Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fence Project, Day 5

This afternoon I woke up to Libbi's barking and a crashing noise outside.  I stumbled to the back door in my jammies, looked outside, and saw this:
Photo stealthily taken through back door.

Yes, that's WTB.  On a tractor.  Tearing out what's left of the fence in my back yard.
See?  All gone.  

I am writing a lengthy letter to the Vatican tomorrow detailing all of WTB's good deeds and strongly urging that he be canonized immediately.  Saint White Trash Bob.  Kinda has a ring to it.

Fence Project, Day 4

The deforestation continues...

Photo taken from my back yard, looking north.  

And now, by my estimate, 49% of the fence is gone.  One-third yesterday, half of one-third today...about 49%, right?  (I'm not so good at math.)  Anyway, I was working alone today (Tuesday) because WTB had to go to his real job all day, so I'm pretty happy with my progress.  Monday night I had whined to Bob about my solo fence-cutting abilities.  "I'm not as good with using the Sawz-All as you are," I whined.  "You just have to get mad at that fence," he told me.  "I am mad at it," I whined, "but I still can't cut it down as fast as you can."  He grinned.  "Then you're just not mad enough.  Get really mad at it."
View from the alley of the same thing.

Compare this photo to the one in this post.  When I got to that big mulberry tree in the middle of the fence and it didn't seem to want to budge, I remembered WTB's coaching and I got really mad.  I kicked the tree and yelled at it.  "Dad-gummit, you stupid noodlehead tree, fall down already!!" I yelled.  Yep, that's exactly what I said...well, maybe not so much.  Maybe I used really bad swears.  But the stupid noodlehead tree now resides at the city dump. 

And I'm done with deforestation until Saturday at least...or maybe even Monday...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fence Project, Day 3

One-third of the fence is gone.

Maybe "gone" is not quite the right word...The fence is still here; it just looks like this now:
Ugly is still ugly, even when it's all rolled up.

And we didn't even use a truck.  See, WTB came over in his truck Sunday night and tried to pull the fence down.  He wrapped a chain around a fence post, drove the truck forward, and POP! the fence post came right out of the ground.  Unfortunately, none of the fence came with it.  The fence might be weak, but those honeysuckle vines are strong.  Pulling the fence out with a truck just wasn't gonna work.  So today we used a Sawz-All to cut through everything—the honeysuckle, the wire fence, and the mulberry trees.  I got a little more than half of it sawed down while Bob was at work and then he came over, sawed down the rest, and together we yanked the fence free.  Ack!  What a chore! 

Tomorrow, more of the same.  I hope to get another whole section of fence down, from the corner where we stopped today all the way over to the gate.  We'll see...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Prince Among Men

White Trash Bob is a prince among men.  As if what he's done already hasn't proven that, here's my most recent conversation with him, Exhibit #23,874 in the case for WTB princeliness:

Me:  You know that fence I'm tearing down in my back yard?  Well, someone had the idea of pulling it down with a truck.  You think that'd work?

WTB:  Oh, it'd work.  Would you like to borrow my truck?

Me:  Actually, I was hoping you would help me.

WTB:  Okay, but I can't come over today.  Call me on Monday and we'll see what we can do.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Two Words

It started with an anonymous comment:

"2 words...truck chain."

And those two words sent me out to the back yard to scope out the situation.  It just so happens that WTB has a truck.  I'm not sure there's enough room to yank out the fence by that method, though.  It sure would be better than the current plan, which Floyd and I came up with yesterday.  That plan is to use wire-cutters to chop apart the fence, chain-saw everything remaining right down to the ground, and then spray brush killer over the whole fence row.  A consultation with WTB may be needed.

In related news, I found a little collar with a bell on it in the undergrowth today.  The buckle was still fastened.  Now I'm worried that I'll find a cat skeleton in there if I dig any deeper.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fence Project, Days 1 & 2

It has to look worse before it looks better, right?

Because this looks pretty darn bad...
Photo taken from Gwen & Floyd's yard looking north/northwest.

Eight hours of work (over two days) during a heat advisory, 100 feet of extension cord unrolled for the hedge trimmers, three 32-oz. bottles of Gatorade downed, 14 trash bags hauled to the dump and one nasty bruise on my left leg (hint:  don't try to hop over a rusty fence)...and I have only about 20 feet of fence row sheared down to brown stuff.  I still have to get rid of all that stuff growing in the fence and then tear down the fence itself.

And then I have to do all that again here:
Photo taken from the alley looking south/southeast.

