Monday, May 31, 2010

Backyard Project: Horseshoe Pits

My current project is building horseshoes pits in the backyard.  Rather than pounding the stake in the ground and dumping some sand around it (my original pits), I decided it was time to do it right.

I built two 3-sided pit boxes.  We recently replaced the top rails on our deck so I reused those 2 x 6's for the pit boxes.

I found a level area in the yard and stuck one stake in the ground.  I measured 40 ft. and stuck in the other stake.  After laying the boxes and centering the stake, I spray painted the ground where the boxes will go.

Next, dig each pit and lay your box in it.  I dug each pit probably around 4-5" deep.

Next I laid weed blocking fabric and stapled down the outer edges leaving the middle unstapled in order to put in the stakes.

I bought a 4-pack of corner braces, screwed them in and spray painted them with some black Rustoleum.

For the stakes, I bought two small 5-quart plastic paint buckets and a 40lb. bag of quick setting Sakrete.  I set the stakes in the buckets with the concrete and buried them.  Hopefully I'll never have to worry about the stakes moving during gameplay.

I filled around the stake buckets with dirt, unfolded the weed blocking fabric and stapled it down.  I also supported the inside of the box with a few 1ft. pieces of rebar pounded into the ground.  Along the back I used 4 pieces of rebar for support on the outside of the box.

I bought a few bags of paver sand and then topped that with play sand.  I dug the pits pretty deep so I'll need some more sand.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eyeball find: 18k Wedding band

I was standing at the corner near Penn Station in NYC waiting to cross the street to catch my train home.  It was raining that day and I looked down to see how wet I had gotten when I noticed what looked like a ring on the wet sidewalk. I gave it a little kick with my foot...."hmmm." I reached down to grab it and threw it in my pocket. When I got on the train I inspected it a little closer and it's a small 18k wedding band. Weighs in at 4g.

I listed the ring on the lost and found board on Craigslist but haven't got any replies.

Keep your eyes peeled people!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Backyard Finds: 1956 Silver Roosevelt Dime

Actually, it's a front yard find from when I was putting in our slate walkway.  I own a metal detector and I usually use it on the local beach.  After digging up the sod for the walkway, I decided to break out my Ace 250 metal detector to see what I could find.  It was acting kind of strange and I was unable to get it working...maybe the batteries were dead.

Rather than going back into the house to get batteries, I grabbed my Garrett Pinpointer which is basically a handheld metal detector.  It really comes in handy when digging around in the dirt looking for coins, etc.  I used the pinpointer and went back and forth along the surface of the dirt path and found a few newer coins which were in really bad shape due to the elements.

When this 1956 Roosevelt dime came out of the dirt, I knew it was silver since it was so bright and shiny compared to the newer coins.  This is due to the fact that Roosevelt dimes that were minted between 1946-1964 were 90% silver and 10% copper.  Now they are about 92% copper and 8% nickel.

I also found an amusement token.  Maybe it's from the old Long Branch pier?

If you have some old coins and you'd like to know what they may be worth, I use the coin pricing guide called the "Red Book" shown below.  It has the history of the coins, information on colonial coins, error coins, mints sets, etc.  Definitely worth the $12!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Project Completed: Slate Walkway

In my previous post I was debating on going with a less manicured look for the front walkway we were going to build.  We ended going with our original plan of using stones that we had, laying down weedblocking landscape fabric and using plastic edging.  I think it turned out nice.

First I started out by measuring and using rope to mark where the walkway was going to built.  I dug down about 4-5 inches removing the existing grass:

I then cut the proper length of plastic edging and lay it out next to the path.  I had to dig a little deeper on the outside edges of the path for the plastic edging:

We then laid out the weedblock and stapled it down:

After getting the weedblock in place, we laid out our pieces of slate to see if we had enough.  It turns out we were a few pieces short so we took up our neighbors offer and grabbed a few pieces from their slate pile:

We then pieced together the puzzle of laying out the slate:

The crappy part of the project was next....moving the stones from the stockpile in the backyard that my wife made when digging out her garden and flower beds to the front walkway:

After carting those stones to the front yard my wife helped spread them out along the path:

It needs a rinse down with the hose but here is the final project.  We picked up a few more copper solar LED walk lights at Home Depot.

