Sunday, June 29, 2008

The doors

Still raining. This is like Bangor UK, not Bangor Maine. Still working indoors, on the mudroom. Things are going pretty well, though.

We had a couple of door-related projects to share. First, the back door - which is the main door, since this is New England. It was, of course, painted white like everything else. We stripped a teeny patch to see if it was cool -- and it was. Same nice varnished fir like everything else.

So this week was the week to fix and refinish the door. We removed the glass window (broke 2 of the little glass holder-wood-strip thingys -- now we have to mill some in fir), stripped the paint, pulled all the caulk out of the joints, reglued the mortise joints, and finally stained it.

While all this was going on, we couldn't be doorless. Even though there's a screen door, we recently learned that Eddy can open it, and we worried that the cats would figure it out, too. So we had to add this lovely contraption, made from a crappy door from the basement, a bungee cord, Mr. Scrap 2x4, and several obstacles meant to trip a potential burglar (who wouldn't make off with much anyways, since the house is the nicest thing we have and it's all screwed down).

Unfortunately it might be a bit till we get those little wood pieces done and re-glaze the window, so we needed a temporary window. Enter old scrap of OSB. Very post-modern deconstructionist, eh?

Ken greased up the knob and it looks fab.

Facing the other way, there's a door jamb that had a door in it at one time. Noticing that this was just too many doors in a teeny room, some previous owners removed it (don't worry, the door stayed with the house, it's in storage above the garage).

There were mortises cut for the hinges and a slot for the catch, so we had to fill them. Luckily we had a tiny bit of fir about 3/16" thick and several inches wide (and 10 feet long!) left from the hallway moulding re-sawing project.

Due to the placement of the trim & jamb, we couldn't get any clamps to hold the patches, so Ken devised this lovely "whatcha got" clamp. It worked great, and nobody clotheslined themselves on it in the middle of the night.

It made perfect patches, and I think it's some of my best invisible patching work. Go color-matched putty! Activate!

See the patch? On the middle board across, about 2/3 of the way down? It will look even better once it's got its final coat of finish.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We want your input: Mac-daddy weatherstripping

We're re-doing (stripping, re-gluing, re-glazing, etc.) our back door (which is the main entrance, since we're in New England).

We want to know: what is the absolute best type of weatherstripping or way to weatherstrip an old wood door? Keep in mind, this is possibly the coldest climate in the contiguous US and we have wild fluctuations in humidity all year-round. In this one case, it's OK to be more functional than pretty, but blaze orange stuff or neon or some such is just too far over the style line.

Thoughts? If you can save us a gallon or two of oil this winter, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consiousness. So you got that goin' for ya, which is nice.

Thanks, houseblogging-buds.

Friday, June 20, 2008


It's a rainy day (and it was supposed to be a rainy weekend, joke's on us 'cause it's been nice out), so we planned all this indoor stuff, and re-started on the mudroom. It's going quite well (pix later, I'm pooped!). We stripped the exterior door today, and it's really gorgeous old fir that was waiting to be liberated from its shell of old paint. Have to finish it up tomorrow so we can put it back in (!).

Anyways, our peony finally bloomed, after we've moved it around, thought it was dead, then had a bud that didn't open last year. Here's the one flower we got, which we've enjoyed all week:

It's pink because we didn't know at the time we'd be going with a green and white garden, but peonies need to be colorful, no? I forgot they typically have ants. That was a nice surprise all over my arms when I brought it in.

After the real rainy spell (it did rain tonight) ends, we'll be back to regrouping and getting on with the yard work.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Still a rainy week. Tomorrow we'll get started indoors on the mudroom. Oh yeah, we still have work to do inside! Duh.

Anyways, I've been having fun with concrete, making plant markers for the garden. Yes, I'm a dork and an obsessive labeler. I got this set over a year ago, thinking I would have tons of time after my dissertation was done - but the kitchen and other projects kind of took over.

We dug it out last weekend along with the bag of concrete that's been sitting there, waiting, in the garage, et voila! concrete plant tags. Mmmm, tomato, garlic, rosemary. And our tomatoes won't have salmonella.

Actually, not quite voila because it took me a while to get the consistency right. It's not like thinset, and it gets wetter as it sits so you really have to mix it fairly dry. But I love them! The whole kit was very easy to use and was inexpensive. Highly recommended. They have it at Lee Valley. I still have a bunch more to make - not that I'm complaining - it's a great stress reliever, like working with clay.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Deck the walls

It's a rainy week, so we'll be posting a bit about indoor projects. Last summer, we worked indoors on the kitchen all summer - though it was worth it - and I recall being grumpy that everyone else was blogging about their yard projects. So this one's for the folks who are working inside this summer, and are cursing us for posting about the garden all the time!

