53 Directions

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Directions for 53

Greetings and welcome to the house. You will have some important duties here. Most of them have to do with yard maintenance, but you should be aware of all the do's and don'ts as well.

Pool Maintenance

Basic Concepts

The pool must be maintained every day, or possibly every other day, which may end up being more work. The basic idea is to keep the pool clean for esthetics and to prevent algae or other bacterial issues, and to keep the pool water chemistry safe and pleasant.

The pool is kept safe by *free chlorine*, which is dissolved chlorine available to attack bacteria, etc. Chlorine comes from one or more 3 inch tablets inserted into the floating chlorine dispenser. Once per week, or when there is a problem, the pool gets a 4x overdose of chlorine in the form of *pool shock*, which kills everything but is irritating to the skin until the chlorine returns to normal levels.

The pool chemistry is tested using pool test strips once per day. If the chlorine level is too high or low, adjust a ring on the floating dispenser to expose less or more drain opening. If the strip shows little or no chlorine, the pool should be "shocked" (4x chlorine) that evening just at sunset, but after the pool has been used for the day. The pool should not be used until the next morning when the chlorine level has declined to a high-normal value (although if you don't mind bleaching your hair a bit, go ahead).

Free chlorine is consumed by decaying organic material and sunlight. Some may evaporate. Accordingly, chlorine must continuously be replenished. A pool full of leaves and other stuff consumes free chlorine rapidly. That is one reason to keep the pool as clean as possible. The other reason is to prevent the filter from being clogged by organic material.

The pool water is filtered by a 1000 gallons/hour pump. The pool holds 3750 gallons. This pump should run at least 8 hours per day, but we run it all 24 hours because we want the clearest water. This pump has a filter that needs to be replaced and cleaned (to recycle the filter). Do this when you notice that the pool water outlet stream is not breaking the surface of the pool, which means the filter is clogged, or there is air in the system. The pump and filter work correctly only when there is no air in the plumbing. A seemingly small amount of air significantly degrades the pump efficiency.

Air is removed by bleeding it from the pump and the outlet. A clogged filter must be changed with a recycled (or new) filter.

Daily Routine

  • Check the pump outlet stream. It should be breaking the surface, with lots of happy bubbles.
    • If not, the filter is clogged or there is air in the system, or the pump is off.
    • Purge any air now. You change the filter last.
  • Check the pool chemistry. Measure free chlorine, pH, and alkalinity.
    • If the free chlorine is too low or high, adjust the dispenser.
  • Check the floating chlorine dispenser. If the chlorine tablet almost gone (not at full diameter), add a new tablet.
  • Skim the pool using the skimmer jammed onto the wooden broom handle.
    • All kinds of stuff accumulates under the side rings, dig it out.
  • Observe the pool bottom for sunken stuff.
    • This stuff destroys the free chlorine.
    • If there is a significant amount, it should be vacuumed out.
    • A few leaves can be lifted out using the skimmer by scooping down, scraping the bottom, and scooping up. Little stuff tends to disperse with this method.
  • If required, vacuum the pool
  • If required change the filter.
  • If required or every week, shock the pool.
  • Done!

Pump is Off

  • Make sure extension cord is plugged into outdoor outlet strip, and into the house by the side door.
  • Listen for the radon fan. If not running, the outlet may have tripped.
    • Press the reset button on the side door outlet to reset the GPF circuit. If tripped, it will click.
    • If the fan is running, take the cover off the outdoor outlet strip, and observe the big pump plug. It is so large, it barely fits into the strip. Remove it and push it in again firmly.

Purge the Air

You can see air bubbles in the clear hoses. These should be tiny or none.

  • Remove the cover from the outdoor outlet strip.
  • Unplug the pump (the big black plug).
    • Don't press the *Test* button, or you will have to reset the GFI outlet on the side of the house.
  • Unscrew the flower shaped air vent knob on top of the pump so that air and some water will flow out.
  • Shake the pump to get the last of the air in the pump, then tighten the air vent enough to stop the water.
  • Check the outlet for air bubbles. Unscrew the vent on the outlet and press down to let the air escape. Close the vent.
  • Plug the pump plug back in firmly to restore operation.
  • Check that the extension cord is draped over the radon fan (to reduce problems from rain).

Check the Pool Chemistry

Test strips are contained in the cylindrical container that also contains a measurement key.

  • With completely dry hands, open the container and remove one test strip.
  • Close the container tightly and take both to the pool.
  • Submerge the strip 6 inches under water and count zero, one, two, then remove the strip and shake the water off.
  • Quickly in daylight, compare the colors on the strip with the colors on the container. Measure free chlorine, pH, and alkalinity.
  • Note the readings. The most important is the first, free chlorine.

