Monday, November 30, 2015

Aquaponics progress

It's been a while since I gave an update on our aquaponics progress. We are still tweaking and working on our system. After successfully keeping 6 goldfish alive for several months, we decided it was time to upgrade our system. Next step: edible fish!

I did some research, and found a fish that seemed likely to survive my inept attempts at fish husbandry (is that what you call it? Maybe pescaculture?) Hybrid bluegills are supposed to be hard to kill, and happy in a small pond. They're not particularly cute, but they are edible and fast growing. We got 25, and released them in to the pond!

 Hard to get a picture of dark gray fish in a dark gray tank in a basement with bad lighting. Use your imagination!

And they're alive! They've stayed alive since June, so that's a lot better than the goldfish.

Those six remaining goldfish? I'm afraid their survival instincts were not nearly as strong as the bluegills'. They were bred for their flashy colors, not their killer instincts. So, I had to do a bit of scooping. Just one for the picture, Perry did the rest!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


If you're a regular reader of my blog (hi, grandma!), you could be forgiven for getting the impression that I'm the only one working on these houses. Which is definitely not the case. I just do the more glamorous, photogenic work. Perry gets to do most of the dangerous/heavy/horrible jobs.

Be still, my beating heart!
Jobs like reattaching the shingles to this garage roof. See where he's standing? Yeah, we later discovered that none of those shingles were actually attached to the roof. And he could have slid off the roof on to the alley pavement as if he were surfing.
Dramatic lighting!
And he gets to do horrible jobs like installing doors in a house that has absolutely no right angles, level walls, or parallel lines. This house is out of square in every possible dimension; we have yet to find a level surface. And if it were me, I'd just settle for doors that mostly closed (what more do you want? It's got a knob and it swings!), but Perry will spend eight hours getting it right.

Not a plumbing picture. But he's near a lot of plumbing.
And he gets to do all the horrible plumbing. I do the fun stuff, like putting in new faucets where everything works perfectly. He gets to take out anything that's corroded or rusted in place (because I am a delicate lady with spaghetti arms), and figure out what to do when the connections aren't sealing.

But it's totally worth it. Because sometimes I let him use my new saw.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

New skills!

At my day job, we've been talking a lot about growth mindset, the idea that our abilities and skills are not fixed but can be developed through hard work and dedication. I'm trying to apply that to my slumlord life too.

For example, I have no idea how to fix a gas oven. A gas oven makes me think about explosions. Or Sylvia Plath. And neither of those are positive associations.

But the oven at the new house wasn't baking. The stove worked, the broiler worked, but the bake function didn't do anything. A cursory internet search told me that it was probably the ignitor, and that it would take about half an hour to fix it.

This will not be the first time I curse the internet and its unwarranted optimism about time frames. It took me half an hour to remove one stupid screw. You know what happens to screws on the inside of gas ovens? They get really hot. And also rusty. And when they're mangled and rusty and stripped, they're the WORST! And if it weren't the screw holding the worn out ignitor, I'd have left it there.

Left: new ignitor. Right: the worst!
And then I tried to find the access panel to get to the wiring. The internet told me I'd have to remove a handful of screws from the back of the oven. Which I did. And then I took out some more. And some more. And I kept on finding more and more ways that the back panel of the oven was attached.

Next step: try to get access from inside the oven. I was less persistent now, because all the screws I was trying to remove were rusted, stripped, or both. And the oven drawer refused to come off too. Enough, I said. I can't take it anymore!

Amazing what a good night's sleep and some more googling will do for a lady. Turns out the oven drawer had two super secret hidden levers I had to push in specific directions. And the place I needed access to was at the back of the drawer.
So I got all up in that oven, did some minor re-wiring, and bam! Side note: I don't know how anyone bigger or less limber than I am would be able to do this. I was doing some serious contorting to reach the back of this oven.
 Fire! I tried it out before reassembling the oven floor. But then I let it run too long because I was throwing myself a tiny party in my head, so I had to wait about 15 minutes for it to cool down.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Four houses!!!!

So, this happened all of a sudden.

We wanted to buy this house back in February when it first went on the market, but someone beat us to it. Something fell through with their sale, and we swooped in like ninjas and just a few weeks after submitting paperwork, it was ours! That house to the right is also ours (that was the first rental).

This house is much less of a project (thank goodness). We had people living here barely a week after closing. The first project was attaching a baby gate to the top of the stairs. Easy, right? Drill a pair of holes on the left, pair of holes on the right, bam.

Just kidding!
That's not going to work. We can't exactly leave a four inch gap for the baby to fall through. I determined that I needed to build a column on the left so we could put the gate at the actual top of the stairs.

 Preferably a column that would look something like this post at the other side of the stairs. Because I'm trying to not be a slumlord.
Here's the solution I came up with. It had to be solid (we don't want the gate crashing down with a toddler). I used a pair of 2X4s to anchor the column.

And then I built a box to go over it, which I stained to match the woodwork.

And then, the baby gate:
And of course, what should have been a 30-minute project under normal circumstances turned into a full morning of work, plus 3 trips to Home Depot.

And I definitely needed a new saw to be able to do it. So I got this one. It's got a laser!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bathroom after!

Check it out! You could enter this bathroom and actually feel cleaner afterwards. And notice how the door opens without banging in to the sink--so fancy! There are a few details that are left to do, minor things like recaulking the tub (blech) and patching a minor hole in the wall from installing the light fixture.

But it's a million times better than it used to be.That's the great thing about this house; there are a couple of things I'd do differently next time, but no matter what we do, it's a vast improvement on the prior state of the house.