The lawn destruction continues apace.

When we bought our house it had what people would, probably, call a lawn. I mean, it was a crappy lawn – and we have since discovered that part of the reason it was so crappy is that a bunch of it had grown on top of what was, I would assume, plastic intended to stop things growing over a plant bed.

This had (again, I assume) become covered in enough rotted down leaf debris that the grass could take hold and bury the plastic where it slowly degraded under the soil into an irritating layer of nastiness that we keep finding bits of. But anyway, there was a lawn.


Now, lawns are bollocks anyway. They’re just waste-of-space markers of wealth. Oh look, I can pretend to be lord of the manor, and instead of having a useful garden I can instead have this patch of useless monoculture that does nothing but suck up nutrients. And if you actually want it to look ‘good’ it’ll need constant attention with weeding, or worse with weed killer, and it’ll also need you to water it through the summer, and blah, and blah, and bleh.

I am not a fan of lawns.

If you love lawns, you do you (so long as you’re not spraying roundup on it, or pouring gallons of fertilizer on it).

There’s actually a creepily perfect lawn just down the street from us and I find it deeply unnatural.

Anyhow, we quickly set about ruining it – partially for practical purposes (having a soak-away), partly for having garden… and today we annexed yet another section, extending the bed that we grew stuff in last year outside the back door. We were doing some edging to make maintenance a bit easier… Last year, because of the somewhat rapid way that we did gardening (rotavate, throw in compost, rotavate, plant) the beds didn’t really have any edging. And that meant that it was harder to decide when the grass was invading.

So this year, we took the metal that was originally planned to go around the house (which we decided we didn’t like in that role) and used it to edge one of the veg beds.


Of course we’ve done our super-lazy lasagne mulching (which is one layer of card then a ton of compost/soil). This does mean we have to weed afterwards, because the grass, unsurprisingly, survives this onslaught. But it generally only requires *some* weeding. And it means we don’t have to get an enormous amount of card. Which is handy – because that’s all the card we had left. In fact, we had to unpack our (mail order) toilet paper to get enough to do that…

Anyhow, it’s looking pretty good. We also unloaded the bed that was full of the worst soil. The stuff that turned out to effectively actually be gravel with some mud on it… That’s been piled up back around the edge of the soak-away which is meant to have a pond on top of it. There was once soil piled there, but the chickens… helped… with that.

The other quick ‘n dirty bit of garden fixing we did was to create some shelter for the chickens. A couple of weeks back we corralled them up at one end of the garden (so that we can actually grow things in the rest of the garden through the summer). They broadly seemed pretty happy with the high-quality deck we’d created to replace the our one at the back of the house (which they spent a lot of time on):


The one problem was when it was hacking with rain they used to come and shelter under the eaves of the house. That no longer being an option and them seemingly almost unwilling to enter the run during the day (except to eat), we decided to create them some shelter on their deck.

This was constructed to an extremely high standard from the finest building materials (and not at all left over random crapity bits of cedar from other projects). We definitely spent more than about 2 minutes, total, on measuring. And we certainly didn’t just throw the whole thing together.


It should give them some protection from the worst of the weather, if they choose to use it (which they obviously won’t, because they’re chickens).

In other news, the mixer doesn’t quite work as well as I’d hoped.


There are three small problems. One is that the stop-button sticks. So I’m going to have to take the front panel off, remove the “stop” button, sand the edge of the panel I cut to give it a smiiidge more clearance, and then put it back together.

Not a huge thing, but slightly bothersome.

The other thing – which may be related, is it doesn’t always seem to want to latch into ‘run’. So you have to hold the start/run button in.

And finally, the belt seems to slip sometimes.

Now, new belts are available (as are new all the bits, really). But I don’t really want to spend $45 on it until I know that the rest of it is working properly. Since it is currently behaving like too much slippage causes it to switch off I may end up replacing it anyway before I’m totally convinced it’s all working.

But first we’ll fix the ‘stop’ switch.

Of course, now there’s a much cheaper – functional – one on ebay. Buuuut, I resurrected this beastie, and I will say the tealy blue looks damn cool.

So that’s…some of the stuff :)

There are things that are borked, and things which are less borked.

Life continues. At least for us. COVID continues to kill at a pace that is distressing, but the news media seems to be done with talking about it. Probably because there’s only so many ways you can say “because Donald Trump thinks you’re all worthless and mismanaged this whole thing, now hundreds of thousands have died and many are still dying and it’s going to be very difficult to clear it up”. Also, it’s much less interesting when the administration is actually trying to tackle things. Apparently, today Biden’s dog injured someone at the Whitehouse. So, err, that was big news.

So, yeah anyway.

I have been noodling at projects, and noodling at the house. I can’t say I’ve been very rapid about anything very much (in a pandemic), but I have been making progress.

The garage is now heatable – sorta. If you throw a radiator and leave it, by the afternoon it’s adequately warm. This allowed me to oil some freshly obtained trim, and also to oil the ends of the trim that we already had that was cut to size. For the first time in weeks (months?) I put some trim up a few days ago, and a second lot today. Not loads. But it’s progress (in a pandemic).

I spent some time today measuring up for the pieces that I’ve oiled – so a bunch of them can be cut down and I’ll get them installed.

