Monday, May 26, 2014

A Shower from the Future

Last weekend, while my brother was out playing in the briar patch, my father and I were in the master bathroom closet replacing the shower valve.  Why?  Well, we were only planning to replace our shower head, and repair the trip lever to stop up the drain which was broken.  But you know what happens when you give a Sarah a new shower head…. she goes off and picks out a brand new faucet which requires a different valve than the outdated one you currently have.  So you have to replace that, too, and then you might as well get a new spout while you are at it…  see what I mean? 

The new faucet was to replace our poor, old, plastic knob thing that says “PUSH UP OPEN”.  If you have a Delta faucet from the 70’s and 80’s you know what I’m talking about.  The one that gets all grody and the cap falls off and fills with water… that’s the one!  We had these at my childhood home (still do) and we have three of them in our current home (one is a sink faucet).  But this one just had to go!


Anyway, my dear, sweet father was kind enough to come install the new valve and faucet for me.  If I had known what a job that was going to be, I would have just sucked it up and stuck with the outdated faucet we had.  ;)  Oh well!

PROCEED WITH CAUTION! (Or just call a plumber and make it his problem!)

First things first, we turned off the water to the house.  Next we took off the existing fixtures. 



So far this post is a thrilling tour of my master shower. :) haha!  After we removed all the fixtures, we went into the closet wall behind the shower (where the pipes are) and cut open a hole in the drywall so we could access the pipes.  In our case we cut one up at the shower head and one down at the faucet. 



This exposed the valve in the wall.  Then Papa cut the pipes connecting to the valve so we could remove it.


This is what it looked like:


Antique. :)  And on the other side of the wall, this is what we were left with:


Next, we carefully measured the existing pipes to join to our new valve with short pieces of pipe and little connector pieces called unions.  We also needed three elbows to reconnect all the pieces.

After measuring, cutting, and cleaning our new pieces, Papa began soldering them all together in the basement.


That was exciting and neat!  Then he had to solder the rest of the joints in the wall, which was even more challenging.  I didn’t take any pictures of this step since I was holding the flashlight and praying that nothing caught on fire.  Nothing did. :)

Next was the tedious process of checking all the joints for leaks and resoldering some of them.  That took a few tries, but suffice to say, we persevered!  Thanks Papa!

After reinstalling the valve, we followed the assembly instructions for the new faucet, spout, and shower head.  We also replaced the trip lever at this time.  And while we were at it, we cleaned out the tub drain.  It’s a much nicer shower experience now! :)

The best part:  When we bought the house, our pipes were reversed with hot on the right and cold on the left so when you went to turn the water colder it got hotter instead, and vice versa.  We quickly learned to compensate (so much so that when we vacation, I get confused as to why the shower is backwards!).  Our hope was that in installing a new valve we could switch the hot and cold back to normal.  Luckily the cartridge for our new faucet was set up to reverse the sides easily in case it was a “back-to-back” shower set-up. (This is when you have two showers coming off the same set of pipes.  One will be correct and the other will be reversed.)  So to ensure that the hot/cold would correctly align with the markings on the new faucet all we had to do was flip the cartridge over.  It was conveniently marked to help with this process.  :) Yay, Delta!  And ultimately, it worked.  Red is now hot and blue is cold!! Whoo hoo!

Now for the part you have been waiting for, the after pictures… Voila!  A shower from the future!!



The faucet we selected is the Delta Lahara Monitor 17 Series in chrome.  We found it on Amazon for the best price.  I ordered a separate spout with a diverter since the one that was in the Lahara set was ugly. :) Sorry, Delta.  The faucet is great because it has two control handles, a large one for on/off in the back, and the little one in front to set the temperature.  That way you can set the temperature once and then just turn the water off and on and each time the temperature will remain the same.  This is so nice because I used to turn on the water to run a bath without really checking the temperature and it was always too hot!  So now I just turn it on and rest assured that it won’t burn my toes off! :)  It’s the little things…

Like a shower head with “touch clean” technology that cleans away calcium deposits with the swipe of a finger.  I haven’t had the opportunity to test that out, but it sounds neat.