And then again to a third section of fence about the same size as this one (about 16 ft. long), which I would've taken a photo of but I was teary-eyed with exhaustion and I just couldn't bear to look at it.  The heat really slowed me down the past couple of days.  I'm hoping for better weather and better progress next time.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's Unanimous!

I'm so glad I let y'all make the decision on whether I should fix my fence now or later.  The nows have it, unanimously.  Secretly (okay, not so secretly) I was really hoping that's the way the voting would go.

Now I gotta get right out there, hack away the honeysuckle, tear out the fence, and put in a new one!  Before Tuesday, when I have to—gasp!—work an 8-hour day shift.  Okay, so maybe all that's not gonna happen this weekend.  In fact, maybe, just maybe, I ought to decide what kind of fence I want before I tear out the old one and put Liberty on house arrest.  That's where I need your help again. 

I'm trying to decide between this:
Vinyl fence panel, 4 ft. tall and 8 ft. long.  On the pro side:  I'd never have to paint it and I'll probably be prowling the house with Mrs. Kelly by the time it needs replacing.  Cons:  It's vinyl and I'm not sure I like its bright-shiny-blazing-whiteness.  If I go with this, part of the fence project costs will have to go on the credit card. 

Or there's this possibility:

It's cedar, 42" high by 8 ft. long.  Pros:  I like it.  Really like it.  It goes with the house better, I think.  This option is about half the cost of a vinyl fence.  No credit card needed.  Cons:  It probably won't last as long as a plastic fence, I'd probably have to paint it, and since I haven't seen it "in person" yet I'm not sure how sturdy it is.  

I think the PITA factor on installation of either kind of fence is probably pretty much the same, so that's a wash.  So....I ask my faithful readers again, what would you do?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Breaking My Vow?

I might need to break my No Summer Projects Vow.  For real.

I'll politely pause for just a minute here to give y'all time to laugh and get over it before I continue...I hear y'all guffawing...and a couple of folks high-fiving each other...and you, I heard you snort when you laughed.  I did.

Feel better now?  Okay.  Because I propose that this project is an emergency repair.  And because it's an emergency repair, it shouldn't count against my No Summer Projects Vow.  Uh-huh.  I hear y'all snickering.  But hear me out. 

Yesterday I let Liberty outside to play in the back yard.  She did one lap around the yard, picked up her squeaky toy, and disappeared.  Gone just like that.  Both gates were closed, so I knew she squeezed through the fence somehow.  I found the squeaky toy in the middle of the alley about 50 feet from the house.  I found the dog three houses away—in the opposite direction of the squeaky toy—stretched out on someone's front porch.  After I carried her home and put her safely in the house I looked at the fence and found the place where she'd broken through.  The fence is in very bad shape.  The hog panel is rusted and some of the posts are rotted completely through.  I really think the thing's only held together by the honeysuckle vines growing all over it.  And there are all these trees growing up through it...I have lopped them off monthly every spring and summer, sprayed Round-Up and brush killer and even diesel fuel on them (not at the same time) and still they come back, bigger and bushier than before. I have better things to do with my time.

Like maybe tearing down the fence, getting rid of those trees, and putting up a nice new fence.  Teaching Libbi to use the litterbox and to be happy with never going outdoors except on a leash doesn't seem like a reasonable alternative.  Neither does setting the whole darn mess on fire, which the wonderful Floyd suggested.  Clearly, this is an emergency situation.  It is.  Right?  Because I don't take my vow lightly.  I wouldn't break it for just any ole project.  And because I made this vow to all of you, you're the ones who rightly should release me from it.  Or not.  So let's hear it:  Should I break my vow and replace the fence before the end of summer?  Or should I keep my promise and live with the holey fence and the brushy trees until September? 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Knock Knock! Who's There?

Let me tell you a little something about Maria Louisa Duncan Kelly.  She was the wife of James Crawford Kelly and the mother of six children.  She was known as an immaculate housekeeper.  She was also known to take in kids like I do cats.  During her lifetime she fostered so many children that the Kelly family history can't even keep track of all of them, putting "countless others" at the end of a list of names.  Some of those foster children might have lived in this house.  Certainly her youngest son Marion, and her little grand-daughter Maggie (taken in after the death of Maggie's mother) lived here.  In the back yard was a stable.  Kids, a husband, a horse, and no Shark floor cleaner.  And she was an immaculate housekeeper.

