The Warning Signs were there

ETA: The blog is being rebooted as an incentive for my Patreon Supporters. All posts go live after a week, but Supporters at the $10+ tiers get early access. Thank you!

Brooke here.

This week’s post was supposed to be about the pollinator garden, but it’s nasty and overcast and I can’t get good photos. Fortunately, I remembered I was keeping a Livejournal when we bought this house. I went back and reread the entries when we were going through the purchase and…and…

Continue reading “The Warning Signs were there”


Precarious Death Stairs, Revisited.

ETA: The blog is being rebooted as an incentive for my Patreon Supporters. All posts go live after a week, but Supporters at the $10+ tiers get early access. Thank you!

Brooke here. This isn’t the first post I wanted to put up on the rebooted blog. There is so so so much that needs to be discussed. Like how the washer had a slow leak and it black molded-up the new basement, or how we got the foundation repaired, or how we finally got the pool up and running but then a giant tree smashed it, or how we acquired Puppy….but if we don’t get started, nothing will get done. Good rule of home improvement, that.

Continue reading “Precarious Death Stairs, Revisited.”

Blog Be Rollin’ Again

Brooke here.  North Carolina took a long time to shake off the dickishness of winter–as of two weeks ago, we were still losing power to ice storms on a fairly regular basis–but it’s finally spring! So, time to dust off the home blog and start posting again.

…where were we? Let me reread some of these older entries…

Ah yes, we were complaining about how this place is a wreck and is  emotionally and financially ruining us. Let’s just put a pin in those complaints and save them for the next post, shall we?

Right. Positive things. Almost two years ago, I scrounged through the trash heaps at a stone yard and ended up buying several tons of granite. This granite was reclaimed from a project down in Georgia; someone mentioned a church but I forget the whole story. (I’ve been reading a lot of Harry Dresden lately so let’s just pretend these stones are sanctified and can keep vampires away.) We’re planning to use this granite in a few retaining walls throughout the property. Since neither Brown nor myself has ever built a real stone wall before, I decided to build a small one to test the difficulty level. I picked a site at the front of the house which was basically nothing but a leftover mulch pile.

Landscape with rotting mulch and 2003 Honda Civic.
Landscape with rotting mulch and 2003 Honda Civic.

First things first: I spent a full day yanking the thicket creeper and the climbing dogbane that had snuck into the mulch pile. Those buggers were tough, but hey. Ivy. It was so cute how the the dogbane thought it was an invasive species! Then I shoveled old mulch until I hit dirt. When I found the live stump of a holly bush, I tapped out so Brown could dig in. The stump was an iceberg, tiny at the top and massive beneath. Getting that thing out of the ground took him two hours of aggressive swear-shoveling.

I was on a Gatorade run when he finally got it out. I like to think he threw the stump on the driveway and dropped the mattock like a mike.
I was on a Gatorade run when he finally got it out, but I imagine he threw the stump on the driveway and dropped the mattock like a mike.

Once the stump was out, I leveled the ground and we plotted out the line of the stone wall. Then we started placing stones.

Back view of stone wall, lined with heavy-duty landscape fabric to prevent soil erosion due to runoff.
Back view of stone wall, lined with heavy-duty landscape fabric to prevent soil erosion due to runoff.

Since I love the look of these mixed-stone drystack walls, I’ve been scrounging scraps from different stone yards to mix into the granite. I was aiming for a 5:1 ratio of brown stones to granite, to make the granite stand out.

Stone wall, mostly finished.
Stone wall, mostly finished, with bright green house.

There are tons of interesting details in these stones. Tool marks, cut surfaces, rough surfaces, even a round hole or two. It turns out I’m fairly bad-ass with a hammer and chisel, as I was able to cut stones to fit. I used heavy-duty masonry epoxy to bind the smaller stones to the larger ones, and by the end of yesterday, we had a This:

New wall, with new dirt. Ready for planting... and... and... Oh God our house is SO GREEN.
New wall, with new dirt. Ready for planting… and… and… Oh God our house is SO GREEN.

I threw some fresh mulch over the new dirt to keep the weed seeds off, and called it done. Next? Flowers. Actual gardening. Guys, you have no idea how happy this makes me, to finally have a part of the property that can be turned into a flowerbed.

