Tag Archives: home repair

This lawn chair is mighty comfortable, y’all.

I have waxed rhapsodic about an Appalachian spring many times.  I won’t bore us by doing it again.  However, suffice it to say that I’m glorying in today’s weather and trying to create order in what passes for my yard.

daffodilskyLast year was the Great Garden Palooza of 2013.  HMOKeefe was mighty sick and I took off work to be here with him.  He slept a lot and during his naps I started two big garden projects:  leveling the back yard and creating a kitchen door garden.  He worsened and died before either project was finished, but he was excited about what I was doing.  He would sit on the daybed by the bay window and watch me move retaining blocks, dirt and mulch.

There was no need to go to the gym last year.  I moved enough wheelbarrow loads of stuff to surpass any gym workout.  Unfortunately, I need to move as many as I did last year plus a few dozen more.  I’m finding it hard to motivate.  Instead, I sit in the lawn chair with the warm sun on my face and fantasize about how great the yard is going to look when I’m done with it.

I have a plaque that looks like a rock with the words it takes a long time to grow an old friend engraved on it.  It’s really going to take a long time if I don’t get out of this lawn chair and get moving.  Never mind that the house is also a mess and my to-do list is in volumes. . .

While I won’t wax rhapsodic about spring, let me just say that after the polar vortex, record cold and snow, and a generally sucky winter, I need this spring.  I need this warm sun on my face and I need the soft, new grass curling around my bare feet.  I need it all so much that in addition to finishing last year’s projects, I’m committed to restoring the front garden to its former glory.  Yes, I’ve said this before.  Yes, yes, I know.  . . but really, I’m going to do it.  Just as soon as I get out of this lawn chair.

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Filed under April 2014

I hate vacuuming.

uprightI hate to vacuum. Passionately hate to vacuum. It’s not a mere dislike or simple dreaded task, it is full blown animosity. The only machine I share the same feelings for is Beelzebub of Bobbinhood.

With vacuuming, I have two current machines to torment me and a lifetime of ones that mocked my efforts at clean carpet.

I believe my feelings for vacuuming stem from two sources: my mother loved to vacuum and I have exceptionally long hair. These are pertinent, really they are.

My mother finds vacuuming to be a life affirming activity – so much so that she vacuums when stressed, when ill, when happy, when sad, when the floor is dirty, when she’s bored, and as a preamble to any other housekeeping chore. The vacuum cleaner was the soundtrack of my childhood. Television programs, conversations between friends, secrets whispered into a phone were all drowned out by the roar of the Hoover or Dirt Devil or the Vacuum du Jour. If your mother is a passionate vacuumer, how do you rebel? By only doing it when a) the filth has come to the attention of the Health Department or b) someone is coming over.

canisterSince I don’t vacuum hourly, or even weekly, the debris is a bit challenging what with dogs, cats, a dirt road, and a not-particularly-fastidious human. Add to this 30” strands of hair that wind about the brush bar and you have a disaster.

If I could just vacuum and be done with it, I might do it more often. But no. Alas and alack. Each vacuum adventure begins with dragging the damn thing out, turning it on and finding it will not suck. The suckiest household chore of all and neither machine will snort even a whisper of dust. It has nothing to do with the quality of the machines. I think in a past-life I must have done grievous harm to inventor of the vacuum cleaner. It’s all I can figure.

I have hundreds of dollars invested in vacuums. All of them, after a dance or two about the house, become possessed by demons.

Each session begins with cursing. Then there is the application of scissors to cut the hair into manageable pieces so the beater bar will turn freely. Then there’s the cane I use to poke down the hose to free the clogs of cat hair, dust bunnies and the stray leaf. It can take up to an hour of fiddle farting before any suction is achieved. Just as I stroll victorious through the bedroom pushing the damn thing, it will attempt to suck up the dust ruffle, or the puppy, or a phantom and the belt will break.

I buy belts in six packs. From Amazon.

Another hour tearing the machine apart to figure out how to put the belt on. It’s different each time. I swear it is.

