Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tree-pruning, Picture-hanging, Etc.

We have yet to tackle the baseboards (am clearly suffering from inhibitions on that subject. Perhaps rum-and-cokes might help? Did wonders for my dissertation, after all.) Somehow, my grand master plan got a little derailed. Our riding lawn mower slipped a belt this morning (during what was my second voyage as skipper), so I tried to tackle the remaining yard using our little push mower, but after a while of battling that lush, thick grass all this crazy rain has engendered, it ran out of gas. Having been twice thwarted in a big project, I spent the rest of the day doing piddly little projects (in the air conditioning whenever possible--much preferable).

For example, we've got a little live oak in our east yard that has--so far as I can tell--never in its life been pruned. It was all shrubby at the bottom, blocking the view of the house, and every last one of its crotch angles was too narrow. It's like the tree sank into depression during a troubled adolescence and decided to commit a very, very, very slow form of suicide.

Unfortunately, pretty much all of the fullness of the tree on one side seems to have come from these low-growing, badly angled branches. When I was done with it, it looked like this:

Picture added 8 sept 2007--MU

So all in all, I didn't get that sense of satisfaction and triumph I was looking for. However, it needed to be done, and the sooner the better, since it gives the tree the chance to change its ways before it gets to be too big.

I unpacked a few of the remaining boxes, hung some photos in the living room (it did help--it feels a little more in scale in there now--not so many howling blank spaces), and washed and ironed the tablecloths for our end tables.

Not quite the tour de force I had in mind. I'm taking tomorrow off of work, though, so maybe we'll get a little more done on our second take.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ug. Cameraphone.

(Note: Now that my camera is back in operation, I've added better photos to this entry. But I kept the original cameraphone pix for their quaint appeal.--MU)

So I'm waiting on my battery charger, but in the interim I couldn't stand not doing a little documenting, which meant that I had to rely on my camera phone. The results, though they have a kind of numinous, almost mystical appeal, lack a certain je ne se quoi as far as detail and realism are concerned. I had to jimmy with the one below in Photoshop for the blinds to show up at all. What this is meant to convey is that we just bought our first shipment of plantation blinds and installed them in the living room. Eventually, we'll buy three more sets for the master bed, as well.

For the dining room, my current ambition (pipe dream?) is custom shutters. The kitchen (thanks again Ladonna!) is fixed up with a valance/blind combo. And Mom doesn't know it yet (hi Mom!), but I'm hoping to draft her into the effort of making Roman shades for the study. But that's a ways down the road. For now, we're just excited about the living room.

This is our manky old shed. Matt totally kicked its booty. Some locals with a truck are coming by today to drag off the refuse. Note the half a chinaberry. That's on the project list as well, poor doomed thing.

The shed was on a concrete pad, and Matt's going to use that as the foundation for a small greenhouse (or orangery, as I like to think of it. We do have several small citrus trees that will need to shelter there in the winter, so it isn't completely pretentious of me).

Monday, July 23, 2007

Potter-related Hiatus

This was a slow weekend on the house as I went into total media lockdown in order to read the last Harry Potter without fear of spoilers. (True story: so I'm driving home from Wal-mart at 5 in the morning on Saturday, freshly minted Harry Potter novel sitting on the front seat next to me, and I think it's probably safe to chance the local classical music station--what are the odds they're going to let slip some key information about the wrap-up of the new book? About 5 minutes later the announcer comes on and says, "People are lining up around the world for the new Harry Potter novel! In Australia, a little girl got her copy, flipped right to the end of the book and--" Fortunately, I turned the radio off in time. I drove home in silence.)

However, we did buy a new toilet for the master bath (its predecessor was leaky. Matt had tried new valves, new wax rings, even a "superflange," to no avail. So we decided it was time to replace the whole darn thing) and Matt "The Beastmaster" installed it. Homeownership changes how you see things. I actually think our new toilet is kind of... pretty.

I also finally broke down and screwed a bunch of faceplates back in. I had left them off with the intention of replacing all of the mis-matched battered old beige outlets and switches someday. It's a dream I keep alive, but after 4 months in the house, it's becoming apparent that other concerns (viz., the new toilet, the baseboards, refinishing the tubs, new light fixtures, mulch and edging...) are going to continue to trump the gentrification of our outlets for the foreseeable future. Anyway, I realized, to my horror, that I was getting used to gaping holes in my wall. Not good. So the plates are back in their rightful, scruffy places.

