Prepping for Fall Plus a Shop Project

Around the ranch, there are so many “Fall prepping projects” it’s hard to keep track of ’em all.  The list is extensive but not  expensive.   Which is too bad – means I won’t be able to use cost as an excuse.

See if any of these should go on your list:

Tune-up Time for Leaves

Since we’re a ‘tree farm’ care to guess what we have millions of?  Leaves!  OMG, you have no idea. I did 35 tractor buckets full one year and that was the first half of the buggers.

Unfortunately, there are only so many choices to deal with leaves and we employ them all.

The go-to tools are leaf blowers.  If you take out a gas-powered leaf blower and it won’t start, right now is the time to get it into the shop.  Although as we mention frequently, a carb kit for most units can be found on eBay for under $20 bucks and few exotic tools are needed except the odd small Torx wrench.

It’s not too early to stocking up on 2-cycle oil and Stabil in the gas-oil mix to keep the mix usable for six months of longer.

While you’re in the power equipment department, fall is when a lot of trees come down, so test-firing your chainsaws (*and checking for sharpening) is a good idea, as well.  (We’ve been using a RapCo carbide-tipped blade that cost more than the saw, but our output when in cutting mode is amazing.  They really do get 20-30 times as long between sharpening’s.)

This is also the time to start checking the condition of your lopping shears, pole saws, and maybe do the over-seeding of your lawn with a cooler-weather grass if green (and mowing) is that important to you.

Then there’s the plumbing check.  What will you want set up for this winter?  Any pipes to get on the project list?  Buggers that have bothered you in the past?  Now’s time to deal with ’em.  Easier to put in a frost-free hose outlet in summer than winter.

Don’t Forget the Roof Check

I hate going up on the roof.  The more you walk on them, the less service life they have.  Still, now’s when to get up and look at overall condition.  Particularly along the roof cap, under overhanging tree limbs, and in the valleys.

If you have trees, remember to keep overhanging limbs 6-feet (or more) above the roof so things don’t drag on the roof when the winds return.

Got Firewood Stacked In?

This time of year, while the burners of summer heat are still full blast, you can do OK shopping for good cord wood.  If you cut it and stack it right now, or in September, it should be ideal for burning this fall.

Something I didn’t know, until I started looking at the data:  If you have really old wood, it puts out fewer BTU’s than fresh wood seasoned for 6-months to a year.  10-year old seasoned may sound good, but may not put out the same BTU’s.

Also, now’s a great time to make an appointment (or find some sucker) to clean out the chimney.  The risk of a chimney fire is something most people don’t think about until they read a few horror stories.  They sound like a cross between a train and a blow torch.

The risk is higher if you heat overnight (which produces more creosote), especially if you burn the higher resin conifers (pine, hemlock, and Doug fir), you should have a long look at chimney condition.


Then there are the gutters.  Right now, getting up on the roof with a power spray nozzle on your garden hose will blow out most everything.  At least giving you a fair start on the leaves to come.

If you want to avoid the issue?  Early fall’s a good time to put gutter screens on.  Working weather is comfortable and by then football will be on to take some of the drudgery out of the chore.

Just remember, you don’t want your gutter screens to protrude up too much.   Flat is better. The idea is get them so a leaf can slide off with just a little wind.  If you put a ‘hump’ in the screen that’s too high, it will become a leaf catcher which is the last thing you want.

Winter Lighting Projects

With a few late summer rain showers, a pick axe, and a few six-packs, it’s not an insurmountable job to lay in direct-bury electrical cable for outdoor lighting.  LED lighting for outdoors is cheap and can be a deterrent to unwanted visitors.

Another thing we usually get is another four-pack (or two) of those motion-sensing LED garden lights. URPOWER Solar Lights Wireless Waterproof Motion Sensor Outdoor Light for Patio, Deck, Yard, Garden with Motion Activated Auto On/Off (4-Pack).  If you’re into defensive prepping, a perimeter of these out 100-yards that you don’t talk about can make up a self-illuminating target field.  A 100-foot perimeter is cheaper.  Low tech but no one in field ops thinks to look for motion lights.

Just remember where the sun’s track is in the winter.  You’ll occasionally hear people whining and bitching about how solar lights don’t work.  Amazingly? There really are  people dumb enough to mount them where the sun doesn’t shine.  AoC supporters, we presume.

Hunting and Fishing Plans

About the time the kids go back to school, we see deer feeding corn go on sale here in the South.  Every red neck and his welder have ‘secret’ combinations of rod, angle, and 55-gallon drums designed to appeal only to 10-points and up…

Along with that, some of our neighbors are already putting in rye grass about now and other winter food sources.

Summertime you can often get good deals on ‘last year’s game cameras, too.  The high-end one’s in user around here can be accessed with a cell phone so no tromping into the wilds.  Repurposed, they’re another one of those defensive measures intruders don’t think about until much closer-in.  Which is how we like it.

Check of Decks

We’ve never had a year this wet in our 15-years in the Piney Woods.  So there are a few places on the decks that have developed what looks like a little moss.  ‘Bout fell on my ass twice last week in the rain.

