Aug 232015

I have not spent much time in the garage these past months. Other projects were begging for attention. A wet spring is always welcome in Texas and this year was an exceptional one. Things you thought were not growing or dead come back to life, including weeds. As a homeowner having a nice yard is a source of pride. Not all homeowners agree and some take it too far, mowing twice a week seems excessive. In general having a nice yard is not all that hard, water it, feed it, and mow it. Oh, and pull the weeds occasionally. My current yard is more of a challenge than previous yards. The soil is bad and weeds spread from the surrounding grass lands on a daily basis. Then St Augustine grass finds its way into your Bermuda lawn and decides to take over. Whoever thought St Augustine was a good idea as a lawn coverage in Texas… moving on. With the additional rain all the undesirables are growing faster than the Bermuda. Now was the time to draw a line in the sand or in this case the yard. I geared up with knee pads, shovels, rakes, picks and inspirational music and attacked the weeds. I worked almost every day for close to a month to eliminate everything that was not Bermuda. I then I noticed I had completely ignored the sidewalk strip. That annoying strip of grass 4 feet wide that has no purpose than to catch every piece of trash that blows in off the road. Mine is almost all weeds. A total do-over is called for. But why put in grass again that will be impossible to keep up.

The answer seems obvious, Xeriscape. Simple, dig out all the grass, plant some cacti and fill it is with something to keep the grass out. Did I mention that I have a corner lot with over 100 feet of additional sidewalk on the side of the house? I decided to invest in the local teenage economy and pay my son and his friends to dig these parts out. I felt for sure the neighbors were going to call the authorities on me for breaking child labor laws. It took them close to a combined 40 hours of hard labor in the heat to complete the task. Money well spent.

Now to fill in the cleaned out space with plants that will not require much attention or water. This is where the wife gets involved, she was not going to be left out of a shopping trip for plants. We visited a local nursery and seemed to fall in love with every drought tolerant plant they had in the place. In the end we settled on 20 unique plants with some duplicates of the ones I really liked for a total of 26 plants. Knowing that the soil these would be planted into is very rocky we picked the younger 1 gallon plants when possible. Even then it took all weekend to get them into the ground.

Our choice of filler was decomposed granite. Unfortunately it is the heavier option. Supplier issues delayed delivery but eventually 5 yards was delivered. If you have ever had soil or rock delivered in bulk like this it always appears to be less than you think. That is until you start digging into it and the pile never seems to diminish. This pile was no different and I did order more than I needed. Even after sharing some with the neighbors I have some left. I will find some use for what’s left eventually. Pictures of the results are below. My back, knees and soon to be lower water bill think the results are well above expectations.

All the people that stopped on their drive home or during their nightly walk had nothing but kind words and compliments as we worked and neared completion. Homeowner pride renewed. Now that’s done maybe I can get back to the garage.

20150823_181212 Sidewalk strip side


Inspirational music provided by Tremonti’s latest album Cauterize.

 Posted by at 10:58 pm
Jul 032015

Who knows how these things happen. You are harmlessly browsing the internet and all of a sudden you are watching Kimbo Slice videos on YouTube. I was in such a meandering mood a few weeks back and found myself on Craigslist. Oh, the stuff you can find on Craigslist. On this occasion I found myself looking at Go Karts. I had one as a kid and I was feeling nostalgic. I wanted my kids and my niece and nephews to experience the same joy. I ended up finding one just a few miles from the house and after a few messages back and forth arranged a time to meet and complete the purchase.

The thing was plenty crusty and didn’t hide any of its redneck scars. The thing ran pretty good but it needed at least a little attention to make sure it was completely safe. Well, as safe as an inherently unsafe toy can get. Once my son and I inventoried the items to fix/replace it was only a small step to a complete restore. I am embarrassed to say how much we spent on new parts. A lot more than I ever planned but in the end it seems to be all worth it. My son got a chance to use his new metal working skills to replace the rusty parts and got a chance to learn about small engine maintenance.

A short list of repairs:

  • New front bumper we built from scrap metal
  • New floor pan
  • New pedals
  • New wheels and tires (golf cart tires on the back adds to the hot rod style)
  • New rear axle with new bearings, wheel hubs and sprocket
  • Replaced the redneck throttle cable with a slightly less redneck version
  • Custom seat pads from left over foam and vinyl
  • The engine still runs strong so it just got a nice cleaning and a new air filter

This not so short list sounds more like we just built a new cart but the soul of the old Go Kart is still there.

On to some pictures.

Complete but in need of rescue.

Old Go Kart

Down to the bare frame. Floor pan and front bumper removed.

Bare Frame

Back together.Skinny tires up front. Big fat ones out back. Hot Rod style.

New Go Kart

Niece and Nephew all geared up for some fun.

Niece and Nephew having fun

 Posted by at 10:49 am
May 262015

My son is now 16 and has shown interest in getting a job. This makes me happy but also hesitant. When I was his age, actually younger, I was already a thriving member of the working force. Thriving off of the minimum wage I was earning to mop floors, stock shelves and clean bathrooms. Every experience is important and I include those early years as the beginning of building a work ethic. I also remember missing out on high school functions and during college struggling with finding enough time to study. I felt like I had to work then. I have never made either of my children feel like they have to work. I want them to have full immersion during high school and college. So how do I respond to him wanting a job. I ask how much he wants to earn and what for. He wants however much it will take to buy a corvette. I loved my corvette and cannot wait until the next one but if I had one at that age I would have gone down in a ball of flames. I was not any where near ready to handle a car like that as a teenager. I put that aside for another discussion and see if I can engage him in other money making ventures. I am willing to pay him for work around the house on top of his measly allowance. I am sure I can beat minimum wage. Then I remember something I was planning on trying out this summer. Building and selling wine bottle trees. These things are gaining popularity and I have successfully built a few already. This will help him understand business on a level that punching a clock will not. He will have to deal with material purchasing and costs, pricing for profit, time management, advertising, selling and most importantly his fear of the mig welder.

He agrees to give it a go and we jump right in. His last experience with the welder was several years ago and after one tack he could not get away from it fast enough. Now fully in his immortal teen years he is ready to give it a go again. This time he takes to it easily. I show him a few tips and warnings to keep him safe and after supervising for a while let him go on his own. I stay in the garage close by while I work on other projects. I am the clutz in the family so I am the only one that gets hurt on this day. More on that later. He manages to get four wine trees built in about two hours. At a possible profit of $40 to $60 this beats minimum wage, big time. We start a spreadsheet to track time and material and call it a night. Next phase is to get the word out that we can make these wine bottle trees and will even take custom orders. The wife has agreed to help him advertise and find buyers. I stress that this service along with using the welder has a cost and will cut into the profit. It is a good start.

Here is an image of the wine bottle tree I made for the wife for Christmas. We are using this as a guide for the new ones.

wine bottle tree

This is what happens when the Death Wheel (angle grinder) gets away from you. I just expect to draw blood every time I walk into the garage these days.

death wheel feeds

 Posted by at 5:30 pm