Garden 2012

June 18th, 2012

Soon after we bought the house, we noticed that our neighbor’s retaining wall was easing its way into the south side of our lot. We hired my cousin and his crew to dry-lay a wall in front of the retaining wall and turn it into a garden. We did this even before we put a new roof on. I know that because I see our old shingles (and, I suppose, our old kitchen porch) in the second photo.

Then we ignored it for four years while we worked on other, more urgent things.

Earlier this spring, I told Don that my goal for this summer was to get rid of the ivy in the north beds. Meanwhile, he was interviewing our neighborhood Master Gardeners about lasagna mulching and the high quality of compost available from Fayetteville.We started by layering the compost and newspapers (or cardboard) in the front yard by the front walk last fall or winter.

Next thing I knew, we were removing ivy from the north beds and the south beds, laying rock borders, and cleaning up the wall garden. We (Don) sheet mulched the various beds with six pickup loads of compost, and I don’t know how much mulch. It was a challenge to keep up with him – I hadn’t thought that far ahead about what I wanted to plant in all these new beds.

Ta-da! This is only about half the rock wall garden, but it’s what photographed well. The plan, so far as there is one, is to have yellows and oranges in this garden. E.g., yarrow and shasta daisies in the first frame. Also poinsettias I felt sorry for. Three yellow brugmansia and pink swamp milkweed from our same master gardeners are in there somewhere. Jerusalem artichokes and regular artichokes in the third frame, behind some fleabane.

Further west, I have sweet potatoes and columbine and creeping phlox. And in the shady part past our rock patio, I planted 3 dozen ramps, 3 ostrich ferns, and one wild ginger. (I did plant some horseradish, but it seems not to have done a thing.) The ramps sprouted up, and have now receded, as I gather is their wont. I also have volunteer ferns and succulents in the rock wall crevices. Some perilla has shown up, too. I’m leaving it for now while I see how I like it.

However, the neighbors have ivy and Virginia creeper as groundcover, which keep creeping over their retaining wall and into my garden. And wild grape, too. I’ve gone into their yard (with permission) and pulled it further from our boundary, but it’s going to be an ongoing challenge. As cool as I thought this statue and ivy was when we bought the place … I really don’t want to garden with just ivy. I want some diversity.

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We’re back!

June 13th, 2012

Soon after my last post (in April 2010), we moved into our house in the dead of night. The combination of our daughter being desperate to stop the commute from my mom’s house to grade school with my cousin needing a place to sleep = a move into our house. It lacked a lot of stuff… for instance, few doors, no closet rods, and no internet connection. There’s a limit to what I’m willing to do with an iPhone. So, the internet has had to do without my house updates for 2+ years, but the bank did convert our construction loan to a mortgage.

A few months later, we tried to refinance, but the appraiser concluded that the house was worthless  without trim. Seriously. He refused to appraise the house ‘as is.’ And our credit union agreed. So, some more months later, we went to the local bank which held our paper, and their appraiser was willing to appraise our house. We did eventually refi, but it’s a different world from ten years ago – amazing mortgage rates, but it takes work to persuade a bank to let go some of “their” money. (The local bank sold our paper the day we refi’ed.)

We decided not to try to roll our credit card debt (accrued in the desperate push to get the construction loan closed) into the mortgage. So we went on the cash-onlymostly plan a year ago January. We paid off the credit cards and are on track to pay off my mom by year’s end, I think. (Yay, us!)

Progress: We have doors on all the bathrooms. Door knobs on about half of them. Most of the grout is done. Trim in some rooms. Wallpaper in two rooms. Windows rebuilt in all but one room. (Unfortunately, the room we spend most of our time in.) Window treatments in some of the rooms. Closet rods in some of the closets. We’ve got the ivy mostly out of the front yard and side yard.

But, we’re a long way from being done – which might be just as well. I like this house, and I’d just as soon stay.

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Construction loan status: closed!

