Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Toad farm

I don't think I've ever seen so many toads on one piece of land.

It's not unusual (I swear I can never say that without thinking of Tom Jones) to see several at a time, just hanging out around the shed and carport.  There's a pond at the back of the property and lots of greenery and wooded area so I'm sure the toads have plenty of food and decided they'll just move in and stay a while.  Fine with me, although it's unnerving every time I pull into the driveway at night or else start to back up in the 'Splorer.  I always perform a toad check so I don't squish one.

There's this one I've labeled The Watchtoad.  He's (although I haven't performed a gender check) my workshop sentry.  He's a little smaller and browner than the rest, and is always near the door no matter day nor night.  Sometimes, he's perched on a small piece of concrete at the jamb and he doesn't seem afraid.  I shoo him away from the hinge side so I don't accidentally mush him.  Yesterday, he and two of his buddies were in the shed.  He was on a piece of wood and didn't move for over two hours and his friends were hanging out on the cool, damp concrete floor.  I laughed to Other Half when he came over and told him I had a Three Toad Shed.  Here's my buddy.  If you look closely, I think he's smiling.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, oh my!

A trip to the farmers market in Winston-Salem earlier this month really didn't help my budget.  What began as "I'll just get a couple of tomato, pepper and eggplant plants for containers" turned into "holycrapican'tbelievehowcheaptheseplantsare" and thus I fell victim to a sensory overload and drove home with over two flats of vegetable plants plus another of my first batch of native flowers and foxgloves.  Other Half was there, too, so I try to place some of the blame on him for helping load up the flats as he also loves fresh veggies and gardening.  I didn't plan on having a garden this year due to time and budget constraints.  Lord knows there's enough to do inside the house.  However, I am weak before anything green, so I caved.  There were raised beds to be constructed out of salvaged and new wood, and soil to be tilled (and let me tell you, there is some amazing soil on my land).  I did have to add soil to fill the beds, some from other areas of the property where leaves had naturally composted plus more purchased at a local home center.  I didn't want to take the time to cultivate the soil by hand, partially because even though I started in early May, the temperatures were beginning to soar and the humidity was matching it.  Craigslist netted a good used 5hp tiller.  I could justify the purchase, as there are other areas where I could use it and gardening of some type will be ongoing for many years to come.  Now that I had the resources, I thought "Well, I'm into this now, might as well go ahead and finish it" so I picked up herb and vegetable seeds and have a ton of seedlings started.  The old workshop doubles perfectly as a garden shed, now that it's been cleaned out.  Roughly $500 later, I'm happy.  It's worth it.  It has been several years since I lived where I could have a garden, and all the memories and delights of watching the plants grow and anticipating the harvest has begun.

My babies!

The first few of probably ten beds.  Still have to till up and fill several more and move the empty frame.

This is the workshop before I cleaned it out.

This is my workshop/garden shed now!

Missing door mystery

There are several doors missing throughout the interior of the home.  It's not like they recently disappeared because there's a layer or two of paint where the hinges and strikeplate used to be.  The only one that makes sense is at the kitchen, as there were cabinets added at the entry point off the living room, so there would be no way to open the door.  The back bedroom is missing one of two, and I plan on finding a replacement.  But, the ones that bugged me the most were the double doors that should've been between the living and dining room.  I could envision a set of 15-lite ones, gracefully marking the dividing line.  I wondered if maybe they were split up and used for the utility room; one off the back bedroom and one off the sunroom but I saw no evidence of where a headbolt and footbolt would've been on either of them.  I scoured for weeks my trusty companion in remodeling, craigslist, and found the perfect replacement doors, even with beveled glass.  It was a pleasant surprise that the hardware was included, and I recently stumbled upon that the sets may be from between 1860-1905 by the Corbin Company and are the Ceylon design.  The doors were 1.5" narrower than I needed but for the price and their beauty, a build-in was no problem.  I made the adjustments to the door opening and hung the doors and they look great!  All I have left to do is strip some of the outer trim pieces on the moulding before I put them back up, fill in the gaps at the floor moulding, and paint everything.  The living and dining areas are starting look whole (and original) again.



Monday, May 30, 2011

Eng-hell-ish Ivy

When I started professionally landscaping about seven years ago, I learned the evils of English ivy.  Luckily, it never grew in places I lived and I only had to remove/kill it for other people.  One of the first things I noticed about my property when I was considering purchasing is the prolific amount of this foreign nuisance.  It's covering several trees, part of the side yard, and had begun trying to creep under the siding.  Even about 1/8 of the back of my property is so covered in it that some of the leaves are the size of my hand and it has blanketed the area to kudzu-like proportions.

