Monday, September 22, 2008

Abondoned Homes, Barns - Pictures, Photos

In my travels you see more of this in low income rural areas. If these old places could only talk. Abandoned over the years, perhaps by children that did not want to follow the family footsteps into the rugged world of farming. Weathered and beaten, these old places have always fascinated me.

Kudzu vines engulfing a small farm house.

Kudzu vines taking over farmhouse Of particular interest are the large number of abandoned pumping stations all over older more established roads. I always think of Andy Griffith when passing these beauties. The filling station was the place to be on the edge of the county. Even today I have to wonder how these people made a profit, or maybe it was a way to exist. No greed on their minds.

Old Georgia filling station I drive this part of Clear Creek Road that comes into highway 52 if I want to take the back way into East Ellijay that comes out on 515 at Yukon. Each time I rarely see more than one or two cars and yet there was a gas station/general store here. Imagine what it was like in it's prime. Two cars every hour? A half a dozen customers each day?

Looking inside I couldn't understand why there were vertical bars on the windows. Security? That wouldn't make sense. Even today people do not lock their doors.

Inside fillin station/general store

The next photo was yards away from the filling station. There are other structures close to one another along the highway. At one time this spot could have been a busy meeting place with other forms of retail stores, or perhaps the shopkeepers home.

More to come...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Are Gas Prices Up? Merc Prices Don't Reflect

Who understands this? Okay we had the threat of Ike destroying or disrupting oil refineries in Houston. Over the past weekend there were reports in the metro Atlanta area of retail prices above five dollars a gallon! One targetted retailer from local news stations was Ingalls. My recent trip to Murphy Oil In Ellijay shows the madness.

Gas over $ 4 gallon

Days before Ike, pricing was shown at $ 3.55. If one follows the financial markets like I do, there was no considerable movement in gasoline futures except for a small rise Thursday and a slight decline Friday the day before Ike came ashore. I sit here at 9:35 AM and gas futures are down .19 to $2.58.

Who's Making A Buck Here?

The way I see it that price should be around $ 3.30 I told the guy at Murphys.

"That will never happen," was his reply. I didn't go any further except to say; "I'll see you later this week."

So What Did Happen in Houston?

Do oil companies keep inventory? Duh. Or do they pump through the pipeline from a refinery when somebody starts filling up at a local gas station? Sure they (some) may be down but the sky is not falling according to NY Merc prices.

I don't know it all, but don't free markets dictate what we pay for? I can see that $ 4.04 price if gas futures were about a dollar higher, but they aren't! Maybe I'm the same idiot (somebody said that to me four months ago) that still predicts gasoline selling for $ 2.25 early next summer.

My gripe for the day:) But I'm not as mad as the guy below...LOL

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Recession? Guys Are Too Busy

Flagstone deliveredWe've all been there. Waiting for somebody to show up to do work. According to my own time schedule it indicates people are busy bees up here in the hills. Why? Most don't show up half the time or take the time to let you know they will not be there. And as mentioned in a previous entry, sense of time must be some type of in the hills clock. First thing sometimes becomes near lunchtime.

My recent trip to Mother Nature Stone in Blue Ridge for more flagstone bothers me. Considering I've already spent some good money with them, you'd think they would be more customer oriented, or take some time to treat an existing customer well. I had one simple request.

"Can I get a better batch of stone than you have here?" They had only two and a half crates of the Cherokee Brown flagstone I needed, but it was obvious some of it had been picked through. Others choosing the better or larger stones, while leaving smaller ones. The response was more along the lines of "we can't provide all large stones..." I agreed, but... asked if they could bring in more. I was told a call would have to be made and they would give me a call back. It sounded as though there would be no problem. Besides the rock comes from Fairmont, about 45 miles away. That was Thursday afternoon.

Those guys must be busy! No phone call. Time to look elsewhere.


This article was started five days ago and I have since received the next load, but it took some doing to buy the stuff. I don't know why they didn't make it easier. I do have a phone answering machine and I'm not about to sit around waiting for their call.

I asked the guys who brought the stuff how business was. I don't think they could have been more negative. People, follow up on potential sales next time. Leave messages. I was very close to going with someone else in Blue Ridge.

End Editing.

For two weeks now I've been trying to find somebody to set up a home theater system I purchased. My skills at that kind of stuff are horrible and I wasn't about to touch it. I called around and was referred to Radio Shack. Great! Guy said he'd to it for X amount of dollars per hour and I agreed. Good dough for guys up here too. Tentative appointment was set for the day after Labor day. I asked he call that Tuesday morning to let me know if he was going to make it. It didn't seem to be a problem at the time.

