Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mom, do I get $1 for effort?

My mom is the coolest. (Happy early Mother's Day, by the way!) All through elementary school, high school, college, and even grad school, she would give me a dollar for every A I got in a class. Yes, even as recently as a couple of years ago, I could count on that buck! How cool is that? Even in these 'tough economic times', you can still get an ice cream sandwich for a dollar.

I just finished an adult education class in sustainable landscape design which was AWESOME. Because it was adult ed, there were no grades - and it was very cool to be able to not do my homework sometimes (something that would have caused me great stress in graded courses!) But I did my homework most weeks anyways, and the final product is this master plan for our bungalow landscape. Ken says I get an A for effort, so maybe that's dollar-worthy? It's being turned into a blueprint by the intructor right now - but this is the actual plan.

The big circle that overlaps the house and patio/deck is the existing, giant (about 40 foot or more) Norway Spruce, the trunk of which will come right up through the deck. And we'll be building another pergola soon - once we find another deal on cedar. (I have a lead...)

The class was fantastic, and we are really happy with the resulting plan, which had input from Ken and expert advice of the class instructor. We went with the whole bungalow theme (who would have guessed, right?) Here's a great site I found with lots of good advice on bungalow gardens. We've got lots of native plants, plenty of berries (including my mom's favorite, elderberry!), relatively inexpensive plants, and worked with the site conditions and plants we have as much as possible. So now we're really ready to get started digging up the yard! More details later as things progress.

And mom, if you send the dollar, I'll be buying a packet of shasta daisy seeds with it - we need over a hundred plants!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bricks, bricks, bricks

Still collecting bricks. Check out the Brick-O-Meter - we're 1/3 of the way there, thanks to some nice folks who are re-doing a really nice bungalow near my work, and who let us* make several trips back to their brick pile - they had to rebuild their entire chimney system, so there were a LOT of bricks. We got about 200 from them - and there are still more - if we've got time & energy. Most of the rest are half bricks (which we don't count, FYI), which will be useful somewhere in the design.

It has become abundantly clear that we'll need a WHEELBARROW for the landscaping project this summer, so in case anyone out there wants to send an early birthday present...or maybe Eddy will give me one for Mother's Day. I keep telling him to get a job & make some money, but a work ethic seems to be not in a beagle's nature.

* 'Let us', meaning they were going to have to load the damn things up and take them to the dump, so they're probably happier than us that we took the bricks.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Friendly Fir

No, not that kind of friendly fur. Though they're cute, right?

Did anyone else learn to tell the difference between spruce and fir trees by remembering 'friendly fir'? Meaning that fir needles are relatively soft, while spruce needles are sharp and will stab at you?

Fir's not so friendly when you're working with it as your trim - it's downright ornery. I won't even begin to do a splinter count, but just know that I have a constant supply of fir splinters implanted in my fingers at all times from the paint stripping. They go right through the gloves - youch! I've even had a through-and-through - a splinter that went right through my finger to the other side. Totally gross, but luckily only through the fleshy part. They hurt like heck when they jab into a bone, though. OK, enough.

In the hallway project, we wanted to add a chair rail and hide a railing along part of it, much like this photo we found tucked in This Old House. First, we couldn't find any ready-made fir moulding. So Ken agreed to work on his router skills and he made the chair rail, with very little fuss. (Being fir, however, there were a few places with splintering that we subsequently had to hand-repair and/or live with). Can't see them in the final installation - Ha!

We were going to get some neat railing brackets - hopefully Eastlake style (aren't these gorgeous?) - but then both (a) the price (over $100 for three, even on Ebay!) and (b) the size (they would stick way off our minimalist chair rail) were obstacles. Back to the drawing board. Ken had all along been suggesting that we figure out some sort of bracket-less railing, that just attached to the moulding. Finally, I was successful finding such a thing in an appropriate, non-modern-church-looking style - of course they only seem to have it in the UK, where it seems to be fairly common. It's called Pig's Ear moulding, named for the shape, obviously.

Next challenge: figuring out how to make the thing for less than a fortune. I drew up a sketch of the profile based on the chair rail size, the size of a 2x4, and the profiles from the UK I found online, and we headed down to Viking Lumber (where I'm sure they call me 'the crazy woman who always wants to pick her own fir boards') to grab a 14 foot long fir 2x4. Pretty long, but nothing the Subaru can't handle on the roof rack.

We couldn't pull off the profile with our limited shaping tools and skills, so we took the board to Owen Gray & Sons, a local millwork/cabinet shop in Brewer, Maine that's been in business since the 1930s. We're very lucky to have them just a couple of miles away, and their pleasant, honest manner is much appreciated. They also don't treat me like a girl, so kudos for that. I have to say, this particular business has been one of my absolute favorite places to work with, so if you ever get the chance...

They gave it a shot, after we commiserated about the difficulty of fir and its likelihood of complete failure when you try to shape it. Not a problem I said, especially since we started with only about twenty bucks worth of 2x4.

It worked, they did an absolutely fantastic job and the railing is now in and finished. Perhaps friendly fir after all!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spring's here - time to work outside!

