Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to Make the Perfect Hard-Boiled Egg

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The One-Woman Fence - part 3

In the last post (found here), I discussed using a post hole auger and how to set your fence posts.  Even though the quick set cement sets in about 30 minutes, I think it is a good idea to let your cement cure for at least a day.  This gives a chance for the water to percolate through and set all the cement in your holes and also ensure that attaching your cross beams will not cause your posts to jiggle loose.

Here are the materials you will need for this section:

battery powered drill with 2 batteries
extra screw driver heads (nice hardened ones - go for the more expensive ones...they really are better)
3 inch deck screws (get at least 1000)
2x4x8 treated planks
mason line
framing hammer or nail gun
1.5 inch galvanized ring shank nails  (galvanized is for outdoor use and ring shank helps prevent nail from backing out of the hole)

When you are ready to attach your cross beams (treated 2x4x8 lumber) to the fence posts, use 3 inch deck screws and a battery powered drill with at least 2 speeds.  Years ago, my parents bought us a terrific battery powered drill that we use for everything and I absolutely love it.  One thing I must say about using battery powered tools is that it is handy to have at least 2 batteries so one can be charging while you use the other one and you don't end up waiting around for your battery to charge.   I also recommend buying some screwdriver bits made from hardened material with good shoulders on them.  Get a whole pack of them because you will go through bits pretty quickly using deck screws.  Look for the type of bits used by people who install drywall for a living.  They have good shoulders on them and prevent slipping while you are trying to drive the screws into your posts/ crossbeams.

1. measure and mark posts.  Start with the bottom cross beam and mark your posts about 8 inches from the ground.  When you are determining the locations for your cross beams, you need to also determine how you want your fence to look.  Do you want to have a style that runs with the contour of the ground or do you want to step your fence up and down in panels?  The way you set your cross beams will be determined by the style you choose.  If you choose to step your panels, make sure your cross beams are level.  If you contour your fence with the slope of the ground, just measure and adjust the bottom edge of your cross beam accordingly by measuring roughly 8 inches from the ground and marking your fence posts with chalk, keeping in mind that the ground immediately around your posts has recently been disturbed and may not be the exact same level as the ground between your posts.  8 inches is a starting point.  You will need to eyeball it to get the correct look.  (Note, see step 3 for an explanation on stacking your cross beams from neighboring sections.)

2. Begin to attach your 2x4 cross beams to your fence posts.  If you are the only one on the job, put a deck screw in to one post of the section you are working on right on the chalk line you drew for your bottom beam and use that screw as a pivot to hold up one end of the 2x4 while you affix it to the post on the other side of the section you are working on.  It may be over kill but I used 2 deck screws per side on the 2x4.  Once you have it fastened on one side, you can use that supporting deck screw as one of your screws to attach the other side of the 2x4 to your other post.

3.  The style I used for my 2x4 cross beams was to stack one on top of another with an overlap the width of the post.  For example, the bottom rung for one section was at 8 inches above ground level while the neighboring sections were stacked on top of that bottom rung and they were each about 10.5 inches up from the ground.  It doesn't look as pretty in my opinion but that is the way most fences in my neighborhood are built and it does provide more stability if you live in an area with high winds or rowdy kids!

4.  Once all your cross beams are attached, your fence will start to look more like a fence instead of a construction project.   Congratulations!  You can now start hammering pickets.  I used 1.5 inch nails for my pickets and it is really helpful to have a nail gun for this part of the job.  I bought a 30 degree pneumatic nail gun and I absolutely love it.  It was on sale for just over 100$ and I have already used it for 2 projects.  Don't be intimidated by the nail gun...it does make a loud noise but it is much easier on your fence posts because they won't bear the wear and tear that repetetive hammering will inflict upon them (you will be hammering pickets until you are blue in the face!)  If you do decide to hammer them all in by hand, get yourself a good framing hammer (they are longer in the handle, have a nice large strike face and usually the strike face is lightly spiked.  It definitely grips the nail heads better and you have less of a chance of having the hammer glance off a nail and mash your thumb..  To take the sting out of the inevitable thumb mashings, wear a good heavy pair of gloves when you start hammering. 