borrowed from http://www.nataliedee.com/

 Now, I'm all about letting things grow and be happy and letting nature take its course.  However, when it comes to invasive plant species, I draw the battle lines.  I don't like chemicals but would be a huge advocate of aerial spraying of glyphosate if it could be targeted to only hit invasives.  The landscaping I once did professionally was focused on native plants, so that's what I decided to do at my new house with the exception of Foxgloves, my floral weakness.  The areas I've glyphosate-ed are still waiting to die, and I won't be able to do anything until next year both because of money and to let the area attempt to rest for a while.  In two spots small enough to manage manually, I've removed the ivy and planted new and more desirable annuals.  As I was pulling ivy from this particular spot, I had no idea there was that much driveway underneath.  The ivy was probably 3' out from the edges of the new bed.  As I was clearing, I kept finding all these big rocks that Ms. Laura must've used as flower bed edging.  This gave me the idea to reuse her items and make a raised bed of my own.  Through coincidence and Murphy's law, it took every last rock I found to create the bed.  The little girl statue was found in another part of the yard and it, too, was mostly covered in ivy.  She looks much cleaner and happier in her new space.  Here's one of the areas and a good close-up of a native.  See?  Natives don't have to equal weeds! 


The side yard, another ivy wasteland (and no, I'm not pregnant as my shadow would suggest).  This ivy has been mowed down and allowed to regrow to a small degree before I sprayed it. 

More natives, including rudbekia and lobelia.  This is where the foxgloves are, also.  Although not native, I didn't have the heart to remove the existing irises.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I can see one of us is comfortable.

Brian is finally getting settled in.  It took him longer this move than any others we've done together.  Even after I had all my belongings moved in, he would still go to the door around 8-9pm each night for about two weeks.  I think he thought we were going back home.  Anytime I'm working on someone else's house and it's vacant, I always take him with me so he's accustomed to leaving in the evenings to return home.  Now, he's a happy boy.  He has a large yard to roam around, lots of sunshine for him to recharge in, and plenty of squirrels and birds to watch.  It's almost to the point where, if the sun's out, he'd rather be outside than in and will try to practice his independence by flopping over in the yard and refusing to come inside after going to potty.  I have to go pick him up, whereas he's turned into what my Other Half refers to as "hundred pound Brian" because he's on his back, dead weight, thinking I won't pick him up make him come in.  Another one of his new favorite things is to be rocked.  (I know, I know, he's horribly spoiled).  I started the rocking with him when I was rushing madly to get moved in and didn't feel like I was spending enough time with him so when I'd go outside to rest, he'd get in my lap and lie down.  The following pictures illustrate how rotten he really is.  He must think I bought him the world's largest dog house and a yard.  All for him.  If you look at the one where he's wallowing in my lap (yet another thing Other Half calls him:  wallerpuppy), you can see he is so asleep that his mouth is open.

Rotten dog

I swear I'm not a Boston Terrier decor hoarder....really....

Change of plans (and toilet).

One of the easiest things a homeowner can do is change a toilet seat.  The one in the tiny bathroom needed to be changed since it was broken.  No problem.  Well, sort of.  I'm not sure if the bolts had rusted together or if someone had Lock-Tite'd them but they wouldn't budge.  It didn't help that the recessed area where the toilet was is only 26" across so I had no room to work.  I didn't want a beige toilet, anyway, so I'll just take out the whole thing and put in a white one.  Those bolts wouldn't budge, either .  This is the first time in my twenty years of contracting experience that I've had to break a toilet to get it out.  It was a blessing in disguise.  The flange was rusted out to practically nothing, and the subfloor was rotten in a roughly 6" circle out from the flange.  I knew at some point I'd remodel the bathroom, but I didn't plan on doing it now.  (It had carpet and it and the adjoining bedroom don't match the rest of the house, probably since they were added quickly and in the 1980s.)  I replaced the subfloor in the recessed area and tiled the entire floor.  Thank God for the internet because I was able to research what tile looked like as far as colors, grouts, etc. in the 1930s.  There was also a large vanity that I removed and discarded.  It took up too much room in a bathroom that, including the shower and everything, is only 5'10" x 6'.  I found a wall mount sink, made in February 1943, on craigslist.  It will be taking the place of the vanity.  My awesome friend, Jeff, used to deal in antiques and gave me an old medicine cabinet "brand new" still in the box!  It had never been installed!  What an outstanding gift!!!!  I had to rework the wall where the sink and medicine cabinet will go, adding in braces to support the sink's weight and forming in a box for the cabinet, as well as re-running the electrical wire from the old wall light to where the cabinet will be.  I'll be removing the fiberglass shower and building a tile shower.  My joke is that the shower is so small now, combined with having two handicap grab bars in it,  that you have to step out and lift up your arms to wash your pits.  The new shower will give about 6" more inches in width and 6" to 8" more in depth.  Not much, but the extra space minus the grab bars will make a big difference.  I also removed the bi-fold doors that were used as the entry point and will be installing a two-panel wooden one to match the other solid doors throughout the home.  I'm hoping to find one used, maybe (again) on craigslist or at a ReStore.