I’ve also put the mixer back together! (Whaaaaat?!)

I know, the last I posted it was in a lot of bits.

So – a quick recap of the repair:

The lasercut front panel came out AWESOMELY:


I am so pleased with how it looked (foreshadowing there).

I also replaced the two very sickly capacitors with ones that are hopefully less inclined to go bang. At least, not for maybe another thirty years:

IMG_20210302_150616 IMG_20210302_150622

These Rifa polystyrene capacitors are notorious for their ‘splody tendencies as they get older; so if you’ve got anything of the 20-30 year ilk with them in I’d recommend digging in and changing them. They’re pretty cheap and changing them is usually not too much hassle. Less hassle than waiting for them to let the magic smoke out, anyway.

That done, I sanded the outside of the machine. Now I wasn’t trying to get an as-new look. Otherwise I’d’ve stripped the whole thing right down, stripped the paint off, and started from scratch. Which might have been a wiser choice, but I’m not really that bothered about it looking perfect. I really want it to work and look fairly tidy, so I declared that a clean, a light sand, and a new coat of paint would do. I took it into my high-tech filtered-air spray-booth, and gave it some high-build primer and a coat of…errr, some blue paint that we had left over from doing the lights because we felt it was too bright a colour for the lights.


Having left it a few days to dry I did a test assembly – and checked it was working, then I put it back together. Now my original (and better) plan was to screw the new lasercut panel to the original backplate/knob mounting plate (the original piece of metal was thinner and glued to it) – but I was concerned about alignment, so rather than do that I opted (foolishly it turns out) to glue the lasercut frontplate to the knob mounting plate. Now, if it breaks again then what I’ll do instead is just lasercut a larger mounting plate, etch the edges of it to make it thin enough to fit the slot, and it *should* fit straight into the case in place of the original knob mounting plate – and I can make it look pretty. It will have to have some screw holes for mounting, but that’s fine. I can break out some nice stainless steel jobbies for that.

Aaaanyway, back to the tale. So, I have a few adhesives around – car body plastic component adhesive (which is a contact adhesive); jb-weld and hotmelt glue are the main plastic friendly ones though.

I was a bit worried that both the JB Weld and the Car body plastic component adhesive might react with the paint. So I broke out the hotmelt glue gun. Which…didn’t work. Because it’s quite a big piece of plastic, by the time I’d applied a bead of glue around the whole thing, the start of it had dried.

After a couple of goes I gave up on that and gave in, trying the car body adhesive. This tempted me because it’s clear…

Unfortunately, it did indeed react with the paint which… went rather crinkledy.

But it still looks a damn sight better than it did on arrival:

IMG_20210218_133518 Anksarum Assistent / Electrolux n8

Unfortunately, it seems some other things are excited by the prospect of spending some time in pieces in the garage. My much loved Technics SL-6 record deck has decided that either only playing a minute or two of any record is enough. That appeared to be a transient fault, because it then after a few days rest seemed to be working fine…

…until it decided to drag the stylus across a chunk of my copy of Sgt Pepper having played most of the way through. So that… needs to go out to be investigated.

And despite my optimism of ‘just ignoring it and hoping it would fix itself’, our dishwasher remains stubbornly broken (it must be about a year since it broke). It reports an intake/drain problem which is usually a stuck impeller (per Miele), but in this case is not. The impeller moves just fine, and weirdly it will do a rinse/drain cycle, but not a wash cycle. I’m not hugely looking forward to tackling that repair; but after nearly a year without I’m starting to feel somewhat peeved about it, so I guess that’s an up-and-coming activity. Also, once it’s working I might be more inclined to put the kick plates on the kitchen cabinets, which is another job just lurking there.


Many bits of mixer

So the mixer is now in even more bits. I’ve ordered some pre-paint wipes to see if I can get a better finish on this than I usually get, since it would be nice if it actually looks good after this process (in addition to, ideally, actually functioning). I’m not quite sure what the history of this mixer is because the more I take it to bits the more it seems to have been attacked with a spade, beaten into a thousand bits and put back together from more than one machine.

Having found a manual – and some pictures of other Assistent N8s (I think it’s an N8), it appears the knobs should actually be the same colour – our sports one black and one white knob.

And having dismantled it, someone’s clearly changed out the motor (I’m suspecting for an earlier one, actually, because the insulation on the motor looks older than what I suspect is PVC on the switches). Anyway, I pulled one of the chocolate blocks out that was doing duty connecting one side of the motor and soldered that section of cable together. Mainly that’s because I was putting heatshrink over a section of cable where the insulation had worn through so I had to pop that chocolate block out anyway:


I cleaned up the inside of the mixer’s base which was filthy and is now much more acceptable:


And I worked out where the loose bits of plastic came from:


I’ve stuck them back in place (not because they’re important, just for the sake of completeness) – so they’re drying overnight. As is the front panel which is all clamped together but beforehand looked like this:


It’s actually got a multitude of small cracks in it – I wonder if it got dropped on its front? But I don’t know how you’d do that because the back of it is the (much) heavier end. Unless maybe it fell of a shelf onto work surface? But to do the amount of damage it’s had it seems like it would need a fair smack.

