To Do list II - revisited, yet again

Last updated
30 Dec 2007 - reprioritized and updated based on new developments and laudable self-directive to finish what you start before starting a new project.
10 Dec 2007 - Called Gene at 1-Stop with MRS number, obtained last week from T. Cross
03 Dec 2007 - Tom Cross of Edison was by last Fri to re-spot new meter location. Called Gene at 1-Stop to update him on progress.
19 Nov 2007 - called for a new bid on electrical panel replacement. Will get bid on 20th.
17 Nov 2007 - demoed low brick planter in back yard.
15 Nov 2007 - newest meter location spotted successfully with Tom Cross of Edison
2 Sep 2007 - completed trellis for front.
14 Aug 2007 - got $30.75 for the scrap metal.
13 Aug 2007 - loaded some of brother's scrap metal and mine for recycling tomorrow
10 Aug 2007 - info on recycling
7 Aug 2007 - more garage cleaning, added some yard items
Updated 6 Aug 2007 - garage cleaning

I've been absorbed in work (upcoming launch, new responsibilities), travel (work, vacation), and family (school, scouts, gf, relatives) and trying to catch up on sleep on weekends since my last major home improvement effort back in May. Those are my excuses. Now it's time to get back to the To Do list with an update and re-emphasis on actually getting things done.

My loyal reader will recall that I've had To Do lists before and even before that. I'm trying not to beat myself up over slow progress and to keep in mind that Home Repair Man is but one aspect of my many and varied super personas and that there's parallel lists of things to do that don't involve hardware stores. Of course the usual rule of cascading home repair / bonus chores applies. If you're too lazy to follow the links for a long definition, bonus chores are the problems that you must fix (because for instance, you've just noticed the alarming fact that your porch is not being supported by its rotted posts) and cascades of home repairs occur when you really want to accomplish C, but need to do A and then B, prior to even thinking about C. Bonus chores and cascades of home repairs can be linked.