How do you like the new fixtures?  Want to come over and try out my shower?  Sorry, you have to use the guest bath, this one’s all for me!!   Unless Papa wants to use it… I think he’s earned a shower or two. ;)

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

The “Last Frontier” (AKA The Back Forty, The Bottom, The Holler)

It’s been on the to-do list since we bought this house:  “Make plans to clear out back line of property for a sunny vegetable garden”.  The back line of our property is 80 feet of overgrown honeysuckle, briars, saplings and weeds woven into an impenetrable wall of green, reminiscent of Maleficent’s forest of thorns.  It is situated beyond the wood line, in full sun and backs up to a small stream—perfect for a garden.  In a yard full of shade, this area is a land of sun and possibility!  A land into which we must finally venture, thorns or no thorns.

After six years of looking longingly at our back woods with hopes of “someday” clearing it out for a garden, we finally pulled the trigger!  Last weekend my mother rented a Bobcat mini excavator and my brother John came and drove it down through the woods and into the wild frontier!



Slow and steady work… scraping, pushing, digging… until a small space cleared became a big space!



John even pushed over a couple of pine trees and then tore up the root and carried them away with the claw part of the machine.  :)  So much faster than cutting them up.










And at my request he saved this little water oak tree for me!  Someday it will be a lovely shade tree for our lower yard!  I love my little tree!






The property runs right up to a little creek in the back.  It’s charming. :)  Also, Riley loves it.  She takes every opportunity to run down the bank and splash in the water.  Then she goes tearing around through the dirt until she is filthy!



Now that it’s all cleared out, we have to till, rake, and clean up the roots and rocks and stumps before we can put in rows of vegetables, a swath of grass and some flower beds.  Plus we have to clean up the woods and add a little pathway so you can safely reach the gate.  Lots of work to be done down here! :)  Can’t wait to show you more results! 

And since it has officially been cleared out, the “bottom/last frontier” shall now be called “the garden” or “the lower yard”.  Now that you are up to date on the lingo… here is your before and after comparison… what a change!





Thanks Mama and John for all your hard work! :)

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Curb Appeal

In a recent post I was lamenting the fact that we haven’t yet won “Yard of the Week” and I surmised that this is because of the derelict state of our parking space at the top of the yard.  Who wants a parking space in their yard anyway?  Well, I don’t, but we have one and since our garage is one-car only and the driveway is super steep, it is a convenient place to park our second car.  The former owners filled the space with crushed red brick/gravel and outlined it with big rocks.  Last year we enlarged the space so two cars could fit there without squishing the grass.  At that time we removed all the rocks that edged the smaller space.  We planned to edge the new, larger space with bricks to create a nice uniform edge to hold the gravel in place and keep it from rolling into the grass.
We finally got around to accomplishing this last week.  Granted, we still lack 72 bricks to finish the end, but I am impatient and wanted to share!  Of course, this improvement is all because of my Mama!  Although Papa provided the bricks (or perhaps we stole them from his stash!) Mama loaded them and brought them to my house, then unloaded them.  She dug out all the sod from the edge (with mattock and shovel), leveled the ground and put each brick in place.  I helped by measuring the width, weeding, hauling bricks and discarded sod.  Oh and I took pictures… my specialty!
Here’s what it looked like before we got started:
After we reseeded the front yard last fall, the “edge” of the space totally deteriorated so we had to dig out a lot of grass.
But after several hours of digging and hauling we were still not done… haha!  But we only quit because we ran out of bricks.  So, here is the almost completed project:
All we need now (in addition to the remaining bricks) is some more brick gravel to fill in the space.  And maybe pull a few more weeds. ;)  Then it will be all fresh and clean looking!
I also mentioned in my post of yore that I was planning to add salvia to my front flower bed.  I finally found my salvia specimens at Walmart and I got five of them to fill in the space behind the pink verbena.  While I was there I also bought six pink perennial dianthus to go in between the verbena, so hopefully (if voles don’t eat them) they will come back next year and I won’t need annuals for color in this bed.
It looks so much nicer now… hopefully some certain committee members notice, too! ;)  Stay tuned!
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