Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Secret Garden - Chapter One

Jeremy and I both love the story of the Secret Garden. We keep telling people now that we feel like we've moved into the Secret Garden!

Mysterious plants have been springing up for the last month or so. I find that if I don't carefully comb over the yard every other day or so, I'll suddenly see some flower or 2 foot tall stalk of something that I'm sure wasn't there before. We've also added to our collection because a neighbor a few houses up has been very generous with her extra plants, handing over a couple dozen irises, a phlox, and some others.

As I mentioned earlier, we have a ton of raspberries and blackberries. A lot of those plants were dead stalks so we cut those back and that really made the yard look a lot cleaner. The berries are starting to flower no, so hopefully there will be fruit on the way!

I've had a couple people come over to help me identify what on earth we have, so, here's what we have (so far):

This is a Shooting Star, one of the first flowers that came up in the yard.

Rhubarb of course. This picture is from 3 weeks ago and these are much bigger now. We've also found rhubarb in two other spots in the yard.

Violets. We have tons of these, in purple, white, and in between.

This is one of our many trees, a Mountain Ash. We also have a Kitalpa, Ginkgo, Birches, and some we don't know the name of.

And the cherry tree of course. This is from three weeks ago when it was just starting to bloom. It has since bloomed, the petals have fallen, and fruit is growing everywhere!

These are the only tulips that came up this year. The others got rolled over when we moved the chicken coop in and they never recovered. They'll be back next year.

This is a glorious big Bleeding Heart in the front yard. We have two or three others on the side yard.

Ah, Creeping Charlie. I used to hear about this stuff, everyone hates it around here it seems. But I'd never seen it until we moved to this house. It is everywhere. And frankly, I really like it! It's a better ground cover than grass (which has to be mowed), it transplants beautifully (doesn't even bat an eyelash) and looks nice. So I'm not tearing it up and swearing at it, like most people around here.

Strawberries! I just discovered these last week hiding out in some other plants at the base of one of our Gingkos. I've seen lots of blooms, so perhaps we'll get some berries. But maybe not - I think they're wild.

This beauty is a Phlox. I've discovered there are a lot of varieties - we have at least three. This one is on a stem about 8-12 inches high.

This is another Phlox that popped up recently. It's on a stem (more like stalk) about 2+ feet high.

This is a Wild Geranium. We have several in the yard, but this is the only one to bloom so far, just on Monday.

This is our lovely patch of ferns. We actually have two varieties but I can't get a good shot of the others. I only include this because I didn't think ferns grew around here (it being so hot in the summer and cold in the winter) but they grow quite well here.

And lastly, this unknown guy. It just bloomed a day or two ago and I can't remember what it is. Goat's Beard? Astilbe? Something else? Anyone out there know?

That's it for now. Amazingly, there are way more! But I'm waiting for things to bloom before posting pictures. It won't be too long before there is another whole crop of blooming things. So exciting!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

No roof over our heads

The last week since we moved in has been long and busy and crazy! We moved most of the rest of our stuff on Saturday, but even today we still have a little bit still left over there to pick up.

I spent days and days painting the living room and kitchen. Our builder arrived on Monday to start setting things up for his work and we had the furnace people in starting Wednesday. So as I'm painting the kitchen on Wednesday, the HVAC team is pounding, banging, and sawing away in the basement - while the builders are pounding, banging, and sawing away in the attic! We took the drop ceiling out of the bathroom to reach the pipes, so for every whack of the hammer or dropped piece of wood, chunks of plaster and insulation rain down out of the bathroom ceiling.

Enough chatting, here are the photos!

First, our builder put up supports for the roof:

He brought in scaffolding and lots of wood. These are the LVLs that will make the ridge beam (or whatever it's called).

Thursday night, Jeremy and I took the shingles off most of the south side of the roof.

Friday morning, we took the tar paper off to reveal the original sheathing on the roof. Look at those big beautiful boards! They don't build 'em like that anymore.

And then the builder started taking the roof off...

Then the framing started to go up...

With the framing all up, it was finally quitting time! I think the two guys wrapped up around 9pm. Not a bad day's work. They wrapped it all up in plastic for the weekend - so here is what it looks like inside now:

One always discovers interesting things when one takes apart a house. For instance, when the HVAC people were putting a new wall vent in the living room, they cut through the floor and discovered this:

Look closely and you'll see, from the bottom up, the sub-floor, the original hardwood floors, a layer of 5/8" plywood, a layer of 1/4" plywood, a layer of 1/2" plywood, then the parquet flooring!

We also discovered that under the old clapboard siding on the house is an older layer of siding called shiplap. And, in some parts of the house they did flat framing - which means they put the two-by-fours in "flat" making the walls more like 2 inches think instead of 4 inches thick. A pain in the rear if you're trying to run ductwork between the studs and the ductwork is deeper than 2 inches!

