a different web address than you'd expect.

Of the two, Scan is more "affordable". I think I recall prices starting at about $1600 for a couple of basic Scan ovens. The options I'd like brought it up another maybe $250. The nice thing is that $2k for an occasional-use home furnishing seemed like it was completely over the top a couple years ago. Now it just seems somewhat over the top.

An interesting thought: Some municipalities (for example, Boulder, Co) regulate the use of wood fired stoves. However, many of the Scan and Rais models are listed in their sales literature as ovens, not stoves. (They have an enclosed space above the firebox which comes with an optional door and soapstone liner to be used as an "oven"). I wonder if this is a ploy to avoid being impacted by those regulations?

I checked out prices on 11/27 on the way back from an errand and they are nowhere near what I had remembered. Perhaps our crummy exchange rate has affected them, but I'm getting prices that are about $1000 more than I remember from last year on both Scan and Rais stoves. The available models have changed too, making Rais the leader in the ones I like best.

Weekend Planning

The usual weekend planning here.

  • Demo cotoneaster, install ceanothus in its place - All tools are on hand. Looks like a trip to the dump on Sunday with the waste is out (they are closed). I really ought to be able to get rid of my garden waste for free, but it looks like only dirt and my asphalt driveway are free.
  • Check with neighbor to see they need anything hauled to dump - can I do the hauling Wednesday AM?
  • Cut concrete on porch for weep pit - the second of my flood mitigation attempts. Tools are on hand. Dig pit as deep as possible. Need stackable concrete block, 12" grate, and gravel.
  • Repair stucco around French door. All parts on hand except expertise.
  • Get electrician in for estimate on service upgrade.
  • Install attic vent (cut stucco, frame, paper, wire, repair stucco. Need to paint vent ahead of time and cut a few framing members for inside the garage.
  • Complete electrical install.
  • Purchase / install outdoor lights.
  • Install othe native plants.

Letter to Santa

My son wrote a letter to Santa. He's now in 3rd grade (almost 8.5 years old). His list includes Pokemon cards, Legos, Armymen, Armymen / Navy , Armymen/Marine, (these three are specific call outs for the little green plastic army men), cherries (Santa already gives cherries as a stocking gift, but he's hoping for even more), Bionicles, and a Nerf gun. He sealed the letter up and I told him I'd mail it at work. When I got to work I realized that he'd included a quarter, perhaps in an effort to bribe Santa. He writes, "PS Last year I got an Army man with a broken head."

This calls for a response of some sort. Do his coins get gold plated and returned? Does he get a hurt letter from an insulted St. Nick?

Edit 11/28: A conversation with him had him first "forgetting" that he'd put in a quarter, then asserting that it was for "taxes".

Weekend Update: Oak Glen, Gutters, etc

Friday was Veterans Day and therefore it was day two in a four day weekend for elementary schools. Since no child care was provided by the school for those of us who have regular jobs, I decided we'd made a trip to Oak Glen. Located just out of Yucaipa, Oak Glen is known for its apples and indeed we found some delicious apples (we came home with Mutsu, Delicious Blush, and one other apple. The Pink Ladys and other more usual apples were also good, but the local farmer's market will have those in abundance), apple cider (At $10 per gallon, it's not priced like Trader Joes but it has a real individual and unique taste) , and apple pie (5 lbs of pie for $12 and it's quite clear that it's made with fresh apples, not something out of a can).

Saturday we did the Farmer's market thing and went hiking in PV. Later, I put up gutters around the poorly drained patio area. This area has suffered for years with poor drainage due to a concrete slab patio that settled lower against the house, which was then backfilled with yet more concrete. I guess the previous owners didn't think to gutter the porch.

I was guilty of perpetuating this problem, but under impetus from the risk of flooding due to the location of the new French doors, I decided to install gutters as one of two preventive measures. I previously expressed angst about using white painted metal gutters from Home Depot, but I didn't want to mess around with a special order of brown vinyl to match the rest of the house. I plunged into the task and lo and behold - they turned out great and don't look mismatched to the others at all since they are not side by side with existing gutters.

Later, while cleaning out the older gutters I noticed that a vinyl hanger was broken and other parts were in poor shape because of embrittlement from the sun. These gutters are only at most 4 years old! Considering all factors now: my increased environmental sensitivity, the looks, ease of installation, and perhaps better durability, I'll go with metal over vinyl for any future installations. Seamless metal is probably a luxury that I won't indulge.

The one bad thing that happened this weekend was that in the process of putting up the gutters I took a bad spill off the ladder and hurt my back. I managed to finish up the gutter chores, but my strength is pretty limited right now. Healing does appear to be taking place, making me optimistic that I'll get some stuff done this weekend which will be the subject of a later planning blog.


Cub Scout Fall Encampment, Native Plantings, Halloween

Last weekend was the big Cub Scout Fall Encampment, which went over really well with my son. We camped Friday and Saturday nights at the Firestone Scout Reservation, shot BB guns, did crafts, and played with the other kids. Needless to say, this left little time for house work. Sunday afternoon I did manage some mowing and watering chores and I got a couple plants in the ground from my recent splurge at the Payne Foundation. They were:

Lilac Verbena (Verbena Lilacina, a Baja native - Silt, sand, rocky! Extremely showy and drought-tolerant. Attracts butterflies. Dead head after bloom. Once a month deep water for year round bloom.) will take the place of a non-native Verbena.

Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri - Well-draining soil, full sun, dry to semi-dry, Known as the "fried-egg flower" for its huge blossoms (to 9" across). One of California's most spectacular and best-known flowers. Once established, it spreads over a large area. Great for slope or back of garden.) will take the former place of the ornamental pea plant. This link gives me hope that it will grow in my yard.

California sagebrush (Artemisia Californica "Canyon Gray" trailing sagebrush - stays only about a foot tall, tolerates serpentine and clay soils as well as well drained soils.) See pictures here and here.

So far I'm not impressing myself with how my choices line up with my soil, but we'll see how it goes. For those wondering why I keep repeating the Latin names and growing conditions along with the common names, it's so that I can learn them. I have a mind like a steel sieve when it comes to things like that.

Oh, and then there was Hallowe'en! We trick or treated for about 2 hours total, with a 30 minute rest at home at the 2/3rds point. I gave out about 100 pieces of candy during that 30 minutes. The ones I hated giving candy to were the teens with no costume. I razzed them a lot about being too old and not having a costume. I also made them all give me a loud shout of "trick or treat", even the ones that clearly didn't speak English. There was also a welcome respite this year from the moms and dads collecting candy for their sleeping infant children in strollers. I saw a few signs around saying, "costumes only". I think I'll do that next year too.