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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

Diamond In The Rough

Sometimes, I get to looking through pictures of mine and I see one that makes me realize that I have a great story that I need to write down before it's forgotten.  This photo is one of those.

It was a couple years ago.  I was about ready to start laying whatever flooring that we were going to do in the newly finished attic.  I started looking around Craigslist and found one ad that looked a little promising.  The ad didn't have any pictures (which is a great way NOT to sell something on Craigslist).  It also had very little information (again, NOT conducive to a buyer's market).  I don't remember the exact content but it basically said "pile of hardwood flooring from old farmhouse, south of Nixa - $30".

I called the number and asked the young woman who answered if she knew about how many square feet of flooring she had.  She didn't know.  She went on to tell me that there had been an old farmhouse on their property and someone, about 20 years ago she was told, had pulled up the hardwood flooring and put it in the barn before tearing the house down.  They lived in a trailer on the property next to the barn.  I asked if there was any way to send a photo of it.  She quickly texted me two photos.  It was hard to tell how much there was, but I knew it was a fair amount.

I headed down to get it straight away.  The barn was a total mess.  They had been using it for storage and from the looks of it, so had the previous tenants.  She showed me the stack poking out from underneath piles of stuff, I confirmed I wanted it, paid her the $30, and commenced to unburying it.  It turned out to be a whole truckload!

I spent a few days going through it and removing all the nails.  With that done, I started laying it in the attic.  A couple days into it and about halfway done, I noticed that I had eaten through about half the load.  I started to wonder if I had enough to finish the 330 square foot room.  I started praying about it as I was working.  "God, please let it be enough."  Days later, I nailed down the last board.  With the room completely floored with beautiful antique hardwood flooring, I had 6 pieces left totaling less than a square foot of flooring to spare.  It was the perfect amount.  Thank you, Lord!

Motorized Camera Slider


I'm a bit of a nerd.  I know it and I'm not ashamed.

Recently, I watched a video on YouTube that was a compilation of time lapse videos.  The video was gorgeous from beginning to end.  It wasn't something that you could just stop half way through.  The most amazing thing about time lapse videos is seeing a lot in a small span of time.  No one wants to watch grass grow but when someone figures out how to cram 3 weeks worth of growth into one smooth 5-second video no one can look away.  So many cool things are happening around us all the time but at a snail's pace.  Time lapse shows us a new way to look at things.  It reawakens our sense of wonder.

One thing that made this time lapse video stand out above the others that I've seen was camera motion.  About 30 seconds into the video, it hit me.  "How do they do that?!"  I quickly answered my own question as I realized that in order to add smooth camera motion (pan, tilt, or slide), one would need a motor to control the motion.

My mind started running, but before I inadvertently reinvented the wheel I jumped on YouTube once again and found a video of an inexpensive DIY motorized time lapse camera slider.  Thanks to this fellow nerd and his willingness to share his design, I feel both empowered to build my own motorized time lapse slider as well as find and proudly wear a winter coat with a large fur-lined hood.

First, there was a trip to Lowe's to pick up the angled aluminum for the main rails, the all-thread for the dive shaft, and a bunch of various pieces of hardware for the legs and connections.  I already had some leftover flat bar aluminum from another project.  I built my wheeled camera platform completely from random materials that I already had.  I did have to buy a universal ball joint camera mount, low-speed electric motor, and AA battery pack from Amazon.com.

I also still need the gearing.  Unlike this guy, I'm not going to connect my electric motor directly to my drive shaft.  I'm going to gear mine down.  In the video he says that his motor turns at 24 revolutions per minute (rpm).  Mine turns pretty close to 28 rpm.  The all-thread I'm using is 5/16" so it has 18 threads per inch.  My slider is 4' long, but will only have a camera travel distance of about 3.5' or 42".  That means I have 756 threads of camera travel.  At 28 rpm, it would take exactly 27 minutes (00:27) to complete the camera motion.  That's not enough time to get the kind of time lapses I want to get.