Anyhow, while I was just looking it over before stopping for the day I discovered that the insulation on one of the wires from the power connector had worn through. So I then disconnected it – at which point I finally twigged that someone has soldered the replacement wires to the power inlet – but the power inlet has actually got threaded screw holes…! So, err, not sure what happened to the screws. Anyhow, I soldered the cable back on since I’m not sure I have a tap or an appropriate size screw. I kind of wish I had some suitably beefy cable kicking around to replace the whole lot, but I don’t. Most of the stuff I’ve got is low voltage.

Maybe I’ll do that at some point.

Anyhow – for the moment I’m concentrating on functional, clean and a bit prettier.

So I’m planning to make a new front panel to replace the mangled original – so far I’ve come up with this:

Which I’m planning to cut out of perspex on the laser cutter. I’ll actually flip it to print it so it can etch the text in the back – then I’ll (hopefully) spray it to fill that text in – before cleaning the back off and spraying it a different colour. I originally thought about recreating the 1950s Electrolux font / logo, but I decided that actually a pseudo-replica of the modern one will do just fine.

However, there’s a couple of important tweaks that I’m going to make – it’s going to have a few screw holes in it so that I can use the perspex to brace the poor, battered old original mounting plate. There’s only so much that JB Weld can do – and while I think it’s going to be better than it *was* (not a hard challenge), it’d be more likely to survive with some bracing.

In other news – I’ve put up a bunch of shelves in the garage now, which has helped with organization in there :)

Mixing it up

So, I heard about this type of mixer. It’s like a standmixer, but instead of the motor being on top, it’s on the bottom and, on top, instead, is this incredibly solid arm onto which you put the mixer mechanism which is rotated by the bowl. It’s weird, I know. I heard of it when I was looking at reviews of mixers – because when we left the UK we sold our rather nice John Lewis stand mixer (although it wasn’t a hundred percent happy – bread making had upset it slightly); and we’d been talking – on and off – about getting a mixer.

Being in the US the standard is, of course, the Kitchen Aid. But a lot of recent reviews said that the newer ones struggle with bigger mixes, and that they don’t last nearly as long because the plastic gears in modern ones strip under heavy loads. Which is true of many a modern replacement that looks much the same as the original.

But I kept coming across the Ankarsrum Assistent as a recommendation. Particularly for people who do lots of cakes and doughs. And that is more our thing. So I looked at them and – as I expected – they were waaaaay outside our pricerange*. Well, okay, we could have afforded one but they were not something that it seemed reasonable to spend that much on at this point.

So, as is often the case, I left a search running on ebay and one day I noticed this very foxed looking one priced at $300. It apparently ‘turned on’ but was listed as spares only.

$300? That was far too much.

And it sat.

And it sat.

And I bid on a different one that was going for about $200 – in the end that went for about $400.

And still it sat.

And then I made a lowball offer.

And the person responded that the cost of shipping would likely be $50 by itself.

And I thought about it – and it came with the mincer (which you can get accessories so it can also be a pasta maker…)

So I decided to up my offer – and ISTR it ended up costing about $150 with shipping included.

And now it’s arrived and boy is it beaten up. It looks like someone tried to run a hammer through the front panel:


Seriously – the front panel looks like it’s the morning after a particularly heavy night of drinking, after which it decided to insult the biggest guy in the bar:


But true to the seller’s word – it does sort of work. I mean, it runs. It smells of hot electronics (bad), but it does work. So, today, since we had plans to go do some (socially distant and safe) stuff this afternoon and I had an hour before I wanted to get cleaned up I started stripping it down to see what needed fixing.

Before even getting to the mixer – the cable is… not great.

It’s not earthed – so this:

IMG_20210218_133605 IMG_20210218_133622

Well, let’s say neither of those is ideal.

Inside the case things didn’t exactly improve.


I’m not sure what they’re from – I’ll have a bit more of a hunt when the capacitors arrive (I’ll get to that); but those chunks of plastic presumably should not be rattling around loose in the case.

Inside, there’s also a surprising number of chocolate block connectors – not sure what that’s about. I’m wondering if this, at some point, got a new motor? At some point the insulation clearly wore through the cable where it runs to the motor through a channel in the case.


Unfortunately, the front panel has also had ‘a bit of an incident’. I’m not sure how it got so thoroughly cracked. I’m frankly surprised that it didn’t damage more stuff inside.


Anyhow – the main problem (beyond the cracked case, the random bits of plastic, and the front panel fouling all the knobs because it’s so bent) is the capacitors which are, as my good friend John calls them, Rifa PME271m delayed-action smoke generators.

These are, indeed, somewhere after their last legs.

If you’ve made the unfortunate error of finding this post because you – like me – have a sickly mixer and want to know what the specs are so you can order them ahead of time:

0.047 uF, 250V x2 rated PME capacitor
0.15 uF, 250V ish (presumably x2 rated) PME capacitor.

The board also sports a TYAL 510BV1 (presumably a transistor) and a D1303 (I’m guessing a diode) – neither of these I can find any data sheets for. And I’ve not bothered drawing out the circuit because I’m guessing that the hot electronics smell is courtesy of the two sickly capacitors.

