It's more than a house. It's an adventure.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Long weekend

This weekend was Memorial Day, which meant an extra day off from the paying job and an extra day to do the non-paying job - work on the yard. In reality, we only were able to work on it on Saturday, but much was accomplished.

  • I hauled the bags of yard junk collected over the past couple weekends (and a couple from last year) off to various places. 215 pounds to the trash place, all pulled over the past week. A few more bags to the town highway department, leftovers from last year, as well as some of the tree material we cut last weekend. And a bunch of broken bricks, found under the pond tub when I moved it.
  • My wife attempted to turn the pond tub into a sandbox. We (mostly she) dug a good-sized hole to plant it in, only to find the remants of a large tree stump & roots. So, she moved about 18 inches...and found the other side. It looks like someone tried to burn or grind the stump out, but only got partway through, and then buried the remains. So, she filled it all back in and spread grass seed.
  • While I was out lugging trash all over, I stopped at CountryMax and picked up 6 bags of mulch and a wheelbarrow so that we can return my brother in law's to him.
  • Some more rocks moved, some plants relocated.
  • Lots of watering

Tonight, I wanted to make at least a little progress, so I took my pitchfork out back and filled 2 more 39-gallon trash bags with weeds in about 30 minutes. In the process I discovered more rocks (what a shock) and more hostas (what a coincidence!). I failed at removing a Staghorn Sumac that's starting to grow - I need to get that thing out before it spreads.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Major project #2

We got our quote for the other major house project earlier this month. We need to have the pantry window replaced, one of the family room windows replaced (these 2 windows are much older than any other window in the house), and the kitchen entry door & screen door replaced. The quote came out quite a bit higher than I'd anticipated, so it looks like we'll have to push at least the pantry window off to next year, unfortunately.

Bulk isn't always better

We've been using a lot of mulch. More last year than this, at least so far, but still quite a bit. Every time I went out to the local CountryMax and plunked down my $11.something for 3 bags, I kept thinking "I should just get a cubic yard delivered to the house and be done with it. It's got to be cheaper."

Turns out...not so much. Most places that deliver require a minimum of 2 cubic yards to be delivered. That's far more than I need. What if we borrow a pickup? Well, then we can get the mulch we're using for about $33 per yard, but we have to use it all right away or chip away at the pile in the driveway.

9 bags of mulch is 1 cubic yard. About $36 when all is said and done. Compared to $33 for a "bulk" yard. The $3 is well worth it to me, to get the convenience of bags. I can buy what I need, when I need it, and manage it easily. No mess in the driveway, no endless wheelbarrow trips to the backyard, and I can throw it all in the back of my car.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Something you don't see every day

I took an alternate route home tonight as I wanted to stop at a grocery store we don't normally visit to pick up some fish for dinner. This particular store is located in one of the ritzier suburbs, so there tends to be a higher concentration of high-dollar cars on the streets there.

As I was cruising down the road, I played leapfrog with a VW Phaeton, with the W12 engine. I'm certain I've seen this exact car in the area before, because fewer than 3000 were ever sold in the US according to that Wikipedia article. A very rare find, especially with the W12.

While I was dancing with the Phaeton, I passed a gas station. Waiting patiently to exit the station and merge into traffic was an Acura NSX. Yet another rare find! Not sure just how rare this specimen was, as I couldn't get a model year off it, nor determine what features it had. I wish I'd had my phone with me to snap a picture of each.

More water!

But in a good way, this time. I asked my wife to pick up a sprinkler for the yard while she was out today, because we actually have enough greenspace which needs watering that a hand nozzle just isn't practical anymore. She grabbed a pair of Gilmour 8830Ds. I gave them a 90-minute test drive tonight and I'm pretty happy with them so far. I haven't yet been able to get a good, deep soaking on the grass yet using the hand sprayers, but these are just the ticket. I just have to make sure to carefully adjust the spigots so I don't send too much water down the hose - these sprinklers have a much maximum larger range than I need right now.

I never thought I'd actually take interest in watching a sprinkler operate. The soaking I gave the grass today means, of course, I'll have to mow tomorrow.

Five. Hundred. Days.

OK, today actually marks the 499th day we've been homeowners. Close enough. I was talking to El Gee this morning about the progress that we've made on the house lately and I decided that some pictures were in order. All pictures here that are "before" pictures were taken the weekend we placed the offer on the house. The "after" pictures were taken tonight. I present the before picture, then the after picture, with the caption between them.

The front of the house. The left side is English Ivy. The right, Pachysandra. Now it's all grass, the flowerbeds taken care of, and the town has redone the sidewalk and end of the driveway.

The area off the back of the bedroom. Totally overgrown. Cleaned up some, and the bricks exposed as I mentioned in my post the other day.

The lilac tree "island" between the driveway, bedroom & shed. The whole area, really, was overgrown. We ripped out some of the flora last spring, I started to finish the island last fall, and this spring my wife finished it off. We didn't really discuss what we wanted it to look like, but it ended up matching my vision almost perfectly.

Not bad, eh? We still need to get the grassy areas cleaned up, but a lot of that will be "nuke & pave", just tilling everything under and planting new seed. The big chores are all the plants & garden areas.