This video is full of examples of the duration of time I would like to cover with my time lapse videos.  I'm looking to cover about 2 hours.  That would allow me to capture sunrises, sunsets, celestial movement, substantial work being performed, etc.  27 minutes just couldn't quite get that.  This guy's slider is shorter than mine and so he has even less capture time than that.  I think that I am going to buy a 16-tooth pinion gear and a 72-tooth spur gear.  These are used on hobby remote control cars so they're durable, readily available, and cheap.  By fastening the spur gear to the drive shaft and turning it with the pinion gear on the motor's output shaft, I am able to slow the drive shaft down to 6.22 rpm.  At 756 threads of available camera travel. it will take 2 hours and 1.5 minutes to get from one end to the other.

Another difference in our designs will be that I will have two tripod mounts, one on each end of my slider.  It will allow me to mount it in a wide range of different positions to capture motion going up, down, sideways, etc.  It will have legs just like the one pictured here so that it can be used on any flat surface, but with the added tripod mounts I can set it up anywhere.

I'm looking forward to the finished product.  I've got other things going on, so it's not a "front burner" project or anything.  But, I'm sure I will get it all put together soon so that I start setting it up and capturing some cool video.  Of course, you'll know when I have some because I'll be posting some stuff on here.

Brick Patio

As you can see, we got the ground all prepped like we wanted a couple weeks ago. There was an awful lot of prepping to do, more than I would have figured.  Jodi kept on pointing at this slightly raised area, then that one.  And, we needed to fill in some low spots that I would not have even noticed.  But, it was all good and all necessary.  I recently read an old proverb that said "If I had ten hours to chop down a large tree I would spend seven sharpening the axe."  There's a lot of wisdom and applicability in that.  I don't usually prescribe to that philosophy very well, though.  Jodi, on the other hand, is pretty good at it so she helps balance me out.

Just like the front walk (which I'm only just now realizing I never blogged about) we got all the brick for free! I've added a photo of the front walk here for your reference.  That project was made possible by the old MFA building in Elkland, MO.  I was driving by it on my way to go pick up the children from my mom's house.  I always liked the building.  It was the only red brick two-story building in Elkland.  It was overgrown and boarded up.  When seeing it, I would usually brainstorm about what could be done with it if I was somehow able to acquire it.  In the condition it was in I didn't figure that the owner of it would have to be offered much to be convinced to let it go.

This particular day that I was driving by, it happened to be being demolished by a large excavator.  I stopped and asked the operator if it'd be alright to come back that evening and grab some brick from the rubble.  He gave me permission to do just that and I came home with a nice load of brick.  I didn't have a truck/trailer combo able to haul a large load so I negotiated borrowing one from my friend, Nate, in exchange for a third of the bounty.

So, it turned out that I wound up owning part of that building after all, you could say.  It's also nice to know that the building, as neat as it was, will go on living, in a sense, having been repurposed into a nice entry walk for our Springfield home that is likely roughly the same age as the MFA building was.

Sorry for the blog within a blog so far.  Back to the brick patio, it's taken several evenings and one Saturday so far to get where I am.  However, I think it's going pretty well.  We are over half way done and it's looking great.  I agree with what Jodi said about it "It really ties in everything we've done in the back."  She's right.  We built a great looking deck, an outdoor closet/remodeled backyard-to-basement entry door, a garden wall connecting the house to the detached garage complete with arched doorway, and installed a proper side door to the garage.  The brick patio is what fills in the area between all these improvements.

This brick, primarily, came from a house just off North Grant.  I don't know it's original source.  This house had a huge stack of them behind their garage.  The owners had just recently bought the house and were looking for someone to haul them away.  My friend, Jake, tipped me off about them.  The other two places that I scored more brick, albeit a much smaller quantity, were from our house and from a Craigslist ad.  The ones from our house came from taking down the second chimney.  When we finished out the attic into a cool fourth bedroom, I dismantled a second unused chimney to below the floor level.  It had previously been dismantled to be below the roof several decades ago, but I took it further down to remove it from the attic altogether.  The Craigslist ones came from a demolished brick detached garage.  There wasn't much left, but I took what they had.

I should have some time tonight to continue laying more brick.  Plus, I can get several hours logged tomorrow morning.  I have no other obligations until early afternoon.  So, I think that I'll try and maximize my time.  I also have the firepit to masonry up, so I can't say that I can knock it all out, but I certainly will get a lot closer.  It will be nice to have a legitimate outdoor space around the firepit that we have been using for some time now.  I'm really looking forward to it all being complete.

