Saturday, December 27, 2008

600 geese a-laying…

Michael and I have always considered our backyard our sanctuary. The geese do too. It’s goose hunting season on the eastern shore and every morning we hear the shotgun fire around 7. This morning we didn’t hear it until 7:30. I think the geese are getting smarter... they are hiding out in our backyard.

Have a safe holiday – to the geese and to the rest of you!

P.S. Thanks to Chris for creative input... now if we could only get you over to drywall.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted regularly. My camera broke and I was getting pictures like this:
Definitely interesting, but not quite the documentation we were hoping to keep on getting the house back together. Before purchasing a new camera, I found out that Canon would fix it for free. I’ve been so impressed with Canon – I bought the camera on a whim in California about five years ago and this is the second time they’ve fixed it. So, we’re back on track with photos. Everyone knows a picture is worth a thousand words, and I couldn’t keep up with blogging without photos. More to come…

P.S. The image is of the stud (wall, not Michael) in the office.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

We’ve turned a corner… literally

We bought paint for walls that we put up (and are finishing this weekend). We’ve taken so much apart; I had forgotten how fun it is to put it back together.

I picked the color in about two seconds and the salesman commented that I made the decision fast. While they mixed up the paint in back Michael could see the worry on my face and said, “It’s only paint, we can always paint over it if you don’t like it.”

Perfect comment. Perfect timing. Maybe not a perfect color,
but who cares?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

Meet Bosun.
We had a great time sharing the backyard with him this summer. We learned a lot about him and having a dog. We know he likes chasing flashlights in the dark, a tennis ball any time and sticks of all sizes; likes the water but doesn't like the hose; and likes sunroofs but can't stand convertibles.
I also know now that we're going to have to get a dog because Tami and Andrew want Bosun back tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

SOLD! to the highest bidder…

Years ago Michael and I started going to auctions. We got some great deals and some not so great deals, but we learned a lot about what we liked and what we didn’t. After a couple of auctions, we got to know a few of the local antiques dealers. We weren’t close friends, but we shared in some small talk during lulls in the action. We made up nicknames for the more colorful dealers… there was the eye patch guy, the weird guy, the hat guy and Stinky. While we weren’t creative, we were explicit.

For better or worse, Stinky liked to talk with us a lot. I found myself bidding against him quite a bit. I am more than a little bothered by the fact that Stinky and I had similar tastes, but he gave me some good advice as well as clearing out my sinuses. He assured me that if I beat him out by just a couple of dollars, I was getting a good deal. If he “won” the bidding, he would have to mark up the item at least 50 percent to make it worth his while. So, when I beat him I felt like I was getting a good deal. Conversely, when he beat me I felt like someone was getting ripped off… but it wasn’t me.

These dealers seemed to know what they were doing. They would turn chairs over, pull out drawers, tap on stuff and stand guard by specific items. We learned to do the same, but ultimately our bids came down to what we liked, not what we thought would sell well in a shop.

I really liked two deck chairs. They were a mess and the fabric was so dry rotted that you couldn’t sit in them to test them out. No one seemed interested in these chairs except for us. I didn’t need to stand guard, I didn’t need to worry about outbidding any collectors or dealers. We got the pair for $5.

After sitting in the attic for years and then moving them to the shed at the new house, we pulled them out as I was convinced we could use them on our patio by the pond (that we have yet to finish). I sanded them down, ripped off the material that was in even worse shape after sitting for more time and varnished them with a clear coat. I then reupholstered them with snazzy new outdoor fabric that was on discount at the fabric shop.

I think Stinky and the motley crew of dealers would bid on them now!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father’s Day

(aka: My first house)

My father must be so annoyed with me, but he’s never let on. He (and my grandfather, pop) built my first house for me and I’ve never mentioned it in all my words about our house. Before I even entered kindergarten, I was the proud owner of a detached custom home in Jarrettsville, Maryland. My first home.

I still remember the day we moved and I had to leave the little house behind. We couldn’t take it with us, I was told. I had to leave it for the next little girl to enjoy. And, even though I never met her, I know she loved it too. In fact, when that family eventually had to move, they cut it in half and took it with them to their new home. (What? How could they?)

By building that house for me and sharing in my childhood, my dad taught me that home is in the memories you cherish and not in a building (not even a really cute one with flower boxes and real asphalt shingles), home is in the people you share it with.

Thank you, dad, for making a home for us no matter where we are. Happy Father’s Day!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My words melted…

In my last post I bragged about how much I enjoy summer and that the heat was bearable if not downright pleasant. I was tested on this Sunday morning when the thermometer hit the 90s and our AC stopped. Actually, it shrieked a horrible pained noise and then stopped.