He must be too busy! What recession? No phone call. I have better things to do. At this point I make plans to do something else instead of waiting for calls.

Another. Pest control. I discovered a mice problem. Looking through the yellow pages I made the mistake by choosing the biggest advertisement. North Georgia Exterminating who has offices in Ellijay, Jasper, Canton, and Ball Ground. They guy was timely, but did not handle the real problem I wanted taken care of; mice.

"I don't have any mice (control stuff) in my truck..." You'd think he would be prepared after the main concern was mice when the original appointment was set up over the phone. This was after I gave him a check for the initial service set up. I was told someone would be back the following week. Hmmmn, that was before Labor Day.

They must be busy! After all, kids go back to school this time of the year and bugs must the largest single most concern on parents minds. Let's not forget cabin rentals in the area probably skyrocket after Labor day too. Parents send their kids off to school and head for the cabin in the mountains. Bugs are on their minds again.

Maybe my phone was out of order? I checked. Working fine.

A few bright spots.

I had problems with the Direct TV reception after the recent storms. This guy was dead on time. Perfect! My experience with these guys has been exceptional. Yet, they have a monopoly up here (except cable closer to town), so one would think why bother being so good at what they do. Keep up the great work guys.

Ellijay Heating & Air - HVAC system wasn't working. Using these guys was a referral from my handyman Tom. On time and professional. At this time we discovered the system was down because mice were eating away at the wiring in the crawlspace. Oh, he couldn't finish the job because he didn't have the proper relay switch. The fan would continually run if the system was used, but it didn't concern me because cooler weather had arrived.

Two out of five. I suppose that's not bad. Yikes! Hunting season is approaching. Guess I better plan far ahead if I need anything done.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Creek Rocks For Landscaping & Flower Beds

Rocks from creek for landscaping Considering I have 600 lineal feet of creek to play with along the property, there's no shortage of rocks, especially flat ones for landscaping. All sorts of sizes, shapes, and colors. It's always fun to play in the creek anyway. I only wish I could drag some boulders from the creek. That would make a statement with a few of those lying around. Time to look into a backhoe rental?

Many shapes and sizes of creek rocks

A pile is ready for use around some new flower beds created by Mom who is visiting for three weeks.

Rounded creek rocksAfter seeing the results once the stones are in place, free standing rock walls are beginning to look more attractive. Perhaps they can be put on the mortered block wall around the driveway? A few new examples of using creek rocks for smaller flower beds.

Long time ago....

Another garden started. Shown is the artist..Mom

creek rock garden border

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Burned Out Lawn. Cultivate & Reseed

Mentioned in the original lawn article, summer is not the time to plant grass. Had I been here all of July I believe I could have saved most of it. Watching the weather reports on the web from SW Florida the area did get about three inches of rain, but it fell during a two day period only.

It's obvious lack of water was the problem. After all, areas where rain water runoff soaked into the soil, grass remained healthy, whereas other areas became brown and burned out. No good pictures are available. A solution was to loosen up the soil with a neat tool I found at Lowes. It's called an extended cultivating tool made by Fiskars who specializes in garden related stuff. I had my doubts and passed it up on a few visits thinking it probably could not handle the hard clay soil I was dealing with.

Extended reach cultivator close upI should start wearing a hat or go to the hair doctor. WOW! First time I looked at that picture (below). Who is this old guy? On to the story. This tool would not have worked unless the soil was soft. After five inches of rain from tropical storm Fay, time was ideal to give it a workout. I'm the one who got the workout! The yard measures approximately 2,400 square feet. Time spent loosening the topsoil and planting new seed was about nine hours over a three day period.

Cultivating burned out lawn

After six days we have itty bitty seedlings germinating and the lawn is beginning to look green! I'm sure there's such a thing as over seeding and I'm guilty of it. I probably put enough seed down to cover 6,000 square feet. Coming from a contractor background I realize I probably blundered by doing it myself. I've seen far too many DIY'ers in my business fowl things up and have to call in the pros. We'll see if a real lawn doctor has to pay another visit. In retrospect I should have opted for calling in somebody to do some hydroseeding.

Grass growing on lawn A close look at the flagstone path with Tall Fescue growing. This is a great shade type of grass. The area gets very little direct sunlight with the exception of some low angle light in the early AM. Not more than 30 minutes. Growth is approximately three weeks.

Grass growing in between flagstone
new grass seedlingsIn conclusion I'm not losing this lawn. In fact I've invested in a tarp to cover when any downpours are threatening until the lawn has more strength to handle it on it's own. Hurricane Hanna is the next threat with heavy rains predicted for the weekend.

I found this local weather radar page to be particularly useful. I only wish it would warn me with some computer sound when threatening rain develops. Instead I find myself checking every two hours. Homestead (photo below) is located in the first image southeast of the circle with the plus sign in it.