April 13th, 2010

I think. The banker came by yesterday, admired our progress, and later called Don to say the bank would convert our construction loan to a mortgage. No more $212 in fees every two months to extend the construction loan. Now, if we can get our certificate of occupancy before May so we can host a teachers’ lunch and a graduation and refinance with a fixed rate before the rates approach our adjustable rate (which is about 6%, and gets readjusted every five years)…

In other news, our front stairs are finished, but not finished. (Railings and balusters are in, but we still need to sand, oil and wax.) I hope to expand on this news one day soon, but for now, here’s a picture.

inspired by The New Old House (Taunton Press)

And I made a violet garden over the weekend. We have at least three species of violets in our yard, including a raspberry violet raspberry violet or Southern wood violet that I think is  Viola hirsutula (Southern wood violet) and your more common purple and white violets. My camera, for the most part, insisted on focusing on anything but the violets and on correcting for color, so these two photos are the best of a blurry collection. I was very excited about the raspberry violet, having never seen one before (except last year, in my garden), and also excited about keying it down via the American Violet Society’s online key. I dug up three V. hirsutula and a bunch of the others (which I am not as confident about what I keyed them down to, since one came back as a marsh violet that insists on a damp environment, but was thriving in a not-marshy environment) and moved them to the north side of our house, where I made a hasty border of drain tile, stones, and clay pavers, mulched with mulch we got from the city last year, and uncovered a broad stone path dividing the garden. I spent much of Saturday puttering and enjoying myself. The path (which used to connect to stairs leading to a side door in what is now our 1st floor bath) is wide enough for a comfy chair, and stays shady and cool until late in the afternoon. Yay for spring!

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The fish fountain

April 8th, 2010

Last summer, we ran up to the Chicago ‘burbs to visit Don’s family. After we cashed out my La Grange bank account, we stopped at a water garden store to get some anti-algae stuff for the fountain my dad gave my mom for their anniversary. (It was getting gunky. The fountain, not the anniversary.) We did a little window shopping at the same time, which turned into real shopping when we saw a fountain that looked a lot like this.

two koi granite fountain

Only a lot cheaper. Hand-crafted by an Ohioan. And we had money burning a hole in my wallet. We ended up with the fountain, the pump, the box to put the pump in, and the lining for probably a third of this fountain. And we got a rough sketch of how to install it, and were told we should use Mexican cobbles and polyurethane them so they would look like they were always wet. We plan to install a round water feature with the fish in the middle of our front walk (and flush with the walk*), with a faux bridge and a dry stream bed leading off to the north (down the hill and around the side of the house). Today I’m thinking about planting grape hyacinth and violets in the dry stream bed. And maybe other blue flowers for later in the year.

*Or maybe raised. Depending on where the water main is. A raised water feature might eliminate the motivation for a bridge and dry stream, however.

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Intersection of Facebook and Obsessive Documentation

April 7th, 2010

Rejuvenation counted comments yesterday, and my Mexican/Dutch wallpaper won in a landslide.

Who’da thunk that joining Facebook and becoming a Rejuvenation fan (and asking for comments) would have resulted in needing to find a sweet home for this? Only in a custom, not-available-in-any-store* finish of antique copper?

Rejuvenation's McCoy Pendant with Jadeite Shade

It’s an outcome I didn’t expect. We’re either going to put it over my baking center in the kitchen, where it will be framed by the pass-through window into the dining room, which has a Rejuvenation antique copper chandelier and it will reference the green streaks in the soapstone,** or over the kitchenette  in our master suite, where we plan to display the Jadeite pottery I’ve been sort of collecting as we travel. Either way, it will look super. Umm, it will look super and the space will look super once we get the countertops finished, and the trim installed, and the appliances in, and the wallpaper in the dining room, and … Meanwhile, it will add a touch of class to a not-yet-finished space.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of my digital camera, which has been very helpful – both in documenting wallpaper and in documenting where speakers should have gone.

*Am I channeling Ron Popeil or Billy Mays?

** We’ve installed the soapstone, but I haven’t uploaded those pictures yet. First coat of mineral oil, and it’s looking really good. Also the marble in the baking center. And the cooktop. And the double oven. And the sink, but not the drain. Or the faucet. And the dishwasher was in the middle of the kitchen yesterday, so it must be going in soon. And I think the fridge comes today, even though it wasn’t expected until April 15.

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Shameless plug for Rejuvenation

April 5th, 2010

… or their contest. I became a Facebook fan of Rejuvenation over the weekend, and discovered that they are hosting (besides the show us your lovely home contest) a contest for ugliest wallpaper.  The one with the most comments by some time on Tuesday wins a copper McCoy fixture. Despite having nearly all our lights in (Yay!), there’s always room for a Rejuvenation fixture.It would either go in the kitchen or laundry room.

