Monday, June 30, 2008

Stand By Me

Sandy tagged me! I'll play along.

“The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.”

1) What were you doing 5 years ago? Working as a dispatcher, but at a different agency; living with my mom; and raising a teenager. My life's a little different now!

2) What are 5 things on your to-do list for today? Pull some more shingles (of course!), cut out pieces for the slipcovers for the cushions on my wicker furniture, sweep the back porch floor, fix supper for my shift partner and myself, give my son's fiancee a list of our Illinois relatives.

3) What are 5 snacks you enjoy? Cheese and crackers, frozen fruit bars, olives, chips & salsa, Cinnamon Life cereal.

4) What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire? Pay off my church's roof debt and donate them some money, pay off my mortgage and my son's mortgage, give my mom a pile of money for all she's done for me, restore my house with no regard for costs, and go to work part-time instead of full-time.

5) What are five jobs you’ve had? Waitress, legal secretary, recruiter at a private military school, customer service agent at an insurance company, convenience store clerk.

I am tagging:
Christine at
Ranty at
Nate at
Jen&Stan at
and (last but certainly not least!)
nv at

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Family Stone

More of the same, so here are highlights from this weekend.

Did I mention I'm afraid of heights? Yep, I believe this was previously covered. I couldn't bring myself to climb up on the bump-out roof, so my son came over Saturday to take the shingles off of the terrifying part of the house.

He scrambled up there and said, "I'll have these off in no time." Here, he's taking off the ugly trim pieces over the shingles. While I was taking this photo, my Uncle Arlie and Aunt Helen drove by and saw Dylan doing all the work while my mom, my son's fiancee Sarah and I stood in the yard and watched. "What the heck?!" my uncle said. "Dylan's doin all the work!" I laughed and said, "We're a union shop."

And here he is 45 minutes later, after admitting temporary defeat ("Mom, these things are held on with three rows of nails apiece!") and being reminded by Sarah that he promised to take her to Olive Garden. He'll be back on his next day off to work some more.

While he was doing that, I did a little scraping and found some paint history:

I like that yellow-tan paint. How 'bout you? It's the first coat of paint on the clapboards.

My favorite antique store owner, Sue McGraw, drove by. (She owns Missouri River Antiques here in town.) "I didn't even realize you had stained glass windows until you got those ugly shingles off!" she said with a big smile.

Here's what we got done Saturday.

Later my neighbor Joann walked by with her little dog Peri and yelled across the street, "Your house is gonna be so damn cute!"

I think so, too.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Today did not begin well. I reached up above my head, prybar in hand, and started cranking on a shingle. A shower of white sand-like stuff fell out on me, along with about a thousand ants. Mostly in my hair and under my gloves. Yuck! But the morning improved immensely just a short time later when a group of ladies out walking stopped by. One of them turned out to be Teresa Kenney, the woman in the 1947 photo of the house! I'd have hugged her if I wasn't filthy and covered with ants. We told the other ladies our story--that Mrs. Kenney and her husband lived in the house when they were newlyweds, back when the house was two apartments. It was wonderful to see her. After all, Mrs. Kenney and the photograph she gave me are the inspiration for this project. Short workday on the house because I had to go to one of my paying jobs this afternoon. As I was cleaning up, my neighbor Carl Fredrickson, who owns The Parsonage Bed & Breakfast across the street in a beautiful Queen Anne, came over and said, "I'll sure be glad when you get done with this house." I asked him if he said that because of the mess he and his guests can see from the B&B. "Oh, no!" he replied. "I said it because I can't wait to see what the house looks like!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Cable Guy

The shingle-ripping has moved out into the open! Here's yesterday's progress:

(I fell asleep before posting it last night.)

(That vertical line you see is my, ahem, Christmas lights.)

And here's the house as of quitting time today:

(The narrow wire going across the lower part of the house is the electrical to the front doorbell. Nice, huh? The black wire is my DirecTV cable. Read on for more wire news.)

