When it Rains, It Pours…

(Or in this case, it “leaks”!!)

I’ve been suffering through some “rainy weather” over the past few weeks.  Mechanical failures abound.   Our Microwave oven has a broken door (but is thankfully still usable), our 27” television has died and gone to T.V. heaven, my car is hanging on by threads (leaking radiator among other significant issues), and then – to top it all off – the Mother of Five called me at work the other day asking me if I knew why there was no hot water in the house…

First thought… Did I pay the gas bill?  Hmmm..  No letters or phone calls threatening to shut off our gas… So, yup, the gas bill is up to date.

Water bill?  Yup.  I actually have a “credit” on my water bill (meaning, the city owes me water instead of me owing the city money…)  So, nope – it was not the water bill.  (Actually the fact that my family all had to shower in ice cold water was another good indicator that the water bill was paid – our city would not even provide me COLD water if it wasn’t). 

So, it was time to “troubleshoot”. 

Guys, you know what I’m talking about, right?  You are not at home, and the wife calls you about “such and such” that is not working as it should, or not working at all – and you have to try and figure out the problem and how to explain how to have your wife fix it OVER THE TELEPHONE

It’ll drive any man crazy – but I’m digressing.

leaking water heaterI had the Mother of Five first go to the laundry room and smell for natural gas.  No natural gas smell.  This was the best possible news I could have heard (other than her saying “April Fools Day” – but since it’s mid-August there was not even a slight chance of that)!

Next, I ask her if it’s wet under the water heater.  Yes?  It is?  How bad is it I ask.  It’s wet, but thankfully the bottom of the tank did not burst out on us.  The water heater sits within inches of the floor drain and the stream of water went straight down the drain. 

I apologized about not being able to do anything about it and went back to work.  At 4am I headed home and discovered a scene that was almost exactly as the Mother of Five explained it.  Wet under the water heater.  I spent the next hour and a half trying to get the heater lit again (even though it’s leaking) so we could at least have some hot water in the morning. 

That never happened.

The water heater failed on Wednesday night.  (#5 of 5 got the last hot bath in the house.  When she was done #4 of 5 went to get in the shower and had no more hot water).  I did not get home until almost 5am.

Thursday was another long day – and I worked until 4am again.

Friday was a partial day – but it allowed me to shop for water heaters before going to work, and allowed me to get to bed early enough to get a good night of sleep.

Saturday morning was the day.  My dad offered to help me, so I cleaned out the van and headed out to pick up the replacement.   I met him at the store (I ended up at Lowe’s) and bought an almost exact replica of the old heater. 

I bought a Whirlpool 40 gallon short gas water heater with the 6 year warranty.  Since I was going to have to “modify” some of the existing plumbing – I had to plan for that as well. I also bought all connections, hook up’s and fittings I thought I would need.

I was ready to get the ball rolling.  I quickly headed home, but had to make one quick stop at #1 of 5’s place.  While there, I left the van’s ignition in “accessory” with all the dome lights on, the radio playing and both blowers running.  When I went to leave, the battery voltage dropped below the required amount and the van would not start.  Thankfully #1 of 5’s roommate was there to help me out with a jumpstart. 

I was about two hours behind schedule, but I was on my way.

Once I got home, we started in the removal of the old water heater.  

Old water heater  Old water heater with vent removed  Leak out the bottom   Boil-over?  Old water heater with severed supply lines



In these photos you can see more of the heater’s failure.  Leaking out the bottom, and what I can only imagine is “boil over” – frothy “hard water deposits” were pushed out around several of the top connections of the heater.




Father of "The Father of Five"  


Here is my dad – helping out.  Actually, it was quite nice having them there to help me.  I tend to “rush” through projects trying to get to the end as quickly as possible.  He on the other hand double, triple, and sometimes quadruple checks things before jumping in.  He brings a bit of calm and patience to a project that I do not always have. 









Here it is.  The empty hole.  Old water heater removed, and it’s time to roll the new one into it’s new home.






Step one - New water heater in place  Step two - supply lines attached  Step three - venting ductwork attached  

Left to right. 

New copper lines sweated into place. 

Supply pipes attached (and although you can’t see it, water pressure applied.  NO LEAKS!! 

Exhaust ductwork attached.


Job is 100% complete in this photo















Gas line attached, pilot lit, and burner on!