I put two in because Don and I disagree about which is uglier, so I may have split my votes, but my Mexican/Dutch hybrid paper is currently in the lead — with very little self-promotion, so I wouldn’t mind if any of my readers went and commented. Here are the two I entered:

They both came from the kitchen in the upstairs apartment (No. 3, I think), that was installed in the former (and current) porch. The chicken wallpaper covered the Dutch/Mexican paper. The chicken paper was in turn covered by a plaid paper, which was covered by red paint in some parts. The link may not work unless you are a Rejuvenation fan on Facebook. If you aren’t a Facebook fan, then you can type Rejuvenation into the search field, and then become a fan. (Or you could go to Rejuvenation’s web page, and become a fan that way – that’s how I did it. You may then have to change to Rejuvenation’s wall tab to find my wallpaper – you’ll know it when you see it.) Or don’t – that’s OK with me, too.

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Buy a dryer, get a dozen CDs free

April 3rd, 2010

We are getting closer and closer. We bought a 2 year old gas dryer from Craig’s List in February. A transfer to Vendorville had brought it from Detroit, only to discover he bought an all-electric house. We got a great deal on it – probably one-third of retail. Plus, he and his wife work for Motown, and he gave Don a dozen CDs. I love Craig’s List. Since we bought our front-loading washing machine about two years ago (on clearance), the look should be very compatible with the dryer. Different brands, but very similar look. The dryer is the next-to-last appliance – we are getting a new fridge (which is on back-order), hoping to take advantage of the EnergyStar rebate.

The laundry room may be the first room with trim since we’d rather put the baseboard up before the appliances are installed. Don’s taken some of our used trim, and is planing off the painted edges so we can turn it around (rather than strip it). The plumber put in shut-off valves in the laundry room last week, so they should go in pretty soon.

Later, after we move in, I’d like a drying rack like this one for my unmentionables.The click-through takes you to a nice description of how to build it. We have plenty of used beadboard and knobs and other bits so the cost should actually be a lot less than the $25 it took for her to build it.

laundry drying rack final_thumb[1]

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I’ve got twenty minutes … only now it’s twelve minutes

March 28th, 2010

I put rice on the stove, and thought I might be able to wrap up one of my (many) pending posts and post it, but … I have a cat who insists on kissing my thumbs (when she’s not investigating the computer screen) and I’ve lost the cord that lets me download photos from my camera. (The camera was out of commission for a while when its card wore out. Then the computer had to go back to be completely rebuilt. The new computer, just bought in December, needed so many parts that the computer guy said that he was at the point of demanding a new one for me. Feh.) So, this will be a random thought post without much editing.

We are making great progress. Not enough that the bank doesn’t get another opportunity to foreclose this week, but great progress. The banker came by Friday, and asserted that he would recommend that the construction loan be closed out, but we’ve heard that before. Without a certificate of occupancy, I expect another bill for $212 to extend the construction loan another month or two. I’m hoping we’re weeks away from a CO, especially since we have family coming in town in early May and I think we’re still on the hook for hosting the Little One’s grade school teachers’ appreciation lunch in May.

Progress: kitchen cabinets are installed, of the 5 bathrooms: one (the basement 1/2 bath) is complete; one is grouted, caulked, and sealed but lacks installed fixtures; one is grouted and sealed and should be caulked by the end of tonight, one is grouted and sealed, but for the shower which does have backerboard, and one has the floor installed, but not sealed and the shower has not been backerboarded. The stair treads and risers are installed, as are about 1/3 of the balusters. (You really need to see photos: marble tiles in three baths, cherry and oak stairs with cool balusters inspired by a Greene & Greene inspired staircase, creamy yellow kitchen, … but I’m racing against the clock.)

Still need: hot water, and two toilets upstairs and a functioning shower. I’d appreciate having the soapstone countertops installed in the kitchen and the appliances installed, including the washer and dryer. (Fridge is backordered until April 15th, but we have one of the tenant fridges on the front porch which would work.)

And, there comes the kid and there goes the timer. So here comes the post.

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Thinking about spring

January 30th, 2010

We were iced in on Friday and snowed in today. Not nearly as much ice as last January, but six inches or so of snow on top of a sheet of ice. Enough that work and school were closed, but not so much that the internet was permanently closed. Naturally, my thoughts turned to spring. We have a cinder block wall between us and our neighbors to the north. When they built it, our neighbors intended to stucco and paint it yellow (like their house). Instead, they put their house on the market, leaving us a cinder block wall along our driveway.