Following along with it’s “dragged out the back of the club, beaten and thrown in a bush” aesthetic, the knobs on the front have also taken a beating:


And of course, one of them broke as I tried to remove it – so me and JB Weld and the mixer are already friends.


It will need more than that, I’m sure, to stop it disintegrating again – but for the moment it will have to do.

So the jobs list for this are:

  1. Clean everything
  2. Replace the capacitors
  3. Fix the knob…more better ;)
  4. Work out where those bits of plastic came from – and if they’re important
  5. Replace the failing insulation tape with heatshrink and a nice join
  6. Make a new front panel
  7. Spray the whole thing
  8. Make a new cable

So that should be no bother at all :)

Sadly, one of the problems is that as far as I can tell the available spares list is – basically – the belt drive. Originally an independent company, Ankarsrum bought back production from Electrolux and so these earlier mixers are, well, somewhat left out in the cold. They do still sell all the accessories, though, which is very cool and could lead to expensiveness. People sell new motors for the newer versions, and similarly digital controllers for the newer ones. But this one sports a mechanical timer and a couple of chunky microswitches, and the variable resistor / speed controller… so none of that is available; nor is the front panel.

So, uh. I’ve ordered the capacitors, and I’m going to work on making a replacement front panel next week. And the other jobs too, but for the moment, that’s where I’m at.

* Interestingly I found a bunch of cheap ones in Europe – but it is a Swedish brand. The US ones though – they were all well upwards of $350 even for the decades old variant missing lots of parts or markedly damaged ones.

Perseverance, Predisposition and Productivity

Today was just one of those days. Not actually a bad day, but I just felt a bit grouchy all day. It didn’t help that my tea ended up on the floor early in proceedings; although at least it landed next to the box of potatoes, not in the box of potatoes.


But that wasn’t the ideal start to the day. Then I realised that my plan of action – to just empty the first of the two shelves, swap it to the other side, and then fill it again; and then rinse and repeat with the second shelf – would not, in fact, work. It couldn’t work because the drywall was behind it. Which needed to be on the other side of the garage.

Indeed, really, the thing that made the most sense to do was to actually insulate and drywall that section… only; part way through that process I realised that because of the way the building’s framed I had to finish the window wall first – then do the last side wall. That meant that both shelves had to be cleared and moved.

I did manage to get them moved to a position where, with some difficulty I could negotiate both myself and the relevant chunks of drywall (in the case of the south wall – two full sheets, in the case of the other wall about 1.6m of drywall twice) into the space. And with my usual trick (attaching a small block to the wall) I could hoick the drywall up on to the wall, rest it on the block and – using some shims – I then get it fairly snug against the ceiling and screw it in place. And Bob’s your uncle. Or my uncle. Or at least someone’s uncle.


But the whole process is hideously unwieldy and awkward. Made extra super fun by the fact that a couple of the earthquake bolts had been installed with their plates overhanging the soleplate and sticking out well past where the plasterboard would sit. So I needed to rectify that.

But really the vast majority of the day has just been loading and unloading shelves. Dragging shelves around. Swearing at stuff. And some of it is my own fault. Selling things is hassle; and so I procrastinate and eventually it falls off my list of things to do. There’s stuff there that I should have sold years ago. There’s stuff that needs to be sold now.

There’s also stuff which was expensive to buy and so we don’t hugely want to just get rid of it – but it’s also not… stuff we need. Like, we have an extra box of the bird spikes (got to stop them trying to get into our roof vents, and also because the woodpecker had decided to try and work its way through our roof from the underside). We have no use for them, but they seem like something that we could sell at a garage sale. Only… COVID.

There’s also a ton of tools which while useful are not required at the moment because they’re mainly useful for – say – building a house. I mean, I don’t need the framing gun in an easily accessible location. But I also don’t really want to get rid of our framing gun. It was expensive. And it’s handy for framing.

And there’s the tiles. The bathroom tiles have now been moved countless f’kin times. Not just from the garage at our apartment to here – but I think they went into the house first, then out to the garage. Then they’ve been in various locations as the shelving’s been in various locations. Good lord am I sick of moving those bloody tiles. But until COVID’s done and dealt with (ha. Ha ha ha) then there’s little hope of us finishing the second bathroom.

Ah well.

Thankfully, as I was starting to consider spiraling into being thoroughly moody – and grouching about the fact that I’d misidentified our shelving as 4′ units when they’re actually 5′ units* – Kathryn came in and offered her after work help.

Which meant that we could talk about where to put things a bit and she could reassure me that it did – in fact – look much better than it has. She also, handily reminded me that the bedframe that’s currently occupying the garage could, in fact, go down to the storage unit we have at the moment. And while there’s still a ton to do to organise the stuff that is currently just kinda heaped at the east end of the garage… there’s an end in sight. And it’s an end where the garage should be a lot more functional.

I need to run the excess insulation and drywall back to Home Depot if it’s dry tomorrow…. Assuming I can extract the board without damaging it. It’s currently stacked behind what I’m intending to be the desk surface and the material for the raised floor… and the table saw….and the chop saw… and the surface that’s holding everything that was on my temporary workbench in the garage… and, and, and…. :-/ But after that there’s a bit over a meter (but full height) of wall to drywall – and it needs one section insulating. And that job will be done.

