Saturday, January 18, 2014

New Siding!

We've been working away since the last post.  The hardiboard siding was put up just before the bad weather came this fall.  It was close, but we made it!  The house looks great.  Admittedly, we still have a few projects to do, (front porch) but it is much improved from before.

The color is "bristol green" from Miller Paint's historic collection.  The trim is Andover cream.  It turned out pretty good!

This is where we'd like to put a wood stove.

New front door and you can see the finished fir floors.
The floors on the first floor have been refinished and we even got some tiling done on the bathroom.
Pretty cool!  Mike came up with the pattern after looking at one of the rugs on our bedroom floor.
This is the radiant heat that we've just finished installing.  It goes between the floor joists in the basement and the first floor.  We've been impressed with how efficient it is already, much better then forced air!  
The garage pad is poured and ready to go.  I have a feeling that it might be put on hold until we finish the rest of the house.

Next post will have to include bathroom floor tile pictures.  More to come!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Long Overdue

I reread this blog the other day and discovered that the last post was in February of 2012.  This filled me with the same anxiety as finding a library book hidden on a bookshelf for who knows how long.  Sorry to keep you waiting!  We have really been kicking into high gear with the house lately and have made huge improvements.  Mike is out there almost every day with his dad and Berry and it looks great.

The South side of the house.  The part without new plywood is going to be torn down (hopefully soon!).

North side of the house with flowers!
 While Mike's been hard at work inside, I've been ripping up the grass in the front of the house and planting flowers.  I think the best surprise has been how well the poppies have been growing along with the Northwest wildflowers.  I can't wait until there's nothing left I have to mow!

I took a gardening gamble and planted corn in the front!  The deer haven't shown too much interest (knock on wood) and it has surpassed "knee high by the fourth of July".  Hopefully we'll be able to enjoy some end of the summer sweet corn.

Monster Squash
We also have some gigantic summer squash taking over their raised bed.  Today I saw a few blossoms out there (finally) and I'm pretty excited.  Sadly the two melon plants(!) sharing the bed don't look quite as happy.  That might have been a bit over-ambitious.
The tomatoes are doing well too.  True to form I forgot to start them inside until the end of February which was perhaps a bit late.  Mine looked too sickly so I ended up just buying some starts from Seattle Tilth.  They're pretty happy and we already have some ripening tomatoes and lots of flowers!  I think the crazy red mulch might actually be working it's magic.  Hopefully we'll have some ripe tomatoes well before September.

We have also got some (many, many) new residents at Ruston.  Kiki brought us over a couple of bee hive starts.  The one on the left is a traditional Langstroth hive and the one on the right is our attempt at building a Top Bar hive! They both seem to be doing pretty well despite some amateur fumbling from the two of us.  We are both anxiously anticipating some delicious honey.

Unfortunately I only had my sad phone camera today and it was completely incapable of taking interior shots.  Soon!


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Electrical and Garden

We've been busy at Ruston house this week working in the yard and getting everything ready for our new electrical installation.

Dubious fusebox

The current overhead hookup to the house (rain immanent!)

The string marks the spot!  Of our trench digging needs.

Right now we have an FPE breaker box that is apparently considered very sketchy.  I guess the fuses don't trip when they should.  Eeek!  Big big fire hazard!  So you can see those wires coming in up above in that picture - we've got an overhead service from the pole at the Southeast corner of the lot, across the alley.  For the new electrical service we're going to do an underground conversion from the pole at the Northeast corner, and then we'll stick the panel in the basement (instead of over there at the back outside of the house).  It is pretty exciting to be making this step!  Once we've got a new power source we can start ripping out all of that ancient knob-and-tube that everything's running on now and get this (partial) demolition (don't worry) going in earnest.

Meanwhile, I have been working away at our knotweed problem and Mike has been uprooting (difficult!) our laurels one after another.  Very soon we'll be upgrading our retaining wall from a collection of broken concrete (former patio?) and disintegrating railroad ties to something nice and new.  Neither of us has ever formed and poured concrete, so there's plenty of learning to be had along the way!  Then once that's in place we'll put up a fence and keep those neighborhood dogs from pooping everywhere.