Pecan tree and cinder block wall Neighbor's yellow stucco front

I don’t have a ‘good’ picture of the wall (or the neighbors’ house) since it is not photogenic and I am snowed in at the top of the Hill. And I haven’t replaced my broken camera card. The wall photo is from January a year ago, after the ice storm. It’s a monolithic wall, maybe a foot off our driveway at the nearest point. The neighbors’ house is from Fall 2007. It’s really a picture of our house, but theirs snuck in. The yellow would be brighter except that it’s picked up some dirt over time.


Last spring, Mother and I took a landscape design class from Renee Reed. She came out to look at my yard, and suggested that I could pick up an orange or similar color from the limestone foundation to paint the cinder block wall. (Since the house is built on a hill, a good bit of that side’s foundation is exposed.) It hadn’t occurred to me that we could paint the wall, but it is on our side of the property line and facing our house. At the time, orange seemed a bit extreme, but I’ve been getting used to the idea.

I should probably start with a base coat, and deal with dressing it up later. There’s a auto shop down on School Street that has a pinkish-reddish stucco that is close to the color I have in mind. I have a handful of paint chips that I’ll try matching sometime when I have a minute in daylight. I plan to plant fig trees to take advantage of the southern exposure, and am thinking about stenciling a view between or behind them.

I have been collecting pictures to help me remember what I want.

Terra Cotta GardenWeb Wall Painted Concrete Block Wall Mural

I can’t get previews from this site, but I like the garden view through a stone wall and the lion fountain. The sandstone wall might be a good match for our foundation. Or I could splurge and get the courtyard mural. Which I might never finish. Or hate. Not even sure if stencil paints will work outside. Maybe with a good sealer.

Here’s a stone wall stencil with foliage. With the right colors, it could look like our other foundation rock. (Another picture that I happened to have in inventory. This one was mostly to convey graphically all the electric meters we had.) I should probably stick with the sandstone wall stencil that you can’t see without clicking through. As you can almost see, our foundation is typically less random than this stencil.

Stone Wall Stencil Limestone foundation (also old electric mess)

I could stencil a French window with a view like this onto the wall, although Don seems to think this might be the snowstorm talking. Or I could make a lattice arch with a view since I am thinking about espaliering my figs. (Some other fence and gate options, including bamboo and twig.)

French Window with a View Lattice Arch

I could even put in some tropical plants while waiting for my real ones to grow. Or this lion fountain while waiting for a real fountain to grow.

Chinese Parlor Lemon Tree lion-fountain2

I guess I’ll wait until the snow melts, the ice thaws, and we get moved into the house before deciding.

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My camera blew up …

January 25th, 2010

… and the dog ate my homework.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another conspiring to keep me from posting regularly. First the ice storm a year ago. Then Daddy’s illness and death seven months ago, and the malaise that followed. Then the lack of a computer attached to the internet in the guest house. Now it’s my camera card. We’re in the middle of tiling, and I’ve been taking pictures to document it … pictures which show up in my camera but which refuse to upload. My brother has diagnosed a faulty card, and I need to buy a new one, but we’re busy tiling. I have discovered that it’s hard for me to write about what’s going on without pictures. So, this entry will feature pictures suitable for the Emperor. (The one who had no clothes.)

We have finished the wall work in the Little One’s bathroom. She complains that it’s boring, and it’s not fair because she’s wild. We respond that she’s a free-loading tenant. Nobody is persuaded. She suggested that we could at least put some yellow ones in the empty spots on the ends (where we have to cut tile to fit). We suggest that she can be creative with paint or accessories. Still, nobody is persuaded.

[Here is where the picture of the subway tile in progress would have gone.]

It’s nice white subway tile, with two black liners, and a black and white pinwheel mosaic (Chloe) on the floor. Don did most of it, but I tried my hand at the subway while thinset was setting and he was meeting with a sub. I decided I could do it, even though the first time I did it, I laid four rows before I realized I’d left out the liner row. So, I ripped it out before the thinset had set.

[Picture of the partial wall that I did correctly.]

We have learned that the American Olean’s Chloe comes in dye lots (or whatever they’re called), and that they don’t always match. (Even though their website asserts that the shade variation is low.) So Don ripped out three square feet before that thin set had set. Two steps forward, one step back.

[Picture of Little One's floor.]

Soon, we’ll be ready for grout and sealer. We have three more bathrooms to do.

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