My progress seems to be slower since moving to the front of the house, and I think there are some very good reasons for that:
1. It's hot as blazes here, so I'm taking frequent breaks indoors to sprawl on the floor in the a/c and drink Gatorade when I get up. Three 24-oz. bottles of Gatorade a day. Love that stuff.
2. Lots of people have been coming by, and I usually pause in what I'm doing to talk to them, especially if it's someone I think might offer to help.
3. For part of the work, I'm up on a 16' extension ladder and...and, um...I am afraid of heights. There. I admitted it. Or, as my friend Kenny says, "It's not that I don't like heights, it's that I don't like falling from them." So it's somewhat slow-going when I get up there. Also, there's a big hole in the yard right where I need to put my ladder.
4. I spent the morning taking off non-working phone lines and cable tv wire that was wrapped all the way around the house. Four phone lines. Cable that ran along the gutters and the eaves and was stapled to the house. (Another Craigslist ad for the cable, unless someone here speaks for it first. Free for the taking to my Houseblogs friends. About 50 feet, I'm guessing. I can't get the other half of it without a taller ladder or climbing onto the roof. See reason #3 for why that will not be happening.)
5. Ants. Hundreds of them. No, thousands. Remember when I said I threw down half a container of anti-ant stuff around the house? Apparently that caused the ants to crawl for the shelter of the shingles. They're living under them in giant ant metropolises. Ewwww. (And yes, I am sure they're ants and not termites. I was horrified that they were termites when I first saw them so I looked it up on the internet.) I tear off a couple shingles, annihilate the ants with bug spray, wait for the fumes to dissipate, and then go in and tear off the dead-ant-encrusted tar paper. If I don't kill them, they crawl all over my arms and inside my gloves and all over my face and in my hair. Shudder.
Now, about all those people stopping by. I love it, I really do. Everyone has something encouraging to say, and almost everyone has a bit of good advice. I need both. This is a monumental job, and when I look at what I still have to do it's easy to get discouraged. Floyd (my beloved neighbor) told me to think of the house in sections and each section I finish is an accomplishment. See why he's my favorite neighbor? Another of my neighbors, my friend Naomi, stopped by this evening with her little dog Chico. Naomi is a riot. She was holding Chico's leash and a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Multi-tasking. She said that as she walks by every day, she'll tear off a shingle or two. I said I'd leave the ladder out for her, and she quickly said, "Oh, no! You do the high part and I'll do the low part!"
Here's my favorite comment so far: A woman I don't even know came by last night and said, "I always thought this house looked sad with those shingles on it. Now you'll bring it happiness. It'll be a happy house now that they're gone." Isn't that great?!
And my favorite visitor so far is my neighbor Bob. Bob's a Civil War re-enactor, an avid historian and preservationist, and has always been one of my favorite people. Until he stopped by tonight, I didn't even know he lived just a couple houses away from me. Anyway, he and his friend Travis were driving by, and he slowed his truck to talk to me. After a couple of minutes, he said, "I just have to get out and see this!" So we walked through my front yard and he marveled at what good condition the clapboards are in, shook his head that someone would cover them up with cedar shingles, and walked all around my front porch looking at what I've already finished. "Wow," he kept saying. "Wow." I admitted that my mother thinks I'm crazy for taking on this project all by myself and he said, laughing, "Well....I can see how she might think that." Bob's encouragement and enthusiasm made me want to rip shingles all night long. I'm guessing my neighbors wouldn't much like that, though.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


My voice sounds like Phyllis Diller's. Actually, worse. Imagine Phyllis Diller's voice after smoking a pack of Camels and shouting at Fang all day. (Did you know Phyllis Diller never smoked? That trademark cigarette holder of hers was only a prop.) My hearing is not so good, either. Everyone who speaks to me sounds like they're doing so from the end of a very long tunnel. No voice, no dispatching. I worked last night and one of the guys called me to say, "You sound like dog [doody] on the radio." Thanks, hon. So tonight I'm staying home. And tomorrow morning I have a doctor's appointment. I do not like to go to the doctor. I avoid it if at all possible. That may have something to do with why I'm not feeling any better....hmmmm....