My trip to Ruston yesterday was less successful.  I took Bugsy with me to plant some of my purchases from the Flower and Garden Show in Seattle (a Goji Berry bush and a Lingonberry bush!) as well as work on that obnoxious knotweed again.  Bugsy romped briefly around the yard while I planted the seedlings and talked to our neighbor.  Then it started to rain and Bugsy became quite grumpy.  At first he tried standing next to me, looking sad and dejected while I pulled up our lonely last scotch broom that Mike wanted to keep.  When I headed back towards the truck to grab something, he ran ahead of me excitedly, making dramatic jumps and leaps as he circled the truck.  When I didn't open the door, he went back into sad dog mode.  Clearly I wasn't getting the message.  I tried to pull up some knotweed at the front of the house, but that was when it started really pouring and Bugsy still wasn't doing anything to boost morale.  After standing next to me whimpering slightly, he gave up and decided to wait under the cover of the front porch.  I finally left the knotweed - my old leaky rain jacket had started to soak through!  He was of course thrilled and made another exuberant run to the truck, this time taking a satisfying jump onto the warm seat.

Hopefully next week will bring weather that cooperates a bit better.

Sad, wet Bugsy (in favorite gold chair!)

New book and a local seed catalog 

Seed starts!  This time I'm making it easy on myself with a nice start tray

Garden/Site Plan.
Contour lines thanks to the EPA lead/arsenic remediation map,
architecture work thanks to Mike's dad!

Newest garden incarnation, looking a bit worse for wear

Ann and Mike

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Tentative Victory Against Knotweed

It has been slow going, but we have made some serious progress on the knotweed front. Mike's mom Kiki and I have toiled away on the large patch on the West side of our house. Yesterday Mike helped me finish the job and we removed all visible evidence of the plant (on the western front, that is - there's still an alarming patch by the front door). I'm sure that there is more lurking under the surface, but we'll never know when it's really eradicated so we celebrate where we can. I am also reading lots of information about knotweed, including the very thorough King County Knotweed Eradication Booklet (thanks Chris!). I now know "the four T's": timely, tenacious, tough and thorough. They're attributes we should demonstrate in order to vanquish this invasive weed, but they quite aptly describe the knotweed itself. This plant is a voracious reproducer and has no problem growing from seed pods, creepy red-orange nodules, or root fragments.  Definitely something to treat with care. We've been bagging it and taking it to the dump. There's no way we captured every last piece of it, and we'll have to start looking for new sprouts in the next weeks while we tackle the snarl at the front of the house. Is it possible that someone purposely planted this (almost certainly the case)? I shudder to think of it.

We haven't just been pulling things out of the ground.  We've just planted a row of fruit trees in the yard, something that will one day make a small orchard to include the two we've already got there.  Now in addition to the pear and Italian prune, we'll have two apples, an apricot, a sour cherry and a rainier, and a second pear tree.  Orchard!  I can't wait! And it looks like we might even get some blossoms on the sour cherry this season.  The saplings are about as tall as we are, and most of them will be 10-15 feet when they're full grown, but that new pear is going to reach 20-30 feet!  I wonder how long that will take.

In somewhat more distressing news, we have learned an interesting feature about our sewer lateral.  Our plumber sent a camera down there last week, and marked its route through the yard in green.

The green markings show the direction of the lateral and the depth.  Not that deep, which makes fixing/replacing it convenient!  But what's that up ahead?
Uh oh.  X marks the spot.
It heads straight to one of the trees our town (I assume) planted along the length of our block on the median.  The camera couldn't get past that point, and at only 3 feet down the roots are almost certainly the culprit.  It's an ominous sign, but we're finding hope as we learn how to work with the city.  They'll be digging up the entire street to replace the main sewer line in June, and that should coincide nicely with whatever attempts we have to make to fix things on our end (though it's still not clear on whose end the problem sits).  Hmm...the possibilities.

The new fruit trees are budding!
I inspect the location of our Comice Pear.
These poor old ladies are well overdue for their haircuts.
No longer any visible signs of knotweed, but who knows what lurks deep under the surface.
Our next knotweed project.  Bzzzht!