Courtesy of this fab blog, we found the web site of the Ranger of the Lost Art - the former Park ranger who has discovered and re-printed all of the vintage National Park Service posters. We have several of these from various parks across the US (I'm a National Park junkie), and always wondered if there were more. Here are the two in the half bath (I don't have a pic of the 3 in the dining room, sadly):

They go really well with the Bungalow/Arts and Crafts color palette. Schweitzer's site alse references his book, which uses colors from the Sherwin-Williams palette - so it's easy to find the colors & recreate the scheme. (The S-W palette includes my Rembrandt Ruby color - I LOVE this one. There are both interior & exterior colors.) Because we're talking about color, here's another great site.

The blog also listed this site with new vintage-style posters and other products, a lot from Colorado and the west. I love the custom wedding invitations! These posters and paintings just make me smile, and the website is pretty awesome too.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Got 'em!

We got about 270 more bricks today, all packed very well in the cars, so we're officially done with the brick-getting. Woo hoo! We're ready for the excavator (that should be a fun day), then we'll lay the bricks and have a patio. After sitting on crooked chairs and wet old pine needles all day, it can't happen soon enough. Though the thought of more rocks to move is not sitting well with our lazy Saturday selves. Soon.

Though I can't find an online pic of a patio in the style we'll use, here's a Greene & Greene style set of porch columns that is quite similar. Either it will be very easy & natural to set, or will be really difficult. We'll see how it goes. Probably depends how zen you are at the moment.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


We're running out of time to gather bricks, and we've found that the used, free brick market is really competitive. Like, I've emailed someone on Freecycle about bricks within an hour of them posting and they've been spoken for! We did pretty well, accumulating about 500 bricks almost free (one girl made us pay $5 for about 100 bricks).

Beginning to worry about our patio dreams, we decided to cheat and pay for some bricks if necessary. I went on craigslist and found several listings for old used bricks. Most were too far away or cost way too much. But there was one listing for a town about 15 miles away, with over 1000 bricks, asking $200. I sheepishly replied to see if they were desperate enough to take $100, and they were! So we went down there today to get most of them. They're from an 1812 house, and they look really old and full of character.

The wheelbarrow went for the ride, in case we were going to have to move them all around the year. It matches the car well, eh?

The guy working on the house was pretty skeptical of the Suby + truck combo for brick hauling, and thought it would take us 10 trips to get 1000 bricks. The Suby easily takes 200, as long as they're spread out (passenger floor too). His helper, who had hauled all these bricks up from the basement (I don't know why they were down there), came out to tell us how it was much more of a pain to haul them upstairs than what we were doing. Yup, probably right. We ended up with 800 today in one trip (2 vehicles) - not too shabby.

Our friend Seth very graciously assisted with the use of his truck and loaded and unloaded bricks on his morning off! He has earned the right to the first drink on the new patio, and probably has a bit of good karma headed his way. Thanks!!!

This weekend we're enlisting Mom & Dad to help haul the last few hundred from that yard, and then the Patio Brick-O-Meter is officially retired!

Monday, June 9, 2008


I wrote 'to cool' below, when I meant 'too cool'. Ugh. Pet peeve, just mis-typed it, I do know the difference. Sorry about that.

Three guarantees

There's the saying that there are two guarantees in life: death and taxes. But I'm quite sure I've heard another New England version with three guarantees: death, taxes, and rocky soil.

So we had a strange, embarrassed feeling when we realized that we needed to buy some rocks for the stepping stone path that's a big piece of the landscaping plan. Especially since we have a little slice of property that's chock-full of boulders. After reading up on paths, asking for some advice, and realizing how many rocks we need (that is, how many $4/gallon trips in the Subaru to get enough rocks and not ruin the suspension), we broke down and took the easy, expensive route. Not too expensive, however, once we found out that a pallet of granite stepping stones was over $1000! Who woulda thunk it!