Anyway. Despite me being super grouchy, we are much further forward. I still need to mud / tape / insulate the ceiling. But. I’m going to take today as a win.

* Which totally screwed up my planned arrangement for hanging the bikes (thankfully I’d not built it yet – although I’d thought about putting up the hooks quite a few times)

More drywall (again)

So I’ve been plodding through doing the garage drywall; it’s about 2/3rds done – and I’ve reached the oh so exciting point of unloading all the shelving so I can move it.

Once the shelving’s out of the way the actual drywalling shouldn’t take too long. But it’s going to be a bit of a faff to get it out of the way. Once that’s done we can rent the insulation blower, insulate the roof void and that will be a heatable space. At some point in the future I’ll come back and do some tape and mudding – but for the moment we’re just going for walls and ceiling up.

Then we can arrange things in there so it’s a more functional actual garage:

I’m hoping this will work – at the moment the sit/stand bench is in our office in the house – but the plan is once the tablesaw is gone it can go out there. The tablesaw is being kept around for the minute because – mainly – COVID. Our lovely friends have a much nicer tablesaw in a proper woodshop that we were using but when we were doing a bunch of stuff and would have had to lug a lot of wood around it was handy having one here. Now COVID – so even small jobs that need stuff ripping down I can’t go over and be all ‘Oh hey, I’ve come with wood (and viral death)’. So yeah.

It’s not terribly exciting; insulating and drywalling is tedious to do and pretty tedious to write about, but it’s nice to get this off the project list and means that I can get back to oiling trim which will be good. I can also do a couple of other projects – one is the prototype Mycroft build. I want to switch away from our ‘smart devices’ being google – after quite so many awful things that google have done.

And while the google home is a neat piece of tech, I’m not a big fan of having it around. So… yeah, I’d like to build a Mycroft. I’ve printed some of the bits, and Nikki has kindly printed some of the other bits. I’ve got one left to do (which I hope to do once the garage is done) – it’s a bit of an irritating ‘whiny’ noise to have going in a house with no doors.

So there’s that. I’ve accumulated all the other parts required (I think they’ve all arrived now); so there’s a bunch of soldering and putting together to do.

Then there’s this:


It’s an Electrolux N10 – better known as an Anksurum Assistent mixer. These are apparently the bee’s knees when it comes to mixers – particularly for bread making. People seem to rave about them and the mechanical design seems to have remained pretty much the same since they were designed back in 1947, which is pretty cool.

I’ve been trying to find one for quite a while, but they always were suuuper expensive. This one, though, has taken quite a beating (no pun intended, or maybe it was).

Beyond the sad chipped paint and general slight grubbiness, the front panel appears to have been beaten with a hammer until it was hideously deformed, the knobs are somewhat loose and it seems to only really have one speed option. Oh, also, the mains connector on the end of the power cable is cracked, and the plug on the other end is just fucking terrifying.

Hopefully a bit of a service should do for most of it – all the functions more-or-less work. It does seem to only really have one and a bit speeds (similar to how Molly was when I first got her…)

1930s BSA 3 Speed Stepthrough Cycle

I’m somewhat suspect of the Rifa capactitors which allegedly lurk inside the case – but finding information on them has proven to be difficult. Possibly this is a good sign – I’d actually not seen any broken ones go by on e-bay until this one.

Initially I thought that not knowing the model number – which I now think might be N10 – was the challenge I was having in finding information. Buuuuut even with that I’ve not found much. I’m now beginning to suspect that, in fact, the problem is that they don’t break much.

People just seem to have them and use them and love them (and possibly cuddle them and pet them). This is both good and slightly awkward.

I mean, it isn’t a complex device. It’s just a motor driving a massive thick belt drive that runs a worm gear that turns the bowl around. The roller is turned by the bowl itself (and pleasingly, you can still get both accessories and at least some spares for it). It’s old enough that the controller is a mechanical timer (that could probably do with a blow through with some compressed air given the environment most mixers live in), a variable resistor and a couple of switches.

So hopefully me’n the laser cutter will make a new front panel and me’n the workspace in the garage will give it a clean and a paint and it’ll be right as rain.

So yes. Once the drywalling is done, there is space opened up for ‘projects’ and that I’m quite looking forward to.

The rest of the drywalling not-so-much.

I have also – at long last – spent the money to get Rebecca’s new motor. That is winging its way here from wherever it is – ripped from a crashed iMiEV. 47kW should be more than enough for li’l Rebecca Mog.

Anyway. Many things to get on with.

More drywall, such fun.

So, we began the joyous task of putting up the plasterboard in the garage. It’s… both not as bad and as bad as I thought. The actual getting of it up onto the ceiling isn’t too terrible – largely because it’s 8′ up, not 13′ up, and it’s flat not sloped.

Both of these things make it easier. It’s also a smaller space. Howeeeever. The trickier bit is that the garage is full of ‘stuff’. Rebecca has deigned to move; she’s fired up successfully four times now, and so on Monday when we started on the project she pootled out of the garage, I turned her around so that this time the exhaust will be pointing out of the garage when we start, and sat her outside for the day.


Plan is to do that today.