At 9 in the morning, it was warm in the house. We opened windows, turned on fans and slowed down our pace. By noon it was cooler outside only because there was a faint breeze, but it was counteracted by a ferocious sun. By 4, we were in the car heading anywhere with AC. After about 9 glasses of water and a terrific meal, we headed home for a brutal night of sleep. We hooked up a window unit in the living room, but still couldn’t cool down the house.

The next day we rushed to work for institutional AC (ahhhhhh!) and scheduled a repair visit. Most places were so overbooked they couldn’t promise a visit this week, but we found one man (let’s just call him a hero, shall we?) that said he could come that evening after 5. Michael was off to meet him and I stayed in the cool of my office at work. By 8 that evening, we were the proud owners of a capacitor and three pounds of Freon. The house has cooled and we had a restful night of sleep.

Bring on the heat, we're prepared!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

It’s the week after Memorial Day and the sun -- and humidity -- are in full force. It’s also the time of year when those very clever folks ask, “Hot enough for ya?” I think not. This is my favorite time of the year.

To fully appreciate the Maryland summer, I bought a hammock when Michael and I were in Tijuana. Isn’t that why everyone goes there? That was back in December. And in March, I bought another one (don’t expect an explanation).

Spring arrived, and I was ready to lounge in one of the hammocks. But, nature conspired against me. Again. The trees were either too close together, too far apart, too small to risk swinging, or to covered in poison ivy. With thoughts of Goldilocks in my head, I realized there is no home problem that the local hardware store can’t fix.

We bought a hammock stand. So excited was I by the prospect of watching the world of our backyard in the comfort only braided rope can provide, I put it together as soon as we got home from the store.

Turns out, nature isn’t the only thing that conspired against me – the hardware store did too.

Did you know hammocks come in sizes? I do now. Seems both the hammocks I purchased with summer in mind were regular-sized; the stand I bought was for some super-sized hammock monstrosity the size of a parachute.

So after another trip to the hardware store – four feet (felt like 40 pounds) of shiny new chain and two industrial clips later, we were in business. Tuesday evening Michael and I sat comfortably in the regular-sized hammock with a glass of wine in one hand and a magazine in the other.

Bring on the summer… I have hammocks to spare.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I’ve always been told to have my spring plantings in by Mother’s Day. I’m almost going to make it this year, but I’ve been distracted. We have a new family in our neighborhood and they’ve made their home on our deck. We noticed their nest a couple of weeks ago, followed by bright blue eggs. And now we have babies.

Happy Mother’s Day to the new moms (Beth, Jennifer and Kate), the expectant moms (Kelly), those wonderful women in my life who have shown me the care and love of a mom (too many to name), and especially to my mom – I love you all.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

With the right tools, you can do anything…

But somehow nature always wins. And, for the record, mud sits at the top of the nature hierarchy. I’m getting ahead of myself… let’s go back before we go forward.

My fascination with power tools has been widely documented. The bigger and louder, the better. Enter the rented stump grinder. We reserved it Wednesday and hoped for good weather on the weekend because it had rained all week (this is a very important detail that was lost on me). We picked it up on Saturday morning and I was so excited about it that I barely listened to the mechanic who was giving us the low-down on how it worked (no need to draw attention to that detail).

I asked a couple of questions, he answered Michael. I don’t think I can ever fully explain how frustrating that is to me. I asked the question and he looks at Michael when he answers. And, when Michael asked a question, he answered Michael. Argh.

That said, the man was nice and went over the machine even pointing out that one renter once put gasoline in the hydraulic fluid tank when trying to top off the gas. I laughed without seeing where he was pointing. Not a costly mistake as both are clearly labeled and we had no trouble filling up the gas before we returned it.

Again, I’m getting ahead of myself. We hook up the trailer to the van and we’re off. Other traffic (what little there was at this hour in the morning) stayed clear of the van and the towed machine – they knew we meant business. We get home, easily get the grinder off the trailer and get to work.

And, for the record (and for the benefit of those who thought they needed to remind me to wear protective gear when I told them of our weekend plans), we both wore ear protection, goggles, steel-toed boots and leather gloves. A stump grinder is loud, throws wood chips and has a very sharp and fast-moving blade. We both like our limbs and senses which are all still intact.

We started in the front of the house – we blew through about 20 stumps. The first few were a bit clunky, but we quickly became familiar with the controls and worked them with ease. While it was a loud and powerful machine (going 10 inches below the surface to tear out any bit of tree root), the controls were a bit wimpy. I mean, there was no force necessary, no pressure and no shaking. I was expecting a jackhammer for tree roots and it took less effort than a vacuum albeit a lot more fun.

One person could easily run the grinder so I was off to work on another project. While I could have easily picked up one that had been started days or weeks earlier, I didn’t. I started a new one. I ripped out our sidewalk. I could easily go off on a tangent here, but this sidewalk is worth a separate post (and the story is still unfolding).

