Hire a contractor? What a concept!

If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that Eric and I see home maintenance and improvement through DIY glasses. When we take on a project, hiring someone to do it never seems to cross our minds (unless it’s roofing, plumbing, or wiring—then you should always hire someone you can sue). But, when it came to replacing our backyard fence, we quickly decided to hire it out. I’m so glad we did! If we’d taken it on ourselves, we’d still be working on it. What made us hire a pro? Maybe we’re older and wiser … or maybe we’re just older. Even so, it turned out to be a lot of work for us, too.

Old, rotting cedar fence

Vintage fencing.

The old fence dates back to when I bought the house in 1984. My then-boyfriend built it for me, and did a credible job. Fast forward 33 years and the cedar fence is falling down like a pair of old socks, desperately grasping onto bungee cords and anything it can lean on for support. We decided to do the demolition ourselves. “It’s so wobbly, we’ll be able to just kick it down,” said Eric. Goes to show how wrong you can be …

A word of explanation about our sorry-looking backyard. Usually it looks nice, but we have had challenges this summer. Thanks to Duke’s excavation hobby, the gardens began to look more like craters of the moon. Then he began digging pits in the grass. Knowing we would be tearing things up along the fence line, we kinda quit taking care of this end of the yard. I like to think of it as next spring’s landscaping opportunity.

Backyard with trees, grass, and old wood fence

The dilapidated backyard with its dilapidated fence.

Backyard with long grass and old wood fence.

This does not look like a gardener’s backyard.

Rotting cedar fence boards

Something’s rotten …

Eric called a highly rated fence company in June, and was told we’d be scheduled for two consecutive Fridays in late September. It was hard to be patient, but good contractors are busy people. The week before our construction date, we set to work removing the old fence. Our first task was to build a temporary fence to contain Diggety Duke. We bought a roll of welded wire fencing and a bunch of steel poles, et voila.

20170917_110649_resized_1

Installing the Duke fence.

20170917_121223_resized

Duke proof!

Eric was right about the fence boards, anyway. They popped right off, as eager to retire as I am. We stacked them in a neat heap in the yard, where they remain for now, killing the grass beneath. We will pull the nails and store them elsewhere. They’re essentially barnwood, and will be great for picture frames and craft projects. Those that are too far gone will be used for kindling. The pile will not go to waste.

The new, wide-open view to the alley made us feel so exposed. I was a little surprised to see how much traffic went up and down the alley every day. We were eager to regain our privacy.

Demolishing an old wooden fence.

The panels all but fell off.

Old wooden fence coming down.

A new, wide open view.

The fun part was over. We began to dig out the posts, which we found to be set in generous, irregularly shaped chunks of concrete that resisted removal. Did I mention that the rain had come? We’d just survived the driest summer on record, but the instant we went outside to demolish the fence, that was enough to make rain. Not an unpleasant downpour, just a nice, gentle, Pacific Northwest drizzle, which turned our much-trampled fence line and backyard to a sea of mud.

We had the brief, bright idea of simply sawing off the stubborn fence posts and burying the evidence, but even though we were moving the fence line slightly, we found that they would still be in the way … darn it.

Concrete holds a fence post in the ground.

The concrete blob.

Under the fence line was a course of concrete block, which I had installed to build up a planting berm in the corner of the yard. On the alley side was a platform of concrete pavers that Eric had put down to form a level spot for our garbage and recycling containers. It wasn’t too hard to dig these out and carry them to an out-of-the-way spot in the backyard. They’ll be used again. We weren’t excited to discover two additional courses of the same under the first. More digging.

Black and white cat looks at a muddy fence project.

Crosby inspects our demolition progress.

Concrete pavers in muddy yard.

Everywhere I dug, I unearthed more concrete blocks and pavers.

All the while, poor Duke sat in the rain behind his fence, gloomily watching our progress and wondering why humans scold dogs for digging, yet apparently humans are allowed to dig to their hearts’ content. I finally had to put him inside—I couldn’t take his reproachful, hurt expression.

Boxer dog sits sadly behind wire fence.

Aww, Dukey …

After a full weekend of soggy, muddy demolition, we waited excitedly for Friday to come. I worked at home that day so I could watch the crew’s progress. They would be setting posts the first day, and returning a week later to install the fence panels. I don’t have a single photo of the crew at work. I must have been too busy lurking behind the curtains, watching them—no, no, busy working, yes, that’s what it was—to take pictures.