Spring is finally arriving here in the great north woods. Today was the first day we hung laundry out in a while - and definitely the first time in a while that we're not 100% sure it will freeze if we leave it overnight!
All thoughts have turned to landscaping, though we have exciting advances to report on the hall and the mudroom (sorry, you'll have to wait - not ready to post.)

I'm taking a landscaping class, which is going great. We are in the final stages of our master plan, which is the final product to be blueprinted. One of the main features (besides replacing much of the lawn with gardens and a couple of fence-pergola sections) is the addition of a patio & small deck.

You might remember that we've known for a while the patio has to be brick. My mom & dad started it - when they innocently asked "do you guys want about 80 old bricks?" and of course we said yes. Then we saw another bungalow restorer's salvaged brick walkway here in town, and we were sure.

The new design incorporates small 'boulders' in the brickwork - sorry, I can't find a photo to link to, so I'll have to show you later. So we need a bit fewer bricks, but a lot overall. This week I posted on my workplace's electronic bulletin board that we're looking for free bricks, and in 24 hours, I've got two brick offers - which we picked up today. Yes, that means two more brick stories like this one, the one to beat so far.

First, a frat house. We couldn't take all the bricks because some were holding up giant plastic rubbermaid lids that were serving as a basement window. And a few were too close to the outdoor beer/trash can and maybe the dog peed on them? Hopefully the dog, not the brothers? Who are we kidding, we all know who it was. But we got about 20 from there. Thanks guys!!!

Second, a woman who wanted $5 for us to haul away a neatly stacked pile of about 90 bricks. Since it was on the way back from the frat house, we stopped, paid the gatekeeper, and upped the brickometer a good bit. She let us use two empty buckets from kitty litter to haul the bricks from the far corner of her yard to the driveway. Not sure why we couldn't use the wheelbarrow that was sitting right nearby, but beggars can't be choosers.

Thus, here's what the brick pile looks like (note laundry hanging just above!):

And we have ~35 more that are around the side, used as temporary garden borders.

Now I just have to count how many we need, since they're all drawn on the landscape plan!

More tales of brick scavenging next time, I hope...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

What the diddly?

Anyone else love Flanders? Although Millhouse will always be my fave. There was a 'what the diddly' moment in the mudroom. I decided to go at it with all the destructo tools - paint stripping, floor ripping, wall scraping, wall tearing out!

The footprint of the room was definitely changed at one point. Back 'porches' like this probably was were often rooms where the icebox was - and there are a couple of varous holes in the floor and water stains on the subfloor, so it makes sense that maybe it used to be the fridge room/pantry. When they moved the kitchen wall (stealing a couple of feet from the now mudroom), some things obviously changed, and there's a mishmash of stuff making up the room, that we now have to bring into harmony. Plus we messed up the floorplan when we added the bathroom.

Most of the trim is there (except our new walls), but one piece was plywood. There are 2 oddball pieces of drywall making up the wall, with an old piece of metal plaster-corner-stuff in the middle of a wall. Probably used to be a closet or something? And the walls are covered with goopy old gloppy crap that used to hold some heinous old vinyl (bright yellow) tiley-stuff to the walls. Probably evil and toxic. So we'll do our skimcoat magic over that. Blech.

And some of the trim is obviously co-opted from other house parts - like this weird plinth that has one side that's never been stained. Hmm, interesting.

But...We're almost down to clean, all the wood that's fit to keep is stripped (part 1, it still needs to be scrubbed totally clean), and the floor is gone, and we had enough scrap drywall to replace the nasty junk.

Well, I'll be darn-diddly-arned. We're getting somewhere.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Girl Power

The past weekend was the annual getaway for me & my two BFFs. It was a fabulous weekend at the spa, spending more money than we should but all agreeing that it's totally worth it. As we drove off, all in our not-totally-hooptie cars and many years since high school, I realized that, for all practical purposes, we're kicking ass. Each one of us has a reasonably successful career (with its ups and downs, but no one's working in the chicken eviscerating plant like the guy I saw on Judge Alex the other day), we are roughly where we want to be, and we know to take time to smell the roses - or smell the aromatherapy oil (pine & mint for me - of course there was a lumber product involved).
So Monday, when I had an unexpected work cancellation due to weather and couldn't really go back in till Tuesday (computer's in the shop), I took the day off and had a girl power day in honor of my friends. So, I decided to tear the floor out of the mudroom. What better activity after a massage and pedicure, right? Within an hour, it went from this hideous, gross, filthy rug-over floor-over other floor:

To this, beautiful subfloor ready for underlayment (only 1 broken bit to fix, it's in great shape):

The icing on the cake: just as the trash truck pulled up, I had the rug out to the can and a bag of the old underlayment paper tied up just in time to jog down the driveway and hand it to the garbage collector. Only 1 small pile of floorboards left - I'll take those to the proper landfill and see if they speak to me like English is my second language. After all, girls can't find their way around the dump, can they? Take this pink ribbon off my eyes... (thanks Gwen Stefani for the women's anthem). Remeber C&K, we can do anything - especially with our fresh pedis!