Then I’ll start on some of the fiddly bits.

We went for a less good finish, but more rapid coverage, with our board tessellation. Ideally you shouldn’t have boards going in different directions, but we do, because that works better for speed. But we did also glue them and screw them so we haven’t abandoned all our quality principles.


So today is mainly going to be cutting little bitty end-bits and some long, narrow runs. Popping those up and hopefully we should be mostly done. Then we can start on the joyous fun of insulating the walls and putting the drywall up there.

In other news, we’re slightly concerned that the combo of heavy rain and high winds may have given our chickens a tiny bit of frostbite on their combs. Well, two of them. Mymble seems unaffected, which would make sense, she’s the one that sits furthest from the breeze being head of the pack.

We’ve tweaked the coop airflow to a more winterised setting – blocking off several of the vents. I’ll stick my head in there tomorrow morning – immediately when I let the chickens out – to see whether we need to increase the venting a little. I really don’t want them to be insufficently ventilated, but also don’t want them to get frostbite :(

It’s funny because it’s not actually been that cold – we’ve only had a few days of frost this winter, so far. Which is quite worrying for pests in the garden, and for the trees who probably haven’t gone properly dormant.

What we have had, instead, is a ton of rain. Days and days of solid rain. Which led to the discovery that the replaced sump pump is, as I feared, not triggering at a low enough point. It doesn’t actually have any kind of adjustment mechanism – oddly – so we had the fun task of digging under the pump to drop it a bit (it turned out that actually the pump probably used to sit a couple of inches lower because down below the silt and crap there was a small concrete paving slab.

Having done that I also used a bit of cut-off pex pipe to make the pump trigger about 1cm earlier. I’m hoping that combined, those tweaks will keep it drier under there. It doesn’t look like it was actually getting up high enough to hit the wooden piers that support the house, thankfully.

Come the summer when I’m not trying to dig out silty soil from a puddle while lying in a puddle I may try and find the enthusiasm to tackle this again and maybe get it another 2 or 3 cm lower. And at the same time clear out some of the crud. But to do that I’ll have to extend the pipe that I put in… it’s already at the limit of its flex. Ah well.

A short diversion

We knew it would happen eventually. We worked around it a bit with a cunning plan – I warmed up the oil and the wood in the house, then oiled some small bits of wood out in the garage, then brought them back into the house to dry, but positioned them directly under the whole house fan in the laundry.

Doing that allowed me to put up the lights in the main room that sit over the hallway – which has improved the lighting situation in the dining area and the kitchen pretty markedly. It also meant that I could put down the trim strip that goes between the bathroom and the hall (I’ve not actually installed that yet, I had to cut the screws short so that they won’t go into the pipework in the floor).


I finally managed to locate the enthusiasm to start working on the trim again yesterday. It’s tough because we want the house to be done, but I think we’re both pretty much in need of a break from doing the house. It’s close though, it’s within spitting distance of being done. And we are making progress, but it’s much slower.

In a way I think that’s probably much healthier. But it is dragging it out too; which is kind of frustrating. It’s that balance between not making the process utterly hateful because you’re forcing yourself to do it whatever you feel, but also not just letting it drag on interminably. Not least because we have other things we want to do with our lives! But. All that said, we’re taking a short diversion for another part of the project.

We’re going to borrow a friend’s trailer today and clear some of the rubbish from the garden. We’ve been studiously ignoring the pile of old naily wood – the offcuts from our salvage pile – for months. Hidden under a tarp in the corner of the garden they’ve avoided too much scrutiny because they’re out of the way. Well, today they’re going to go away. So, too, will the old metal sink, the broken UPS and the broken sump pump from under the house. All of those can go find a new home at the hazardous waste place, or the tip.

And then we’re going to go and get an enormous pile of drywall and insulation. The time has come to insulate and drywall the garage. In theory (in theory) Rebecca should be mobile. Since putting the new flange on the diff and reattaching the prop shaft I’ve managed to get the battery somewhat charged. And so in theory (she said optimistically) she should be able to move with some fresh petrol. I did tighten all the fuel line joints because when I did my quick test that the electrics are working and “how much petrol do you have in you” turn on she decided to spray everything with stale petrol – sort of a resentful “you left me in the dark for years and now you want me to move!” event. But I think I’ve got them all tightened up. The carb also leaked, but that seems to have stopped having absorbed some of that stale fuel into the dry seals.

So hopefully – we can move her outside and inside at will (well, sort of. The 12v battery is very sickly, but hopefully with a jump starter, that should work). So that will mean that we have a dry, heatable space in which we can oil some bits of wood.

In other news, Christmas was very nice – peaceful. We did get to see Kathryn’s mom and her partner which was lovely. Isolating was definitely worth it – and actually, it was quite refreshing not to have to think about COVID for a bit.

It’s the first time, I think in 5 years, that we’ve had our own tree. Of course, we didn’t realise until after we were isolating that the bulk of our Christmas decorations are still in the storage unit. It’s not like we have a ton of them anyway, but there was some angst from me because we didn’t have a robin for the top of the tree. I’ve always had a robin for the top of the tree – it’s a family tradition – so Kathryn managed to crochet one double-quick, because she’s lovely and wonderful :)

We also made some paper chains for the tree, and then borrowed some lights because our little section of stars, and the later found little section of copper LED lights was a little scant on the glowyness.