Eric didn’t take any construction photos, either. He must have been working, too.

But wow, here’s the finished product! The crew worked amazingly fast. We’re so, so pleased with the results. The fence now extends between the houses almost to the front yard. We’ll use the narrow section along the side of the house, which is partitioned off with lockable gates, to store things like our long ladders and firewood. It’s already covered in gravel, although it could use more.

In place of our sagging gate, we now have an eight-foot gate on sturdy 4 x 6 posts. It doesn’t sag a bit.

Corner view of new cedar fence.

I like how the panels step down to follow the grade.

New cedar fence showing eight-foot gate.

The gate on the alley.

I’ll wait until next spring to show you pics from inside the backyard. We have a ton of landscaping work to do … but it’ll be raining for the next six months (kidding/not kidding).

The particulars

125 feet of 6-ft cedar fence. Two walk gates, one 8-ft drive gate. $4600. Contractor: Western Pacific Fence, Auburn, WA.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

Advertisements

The garage catches up

Last summer, you might recall, we painted the exterior of the house.  We ran out of summer before we could finish some of the details, like painting our garage (if an entire building can be considered a detail). So naturally, we waited until we were pressing up against rainy season 2017 to start this painting project. But, look at this little bitty garage! It’s only Model T size, so it can’t take long to throw a coat of paint on it, now, can it? Let’s see how many side projects can derail our progress.

100 year old garage with original carriage doors

Our Model T garage

1.  Power wash.

Washing is really just a starting point for any paint job, not a side project, but it takes time and effort, so it’s on this list. Bonus—it’s always fun to play with water when the weather’s hot. Eric attacked the alley side first, which was caked with years of dust.

Man pressure washes old garage

Playing with water on a hot day

Damaged shingle siding on pressure washed garage

After pressure washing. The corner shingles have been crunched, probably hit by the garbage truck.

2. Hack back the Japanese garden.

Meanwhile, things were out of control on the garden side of the garage. We needed to be able to throw a tarp over the plants to protect them from paint spray, but first we had to be able to get to the plants. We didn’t do much garden maintenance this summer, and it shows. I’ll use my tweaky back as my excuse, and—oh yeah—the un-Seattle-like hot weather. It’s no fun gardening in 90+ degree  sun. Yep, old war horse excuses trotted out one more time.

Overgrown small Japanese garden.

An overgrown mess.

Black and white cat meows as he lies in a garden.

Checkers says, “Don’t mess with my secret sleeping spot!”

Small, old garage waiting for paint

Garden side before paint

As I trimmed and weeded my way down the narrow garden path, I discovered that Digger O’Dell* (as my mom would have called Duke) had extended his excavation hobby to the Japanese garden, which I had feared was inevitable. I found a pit at the corner of the fence, and a trough all along the side of the garage foundation. Eighty-three-pound Duke, with his dig-or-be-damned determination, managed to wedge himself behind the spikey blue Atlas cedar and the bushy spirea, a tight fit even for a cat. Look what he did to my black mondo grass!

I’m trying to save some of it in water until I can replant.

3.  Install a drain pipe along the alley.

Eric plans to bury a drain pipe next to the garage to handle winter runoff from the alley. While digging the trench, he dug up hundreds of day lily bulbs, which we gave away to neighbors. I don’t know why he didn’t subcontract with Duke to do this work.

Looking down the alley side of the garage.

Looking down the alley side of the garage where the drain pipe will go.

Dug-up day lilies laying on a board

Day lilies, anyone?

4.  Renovate the greenhouse.

Then, there’s our little greenhouse, which was built 20 years ago from salvaged windows. It was desperate for attention. The window glazing was falling out, the shingle siding was rotting, and the fiberglass wiggle board roof was oxidized, brittle, and leaking. We couldn’t very well paint the garage without upgrading the greenhouse! That’s where this project really exploded: Eric is applying narrow T-1-11 plywood siding … nothing fancy, but it’ll keep the wasps and rain out. Also, it’s getting a new roof of UV-resistant polycarbonate panels, which we saw on the catio tour this summer. I’ll reglaze the windows and we’ll paint the greenhouse to match the house. This will be the old windows’ first experience with paint. They’re due.

Run-down greenhouse

Sad!