Sometimes, I can’t bear it. Just can’t. So I drag out the backup machine. This one is pricey canister vacuum as opposed to an upright. It’s even more evil as something somewhere is not quite right and the gizmo attaching the thinger that seals the hose to achieve suction often doesn’t. So we’ll play unhook it, clean it out, says a prayer or two, reassemble it, test, rinse and repeat until finally it will attempt to suck.

In anyone else’s hands, the canister would be an overachiever – sucking up furniture given the opportunity. In my hands, it leaps at the curtains which causes a circuit to trip and I have to take the whole damn thing apart to reset the circuit.

I hate vacuuming. I do. I really do.

I vacuumed yesterday. I didn’t do a particularly stellar job at it as machine 1 clogged, wouldn’t beat and broke a belt when I’m all out of belts and machine 2 wouldn’t suck for the first 45 minutes.

Still. There is some of my mother in me. I am enjoying relatively clean carpet.

 

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Filed under February 2014

I should be preening, but I’m not allowed to just yet.

twirlingpreeningI’m so pleased with myself I could twirl and preen, except that I’m not done done – no twirling or preening until then.

For more than two years, the house has been in an absolute state of chaos, one that accelerated In June as Doug’s stuff needed dealing with. There has been all matter of inconveniences: painting, drywalling, floor installing, termite eradication, near gutting of the family room, bookshelving, more painting, wallpapering, and a fair rodeo of sorting and organizing.

The upstairs hallway still looks like this and will for some time to come, but the entire house looked like this in July!

The upstairs hallway still looks like this and will for some time to come, but the entire house looked like this in July!

The last couple of months I’ve been hammering away at it – oddly motivated after having been a sloth for a good while. I believe I’m nesting. Except for the upstairs hallway, study and a couple of the closets, the house is decluttered, reasonably clean, and I know where stuff is. This alone is a major accomplishment.

When we first moved here from Milwaukee, we luxuriated in the fact that we didn’t need draperies on the windows for either privacy or warmth. My windows, and I have a lot of glass in this house, were brazenly bare and I loved it. I figured if anyone snuck up here, got past the dogs, and peered into windows they deserved to see something.

I had always hated curtains and draperies. They’re just dumb, they cost a stupid amount of money, and let’s not even discuss the cost and installation of the hardware.

The drapes and I had to have frequent time-outs.

The drapes and I had to have frequent time-outs.

But. . .I noticed a few years ago that my windows went from being nude to being naked. There’s a distinction there. Nude is fine art, naked is pedestrian. I can’t abide pedestrian.

I added strategically draped scarves and valances here and there so that my Nudes with Barn remained nude, but tasteful. I did put proper lace curtains in the dressing room as I’m not so easy about the idea of a Peeping Tom as I used to be.

The living room/dining room stymied me. Whatever I did was going to require a second mortgage given two 7’ windows and two 9’ atrium doors. I pondered and browsed and hovered over the “add to cart” button on a hundred different sites. I scoured stores. I frequently came down with the vapors at the cost. I put it off.

The ceiling is painted, the walls are papered, the floors are installed and the room is starting to come together. It was time to pull the trigger. I ordered inexpensive faux silk draperies from Amazon and boggled at how nice they were when they arrived. I tried to order hardware but it had been on back order for weeks with an estimated shipping date of December 19th. The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to be trying to hang drapes while tripping over a Christmas tree.

Tools!  I am woman!  Hear me roar!

Tools! I am woman! Hear me roar!

This morning I woke obnoxiously early and headed to the Lowe’s after some coffee and cogitation on the unseemly state of the windows. An hour later I was home and fiddling around with the new power drill – a twinkie Black & Decker, but lightweight enough for me to stand on step-stools to install the drapery hardware also procured from the Lowe’s.

I prayed on Facebook that the installation of all this would be an adventure and not a saga. It was a bit of both, but by my standards drama free. Oh sure, it sounded like a biker bar with all the cursing and carrying-on, but nothing got broke, no emergency room visits, and the end result is as well-installed and level as is possible in a house with no true right angles anywhere.

Standing on step-stools with tools is creepy.

Standing on step-stools with tools is creepy.

