The Eternally Moving Broom

I ran into my friend Emily at one of the Zinc Kings gigs last week, and she asked what exciting projects I’ve been working on at the big house.  I didn’t really have a good answer, in part because of the holidays, and in part because the low hanging fruit has all been picked.  What’s happening now is a lot of mowing, sweeping, setting up and tearing down of holiday decorations, and walking the dog. In other words, the important stuff. I have some projects I’m interested in finishing, others I want to get started, but most of my “house time” is maintenance, or at the very least finishing projects that were “done” a while ago and left a mess.  I guess it’s a philosophical shift into middle age. That may sound like a rather dramatic pronouncement, but I’ve observed a shift in how I do things lately.  In part its due to the fact that I can afford to hire people to work for me, eat out every once in a while, slow down and read a book (and not feel guilty), and I don’t have to bust my butt finding gigs just to keep the lights on.  I think it’s also in part due to the fact that I’m not 20 anymore.  Or 30.  Soon I won’t be 40 anymore. Being “not as young as I used to be” doesn’t really bother me.  I feel good, and while maintenance of a house (or myself) isn’t the most sexy thing, it really fits well with my personality.  I like pushing a broom.  I like weeding the garden.  Changing...

Recaps, Reduxes, and Radials

I haven’t blogged in a while, but it’s not for lack of things to write about.  In fact, I’ve had so many ideas I can barely get started before I lose my thought and get excited about something else. But let me talk about the summer.  And food.  And motorcycles.  Well, since the motorcycle things is so big, let me just talk about that. A while ago, I bought an old (1980) Honda motorcycle.  It didn’t run, but it maybe could run, if I kept at it.  So I kept at it, and with the help of Racing Smith Motorcycles up the street, got it put back together.  Mostly. One afternoon I was out riding, or trying to ride as the case may have been, and I couldn’t get above 30 miles per hour.  Then the speedometer cable came unhooked.  At one point I noticed the brake lights weren’t working either and shouted to the wind, “I have a job, I don’t have to drive JUNK anymore!”  The next morning I went out to the garage and saw a puddle of oil six feet around underneath the old bike.  I decided then and there to go to the dealer and buy something new, reliable, sexy, and running. I bought something called an NC700x by Honda.  It’s a mid-sized motorcycle, practical, efficient, reliable.  It’s the same Honda that makes cars, so when you buy one, you get a Honda. At some point I decided it would be a good idea to ride my new motorcycle up to MI.  To be honest, I decided I was going to do it before I even...

These Waning Days

Summer is closing fast.  Kids are back to school, the plants in the garden are getting rangy, and I’m thoroughly tired of mowing the lawn multiple times a week. I just got home from a trip to NY, where I discovered that hot weather is miserable even up north.  So we’re all sort of ready for it to end. Fall is my favorite season, so I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also really hesitant to wish my days away.  There are so few of them.  Instead I’m trying to take advantage of this hot and muggy time to harvest as much garden produce as possible, and I take these odd evening walks around the yard in the faux-cool of the evening.  Odd because my yard isn’t that big, and I’m usually smoking a pipe, staring into space. If my neighbors are paying any attention (and the older I get, the more doubtful I am that they are), I’m sure it looks like I’ve slipped out of the looney bin and am slow-motion careering around the yard having lusty conversations with the fireflies.  In reality, I’m in my own head, planting flowers and trellises.  I’m putting in apple trees and hollies.  I’m imagining the sweet taste of next year’s figs.  I’m imagining the climbing of the jasmine, and its energetic race toward the sun. Sammi has made her peace with the fence I put in last year, and now sits happily in the overlong August grass.  The tomatoes and okra that go overripe or woody get tossed out to the yard where she happily chases, engages in a victory lap (that all...

One Less Way to Die

It recently occurred to me that many of my house projects are framed around the idea that, “If I don’t fix this, someone might get hurt.”  I suppose that’s one of the joys of a fixer-upper. I posted some photos to Facebook a few weeks back about my sun room floor: The floor had been eaten by termites.  It used to be a kitchen back in the halcyon days of my castle being a rental property.  Five kitchens and six bathrooms, and none of them saw anything like care or maintenance for a long time. So it should come as no surprise that things leaked, bugs got in and found a ready source of water and food, and no one seemed to notice. That is until the floor started to cave in.  For reference, the sun room is on the east (right) side:   The boards that hold up a floor are called joists.  They are important.  They hook into a bigger board called a sill plate.  It is very important.  Apparently, tasty as well, if you happen to be  a termite. My stalwart carpenter/handyman Tony oversaw some demolition, as well as the replacement of the sill plate.  Demolition sounds fun, until you watch people do it to your own house. I helped a bit.  I removed random live electrical wires.  Because it got cut into so many apartments, and then back again, wiring ran all over the place.  Plumbing too.  I made it my job to keep my guys from dying.  See a pattern here? The previous home owner had attempted some repairs, most of which just made the...

The First Floor

I’ve been writing and posting some photos of my floors.  Specifically, photos of the process of refinishing and re-doing the 2nd-worst room in the house: the upstairs sleeping porch. For Northerners, or those not familiar with old houses, a sleeping porch is a room with lots of windows and ventilation for hot summer nights.  In the days before air conditioning, this room would get stocked with cots and beds in the summer by the servants so the homeowner and family could sleep in comfort.  I think it was used primarily for storage in the winter.  It’s a tradition that has since disappeared, in part because of air conditioning, perhaps in part because closets are in fashion now (wouldn’t it be nice to have a closet again…), but also because the rooms tend to be drafty and hard to heat in the winter. My cousin Emily moved in and decided that all those windows would make for a nice bedroom.  My last post about doing floors showed off the original condition of the room: asbestos tiles, blue sponge paint, and despair.  Under the tiles was 100 year old oak floor, and beige paint of sufficient quantity and quality can hide a multitude of painting sins. I did a lot of the grunt work, but Emily got every step of the process “over the hump” so to speak.  I sanded for weeks to get the glue off the floor, then down through the scratches and prior finish.  She finish-sanded, and I handed her a bucket of stain. It’s the sort of work that makes fixing up an old house worth it....