In the 30 November installment of the sprinkler saga, Mikel from Green Tree Professional returned to continue resurrecting the sprinkler system from construction damage. He blocked six hours, believing most if not all of the damage was already identified and repaired. His goal was to begin redesigning the system to cut off lateral lines and sprinkler heads along the front of the house where planting beds no longer exist, and to lay out new drip lines to water the oaks in the front yard and planting beds that will be added to Emerald Hill.
With the driplines laid out and staked down, Mikel switched on the water and activated the zones at the controller, to test the system.
He discovered a broken line that no one knew existed at the end of the new fence line up the driveway. Water streamed from a severed lateral line that was buried under several inches of mulch. He extracted from under the mulch a brass spigot attached to what was the end of the severed pipe. Mikel cut the pipe clean and capped it.
With that line fixed, Mikel switched the system back on — and there was now enough water pressure in the line to reveal four sprinkler heads buried under the mulch around the oaks behind the new fence. He removed the heads and capped the line. And … if we had known this run of sprinklers existed, he could have used it to supply the dripline around the trees — coulda woulda shoulda but too late now.
Mikel from Green Tree Professional returned 18 November to Emerald Hill to continue identifying problems with and repairing the sprinkler system.
With the system operable after the first repairs were made 11 November, Mikel focused in the front yard on repairing the main supply line to the sprinklers that was cut by the plumbers when they installed a new water line between the house and the city water supply at the curb.
After repairing the cuts, Mikel began testing the front sprinkler zones. He quickly discovered a lateral line that was cut when the front walk was formed — water burbled up from under one of the concrete steps.
The good news was … At least two front zones operated, even if they needed additional repairs.
It was time for Mikel to depart to his next scheduled appointment.
When Ranserve excavated the foundation for the new garage bay, the concrete crew cut and buried the end of the 12-strand cable that runs between the control unit location in the garage, out to the valves that control the sprinklers in the back yard, along the PVC pipes that were buried in the ground when a previous owner installed the sprinkler system, and out to the valves and sprinkler heads in the front yard.
Ron Dahlke did try to protect the cable, but bobcats, picks, shovels and form boards are brutal.
Ron, Odell, Kevin and Matt dug exploratory holes in the back yard after the garage was built — and they did find the cable.
But it had been severed — and a section about 20 feet long was missing.
Odell asked Steven to have a sprinkler company do the repair.
Steven collected four estimates. Two companies advised it would be easier and faster to install an entirely new system at a cost of somewhere beyond $4,000 to $5,000. Two companies recommended repairs at $95 an hour, plus parts, with about three hours required to diagnose whether the system could be repaired.
Steven selected Mikel and Darynn Eggert, the two brothers who run Green Tree Professional. Yes, Steven gravitates toward working with family businesses and brothers — see the fence postings as further evidence.
In episode 1 of the sprinkler saga, dated 11 Nov. 2016, Darynn and Mikel excavated the cut end of the control cable buried in the ground about feet away from the back of the new garage, patched it to new wire, and attempted to pull that wire into the garage through conduit that was fixed into place when the concrete slab of the new garage floor was poured.
First discovery — it is impossible to force heavy-duty 12-strand irrigation wire through a tight 90-degree elbow when you don’t have a heavy-duty pull cord.
After much discussion, Steven permitted Darynn and Mikel to drill a hole through the exterior siding of the garage above ground level, with a plan to shield the cable in new conduit that would be mounted to the exterior of the siding outside the garage, turned down to the ground in a WIDE 90-degree elbow, then buried and run out across the back yard to connect with the old existing cable.
Except … Ranserve still has to replace a chunk of concrete walk that was cut out when the garage foundation was formed and poured. The new wire out the back of the garage traverses this missing concrete, so permanent installation is not possible until the concrete work is done.
So, Mikel and Darynn ran the wire into the garage, temporarily loose and above ground, connected it to the sprinkler controller in the back yard, turned on water to the sprinkler system, powered up the controller — and began experimenting to discover leaks.
Second discovery — the system still worked. In some places.
Third discovery — in the front yard, the plumbers severed the main supply line to the sprinkler system when they trenched the front yard to install the new water supply line to the house as required by the city. Did the plumbers repair the sprinkler line as requested by Steven? Apparently, obviously, not.