Anyway, I was thinking about how I really don't like to go to the doctor since my favorite family nurse practitioner retired. I was also pondering Jan's advice to put on some flannels and break open a bottle of wine. And then it struck me: My favorite family nurse practitioner now owns a winery. What could be more perfect than sitting in bed drinking a glass of wine produced by my former doctor's winery?!? Nothing, I tell you. So I'm sitting here in my favorite flannels (the ones with the little Scottie dogs on them) drinking a glass of my favorite wine (Joli Vin from Baltimore Bend) and waiting for my Hasselback potatoes to finish baking in the oven. I feel better already.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pan's Labyrinth

Still sick. Nothing accomplished on the house since Friday. So frustrating.

I was trolling through the news on the internet and found an article about a house in Maryland that has 400 years of documents stored in the attic. The house has been in the same family since it was built, and evidently they didn't throw anything away. Wow. Can you imagine the history that's contained in that attic?!

Here's a link to the article:

That fascinates me. And it makes me feel better about my own pack-rat tendencies. I am not saving useless scraps of paper; I am building an archive of my 21st-century life for future generations.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Get Smart

Happy news--the porch is without a single shingle. (Try saying that real fast.) Have a look:

See the arm of the wicker couch in the pic on the right? Funny story about that. That wicker couch is vintage (of undetermined age), is 7 feet long, and has springs under the cushion like a mattress. It's heavy and very unwieldy. Now's a good time to mention that my cousin Jenny and her husband Robert own a moving company, and Robert was both moving the PO out of the house and moving me into it. She had quite a bit of furniture left in the house that she planned to sell at auction. When I looked at the house, that wicker couch and two wicker armchairs were in the living room. Robert had told me, "Make an offer on some of that furniture so I don't have to move it twice, okay?" So I asked her how much she wanted for the wicker furniture. "$600," she said. "Firm". I counter-offered $200 and she snorted. We negotiated about a dry sink and a mirror in the entryway and couldn't come to an agreement on that, either. So, Robert came over and moved every stick of furniture left in the house over to the auction barn. A week later, at the auction, I purchased the dry sink and mirror for $200. And I won the wicker furniture, too. For 75 bucks. Bwah-ha-ha-ha! And poor Robert had to move all of it back to the house from whence it came....

But I digress. Back to the task at hand. Now that the porch is stripped of the ugly shingles, I'm left with the real work, and a couple of questions:

What's the best product to fill those gazillion nail holes? I asked Jan of Gear Acres this question in my comments but in case she doesn't see it I'll ask again, and get the input of others as well.

Is stripping the paint with a heat gun a good idea? I've used one in the past with good results, but I recall dispatching a house fire that was started by a guy using a heat gun. (To which one of the fire captains said, "Yeah, but that guy was an idiot.")

Speaking of paint, I was wondering what the best brand is. According to Consumer Reports, it's California 2010. But at $38 a gallon, it's a little pricey for me. Valspar Ultra Premium Satin (available at Lowe's) comes in fourth on their list at a national average of $24 a gallon. I called the nearest Lowe's and it's $24.98 there. Behr (the brand I was considering) isn't even on the fully tested list, and it's midway down the list of "Initially Promising". I called Home Depot and the paint guy there quoted me $33-$35 a gallon for the Behr. Hmmmm....Valspar's cheaper and Consumer Reports says it tested better. If Valspar has colors similar to the Behr colors I picked, I'll go with that. After I get the approval of the Historic Preservation Whatever, of course.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Andromeda Strain

Today has not been a good day. Today was supposed to be the one day of the week that I could work on my house for hours and hours. But this morning I woke up with my head pounding, a sore and scratchy throat, and some serious congestion. A summer cold. I know exactly who to blame for it, too: Louise, a little old lady who sat behind me on the bus during my vacation and coughed and sneezed the entire time. Darn you, Louise!

And then when I crawled out of bed to get dressed, I discovered that Little Dog had chewed completely through the strap of my favorite bra. It can't be sewn back together, either, as there's about a 2-inch piece missing that I'm guessing Little Dog ingested. This is a crisis. You ladies understand.