Getting Things Done

Sometimes it feels like we're making progress with this house like an inchworm.  Other days it feels like we've accomplished huge feats is record time.  Not that it's some new discovery or anything, but I've decided that the emotional toll that comes with a home renovation is potentially overwhelming.  Jodi and I have done pretty well keeping our cool throughout the years, but we've also had our fair share of breakdowns.

We're so close to the end.  While that's a good thing, obviously, it's also a de-motivator in itself.  Before we were close, we didn't give ourselves too many time lines.  We didn't crack the whip because we couldn't see the end anywhere near.  Now, that we're fixated on it, it can't seem to come too soon.

This second-to-third-story staircase we built has been barely noticeable amongst the stacks of tools, buckets of paint, ladders, and piles of trim almost since we built it.  I remember there was a stretch of time when it was still roughed in and didn't have a single piece of drywall on it.  Then, it finally got drywall on it only to sit for seemingly forever before it got drywall mud applied.  Then, more waiting.

Finally, we jumped right in and made the mess we knew it would make when picking up where we left off.  We sanded, re-mudded, and sanded some more.  It turned out pretty well and I'm satisfied with it.  Though, Jodi and I have sworn off ever doing drywall again.  We fully understand why wall paneling was such a popular trend in the 70's.  It probably looked stupid then, too.  But, at least it wasn't a 7-step process that took days to do even for the professionals.

So, with the walls done, primed, and painted it finally looks like it belongs to the house rather than being a misplaced construction project.  It's not done, of course.  We still have to install all the trim, but it doesn't make sense to do all that until we get the floors sanded down and refinished.

Jodi knew that it would be a little while before I installed treads and kick plates on the stairs so she took the liberty of painting the roughed in staircase as a temporary fix to pretty it up in the meantime.

I think that if we had the diligence to only work on one project at a time until it was done, we would perhaps feel better about our list of what's left.  But, in our defense, the reason we have always had multiple projects going on simultaneously is because we've also had small children the entire time we've lived here.  So, we have things to work around that contractors don't.  Like nap times.  We couldn't have just stopped working once a child fell asleep OR we could keep going somewhere else.  Also, the seasons played their role in our project list making.  We sometimes had to put one project on hold while we worked another that the weather allowed for at the time.

Yesterday, we started the brick patio.  That blog is to come, though.

Goodbye, Facebook

I have decided to delete my facebook account.  It was an easy decision to make, yet did not go without several instances of personal reluctance to do so.

Why?  This is the question I keep getting asked by those who have a facebook account.  I'm not getting asked this question by those who don't have one.  Because, they don't know I'm deleting my account.  And, they don't care.  I look forward to being one of those people.

