Tree removal and CCTV system saga
Last week, an intruder tried to get in to my next-door neighbors' house (actually, he did get inside the door before their dog started after him and scared him away). We've also been seeing evidence of some shady activity happening off of the cemetery access road behind our properties (drug deals and the like). This is very unusual for this neighborhood, which normally sees a minimum of crime due to being isolated, having only one entrance/exit, and being far away from the 'bad' parts of town. However, the seclusion of the cemetery road is providing an ideal spot for people to covertly carry out their various deeds, and apparently now they've decided to start venturing into our properties. So, both of us have been working on some changes to our backyards. We've cut down most of the trees and shrubs in the back, opening up a clear view to the adjacent cemetery. I had about a dozen trees in my backyard of varying sizes, most of which I cut down or are planned for removal.
The city of Charleston (who owns and manages the cemetery) has been helpful in working with us on the problem. They've cut down their trees that line our property, even taking the tree debris from our yards for chipping (saving me from carrying them down the hill). They've also notified the power company, who will be installing a streetlight on one of the telephone poles that carries power lines at the back end of our properties. The electric and phone companies (who both share the poles) will be cutting down more of my trees that are close to the lines this week, leaving me with just my three large oak trees and one small holly tree. My yard already looks very different with the trees I've taken out, with much more sunlight now reaching the ground. There has never been grass in most of my backyard due to the 'forest canopy' type environment, but now I think that I may be able to plant grass seed successfully once everything is cleared out.
In addition to clearing the vegetation to remove the element of seclusion along the cemetery road, I am in the process of installing a 'security post' in my backyard. I dug a hole at the back edge of my property and set an 8-foot high 4x4 treated post into the ground with concrete. I ran a 110 volt circuit out to the post and installed a dual-spotlight motion sensor and a low-voltage dusk-to-dawn spotlight, all facing the gravel pull-off on the cemetery road where most of the issues have been located. Everything is installed and working now, all that remains is burying the conduit that carries the power out to the post. That's actually a pretty major job, since code requires the line be 12 inches below ground (and that's a GFCI-protected line in a conduit). Not as bad as it could be though - without GFCI, the minimum depth is 18 inches, and a straight-buried cable with no conduit has to be 24 inches below ground! Miss Utility gave me the all-clear to dig the trench, but it may be a while before I get around to it (hopefully with a rented/borrowed Ditch Witch).
The main reason for the post installation was to have a place to mount a conspicuously visible CCTV camera. I figured that the post, with the camera and all of the lights on it, would look intimidating enough to permanently discourage the criminal element. Last week, I ordered a cheap 4-channel CCTV DVR system from "WolfCom" that comes with 4 outdoor day/night vision cameras, which arrived yesterday. I didn't spend much money on it, so I didn't expect great results - but as long as there was a usable picture coming in and being recorded, I'd be happy. For the most part I was right about my expectations. The cameras are OK for the price, though definitely on the low end of the scale (not as bad as a webcam). The DVR card and software, however, doesn't work. Their site warned about the card only working on very stringent system requirements, which my older PC met. I wasn't surprised when the software didn't see the camera inputs and then locked up the computer. For what I spent on this, and since at least the four cameras work, I don't think I'm going to bother returning it. I did find a USB-based four-channel capture device (selling for around 30 bucks) that I may try this week.
The other cameras will go at various spots around the house, with one focused on the car down on the street, which will be nice. Most of the software packages for PC-based CCTV systems allow online monitoring, so I might be able to get a web page up with the camera views sometime in the future.
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