There were still a couple of tweaks I needed to finish up with.  I wanted to install a gas flow limiter, an small extension to the gas line (it was a little too tight for my comfort), and an extension to one of the supply lines.  The photo on the right is after everything is said and done!  The only thing I have left to do is have my “Final inspection” by the building inspector. 

I’ll schedule that in a couple of days.

 Me and my dad.




Thanks again for your help Dad!  I really did appreciate it more than you probably realize!

Garden - 2011

I am not much of a gardener.  I have little time for it, and have never been much of a vegetable eater.  In the past couple of years, my taste for veggies have grown a bit, but my available time for gardening is still pretty much non existent.  I have enjoyed reading AtHomeDaddy’s attempts at growing a garden and even (at times) felt a little jealous that he is able to grow a little bit of a garden even in the “middle of the desert” (aka Texas) and I gots nothin’ going on here (not even “snow peas”… Get it?  SNOW PEAS??) – but I (easily) got over it as his posts progressed each year! 

Dad at Sister'sOn the other hand, my dad is a HUGE gardener.  He is all about everything “garden”.  If it grows in the ground he will try and grow it.  He is retired and spends all day, every day in his garden.  My sister seems to have gotten my father’s interest in gardening.  She now maintains three (?) garden plots. 

(Photo is of my dad helping my sister put in her first two garden plots.)

What seems like forever ago, I did put in a small garden (6’ x 8’) in our yard per The Mother of Five’s request.  For a couple of years we did get some items out of the garden.  Cucumbers, Zucchini, and pumpkins. 

I had little to do with the planting, maintaining, or enjoying the fruits of the garden (except mowing around the pumpkins – which spilled over the edge of the garden and took over a portion of our back yard).  But largely over the past two or three years, our garden has produced little more than some quite hearty varities of thistle and various other weeds (that I simply mow over a couple of times a year) and the infrequent cat turd when one of our (or one of the neighbor’s cats, or all of the above listed cats) left there for me. 

This spring, I received a call from my dad.  A neighbor was moving out and invited all the other neighbors around to scavenge his (quite large) raspberry patch.  My dad took a number of plants for himself, then contacted the Mother of Five to see if she wanted any.  She did and now it was my job to pick them up. 

Once they were at our house, we talked about what to do with these (perennial) plants – finally deciding to convert the largely unused vegetable garden into a “berry patch”.  We would plant the raspberry plants in a portion of the garden and strawberries in the other (both, which I do not like to eat).

This was the condition of the garden before any work was done…  May 07, 2011

Disaster Garden - May Disaster Garden - May  

The Mother of Five and the girls worked on getting it weeded and turned over (no small task I may say.  The root systems of these weeds were quite entangled, thick, and difficult to remove.  I added a little bit of elbow grease of my own, and by the end of the day had the garden looking better than it has in years!

 Garden - May Garden - May

We started off with the freshly exhumed raspberries and a singular rhubarb plant that my wife had from last year, but never actually got around to planting.

By the time we were finished placing the raspberries and rhubarb, the garden looked something like this.

 Garden - May Garden - May

From here, it was a waiting game.  As you can see we still had about 1/4 (+) of the garden space unused. 

Michele had bought some flowers for the pots on our front patio from Pearson’s Greenhouse (the greenhouse we patronize (which just happens to be less than a block from our house)).  When she was checking out the attended threw in a free “Sun Gold” cherry tomato plant (They sometimes do nice things like that at Pearson’s!)  That got added to the garden next to the rhubarb. 

Since I do not like raspberries, or rhubarb, and we still had some space left in the garden, I ran to Pearson’s Greenhouse myself – on a mission. 

I wanted GREEN PEPPERS!!  (I LOVE Green Peppers!)

They had none.  Instead, the attendant offered me some discounted “Gypsy Peppers”.  He said that his distributer had dropped them off, and that he did not know much about them.   I took a chance and bought four plants, if for no other reason than to fill the empty space in the garden.

Here is what the garden looked like on 06-24-2011 after weeding and planting the four Gypsy Pepper plants.

Garden in June  Garden in June  Garden in June  Garden in June 

Garden in August




And as of today (08-08-2011) this is what the garden looks like after a quick weeding and my first “harvest”.






Garden in August  Garden in August Garden in August  Garden in August  

What did I harvest?  Three “Gypsy Peppers” and a Sun Gold Cherry Tomato!