And I wish we had some photographic evidence for this story, but we were too enchanted to even think to grab the camera.  When Kiki, Mike and I were at the house on Monday taking our lunch break, we looked up and saw a bald eagle(!) cruising by, slowly, maybe a hundred feet up.  It was so close!  And just coasting leisurely overhead.  It must have been looking for some lunch of its own.  But the chickens!  We'll have to be careful and build a coop with wire mesh over the run, or giving the hens plenty of thorny bushes to hide in (Ann says that they feel safe when they're in among the thorns).  I'm sure that eagle wouldn't think twice about grabbing any of our ladies for a lunchtime snack.  Yikes!

Ann and Mike

Friday, February 3, 2012

Damn you Japanese Knotweed.

Mike and I have been hard at work on the yard at Ruston. Mike has made a huge amount of progress clearing out the area at the back of the house, and it looks great! Blackberries and laurel bushes are disappearing and we can finally get a real sense of the size of our yard (and we no longer have to navigate a tangle of brambles in the back - now if only the neighbor whose dog has been pooping up and down our freshly cleared yard could, I don't know, rein it in a bit) but getting such encouraging results is really satisfying. I have been busy tackling a Japanese knotweed problem on the West side of the house.  It is very slow work. Imagine morning glory, but larger and roots that snap off just as easily (To regrow! Exciting!). Not exciting. I am now resigned to my fate, which resembles something of an archeologist excavating ancient knotweed ruins.  If anyone has any miracle cures, tips for knotweed (flamethrower?), or morale-boosting success stories about its eradication, please share (or better yet, come help out!). Especially since on Tuesday I noticed two smaller patches around the front of the house. Boo.

We've been doing all this yard work instead of tackling the house directly in part because it's straightforward - no permits, just cutting and digging.  But it's also a big prerequisite for other important jobs: up next on the list is fencing the front and the back (finally no more stray poops), replacing the crumbling railroad tie retaining wall with a new concrete retaining wall, getting a new electrical service put in (the main breaker panel right now is some ancient, incredibly unreliable type) as well as shoring up the precariously slumping front porch.

And here are some more pictures!

Ann and Mike

My nemesis.
The knotweed.
Close up root bits. Grumpy!
We have unearthed some miscellaneous ancient ruins, including 3 car tires complete with rims and some (perhaps once sturdy) wood.
This laurel on the left is next on the list after the one on the right in that "After" photo
Mike's truck and evidence of more to do.
Obnoxious root bundle!
I had to include Cooper drinking from the dog bowl. This is back in Tacoma - he hasn't been to Ruston yet!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New House, New Blog.

Mike and I recently became proud new homeowners!  We have a house in Ruston, WA, a small town in North Tacoma (with its own wikipedia entry).  It was once a company town for the ASARCO smelter (defunct as of 1985).  Ruston is  a pretty amazing, unique place surrounded by North Tacoma on 3 sides and the Sound on another.  You can see a helpful google map here:  Ruston, WA

The house...well it needs a lot of work.  However, it makes up for its shortcomings with a view of the Sound and a rambling yard that slopes down towards the north (part of the same slope that once made up "Stack Hill", where the smelter's smokestack, the tallest in the world back in 1917, once resided).  The yard is amazing.  It is a quarter acre with a couple old fruit trees and some crumbling railroad ties.  It's a total blank slate.  I'm very excited to plan a large garden and get cracking on the yard while we are waiting for permitting and other things to get in motion.

The inside of the house is gutted.  It was a bank foreclosure that was in the process of being remodeled when the work stopped partway.  The good news is that we are saved from doing a big chunk of demolition, and since we'll end up tearing down to the studs and starting almost from scratch, what we do with the layout and structure of the house is largely up to us.  The bad news how much work this leaves us with.  This includes all the electrical (goodbye knob and tube!), plumbing, heating, building a possible addition, restructuring the second floor and roof (for a high vaulted ceiling!), plenty more windows, siding - really everything.  There is so much to do that our biggest challenge is going to be picking and choosing what to do, staying on top of it all and not getting bogged down in details.

We will have many house updates and plans to follow.  Enjoy!


View from the back of the property
Bugsy upset about being forced to pose.
Our pear tree.

Directly behind the house.  Raised beds maybe?
Second-floor framing. Thanks previous owner, but we're going to get rid of most of this!
The house.  Front and center