Greenhouse made of salvaged wood windows

Such potential!

Brittle fiberglass roof on greenhouse.

Crispy roof.

Greenhouse with blue tarp on roof.

Blue tarp. Yep, we’re those people.

Before he could begin installing the new greenhouse roof, Eric painted the garage gable, which would be inaccessible once the new roof went on. Our weather was still summer-hot.

Man stands on ladder in roofless greenhouse and paints a wall.

Painting the gable.

5. Straighten up the saggy garage door.

Yes, the garage leans a little. So will you when you are 104 years old. The left door, in particular, is sagging. (We don’t park in the garage. We use it as storage for … stuff.)

100 year old garage with original carriage doors that sag.

A little crooked, but cute as ever.

Eric filled screw holes and moved the top hinge on the left door back up to its original position so it could get a better bite. This helped raise the door a tiny bit, but not enough. Eric has other methods up his sleeve for later.

I kept running into green paint on the garage. The house would have turned green in the 1940s or 50s when the asbestos siding was applied (as did the house next door, which remained green into the mid-90s), because the asbestos tiles were originally green. The garage didn’t get the asbestos siding treatment and has always been sided in the original shingles.

Garage door hinge replaced in original postion

Underneath–green?

How did we do?

We’re still working on it! We’re not finished (with anything), but we’ve made lots of progress, and the autumn rain has held off—so far—no guarantees about tomorrow. Here are some before-and-afters.

Painting the garage doors was my project. It seemed to take forever, and it’s still not quite finished. The center strip needs replacing.

100 year old garage with original carriage doors that sag.

Before

Repainted 1913 garage.

After

The greenhouse roof. Nearly finished, but it still needs blocking between the rafters, trimming, and a gutter.

Brittle fiberglass roof on greenhouse.

Before.

Greenhouse with new polycarbonate roof

After. The new roof even makes the sun shine!

Greenhouse siding. Since the “after” shot, I’ve primed and pre-painted the siding panels, and they’re ready to be installed. Next will be trim and reglazing those windows. We haven’t started the door end yet.

Before.

Boxer lies in front of greenhouse under renovation.

Much has been done since this shot, but Duke looks too cute not to include it!

The garden side of the garage. Both the garden and the garage look better. I really like how the plants look against the new color.

Small, old garage waiting for paint

Before

1913 garage with new paint

After

I got on a roll and weeded and trimmed up the whole garden.

The alley side of the garage. So much better!

100 year old garage with original carriage doors

Before.

Newly painted 1913 garage

After.

Wait—what’s that, just past the greenhouse? My next post, that’s what! Stay tuned …

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*Digger O’Dell was the “friendly undertaker” in the 1940s radio show, The Life of Riley.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

Just in time for fall, another screen door

“Little and often make much.”

So says a Chinese fortune paper that I keep on my desk at work. This summer, I have done as little as I can, as often as possible, and I can’t figure out why I haven’t accomplished much! Maybe my pace will pick up once our scorching-hot summer is over.

One of my summer projects was to paint the back screen door, which still matched the previous color scheme. How hard can that be?

Half the summer slipped by before I laid the door out for rejuvenation in my side-porch paint lab. I had barely gotten busy sanding its grubby surface when I noticed that the glue joint above the handle had separated. We decided that the old door had come to the end of its useful life. Time for a fresh start.

At Lowe’s we chose a new pine screen door in the same style as the old one. This time, though, Eric wanted to install a real dog door instead of cutting a flap of screen fabric. We need to keep the fur kids in, yet still ventilate the house. Additionally, he wanted to upgrade the standard screen fabric to pet screen, which is a strong, coarser, vinyl-coated polyester mesh that resists claws. (I highly recommend it.)

Now—watch as a seemingly simple project (paint a freakin’ door!) balloons into a whole summer’s worth of mini projects!

On our old door, the screen was attached with a spline in a groove, making the screen impossible to removable without ruining it. The new door features a routered channel that holds a metal frame, into which the screen and spline is inserted. The whole framework and screen can be removed for painting the door, then reinstalled with screws. Eric says this system has been around for a long time … but what do I know? I was just glad I wouldn’t have to tape the screens when I painted. I hate taping!

Wood screen door without the screen

The door with the metal frame and screen removed.

In his basement shop, Eric customized the door to hold a large dog door, the same kind we have in the back door. He filled the space above the dog door with wood. (In the photos below, the wood door is laying on a plywood surface, making it hard to see details.)