With Michael working in the back and my station out front, I didn’t see what was going on with the stump grinder. He had been working in the area where we’ve been clearing the phragmites, downed and diseased trees. We were able to save some trees and the work we’re doing will help them to thrive, but again, I’m getting off track. With all of the brush, it was difficult to see just how wet the ground was. The rain from the week before had really made a mess of the area, but we’d been working without problem all day. Until… Michael found a particularly deep stump and the heavy machine was sinking as it was grinding. The stump was gone, but the grinder was bogged down.

Michael got me so that I could run the controls while he pushed it out. He managed to also sink in the mud as the grinder continued its descent into soft ground. Before he was able to pull out the MyGyver magic, I managed to provide some comic relief during a pretty tense moment. As we’d been clearing the area, we had been raking, digging and whatever else you do with brush and limbs. Tools were strewn about the yard and I managed to find an errant rake with my very heavy steel-toed boot and, just like in every Bugs Bunny cartoon I had seen as a child, the handle of the rake quickly found my forehead. I really thought ridiculous things like that only happened in the cartoons.

While I didn’t see birds and stars floating around my head afterward, it did take a few moments to regain my balance and composure. It really hurt, but it was so much funnier than painful. After we both had a good laugh, then McGyver sprung into action. He created a bridge for the tires to get some traction and we got the grinder out. He found a few more stumps that afternoon and we called it a day with only about five stumps left and rain in the forecast. We were exhausted.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, the last day with the grinder. It was raining… and it was not letting up. At about 2 we decided we had better just get out and finish the couple we had left. These stumps were about 20 feet from the water and it’s always damp in that area, and the constant drizzle wasn’t helping. However, we were emboldened by our previous success. We easily got two done and as we finished the third, the grinder was stuck -- really, really stuck. We hit the gas and were both covered in mud and the grinder didn’t move. No worries, we’d build a bridge. We used the same tactic from the day before and our bridge sunk deeper than the tires. We needed a taller, sturdier, wider bridge. Got it! The previous owners had some pavers that we tore out last summer, they would be perfect.

We got the pavers back to the sinking grinder and eased it out of the mud pit one paver at a time. We then used the pavers to make bridges to and from the rest of the stumps. We were covered in mud and soaked, but we were done. We cleaned up the grinder the best we could and delivered it back to the rental place Sunday evening. Since then, we’ve cut all of the wood up for firewood and what we couldn’t use we added to our neighbors burn pile (think Texas A&M).

Our next rental is the industrial tiller… I’m sure it will come with a story, too. And, we’re considering renting an excavator -- that should provide enough material for my first book.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Green Eggs, but no Ham

We’ve been clearing a lot of our backyard. We try to imagine that we’re pioneers settling new land, but we’re rudely brought back to the present by the trash of those folks who lived on this land before us. Amongst the vine covered trees and fragmite, we’ve found wayward car parts, piles of discarded shingles, errant golf balls and even a lonely Christmas tree stand.

So last weekend when I was wielding my favorite power tool (hedge trimmers*) with what some might call reckless abandon, I wasn’t surprised to hit into something that wasn’t plant or tree. But was horrified to find what I did hit – a nest of eggs.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned how sharp the hedge trimmers are – very. In fact, when choosing them at our local farm store, I sliced Michael’s jacket. Doesn’t everyone try out trimmers in the store without the protective cover? Needless to say, we were sold on the spot.

Back to the eggs. The jacket fared better than the two eggs on top. However, the five underneath were in perfect shape – and the shape was just like a chicken egg, but larger and an off green color. Michael and I were clearly not going back to yard work when we had a mystery on our hands. What bird lays eggs in the ground and leaves them? Other than the obvious answer of a stupid bird, we decided to explore further. Because the two eggs on top were broken, we looked inside to see if we could see any pre-animal shape. Nope, just like any other egg we’ve opened. Strike one.

Could it be a heron? And if so, I should probably get a new name for “Harry.” But, no, strike two. Heron eggs are light blue and herons smartly build nests in trees.

Turtles? We were pretty excited at this possibility. We’ve already had three new turtles in the pond this year. That excitement was short lived as turtle eggs are small, much smaller than what we found. Strike three.

So we went inside and turned to the internet. We found a bird in the UK that was known to lay green eggs. Strike four (if you’re still counting)… location ruled us out for that one.

After looking at a lot of pictures and doing a bit more research, the eggs are probably from a duck. And, we’ve had two male ducks following a female duck around the pond lately... definitely adds credibility to this theory. We originally thought the ducks had abandoned the nest, but it turns out that ducks will lay an egg every couple of days and only sit on the nest after she has a full “clutch.” So, we’ve left the eggs there hoping she’ll come back.