5.  Hammer pickets in sections - stretch mason line by tying it to the top of one of your pickets and stretch it out about 15 feet.  Nail another temporary picket and tie the mason line good and tight.  Use the mason line to follow with shoulder of dog ear for a nice straight looking fence section.  This works great for fences that follow the contour of the ground.  When placing your pickets, put a 2x4 under your first one to give it a nice space between it and the ground...this helps prevent warping and bending pickets from ground moisture being wicked up into the picket.  You will have a bit of a gap but keep in mind that it can be filled in later with a little soil or some pretty garden plantings. Leaving yourself some space between the bottom of the picket and the ground will also prevent you from having to cut the pickets as you are putting them on the fence due to uneven ground underneath.  (Trust me, I learned this the hard way!)

6.  When you build your gate, you don't want it to sag.  They usually do anyway just because your gate posts will shift in the ground from the weight of the gate opening and closing.  (Put a nice big cement base for your gate and corner posts).  I used a gate kit I purchased from the big blue hardware store.  It included hinges, a latch, and angle brackets to help prevent sagging.  So far, the kit has worked pretty well and I like that it is pretty simple to build with the instructions provided on the box.

7. Finally, when you finish your fence sides and find yourself at a corner or gate opening with a space to cover with pickets but your picket is way too wide to fit properly, look ahead and purposely leave a space near the end of the fence section but not on the corner or right at the gate opening.  The space should be 1 picket distance away from a corner or opening so you are able to cover the hole with an uncut picket.  This looks just fine from a distance and is a good way of having a nice-looking fence without having to use a saw to cut a picket to an odd size in order to fit a small space.

The hardest part of whole thing for me was drilling the holes with the auger.  I would definitely try to enlist somebody's help if you plan on doing it yourself with a piece of machinery.  If you dig it by hand with a post hole digger, go slow, expect it to take about half hour per hole once you get good at it if you don't have overly rocky soil.  Anyone can do this project and the money you save is a nice bonus.  Good luck if you decide to take this on yourself!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The One Woman Fence - part 2

in the last post about the fence, I talked about my experience in working with an auger.  If I had to do it all over again, I would probably not have rented the towed post hole digger because it was a rather large piece of machinery.  The drawbacks to using the towed auger are many.  If you don't have a trailer hitch, you might as well forget it because having one delivered does add expense and may not get you the savings you are looking for by doing it yourself.  Also, if you are drilling on any type of slope, it becomes very difficult to maneuver the digger and drill a nice vertical hole because the slope can cause the auger bit to drill at an angle.  On the other hand, the towed auger is great for rocky clay soil, which I have over here!  It also is somewhat safer for one person to operate in that the torque from the auger bit is absorbed by the frame and it will not throw you like some of those smaller one or two man auger models you can purchase at the big box stores.  If I had to do it all over again, I would probably try to rent something like the little beaver earth drill as I have heard it is more easily operable by one person and more portable.  My local rental shop didn't have one available so I ended up renting the towed auger.

When you build a privacy fence, there are certain materials and tools you will want to have on hand

Materials List:

Nylon mason line
marking stakes
marking paint (that bright florescent stuff that sprays upside down)
3 lb metal mallet (you will use this later in your building project)
60 lb bags of quick set cement
large bucket
manual post hole digger
duct tape
post hole auger (optional - you could dig your holes by hand - estimated 45 minutes per hole in hard clay)
post hole level
shovel (spade type)
wheel barrow (handy for premixing cement if you choose to do it that way - mix it like peanut butter consistency)
rock breaker bar (the big tall one with the chisel on one end and spike on other end - often found near excavating tools in the big blue store)

The Process:

The following steps detail what you will need to do in order to build a fence of your own!

1. Buy one of those nylon mason lines and a bundle of stakes at your local hardware store.  Stretch the mason line nice and tight from corner stake to corner where you want to place your fence.  I marked the places where I wanted to drill my post holes with stakes, however, in hind sight, I wish I would have just used marking paint instead because when it came time to drill the holes and remove the stakes, it was difficult to ensure that the auger bit was centered in the place where the stake was. 