I think before now, Mrs. Kelly might have been giving me a little slack because she knew I was working my hiney off to make her house again be "one of the prettiest houses in town" as the Lexington newspaper described it in 1908.  After all, she stopped her tappity-tappin' the entire time I was working on the exterior of the house.  But I think the good Irishwoman has taken a bit of a look around.  And she is most unhappy.  I imagine her walking through the house, fists planted on her hips, frowning, clucking her tongue at the dust and clutter and cat hair dust bunnies.  "Would you look at that, James?"  I can hear her saying.  "There, under the dining room table, why it's enough fur to be makin' another cat!  And when will she wash those windows?!  Look at the clothes stacked on that table.  The poor girl doesn't know how to put a thing away.  Saints preserve us!"  I imagine that's about the time she started knocking on the door between the parlor and my bedroom.  "All this mess, and the child lays abed until noon!  Wake up, girl, wake up!"

Maria Louisa Duncan Kelly has been dead almost a hundred years but she intimidates me.  So I cleaned my house.  Cooped up inside because of rain all weekend, I really, really cleaned it.  Not just company clean, but Maria Kelly clean.  And today, no knocking.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On the Brink

I am on the brink of three days off.  Half of one of those days (this one) will be spent sleeping.  I almost said "wasted" sleeping, but y'all know how much I love to sleep. 

After sleep, there will be food.

And after that, hockey with Cookie.  I watch; Cookie plays.  Today he's playing hockey only four days after a ceiling fell on him while he was fighting a house fire.  Cookie is tougher than his nickname might lead you to believe. 

Then more sleep.

And after that, in no particular order:  pulling weeds, goofing around with the fur babies, cutting carpet to a length that the evil trash company finds acceptable for pickup, playing with my new phone, re-mulching a flower bed after rain yesterday washed the mulch into a pile in the corner of the yard, having supper with the kids, and painting the last couple of windows on the house.

And sleep in between all that somewhere.

And drinking Woodchuck Granny Smith Draft Cider, which I highly recommend.  (I do not, however, recommend gulping it down like Gatorade and then noticing that the label says 5% alcohol.  Oops.)

I'll try to remember to tell y'all all about it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

They're Back

Thump.  Mark and I heard it while sitting on the front porch.  "What the—?" he asked.  With three cats and a dog in the house, I wasn't worried about the noise.  "I left my Gatorade bottle on the parlor table," I told him, "Someone probably knocked it off."  Then again, thump thump thump.  Most definitely not the Gatorade bottle.  "You stay here," Mark said, standing up, "and I'll check it out."  There have been several break-ins around town lately and I think Mark thought someone may have been in the house.  He came back in a few minutes and reported nothing amiss.  Thump, louder this time.  "It's the fur-babies, " I said.  So we rounded them up and brought them onto the porch with us.  Just as we sat down, we heard it again.  Thump thump thump.  We looked at each other wide-eyed.  The dog growled.  Then,  a window-rattling, front-porch-sofa-shaking THUMP.  The cats hid together behind the sofa and the dog wriggled under a chair. 

That's when I thought it might be a good time to tell Mark that I'm not entirely sure Mr. and Mrs. Kelly (the original owners of my house) have ever left it.  I told him about the sound of women laughing that I sometimes used to hear in the second parlor and the lights turning off and on when my son and I first moved in.  When he didn't scoff I told him about the Whistling Man (heard but not seen) who came in from the entryway, crossed the parlor into the dining room, paused, and then left the same way he came in.  Then I told him about the tapping noises that occurred for weeks on end with no cause ever found and the cinder blocks in the basement.

"But all that stopped about the time I took the shingles off the house," I said.  Mark smiled and said, "Apparently they're back."  Based on the thumping, and on the fact that twice yesterday my sleep was interrupted by persistent knocking on an interior door (which stopped when I opened the door) I think he just may be right.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

All Play and No Work

I'm at the tail-end of four days off and what have I accomplished?  Nothing!  Well, at least nothing house-related.

Saturday afternoon I retrieved Libbi after she squeezed through the partly-open back gate and ran full-tilt for the neighbors' yard behind us.  The neighbors were hosting a wedding party and the bride was posing for pictures.  She had on a beautiful white dress.  Libbi had muddy paws.  Libbi is a jumper.  Disaster was narrowly averted when a little kid ran between the bride and the dog and Libbi followed him.  Whew!   That debacle was followed by supper with Shirley at the pub and then drinks with a few friends.

Sunday my bestie Sharon came over and gave me her old phone since she upgraded to a new one.  The phone she gave me is a Google Android.  Very nice.  After that I went to lunch with my friend John-Charles and then went shopping.  I bought some girl clothes.  And a new pair of uniform pants, which aren't nearly as fun as the girl clothes.

