The Riddle of the 38 Pots

When we bought the house, the deck was bordered by these terracotta pots.



Thirty eight of them.

Seriously, pots

They ringed the entire house.  Most of them were empty, or has moss growing in them.  Those that were not empty were filled with hardpan, weeds and mold.  This travesty could even be seen from space:

Space View

To create this abomination, someone had to take a saw and cut thirty eight circular holes in the plywood that went around the deck.  That probably took all day and burned a six pack of beer in the process.  Who would do such a thing?  What manner of madness would compel someone to construct this affront to common sense?  I have been attributed with an inhuman amount of patience, but even I would only make it to the third cut out before I said “screw this shit” and stopped doing it.

gnaws at the mindStaring at those pots day after day on our deck gnawed our minds from the inside out.  Not only did it look tasteless and tacky, but it made no logical sense.  Were we really going to put potting soil in every damn one, pay money (real money not monopoly money but legal tender for all debts public and private) for plants that for all intensive purposes is just DEER FOOD.  You may as well just fill them with kibbles and bits and let the critters go to town.

Yeah, we’d had enough.  We took the pots out, and got a bunch of slate tiles to put in their place.  I haven’t yet cut the angled ones, but as far as I’m concerned they look lovely.

Home Improvement didn’t stop there this weekend.  No sir.  We also went down to Bullock’s Nursery here on the island, which is like no nursery you’ve ever seen.  It’s basically a hippie commune and among the many things they do they sell plants.  And like a farm, they have chickens walking underfoot while you shopped.  Never been in a nursery with chickens.  Anyway, the people there were very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.  We were quite grateful they took the time to help us out since we’re coming from a completely different climate.  We went in intending to just get some barberry and lavender; simple and deer proof.  But like kids in a candy shop, we ended up buying all sorts of fun things.  They may even be deer resistant too.

We worked pretty hard today, getting all those plants in and the rocks set down.  Our ground here is soft and digs pretty easy, but it’s very, very rocky.  Just digging a hole for one plant and you’ll pull out some rocks the size of a small head.  The plants look great, and so far the deer have sniffed them but they haven’t nibbled.  We left the underside of the deck open, for now at least.  We also left the wooden beams as a border for the planting area.  I hate them and someday they will go away, but for now they serve a purpose.  And I got a hundred and ninety things on my to do list before I go and fix something that isn’t broken.

We did keep a few pots.  If you look closely at the pic of the one with the mushrooms you’ll see the snail I found today.  He seemed pretty happy and looked right at home with the mushrooms and weeds and moss and stuff.  It’s been critter overload around here lately; bees the size of dogs, bald eagles, raccoons, turkeys, deer, you name it.

I did notice one thing – those pots were made in Italy, and they’re pretty good quality.  I actually expected them to crumble in my hands as I removed them but only one or two were even cracked.  Whatever madman came up with this idea obviously really loved it.  There’s no other possible reason.

Extremely Blue

Here is a Before Picture of our lovely roof.

Mold colored roof


It was kind of mold colored, covered with years of dirt, bug parts and fungus.  Well, we had it pressure washed and who knew how blue it was underneath.

BlueExtremely blue.  Swiss Miss blue.  It’s going to be interesting when we go to paint the house.


Table Saw Restoration (part 1)


Exploded ViewSo I was visiting with father in law the other weekend and I mentioned that I was looking for a table saw.  He said, and I quote, “well, your prayers have been answered.”  If by prayers he meant nightmares then I think he was spot on.

He was willing to part with his old table saw, a Craftsman model, probably from the Reagan administration.  It had been around the block more than a few times, ridden hard, hung up wet, and thrown from the back of a moving vehicle at a busy intersection (true story).  But like all things craftsman, it is a workhorse.

I was torn.  I really wanted to save up for a nice cabinet saw with tolerances that have a lot of zeroes in them.  But of course, they have price tags that also have a few zeroes, so after much deliberation I figured I’d do my best to restore this Craftsman and see what I could do with it.

Needs HelpThis thing was a mess and it needed help.  It was rusted, dented, gouged and beat up.  I started making a list of the parts it would need, then crossing off the things they no longer sold.  This started to turn into something like restoring an antique.  It’s the kind of thing I better enjoy doing, because it’s a lot more cost effective to just go and buy a new one.  Still, like many things, they don’t make them like they used to.  When I started taking this thing apart (and believe me, I dismantled it down to the last rusted lock washer), I saw that the parts were a little more solid than what you find in many new saws.  They cut corners these days.  The metal is a little thinner, the bolts are a little softer.

PaintedFirst thing I did was give it all a fresh coat of paint.  Several coats, in fact, of rust resistant enamel.  It came with what looked like after-market wheels on the base that I wasn’t sure would make it to the final build but I painted them just in case.  Father in law had mentioned those wheels were kind of crappy anyway.  NutsI even sanded, cleaned and hand painted the bolts that came with it.  Why would anyone waste time on such a ridiculous endeavor when you can buy perfectly good bolts at the hardware store for 10 cents each?  Well, these were pretty good bolts, all made out of hardened steel that you don’t always find at the hardware store.  And more importantly, they were the right size.  So it took two hours of my life to clean them and paint them, but the saw will fit together correctly.

ForeverNow the base and frame were a little dented but nothing a sledgehammer couldn’t smooth out.  The table top, though, was in really bad shape.  Rusted, dented, gouged, pitted – it looked like it had been dragged behind a car for a few miles and left for dead behind a liquor store.  I started in with the 80 grit sandpaper and quickly realized that sanding it smooth was going to take forever.  And you don’t want to sand to much because you don’t want to destroy the flatness of it.  At least not too much.  At the end of the day, I burned through about 40 discs of sandpaper just to get the rust spots off.

ImprovementAt last, after sanding it so much I blew a fuse, I deemed the surface to be adequate and ready for service.  Some of those deeper gouges I’ll never get out but at least wood will glide smoothly over it now.

It’s far from done.  I got the stand assembled and the top generally put together (I just got the bolts hand tight as I’ll want to calibrate it when I get a new saw blade) just so it’s not in two dozen pieces strewn about the shop.  Got enough going on in that shop to have to contend with that.

It still needs so many things.  I’d like some extension wings to make the surfaceShiny Feet a little bigger but so far I can’t find the right size.  Not even on the internet.  I think this thing is so old they stopped making parts for it.  I may have to make my own.  It needs a riving knife, a good fence, one of those fancy zero-clearance things for the blade, some kind of dust collection set up, and the motor needs a little electrical help (just gotta replace the melted power cable, nothing major).  But it’s almost there.  Just a few more hundred dollar bills and it’ll be a good little saw for the shop.


This is snow

Yep, snow.It hasn’t snowed a millimeter on the island so far this winter, but we took a road trip that went over Snoqualmie Pass and got our snow fix for the winter.  It’s on the mainland just east of Seattle.  Everyone told us the horror stories about how bad the weather could get up near the summit.  Snow, wind, ice, slippery roads, California drivers, all of it.  But we got up there and honestly it wasn’t much different than my drive to work in Denver.

Chains were required at the summit on the eastbound trip, unless you have four wheel drive which fortunately we do.  It was a bit snowy for a stretch of about 10 miles but once we got out of that it was clear and sunny and the roads were dry.  And it was raining and wet on the west side.  So we pretty much got all kinds of weather in one day.