2. When you are marking where you want your posts to be, have in mind what size of cross beams you will be using.  I used 8ft 2x4 treated lumber for my cross beams and drilled my holes about every 7 and a half feet. So I could have 3 inches of overlap for my cross beams on either side. 

3. When you have your fence line marked with where you want your posts, you are ready to dig.  Please ensure you call that utility company number that gets all the underground utilities marked.  This will save you big bucks and perhaps your life in the end.  I called and had the utility lines marked but still ended up severing my neighbor's phone line because the phone company neglected to mark all the points where the phone line crossed our property.  Like I said earlier, I rented a rather large towed post hole auger and it was a little too big for me to handle on my own.  We got the auger blade stuck on the first hole we dug (corner post hole) and it took over an hour to get it unstuck.  I was able to handle the auger on my own for about a third of the holes that I needed for the fence posts, however those holes were not on a hill.  My neighbor across the street was so kind and came over to help me dig two thirds of the holes (the ones on the hill)  The post hole auger kept wanting to roll down the hill and it was a beast to handle.

4. After the holes were dug with the auger, we used the manual post hole digger to ensure the bottoms of the holes were widened.  This prevents heaving when the ground freezes and helps your posts stay in place.  I put some duct tape around the handle of the manual post hole digger to help measure the depth of the holes.   After the holes were adjusted, I was ready to place the 4x4 posts.  A post hole level is a great tool to have for this phase as it allows you to level a post both horizontally and vertically all at once.  It really saves time and by the end of it, I was able to tell if the post was level just by looking at it.  It took about 1x60 lb bag of cement to fill the hole with the post.  I just dumped the dry cement into the hole and the poured a 3 gallon bucket of water into the hole.  The cement set up within 30 minutes and my posts were sturdy.  Make sure that your posts are facing the right direction or the next step will be much more difficult.

All in all, the marking, drilling, and setting of the posts for the fence was about 2 solid days worth of work.  It ended up taking me the better part of a week because I have 3 kids and was not able to put in long work days.  I ended up renting the auger on a Saturday and since it was a weekend rental, I didn't have to return it until before 9:00am on Monday so I had 2 whole days to use it for the price of 1 day's rental.  It ended up being the perfect amount of time to complete my drilling project.

Go to part 3 - Build your own fence

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The One-Woman Fence - Well, not entirely! - Part 1

How to build a beautiful privacy fence for your back yard.  

Actually, I had some great help from my Dad and neighbor.  I started out building this fence because we needed one and I wanted to surprise my husband when he got back from the field exercise he was on.  The prep work for building the fence consisted of watching as many videos on you tube about fence building that I could get my hands on.  Among the most helpful were the videos that were produced by the big blue and big orange hardware stores. 

If you are planning on building a 6ft wooden privacy fence like mine, you will want to rent a post hole auger and have a manual post hole digger like these on hand. 

I had about 30 holes to dig and ended up renting a towed post hole auger with an 8 inch bit in order to dig holes that would accommodate my 4x4 fence posts.  Each hole was drilled to a depth of about 22 inches.  We live in the south and 22 inches got the fence post hole below the frost line.   The rental place tried to get me to take the 10 inch bit they had on hand but were somehow able to find the 8 inch bit as I was standing in line.  In hindsight, a 10 inch bit would drill wider holes and provide more stability for posts in places that are under more stress such as the corners and the gate posts, but I didn't know if I could personally maneuver an auger with a bit that large.

In the following posts, I will show you how I put up my own privacy fence and how you can easily build one of your own!