Not that we don’t like green – gives us a target for the pressure washer..

This year’s ‘treatment’ will be a light pressure washing. It’s not too expensive to hit ’em with Lilly Miller Moss Out for Roofs and Structures 6lb (Original), either.

Housing Painting

We’re getting close to the best time of the year to do fall house painting.  I mean, as long as you have the pressure washer out, why not?

We have one area on  the north side of the shop/office/gym building with a few traces of green on the paint, so we’ll be doing the wash, spritz with moss killer, and then letting it all dry for a couple of days to a week before going nuts with the paint.


One of our neighbors was telling me a while back about puting rock salt (or ice cream salt) around your foundation and any ties or timbers used in landscaping.  Seems termites, ants, and lots of other bugs can’t handle the salt so they stay away.

One catch, though.  If you use too much, it will kill plants.  But for areas like driveways, once you ‘torch’ the weeds that have come up with the cactus burner, then you can spray with (strong!) salt water and poison off the rest.  A dose or three in the spring works wonders and it’s got to be better than glysophate.

Bench Gremlin: Shop Project of the Week

I’m smart, but seldom take the time to put each and every tool back in a precise location when I’m working on some complex electronics project.  I am not alone in this:  Men are single-minded when ‘on point.’

As a result, my bench never looks very organized.  Could be because it’s  NOT.  Tools just land where they do.  Which may explain why three or four of everything.

As usual, though, a few brain cells and here comes ‘the fix.’  Study this  “before” picture:

As you can see, there’s a pile of tools and almost no room to work on the bench.  The solution?  Begins with a 4″ or 6″ PVC pipe cap, a couple of feet of whatever’s handy in PVC pipe, PVC cutters and a jug of hot-set cement.

Behold, the “Bench Gremlin”

The + and – remind me which side is Phillips head and which are conventional slotted.

Still experimenting with caps.  I’ve got a couple of 6″ flat ones and some 1-1/2″ PVC and some 2″ so this is a rough draft, but thought you’d get a kick out of it.  The flat cap will give less spreading on the tools, but will be more space-efficient.

Krylon makes an OK plastic paint (Fusion) that can be found at WallyWorld.  Your wife may want one for her organizing, so something that goes with the kitchen?

Shop Add-on of the Week…

13″ Lazy Susan with a 14″ round of 1/2 plywood on it. Here’s a British website that lays invention of it to multiple historical personages including president Jefferson, Tom Edison, and others.

Again, in keeping with our philosophy of “You’re not working unless the tool is in the work” this kind of incremental improvement is fun.  What we each really need, though, is an 8-foot square bench with “fly-in” equipment on extending  pull-outs…but that’s just a wild-eyed vision for now…

Back to work we go…  Be sure to come back Monday morning…

17 thoughts on “Prepping for Fall Plus a Shop Project”

  1. About the “Bench Gremlin”, what did you cap the bottoms of 1 1/2″ tool holders with? Regular PVC caps or what? Also a ‘Wye’ might be interesting. Thanks for the thought and for the memories of splitting and stacking wood.
    You can easy clean your chimney by putting some chains in a gunny sack and then lowering it down your chimney. Then pull it up. Up and down we go and then clean as a whistle. Be sure to block off the fireplace or you know who will be screaming hot from the soot.

    • No cap necessary – just glue well to the plate after sanding to fit. Takes only seconds. Regular Lowes PVC caps. A Wye would be interesting, Wye not?

      Good idea on the chains…and when Ure done? Cast off the chains of combustion!

      • Hey, George. Wye not try these links? You may find them of interest…

        BTW, did a project some years ago which involved using consumer-grade chain-link top-rail as a mast for a remote antenna. I liked the result so much I decided I should build a portable area light using the same principles with 1½” PVC and “clamp lamps.” The parameters: It works, sets up and knocks down easily, and total cost is <$50, counting three 23w CFLs. -=success=-

        Last year, I built two permanent "area lights v2.0" along the same (<$50) parameters, using 1½" PVC capped by 120° side-outlet wyes (the top-rail is 1 3/8 i.d. thinwall, so 1½" PVC is a sliding fit) to feed the lighting "arms." I used brooder lamps as lamps. Their sockets are 1-piece ceramic and their reflectors are smooth & polished. Sockets are about 1 7/8" in diameter, so will slip _and_lock_ into a 1½" PVC coupling, once the coupling is heated by your favorite heat gun. I used that same heat-gun to bend & shape the pipe "arms", to direct light where it should be directed (put 1" polypro, or a 1¼" spring inside the arm to keep it from collapsing at the bends.)

