Saturday, April 28, 2012

Changing Billboards Was My Life

From Jan '72 thru Jun '06 I worked in the construction department of an outdoor advertising company. When I started the name of the company was Rollins Outdoor Advertising. The company was purchased several times while I was there and the name changed to Reagan Outdoor, Revere, Universal, Eller and when I left, Clear Channel. My main function was to change billboards while earning a living.

In the days prior to my employment, all the billboards were stationary. The faces were either painted or posted on location. On average, painters would take a week or more if weather didn't cooperate, to change a face. Posters could be changed faster than paint but still a day or so. 

By the time I arrived on the scene the industry created a billboard face that could be rotated throughout a media market. This allowed one sign face to travel throughout a market faster than repainting or reposting. The use of rotary faces also allowed them to be painted or posted indoors, eliminating the weather situation.

The majority of signs I changed were 14'(4.25m) x 48'(14.5m). Each sign face consisted of 12 - 4'(1.25m) x 14'(4.25m) sections. Each section was constructed of a 2"(50mm) x 2"(50mm) frame with a 5/16"(9.5mm) plywood surface. Each new panel weighed approximately 70lbs(31.75kg). As each panel accumulated coats of paint or paper, it grew in weight. On a rainy day when we were indoors repairing sections, we weighed one apparently heavy section. It weighed in at 120lbs(55.5kg).

To change a rotary, three men removed and replaced 12 panels per billboard structure. We usually changed ten faces per day. That meant we lifted 240 panels per day, for a total lifted weight of between16,800lbs(7.620kg) to 28,800lbs(13,063kg) per day. Not to mention the added difficulty wind presents to the strength thing.
View from the top of  the board looking down at the two platform men and the crane operator lifting a small crate. This board was posted not painted.  You can see peeling paper in the foreground. On the platform is "Bergy" his son, Scotty and running the crane is Sickie. Photograph from the mid-late 1970s.
The sections were raised to the platform by an extension crane in crates.  There was a small crate that had places for 6 sections and a large crate with places for 8 sections. Twelve sections made up one face. In order to change the face, first the crate with two empty slots would be placed on the platform opposite the first section to be removed. Two sections of the old face would be removed and slid into the two empty slots in the crate. Then the end section of the new face would be taken out of the crate and lifted onto the angle iron rails and slid to the end of the rails. Continuing with the third old face section the process would continue old/new, old/new until all the new sections were hung. In the middle of the process the crates would be changed, taking down the the part of the old face and bringing up the remainder of the new face. Once the new face was hung a batten board was nailed across the back of the sections to keep the face from blowing off the rails in high winds.

Stash on the platform at Kissling's Sauerkraut along I-95 with N. Phila. in the background. Photographed between 1972 and 1976. Stash died from injuries related a three story fall in 1977. He was 25 yrs old.
There wasn't much safety when I started.  As you can see there was only one horizontal rail. At least one worker fell between the platform and that rail.

The guard rails, in the photographs above, were installed after I began my employment in the early '70s. The guardrails were constructed of 2"(50mm) x 2"(50mm) x 1/4"(6mm) angle iron. Each platform was 48'(14.5m) long and the guardrail was the same. Add in the weight of 6 - 36"(.9m) uprights, two 1' splices and 14 - 1/2"(50mm) x 1-1/4"(32mm) bolts with nuts. It was heavy. It folded down so, at night, it wouldn't cast a shadow from the lights onto the face of the sign. Lifting the guard rail was a chore in itself.

It wasn't only the company name that changed, over the years. The industry went from heavy panels to relatively light one piece sheets of computer printed vinyl.  The heavy lifting was more or less eliminated but the pace increased.

After over 34 years I walked away from the industry. I had enough. Today and everyday my body feels the consequences of changing signs to earn a living. At least I walked away.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Planting My Potato Tower

Once the tower was assembled, it was time to plant the potatoes.

I shoveled enough shredded and composted leaves into the tower to bring the amount of leaves to 6" above ground level.

