Monday, May 25, 2009

A tired old house...

Our house looked pretty in pictures, as long as those pictures were taken from a distance. Like all old houses, if you looked closely, you could see the tell-tale signs of age, a wee bit of neglect and evidence of standing out in harsh weather over the years.

If you looked closely you could see small spots of rust on the gutters in some places

and outright holes in other places in the gutters from all the rust.

Where paint wasn't already wearing thin, it was blistering and cracking.

This grand ol' dame was in desperate need of a face lift, a bit of cleaning

a thorough scratching of all the places where paint was lose,

removal of the shutters to try on a whole new color for this face lift.

And no one was exempt from the hard labor!

It wasn't just the walls and gutters that needed attention,

the ceiling of the porch was also calling out for a cleaning, scratching and fresh coat of paint.

The floor of the front porch also demanded attention.
"People have been walking all over me for 70 years! I've had enough! I want the total spa treatment as well!" M was enlisted to address this and other areas of the house.

M got right to work priming and painting the once staid burgundy shutters a new beachy blue!

The ceiling of the porch went from a pale blue to a mint green....wait for it, wait for it, it's coming, the reveal is coming soon!

Home Improvement...first the stairs...

You may recall from a previous post seeing the destruction of the previous stairs. Please make special note of the various tools for measurement and leveling in the picture. If anyone ever tries to do brick work for you without these tools, tell them "no thank you."

When your bricklayer begins assembling your job, make sure he begins his work on a level base of concrete at least 3-4 inches thick. "NOW you tell us!" :-)

When filling any columns, make sure your bricklayer uses cinderblocks, not dirt, broken bricks, beer cans or other garbage.

When your bricklayer builds your columns, he should make sure they are level, even if your porch or the rest of your house isn't. The only time you want a bricklayer to make your job unlevel is if you are the owner of the leaning Tower of Pisa.

When building your stairs, start with the last tread first and work your way back and up. Continuously monitor the height and level of each riser for consistency, eveness of the mortar and depth to make sure your last riser meets the porch. (Sounds obvious, huh?)

Your job isn't finished until the last brick is laid, all the mortar and bricks are acid washed, and you've checked with the homeowners to make sure they are satisfied with the job.

Your front stairs are the first thing people see when they enter your home, make sure they know they're at the correct address. *smirk*

But wait! There's more! Stay tuned for the next post...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

Please take a moment this weekend, around all the cookouts and get togethers to remember those not with us; those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blast Off!!

So we dashed down to Virginia tonight (45 min.) to see NASA launch an Air Force Minotaur I rocket carrying the Air Force Research Laboratory’s TacSat-3 satellite and two secondary payloads from their Wallops Island, Virgina facility.
Wallops Island Homepage

There was surprisingly, quite a crowd on the edge of this field, in the relative middle of nowhere. Still, it was easy to find a good spot to stand to observe the launch.

We tried to catch this launch a couple of weeks ago later in the evening and the mission was scratched 2 minutes before blastoff. M was really anxious to see the launch as she'd never seen one and she admits to being a space geek. So this was very exciting for her.

Here's a little bit of the trail behind the rocket.

There were various types of rockets on display all around the area as we were in the Visitor's Area for the facility.

NASA Wallops Island Webcast Here's a video clip of the launch. I only had my camera phone with me so forgive its limitations.

Friday, May 8, 2009

If At First You Don't Suceed...

Okay, so you're probably not going to believe this, but we're having our front steps re-built . . . again. I thought maybe I could clean them up and add an extra layer of bricks to the two bottom steps to make it better, but after closely examing all the unlevel spots and water pooling from the recent rains and the uneven thickness of mortar on the bricks, I knew I couldn't do too much to fix them.

But fixing these steps - AGAIN - will cost a LOT of money. What to do? Stumble upon a brick layer who needs legal work he can't afford and introduce him to a lawyer who needs brick work she can't afford. Barter makes the world go round. (Yes, I will report this on my taxes. I'm too honest and too convinced I'd get caught if I did anything other than report the full value.) I'll post more pictures as I get them. I have high hopes for these steps to turn out much better. We'll see.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Latest Yard Project

Sorry there are no "before" shots. I just got in there ripping, hoeing, cutting until I had conquered it. So let me tell you a bit about this spot. Once upon a time, about 4 years ago, this spot at the back of our property, behind our garage was the original spot for M's first garden. It's one of the few spots with any sun in our back yard. It quickly became overgrown with weeds and ambitious tomato plants because, being out of the way as it was, it was easily forgotten. So very quickly M relocated her garden to the side yard where she'd have to pass it daily so as not to forget about weeding and watering. Next came the berry patch. About 3 years ago we planted strawberries and raspberries back there.

In this picture if you look all the way to the back left, that's where we planted the strawberries and then the raspberries a little closer in. Well, just as the tomato plants became overly ambitious and prosperous, so too did the raspberries. There's something in that soil that makes them go absolutely nuts! Anyway, very quickly this entire area towards the back was overgrown with raspberries that choked out the strawberries and was so thick and overgrown, you couldn't get back there to pick the raspberries without climbing through a jungle and getting many scrapes and scratches on yourself. So this weekend I took my tools and went to work. I cleaned out the entire right hand side of weeds, put down black plastic and put in the bricks, stepping stones and gravel. Next I trimmed back the raspberries to a respectable level, transplanted about 9 strawberry plants a good distance away from the raspberries, and last fall we added two blueberry bushes, and a week ago a black berry bush. We added mulch and voila, the berry patch is now under control, each plant has a fair shot at survival and there are berries on the strawberry plants. We haven't seen that since year one, and the blueberry bushes have flowers on them. I know the path isn't level yet, but we're expected rain all week and I figured I'd level it up next weekend after the rains.

In addition to the berry patch, we mulched every flower bed, bush bed and tree all over our property. We still have a bunch of mulch left in our driveway from where the original load was dumped, so maybe I'll start clearing and mulch a spot for the grapes I'll be planting in the Fall. In the mean time, enjoy the photos of everything in bloom in our yards.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy May Day!

Happy May Day, Happy rite of Spring. Here's hoping you get a basket of flowers on your door, a May Pole to dance around, or a visit from the May Day Fairies delivering lollipops.

The Fairies nearly forgot May Day and so one of them, M, had to make a late night run to Wal-Mart last night to stock up on Fairy supplies.

It's really hard to take pictures in the dark when all you have is a cell phone camera, but M gave it a shot. (No pun intended.) It's a little blurry and doesn't let you see the full effect, I guess this is as she was planting the lollipops. Now all we have to do is wait to see whether the kids come out to pick the lollies before the rains come. Happy May Day!