OK. That’s not true. I’m sure somebody who knew what they were doing and strong enough to hold a proper drill would have rendered hardware more securely attached to the walls, but, hey, it’s fake silk, they don’t weigh much, and if it all falls down I’ll just start screaming until they commit me. I’m pretty sure the state of my windows won’t be as much of a concern under those circumstances.

drapesThey look great. Not much of the glass is covered – that wasn’t my intention. The room is still flooded with light and once I get the prisms properly hung with ribbon from the exposed rod, it’s going to be spectacular.

I told myself I would be immensely pleased with myself if I managed to just get the draperies hung today. But, surprise! I was done by 2:30 after working at a leisurely pace. So then I took to sorting and packing the remaining books, ejected all the flotsam and jetsam from this room, moved furniture around, and began putting the molding back on windows and doors! Hence, my desire to preen.

I was rocking through stuff today.

Rainbow-making prisms

Rainbow-making prisms

I start every weekend with an optimistic to-do list, but, by golly, I’m going to pull it off this time! Tomorrow I finish all the molding except for the pieces I have to replace, plant a hundred crocuses and nearly that many snowdrops, and, with any luck, get some laundry done.

I will be insufferably proud when I check off the last thing on the list tomorrow. Woo hoo! I can’t hardly wait.

prisms (2)An aside: Of course, the downstairs hall is now a mess again, but that’s short term – that stuff will go to Doug’s daughters’ storage unit on Monday. This means there are only 4½ boxes in this room! Those will be dispatched with Doug’s daughter comes for the holidays and we can go through them together.

berry 8 lbs (2)Another aside: Berry is doing better. He’s still at the vet’s. He is still having to be syringe fed. The good news is that he’s not a snotty puppy any longer and he’s put on a pound since they’ve been feeding him that highly stinky food thinned with Karo syrup (oh, gag me now.) Maybe by Monday I can bring a healthy dog home.

And yet another:  I just got news and a pic that Berry is up to 8 lbs!  Yee Haw!

 

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Filed under November 2013

Every Body and a Lot of Things Took a Bath Sunday

bathingbeautyEvery Body and a Lot of Things Took a Bath Sunday

OK, that’s an exaggeration. The two cats did not have a bath though it may not be a bad idea.

The day started with Berry getting a bath. Early evening I had a long, luxurious soak. We’re wrapping up the evening with patio cushions soaking in the tub. In beween bathing events in the tub, there were laundry, dishes, more laundry, and another glorious day in the garden.

gruelLittle Berry Berry is still quite sick. Per the vet’s instructions, I have been feeding him extremely stinky critical care food watered down to the consistency of gruel via a syringe shoved into his mouth every two hours. It’s not pleasant for either of us, but he hasn’t eaten much at all for nearly 3 weeks. Critical care, indeed.

The good news is he seems a little better; the bad news is the gruesome gruel method of feeding provoked a bout of diarrhea this morning. And so we had Bath No. 1.

He was filthy before the attack of diarrhea, but it was harmless dirt. I didn’t want to bathe him given how sick he is and how cold it is. However, the stinky food excreted and soaked into his fur made a bath mandatory. He’s lost nearly 25% of his body weight over the past weeks and every lost ounce showed once he was soaked and lathered.

Poor little guy. We are not going to properly bond at this rate. The wet dog in the picture is Babette. Little Berry looked even more pitiful.

The diarrhea necessitated the washing of couch throws and pillows, my pajamas and the floor. All three probably needed cleaning anyway, but I really wanted to get into the garden. However, stinky critical care food excreted through the bowels of a sick dog left me no choice. I hate being a grownup pretty much all the time, but today especially so.

leafmulchingI did finally get into the garden. I managed to tame the leaves in the fenced part of the yard. The new little electric lawn mower is a peachy leaf mulcher and the old electric leaf blower is a champion mulch placement device. The garden beds giggled as I tucked them in with a couple inches of leafy blanket.

I do not understand why people wage such wars against leaves -war that involves raking and bagging or raking and burning. Chopped up leaves are a blessing and a boon to garden soil particularly that which tends toward clay. And mine doesn’t just tend; I could open a pottery studio. But over the years, leaf mulching has made it possible for me to plant daffodils like a normal gardener which means I don’t have to use the pick axe and auger.

meBy the time I was done, various body parts were complaining loudly. I crawled into the bathtub with Dr. Teal’s Chamomile Epson Salt Moisturizing Bubble Bath. Epsom salts are a gift! Sore muscles and menopause symptoms both will benefit from a long, leisurely soak in slickery, fragrant Epsom salts.