Check the Floating Dispenser

  • Use the skimmer to acquire the dispenser.
  • Unscrew the top. Look inside.
  • If the chlorine tablet is almost gone (not at full diameter), add a new tablet from the supplies.
  • Replace the cap.
  • If necessary, adjust the outlet ring.

Skim the Pool

  • Use the skimmer jammed onto the wooden broom handle. Twist and jam to keep it stable.
    • Pay attention to which side of the skimmer has the flotsam. Don't reverse sides!
  • All kinds of stuff accumulates under the side rings, dig it out.
  • You can try to get some submerged material as well, but if you stir things up too much, you will have to wait to vacuum it until it sinks to the bottom.

Vacuum the Pool

  • Check the pool vacuum filter.
    • Twist to unlock the top.
    • Remove and examine the net filter. It should be reasonably clean.
      • It must not have algae or mold on it. If so, wash it using in the sink with dish washing liquid.
    • Place the clean filter into the vacuum and lock the head.
    • Shake any dirt, etc., off of the hose. Make sure the hose is firmly attached to the head.
  • Set up the inlets for vacuuming
    • Take a top hat plug and the hose adapter from the pool parts bag.
    • Reach into the pool, unscrew, and remove the strainer from the inlet nearest the outlet. Put the top hat plug on the input to block it.
    • Unscrew and remove the other strainer. Screw the hose adapter onto the inlet.
    • Sink the vacuum head slowly into the water. Hold onto the long handle or it will fall in.
    • Slowly press the hose that is out of the water straight down into the water, waiting for the hose to fill.
    • Continue pressing the hose straight down and filling until all the hose is under water.
    • Holding the handle, twist the free hose end into the hose adapter. The vacuum is now vacuuming!
  • Vacuum the pool
    • It works going forward on the bottom. Don't try to catch something not on the bottom.
    • Press forward and glide slowly, trying to not create much turbulence.
    • After a forward stroke, lift up somewhat and pull back to not disturb the bottom.
    • Repeat.
    • Go to where the water is clear, so you can see what you are doing.
    • Get nearly everything you can see.
    • Use the skimmer to get anything left floating in the water.

Change the Filter

You can keep the pump on the ground, but then you have to block the 2 inlets and the outlet with the top hat plugs in the pool bag. This is too much work.

  • Move the pool ladder next to the pump.
  • Get a clean filter ready to go.
  • Unplug the pump.
  • Lift the pump to the second ladder step.
  • Unscrew the flower shaped purge valve. Air will enter the pump because it is higher than the pool water level.
  • Unscrew (CCW) the pump holder ring on the top. This takes some force. Remove the ring.
  • Carefully remove the top using the purge valve ring to expose the pump. Don't lose the large rubber O ring seal.
  • Pull up to remove the dirty filter.
  • Dump out the water in the pump. It likely contains lots of flecks of organic material. Do it again if necessary.
  • Twist the clean filter onto the holder on the pump bottom.
  • Replace the top, and screw the retainer ring. It doesn't need to be so tight.
  • Lower the pump to the ground, and purge the air from the system (above)
  • Plug the pump plug in firmly. Don't press the *Test* button. Check for happy bubbles.
  • Take the dirty filter inside to the kitchen sink, and clean it.

Clean the Dirty Filter

Before the filter has a chance to dry and harden, it should be cleaned. There are three stages of cleaning, initial, detailed, and touchup.

  • Initial Cleaning
    • Clear one side of the sink.
    • Using the hot water spray, spray the insides of each of the about 82 folds in the filter to remove the worst of the loose stuff.
      • One side of the filter has the letter 'A' on it. Start there, and go around until you are there again.
      • Use your finger to separate the folds as you spray it.
      • If the water is too hot, add cold water so that it is not uncomfortable.
  • Detailed Cleaning
    • Use a knife or fingernail to scrape the inner fold to remove the layer of junk. Get both top and bottom, where stuff accumulates. This stuff is not dangerous, just mother nature's waste. Do all 82 folds.
    • Quickly spray at an angle to remove stains that are on the filter outside edges, both sides.
    • Let the filter dry for a day or more. It should be quite dry.
  • Touchup
    • Use a knife or fingernail to remove fibres or material that was sticky when wet.
  • Store dry as long as possible before reuse. Rotate the filters.

Done!