We've got an action plan for next weekend, and I was awarded a little extra PTO at work for finishing a thorny project, so I think we'll be able to unleash some kickass on the baseboards soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

No Pix Today

So it's been a while, not because we haven't been working hard (oh, we have!), but because I lost my camera's battery charger in Louisiana, and replacing it hasn't been as high a priority as procuring various doo-dads for the house. I kept thinking it would turn up and waiting to post till I could provide pix. I've finally recognized the inevitable and will be getting a new charger for my faithful and hard-working camera soon.

Meanwhile, here's a text update.

Most exciting (for me): I learned how to drive a riding lawn mower! The Vests very benevolently gave us one of their spare riding lawn mowers, which has been something of a salvation for us. After all, when you own a substantial spread like we do, a push mower just doesn't make the grade! (I speak jestingly, but it's actually the sober truth. Even on the riding mower, it takes well over an hour to mow our little almost-half-acre. With a push mower, it takes the better part of a day.) It was actually rather fun--the wind in my hair, the smell of cut grass, and when you're done, a real sense of accomplishment. Come next weekend, however, when the heat index is in the 100s, I'll probably be singing a different tune.

Also in the garden: We've begun a mulching and edging project that we will complete in installments over the next month or so, a few bags of mulch and pieces of edging at a time. We've had, due to time and budgetary constraints, to throw a lot of plants in the ground without prepping any beds for them, and the bermudagrass has been throwing a fiesta amongst our shrubberies. Now that most of the big projects are out of the way, we have begun to turn our attention to the Burmudagrass Problem. We've cleared and mulched and edged a little corner chunk so far. Modest but satisfying.

Our roses are mostly chipper and bloomy, especially The Fairy, Cramoisi Superieur, Wild Blue Yonder (warning: highly doctored photo--is nowhere near that blue), and Comtesse du Cayla. Our ginkgo, on the other hand, just sulks and mopes and looks chlorotic. And this even though we haven't had a summer this cool and wet since the Cretaceous, when Texas was covered by the Tethys Sea. Ingrate.

On the arboreal front: we've planted 2 lacey oaks (Quercus laceyi/glaucoides), 1 red oak (Q. texana or Q. shumardii?), 1 bur oak (Q. macrocarpa), and 1 white oak (Q. alba), as well as a pear and 5 desert willows. We still have a couple of palms to place (Matt got all of these super-cheap at the nursery), and we need to acquire a baldcypress and a 'Little Gem' Magnolia. And at that point, there will definitively be No More Room at the Inn.

Matt's big project: He's begun tearing down shed #2, the one that covers the hideous oubliette. I particularly regret our lack of a camera for this project because seeing the shed half-stripped is kind of impressive. Especially as he's only given it 6 or so hours of him time. Man vs. shed: one man, one crowbar, one victor.

On the inside: I caulked the bejeezus out of our clapboard hall closet (two tubes of caulking, and there were some spots that I never got to) and finally painted that sucker. This was two weekends ago; I still have specks of latex in my hair. Having a place to put our sheets, paper towels, and light bulbs really made a difference in terms of organizing the rest of the house.

In the bathroom: Matt wrestled with our leaky master bath toilet, not with complete success. He has now replaced a valve, the wax ring (twice), and added a "superflange" (sounds a bit like a blaxploitation movie, no? You'd think it would fix our leak and come with its own matching Cadillac). To no avail. We may have to call in a plumber and/or replace the dratted thing.
(Camera is back in order, so I'm adding in pix--MU 30 Aug 07)
Hall closet with copiously caulked gaps

The baseboards: We bought a couple of 10 x 1 planks to use as baseboards in the kitchen and living room, though we haven't yet worked ourselves up to installing them. One of the complicating factors is that we are trying to match the original baseboards in the kitchen and living room. The problem is that the original baseboards are 1-1/2" thick planks nailed directly to the studs with the wallboard resting on top of the baseboards. The thickness of the wallboards makes the baseboards appear to be only 1/2" thick. For a variety of reasons, we won't be able to replicate this unusual relationship between baseboards and wallboards in the dining room, nor will we be able to find planks that are 10" tall and only 1/2" thick. What this means is that we're going to have very weirdly thick planks as baseboards at the bottom of our walls. So you can see why we've been procrastinating.

Upcoming projects: Next week I plan to order faux (i.e., plastic) plantation blinds for the living room and master bed. No more tissue paper curtains! Maybe a few more of our neighbors will drop by once our home has adopted a more reassuringly middle class appearance. If we don't need a plumber, we may also spring for some new (brushed nickel!) drawer pulls in the master bath and a spray bottle that I can put our ceiling paint into to aerosol-ize it and spray our (disgustingly dingy) AC vents. If only I'd known about this product when I painstakingly hand painted the bathroom shutters with a weency plastic brush with split ends!

When the camera is back in operation, I'll work on the promised Manor/Elgin profile.

Onward and upward!
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