Go to part 2 - Build your own fence

Friday, June 15, 2012

Carb Cycling for Weight Loss

One of my current projects is to drop the last 20 lbs of baby weight that I have stacked on over the last 5 years and 3 children.  Last year, my parents both went on the Atkins diet, lost a ton of weight, and looked great.  I have to say, I have always been a little leery of the Atkins diet as I thought it mainly consisted of eating eggs and bacon all the time.  I suppose that it could be done that way but after reading the book adn seeing what the diet truly consisted of, I became a believer and started induction on the 15th of May 2012 and have lost 10 lbs since then.  I know that most of the weight is water weight as it is with most diets but a pound is a pound regardless of what it is made out of when you are first starting out and every little bit motivates me to continue.  I did pretty well sticking to the Atkins induction plan and once my body went into ketosis, I had to remind myself to eat during the day.  It was great and my cravings really did disappear.  I have to admit that after awhile, I did probably consume too much bacon as it was a good substitute for the sugary foods that I craved before the diet.  At first, I was totally appalled at the amount of dietary fat and cholesterol that I was consuming but eventually got used to it.  I figured that any negative effects on my cholesterol levels would eventually be taken care of as I ramped up exercise and started adding in more fiber.  Since starting induction, I have been adding in more carbs at strategic points during the day and have continued to lose.  At first, I was doing one big carb binge day per week.  This kicked my body out of ketosis and I immediately would gain about 3 lbs of water weight almost overnight.  Then, I would go back on induction and lose that weight plus about 2 more pounds pretty quickly the following week until the next carb day.  I have since tried some other modifications and what I am currently doing is eating my fruit or oatmeal in the morning for breakfast after I have completed a weight lifting work out.  While I was on induction, I was not working out at all and felt like my muscles were pretty weak and I would tire out quickly.  On the other hand, I had great mental clarity and energy for the long term (ie. getting through the day without that big carb crash in the afternoon.)  I absolutely loved that aspect of ultra low carb dieting.  With the current way of eating, I am trying to keep my body in a glycogen-depleted state for most of the day and hoping to reclaim that low carb-mental clarity and preserve muscular strength in order to have some energy to complete a good workout and build lean body mass in order to get rid of my current flabbiness.

I have to mention that I was also breastfeeding my 7 month old when I was doing Atkins so I had to really work at ensuring I was consuming 1800 to 2000 calories during the day and drinking enough water.  I found that the milk supply didn't really seem to drop when I was in ketosis and I feel like I was getting enough calories to fuel the breastfeeding process.  My baby continued to gain weight and be satisfied with her nursing sessions.  I have to say that I think my body went into ketosis pretty quickly when I first started and I wonder if breastfeeding may have had something to do with it.

Many people report that doing Atkins induction does not negatively affect their muscular strength.  I found that it lowered mine and I believe that could have been due to breastfeeding as breastmilk has a pretty high carbohydrate content.  I know our bodies adapt to the particular fuel that we feed them and as my body has gotten used to ketosis, energy levels have definitely improved and muscular strength has improved somewhat.

Getting into the carb cycling portion of my diet as I added back in some carbs was fun and tasty!  I still have not eaten much bread as that seems to put me to sleep pretty easily.  Most of my carbs have come from fruit and beans.  I started the carb cycling by getting into a good deep ketosis and eating my portion of carbohydrate earlier in the day and immediately after a workout.  It should take about 45 to 60 seconds of lifting to deplete glycogen stores in a particular muscle group.  When we wake up, our livers are naturally depleted of glycogen as our brains use it up during the night when we sleep.  Upon waking, we are in a more ketogenic state.  If I deplete my muscles of glycogen by working out, my muscles are primed to refuel and the hormone glucagon is activated to shuttle that carbohydrate (sugar) into the depleted muscle groups (and the liver) and thus, fat storage is not apt to happen as readily.  So far, I have tried strategic carb cycling for a day and did not gain the usual 3 lbs of water weight that I would normally gain when eating carbs.  I also notice that if I try to remain in a glycogen depleted state for most of the day by going low carb for the rest of the day after lunch, I don't get that dopey tired feeling in the afternoon and can still maintain a clear head and plenty of energy throughout the day.  This helps a great deal when chasing after little kids and keeping up with all of their shenanigans all day long.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Burning the candle at both ends

