Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10

I love the lists at the end of the year – nice reminders and a countdown of sorts. We live with lists every day with our house projects – we have separate lists, a combined list on a dry erase board and a working spreadsheet on the computer. Even with all of those lists, I can’t help but do a list to capture all of the reasons I am glad we moved here, so here goes and in no particular order….

10. Our next door neighbor who clears our driveway after it snows – every snow storm (we offer a bottle of honey Wild Turkey in return).
9. The same neighbor throws parties for any reason – separation party, reconciliation party and a divorce party (all in one year and we are always invited!), but also lights fireworks on random days. Mostly Sundays and Tuesdays.
8. Drivers used to stop and ask if I needed help when running through the streets. Once they realized I did it on purpose, those same drivers stop to offer encouragement.
7. Harry, the heron, who has become the closest thing we’ll have to a pet. He stops by daily to eat from the pond.
6. The liquor store that offered toilet paper during the Hurricane. Also, Hurricane related: all of the neighbors who ignored the mandatory evacuation offered whatever they could to help one another.
5. The local crabbers (Mark and Earl) who always offer me deals and tell me when I should skip them because they don’t want to upset a “local.” Never thought I’d be so happy to be called a local, but that is a huge deal on Kent Island where folks that moved here 20 years ago are still called “chickenneckers.”
4. The family down the street that just got electricity and sits outside all summer long drinking beer always offering us one as we walk by. I said yes once, and I will have friends for life in them.
3. The older couple next door (the other side) that always offers me cuttings of plants and extra vegetables from their garden. Since I’ve started gardening, I’ve been able to return the favor.
2. All of the dogs in the neighborhood – Duke who used to run with me and his illegitimate offspring, Angel, who doesn’t have the personality that Duke did, but is a good reminder of his father; Raven the huge black lab that may be the stupidest but sweetest dog around; Libby who ignores us as we walk by and is just like her family; Frick and Frack, basset hounds, that protect their yard as fiercely as slow, fat, friendly dogs can. Unfortunately, there is one exception. We call him “Yappy.” Enough said.
1. Last but not least, we’re calling this our house now, not Bob and Mary’s. That doesn’t mean we don’t still blame them for some of the crazy things done in this house, but we celebrate every one that we fix in our house.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Come on, Irene

We’re catching up on the blog so there will be some random, out of sequence posting.

In September, our area was under a mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Irene. Sounds pretty scary, right? We did a bit of research that consisted of polling our neighbors on what that meant. Most importantly, we found out that that doesn’t mean you have to leave your home. However, you have to understand that it means you will have no access to services provided by the county – fire, medical, etc. – until the evacuation is lifted. We also found out that the only neighbors that were heading off the island were all elderly folks and planned to use those emergency services. They took off, the rest of us stayed.

As the hour of mandatory evacuation and bridge closures neared, we prepped our house and ourselves. We made a list of what we had to do. We took off of work early and began our preps.

First? A trip to the liquor store where we stocked up and the local merchant handed out toilet paper to its customers. We already liked the owners, but this made us customers for life (as long as we survived the storm, that is!).

Next up was the hardware store. With wine and beer out of the way, we could concentrate on other preparations. I should note that the liquor store was way busier than the local hardware store. Anyway, we bought a new chainsaw (we needed one anyway) and five gallon buckets to store water. At the grocery store (by far the most crowded stop we had), we purchased ice. I’m still not sure why there were such lines to buy food when the likelihood of losing power was so high – why buy more to spoil?

Having learned our lessons from Hurricane Isabel (September 2003) at the old house, we felt pretty confident with our planning. That storm had a huge surge that flooded the neighborhood. We knew our current house didn’t get swamped in that storm – the former owners told us so, but I didn’t believe them so I checked with their insurance agent to confirm. Our house is 14 feet above mean low water and the last surge was seven feet above. But, the frenzied meteorologists were calling for a much larger surge, and we would be prepared.

We also knew if the roads flooded, our cars would be useless so we had kayaks and bikes set up by our front door and the boats in the backyard tied to the deck. We moved all of the deck furniture indoors so that they wouldn’t fly around and crash into the house (the meteorologist were calling for high winds). We were sure we would lose power so we had ice in all of our coolers stocked and filled tons of containers with water including the new buckets and stationed them in the bathroom and the kitchen. Back in 2003, our power was out for six days. Given that we are in a more rural area now, we thought this could be longer.

We hunkered down and waited. And waited. And nothing. Yes, it rained and there was some wind. A few old or dead trees around the neighborhood fell down and the power was out for about 14 hours. We weathered the storm just fine, and I didn’t tell my mom about the mandatory evacuation until after it was lifted.

One more thing, we know we were lucky as the storm was devastating to the north of us.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A picture is worth a thousand words...

And my camera broke.
Welcome to the family, Canon Powershot S95!