Since I’ve not been working on the house all the time, I’ve been partaking of my hobbies some more – and am slowly gathering the bits and pieces to build a Mycroft AI to replace our google home. This has meant doing some 3D printing – which has been entertaining. I’ve also been editing some stuffs for TE, and generally footling around in the way that I (used to) do. That has been quite pleasant.

Obviously, watching a bunch of neofascists attempt to subvert the process of a democratic election and stage a coup has been ‘somewhat of an uncomfortable week’. And knowing that my passport is very nearly expired is… concerning. When I mentioned it at work there it all seemed a bit uncomfortable, but a couple of people expressed concern.¬†Which is something.

But, at the end of the day we can only be where we are.

Oh, btw. I had my first shot of COVID vaccine. It was uneventful.

Trundling Christmaswards

So we’re isolating (still). I can’t remember if we were doing our 14 days of isolation when I wrote my last post, but anyhoo, that’s what we’re doing. Seeing no-one. Leaving for nothing. The plan is that come day 14 we’ll be safe to see Sherry and Terry – so we will (unlike many people this year) have xmas with family. I feel very, very lucky to at least be able to safely see some of our family this year.

Even if I can’t get back to the UK to see my mum and my sister. That’s really tough. Particularly since the UK seems to be spiraling back down in the virus management with the advent of this new, more virulent strain. It’s almost like having some idiot running the country who doesn’t understand or believe in science, and can’t even keep his lies straight, is in some way a bad thing.

Of course, to be fair our mango mussolini does keep things just trundling worse and worse, so all in all….

Anyhow, that’s not a very cheery topic, so instead let’s move on to what we’ve been up to.

Which is, to a greater or lesser extent much less than you might expect. I’ve made a real effort not to turn this 2 weeks of being at home into some extreme-DIY-renovation event. I’ve really tried to… chill, somewhat.

So we’ve done stuff, but not loads. We’ve made some progress on smaller jobs. I mean, part of this is just that because we’re in isolation we have to work with what we have here.

We did plan for this, to some extent, so we bought Christmas lights ahead of isolation and, ta-da:


We have also laser-cut the numbers for our house and put them up.

We finally got around to tidying and sorting the office – which had got completely out of hand with various big-things that were taking up space unnecessarily. Sorting that has produced a much more usable room (again) and we’ve actually managed to get all the books in the house onto bookshelves. And almost unheard of event.


We also actually have door frame trim installed on our bathroom. Not the trim that goes up against the wall – at least some of that requires oiling. But we do have the door shut installed on the bathroom – which means that we’ve stepped up from merely having a door to having a door that closes.

Pretty fancy, huh.

And in other exciting news – we have a coat closet! It took a while but we laser cut supports and bought a chunk of oak dowel which allowed us to fix the dowel in place with something that means that our coat closet has details that speak to the rest of the house. No one else will care but us.

What else? Well… I spent an enjoyable cold day in the garage and got Rebecca’s diff flange changed. HellifIknow whether the preload is right anymore (probably not). The new flange, it turned out, was slightly different to the old flange. Well, I mean, it was very different, that was the point… but it was also different in a way that I didn’t expect. That meant that the ‘undo the nut X turns, then do it up again X turns’ didn’t work. Buuuuut – either I’m close enough for jazz, or I’m not. We’ll only know by driving it (or disassembling the back axle completely – which is the only way to properly set the preload – and also will be what’s required if I’ve got the preload set wrong).


This means that — in theory — Rebecca should start and drive.

I’m waiting to find out if the battery will hold enough of a charge for that even to be a possibility. It’s trickle charging right now – and has been for a couple of days. It started in the region of 1 volt, which is only 11 volts short of where it should have been…

Then today, we tried to install our pantry. Unfortunately it turns out that back in May – when we ordered the pantry shelving they sent the wrong unit. We didn’t check at the time (I know, I know, we should have). So now we’re waiting to hear if they’re willing to exchange it. I’m not sure where we stand on the ebay refund policy if they don’t…

But that’s left me feeling pretty miffed. I was quite excited about the prospect of us finally having our tins and things like our flour in a cupboard where we could actually see them; and as Kathryn pointed out it will mean that we can free up the small green shelves to go and be in the corridor (because now we don’t need the coatrack, but do need the shelves that are attached to the coatrack, but if we could use the green shelves for that purpose….)

I mean, it’s partly that and partly that I accidentally put the bits of wood in the wrong way up and that means they don’t fit nearly as well as they did. I mean, I put the first bit in, thought it was a bit tight so swapped it for the other bit – and – that got stuck. So then I concluded discretion was the better part of valour and just fixed it where it sat.

So they’re upside down. Which is fiiine. Except the edges are now gappy. Which probably means I should attack it with some clear caulk just to make it less obviously gappy. But then it’s also in the back of a cupboard that will – one day – have shelving in it*.

*Along with lemon soaked paper napkins.