Still, I was hoping they were dinosaur eggs and fancied Kent Island as Jurassic Park. But ducks are nice, too.

* little sidebar on the hedge trimmers -- a birthday present from Michael a couple of years ago. Oh, and don’t laugh, he got a chainsaw that year. I came out way ahead in that deal!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Living with Macgyver

Let me start this by saying that I’ve never seen the show. But who doesn’t know the cultural icon?

I call Michael “Macgyver” all of the time. Not really my most clever nickname (he has many), but it’s appropriate as he is really handy. Once when we were boating he fixed the engine with a fishhook. It was amazing. He bent it and attached engine parts and we were off.

Of course, there is a down side to living with Macgyver. He doesn’t understand the concept of too old, too run down or just plain broken. Oh, he’s a wee bit stubborn, too.

Last summer we bought a tiller from our neighbor at a yard sale. In its day, it was a really good tiller (circa 1940 in my mind). But for only a $50 investment, it seemed worth the gamble. It turns out the tiller was a bigger project than anticipated and he needed parts to make it go. Lucky for us (written with a smirk), we went to an outdoor auction and found the exact same model and we bought it for $5. Now $55 dollars in and countless Macgyver hours, we have one tiller that operated for about 45 minutes and one tiller carcass. In that magical 45 minutes, he tilled a swath of grass in the middle of the yard about 3 feet by 10 feet.

We’ve decided to rent a tiller as we had a good experience renting other power tools (stay tuned for an entry on the stump grinder). However, Michael’s already on to his next project. Who am I kidding? Projects… many, many projects.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our biggest tax break – our home.

I don’t like tax time. It’s not just that I don’t like paying taxes (and, really, who does?), it’s that my mom is a CPA and she’s basically missing in action from mid-January until now. However, what I do like is what we can now deduct… insulation, mortgage interest, home office space.

So, happy tax day to all and welcome back to the land of the living, mom. We missed you.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Child Labor Laws

...are non existent in our home.

Playtime at our house includes caulking. Toxic foam is fun, right Jack? We'll leave the heavy lifting and sharp tools for Jack's older sister, Carleigh.

We are definitely in the running for aunt and uncle of the year.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pink is the new green

I wasn't sure what to call this post. My other option was “caffeine and caulk don't mix.”

But, really, they do.

Michael and I spent Sunday air sealing our home. Winter is definitely the time to find drafts and cold spots. Plus, having the walls down makes it particularly easy. We used caulk, foam, standard insulation – all of which ended up on me. Turns out caulk is the easiest to get off of the skin, aerosol foam is the most difficult, and insulation just itches.

I’m convinced that the way we are insulating our home is adding some to the structural integrity. It's certainly adding to the efficiency. Soon we’ll be on to drywall… I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rural Drive-by

Yesterday was unseasonably warm...about 65 and sunny. Michael and I decided to take a casual walk around the block. On our way we passed a very large field. In the summer it’s full of soybeans, but on Monday is was full of geese.

Anyway, we were talking and walking and in our own little world when – bang! Or whatever a shotgun sounds like
it’s just a sound you know when you hear it. We swing around to see a huge shotgun with a boy attached and hundreds of geese in the air. He jumps in a waiting truck and with a squeal (the tires, not the boy), they were on their way.

Seriously, a drive-by shooting in our quiet little town. I wonder if we’ll be featured on Cops.

P.S. If you’re keeping track as I am, this event marks the second gun sighting since we’ve been here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sushi, anyone?

I’ve already documented some of the wildlife we’ve seen in our yard. Recently, we had a “drop in” visitor.

It’s winter. So, we expect geese, an occasional heron, but not much more... it’s too cold. The other day, we were checking out the frozen pond and we came upon an eel. It was about four feet away from the pond and covered in leaves. It didn’t come from the pond (or so we think/hope). Our best guess is that a heron or some other bird dropped the eel as it flew. He must have been a fighter… we gave him a burial at sea.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day, Michael

Your mom once told me that if we made it through our house renovation, we’d make it through anything. The house may not make it, but I’m sure we will. I couldn’t be happier that we’re tearing this house apart and making it our own. I look forward to many more years with you – with or without the house.


P.S. According to a really great web site, this is the new face of Valentine’s Day – no more paper cards, flowers and frivolous gifts. Dinner still sounds good to me though.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New Beginnings…

It’s a new year and I’m going to make every effort to document our progress (or lack thereof) on the house. Michael and I hit a snag in our planning, but I think we’re back on track.

As we watched the sun set in San Diego over Christmas, we decided to put the house back together again. For some time, we thought we should just knock the whole house down and start from scratch. But, we’ve come full circle.

Even though the sun sets every day, it’s inspiring every single time. I’m glad the trip to California helped to inspire us again.

Happy new year. Happy new house.