Following the bath, it was time for the next gruesome gruel feeding, but thankfully this one was uneventful. I was thus able to drag patio cushions upstairs to soak in a bath doctored with dishwashing soap and Oxyclean. After the wet summer, I’m afeared the mildew stains are permanent. I’ll probably ending up “dying” the cushions with house stain. I don’t really want dark brown cushions, but they’ll probably not show dirt like pale blue does.

bathingcushionsSo now I’m sitting here drinking wine from the Dollar General (no kidding – another blog post for another time) and thinking about the conversation I just had with Chef Boy ‘R Mine. Damn, I raised him well. (Connie preens and twirls.)

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Filed under November 2013

A Hallelujah Chorus in Leaf Mulch

I love windows.

I love windows.

It did my evil little heart good to get outside in the garden today.

I hadn’t attended to any of the leaves until today because of the cataract surgery. When one lives in a forest, this is, perhaps, not a good idea. I am not exaggerating – I had fallen, unraked leaves that accumulated on their own into 1’ and 2’ piles in the fenced area of the garden.

I did a lot in the garden this past spring. Doug was recently discharged from the hospital and not well enough to be left alone for several weeks. That time period coincided with a streak of beyond-gorgeous weather that makes a body’s heart hurt.

I’m reading a book by Julia Keller titled A Killing in the Hills that is set in West Virginia. I’m not very far into the book, but she astounded me on pages 27-28 with her description of an Appalachia spring. I’ve spent years trying to develop a concise, accurate description that could be conveyed in writing without accompanying photographs.

Keller wrote:

It was a beautiful place, especially in the late spring and throughout the long summer, when the hawks wrote slow, wordless stories across the pale blue parchment of the sky, when the tree-lined valleys exploded in a green so vivid and yet so predictable that it was like a hallelujah shout at a tent revival. You always knew it was coming, but it could still knock you clean off your feet.

leavesImagine if you will that the acres surrounding my barn exploded into a lengthy mountain music version of the Hallelujah chorus. That was this past spring. Imagine now, piles of leaves waist high being mulched with a lawn mower. Can you hear the closing strains of those Hallelujahs as they shelter the plants for the winter under a blanket of leaf mulch. Yes, the wheel turns.

Gardening and writing keep me sane. Last spring, my sanity was hanging by a thread. Some would argue the thread broke. That stretch of spring, with its soaring melody, kept me grounded. Since Doug slept a lot, I spent a lot of time outside – often working by lantern light.

My long-time readers know that my garden is a work in progress – one that began with acres of packed gravel inches deep in unblastable clay. In the beginning, to plant a daffodil required a pick axe and sometimes an auger. After 22 years or so of waging battle against bad dirt, I was sure this year was going to be The Year My Garden Landed on the Cover of Southern Living.

a lot of work

During the 2013 Garden Palooza

By my standards, I poured a ton of money into the ground out back. I painted lawn furniture, bought new cushions, planted a dozen or so shrubs and bushes, and planted flats and flats of petunias and impatiens. I babied a patch of Irish moss, let lavender roam free, and lost all sense of prudence when I bought the fountain and the super-duper-big planter to hold a tropical, vining plant. This was going to be the year.

And then the rains came. The news described them as “scattered storms.” Every one of those scattered storms stalled over the top of my piece of heaven and monsooned. I joked and quipped and carried on about building a lotus pond combo moat to try and keep my barn from sliding off its foundation in a mudslide.

I measured daily rains in inches. Really. If memory serves, we had one of the wettest Mays and Junes of all time and I got more of those scattered storms than most.

Marine Corps Veterans - Daddy and his Good Officer's Wife

Marine Corps Veterans – Daddy and his Good Officer’s Wife

And then Doug went into the hospital for the last time. As I moved into my role as psychopomp, the garden boiled in the wet heat. And then it was overrun with weeds. And then the lawnmower broke. And then I was grieving.