Not bad for a couple of amateurs!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Weekend Project: Slate Walkway

This weekend I am hoping to start and complete a slate walkway going from our driveway to our front walkway.  My original plan was to dig out the existing grass, lay down some weedblock fabric and place the pieces of slate. We have a lot of egg-sized stones that I was going to fill around the slate then finish off with a plastic landscape edging. Although it sounds like more work, I like the less-manicured look of the slate walkway I came across here at the Young House Love blog (pics shown at top of this post.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cancel Your Phonebook Delivery

We received our Verizon phonebook about a week ago. I saw it sitting there this morning, still wrapped in its plastic bag and realized that I will probably never open it. If I need a phone number, I'll look it up on the internet. For any services I may need, the internet is the first place I am looking. I decided to contact our phone company (Verizon) to cancel the delivery of our phonebook. After trying to cancel the delivery using their online chat feature, I was directed to call their Directories department (800-888-8448).

It seems that anytime I call the phone company or the cable company to make a change to my service, I end up having to deal with upselling. I've become accustomed to it and expect it but I was actually surprised that the Verizon rep tried to talk me OUT of cancelling the phonebook delivery. After thinking about it I realized that they are making money with the advertisements they sell.

Apparently Verizon has what they call their "Super Guarantee." If I was to hire someone out of the phonebook and register the service online with Verizon, they would "step in" if I had any problems. This may be a good enough reason to keep the delivery for some of you but not for me.  They also said that the phonebook is made from 40% recycled paper. I told them that I am just going to recycle it again so don't bother sending it.

Overall it took me about 10 minutes to cancel the delivery. That's one less plastic bag and one less 5lb. phonebook that has to get recycled.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Backing Up Your Data

A guy I work with recently had the hard drive crash on the family computer and they lost many family photos, personal documents and music.  If you still are not backing up your files (music, pictures, etc.) you are running the risk of losing everything.  Hard drives are dirt cheap these days and there are a number of options out there for you.  Also, if you have a bit of technical knowledge and an old hard drive laying around, you can purchase an external hard drive enclosure for it and use that as your backup drive.  I am using a Venus DS3 hard drive enclosure and an old hard drive.  In conjunction with this setup I am using Microsoft's free "synchronization" utility called SyncToy.  It's very simple to use.

Another option it to purchase an external drive that has built-in backup software such as Western Digital's Passport drives.  These drives are portable and have password protection.  At around $80 for 320 GB of storage that'll backup plenty of stuff!

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's the Pits!

One of my projects this summer is to build horseshoe pits in my backyard.  I purchased a set of horseshoes last summer, stuck the stakes in the ground and dumped some playground sand around each one.  Being that we bought the house last year, that's about as much time as I had to spend on the pits.

This year we are doing some work on our deck and removed a bunch of old, weathered 2 x 6's.  I cut down the 2 x 6's and built two 3-sided "boxes" with each side measuring 4 feet.  My intention is to slightly bury the boxes, dig out where the sand will go and lay down some weedblocking landscape fabric.  This should prevent weeds from growing up through the sand and hopefully slow down the washing away of the sand into the dirt below.

Riding the Early Train this morning I was looking at pictures of horseshoe pits on my Blackberry and now I am wondering if I should take some more time, do some more planning and "do it right."  I came across what looks like the official measurements for horseshoe pits and realized there's more to it than I originally realized.

Below are a couple of pics that I may base my design on.  I'd like to try to repurpose as much of the wood from the deck as I can.

I like the fairly simple design of this one but it looks like the throwing platform is a little small.

I am liking the shelf on the back for holding "beverages."

Once I get started building the pits I'll post it up.  Cheers!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Facebook Privacy Policy

For you Facebookers (Faceboogers?), the NY Times has mapped out the current Facebook privacy policies here:

It's The Bees Knees

I was digging around the This Old House website and came across this mason bee house.  Apparently these bees are non-stinging and pollinate with the best of them.  Here's the Wikipedia entry for mason bees:

This things just looks really cool.  I know my wife is going to want one.  Would probably be a neat project to do with kids too.  I read in the reviews on the TOH website that the bee house is smaller than it appears in the picture so be aware of that if you order one.  Once I get my bee house, I'll let you know how it works.

It looks like bee house pictured above is listed on Amazon but is unavailable (Mason Bee House) but they do have a couple of different designs here: 


No, not the band.  This is the first post of the Early Train blog.  I may be the last person on this planet to start their own blog.  This is my dumping ground for things I come across on the 'net, random thoughts, rants, etc. most of which occur while I'm riding the Early Train to Manhattan. Enjoy!