I then cut three wires in the fencing to create a 4" x 6" port in the tower. I also cut the fabric to allow access to place the potatoes inside the tower.  

I purchased three kinds of seed potatoes - All Blue Potato, Red Northland and Yukon Gold.

There were only five All Blue Potatoes in the bag. I don't know how it happened but somehow, they got wet. They looked terrible.
                  view from the top opening of the potato tower
I cut off the seemingly rotten and or moldy parts and placed five sections from the five potatoes, each with at least one eye, into the tower through the cut wire ports.

I added 6" more of leaves to the tower. I was ready for more potatoes.

There were more Red Northlands in the bag than there were All Blue. The Red Northlands were dry and looked good. I cut those potatoes with more than one eye into smaller sections, each with an eye. This time I didn't cut the wires of the tower to place the potatoes.
I was able to reach into the tower from the top opening of the tower to place the potatoes.

I cut the fabric where each Red Northland was placed.  I cut quite a few openings to allow access for the sprouting potatoes to send out green foliage.

The last type of potato to plant was the Yukon Gold.  These were good and dry, also.  I cut them into smaller sections, again making sure there were eyes in each piece.  I placed 6" more of leaves into the tower and then the potatoes.  Cut some openings in the fabric and covered them with more leaves.

I expect to plant a patio type tomato in the top of the tower above all the potato plants. For this reason the top layer is at least 1' deep.

Once the potato planting was finished, the tower had a lean to it. That was because I was reusing old fencing. I became concerned a good breeze just might topple it over. So I set about to add some reinforcing.

I found two of the concrete reinforcing rods I used in the plot last year. I placed them very close to the tower and drove them into the soil about 2'(61c) with my heavy hammer. I then cut four 10" lengths of tie wire to tie the tower to the concrete reinforcing bars. I was confident this arrangement could stand a good breeze.

My first potato tower was complete. There remained more leaves and fencing. I building another tower was a possibility.
If I do, I need to purchase more seed potatoes.  I think I will get more All Blues.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Prepping Potato Tower Plot

I decided to place the potato tower next to my square foot garden.  I have been thinking of expanding my square foot plot. This work will be the first step towards the new plot preparation.

I measuring off a 4' (1.2m) x 4'(1.2m) area next to my original plot. Right away I ran into a problem. There appeared to be a square foundation from a basketball backstop in the far corner. This won't hamper the area for the potato tower but will need to be removed to expand the garden area.

My plan was to dig down 2" (50mm), cover the area with weed control fabric. I happened to purchase some of the same fabric at a  garage sale last year for $3.00. The fabric is a 4' (1.2m) roll and I am not sure of its length, but I was confident there was enough for this project.

I went into my garage/dumping ground/workshop and found a piece of 2" (50mm) x 2"(50mm) lumber which actually measures 1.5" (38mm) square and I cut the length to 4' (1.2m).  I planned to use it to flatten the area to the same depth.

Once I was near the depth of the plot, I put the 2" x 2" x 4' wood in the work area.  Both sides were deep enough but the areas between needed to be adjusted. I worked the wood back and forth as if I were screeding concrete. Taking soil from the high areas and depositing in the low areas. I pivoted the wood and made an arc from the bottom towards the concrete foundation. I repeated the same action on the other side until the whole area was flat.

I then put the roll of weed barrier fabric in the flattened area. The roll was 4' wide and I rolled out 4' and cut the fabric.

The plan was to cover the fabric with pebbles. Pebbles will keep the fabric in place and won't allow weeds to grow.

The day I was working on this project there was a slight breeze and the fabric was lifted out of the area several times. To keep the fabric in place until I purchase the pebbles, I figured I needed to pin down the fabric with some kind of staple.

I brought two wire clothes hanger from the house. These wire hangers are fairly stiff and can be shaped with just a bit of force.  Without untwisting the hanger at its twisted joint, I made my first cut quite close to the twisted joint. I figured a 10" (25cm) length would be sufficient to make the staple. 10" lengths would give me close to 5" (125mm) for each leg of the staples to tap into the ground.
My out stretched hand from tip of my pinky to the tip of my thumb is approximately 10".