The garden is a mess. A passerby (if I had passerbys) would swear it’s been neglected for decades.

I’m hoping the weather holds for the rest of this Veteran’s Day weekend. I could do some serious cleanup, weeding, this-and-that’s and have a garden ready for frolicking come March. Last year was the first spring I was able to just leap into planting mode without having to spend on weeks on winter clean up. I’m hoping for a repeat.

petunias in november

Petunias in November!

It’s been abnormally warm.  I found blooming petunias today as well as a climbing hydrangea with buds. It’s too much to hope that this weather will hold for long, but I’m enjoying it.  My serotonin levels are enjoying it and I’m pretty sure my Vitamin D got topped off today.

Four months.  I can hang on until then.  Happy Veteran’s Day Weekend, y’all.

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Filed under November 2013

The Wa of 53

Kanji for Wa

Today is my birthday and I’ve turned 53. I remarked the other day that turning 53 is a nothing year. I was immediately bombarded with exhortations to seize the year and whatnot. I didn’t express myself well.I didn’t mean nothing as a negative. Some birthdays are imbued with an energy related to the number we use to mark the passing of time. Turning 13 is a high-energy number; so is 21. The year of 30 stops some people in their tracks. Or it might be 40 or 50 or 60 or 70. The year 25 was fraught with significance for me. This one, 53, is just another turn of the wheel which is not to say it’s not worthy of being something. Terming it a nothing year was a bad choice of words.

The past year has been rough in terms of sheer disruption; a trend that looks as if it will continue for the following year. A long while ago, I discovered that I’m one of those people who needs routine and structure. I discombobulate easily when the external gets a little too free-flowing even though I generally perform well under such conditions. Though the chaos–often chaos of my own creation–drives me crazy, I don’t crawl under the bed in a fetal position and refuse to act until the merry-go-round stops. As much as I want to.

Here at the barn, the chaos has reached critical mass. A black hole is getting ready to implode or explode of mutate into a worm hole or something. For various reasons, the barn home improvement project has been stalled for almost exactly a month. No, I haven’t been in a fetal position under the bed. Well, okay. I haven’t been just in a fetal position under the bed. There have been extenuating circumstances: six day power outage, sprained wrist, handyman delays, work obligations and family events.

I’m on vacation beginning today and continuing all through next week. I have an ambitious to-do list. I’m channeling Scarlet O’Hara, shaking my fist at the sky, and solemnly swearing that I’ll never be hungry again. Wait. No. That’s not quite it.

I’m vowing to jitterbug through this chaos and prevent a Big Bang. I cannot live like this any longer. I tend to measure my success at handling life by how much grace and style I can muster under adverse conditions. Grace and Style exited along with Equanimity when the Wa (Japanese concept of peace, harmony and balance) of my home ended up sitting in the driveway with the rotted bookcases. Even worse, Grace, Style and Equanimity had been threatening to move out for a good while before that. It’s time we were all friends again.

The bookcases were offered to a funeral pyre this week. It’s good to have them gone. I’m surprised at how much better I feel when I drive up the hill and am not immediately reminded of just how badly this project has gone. I suspect the Wa survived the cremation and is napping behind a tree somewhere.

At this stage, I can’t envision the end result, but I’m trusting that by doing what needs to be done Wa will return and wrap its tendrils around my heart and home.

With any luck, 53 will be both a return and an advance.

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Filed under August 2012

Chaos and Trees

From this angle it looks a little serene.

So, no. Today wasn’t a particularly good day to me, but it wasn’t all that bad either.

In giving advice to others, I often tell folks that if they don’t slow down, they’re body will take matters into its own hands. Good advice. I should have listened. My body kept me home today – a myriad of minor ailments no doubt brought on by the heat and the stress and the frenzy. In addition to the headache and what feels like the onset of a cold, I’ve managed to sprain my left wrist. I have no idea how that happened, but it’s a nice companion for the ankle that began swelling a couple of weeks ago. As with the wrist, I’m not sure what’s up with the ankle. The wrist aches, the ankle does not. I once woke up with a broken foot and didn’t know how that happened either. It’s possible I have an active dream life. It’s possible my life is just a lost episode of the Twilight Zone. It’s possible someone has a Connie voodoo doll.

