Projects around the house

dsc03263.jpgWe didn’t get up to much this weekend (short trip out to Japantown for their Cherry Blossom festival, another trip out to Walnut Creek so the kids could pick out materials to construct their own stuffed animal) which meant that Izumi and I got into our own projects.

I spent time fiddling with a new website that I’m building for Dymag and in between got all muddy digging up and replacing broken fixtures on the built-in sprinker system. Izumi discovered and later documented (see photo) an expecting hummingbird that has taken up residence in the narrow space between our house and our neighbors.

I never owned a house with a sprinkler system. Our 1/3 acre lot in New Jersey was services by a long garden hose that I would hook up to one of those whirly-gig things that I would wheel out every few weeks when things looked a little brown and that was about it. Californians, especially those on small, semi-urban lots, take much better care of their lawns and almost every home in Alameda has a built-in sprinkler system. During the winter, when torrential rains seemed to come through every couple of days, I thought it overkill to water the lawn as well so I promptly unplugged the thing and never gave it a second thought.

Now that the days are growing a longer and with nothing better to do, I plugged the thing in and set to learning how it worked. The control panel in the garage has a number of dials and levers so it took some trial and error (with cooperation from the kids) to learn which switch controlled which sprinkler. I’d throw one switch and would wait a few seconds until I heard a yelp from Tyler where the latest spout had emerged from the ground and started spewing water (usually on his backside).

They’re called “pop-up” sprinklers because when you switch them on, the water pressure pushes up a thin, plastic stalk out of the ground that then sprays the water out in a pattern that’s determined by the shape of the sprinkler head and a fine adjustment of small screws that are embedded in the top of the spout. I learned more about these fixtures over the weekend as I discovered some of the spouts were broken and needed to be replaced.

There’s a whole sprinkler sub-culture that I somehow overlooked at the hardware store as there are different attachments and spray patterns that all have different purposes. Of course, it took several trips to the local store to work out what I needed to replace and with what exact pieces. Suffice to say that it’s all very advanced and I am loath to call what I have repaired a “sprinkler system.” It’s a goddam irrigation network and is now programmed to fire off it’s various fan sprays, rotating jets, and dribblers at 6:15 AM every other morning.

Izumi, on the other hand, looked on with greater concern with each successive trip to the hardware store and shook her head sadly and went back to her observations of the yet-unnamed avian visitor. It must be a sign of good luck that a creature as gentle as a hummingbird (the thing is about as big as a wine cork, it’s eggs must be the size of a pea) has chosen our house as a safe place to welcome its young into the world. The mother sits on the nest all day, shifting around from time to time to make sure the egg is warm on all sides and cocks its head every now and then when it hears a plane flying overhead. The kids press up to the window and look so at times, all four of us, and any guests that are visiting at the time, look on at our own private nature show.

The lawn is now watered automatically and the birds are coming home to roost. Somehow, this weekend marks some kind of milestone. We’re no longer in the process of moving in, we have settled.

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