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel like you are running the entire day through with hardly an opportunity to come up for air?  Today was the kids' birthday party.  We had 30 party guests over to the local gymnasium for a gymnastics party.  Everyone had a blast and I like an off site party for the sheer ease I have in the clean up afterward.  This one was short and sweet and ended up being much less expensive than holding the same party at my house.  We were also able to invite more guests because the gym is obviously larger than my house so nobody was left off the guest list. 
Following that, we visited our friends' house for an impromptu pool party get together.  Where the kiddos had fun with their new "floaty" swim gear.  I have to admit that I am one of those paranoid mothers and neither of my children know how to swim.  I tend to avoid swimming pools because the thought of keeping track of two non swimmers plus baby K is even worse than actually squeezing myself into a bathing suit.  This called for an emergency trip to our local Wally World to find the necessary gear that would put this momma's mind at ease about letting my little ducklings into the water.  We purchased these Sterns puddle jumper life vests in lieu of inflatable water wings and they worked out beautifully.  Unlike water wings, they have an additional floaty part that crosses the front of the child's chest and I think it provides a bit more support and security for the young non swimmer.  Additionally, it helps them float on their backs easier, preventing water from getting up their little noses.  Our friend's little 2-year old boy also tried them out and was able to swim like a little minnow; whereas before, he disliked using those inflatable water wings that are worn on the upper arms.

After the pool party, we met our other friends to drop off keys to their house as they just pulled in from their 6 day cross country move out to our neck of the woods…Whew!  On the drive back to our house, the three kiddos in the back still had enough energy left to ask me to play with their birthday gifts that we were still toting around in the back from the birthday party this afternoon.  Since the sun was almost completely set and I knew that breaking out the toys at this point in the evening would invite more whining later, we ended up finishing our day about an hour past bedtime throwing those little TNT pop its in our driveway.  A great end to a very busy day!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

All aboard the potty train - the joys of potty training a boy!

Well, we are at that time of life once again.  It's time to board the potty train and we hope to stay on for the ride until the end of the line.  My son, A, just had his third birthday this past April and we are finally getting into potty training.  I know, you may think that I am pretty late in starting this with the little guy; however, we had a lot on our plate during this past year and I just felt that I needed to wait until preschool was over for my daughter before embarking on this little journey with A.  So, yes, he is three but I feel that waiting until the child is old enough to dress themselves, open the door, and hoist themselves up onto the big toilet without help are the criteria that sets Mommy and little one up for a great trip on the potty train.

With my daughter, she decided at age two (one day after my husband's departure to Iraq and one day after I arrived home from the hospital with then newborn baby A) that she wanted to start potty training.  I purchased one of those combo sets that had a potty which transformed into a step stool.  We set up shop in the kitchen and I did the whole remind-every-20-minutes thing while trying to breastfeed my newborn at the same time.  It ended up being frustrating for both myself and my daughter, C.  After about a month of this business, I finally told her that we were quitting.  I know, I probably give up too soon but my tolerance for frustration is pretty low and I tend to be impatient by nature (God is working on that one though!)   We started and stopped several times over the next few months until she hit that point of self-sufficiency that I described earlier and pretty much took the helm in training herself.  She was good to go by 2 and a half.

My son is doing well also but boys seem to be much messier to train than girls.  I am at a loss on how to prevent the over spray that happens and have pretty much resigned myself to a nightly dousing of the bathroom with bleach cleaner in order to make it presentable for the next day.  Currently, we are shooting cheerios and that is what we call going to the potty.  We say, "A, do you want to shoot the cheerios?" and that seems to work with him.  The only problem, once the cheerios are sprinkled into the bowl, he tends to spray the back of the toilet.  Other than that, he is doing great at not having accidents and I am hoping his aim will improve in the near future!  How have you potty trained your kids?  Any great tips or ideas?


Hello and welcome to my comfy little home on the web where we will talk about all sorts of things related to the domestic life, child rearing, and more!  I am the mother of 3 wonderful children whom I'll refer to as C, A, and K.  C is my oldest and is going to turn 6 this Spring.  A is my second oldest and he is 3.  K is the baby and she is well into her 2nd year and is already trying to rule the roost.  I love projects, organization, finances, and anything to do with the home.  Come on and discuss what is important to us in this wild and wonderful world of homemaking and raising a family.

God bless you,