He also had to buy new, larger metal framing for the screen, because the frame that came with the door was too small to accept the heavier pet screen fabric. The larger frame required routering a wider channel in the door. All that gluing, screwing, and tattooing took longer than I’d hoped, but finally our new, custom door made its way back upstairs to the paint lab.

My turn. Notice, I seldom paint alone. If Eric took a long time to customize the door, I probably took just as long to finish painting. I could only do one coat per day, and I didn’t paint every day.

We pin the door back against the house when it’s not in use because there’s only a top step to stand on—no landing and no place to get out of the way of an outward-opening door. When it’s pinned back, the inside of the door is visible from the street, so I painted it the trim color to help it blend with the trim around the back porch window. Initially I thought to paint it the gray-green siding color, but people only see the top of the door from the street, and the pale taupe looks better from the inside when the door’s closed.

At last, the door was cured and ready to be fitted out with the new screen and pet door. Eric did the work on the kitchen floor.

Finally—ready to install! But wait—let’s do some additional fiddling around. When Eric removed the old door, we found that the hinges had been screwed into a piece of shim inside the door jamb. No wonder it never fit right. Eric cut a new trim piece for the door jamb, and I, of course, painted it. Now we could proceed with measuring and jiggling it around until it fit just so, at the right height and depth … are we done yet? No!

To make the door fit flush with the exterior door frame, Eric added some clever bumpers. Can you tell what these are really for? (Hint: They are not rubber baby buggy bumpers.) If you can’t figure it out, go lift up your toilet seat …

Rubber bumper used to dampen screen door slam.

The door always closes quietly.

Door with hook and eye fastener

Interior hardware

Boxer stands before pet door

Duke quivers with excitement as Eric encourages him to try his new door.

View of plants outside screen door

The leafy view from inside.

Boxer peers under wooden gate

What people see from the sidewalk. Go ahead–stick your foot under the gate!

We started this easy project on July 7. We hung the screen door on August 28 … our normal, do-little-often pace. (But we’ve had a hot, fun summer!) Duke is still figuring out how to heft his hind legs through the new door, which is a higher step than the other door. Some of the cats are confused that the screen panel isn’t the way in anymore. Eric and I are on to our next project. We’ll all figure it out …

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

Seattle Catio Tour!

I know some of my readers have been waiting for this tour, so LET’S GO!

Black and white cat peeks through Japanese forest grass

Cats want to be outdoors!

Catios—enclosures that allow cats to safely enjoy the outdoors—are becoming wildly popular. So much so that a local animal welfare organization, PAWS, along with Catio Spaces, sponsored a tour of Seattle-area catios. We don’t have a catio at the bungalow (Duke’s dog door gives the cats in/out access), but we have the purrfect place to build one outside our breakfast room windows, if we wish. When we build the Whidbey Island house, a catio will be a necessity because we’ll be near a busy road. Not to mention the coyotes and eagles that roam the area.

So, on a hot Saturday afternoon, Eric and I cranked up our car’s AC and crisscrossed Seattle on a catio tour. What better way to spend a gorgeous summer day?

Our first stop: Magnolia Manor.

Catio under magnolia tree

Magnolia Manor

Beautifully sited beneath a mature magnolia tree, this 8′-6″ x 5′ catio has a southern exposure to the home’s lovely, landscaped back terrace. In the catio constructed of natural-colored 2 x 4s and 2 x 2s, covered with one-inch hardware cloth, and partially roofed with metal roofing, the two resident cats can really feel like they’re up a tree. The structure is supported by pier blocks and floored with wood decking. The cats enter the catio via a cat door in the side of the house, climb a ramp, then traverse a 12-foot sky bridge into the enclosure. Multiple perches, huts, and soft beds provide places to lounge and be entertained by two birdfeeders hanging tantalizingly out of reach. Like all the catios we saw on the tour, this one features a full-size door for humans, which is padlocked for security. These cats were totally relaxed even while a passel of strangers poked around their digs.

Click on any photo to view the slideshow.

Next up: Casa Gatito Madre.