Shock the Pool

Pool "shocking" is the process of adding a major overdose of chlorine to a pool to kill organisms that may have been suppressed but not killed by the normal chlorine levels. This is done once per week, or after some major problem or loss of chlorination for some period. Pool shock comes in bags that treat 10,000 gallons of water. Our pool holds 3,750 gallons. We could apply 37.5% of a bag of pool shock, but it is easier to just add half a bag for a bit higher shock.

Pool shock is serious chlorine. Do not just dump it into the pool. It must be distributed evenly. Don't get it on your clothes, it will bleach them. Brush it off right away. It is irritating. Other than that, it is not particularly dangerous any more than household bleach.

  • Do this after the sun has almost set. Sunlight destroys the chlorine.
  • Cut a corner off a new bag, or take an opened bag with half remaining.
  • For a new bag, determine how much to pour (half). Grab it halfway to get a feel for how much to pour.
  • Start near an intake, and shake the bag to sprinkle the shock into the pool at arm's length in from the edge. Avoid bleaching the pool edge with the concentrated shock.
  • Sprinkle just enough for the powder to stay on the surface.
    • Do not let it sink to the bottom, where it will bleach the pool bottom.
  • Rapidly walk around the pool, sprinkling as you go until the desired amount has been added.
  • Use the skimmer to skim undissolved powder and clumps and mix them into the pool water.
  • Do not use the pool before next mid morning. Check the chlorine levels before using the pool.
    • Even if a bit high, you can still use it. If very high, wait for some sunlight to destroy the excess chlorine

Done!

Mosquito Traps

We have 3 Mosquito Magnet brand traps in various states of operation or repair. Your job is to keep these traps running as best you can. If a trap stops, this allows mosquitos to bite and breed, which is a *very bad* consequence. The traps are:

  • The original Defender 1/2 acre trap that defended Dove Street.
  • The venerable Liberty purchased used when moving to the farm to handle the much larger mosquito load.
  • The new Patriot Plus, purchased this year because the other traps were out of service.

By far, the Defender has caught the most mosquitos. A few weeks ago after a rain breaking a drought, it caught an entire basket full (approximately 10,000) mosquitos, as many as it has caught in its years of life to date. The new Patriot is a working trap that was deployed to more remote areas to handle the cleanup of mosquitos near the pool and side patio, but is now in the front yard under the cherry tree. The Liberty has been limping along. It has never caught as many mosquitos as the defender, even though it is rated as a 1 acre trap, and the Defender is 1/2 acre. I am investigating this issue, and the unit is currently out of service.

Maintenance

Every day, check the traps. The operating light should be on solid (not blinking). The defender can be checked using the computer.

  • During the day, when there are fewer alive mosquitos in the trap, check the catch bag.
    • Quickly open the access door to shut the catch container.
    • Take out the container and shake it to observe any alive mosquitos.
      • If there are no alive mosquitos, you can empty the container as you please. We recycle the mosquitos as plant food.
      • If there are mosquitos flying around in the container, curse and damn them. You will not be able to empty it without letting them go free to bite you. Emptying into a clear plastic bag then carefully removing the container sans mosquitos is a nuisance.
  • If the trap is not working, turn the switch to off, wait 2-3 seconds, and turn back on. Check back in about 20 minutes for a solid light.
  • If the trap is still not working, lift the propane tank and judge its weight.
    • If empty, refill the tank at Pearson's hardware, and restart.

Done!

Replace Tank

The propane lasts for about 21 days. It requires periodic replacement or refill.

  • Turn the propane valve clockwise to shut the valve.
  • Switch the trap Off.
  • Unscrew the propane regulator connection to the tank.
  • Make sure the trap will not fall over when you remove the tank.
  • Remove the tank and take to Pearson's hardware (near Rt 95) for refill. Ask them to purge the air in the tank. They charge $1 per pound of propane. An empty tank takes 20 pounds, so is $20. You can fill an empty tank, or ask them to top off a partially full tank.
  • Put the full tank on the trap stand.
  • Connect the propane regulator to the tank. Secure, but not too tight.
  • Slowly turn the propane valve on (counterclockwise).
  • Switch the trap On. After a few seconds, the fan will start, and the light will start blinking, indicating warmup.
  • Check the trap after about 10-15 minutes. The light should be on solid (not blinking).
  • A fast blinking light indicates an error.
  • This is a good time to empty the trap catch container.
  • Replace the Octenol attractant in the downward facing tube with a new cartridge. Save the old cartridge in the plastic bag.

Done!

Garden Care

To be written by P.

Lawn Care

Previous years, the lawn was a disaster of dandelions, crabgrass, and other weeds. Lots of work has improved this, but the lawn is still very sparse. Desired grass covers only about 15-25% of the lawn. There are voids between grass plants, and the grass is not filling in. These species of grass perhaps require seeding and apparently do not fill in by themselves.