I used my hand as a measuring tool and cut the hanger wire into four pieces.

I took all four wires and estimating the center, bent the wires slightly. If they didn't look close to center I would have straightened them and tried again, but my estimate was close enough.

I finished bending each wire individually. If you are unable to bend the wire barehanded, by all means use the pliers.

I placed the staples on three corners of the fabric, tapping them into the ground with my heavy ball-peen hammer.

On the corner with the concrete foundation I used two staples.

I cut the other wire hanger to make four additional staples, one I used near the concrete foundation the other three I used to staple down the potato tower.

Time to fill the tower and plant the potatoes.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Make an E-Z No Dig Potato Tower

I saw an e-z method of growing potatoes and I am trying it out this year. The goal is to grow potatoes without digging and with very little work.

The most difficult part is to make a tower in which the potatoes grow.

Items needed to make potato tower

  1. Pliers with wire cutting capabilities
  2. Tape measure
  3. Scissors and or utility knife
  1. 63" (1.6m) length of 3' (91cm) wire fencing
  2. Weed Control Fabric/Burlap

Several years ago, I used 2" x 3" (50mm x 75mm) x 3' (91cm) wire fencing to create a bin to hold autumn leaves to be composted.  I no longer compost in that area of my yard, so I had no need for the wire bin. I used that wire fencing to make my potato tower.

I coiled the fencing to actually see what diameter tower would look manageable. An 18" (46cm) diameter looked good to me. I counted the rectangles in the coil, multiplied by 3" (75mm, the width of one rectangle) and decided 60" (1.5m) would be the length to cut.  

I added one more rectangle to the length to increase the size to 63" (1.6m). The three extra inches of length would facilitate tying the two ends closed.

I cut the fencing using the wire cutter portion of a pair of pliers.  Once the cutting was finished the result was a 36" (91cm) x 63" (1.6m) rectangle of wire fence with 2" (50mm) x 3" (76mm) openings.

I then rolled the fencing lengthwise to form a tube with an 18" (45cm) diameter. (Used fencing isn't necessarily straight.)

With the two ends of the fencing touching, I bent the wire on one of the ends around the other end of the fencing creating a seam.

I then bent the wire on the other end around closing the two ends into a tube. I also made sure the free end of the closure wires were wrapped under the upright wire to facilitated the easy opening of the tower when the potatoes are ready to harvest.

I cut a length of weed control fabric to line the inside the tower.  The 2" x 3" openings were large enough to allow the tower contains to escape. This fabric would help retain the leaves and potato plants. I added 6" (15cm) in length to the fabric so it would overlap itself. That overlap would also help retain the tower contents. The circumference of the tower was 60" (1.5m). The cut fabric measured 48" (1.2m) x 66" (1.7m).
Starting at the wire fencing seam, I spread the fabric around the inside of the tower, as best I could, while folding over the extra 1' (30cm) at the top. To help keep the fabric in place until I filled the tower, I used some clothes pins at the top of the fencing.

At this point, the tower was complete and ready to fill with leaves and potatoes.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Monday, April 16, 2012

Innocent Beauty

The first day of Spring, I found a bird in a large flower pot just outside my sliding glass patio door.  There, on the door at my eye level, were several tiny feathers cemented to the glass.  The innocent little creature must have flown into the door and bounced into the pot. 

 It was dead.

Four weeks later.

The cycle of life goes on.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gins of London 2012

London is the home of the 2012 Olympic Games this August.  All my children will be in London during the games.  My son will be partying, not sure about my two daughters. 

Speaking of partying, I like gin.  London is rediscovering London Gin.  There are several new distilleries in and around London turning out small batch "pot still" gins.

There is 

Beefeater has a summer batch just to stay competitive, of which I can't find a picture.

Even though I won't be in London for the games, I might be trying some London Gin this summer.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved