The Final Push

I need to travel out of town this week so I don’t have long left before our official light up party on the 2nd. This weekend I needed to push to get as close to complete as possible. By the end of the weekend I had every light hooked up (around 7,000 of them)  ready for some testing.
I started early Saturday morning (8 am) with the goal of completing my large spruce tree. Although this tree is one of the more impressive and dominant features in my show I really don’t enjoy putting the lights on it. It is a long multi tiered process that requires lots of up and down and lots of moving the ladder around the tree. Its also likely the most dangerous set of lights to put up as I take lots of risks reaching and leaning to avoid additional ladder moves. The ground is also uneven and the ladder has to lean against limbs of the tree which move and give providing ample opportunity for a Griswold comedy of errors.

The first lights I need to get on are the net lights, 18 nets with 80 twinkle lights per net for a grand total of 1,440 lights. The first thing I do is lay them all out on the driveway and test each set. This is more important with the net lights than any other as they get really tangled in the boxes when stored for the summer and they also take a lot of abuse getting put up on the tree and even more so getting pulled off. It is also really hard to replace a net after laying multiple other sets of lights over them.

After all are tested I start from the top of the tree working around and down. I start from the top because the tree may have grown since last year and its much easier to grab an extra set of lights and add them to the bottom than the top. It also allows me to add any extras after dark if needed (I don’t like going up on the ladder in the dark). After about 90 mins and about 20 ladder moves I have the tree fully covered. Next onto the c9 multi coloured lights. This year I am doing 6 panels horizontally across the tree on 4 channels. The outer panels on each side wrap the front and back then there are 2 panels 1/2 the size in between on both sides of the tree. For the multi coloured lights I start at the bottom by the controller so I can plug in without and extension cords. I make the outline of a triangle shape that will make the panel and work inwards in an up, down over motion making a smaller triangle each time. This requires less ladder movement than the net lights as I can set up at one side of a panel and fill it in without moving the ladder.  I put around 2,000 multi coloured LEDs on the big spruce tree. This means there are almost 3,5000 lights on this tree. After completing the lights I add some large tree balls and then I am done. Next I hook up the controller and test out the lights. Once the big tree is done, it’s time to bring out the mini trees and the cable sets I made last week, another 1,440 lights (4×70 c6/tree x5 mini trees).

By this point life was creeping up on me and I needed to pack in to take care of family matters. After a Novice Hockey game, making and eating dinner then watching Christmas Vacation (a birthday tradition (not mine) on this day) I could get out and see what the big spruce looked like lit up.

Not a bad looking tree.

On Sunday family life dominated the start of the day with a 7am hockey practice, after we got home and I took care of a couple of things around the house I got outside by around 9:30am. First order of the day was running the power cords for the 2 controllers on the south west side of my yard hooking them into the network (testing every cable along the way) and hooking in my milk crate floodlights. This completed all the network and power distribution to the controllers, now it was a matter of hooking up the lights. I also added a speaker that I hide in the tree to provide audio to passers by. To be honest this is more for me as I enjoy standing outside listening to the music and watching the lights.

Now all the lights on the house and trees were connected it was time to install the last pieces of the puzzle, the ground lights. This includes my pathway lights that line the driveway, LED floodlight for my sign, Candy Canes along the property edge some decorative trees and mini snowmen in the front yard, potted trees in front of the garage  and the blow form candles by the entrance. I had been looking for the blow form candles for years (a throwback to my younger years when I had always liked them) and found some on eBay this year. I was worried about the blow forms getting knocked over by the wind everyday so I filled the bottoms with sand to give them a little weight and stability, I also replaced the incandescent c7s with LED c7s that I had extra from upgrading my pathway lights.

Installing the pathway lights and candy canes is always a bit of an adventure because the ground is usually frozen, it can be quite difficult and hammering in the plastic pegs they mount on and I usually ends up breaking them. I’ve tried many methods over the years but what I find the most effective is to drill a hole in the ground and drive the stake into the hole. Because of this I make sure I mark all my sprinkler heads and irrigation system lines as part of my fall yard clean up (lesson learned the hard way a couple of years back when I hammered a stake through a sprinkler head). I was now done hooking everything up.

After getting all this done it was time to start some final testing and since the light was starting to fade, which means I’d be an this for almost 8 hrs, it was a perfect time to test.

Christmas Vacation Theme:

Christmas in Sarajevo:

All done I have 802 RGBs, 400 on the Pixel tree, 2 floodlights and 400 on the house. I have another 740 LEDs on the house plus 24 LED icicles, 6 snow flakes and 20 globe projection lights for a total light count on the house of 1,190 lights on the house. In the yard there are 1,440 on the mini trees, 400 RGB pixel tree, 39 pathway lights 8 mini snowmen, 2 net lights of 80 lights/net, 3 blow form (2 candles, 1 nutcracker) , 7 strings of 3 candy canes each and 575 lights on my small tree. My large tree has around 3,500 lights for a grand total of 7,000 lights across 64 regular channels and 2,400 RGB channels. not bad for a month of weekends. Now its time to get back to cleaning up my sequences and applying what I learned about my new items after and layout after seeing it all working. I also have some free channels and lots of unused lights to may look to add a few more.


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