There is a grand myriad of reasons why I am tossing off the yoke of facebook.  I couldn't list them all if I tried, but I can list some of the top reasons that immediately come to mind.  They are, in no particular order:
  • Lack of security.
    • Facebook is a business.  They sell your information.  They always have.  And, they don't hide or apologize for this.  It's genius, really.  They have created a motive to get people to willingly profile and track themselves.  Since this information is so specific, it's very valuable for marketing.  Marketing you, that is.
  • It's not reality.
    •  What people post on facebook doesn't usually say much about them at all.  I cannot compare the time I have spent with friends with the time I have spent reading those same friends' facebook posts.  Time spent with friends is meaningful and I get to know them well.  That time is real and so is the content.  I can't say the same for facebook.
  • It's not a responsible use of my time.
    • I am married.  I am a father of three children.  I am involved in my church.  I work 50 hours a week.  I have many real friends.  I am renovating a house.  I am restoring a car.  I am coaching a soccer team.  Etc.  Etc.
    • With all that I have going on in my life, I don't have time to maintain a digital profile of myself for others' sake of "knowing" me.  Nor, do I have time to browse an endless sea of junk to spot the few tidbits of "knowing" others.
  • Define "friends"
    • Let's face it.  I'm not friends with most of my facebook's friends list.  I've even been pretty picky about whose friend requests I've accepted.  Still, if not for facebook, I wouldn't know two cents about a lot of people and those people wouldn't know two cents about me.  That's not a bad thing. 
  • I know things that I'd rather not know.
    • Some of my facebook "friends" and I have not seen eye to eye on things.  And, while it's no requirement of mine that those I associate myself with carry all my same values, I wish there were some others' soapbox speeches I hadn't been exposed to.  I wonder if I would be better friends with some people if I weren't subconsciously using my "facebook impression" of them as a screening tool.  Don't hate on me.  You do it, too.  The difference is that I'm admitting it.
  • I read that "Facebook Erodes Real Community" and I agree.
    • I know that people don't make as much of an effort to visit friends since the introduction of facebook.  Why would I see that friend I haven't seen in three years when I've seen every post of his/hers since our last visit.  What could I possibly catch up on with them since we're already "caught up".  At the very least, it stands as a seemingly valid justification to put off visiting someone.
  • What am I teaching my children?
    • Do I want my children to be on facebook?  Maybe you do and that's fine.  Use your own judgement for what's good for your children.  But, I don't know that I want mine on there being exposed to an online social world where people say and do things that they wouldn't say or do in person.  Or, maybe I would allow them to have a limited profile with some heavy monitoring.  I don't know.  But, seriously, when I think about it, I think of how heavy of a burden to parenting it will be if or when it comes up.  Maybe things like that are better left to adults.  Regardless of how I want my children to use or not use it, one thing is for sure: I can't legitimately limit or restrict it's use for my children while I have given myself no limits or restrictions.
  • At the end of my life, what total number of hours spent on facebook would satisfy me?
    • 1,000?  100?  2?  It seems that whatever the number winds up being, it isn't anything to be proud of.  I tend to think that the greater the number the greater the shame, actually.  I'm glad that I don't know how much time I've burned scrolling, commenting, and liking.  It's too late for me to have 0 in that category.  But, it's certainly not too late to stop the number dead in its tracks.
I could go on, I'm sure, but then I'd be wasting my time doing this.  Plus, my lunch hour is over.  Time to get back to work.

Finished Deck Photo (Finally)

One thing that keeps me from writing a lot more blogs about our home improvement projects is that when we get done with a project, another one usually has already begun.  Such was the case with the deck.  Although, another reason the finished photo never got taken was because the siding wasn't done.  I didn't want the newly finished deck to be overshadowed by the house that was in desperate need of a facelift.

So, the last photo of the deck I wrote about was while it was still under construction.  As you can see, the railing wasn't up.  The privacy fence wasn't complete.  The gate hadn't been built.  The right door needed painted.  The siding needed replaced.  And, the yard was a mess.

All of these are fine for a photo while it is under construction.  But, the level of expectation goes up for the finished product.  Take Extreme Home Makeover for example.  Imagine if they still had tools lying about during the unveiling.  Picture them "moving that bus" to reveal a beautifully renovated home with a ladder leaning up against the roof, bare patches of dirt in the lawn, and a short stack of paint cans on the porch.

This is my dilemma.  I don't like taking that finished photo until it's TV quality.  But, perhaps, I'm too hard on myself.  Maybe it's ok to see tools lying around.  Maybe no one but myself cares, after all.

So, here it is.  You might take notice that it's not 100% complete.  I still have to finish the underpinning on the east side (or bottom-right to you).  One thing that came as a surprise to me is that the two brands of wood that we used for the decking both weathered to look the same.  I knew that they would weather closer to the same, but I didn't at all expect that I wouldn't be able to differentiate between them after a single season.  Not that I'm complaining.

We just started prepping the ground last night to lay our brick patio.  That's pretty exciting.  We got the masonry lines ran for leveling, the ditch dug for the buried drain pipe, the pile of pea gravel moved out of the way, some of the leveling complete, and the perimeter line laid.

When my father-in-law saw the size of our deck for the first time he humorously asked, "You trying to get out of mowing?"  Jodi and I just figured that if you're going to do it, then you might as well go ahead and do it.  You know?  The deck is a great size and is a perfect spot for outdoor entertaining.  With the installation of the brick patio, our outdoor space will finally be complete.  However, with around 1100 square feet of combined deck and patio space, my father-in-law will most likely be certain of my disdain for mowing.

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