Dark-framed catio built against house

Casa Gatito Madre

This small-but-tall catio is framed with 2 x 4s and 2 x 2s that are stained charcoal gray. Screening is welded wire fencing. Two foster kittens slept, dead to the world, on corner shelves covered in outdoor carpet. Ultraviolet-resistant polycarbonate panels cover the roof. Although the pawprint is small at 5’7″ x 5′, the structure extends 10 feet tall so that the uppermost cat platforms are level with the deck railing, enabling humans on the deck to interact with kitties. Pea-gravel and a colorful rug complete the  floor. Obviously, people have fun decorating these spaces, which are equally part of the landscape and the house.

Serena’s Garden Getaways provide lucky creamsicle cat, Serena, with three awesome catios.

Large catio next to house

Serena’s Garden Getaways

All are designed by her mom, Cynthia Chomos, founder of Catio Spaces (check it out for lots of great photos, ideas, and plans). First, Serena got a window box catio in the front of the house—perfect for keeping tabs on neighborhood comings and goings … especially birds and squirrels.

Window box catio on front of house

Serena’s window box

Then, Cynthia built a 6 x 8 sanctuary catio next to the house. (If the charcoal gray framing and polycarbonate roof look familiar, it’s because Cynthia also designed Casa Gatito Madre.) Eric and I noted what a difference the color of the framing and fencing makes: A dark color makes the frame almost disappear, while natural wood stands out and lends the structure a lighter-weight feeling. If we built a catio, we’d use the same colors as our house to help it blend in.

But wait—there’s meowre! The pièce de résistance is the Catnap catio, a tall, gabled 12′ x 7′ garden spot in a corner of the beautifully landscaped backyard. (I felt like we were getting a bonus garden tour at these three houses.) What a serene place to lounge with Serena. This fanciful space features a grass floor, a spiral staircase for kitty, and a comfy couch for mom. The human door is decorated with another vine-motif panel, which we came to recognize as a design feature of Catio Spaces. Later, we saw similar metal trellises at Lowe’s, so they are readily available to dress up your catio. Imagine, if you’re a cat, the fun of running to your own garden room through the 20-foot honeysuckle-covered catwalk tunnel, which blends so nicely with the fence that at first my brain only saw “arbor.” The catwalk features drop-down hatches for maintenance or cat retrieval. What a paradise!

The Enclosure that Mama Built is a little more rustic, but just as functional as the others.

Large free-standing catio

Mam’s large, freestanding catio

Spanning three levels, cats can exit the house on the top deck, hang out in the area below the deck, and then continue on through a short tunnel to the freestanding catio enclosure. Both the enclosure and the under-deck area have doors for humans. Where other catios feature potted plants, this one borrows foliage from the backyard itself: ivy and rhododendrons grow inside, with shade provided by trees along the property line. A small tree trunk supports a series of cat shelves. Humans can hang out on the Adirondack chair, or on an old wagon buckboard. I especially liked the detail of a salvaged window forming a transom above the door. This structure isn’t as sleek and fashionable as the first three catios, with a homemade mix of materials … but I’m sure the cats love it just as much!

Fort Fluff was built to keep a rescued stray from bolting.

Cation built against yellow house

Fort Fluff

The two resident kitties have a shallow window catio in the front of the house and a large space in the back of the house, both accessible through windows. The owners told us that Lowe’s sells cat doors made to be cut into window screens—what a great idea! (We looked for them, but can’t find them at Lowes or on their website. Amazon has them, however.) With the house’s bright yellow paint, giant potted hostas, and turquoise patio set, this catio has a fiesta vibe. The wooden box with multiple circular cutouts is a clever place to hide. We often cut doors and windows in large cardboard boxes, to our cats’ delight. The enclosure fabric is dark green plastic poultry fencing. The owner mentioned that originally the catio floor was made of organic cat litter, until they found that rats could chew through the plastic fabric to get to the litter. They kept the poultry fencing but changed the floor to cedar chips, which naturally repels fleas (and rats), and it smells great. No more rat problem! This catio’s sunny location can be quite warm, and the concrete block house radiates even more heat. I’d add a roof or awning to this structure to make it more comfortable. Maybe that’s what the umbrella is normally used for.

Our last stop was the Cat Corral, another catio designed by Catio Spaces. Can you tell?