Of particular benefit is the storm track option on this website. Once clicked on, it will show the direction of each rainstorm. You can also zoom or isolate an area by using the mouse with left button down and drawing small or large rectangles/squares. Difficult to describe. Best to check it out.
Wunderground weather map North Georgia For illustration purposes I've zoomed in on an approaching rain storm from northeastern Alabama. With this cool tool I can time any rain by about five minutes, unless a thunderstorm suddenly pops up over my house. Using the animation option allows a 30 minute view where storms (arrows will change direction) can be tracked if they are changing direction.

Zoomed closer...

With 17 minutes elapsed from the above photo to below, the storm has changed direction by moving more to the east southeast instead of due east

 Storm is changing direction, splitting

Friday, September 5, 2008

Retaining Wall With Stone - In Progress, Pictures

Another project to tackle. I had originally planned on building a seven foot retaining wall around the parking area (shown below). Wall would begin at the yard level in the foreground and extend two feet above the gravel parking area. My part time resident critic Mom says it would be awful. Instead, "how about two walls?"

I said..."great idea!" A rough sketch is shown below. The railroad ties (far left) being used as the main steps going down to the yard and onto the flagstone path will be removed and placed on the right side of the sketch. Larger one piece flagstones will be installed. Old steps will be moved to the right side of the area (black) where a half spiral step down from the parking area will be created. Green area will be available for small bushes etc. The depth will measure approximately three feet.

The illustration is the best I can do with my graphic skills on a computer. The stone will be the same as what is installed on the foundation. Other picture angles further down the page. All suggestions or comments welcome. Project will begin in mid to late September.

A few details of the wall. Footers will be poured with concrete and reinforced with rebar. Not sure how thick. 12 inches is my thinking. Drainage was a problem at one time, but now solved. Concrete block will be used as the main support wall with stone mortared to it.

Retaining wall sketch Pictures shown pan from left to right in succession.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Replace Chain Saw Chain - Video, Pictures

Maybe you're like me. Lost or misplaced the chain saw manual? Can't find the information you're looking for immediately on the web? Dozens of pages on chainsaws but nuttin' on replacing the chain. In my frustration I decided to do a small story on the subject after I could not get the information from the Husqvarna website. They said I needed an updated Adobe Reader. Duh, I just downloaded it.

Cleaning chain saw
Yes, PICS! You'll find oodles of pictures on this blog. This is not your standard website that shows text only. We Americans need pictures of how to do things, otherwise many of us are lost, like me. While searching I was using the wrong terms, leading to my inability to find anything. Then I ran across some Expert Village videos. Not impressed by some I saw in the past on different subjects, this set is very good.

The chainsaw blade had dulled very quickly after making a half dozen cuts through some railroad ties. My handyman guy recommended a replacement. After opening the side mount where the sprocket is located I found this thing caked with creosote. A brush and mineral spirits did the trick to clean and was allowed to thoroughly dry. Word of caution. When handling any mineral spirits use common sense and stay away from any open flames or heat sources.

Follow the website link below for more tips on chainsaw use.

New Pine Stair Treads On Steps

They call it a rustic cabin, but this was too rustic for me. The stairs that lead to the loft were never finished. The treads were installed with 2 x 12 framing lumber and 1x pine risers. Today these steps would never pass code wherever you lived. I had a difficult time walking them because the rise was not calculated properly; creating a tripping hazard.

Steps before new pine stair treads

Pine tread material source was 515 Lumber south of the Walmart shopping center on highway 515. These guys have a nice selection of treads running longer than eight feet. You will not find this in any home improvement store. Nothing over 48 inches can be found.

All existing treads and risers were removed exposing the stair stringers. What I couldn't get through my mind was how to go about the starting area at the bottom (photo above). Why not box it out I thought?

Square off stair treads

For more on how the project was done visit Installing Pine Stair Treads On Steps

Final pictures...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Creekside Flagstone Walkway & Patio - Cherokee Brown

They call it Cherokee Brown (sample below), a local flagstone that comes out of Jasper, Ga (apprx 30 miles southwest of me) or that was my understanding. Mother Nature Stone of Blue Ridge has the most convenient and widest selection of stone in the area. I had plans for a flagstone path to the creek and area that leads into the woods connected by a wood chip path I laid out in the spring. Photo below shows the colors to expect. Disregard the white colored one upper left of photo.

Laid out flagstone samplesI told the folks at Mother Nature to set me up with enough for 600 square feet. Easier said than done. This kind of purchase is priced by the pound and not area. Considering it was three months ago I can't remember the details but I apparently had enough to handle 600 square feet. With a local delivery fee of $ 45.00 the stone was brought in a few days later.