I made my way outside and pulled off some shingles, but my efforts were hampered by having to stop to blow my nose every ten minutes or so and the feeling that my forehead was going to pop off whenever I leaned over. And then there were the coughing fits. Yuck. I finally took some decongestants (I generally don't take medicine) which purportedly were the non-drowsy kind. They didn't make me sleepy, but I lost what little hand-eye coordination I had to begin with. Not a good thing when you're trying to pull nails. So today I worked a little and rested a little more. The shingles will still be there tomorrow.

There was one bright spot today. One of my neighbors, who just happens to be on the Historic Preservation Whatever, said he'd seen my application already and was very much in favor of removing the shingles. He just came right out and said what the rest of my neighbors are probably thinking: "Those things are kinda ugly." So I showed him what's underneath. "Four-inch clapboards," he said, "very nice." I double-checked with him that it was okay to continue tearing off the shingles, even though I don't have HPW's approval yet. He said, "Well, no one, no one, is going to speak for keeping the shingles. Continue on!" I will. Tomorrow.

I did manage to take a photo of the stained glass windows in my living room, because Christine reminded me I haven't really showed them to you yet. They're in a bump-out in the middle of my living room wall. A few other houses in town have very similar windows, too, so I think this must have been a trend when my house was built. I love the colors.

(Looking at this photo, I see that the sheers on the left side are spaced a little unevenly, the handiwork of Little Cat, who sits between curtain and window to watch the world go by.)

And now, I am putting myself to bed with cranberry tea, warm jammies, and a documentary about wild parrots in San Francisco. Night-night.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Color Purple

Until yesterday, when I had to attach paint chips to the permit application, I hadn't given much consideration to what color I'd paint the house. The paint chips I stapled to the application were just hurriedly picked in order to get the application filed and get on with the shingle-ripping. But last night at work, I gave it a lot more thought. Most of the houses in my neighborhood are white with white trim, and that's how (so far) my house seems to be painted. Nothing against that, but it's a little plain. On the other hand, I don't want something that will stand out too much or clash with the other houses in the neighborhood. I have a couple of paint chips that I really like, so I started with one of those colors and played with the Color Select tool on the Behr website. This is what I ended up with: (I went by Home Depot after work this morning and got the paint chips so I could really see them and so I could get your opinions.) The main color of the house would be the lightest or next-to-lightest shade in the bottom center of the photo, either Ground Ginger or Harmonic Tan. A secondary color, if the house turns out to have fishscales or other interesting architectural details, would be the second color from the left on the paint card under the white chip. That color's called Coriander Seed, and it's a bit greener than the photo appears. (So is the Ground Ginger.) The window sashes I'm painting that dark purple color, Deep Aubergine. There's evidence that the sashes were painted black at one time, and though I don't want to go that dark, I like the idea of the dark sashes. It's historically appropriate, I think, and it would look really nice with the stained glass panes I have in my front windows. The trim on the house would be almost white, a color called Vermont Cream. We'll see if the Historic Preservation folks agree with my choices. What do all of you think? I'm open to suggestions. I didn't get much sleep yesterday so these colors might really be horrible and I'm too tired to notice. Steer me straight, please, if you think I need it.

So when I got home this morning I decided to do a little more work on the house. I pulled out more nails: The people who put the shingles on really used a lot of nails. Because Jennifer is the inspiration (or instigator, as she prefers) of this project, I feel I should honor her efforts to reuse as much as possible, so I'm saving the nails in a big plastic container and I'm putting an ad on Craiglist's free stuff about the bags of cedar shingles. Hopefully someone will find some use for them, even if it's just for kindling.

I'll get some more done this afternoon after my nap, but here's this morning's progress:
(Yes, that is a chandelier made of little pots and wire you see in the foreground. I love it. The votives inside the little pots light up the porch at night.)