That's all for now. It's been a long delay because we still don't have internet (for real) at the old homestead. The computer has Windows 2000 which is apparently so incredibly old and obsolete, we can't download the router software to connect to the internet. So we have to upgrade the OS first. That means backing up all the files. And finding the original software for everything on the computer...which is packed in one of a gazillion unlabeled boxes...stacked high in the packed out garage. Oh joy. If you don't hear from me in a few days, send someone out to the garage to rescue me!

Friday, May 15, 2009


We've been busy this week. We kept plugging away at the attic and went from this on Wednesday:

looking to the west, all the plaster is off...

looking to the east...a huge pile of plaster to cart away...

To this on Thursday!

all the plaster, lathe, insulation, railing, and carpeting gone

Our floors are painted green on the east side and red on the west side. The stairs are alternating orange and red. Very interesting. Our builder speculates it's actually gold and maroon - the colors for the University of Minnesota. Hmmm.

We've also been busy outside. Jeremy has almost finished the French drain on the north side. It drains into a rain garden in front of the house. More pics on that later.

As soon as the demo dust had cleared, we started in on the first floor. The first floor bedroom was a mess. It had been used as a paint studio I guess so there was paint spattered and smeared and dripped all over the walls. We got that all painted and started moving into painting in the living room. It's not done yet, but we're moving in tomorrow anyway! Yay!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pardon our dust while we...demolish!

We've been working on gutting the finished attic in the house. I cannot believe how much material is in that small space! Piles of plaster, lathe, drywall, trim, and cellulose insulation - to name a few.

For a couple days Jeremy and I went at it together with hammer and crow bar. I think we went from this...

to this... about an hour!

It's kind of fun whacking and pounding and tearing the plaster off a wall, but it's hard work of course.

Then on Wednesday Jeremy got the news that we needed to do more work in the north side to get the basement drier. So Jeremy told me the rest of the demo was up to me and he was going outside!

Outside, on the north side, from front to back of house, from side of house to fence, was a thicket of blackberries, raspberries, and other random plants and the soil is sloped toward our basement. Plus, the window wells were full of bricks and dirt and leaves so basically when it rains - water pours in through the windows.

We spent a lot of time in the previous weeks digging out the berries and moving them to other spots in the yard.

Starting Wednesday night, Jeremy went to town. With the help of our next-door neighbor, he cut down the chain link fence between us and our neighbor moved the rest of the berries to his garden area.

Then Jeremy had to dig out the fence posts which were dug deep and set in concrete - I'm sure they would have withstood a tornado or atomic bomb.

Then Jeremy popped in some lovely new metal window wells.

Next he'll get started on the French drain. But enough about Jeremy.

Back to me.

We'd gotten all the plaster down on the east side, now I had to get down all the lathe and the blown-in insulation. Since a lot of this was over my head, I decided to don the bunny suit.

This photo is actually from when we were doing some mold work. I didn't wear the ventilator mask, but just a regular paper mask. I wore some big goggles though to keep stuff out of my eyes - not that it helped in the end.

So there I am in my full (and quite baggy) Tyvek suit, from little footies to a hood, a face mask, goggles, and gloves. Not an inch of skin is uncovered. And it's a bit toasty in the attic. Probably 70 or 80 I'd guess. Dust is swirling everywhere. My glasses and the safety goggles are fogging up and forming huge beads of condensation. The swirling dust sticks to everything. I can hardly see a thing. I'm sweating like crazy in my big baggy suit. I can feel sweat trickling down my arms into my thick, swampy rubber gloves.

But will I give this suit up? Heavens no! I'm working over my head prying lathe off the ceiling and raining down all over me is dirt, dust, bits of lathe, chunks of plaster, clouds of insulation, pieces of shingles, nails, drywall, pieces of wood, trash left over from the guy who put the last roof on, and other random things.

Jeremy joined me briefly last night to demo some on the east side. Here is what you look like if you don't wear a bunny suit:

So we got the east side mostly done: plaster, lathe, and insulation gone. Since this last photo I've got the closet space mostly cleaned out as well. We've been piling everything on the other side, so I hope our dumpster shows up soon so we can get rid of all this stuff!

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's a May Day thing

It's a parade. It's a community event. It's a tradition. It's a festival. It's art. It's random! Anyone and everyone can be in the parade. There is nothing motorized about it - no cars - it's all people-powered. The first Sunday of May every year. You just have to be here to understand (and even then you might not understand!)

But here are some images nevertheless...

The falling house of debit/credit cards:

Stilters, a must at May Day!

Big pigs, some on stilts!

Some very interesting folks with weird musical instruments and a giant piggy bank (or boar bank?)

My favorite parade bears, the grizzly and the polar, and one of the biggest bicycle contraptions pulling a very large wooden...thing.

Band on a bike!

Ah, May Day. Can't wait to see what you come up with next year!