Monday, May 21, 2007


We have an open floorplan at work, and cube "pods" with 4 desks each and no real walls between pods. As a result, sound carries very far, and people never seem to realize how loud they're being.

In a couple weeks, we're getting a "sound masking" system. Basically, a white noise generator, with speakers scattered throughout the ceiling. It's supposed to make a constant sound similar to our air-conditioning system which will cover up and change the voice sounds.

What I'm wondering is, what will the constant exposure to this sound do to my hearing, long-term?

Weekend Update

This weekend was our first serious yardwork session. My mother & sister were out visiting and we ripped into the backyard Saturday.

  • First off, I mowed what little grass we do have for the first time this year. Yes, it's a little late. I finally found a place to get my ancient bent-reel mower sharpened, and they did an amazing job. Last year, the mower clogged & stopped regularly, and cut very unevenly. Now, it's smooth sailing. No clogs, just a smooth, even cut. It's beautiful. The folks at Titus Ave. Mower Service did a terrific job with the mower. Given the amount of lawn we'll have when everything is finished, I won't need to get it sharpened more than once every 3-4 years. For $65 for the sharpening, lube & adjustment, it's a bargain. 20 minutes, plus some time with the weed whacker and the lawn looks infinitely better.
  • The majority of the rock pile next to she shed has been relocated to behind the shed.
  • The "island" where the lilac tree lives near the shed has been completed. My wife finished the rock border/wall that I had started last fall, planted her one of her two new May Night Salvia (happy Mother's Day) plants in it, and covered with mulch. It looks finished. It looks beautiful. It looks exactly the way I had imagined it. I need to take some pictures I guess.
  • The big chore was weeding, specifically clearing out everything that had started making the backyard look overgrown. 5+ 30-gallon bags later, we've pushed the "cleared" line about 8 feet further back, so we've got about 16 feet from the back of the house relatively clear. We also cleared a path past the dogwood tree to get to the area behind the shed, so we could put the rock pile back there.
  • During a break, my mother started looking at some of the smaller trees (3-4 years old) that had sprouted up in the yard. We decided they needed to come down, so the big shears came out and we lopped the trees off about 4 feet above ground level. I still need to dig out the stumps, but it opened things up some for more light to come in. We identified some other small trees that can come down too, but that'll be a chainsaw job.
  • My sister, needing to stay close to the baby, started digging around the brick patio behind our bedroom. She started scraping at some of the bricks, and discovered that they extended much farther out from the house than we had thought. They still need to get cleaned up, and it's not a very smooth patio, but it looks nice so far. I'll have to stay on top of the weeds with a chemical treatment (RoundUp maybe) that are sure to sprout up from between the bricks.
  • While we were working in the backyard, my wife was hard at work in the area between the kitchen, family room and bedroom. A couple weeks ago she'd weeded a good portion of the side by the kitchen, and she finished that off. She also moved some of the plants that were there (Elephant Ear Hosta, Bleeding Hearts) to other garden locations.

We made some terrific progress this weekend. We need to keep pushing though, we can't let things sit idle and start falling apart like last year.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Well that was fast!

Talk about a whirlwind.

We had our chosen roofing contractor come out to the house last weekend to give us a quote on replacing our roof with a full tear-off, new vents and 30-year architectural shingles. We added into the deal vinyl soffits all the way around and wrapping all the exposed word (eaves & fascia boards) in aluminum sheet to protect against carpenter bees. Plus close up the exposure in the back bathroom corner.

I faxed the approved quote/contract to the contractor on Friday afternoon. Today, my wife called me when she arrived home and said "why are there people on our roof?" I had been expecting the contractor to call us, set up a date for the crew to come out, etc. They sent them right out today and 11 1/2 hours after they arrived, everything was finished.

I saw a squirrel on the roof looking very confused. His home is now gone - he can't get into the roof like he could with the old vents.

The only "gotcha" is with payment. Like I said, I was expecting them to call ahead to set up a date for the work. So the money for the job was in a different bank from my checking account, so that I could collect better interest on it. I had to ask them to hold cashing the check for a few days while the transfer completes. I feel kind of bad that I had to do that, but if I'd had some warning, it wouldn't have happened.

Oh sweet irony!

Sometime this week, the town came along and picked up the huge pile of tree debris we had put out on the curb (that post, started 8 days ago, has yet to be finished. Soon, I hope). They did this so that they could pull up the nasty, fine gravel they had laid down between the sidewalk & curb, and on the edge of the curb (overlaying our grass) last fall after finishing the sidewalk. In its place, they put down some actual soil. We waited a couple days to see what they'd do, but nothing changed. Just dirt. So, Saturday morning, I got out the grass seed and reseeded everything on our side of the sidewalk.

15 minutes later, I heard a couple loud engines coming down the street slowly. One was a Ford F250 Diesel. The second was the hydroseeding trailer that it was pulling. They took care of both the lawn side and the strip by the curb. And they did a darn fine job, taking extreme care to not let any overspray get into our flower gardens by the sidewalk.

If only I'd waited another 15 minutes.