And now I'm off to Dreamland.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Little Miss Sunshine

I'm home! Yes, I did have a very nice time on my vacation, and thank you for asking. I walked through my back door Monday night at 5:27 p.m. and by 6:15 p.m. I was on the front porch tearing off shingles again. (Didn't have to work Monday night; I do tonight.) About 24 hours later, here's what I've accomplished:

See that little rectangle to the right of the front door? It's dark gray paint, the color I think the house might've originally been painted. I'm guessing there was a house number there and it wasn't removed when the house was re-painted. Still debating whether or not to paint the house that color; right now I'm leaning toward not.

I called City Hall this morning to ask about the permit and Mr. Maib, the guy in charge of all that (I don't know his official title) called me back right away. I explained to him what I was planning to do, and he interrupted me to ask, "What do you wanna do that for?" Uh-oh, I thought, this isn't going well. So I continued on bravely anyway and he interrupted me again to say, "You know you could be getting into a big mess." Uh-oh. This really isn't going well. I explained John's Pandora's Box Theory. Turns out Mr. Maib knows John and really likes him, so he warmed up a bit after that. Warmed up enough that he said, "Hey, let me just come over and take a look at your house." Yikes! So of course I had to admit to my law-breaking ways. Well, um, actually, I said, I've kinda already started on it.... He laughed and said, "Don't worry, kid, we're not gonna throw you in jail." He showed up about ten minutes later and it was loads of good news--LOADS of it, I say!!

First, he said he believes the clapboards are cedar (cedar?!!) and the ones on the porch are in excellent shape.

Then, we walked all around the house while I talked about my plans and he poked the window sills with a ballpoint pen because, he said, if the sills are in good shape the clapboards probably are as well. And the sills are in good shape!

Then, he noted that the headers on the windows are still intact, not sawn off on the ends like he'd expect them to be. See?

He'd seen the trash bags full of shingles on the front porch and asked me what I was going to do with them. I told him I was thinking of renting a dumpster. He said that the little ones, which "don't hold much" rent for $70--that's $70 every time they're emptied. "You'd have $400 in dumpster fees in no time," Mr. Maib said. Oh no! So what do I do? I asked. "Hide 'em in the trash under your other stuff, or put an ad somewhere that you're giving them away free, or burn 'em in a barrel if you know someone in the country." Thanks for the advice!

But the best news I'm saving for last: He handed me the permit I needed, and scrawled on the top were the words FREE. REPAIR & PAINT ONLY. No charge whatsoever! Yippee! I filled out the rest of it and hurriedly attached three paint chips to the back to approximate the colors I'm considering for the exterior. (Snap decision made from my vast store of paint chips, but I'm not held strictly to it, Mr. Maib says.) The Historic Preservation Whatever meets again July 21st--they just met last night--and he's so sure they'll approve the project that he told me to just go ahead and do it. "Keep on goin," he said, "Otherwise you'll lose a month waiting on the meeting." No paint until then, though. The HPC has to approve the colors.

All in all, HOORAY! So I ripped off shingles and tar paper and pulled a gazillion nails all afternoon long until I finally decided it might be time to take a nap.

After all, that's what the cat's doing.

Monday, June 9, 2008

America's Next Top Model

Didya see the title of this post? Huh, didya? I know, I know, it's a television show and the rest of my blog titles are also movie titles. But guess who commented on one of my posts? Nate! Previously-of-Fargo-now-of-New-York-City-Nate!! And since we all know and love him, I'll share what he said:

"I'm so excited!!! I wish I was there so I could help you tear those shingles off. I have always had this weird urge to uncover old siding. Just ask Ranty at the Healy House. She's going to bust down her stucco and I was so excited to come down to Minneapolis and help... too bad I'm in New York now. This seems like the cool thing to do now, first Ranty, then Damn You Stickley Bungalow, and Tiny Old House, now you. I'm thinking back to my 70's white steel siding and what I know lies underneath. I've had moments when I almost started pulling, but I knew I shouldn't. I just wasn't in a neighborhood that would appreciate wood siding, and thinking about selling, everyone in Fargo wants no maintenance siding. It's so exciting to me. I really wish I could pull shingles with you!!!"