There’s a magnolia in the northwest corner of the front yard, near the street, that is dying. It’s been dying for a long time. The crown is bare of leaves and the wood is brittle, sometimes breaking away in strong winds.
Steven hired Victor to muck out the back yard and take down the magnolia; it was textbook This Old House.
Several neighbors chatted as they walked past, as Victor took down the magnolia. Everyone was happy to see it go — it’s not native to Austin. The oaks will draw more water and light.
With sprinkler repairs underway, with the fences and gates erected to create a safe yard for Adobe to burn off crazy-puppy calories while attempting to keep the deer out, Steven asked Victor to haul the trash out of the back yard.
Steven and Victor have done this before. Victor and his team installed part of the landscaping at Sea Eagle, and tackled specific jobs at Emerald Hill during construction.
Now we create a clean slate at Emerald Hill.
When Jacquela and Steven bought Emerald Hill, the back yard was not a priority — saving the house from itself was where we focused.
Previous owners used the back yard as a storage yard for broken tree limbs, old dog toys, an old telephone system wiring box, detritus, cast offs. The sage, lantana and other plants were old, tired, thready. Volunteer hackberries had taken root, making the northeast corner dark, dumping leaves. Lumber used for edging around what purported to be planting beds was rotting away.
Victor and his brother Francisco set to work saving the back yard, racing against approaching rain.
Noe and Victor from Austin Brothers Fence set to work this morning taking out the tired old cedar fencing at the north side of the house, and along the back property line. Parts of the fence were already leaning. Several pickets were broken. Where the rails were exposed, we could see termite damage — in cedar.
Cleaning out the old fence was always on the list of things to get to, depending on budget, as we pivoted from saving and rebuilding the house to projects in the yard.
This accelerated when we adopted Adobe. We need to keep the deer herd out of the back yard, and a secure yard from which Adobe cannot escape when she needs to burn off thousands of crazy puppy calories. Adobe is coming up on seven months old. She really needs a safe place to run fast and hard.
As part of this project, Jacquela gets the privacy fence she wants in front of the house, between the kitchen and driveway, to shield the gravel deck off the kitchen from passersby. Jacquela and Steven found online a photograph of a horizontal fence on which they both instantly agreed. Austin Bros. said they could do it by cutting a conventional 1×4 down the middle, creating two 1x2s. The design features 1x4s at the bottom, traveling to half way up, with the 1x2s taking the top half of the fence — with an air gap between each horizontal. Fences in Austin apparently tend to be vertical pickets, or horizontals that all the same dimension.
Why did Austin Bros. get the job? It’s run by two brothers — Nate and Jeff. And dad answers the phones and runs the office. This resonates with Steven, who works with his brothers — and misses his dad every day.
After lunch, Steven climbed the ladder into the storage loft in the garage — and began passing down to Jacquela boxes stuffed with holiday ornaments and lighting.
Working under the eaves and in the trees into the dark, surrounded by a herd of nearly 20 incurious and incautious deer, Jacquela and Steven hung white string lights at the eaves of the house and thee red-lit wreaths at the oak trees in the forest outside the front of the house.
It’s a start on the first major holiday in the house on Emerald Hill.
Steven trimmed the extra inches off the 8-foot-long desktops, spray painted the cut ends with flat black, then black satin, then two coats of clear satin polyurethane. That took 48 hours in the garage, waiting for paint to dry.
Saturday morning, Jacquela helped to carry the desktop modules into the office. Steven finagled all three panels into position, using 5/8-inch spacers to hold each desktop free of the walls — to create a “pass through” for network cables and electrical cords.
Lying on his back on the floor, Steven screwed 1/2-inch wood screws through the brackets and into the underside of each desktop, locking the wood panels into secure position. Jacquela was NOT available to photograph Steven working under the desks.
Everything got wiped down and cleaned up.
And, then, finally, it was time to bring the desktop computer back into the office — and power it up.
In photo above … Steven’s desktop computer set into place at the southwest corner of the office — booted up, connected to the Web. With Adobe’s dog bed tucked neatly under the side wing — because the dog is barely separable from Steven.