Photo taken at Mother Nature...

Cherokee brown flagstone before delivery Delivered next to parking area...

 Flagstone crates dropped near drivewayMaybe it's the way of the rock business but it would have been nice if they had a truck that could have been off loaded with a forklift. Similar to the types running down the highway with lifts on the back of a larger flatbed. Some of the rock was broken into smaller pieces when it was dropped near the driveway, but it worked out.

Nine or ten thousand pounds of pure rock. This should be a good program of exercise because all of the work area leads down off the driveway. Using some leftover weed prevention underlayment (48 inches width) as a template, the walkway begins at the bottom of the railroad tie steps (probably will get torn out in lieu of more stone) and extends to the creek where a dual set of oval shaped patios are planned. One will be raised while another will be a step down to an area that will likely see an outdoor fireplace as well.

Flagstone layout with template
Walkway startedThere are a zillion sites on the web explaining how to handle this kind of project. Instead of using sand as a base I chose fine soil. After digging out two inches of dirt it was sifted through some screening. It became very suitable for a base before the stones were put into place.

Sifting dirt with screening
To date the path and patio area is 90% complete...almost. I liked it so much I gotta get more! Adding an offshoot to a wood chip path that leads into the woods on the east side only sounded right (shown). Grass will be planted in between the stones. Now that I've gone this far I plan to extend the path (illustration below) to the opposing west side attaching another path into the woods.

The patio area will be two levels, but after a few weeks I grew tired of the way it was originally constructed. Stones were set vertically and buried approximately 12 inches into the ground serving as a stair riser. I could cut some strips creating a veneered riser? Still not complete, the step area will be reinforced with a concrete footer and rebar that will brace the riser eliminating movement to the creek.

flagstone patio
Using a 4 1/2" Hitachi grinder with diamond blade attachment ($ 28.00) stones were loose laid over the riser and trimmed back to allow for a 1 1/2" overhang. Considering all stones are different thicknesses some were rabbited from the bottom side to lay flat around the perimeter. These stones will be cement mortared to the footer and riser while the rest are all loose laid.

Cutting flagstone with Hitachi grinder More pics, plans, and adjustments needed. A high spot is noticeable on the edge of the raised area. By using a surveyors transit level rain water will run off the opposite side and into the creek.Bi-level flag stone patio

Added September 4. I found this setting at a local nursery. This is what I want to achieve with the step riser. I prefer not to tear out the existing but rather cut some veneer and cement it to the current riser material.

Small stone veneer riser September 22 Update- getting closer to full completion. The project is on hold until I figure out what to do with the lower patio tier. Plans are for an outdoor fireplace of some shape and form, but I'm thinking the area may not be large enough. Looking back at the original sketch I put together I was going to widen/extend the lower tier but became impatient rather seeking to get the path done.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Powered Post Hole Digger. Fencing Along Driveway

The driveway needed some defining with fencing being considered. Three options were presented. The final choice became cedar type fencing for decorative purposes only. Other suggestions were pressure treated from Lowes but they seemed too large and bulky. Another was a low laying type fencing.

200 lineal feet of fence was planned. Starting from the turn on the driveway at the property line and extending down the hill near the flatter parking area. To date I can't say enough about the Lowes delivery team where I've spent most of my home improvement dough. They actually call the night before to confirm delivery and provide an estimated time of arrival. For me times are always set for first thing in the morning.

Cedar fence started along drivewayPic above shows the first four posts done by hand with a manual post hole digger. I had to test the idea. Four holes took 90 minutes and far too many rocks! Forget that idea, time to rent something.

A trip to East Ellijay equipment rental in town. No actual installation pictures are available because I was beat tired and dirty. I had actually considered using a one man post hole digger and doing it myself. Instead I chose the two man rig and called in some local labor thinking this should not take long at all to get done. Wrong!

These machines have the power but cannot navigate around rocks very well, including small ones. The remaining fifteen holes took two of us seven hours, with the last one taking nearly an hour. We actually gave in on a few after encountering larger rocks by cutting the posts six to eight inches shorter with a skill saw. Fairly lightweight for two healthy guys, the mechanical one shown below is gas powered. The only tiring part of the job was pulling the rig in and out of the hole when rocks were hit.

Two man post hole diggerImage from:

Rental cost ran sixty dollars for a 24 hour period. I actually kept it longer because once twelve noon comes around I'm done in the yard for the day after starting around 8AM. The rental guys gave me a break after I informed them I would keep it for another half day. Local shop keepers... you gotta love 'em.

Driveway before fence...

Driveway before fencingAfter fence...

Driveway after fence installed