That's our always irrepressible Nate. I love his comment that he "wasn't in a neighborhood that would appreciate wood siding." Isn't that so true? So many people just don't appreciate the character of old houses. That's what happened to mine--she's had so many owners over the years and it seemed almost everyone who lived here viewed her as temporary lodging and not a true home, so no one really loved her. (I know it's a house, not a ship, but it seems the house should be called something other than "it".) In one of my earliest posts I said my house is like a beautiful woman wearing an ugly brown coat that doesn't fit. See what I mean?

That photo was taken in November of 2006, on the day we moved in. There have been a few changes to the outside of the house, but it pretty much looks the same now as it did then. The shingles remain. And they have to go. Compare this photo to the one a couple posts ago that was taken in 1947 during the Glorious Pre-Shingle Era. Ugly brown coat, right?

I made a few decisions today:

1. When I get back from vacation, I'm going to call City Hall and ask about a permit. I'm almost sure I'll need to get one, but I want to know for sure. Ever since Jennifer commented that the city came out and checked on hers, I'm in fear of getting a ticket.

2. While I'm at City Hall, I'm going to start the Historic Preservation Committee (Commission? Board?) paperwork. Since I live in a historic neighborhood, I have to have HPC's permission to do anything to the exterior of the house.

3. I'm going to rent a dumpster. Four and a half trash bags full of shingles and tar paper from a wall about six feet wide and eight feet high have convinced me I need one. It'll have to go in the alley behind the house. I'm guessing HPC would frown on it being parked in the front yard.

4. Since it appears I'll be doing this mostly alone, I'm going to completely finish a wall/side of the house before I move on to the next one. I mean, I'll tear off the shingles and tar paper, strip the paint, fill the thousands of nail holes, make any repairs, prime and finally paint. Whew! That's a lot of work. Realistically, I probably can't get more than the front wall of the house finished before winter.

(I wrote this last week before going on vacation but because we were having a pretty serious thunderstorm, it didn't publish.)

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Wanna see what I got done today? Hang on a second. First, let me explain that I had to work tonight, so I had to sleep today, so what you see is about two and a half hours of work:

It went more quickly today because I wasn't working quietly as I could in the dead of the night. So today I ripped at those shingles with abandon and just let them crash down onto the concrete porch floor. My poor blind little Pom didn't think too much of this project, so into the house he went. The cats stayed outside to supervise and, apparently, to try to escape the porch. Remember how I said that PetScreen is some tough stuff? Check this out:

If you look really closely at the bottom edge of the screen you'll see a small white curved object. Look closely. Click on the photo to make it bigger if you need to. See that? Yep, it's a cat claw! That'll teach Christopher and Marie to pull on the PetScreen. Oh, I mean, poor little kitties....

And poor me, too. I was pulling on that big white piece of trim that you can see in yesterday's photos. My plan was to pull a little on one end, and then a little on the other end, and then gently remove it. So I was pulling (maybe more than a little) on one end when POP! the trim came loose and then WHACK! it hit me square in the face. Ouch!! That's what I get for taking photos of cat claws stuck in the screen, I guess. Don't worry, I'm fine. I was actually hoping to be hurt a little so that I'd have a reason to take the night off, but no such luck. Under the big face-whacking piece of trim is a tiny piece of cove moulding, so that was a happy surprise.

And so was this:

Can you see the vertical lines on the clapboards? Those are the ghosts of the original porch post. Behind the ugly wrought iron post you can just barely see the front edge of the house, so the original porch came in much farther than this one does.

Tomorrow I'll do some more work on the porch in between doing laundry and packing for my vacation and taking a nap, so the shingle-removal project and this blog will be on hiatus for about a week after that.

Alice in Wonderland

All day today I've been thinking about clapboard siding. My son closed on his very own house today, and standing outside it I thought that the vinyl siding looks almost like clapboards. We went to Wally the Purveyor of All Things (you know it as WalMart) to buy lots and lots of stuff for my son's house and I looked vainly in the hardware section for a slater's tool. According to This Old House, a slater's tool makes removing shingles a whole lot easier. We ate lunch at the pub and Becky the waitress asked me when I was going to start tearing off the shingles. The owners of the pub are my neighbors, and it was one of them who told me the original siding was intact when the shingles were put on in the 1970s. My son and I worked on cleaning his house until he had to go to work at 10 p.m. and then I came home, called a friend to make sure he's okay, and then....