        I used a (sch-80) flange-mount, drilled to 120° and glued to the bottom of the 4' tube coming out the side (now bottom) outlet of the wye, with 1000lb Kevlar (speargun cord) as guys. The PVC was painted with a Rust-Oleum silver-gray which matched the galvanized of the top-rail, and the outside of the reflectors with two coats of rubberized undercoating (the v1.0 lights performed well, but a hailstorm beat the thin aluminum reflectors to death.) I wiped (washcoated) black India ink on the (yellow) cord, which rendered it completely invisible from 50 feet, even in snow. Cost was actually about $70 for one with 26w LEDs; the other, with 1w S11 LED "nightlight bulbs" was under budget. The 1w fixture provides a soft light over ~14,000 sq.ft. on a 16' pole; the 26w fixture, on its 20' pole, can be seen for miles. They both make my cameras, and scopes, smile…

    • We have a 10-year leave pile of compost probably 4-feet deep – that’s my crash insurance. When I don’t have to write/work and we’re down to “basics” time will be plentiful to convert to manual systems if you have the necessary resources laid back. Its BIG…

  2. What’s wrong with the first bench photo? Looks perfectly organized to me.


  3. George

    “seldom take the time to put each and every tool back in a precise location”

    If I got organized it would ruin my exercise plan of looking for this or that tool or part that is somewhere in the house. I have spent mucho time and effort looking for stuff that I know I bought but is now in another dimension. I burn a lot of calories in that pursuit and it gives She Who Must Be Obeyed much amusement.

    No Sir, no organization for me!

  4. Great ideas, but two months early! This is the time to get the big projects out of the way and maintain your vehicles! I hate to take a licensed and insured vehicle out of service to do a nasty job that will take a few days, but sometimes it just has to be done. Same with tractors, etc. If you have redundancy, that’s good, but it’s a challenge just finding a place to work in the shade(shop has other stuff in it that can’t be moved). I like all your security related ideas though. The game camera thing is worth a second look.

    It’s really hot here. I’m at the tail end of what the east coast folks are whining about. It’s good for losing weight though, and the wind is nominal. It’s too hot for roof work now unless you do it at the crack of dawn. Perhaps next week. I’ll be working inside where it’s cool for now. It’s an excellent time to clean up and clear up. The bench gremlin is great! I need to find a way to organize heavier tools so that they don’t end up littering the entire floor. It’s also a good time to paint where it’s not too hot. I painted outside last week and the paint was curdling in the can!

  5. Arrgg! Am I the ONLY one who keeps an organized workbench?? The last TV station I worked at designed a new station just a year or two before I got there. Each tech was assigned our own standalone workbench, with all the accessories, drawers, overhead and underneath shelves. Of course each bench soon became stacked to overflow with junk. I kept mine clean… the only one in the shop. As a result, stuff would get stacked on the only available clean surface… my workbench… when I was away for the weekend.

    At home now I have a small workbench in a closet in the ‘Radio Room’ of the house. Minimal space, but organized and I know where all the tools are kept in small plastic drawers within easy reach. And they all go back in the drawer when finished using them. “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place”, my mother used to say.

    • Yeah, yeah, my mom and dad drilled that into me, too. But to darned little effect. When I’m ‘on the bench’ like fixing a big DC power supply today, I like to focus on the repair, not choreograph the desktop. If I need a CN723 chip, I know it’s in the chip cabinet and each of the pill bottles of chips is labeled. But “in there somewhere”. Doing an article on shop organizing for next weekend… great idea, thanks for getting it on the table Hank!

  6. What sort of surge/EMP protection do you have on your solar system? Solar back-up doesn’t help if it’s all toasty.

  7. Great idea on the PVC caddy. Now I know what to do with that left-over PVC in my garage.

  8. My goal this year is to make 1.2 billion dollars and the 1.199 billion will be using a combination of older technology with new technology that will help everyone within a hundred mile radius from my location 4 the food and farming techniques that enable survival through the worst conditions imaginable

  9. “If you cut it and stack it right now, or in September, it should be ideal for burning this fall.”

    WOW … Whatever you do George.. if your burning green wood.. make sure you do a chimney sweep.. and check all the pipes.. I don’t know what wood your burning.. but sappy wood will have more tar’s..
    My father ( he was a woodman… could drop a tree on a dime)

    (seen my dad do this exact thing a thousand times or more..LOL except the get on the knees and praise god.. LOL LOL it was a reminiscent moment watching this guy drop that tree.. )

    anyway his rule of thumb was at least a one year wait on burning cordwood…never burn fresh wood unless you want a chimney if your burning green stuff then have the chimney swept and your equipment gone through..

    I have all the stuff gone through with a good chimney sweep and check.. we use a multi fuel stove and since coal burns so hot.. I use a coal wood mix.. and have a burn pot altered so I can get the second fuel afterburn.. no black smoke..the exhaust is used and burned instead of exhausted into the atmosphere with all the toxic fumes….

    • Thing most people don’t realize when they cut in the spring is that is when the sap is running. Makes the wood heavier (and more wet!) If you cut in mid summer, the wood will be about as dry when cut and split as when cut in late winter to early spring.
      But yeah, know the risks of chimney fires well (family being fire dept. and such). But stacked to dry right now should burn fairly clean in the winter.
      On the other hand, if you use a fireplace insert or airtight stove and run overnight with well controlled o2 supply, then you will have more creosote and chimney gunk…
      Best stuff I ever burned was Madrona but that was back in the day in the PNW – but one year cure on that and now youre talking btus…

      see btu charts here

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