Apparently I can’t heat the planet

So it seems that despite climate change and the impending destruction of civilisation and the immense insecurity of food approaching, I took it upon myself to try and head the entire planet. Not, it must be said, a serious directed effort. I tried to make some attempt to keep the heat in the garage void. But not though an effort that was sufficient.

See now, I wanted to oil some wood. For which, as we’ve previously discussed, the garage needs to be warm. And given that it’s winter that means that the garage would be heatable. Not — y’know — generally warm or anything. Not until it’s finished. Then I’m hoping that it will be more-or-less heatable (because I intend to use part of it as an officey space). No. But right now it would be handy to be able to get the temperature up to the working temperature of the oil we use on the trim in the house.

Unfortunately, despite my beautiful artwork with drapery:


Well…after a full day of pumping the all-of-a-killowatt that maxes out US outlets (bleh) into the space I’d hit the heady heights of 12 degress C. Only…about 10 degrees below what’s required.

So new plan is that we’re going to have to insulate the garage. If we’re insulating, we may as well put wiring and drywall up. Pain in the bottom though that is, it just makes more sense than any of the other alternative routes.

Which means pausing on the house.

Which is not what I want to do.

We have one other possible option – which is to ask family who have some space in Oly that they’re not using that frequently right now whether we can use their garage which miiiight be heatable? Or already somewhat heated? I mean, ours is detached and sports a ridge vent; so getting the heat to stay in there is essentially impossible.

This is, I think, one of those cases where I’m used to the UK where I can pull 3kW out of a wall socket and heat a poorly insulated space; and you just can’t do that on 110V @ 15A max. I’ve tried.

So… that means another permit. Bleh.

I think we just need a permit for the power outlets and lights, though.

And I *think* we can ignore the need for a separate panel if we’re willing to just have two circuits. Which I am. I think. And possibly a run of network cable (we’ll run it, but I don’t know if I need it yet, but I’ve a ton of it so I might as well.

Sooo, that’s a medium size project. Rebecca needs to be mobile first, so that’s up before we do that.

In other eggtremely eggciting news that got us quite eggsuberant… Our chooks have started laying. Well, two of them have. We’re pretty sure it’s Mymble and Pippi.

We’ve now had 7 eggs from them (although 4 are waiting to be omelette tomorrow).

And yes, I did spend the entirety of the first day they laid telling them how clever they are*.

In other less positive news, I think I’m giving up on fixing the dyson fan. I’m sure that it is possible, and I could play ‘draw out the circuit’ followed by ‘scare it with test equipment’, and if I was back in the UK and John was okay with me tapping his skills I would be more inclined. But I think we’re pretty much at my limit of knowledge right now; and I’m not that enthused about it. I also suspect I can sell it for as much as I paid for it, and it allowed me to practice my soldering and break out my rework gun, which was part of the point. It’s not like I have to list it with the statement that I’ve replaced a bunch of bits and it’s still not working.

So… meh to it not working, but I’m okay with it.

What I did fix, however, was the CD player.

This is terribly pleasing, especially since it goes “mmmmm, nummy CD” when you press close, and then returns it with a “Aaaah, your CD, m’lady” type speed.

This wasn’t the first power-on. I did that in the garage and checked that it both turned on (without going bang) and spun a disk. But this was the first power on where I had it plugged into an amplifier.

Hitachi DA-1000

And it works! All those custom chips in there. All those discrete components… They all worked. It does run warm, unsurprisingly. I mean, it’s the bleeding edge of technology for the time. About $900 of hifi equipment in 1982. Roughly.

It’s always a good reminder how what once was bleeding edge becomes essentially zero value. It is a curiosity piece. Still, I enjoy it.

And I am, it must be said, quite happy to have managed to fix something.

Also, contrary to step 2 in the service instructions, you don’t need to remove the little plastic lugs. Oh, and it seems that if you try and use my temperature controlled soldering iron in a room at 8-9C, it gets very unhappy. I’m hoping it will be okay when I turn it on in a warmer environment. Handily I had my non-temperature controlled one, and dealing entirely with big through-hole components, it was just fine.

Interestingly, my guess is this is one of the last non-updated models they produced. The Hitachi DA-1000 comes in two flavours, DA-1000 (the original) and DA-1000R (the revised version). Mine has all the mods that are suggested in the many service manual updates – changing the voltage of the audio output to the modern standard, and some other bits and pieces…

Buuuut. The kit I bought (which I got refunded on because it arrived so late that I’d given up, and the original sender hadn’t provided shipping info) and which it turned out had been crushed in the mail so that one of the new capacitors was dead, didn’t have all the capacitors in that mine needs. I’m guessing this is because one of the boards appears to have components marked with an R, which I think is related to the revision.

Not sure, but I certainly ran out of capacitors well before finishing. Mainly 100uF 16V ones, but there were a couple of others…

Anyway, I left the originals in place – really the ones I was most concerned about were the power supply ones which did seem to have maybe had some leakage. At any rate, it went from not working when supplied to working after my interventions. So I’m taking that as a win.

I’m now playing with my 3D printer – I’m tempted by the idea of building the mycroft AI after Google’s yet-again-ethical-debacle. It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the fact that I don’t want these companies surveilling me, because I don’t trust them.

Soon I shall be living in a cave, if I’m not careful.

*For doing what their bodies require.