On a tour through Brussels, I met the nicest plant. Our guide had purchased it that morning at the market and brought it with him. It was love at first sight for me, but it quickly developed into love for life after having smelled it’s citrus scent. There was no tag, no name and nothing familiar about this plant. I asked, but learned that he discovered it in Thailand and this was the first time he’d seen this plant in his home, Brussels.

He was almost tree-like, but had these spectacular bursts of red to yellow flowers and a scent that I won’t soon forget (the plant, that is, not the guide).

Having met this exotic creature, I’m questioning my newfound commitment to planting natives. How fickle the gardener’s heart can be…

Homesteading is not for me

Or, I could have called this post: Grocery Stores are Great.

I picked 52 tomatoes and 6 cucumbers the other day, so I knew canning was in my future. I’ve done regular tomato canning in the past and decided I should save a step and make sauce right away complete with fresh basil from the garden. The sauce is terrific and fresh, but after 52 tomatoes and 8 hours in the kitchen, I ended up with 4 measly pints of sauce.

The cucumbers went much better. Six cucumbers netted 6 jars of relish, but seriously, who needs 6 jars of relish… ever?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Going to Pot

I was in search of soilless growing material. I had no idea what it was or what it looked like, but knew that a search online brought many sites for growing marijuana at home. I ventured to Home Depot and the result was really no different than my fruitless online search. Then I went to our local nursery (a brief aside, it’s called Lowe’s. I think it’s an unfortunate name because of the big box store of the same name. They are a really nice family and helpful, so I overlook the confusing name and expect the unproductive conversation Michael and I always have when I say I’m going to Lowe’s.).

Anyway, the folks at Lowe’s knew exactly what I wanted. And I spent about half an hour explaining why I needed it -- not to grow illegal drugs at home, but to try out my first garden experiment of 2011: lettuce boxes.

I heard about these from a Master Gardener Class I took earlier this year (yes, I understand how dorky that sounds!). I found the directions here. Rather than buying new wood, wire and screen, I decided to use found objects around the house/shed/garage. Other than buying the soilless growing material, cheapo handles and wheels for easy transport, these boxes were pretty low-cost and should bring months of salads this summer and into fall.

Here are the steps that I’ve gone through so far:

1. My intricate and detailed plans.
2. Box frames in various stages of finish -- I added screen on the inside, and mesh to hold the fake soil and plants to come.
3. The boxes full of the soilless growing material and seeds.
4. Small little shoots of lettuce.
5. Finally, a close-up of the lettuce – they are about 2 inches high right now.

I hope step #6 will be to rinse and add vinaigrette.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Potty Humor

Just one of the many differences between us... Michael reads the description for the incinolet, an electric incinerating toilet, and considers it a viable option for our upcoming bathroom remodel. I read it and think of, um, burning shit.

Don't get us started on the urinal debate...

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Good-buy, VW

A nice man Michael found on ebay bought his VW. We hadn’t even tried to start it for years. We have so many projects that take priority over this cute, but needy car. I have fond memories of the Rabbit – I bought my first Christmas tree in it and drove it home to Fell’s Point with the top down... in the snow. Michael also has fond memories, but the only one I remember is that he was struck by lightning in it. I think that explains the electrical issues with the car, but that’s a story for another time.

The gent that bought it has the time and patience to get it back into fighting shape. After towing it away, he stopped by the following weekend to tell us that he got it started on the first try. I thought Michael was going to snatch the keys from him on the spot. He didn’t, and now we’re focused on our list of projects – one project shorter!

Raise the Roof

...and other "weekend" projects that took two months to complete.

We finished the roof in about six million not-so-easy steps literally consulting multiple books while on top of the house. I’ve highlighted the top 10 here.

1 & 2: We both worked to get the multiple layers of shingles off, and then the plywood. Demolition really is the most fun part, but this one made me nervous – what if we couldn’t put it back together?

3: We passed the point of no return when we got the plywood off. This picture was taken from inside looking out. We realized that this addition was certainly not to code with sistered 2 x 4s holding up the structure.

4: We fixed that by adding 2 x 12s and now this is probably the most sturdy part of the entire roof.

5: The view from the ground was scary.

6: But the view to the ground with all of the debris was worse.

7: Pretty new plywood was the foundation for our new roof.

8: And to be sure it stays nice and dry, we added ice and water shield. It’s a low slope roof and we over-engineered it. Quite proudly, I should add.

9: The shingles were the most fun part. We were able to match the rest of the roof and you can’t even tell we were up there. Well, except for the very important fact that the roof no longer leaks into the house.

10: We finished late one cold night. This photo shows our handiwork of adding in a light tube over the shower.

There is finish work still to be done and insulation to add on the inside, but the bulk of work on the roof was done just in time for winter. The good news is that we were able to do the project without damage to the house or ourselves.

The bad news? We now think we can do anything. A little fear in home renovation is a good thing, and we've lost it... at least until the next big project.