Redwood Pergola

When we had the house painted we cut down the wisteria. It was rotting in the center and insects were living in it so we figured it was only a matter of time until it died anyway.  Cutting it down would let us get it off the pergola so we could have it painted.

Once the wisteria was down it became clear that much of the pergola was rotten too.  Probably because it had not been regularly repainted as it had wisteria growing all over it.  So I took down the pergola as well.

Now that the house is painted and the weather has been nice I finally got around to rebuilding the pergola.  I chose to build it out of redwood so we could let it naturally weather and not have to deal with keeping it painted.  So now when the wisteria (hopefully) grows all over it the pergola won’t rot out from under it.



It total it took me 3 days to build.  2 days for the 2×4 layer and I got the entire 2×2 layer done today.

The existing 2x6s are beveled on the ends so I matched the same angle on the redwood.  Since I don’t own a miter saw or a table saw, I had to do all the work with a circular saw.  I think it came out pretty well considering I’ve never built anything like this before.

Heather’s Gymnastics Recital

“Recital” is probably not the best word, perhaps “exhibition.”  Either way, Heather’s gymnastics class showed off their skills this weekend.  The pictures aren’t great.  It’s tough sitting outside trying to take pictures of things happening inside where there is considerably less light and often times significant backlighting.  But, I did what I could.  Enjoy.

She was a little nervous to start.  She just moved up to this level about a month ago.  She went to 2 classes, then was out for the 2 weeks before the performance.  So she didn’t know the little opening dance very well and is clearly behind most of the other girls in the level, but once things got going she had a good time.

Trampoline moves
Horizontal Bar
Balance Beam

Out to Fort Bragg

During Heather’s Spring Break we took a short trip out to the Mendocino coast at Fort Bragg.  We drove out on April 1st after our Easter Egg Hunt.

We stayed at a hotel right on the beach, so we were able to walk down and play until tired or cold and then walk back and get cleaned up and warm.  It worked out well for casual beaching.

It was also right next to the Pudding Creek Trestle Bridge which is kind of neat.  It used to have logging trains drive over it, but it’s since been converted to a pedestrian bridge.

I went out to take some pictures as night.  None of them came out amazingly well, but they’re interesting as they are.

On Monday, April 2nd we rode the Skunk Train (so named because of the smell the old coal-powered, oil-heated trains used to make).  It runs up in to the hills from the coast and back.  The station has a large model train display which we enjoyed looking at.  I’m not convinced the people running it completely believed us when we reported a derailment but said we had nothing to do with it.  But we really didn’t, the girls were a good 10 feet away when we saw it happen.

On Tuesday April 3 we went to Point Cabrillo Light Station.  This old, though still functioning, lighthouse has a few buildings on the property.  You can actually rent the 3 keepers’ houses (keeper and assistants) to stay in.  It looks quite well maintained.  Unlike at Battery Point, however, you can’t go up into the light room.

It was actually rather busy there.  I had to wait a fair while to snap the above picture with no one in it.  I managed to snap it in a short window of just a few minutes before people wandered through the shot again.

On our last day, before heading back, we went to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens which worked out better than our trip to the Sonoma Horticultural Gardens (of Doom) back in 2011.


3 Deer
Corinne watches as Heather enters the light.
The girls hatching some giant eggs.
Heather found a comfortable place to grow.

Then it was back in the van for the drive home.

Home Board

Okay, “Home Board” is a dumb name, but I don’t know what else to call it.  Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about this cool thing I built.

This is a 7.5″ e-ink display mounted inside a picture frame.  It’s hooked up to a Raspberry Pi and updates the weather and calendar information every 15 minutes.  During “special events” it displays an additional celebration message (see example below).

This is a product I’ve wanted for a long time, but no one made such a thing as far as I could find.  So I finally decided to make it myself.

As you can see, the back is a bit of a mess; but it’s all attached, so you only have to run the power cord.

It would be cleaner if I were using a newer Raspberry Pi. The display comes with a “hat” (zip-tied to the frame stand in this picture) that fits directly on the GPIO pins of the newer Raspberry Pi.  It doesn’t fit on the version 1 (which I’m using here), so I had to use the provided multi-colored wires and connect the pins myself.

Also, the newer RPis use microSD cards that don’t hang over the edge of the case (behind the power connectors).  And they have built-in Wi-Fi so there’d be no additional dongle (the blue glow at the bottom).

The 7.5″ screen was the largest e-ink display I could find.  Someone used to make a 10.2″ one, but it appears to be discontinued.  The refresh rate is terrible (about 15 seconds to change images, with lots of flashing throughout).  But for my purposes that’s fine.  I’m only updating it every 15 minutes.

Here’s a sample image of a birthday display:

I wanted a e-ink display for 2 reasons.  The first is that it doesn’t glow, so being on all night isn’t annoying. And the second is that it’s super low power.  Power is only needed while updating the display.  It pulls its power from the Raspberry Pi, which, at full draw, maxes out at ~2 watts.  Which means, assuming some loss in the power adapter, is less than $5 a year (I’m pretty sure I did that math right).

It’s awesome.


  1. Waveshare 7.5 inch e-ink 3-color display with Raspberry Pi connector.
  2. Raspberry Pi with case and power supply (I’m using a version 1, but the display works with 1, 2, or 3).
  3. 5×7″ Picture frame
  4. Some miscellaneous mounting hardware to attach Pi to back of frame

The total cost of hardware is about $125 (display, RPi, SD card, case, power supply, cord, frame, mounting hardware).


  1. Weather Underground API (low-volume developer key is free)
  2. Google Calendar Python API
  3. Waveshare driver to interact with the display (included in my code, below)
  4. My custom written Python application that pulls the data together, generates the image, and sends it to the display.