Monday I slept very late (til, um, mid-afternoon) and then spent a few hours sitting on the front porch shopping for apps with my new phone.  My favorite one so far is Lightning Bug, a free app that is a sleep machine and alarm clock.  Love it.  Then the fur-babies and I had a movie marathon:  Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil (one of my all-time favorites), Fried Green Tomatoes and How To Make An American Quilt.

And today I went to Book Club at the local indie bookstore and after that, antiquing with my mom.  I found a Hoosier-like cabinet that I couldn't decide whether or not to buy.  Y'all tell me if this is a good deal or a no, okay?  It's smaller than a typical Hoosier (about 3 ft. wide and 5 ft. high), the roll-down top sticks, and it needs repainting because someone painted it white and put wallpaper decals on the top doors.  The flour bin & sifter are still there and the sifter works.  All the drawer pulls and hinges are intact.  I couldn't get the counter to slide forward, but I can probably fix that.  There's no damage to the metal countertop.  They're asking $250, but it doesn't say "firm" on the tag so there might be a little wiggle room. What say you?

Four days of all play and no work...Ah well, the back of the house has been done a week, except for re-hanging and painting that storm window.  Although I could say I'm not putting up the storm window again and then it's really and truly done...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dear Google Maps...

Dear Google Maps,

I have just about finished painting my house. 
Could y'all please take another photo of it now? 
Cause it looks kinda bad in this one.

Friday, June 4, 2010

No Hurry

Darn storm window.  Darn genetics.  See, the storm window is tall and heavy and I, like my birth mom, am short and not burly.  I can take the storm window off the house by myself.  I can even lean it back up there by myself.  But I'm not quite tall enough or strong enough to hold the window exactly in place with one hand while lining up the screw holes and re-attaching the window to the house.  Another little project for which I could use WTB's help.  So the back of the house looks like this for now:
I really wish I could leave the storm window off.  Storm windows are ugly, but I guess they do provide a little extra protection from the weather.  WTB does not agree.  He has a theory that because my storm windows are aluminum, and motorcycle engines are aluminum to dissipate heat, that my storm windows actually suck heat out of the house in the winter.  Hmm.  So far I've found no supporting evidence.  My house is freaking cold in the winter, storm windows or not.  Anyone else have a storm window theory?

Speaking of WTB, I promised to share his (our) vision for my yard.  First I'll tell you the vision:  cottage garden.  Think roses, hydrangea, lilies, ferns, maybe some herbs here and there, all growing cheek-to-jowl in a very informal garden with grassy paths winding through it.  Sounds pretty, right?  Now I'll show you what's here now.  It helps, as you're looking at these photos, to have a goodly amount of imagination.  And optimism. 

This first photo was taken on the west side of the house looking from the side yard into the back yard. We're looking to the north.  The chain link fence is the neighbor's, so I can't do anything about that other than possibly putting a willow screen up next to it to hide it.  Along that fence Esther (the last previous owner) planted lots and lots of yellow iris (which bloom on stalks taller than that fence!), daffodils and surprise lilies.  All good, although I wish they weren't planted in straight lines.  I will fix that.  Along the house I planted daylilies that my mom gave me and more iris, also from Mom's yard.  I want to put some bushes or bigger plants here and there along both the fence and the side of the house.  Looking into the back yard, the back fence is covered with honeysuckle.  Very cottage-y.  Smells nice, too.  In front of the fence is an old-fashioned rose that my mom hated and dug up out of her yard.  She hated it because it was big and grew wild.  Since that's exactly what I'm looking for, I took it—after we chopped it down to an easily transportable size.  It has pink blooms that Libbi likes to eat.  There's another one just like it on the other side of the back yard, not visible in this photo.  Smack in the middle of this half of the yard is a 6'x6' concrete pad that caps the old cistern.  I put that black archway in front of it and am training passionvine up it.  The eventual plan is to fill the little patio with container plants and either a bench or a couple of chairs and a table.  Right now there's junk piled on it.  This part of the yard needs a lot of work.  A lot.  Not necessarily to be accomplished in the next three months.
The next photo is still the west side of the house, but now looking south, towards the front of the house.  Now here we're seeing some progress.  I planted hosta, columbine, daylilies and hollyhocks along here.  Everything but the hollyhocks came from my mom's yard. 

For years and years Mom's had a gorgeous back yard with several raised beds, but as she's getting older she's moving a lot of the plants out so her gardens require less maintenance.  I am the lucky beneficiary of the stuff she moves out.  Next spring I'll divide some of the hosta and lilies and spread them out all along this side of the house.  Add in a couple of bushes (I'm thinking hydrangea or the Blue Chip butterfly bush I fell in love with at the greenhouse last week) and some annuals to fill in here and there, edge the beds, and it'll look pretty good.  Incidentally, my neighbor has hosta and columbine planted all along her house, so once I get mine established this side yard will be really pretty.