I am glad that we built a test wall, though. Turns out that it takes a lot more stone to complete a wall than anticipated. And I banged the absolute crap out of my finger, so Brown’s probably right about wearing “shoes” with “toes” on projects like this. Go figure.


Brief Sunday Morning Conversation

Brooke here. Things have been ugh. Have a conversation.

Brown: There’s a toy fair today. I want to go.

Me: Okay. On the way home, I want to stop by an open house in the rich part of town.

Brown: (growls)

Me: What? You get to do something you want to do, I get to do something I want to do.

Brown: No, that part’s fine, but when we get home from the toy fair, we aren’t going to look at the toys we already own and say, “Those were a terrible purchase.”

Yes, They Do Windows. Both Sides, Actually…

Brooke here.

We’re Angie’s List members. It’s an… interesting service. It’s rather like paying money to subscribe to an opinionated phone book. I have found that most of the reviews are a few steps above Amazon’s, and pretty much on par with Goodreads: yes, some folks have various axes to grind and they want to do this in public, but the majority of reviews reflect the experience the reader/user had with that product/service/book at that time. Overall, it’s worth the subscription fee, especially with the condition of our home and the various life support systems it requires.

Sometime back in May, I got one of the Angie’s List daily deals for gutter cleaning.  A local company was offering a heck of a bargain, so I booked the deal.  The company’s owner came out, inspected the house, and we set up an appointment.  Then the gutters fell off, so getting them cleaned was not a priority.  I called the owner back, and he said that while he could not offer refunds for prepaid Angie’s List services, he would give us a steep discount on getting the entire house pressure washed.  Done and done.

Last Wednesday, two very nice Hired Dudes showed up with a big truck and some crazy-powerful spray equipment in the back. Brown and I had removed the storm windows and screens the night before, and these were neatly stacked out of the way so the Hired Dudes could have access to the main windows.  I assumed there might be some leakage when the windows were pressure-washed, especially in the window seat where there are noticeable gaps between the window and the sill, so I planned to have some towels ready when they got to that side of the house.

They got to work, and I got to work.  I’m happily typing away at the computer with the sound of running water in the background. It’s quite pleasant, really, and I can’t figure out why Zu keeps banging my elbow with his nose.

ME: “I’m working, dog.”

ZU: nosebang

ME: “I’m working.  Lie down.”

ZU: nosebangnosebangnosebang

ME: “ZU!”


Now, Zu’s not a “Timmy’s in the well!” sort of dog, but he is by his nature an excellent guard dog and is very attuned to changes in the house.  Such as, how the sound of running water is technically not background noise when it is pouring down the interior walls.

The next thirty minutes was marked by the most Flight-of-the-Bumblebees-frenetic housecleaning I’ve ever done in my life.  I’m waving frantically to the Hired Dudes a story below, and they can’t see me because (a) they’re a story below and (b) the windows are covered in a thick soapy paste.  And I can’t run out to talk to them, because me and my handful of towels and buckets are what’s standing between massive interior flooding and the odd electrical fire.  I’m scooping, rinsing, throwing suds, and swearing at anything dumb enough to coexist with me in this dimension.  By the time I finally got their attention, there were two windows left.  The Hired Dude asked me if I wanted them to stop, and we both looked towards those last two windows…

HD: “Ride it out?”

ME (sighing): “Yep.”

By the time they were finished, the house was thoroughly washed, inside and out.  I had cleaned and rinsed all walls, windows, and floors within the space of an hour.  And the mold and fluff that had accumulated on the exterior was blasted into oblivion…

Before.  It was slimy, too.
Before. It was slimy, too.
After. Slime-free!
After. Slime-free!


Overall, I’m pleased with the whole house-pressure-washing thing.  It’s something I would have never considered without the discount, and I don’t think it needs to be done again anytime soon (read: years!), but it’s definitely made a difference in the exterior.  However, we now know there is some serious leakage around the windows, and we have needed to get out the caulk and the paint to fix up the bits that didn’t survive the pressurized water.

(Oh, and the window seat?  Turns out I didn’t have to worry about that area leaking at all. Not so much that those windows didn’t leak, mind, but the water ran straight back outside once it came in. So… win? I guess. And more caulk.  Much, much more caulk.)