House Improvements
  • Clean and organize garage for all the wonderful things I'll need it for. (started 6 Aug 07, continued 7 Aug, 30 Dec major garage overhaul for electrical install) Finish what you start.
  • Install attic vent in garage gable end (cut stucco, frame, paper, wire, repair stucco). I've now painted the vent white. Need to cut a few framing members for inside the garage. Finish what you start.
  • Get newest meter location respotted by Edison. REDONE 30 Nov 2007 when I got Tom Cross of Edison back out to the property
    • Phone conversations and even a revisit earlier in Nov didn't resolve the issue of where exactly I could put a panel. Turns out the side yard is OK. His only caveat was that the panel might not have enough clearance to the side yard fence (36" required) unless it was mounted in the wall. Since I've wanted that style from the very beginning for aesthetic reasons, no problem. DONE ~8 Nov 2007. Previously: My brother suggested a side of the garage location for the new panel that I like a lot more than where I had placed the meter. Interior access would be facilitated since the interior walls of the garage aren't finished.
  • Recontact electricians for estimates on service upgrades. Last year's best estimate was $1900 from Gene at One Stop Electric 310-676-4520 for replacement of panel at orig location, but that didn'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 get spotted first, at which point they would come by and give me a real estimate. Andrew at Reliable Electric 310-973-1922 / 310-415-8721 gave an estimate of $2400 for a new panel at the garage side of the house, with an additional $75 for a second ground rod.
    • Service upgrades have to be proven or justified somehow in the approval process with a "green sheet". Remodeling a kitchen and a small garage workshop seemed to pass as appropriate justification to Edison. I verified in telephone conversation with T. Cross of Edison that I am on the list for uprated wire gauge to the pole, based on my previous interactions. DONE Gene from 1-Stop starts in the New Year.
    • Specified electrical upgrades. DONE 19 Nov 2007
  • Install new rear wall / door in garage. Finish what you start.
  • Complete electrical install and weather stripping at new French door. All parts at hand. Really, it's embarrassing how long this has gone unfinished. Finish what you start.
  • 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.Don't have to do this so urgently if panel goes in on side of garage.
  • Pick colors and paint some areas on the house in preparation for a whole house paint job. Use Color Preview 2000 from Benjamin Moore to digitally color my house.
  • Put in more soffit vents. Maybe add a fan in the gable end of my house? Would be good to do this not on the hottest day of the year.
  • Reroute gas supply lines (to kitchen and garage) in preparation for taking my interior wall down.
  • Install French door in place of rear-facing window in my room.
  • Replace / repair computer room window.
  • Repipe house in copper, adding hose bibs as needed for grounding of water lines at new electrical panel location. Will need to review appropriate pipe sizing - could be undersized at present. Start by repiping only the easy stuff, saving the part about cutting into the walls for when I demo the kitchen. Use dielectric unions to couple the new copper to the old galvanized. (PRIORITY DROP - City will accept double grounding rods instead of relying upon water pipes for a ground, so this whole action drops in priority.)
    • Don't forget new hot and cold hose spigots
    • Install tankless water heater in attic.
Garden / Yard Improvements
  • Complete front window grape arbor. Side panels are done. Awaiting the muse to strike for the perfect corbel ends on the cross members. (75% done 1 Aug 2007) DONE 1 September 2007. Juli helped with the last bit.
  • Recycle the old copper pipe, galvanized pipe, curtain rods, and lawn chairs that are in a heap in my and my brother's back yards. DONE 14 Aug 2007 at Action Sales & Metal Company, 310-549-5666, 1625 E. PCH, Wilmington. 2 mi. past Harbor Fwy on left side of PCH. Open till 4:30 PM weekdays, 3:00 Sat. I ended up getting $30.75 for my scrap metal. More than half of the dollar value (~$17) was in one large piece of copper pipe. Reimbursement for the scrap ferrous metals was at a rate of $40 per ton - about $9 or $10 in my case. The balance was in aluminum. Still some metal left at my brother's house. Finish what you start.
  • Get the back yard border installed - new technique with bender board and bricks instead of concrete will speed job and allow changes. (15% done 8 Nov 2007) Finish what you start.
  • Do some planning with respect to the native plants in my front yard. Now that I've lived with them a bit, I have a better feel for them. Updated 17 Nov 2007.
    • Get morea (fortnight lillies) down to chez frere, but have a succession plan. Replacement ideas: White sage (Salvia apiana), San Clemente Island Bush Mallow (Malacothamnus clementinus), Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica "Mound San Bruno"), sage (Salvia clevelandii X leucophylla "Pozo blue" or "Alan Chickering" or "munzii"), Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum "Thunderbird")
    • The buckwheat in the front is large. Prune aggressively, leave, or replace with smaller? DONE - pruned. Seems to be fine.
    • Move the front yard native scheme onto the parking strip (between sidewalk and street) in a way that continues to allow car access from the curb side? Probably use festuca rubra and pavers in the center, low bushes, taller grasses, or other ground cover at the property line edge of parking strip.
  • Demolish back slab behind garage, correct grade
    • Reinstall approx 8x10 work area
  • Demolish back patio behind kitchen (demo'ed brick planter 17 Nov 2007)
    • Install new patio with California native grape arbor.
    • Plan for electricity and music in the back yard.
    • Plan for hot water in the back yard. Outdoor shower? (see replumb, above)
  • Build concrete bench for front arbor area.
  • Recycle the concrete in my back yard. There's a local concrete recycling place on Aviation just S of El Segundo Blvd. Yard phone 310-536-9982 which takes clean (rebar & remesh cut at concrete, no bricks, etc) but it's not cheap - $82 for a small pickup load. Ouch. Dump might be cheaper.
  • Replace driveway with pavers.
    • Use a better design that allows for: separate entry path, driveway adjacent planting, trellis over garage.


Back from vacation, again

I seem to have a lot of time away this summer. I guess it's my way of making up for the last few years when I've felt that I've had no vacations.

I've just returned from Santa Barbara where I spent the better part of two weeks relaxing. My son attended Zoo Camp and took swimming lessons. I did a lot of hiking: Cold Spring trail - east and west forks, Tunnel Trail to Seven Falls, Romero Canyon trail twice. We had fun at the SB Old Spanish Days, and seeing a movie. Mom cooked her usual great food. I planted some oleander bushes on the property (not my choice, but consistent with pre-existing plantings). Juli visited at the end of the two weeks and we went wine tasting (Stolpman and Andrew Murray were highlights). On the way back we drove down Hwy 154 over Old San Marcos Pass and noticed the prominent plume of smoke from the Zaca Lake fire. Returning to SB, we had a rain of ash and smoky skies; the wind had shifted and breathed new life back into the fire. Hwy 154 is now closed and an evacuation order is in effect for that area. Link. The fire is expected to burn for another month.

We have one last family vacation planned this summer to Lair of the Golden Bear.

Blue butterflies and Califonia buckwheat

The Daily Breeze reported on Tuesday of another finding of El Segundo Blue butterflies in an unexpected area. For those who are following along, the bigger story dates back to 2004 when some Redondo Beach and Torrance beaches were rehabilitated with California native plants (including the essential dune buckwheat which is the only food of the ESB). I'd guess that just getting the money and political go ahead for that initial effort was a 10 year effort. However, fast forward to 2007 and we now discover that the El Segundo Blue has spontaneously re-established populations in the native habitat. Scientists had previously thought that the small ESB was not suited for long flights and would remain confined to the areas it currently inhabits, but it proved them wrong. The LA Times covered this story in early July.