Our stepping stones are the waaay more wallet-friendly gray 'Garden Path' fieldstones. Still expensive, compared to our more typical free or dirt cheap finds.
*Get ready for a huge tangent...skip this if you want to continue with the main storyline.
(Note: dirt's not cheap. Where did this idiom come from? And if you didn't bother to read that link, you'll be interested to know it replaced 'dog cheap'. I don't like that one, nor does Eddy. None of the dog idioms make sense. Like 'sick as a dog' - my dog is never sick, so it is wholly inappropriate. For a fascinating discussion about the cost of dirt including the exclamation "Canada ROCKS, man!!" see this site. We agree with the comments there - dirt is now expensive (and Canada does, indeed, ROCK). Dirt + rocks: most expensive landscaping stuff we've had to buy yet. Stay tuned for decking, though, which will blow those out of the water.)

Embarrassment aside, we picked out the best damn pallet of stepping stones, and they were delivered to our driveway for a very reasonable fee, no toll on the Suby and certainly less than gas.

In the beginning, there was the wheelbarrow... (note, it now has a 'Dog is my co-pilot' bumper sticker.)

OK, now the gushing. We love these rocks! Ken picked out a pallet that had several huge ones, so we could make a little landing in the clothesyard and a big step for the future garden shed. The rest of the pretty darn thick (3-4", mostly) stones made up a series of paths based on the existing paths plus a few more we've realized were necessary after a couple of years of trampling plants or cutting across soil.

So Saturday was rocks & more dirt hauling day. The dirt hauling is seemingly endless. It was a long day, but we got the whole pallet down, leveled, and set. We were missing a few spots, so we decided by late Saturday night that we'd buy a few more stones to complete it, because it looked so good. So, so good. Better than we anticipated, after having seen some less-than-splendid stepping stone paths in our research/life experience.

Sunday: day of rest. Well, not quite. We de-sodded the whole side yard, hauled all the sod away, and completed the 3 year rejuvenation pruning of the lilacs. I usually suck at plant maintenance, but lilacs are worth learning how to prune properly, and ours were in poor shape when we got here. They are now textbook, with loads of little suckers at the base and they are a proper height for a lilac.

Monday: Store was open, went down and got 25 more rocks, and put them in. Then we - ahem, Ken - dug a bunch of holes and we planted the rest of our shrubs. Wait till one of the next posts for a diatribe about mail order plant companies.

Yes, it was getting dark by the time we tore ourselves away to take pictures. Better pictures later, in the daytime.

So, back to work tomorrow, with a new labyrinth of paths, very sore fingers, forearms that are unable to lift a shovel, ground-in dirt & bugbites everywhere, and a sunburn. Yay, SUMMER!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Worms & bats

My camera has been loaned to someone else who does my type of research - and hopefully won't get dropped in a stream somewhere - so I'm without photos for this blog. Ken has a camera, but we've been so filthy & gross lately that you wouldn't want to see any photos anyways. Poor neighbors, subjected to our compost-and-loam covered, sweaty, buggy little one-act play called pretending to be professional landscapers. Plus, our yard just looks like a bunch of dirt. Our neighbor across the street thought we were turning the entire yard into a vegetable garden. Hee hee!

So, get ready for a mental picture. Close your eyes - or open your mind's eye so you can keep reading.

Last night, I went out the one of the new annual beds to plant a little paper flower I got at the Home Show, that has flower seeds embedded. I forgot to do it till just after twilight, but there was still enough light to see (a bonus of living up north - it takes a while to get pitch black in summer). As I walked to the annual bed, something quickly slithered away in front of my feet. A snake? Couldn't be, not this time of night - and it looked pretty small. I stopped for a moment, and looked harder at the dark soil. Suddenly, all around, I noticed them: nightcrawlers, all out of the soil, stretching their barely-glistening bodies across our new earth, possibly searching for better real estate. As I walked around, sprinkling bits of the paperized wildflower seed, I could hear them and occasionally see them all zipping back into their holes.

To cool. I had to go get Ken. This is when you know you have a great guy - when someone, contentedly relaxing on the couch for the night, is willing to throw on shoes and accompany you outside in the dark to see a surprise - and then is ecstatic that the 'surprise' is a bunch of worms. While we stood, admiring the worms and encouraging them to aerate and fertilize our new soil & plants, a bat flew by. And then again. We stood for quite a while, the little bat making many passes, in an oval shape, covering the whole side yard. A bat in Maine in June is a glorious visitor, since they eat up to 3,000 mosquitos per night. 3,000 fewer bites - now that's a contribution. Thanks bat & worms!

We promise to get out the camera this weekend. Yesterday we planted 2 twigs (a.k.a. American Elder shrubs - yes mom, I'm going to make elderberry jelly too), and they've started to leaf out. My White Dome Hydrangeas are scheduled to arrive tomorrow, and will go right in the ground. Operation: shrubs is almost complete!