Catio in backyard

Cat Corral

This 12 x 9-foot enclosure (the biggest we saw) features a grass floor. (How do people cut it, I wonder? With a weed whacker?) The catio sits just off the couples’ deck so they can easily sit close to their cats, who enter the catio through a cat door directly from the house. There’s actually plenty of room inside the catio for cats and humans to cohabitate. The interior is spare, with carpet-covered shelves and platforms, but little in the way of hiding places, plants, or décor for either cats or people. And, in the afternoon, the catio is bathed in full sun. If it were mine, I’d add a sheltering roof of some sort, and furnish it with plants and items for cats and humans alike to play with or relax upon. Maybe it’s a new space and the owners haven’t gotten that far. At the time, it didn’t occur to me to ask. Still, it’s a lovely, large catio with tons of potential.

What we learned

Even though Eric and I have good imaginations and construction skills, we picked up some valuable tips on this tour. To create a professional looking catio that you and your cats will love, pay attention to these aspects:

♥  Use 2 x 4s for major framing, 2 x 2s for additional bracing and for attaching fence fabric.

♥  Stain or paint all structural members the same color for a cohesive look. Dark colors recede, light colors stand out. Or, match your house color to help the catio blend in.

♥  Cover the structure in hardware cloth or welded wire fence fabric. Run all the fence fabric in the same direction for a consistent look.

♥  Of course, add lots of shelves and perches for cats, but don’t forget to include some comfy furniture for you so you can enjoy the catio, too.

♥  Make sure your cat can find some hiding spots. Add little cat houses and boxes to explore.

♥  Catios are all about being out in nature, right? Build it under a tree, or use potted or natural plants so that your kitty can pretend he or she’s in their own safe little jungle. Cats love gardens!

♥  Be aware of your site’s exposure. If it gets baked by sun, make sure you provide shade. If you want the cats to use the catio in all wa eather, install a roof to keep them dry.

♥  Brilliant idea—install a cat door in a window screen!

♥  Cats can easily negotiate tight spaces, so you can get creative with entrances and tunnels (the parts you won’t get into).

♥  Add a trap door to a tunnel so you can reach in to clean it or grab your cat.

♥  Everyone appreciates a clean floor. Try wood, stone, pea gravel, grass, or cedar chips. Add an outdoor carpet.

♥  Add art! Cats love art!

Which catio is your favorite? We loved Magnolia Manor not only for its cat-friendly accoutrements, but for its beautiful garden setting under the magnolia tree. As our cats always remind us, “Location, location, location!”

B;ack and white cat sitting on a rock in a garden

Checkers says “Remember–cats love gardens!”

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

 

 

 

The skeeters are coming! The skeeters are coming!

In fact, they’ve been here for weeks, early this year, and BIG. Our record-breakingly wet spring might have had something to do with that. Bugs sent us scrambling to get screens on our doors and windows, but dang it, it’s never that easy, is it?

We’ve had the screen on the front door all winter. I finished painting that one last fall. But the screens for the French doors, which we often open for air (and to let cats inside—they have us trained) have been leaning wearily against the wall in the foyer all winter, waiting for their turn. Their red exteriors were already done, but the interior side needed to be painted Chef White to match our trim, which I’m still laboriously picking away at in between long breaks.

Black and white cat waits to be let in French doors

Poor little Checkers stuck outside!

When I bought the house in 1984, I found screens for all the house’s windows stacked in the basement. Ironically, nearly all the windows in the house had been painted shut. By the time Eric came along, the wood frames were falling apart, but he saved the hardware. Fortunately, the original French screen doors were intact. We rescreened them with “pet proof” fiberglass screen fabric, which is coarse and black. It really works! Our cats abuse it regularly, and it’s held up for years.

Mosquitoes were entering through the bathroom window, too. Eric made  a screen for one of the bathroom windows a couple of years ago, and I still had to paint its interior.

Red-framed bathroom window with screen

Our home-grown bathroom window screen

Old-fashioned screen clip

The old hardware works just fine (interior view of bathroom window screen).

Lastly, the kitchen screen door is still spruce green. I tend to forget about that one because we pin it back against the house when we’re not using it (an odd configuration), and when we are using it, it looks so familiar that I don’t see it. Put it on my list …

I set up my paint shop on the side porch, balancing the long French door screens on our rocky bistro table. Usually I don’t bother to tape, but I couldn’t risk slopping paint on the screen. (I dripped some on one screen despite my best efforts.)

Boxer dog lies beneath screen door ready for painting.

Security is present whenever the queen is in residence.