One wonders what other species we could bring back by planting appropriately. The Palos Verdes Blue comes to mind - that species prefers yet another kind of buckwheat and was actually thought extinct until a small population was discovered only years ago in an industrial area of PV.

Citizens are of course complaining that the buckwheat looks dead, unlike the sterile and invasive iceplant that was removed. (Like many native plants buckwheat turns brown in the summer in order to survive the heat and dry climate. Think of California's summer as New England's winter and you'll appreciate how our plants are adapted to survive.) An educational sign or two would do wonders here, I think.

I have buckwheat growing in my front yard, but so far no extraordinary butterflies have visited. However, I have seen an increase in butterflies, solitary bees, and honey bees since going native. At least some varieties of buckwheat seem to be resistant to gophers as well. Some bushes that I planted on my parents' hillside last fall are surrounded by many active gopher holes, but haven't yet shown signs of their roots being nibbled. They look marvelous at this time of year, with abundant white flowers, bees buzzing, and lizards darting. The Cleveland sage planted nearby also seems immune to gophers, but the Mimulus (monkeyflower) looks poorly. I don't know if it's due to gophers or just ill health.

Excerpts from the Breeze article:

El Segundo blue butterfly lands again near LAX
Although it's less surprising than the recent find, scientists are pleased.

By Kristin S. Agostoni
Staff Writer

The endangered El Segundo blue butterfly has been spotted yet again this summer on the South Bay shoreline, this time fluttering amid dune buckwheat flowers at Dockweiler State Beach.

It was only a few weeks ago that scientists were bowled over by the discovery of the tiny insect on a roughly 4-acre swath of coastal bluffs in Redondo Beach and Torrance, where volunteers replaced invasive ice plant with native vegetation.

Now, experts say, the El Segundo blue has reappeared on a small strip of land sandwiched between a parking lot and an access road that runs behind Dockweiler Beach.

A fenced-in butterfly preserve sits on the opposite side of Vista del Mar near Los Angeles International Airport, leading scientists to believe the population migrated across the street to the new habitat, said Travis Longcore, a science director with the Urban Wildlands Group that helped lead the Beach Bluffs Restoration Project in Redondo Beach.

The resurgence of the federally endangered species in Redondo and Torrance is even more remarkable, scientists say, because the nearest population exists roughly 1,000 feet away at Malaga Cove.

"This is much less of a surprise because it's less than 200 feet (from the existing preserve) ... but it's more evidence that the restoration works and we're making progress," Longcore said of the Dockweiler discovery.

Excerpts from the LA Times article:
Rare butterfly makes comeback on L.A.-area beaches
The tiny El Segundo blue has returned to two locations where it has not been seen in decades. Scientists are surprised at the resurgence.
By Deborah Schoch, Times Staff Writer
July 9, 2007

Butterflies fight extinction

Butterflies fight extinction
Amid surfers and skaters, a tiny blue butterfly has scored a telling victory in its fight against extinction.

The rare El Segundo blue has returned to two popular beaches southwest of Los Angeles where it has not been seen in decades.

This is no mere academic sighting of a rare species.

Scientists say they are surprised at the resurgence. Dozens of the rare butterflies are thriving, not in some rarefied fenced-off reserve but in public view at county beaches in Redondo Beach and Torrance.

"You could open the car door, and they could hit you in the face," said conservation expert Travis Longcore this weekend, gesturing at creatures no bigger than a thumbnail flitting a few feet away from parked SUVs.

In a month that has marked the delisting of the American bald eagle as an endangered species, news of the tiny butterfly's reappearance is stirring hope that other species will rebound as unexpectedly and publicly as this one.

The El Segundo blue, one of the region's best-known endangered species, is found nowhere in the world but the southeastern shores of Santa Monica Bay.

Scientists staved off its extinction for years by nursing or monitoring it at three sites off-limits to the public at Los Angeles International Airport, the Chevron El Segundo refinery and on private land in Torrance. They estimate the current population remains low — only in the tens of thousands — with the largest group at LAX...

They used a simple scientific formula: Pull out the ice plant, put in the buckwheat.

Starting in 2004, they stripped thick green carpets of nonnative ice plant from small areas on beach bluffs in Redondo Beach and Torrance. Month after month, they restored the scrub plants that flourished here centuries ago: California sunflower, deer weed, lupines, prickly pear cactus, ambrosia and, of course, buckwheat.

In the old days the butterfly thrived in what was then the region's largest sand dune system, the El Segundo dunes that formed a half-mile-wide band from Westchester south to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The Los Angeles River created the dunes centuries ago, scientists say, when it entered the ocean at Playa del Rey.

Builders carved the dunes into pieces with construction of waterfront homes, the Chevron oil refinery in El Segundo, the Hyperion sewage plant and LAX....