Yes, I did. At exactly 11:37 p.m. the first one was pried off. Why the front porch? Because the ladder was already out there from having painted the porch ceiling blue earlier this week. Oh, and because there's a porch light out there. An hour later, this is what the porch wall looks like:

Look, there's my blue ceiling! I like strong colors. No sissy sky blue for this girl. Ever since I found out (from Martha Stewart, no less) that some people refer to it as "haint blue" because they believe porch ceilings painted blue keep away bad spirits, I thought, the bluer the better. But I digress. The real issue is, are the clapboards in good condition? Why yes, they are! See for yourselves:

The black stuff is, of course, tar paper residue. When I first tried to tear it off, it was stuck and for a moment my eyes filled with tears. I thought, if this g.d. tar paper is glued to the siding, I am seriously gonna move away. I have had enough of stuff being glued to the surfaces of this house. But then the rest of it just tore away like...well, like paper. Hooray!! Aren't those clapboards beautiful?? Well, I think so, anyway.

Christopher went up and had a look around, and provided a size reference for me. See? Big giant cat, sorta big giant spot of uncovered clapboards. (And more of that blue ceiling.)

It wasn't until after I started that I remembered the shingles predate the porch. (The original porch that you see in that 1947 photo is long gone, unfortunately, and all the trim with it.) So I'm a little concerned as to how the porch is attached to the house and what will happen when the shingles are gone. Will there be a gap between the porch and the house? The man who built this porch just happens to be my neighbor Floyd's best friend Delmar, so probably he can answer this question. I won't be asking him yet, though, because, um....Hey, can you guys keep a secret? I don't yet have a permit from the city or the approval of the Historic Preservation Committee to be doing this little project. My plan is to do the porch first and then the rear wall of the house before I pay for the permit and the 30-day clock starts ticking. Don't tell anybody, okay? I realize that I just blabbed this out into cyberworld for anyone to read, but I seriously don't think anyone on the HPC reads this thing. Guess we'll find out, huh?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Way We Were

This is how the trouble starts. First, you complain to your friends about how much you hate the yucky cedar shingles on your house. Then one of them mentions something like, "Well, the original clapboards are still under there." So you pull a few shingles up here and there to verify. Then you start thinking about tearing all of them off and decide that it's too much time and money for now. So that all festers for a year or so, and then your mom gives you this photo of your house as it looked in 1947. (Last fall I wrote a post about how I came to get this photo and a little bit of house history I learned from the woman in the photo, a friend of my mother's named Teresa. You can read the whole thing by clicking on that link, but the short story is that Teresa and her husband Clarence lived in my house in 1946-47 when it was two apartments.) And you put that photo on one of your mantels and you look at it every once in a while and wish for clapboards again and again and again. So you walk to the pub a few weeks ago, dreaming of clapboards, jealous of all those clapboard houses between your shingled house and downtown, and at the pub you run into your former neighbor John, who just happens to be explaining to someone how he removed the asbestos siding from his 1899 house to reveal beautiful, mostly undamaged clapboards. And you pepper the poor man with questions, and take notes, and he wisely says in his Minnesota accent, "Ya know, it could be that they shingled it out of stupidity or because they didn't wanna paint the house no more. But ya could be openin Pandora's box, too." So then, every time you think of tearing off the shingles, you hear John's elfin voice in your head saying, "Pandora's box, Pandora's box, Pandora's box...." And then, and then--your fellow blogger at Tiny Old House proves herself to be much, much braver than you and tears the asbestos siding off her house. (She has brick underneath, can you believe it?!) And you read about it every day, and look at the pictures over and over and hope she can't tell that you visit her site five times a day to live vicariously through her. But you just can't get over that 1947 photo of your clapboard house, and then your neighbor Roger casually says, "Of course the Historic Preservation Committee would be all for that project, and we'd approve your permit without delay. Your house doesn't look like its neighbors, does it?" So you start thinking that your house might be the wart on the face of your National Register Historic Neighborhood and you really ought to do something about it right away. That's how the trouble starts.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Deja Vu

The front porch's screen door is hung! Again. The first one lasted a mere three hours. This one's been up almost three days. So far, it seems to be cat-proof. So far....