The lawn was made worse by a combination of too-short mowing and drought. Lawns need about 1" of water every week, and we have been getting only a small fraction of that. To make things worse, a short, sparse lawn exposes the ground to the sun, further drying out the soil. The grass roots are underdeveloped because of a lack of fertilizer and lack of soaking rains.

  • Most lawn fertilizers do not contain phosphorus, which is needed to promote deep root growth for drought protection. I plan to add some starter fertilizer, which does contain phosphorus, at some point.

Our requirement is to cut the grass no shorter than 3.5 and no longer than 4 inches. This makes a soft, protective lawn that covers the bare spots better and preserves water. The grass should be cut only when it is 1 inch longer -- i.e. 4.5 to 5 inches.

  • However, independent contractors like to make more money and save time, and tend to cut the lawn too short, ruining it if it is dry for several days after mowing. The professional contractors don't have this problem.

Measure the grass. It should be mowed when it reaches 4.5 to 5 inches. Resist attempts to mow earlier than this.

I cannot reseed the lawn now because new seed requires frequent watering. The irrigation system could be used for this, but it is expensive to run (about $15 or so per cycle). Nevertheless, we should run the system if there is a period of no rain for several days, and the lawn looks dry.

Irrigation

It is best to water early in the day to avoid immediate water loss from evaporation during the day, and possible mold or fungus at night. However, if the grass is in danger, water anyway.

Byfield has odd/even day automatic watering restrictions. We can water automatically only on odd days between 6 AM and 8 AM. The system is set up to do that, if it is in the "Run" position. Most of the time, we have it in the "Off" position, and don't water.

Hunter Pro C Irrigation Controller

The big dial is usually set to "Off." If you want to enable automatic watering, set it to "Run." If you want to water right now, make sure the program selector indicates "C," then turn the knob to "All Stations" for a few seconds, then turn it to "Run." The system will start immediately.

  • The "All Stations" command runs the currently selected program, "C," which gives the sprinklers and drip hoses about 15 minutes each.
  • Program C specifies about 15 minutes per station. 9 stations X 15 mins/station = 135 minutes = 2 hours 15 minutes.
  • Don't forget to turn the system "Off" after a few hours, otherwise the automatic watering program will continue.
  • There are 9 electric valves called "stations." Each station controls a line of sprinklers or drip hoses. Each station is activated in sequence from 1 to 9.
  • The first stations do the sprinklers. The later ones do the drip hoses.
  • The map of stations shows where the sprinklers and hoses are located. It also shows where the valves are located in the two underground boxes outside the dining room. These valves can be manually turned on to water a station after removing the box cover with a screwdriver or your finger.

Complete instructions for the Hunter Pro C Irrigation Controller are on line.


Tips and Tricks

Air Conditioners

There are two separate air conditioning systems. One for the first floor and basement, the other for the second floor. The second floor system feeds the garage office as well, but weakly. It works ok only when the office exhaust fan is on, low is sufficient.

The thermostat for the second floor is in the master bedroom. The first floor thermostat is below that on the first floor. The thermostat must be set to cool and the set temperature lower than the room temperature for the air conditioner to turn on.

Each system has its own compressor and air handler. The air handler for the first floor is in the basement middle utility room. The 2nd floor air handler is in the attic, accessible via pull-down stairs from the back bedroom. The two compressors are outside the living room door. The one nearest the door is (perhaps) the 2nd floor. You can tell a compressor is working by observing its fan spinning looking out the door.

If a system is not working, try resetting (turning off, then back on) the circuit breakers for its compressor and air handler. The circuit breakers are labeled.

Do's and Don'ts

Autos

Use the Volvo or Prizm. Avoid the Lexus, which has a problem with the tires.

  • The Prizm lacks air conditioning, but has been overhauled with new exhaust and wipers. However, the exhaust can make a loud noise when accelerating. I will ask the Sunoco station to fix this, or put in a pad to prevent touching the car frame, or both.

Security

Make sure the cameras are correctly pointed. They are part of the alarm system, which charges $ by the event. They are pointed to entry areas, and not active areas (except for the green kitchen chair). They are tuned to respond to movement in the passageways, and ignore other movement. We will be expensive if they are mis-aligned and create false events (from the sun or clouds, dog, etc).

The side doors require some effort to lock. Pull up on the handle to fully engage the top and bottom pins, then the lock knob should easily twist.

Miscellaneous

Check the fountain, and turn it off at night.

The dog should be kept out of the basement to avoid urination in one of a few previous spots.

Communication

See 53 Communication