You've all seen the front of the house before, but the yard looks a little bit different this year.  Last fall WTB and I removed the railing (made of pipe) next to the front steps and planted lilies on either side of the steps.

At the time, I was trying to plant 20-some lilies that Mom had given me, and I'm not entirely sure that the lilies are the same color on both sides of the steps.  Bob says it doesn't matter, and I tend to agree.  Along the walkway leading up to the front porch I planted lilies-of-the-valley, which look kinda skimpy now but which I am assured by my mother and my neighbor Gwen will fill in "in no time".  I recently told you of my battle with the vinca...and I don't want to talk about that right now, but I will say that space could use a butterfly bush or two and some hosta and lilies.  I think coral bells would make a really nice border along that flower bed. 

Over on the east side of the house things are looking somewhat barren at the moment.  It's crying out for a couple of bushes and some attention to get rid of all the plaintains and dandelions.  When the Kellys lived here there was a brick walkway from the front sidewalk all the way down the side of the house and back to the alley.  I'm fairly sure it's gone, but additional prodding about with a piece of rebar is needed.  There was also a really pretty wooden fence with an iron gate which I sorely wish had been preserved.  All that remains of it is the stub of one of the gateposts near the back porch steps.  Sigh.

More of those 20-some lilies are planted next to the porch, along with some hollyhocks from seed.  Those ferns under the window are really lush.  I want to divide them and put some on the west side of the house too, but I don't have a clue if that's a good idea or when I should do that.  Anyone know?  Just on the other side of the porch steps I planted tomatoes.  I'm not sure they're getting enough sun there, so I might move them to the back yard.   You can just barely see another climbing rose past the side porch.  The forsythia bush in the foreground of the photo and the apple tree in the background both belong to Floyd and Gwen.  That gives you an idea of how narrow our side yard is. can see that I have a lot of work to do, but I'm in no rush to get it done.  The time and patience needed for gardening is a nice contrast to the tearing hurry that makes up much of the rest of my life.  Half of my week is lived by the clock—chute times, heart rates, dispatch times, the golden hour—so the other half of the week it's good to slow down and take the time to literally smell the flowers. 

Or to sit on my front porch sipping a tall glass of iced tea while reading a good book.  That is exactly how I plan to spend much of the rest of this summer.  Any recommends on good reads?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Return of WTB

It's summer, I don't care what the calendar says.

In support of my position, I offer the following:  I saw lightning bugs in my yard two nights ago, the ice cream truck is making its rounds in my neighborhood, I turned on the air conditioner in my house already, and yesterday I pulled a tick out of my toe. 

But the best and surest sign it's summer around here?  White Trash Bob has returned!  Hooray!  Okay, so he didn't really go anywhere, since he and Mrs. WTB live just down the street.  But you see, all winter long we go without seeing each other as we hibernate in our houses and suffer through the cold months, but when warmer weather arrives, so does White Trash Bob.  Kinda like the swallows of Capistrano...but not really.  

So today WTB appeared in my front yard to point out that digging up all that vinca really is a futile effort and I should just spray Round-Up all over it and wait until fall to plant.  With that, I flung down my digger, put my sweaty, filthy little arm through his, and led him to the first WTB Project of 2010.  Behold in the photo the carcass of my ugly yard light.  (A photo which looks far more like a crime scene than I had originally intended, but it was already dark when I thought to snap a picture.)  The yard light needed to be destroyed, and I knew that WTB was just the man for the job.  He took it apart and then saved me the trouble of picking out which breaker it was attached to by touching the wires together with a stick so that the breaker tripped.  WTB is a genius.  (Because I would've never figured out it's on the same circuit as the microwave and the basement light.)  WTB sawed off the yard light post, cut the wire and capped it, and then capped the stub of the post.  And yes, that is an empty tin can capping the stub for now, but later it'll get a PVC cap.  It'll also get an outdoor outlet, because WTB is a genius.  (Wait...did I say that already?)  Anyway, he shares my vision of my back yard someday looking like a cottage garden, and in his version of the vision (say that three times real fast!) there are small yard lights and a bubbling fountain.  For that, of course, I'll need an outlet.

And now, I need a shower, followed by a cold beverage and a nice bit of porch-sitting.  More about that back yard vision tomorrow, along with the latest photo of the paint.  Try to contain your anticipation.