This bathroom has been a work in progress for about a month.  I've mixed in other projects to keep me from getting stale working on just one.  In the past, I've worked on things at a breakneck pace, whether it was on my own house or someone else's.  I've decided not to do that anymore because I'd be so exhausted I'd eventually resent having to do the work.  It got to where it was no longer enjoyable and that isn't the point of what I'm doing.  Here's my progress.  I had to use someone else's picture of their medicine cabinet since I couldn't find one of mine, but they're exact.  The drywall work is complete, although the picture doesn't show it.


Another before

My cool new sink

Best housewarming gift ever

New floor!

Tiny toilet area.

Howdy, neighbor!

On the days I was hanging out at the property and waiting for inspectors when my purchase was pending, I saw a gorgeous, small china cabinet under the neighbor's covered back porch.  It would go great with my decor and I couldn't help but wonder if it had come from Ms. Laura's house.  It appeared someone was home, so I knocked and asked about the cabinet, offering to buy it.  Imagine my surprise when the neighbor gave it to me!  It had come out of my home, so it was nice to know it could go right back in.  It's the perfect display for my McCoy cookie cars, and makes me smile each time I see it.
No way to get a photo without my reflection.

Moving and cleaning.

This was, without a doubt, the worst time I've ever had getting moved and settled in.  As the house had been vacant for at least two years, everything was covered with a layer of black soot from the oil-fired furnace.  A simple dusting wouldn't do the trick because if I tried wiping the soot, it only streaked into a black smudge.  There was no cleaning cobwebs with a broom for the same reason.  It took several days just to get things clean enough to move my belongings in, including getting out some old, unrepairable furniture and other unwanted items from the estate and hauling them to the landfill.  I had ten days off from work and figured it would take a couple of days to clean, mop, etc. and the rest I could spend moving in and starting the fun things like painting and plaster crack patching.  One of the days (of course, the second windiest day of the year) was spent travelling to Badin Lake to pick up a 1940s range and refrigerator I found on craigslist.  It just wouldn't look right to put new appliances in the neat old kitchen.  The ones I found worked like a charm until I tore up the range by putting in an aluminum oven liner.  As soon as I turned on the oven there was a loud pop and a flash.  The liner had touched the bottom element and shot it.  $210 and two weeks later, the oven was repaired.  Another three of those ten days were spent at a friend's house because one morning (of course, it was on a Friday) I flushed the toilet and watched as sewage seeped up into the bathtub.  The plumber found roots had grown into the septic tank and up into the waste pipe, thus blocking it.  There goes another $235.  The front porch had some rotten support posts that desperately needing replacing but with everything else going on, I couldn't do it myself.  $250 got the job done by a handyman while I was playing catch-up with moving in.  At the end of my so-called vacation, I went back to work feeling I had accomplished little of what I had intended.

Here's the cool old appliances, kitchen, a couple of other rooms and the not-so-cool rotten porch posts.  The pictures were taken before I moved in.  Thought I'd spare you the septic tank photos. 

Loooove my sink but there will eventually be a dishwasher, too.
It's still shiny!
Coldest refrigerator on the planet.

Lead paint chip collection on interior chimney

one of the rotten posts.

Dining room.  Old couches went bye-bye.

Third (back) bedroom.  Tried to salvage neat old sofa, but couldn't.

The fun has already started without you.

I decided to start a blog to chronicle the work I'm doing on the home.  I see now that it's hard enough to keep up with for myself, much less to explain to others what's going on and when.  The house is in remarkably good shape for its age; my mother said it's because the owners never had children to tear up everything.  I knew immediately that I didn't really want to "change" anything.  Really, the only thing it needs is attention and all the things an elderly owner had eventually not been able to give, despite how much she loved it. 

It was apparent there had been additions over the years.  I am fortunate that relatives of Ms. Laura's live in the neighborhood and are warm and friendly people who are kind to offer insight as to what was done, and roughly when.  Her nephew has even offered a picture of the house at the time it was completed!  I'm quite anxious to get my hands on that!  He said that it says on the back "Ray Brown 1936."  The original construction layout consisted of a kitchen, dining room, bathroom (I think; not sure on that) two bedrooms and a living room.  Over time, a sunroom was added off the kitchen, and a utility room/laundry room was added off the sunroom.  In 1984, a large bedroom and very small bathroom were added for Ms. Laura's sister, who had come to live with her.

Fortunately, I've had some amazing teachers over the years who have taught me basic plumbing, carpentry, flooring, and other home improvement skills so I can save loads of money by doing the work myself.   The major expense thus far, which I couldn't do, was an electrical upgrade.  There were some hellish wiring connections made in the home and in the attached workshop and I really didn't feel like immediately losing my home (and dog, a Boston Terrier named Brian) to a fire.  That upgrade is complete, and I feel so much better now.  Here are some photos of what the home inspector and I found.  The red arrows are from his report.

Enough meter boxes?

Interior breaker/fuse boxes

Someone actually thought this was a good idea.

This looks like a great place for a random nail.  Can you say "arc?"

Since I'm already two months into living in and working on the house, I'll try to back-track as best I can to get caught up to the present.