It took several days and a couple of weekends to paint the doors and give them a good chance to cure before hanging them. I spent a bit of time sanding the crud off of this brass sliding bolt that secures the bottom of the doors on the inside. I quit because A) I got bored real quickly with this fussy job, or B) We decided to upgrade to new black hinges and hardware … take your pick.

Brass slliding bolt

The original brass sliding bolt. We’ll use it somewhere …

Black hinge on French door screen

One of four new black hinges

We replaced the sliding bolt with a new black one.

Black sliding bolt on French doors

The sliding bolt secures the screen doors at the bottom.

But we retained the original high-tech latch.

Hokk keeps screen doors closed.

Refection off the French doors makes the screen interiors appear red. They’re actually white.

I added some colorful flowers to the deck planters and brought out the porch pillows. Ah … it looks so inviting! The side porch is my favorite room of the house in summertime.

Flower planters on porch viewed from inside

Summer flowers

View of porch through screened French doors.

This porch always beckons me.

Bistro table on porch, viewed from inside

Now the bugs stay out.

A finished project! Woo-hoo!!

Uncovered porch on Craftsman bungalow

The porch viewed from the sidewalk.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

From the inside out: Seattle Modern Homes Tour

C’mon along on the 2017 Seattle Modern Homes Tour! Every spring Eric and I look forward to this tour, which sets us off on a merry chase all over town. Amazingly, Eric seems to know the streets in every neighborhood, so I just sit back and enjoy the ride—and the architecture.

This year we managed to bag all eight of the featured houses, plus lunch and coffee, in the six hours that the tour was open (not always easy or possible).

Seattle is built on hills, so views are everywhere. This year’s tour can be summed up in two words: Views and stairs. Flights and flights of stairs to accommodate steep building lots. Most of the houses on this year’s tour weren’t friendly for aging in place—something Eric and I now keep in mind when we look at a house.

I found myself taking more photos of the windows and views than of the interiors, hence the title of this post, “From the inside out.”

Here are the highlights.

Map of our route through Seattle for the Modern Homes Tour

The 2017 Seattle Modern Homes trail [source: MA+DS]

Mt. Baker

We started on the south end with No. 8, in the Mt. Baker neighborhood.  It wasn’t hard to pick out this house amongst its century-old neighbors. It would stand out anywhere. Clad in repurposed wood siding, the rustic wood theme carried on inside. Maybe a little too rustic—running into the rough-hewn posts could leave you pulling splinters out of your face.

A wooden box on a hill

Mt. Baker 0

I found lots to like about this house: The walnut floors were to die for. The recycled cardboard hanging lamps (which I found online at over $300 apiece) looked warm and beckoning in the open stairwell. It felt open and airy, if  a little lacking in color. The garage, off the alley, was up a level from the front of the house on this steep lot, and accessed by a bridge across the back courtyard, which would make every trip to the garage a little special. But that same steep terrain reduced the backyard to a confining, deep pit of a courtyard. I love courtyards, but I didn’t want to linger in this one. What I really wanted to do was check out the cute shingled bungalow next door. (I bet the neighbors weren’t thrilled when this mod box landed virtually on top of them.)

Click on any photo to view the gallery.

Leschi

House No. 7 in Leschi won the view competition hands-down. From our parking place, I looked right through this house at the Interstate 90 floating bridge (can you see it?). I love a see-through house! I could waste a lot of time just watching the boats and the mountains and the lights of the Eastside and the cars flowing along this artery to the city. I’d never get anything done!

Modern home with view of floating bridge

Leschi

The living area’s wall of windows was just that: a wall. No deck would be built outside these sliding doors—only a railing. I can understand not wanting to compromise that view, but I’d want outside access from the main living space. An awesome deck occupied the rooftop level, but I don’t want to climb two flights of stairs up or down to get to my outdoor space. Bright light from outside made photos difficult. I remember the master bedroom as my favorite room. But that view … I could wake up and go to sleep with that view.

Madison Park

For No. 1, we drove to Madison Park, a truly lovely Seattle neighborhood that’s way, way out of our league. (Truth be told, we can’t even afford to think about moving anywhere within the Seattle city limits. The median house price has shot up to $772,000.) But back to my fantasy …

Modern home in Madison Park

Madison Park

The only view this house has is a spectacularly landscaped central courtyard, around which the house is built. Somehow, that’s all it needs.