So, I’ve wallowed on this couch today not even pretending to do anything of worth. Given the to-do list, many of the bulleted items bearing firm deadlines, I should feel guilty or at least panicked. But like I said, if you don’t slow down, your body will slow you.

And then the chaos begins to emerge.

So the couch is becoming a favorite. I inherited it from HMO’Keefe who inherited it from his inlaws. It’s a beautiful rattan affair – part of a whole suite of furniture. We know what a furniture junkie I am. I particularly like old furniture with happy vibes. This stuff fits the bill. It’s what you’d call Florida room furniture. At the pied `a terre, we had it in the sunroom where it seemed the room had been made for it. When it came time to move out, there was consternation as to what to do with it. Between Boston Boy and myself, we have 4 sofas none of which we’re willing to part with. So there was a lot of moving stuff around and when it shook out, the guest bedroom turned into Doug’s mancave, my study lost the old library furniture which went to Doug and the rattan furniture came in here. This will create a crisis when one of the younguns comes to visit, but I’ll worry about that later. (I really do think the offspring ought to have a bed to sleep on during their infrequent visits.)

The Hovel

this sofa in here was quite the feat. There’s an awkward corner and turn at the top of the stairs and the sofa was 5/8 of an inch too long. I was determined. Three men told me it wasn’t happening. I was more determined. I took the door molding off. I took the door off the hinges. I took the two strips of wood off the sides of the doorway – the strips that when everything is assembled stops and stabilizes the door. Even then, we beat the hell out of my drywall getting it in here. I’d have taken studs out if I had to.

It’s never coming out of here. I believe we’d have to saw it half to get it out. It suits this room nicely. I’ve sort of an Appalachian Tree House Tiki Hut vibe going.

I’m clocking some hours in here – it’s rough living with someone after years of living alone and liking it. I haven’t actually put a “No Boys Allowed” sign on the door, yet, but I may.

My wrist aches and keyboarding isn’t helping, but, oh well, this too shall pass.

Hovel – Inside

So I have the rattan furniture in here and a giant piece of bamboo my dad brought home from Vietnam. I have the Maiden Mother Crone triptych of torsos and the Maiden Mother Crone painting. My art supplies are stacked here and there and the books are all boxed pending getting the mess downstairs straightened out and replacement shelving installed. My rolltop desk has not been toted up the stairs yet as I can’t do that by myself. Under normal circumstances, the broken zen of this room would grate like the Chef du Hashbrowns at the Waffle House, but this room is the best one in the house right now. Comparatively, it’s an Appalachian beach of treetop calm.

This is a whole lot more overwheming in real life. The hovel is behind the branches on the left.

And speaking of trees, I finally took a good gander at the derechoed (derechod?) trees out back. It’s a freaking mess. It looks like the hovel is spared, but just barely. Cleaning up and preparing the hovel for use again has been on the to-do list forever, but is rising to the top as my need for alone time increases. However, the hovel had structural issues and the vibrations of a giant oak falling may have been the death knell. Shorty, the Whirling Dervish Handyman, will be taking care of the trees in a mañana fashion.

The hovel was born years ago when I needed an alone place and I wanted somewhere I could sit outside and hear the rain. It began life as Chef Boy ‘R Mine’s clubhouse, but he was unhappy sharing it with wasps and abandoned it. I reclaimed it after it had languished empty and forlorn for years. It is lusciously appointed complete with a copper chandelier and Diego Rivera artwork, but has been left to the wildlife for some years now. It’s going to be a righteous mess to clean up. Maybe this fall.

As reality becomes more real and I realize more and more what I can expect, the to-do list becomes frightening. I know I can’t live with this chaos and I know it’s up to me for mitigation. I fervently believe that I must work on “finding contentment in creating chaos” but every area of my life is in flux. And I wonder if I’m to be content with the chaos I create or must I also find peace with that inflicted on me. And if the answer to both is affirmative, do I have to do it at the same time. Are there rules about these things? Probably not – chaos is the absence of rules.

I sometimes hear the echoes of panic.

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Filed under July 2012