It took me forever to spline the PetScreen into the door frame. I mean, forever. For. Ev. Er. I think because PetScreen is a good deal thicker than either aluminum or fiberglass screen and not quite as flexible. Or maybe because I don't have much strength in my little hands. Or both. Anyway, I pushed the screen way down into the channel and then pushed the spline way down into the channel and made sure that not the tiniest bit of spline stuck up above the level of the channel. I don't want Christopher, my behemoth cat, to get a claw-hold in there. I'm not wanting to hang this door for a third time! Here's the newly PetScreened door, all hung in place and waiting for the cats to come out onto the porch and play:

As I was putting the screen in, I was concerned that it would look a lot darker than the aluminum screen on the rest of the porch and that I wouldn't be able to see through it as well. The mesh on the PetScreen is a lot thicker, obviously, and you can tell just from the photo that it's not the same type of screen as the rest of the porch, but I don't think it looks bad at all. The visibility through it is pretty good, as well. Can you see my geranium on the step outside? And my little hanging solar lantern? I think if you look really hard you might even be able to see a coiled-up green extension cord on the sidewalk. Don't ask.

Just try to tear that up, Chris. I dare ya. Wait. No, I take that back. Don't go near it. Stay far, far away from that door.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Lilies of the Field

Christine over at Front Porch Indiana asked, What's blooming in your garden? She has lots and lots of really gorgeous irises. (Is that right? "Irises"? Or is it still just iris, like sheep?) I had some iris growing along my fence, but the rain and the Doberman flattened them. So this is what's left:
A container of double impatiens on my front porch. I can't believe I haven't killed this yet. The exorbitant price I paid for it at Home Depot is my motivation to water it every day, I guess.
A really big container on the side of the house. My mom, who's really good at this sort of thing, picked out the plants, so I'm not really sure what they're called. The stuff in the middle is Pink Champagne, a variety of Mexican Something-Or-Other Grass. Can't remember the name of the little pink flowers, but they bloom like crazy. The pale green stuff trailing down the sides is Silver Falls. It needs a little trim to neaten it up, I think. Eventually this will have a bed of hostas and bleeding hearts around it. So far there's one hosta planted and three others waiting patiently for me to plant them.
This is the real stand-out in my garden, and I had nothing to do with it. It's an old climbing rose that my mom says is called Paul Scarlet. It's creeping all along the front porch and climbing up the corner of the porch post. She says it's been there awhile. Last year it hardly bloomed, but Mom sprinkled some kind of magical rose fertilizer on it and this year it's gone crazy. The cats love it because little sparrows and finches hide in it and the kitties can watch the birds from inside the porch. Never mind the ladder on the porch--I'll explain that later--just look at all those blooms!
Close up, the blooms look really velvety, but that doesn't show so much in this photo. I love the glossy leaves. The rosebush looks pretty even when it's not blooming, I think, because of those leaves.
Out in the yard, in the early spring, little violets bloom here and there. They grow so close to the ground that even the lawnmower doesn't cut them down, so it looks cottage-y and sort of like I planned it that way. The fence along the alley in my back yard is loaded with honeysuckle (and bees!) and on a hot day in the summer you can smell the honeysuckle from a block away. Someone planted strawberries years ago by the gate and yesterday my son's girlfriend and I picked eight of them already. We found some empty stems as well, so I think the ones we got are the ones the raccoons and possums left behind!
I have a few more containers on my front porch steps, but I ran out of time before I had to leave for work. I'll have to post pics of them another time. For now, I'll pass along Christine's question again: What's blooming in your garden?