Bountiful harvest

Having researched them a little bit, I have discovered that Gypsy Peppers are considered a “sweet pepper” and have a taste similar to “banana peppers”.  This is GREAT NEWS as the Mother of Five LOVES banana peppers on her subway sandwiches!  I found a recipe for “easy” method of canning gypsy peppers.  I’ll be canning them and we can use them on our home-made sandwiches!

I have quite a few new peppers coming out, and tons of tiny little tomatoes!  In a few weeks, the garden will be pumping out peppers and tomatoes at an unprecedented rate! 

I am finding that I am enjoying the garden more than I thought I would.  It’s a struggle at times (trying to find the time it needs) but I get to it when I can.  I have found that I can spend shorter amounts of time with it, as long as I check on it a little more often.  I have been dealing with it about once a week, and spending about 30 minutes just weeding, etc. 

As you can see in the photos, I have put some posts up in the corners and plan on putting a small fence in to keep the cats out, and since next year the bushes will be full of raspberries, I will need to keep the birds out too.

Next year, I am thinking about finishing off the “berry patch” and adding a second (maybe a little bigger) vegetable garden – and doing a better job of PLANNING it out.  Planting more of the things I like, and the Mother of Five likes (cucumbers, Zucchini, and full sized tomatoes…)

Despite being a BIG FAN of “Good Neighbors” (or for anyone reading this from the other side of the pond “The Good Life) I don’t think I’ll be giving up my job for a lifestyle of suburban self sufficiency anytime soon..

The Walk of Shame

I’m not above embarrassing myself just a wee bit from time to time…  As proof, I submit the following for your reading pleasure.  Ultimately, there is a reason I am sharing this story with you.  Until then, enjoy while I embarrass myself!

Two years we took the kids to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America (or, as I like to refer to it  as… The “Maul(ing) of America”).

With all day passes, we were able to let the kids go wild – riding to their heart’s content.  At that time we had three that are daredevils and willing to take on any ride, and two that were a little more timid.  The “Daredevils” of the group asked me to join them on a ride known as “Tak Attack”.

Tak Attack - Flip upside down on this gravity-defying thrill ride. You’ll harness the power of Juju as you hurtle skyward, twisting and turning on Tak’s gigantic magical staff.

Having ridden several of the other rides with the kids throughout the day, I allowed them to talk me into it.  We patiently waited in line until we were able to take a seat.  The ride attendant went through the typical ride rules and instructions for securing oneself into ones seat (which, is largely automatic).  Once the mechanism has completed its job, the attended asked everyone to test their shoulder/lap harness.

Mine was not locking.

Looking closely at the mechanism, I noticed that the electro-magnetic latches were not latching because…  Well, because there was too much of “me” in the way.

I needed another inch or so before the mechanism would latch allowing me to ride without fear of falling off the ride while upside down three stories above the ground.

I sucked in my gut.  I skootched down in my seat.  I sucked in my gut AND skootched down in my seat.  Nothing was not working.  Honestly, I was a bit nervous that the ride would start before I could secure the safety bar (not thinking there must be some sort of safety interlock that would prevent the ride from starting up unless all the harnesses were locked in place).

That’s when the ride attendant must have been alerted to this hazard, and approached me.  He looked at the harness, and even tried helping by giving the harness a “push” in while I sucked and skootched.  Unfortunately, there was no way that harness was going to latch.  The harness was just “that much” too small.  I was just “that much” too big. 

The attendant told me I would not be able to ride Tak Attack.

I looked around.  All eyes were on me (all eyes that were strapped into their seats – waiting for the ride to start – wondering what the delay was all about) as I stood up with what little dignity a fat guy who does not fit on the amusement park ride can muster and took the first of many steps in that long “walk of shame” past all the other riders and observers.

Once back at the attendant's station, he apologized to me and mentioned that if I really wanted to ride the Tak Attack, that there was an optional seat that could be put on the ride for me when it was a little less busy.

I thought about the staff calling for assistance on their walkie talkies.  I imagined a full complement of specially trained maintenance staff responding with special tools, a TIG welder, two small cranes (maybe even a front-end-loader), and the special “big boy seat”.  I pictured the staff shutting down the ride as they bolted the “big boy seat” in place and conducted their numerous safety checks - finally giving their A.O.K. for me to ride.  Then, once the ride was over, they would have to remove the “big boy seat” from the ride before putting it back into “normal” operating service.

“No thanks” I said politely, as I watched my kids ride.

There is a reason I told you this story… Stay tuned!

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