We fell in love with this Zen-like house, and from the comments we overheard, everyone else did, too. Besides the courtyard, our favorite features were several high, long windows that made slices of outside into framed pieces of art.

Roanoke

Over the ridge in Roanoke, house No. 5 was a grand old Seattle foursquare. What was this one doing on a modern home tour? The streetscape didn’t give anything away, but I knew something special had to be behind that bright aqua door.

Gray Seattle foursquare house

Roanoke

The bright and light-filled living room featured a beautiful original fireplace that I wished I could have taken home. I loved the mod touch of the chandelier over the dining room table. If you look closely, you can get a sense of how the wallpaper I plan to order will look above my plate rail (more on that another day). Originals flourishes coexisted comfortably side by side with updates. And the original lacy stair railing under the leaded glass window was pure joy. The remodel was confined to the kitchen, the upstairs bedrooms, and the basement. My favorite room in this grand old house was the sleeping porch-turned-office. We liked how the custom storm windows were cleverly installed on the inside. Outside, another courtyard effect with a brick patio.

Lake Union

No. 4 was just a few blocks away on the shore of Lake Union (not far from some of the floating homes I’ve written about). In fact, some high-end homes floated right in the front yard of these condos. Eric commented that when he was in college, he lived at this exact address in a floating home. Back then, according to him, you lived in a floating shack if you couldn’t afford an apartment. Those shacks are long gone, and million-dollar homes have bobbed to the surface in their place. On land, the end unit of this condo building was our destination.

A four-story narrow modern condo

Lake Union

Right off the bat, the entry turned us off. I would be nervous to come home at night to this pinched-feeling narrow passageway. Inside, we climbed up … and up … and up. And then looked down. This view is entertaining all day, every day, with boating traffic passing right in front of your windows. The house had a narrow footprint, so few rooms occupied each floor, but for well over a million dollars, it did include an elevator. From garage to rooftop deck, it’s five floors. Again, love this view, but the extreme vertical layout didn’t work for us.

Wallingford

No. 6 in Wallingford had me fooled. I thought it was new construction, but no—it was a remodel. When we left and I inspected the exterior one more time, I could see vestiges of the original house. But inside it was all modern, all the time. This house was full of color and art. I thought it felt playful and warm, but Eric found it cold. Well … I guess we don’t always agree.

Navy blue remodeled Craftsman

It looks like a modern box, but it’s not.

I particularly liked the dining room, and how its lowered ceiling contrasted with the two-story living room. Its view of the old curly willow tree felt intimate and sheltering. I’m not usually a fan of dark cabinetry, and these made the kitchen feel like a cave, but at the same time, they set off the brilliant green view of the backyard. The countertops were flamed granite: burning bursts out some of the crystals and leaves the granite with an interesting texture.

Phinney Ridge

This modern box, No. 2, was our second-favorite on the tour. The open layout was simple, and the young owner had barely moved in, so there was no staging to look past. The corner lot offered an attractive city view west to Ballard.

Phinney Ridge

A highlight of this house was the grain-matched fir cabinetry. You don’t often see fir as cabinetry (trim is more common). This kitchen glowed with the warm fir tone. The same cabinets reappeared in the bedrooms, in floor-to-ceiling grain-matched glory.

The homeowner had just had the firepit and patio installed. I admired the horizontal privacy fence and the neighborhood ambiance from the deck off the kitchen and dining area.

Queen Anne Hill

Finally, we arrived at house No.3 on Queen Anne Hill, which was another favorite. We liked the dark brick façade—something a little different.

Queen Anne Hill

I sped past the sunken living room with its tall windows and fireplace because I spied a big gray cat in the dining area. When cat made a beeline to his backyard, I found myself in a spacious kitchen/dining room with a stunning tiled backsplash. The homeowner told me she had to fight their architect to install this tile, and I’m glad she won. It makes the room, and echoes the aqua color of some of her collected pieces. I’m an aqua lover, too (harkening back to my mom’s 50s kitchen when I was a kid). The layout of the kitchen/dining/family room space was similar to the Phinney Ridge home. This house also featured a serene master bedroom with an expansive neighborhood view and a wood-paneled ceiling, and a really lovely mural in the child’s room.

Returning to our little town in the valley and our humble abode is always a bit of a let-down after a day in Seattle (the south-county hicks go to the big city). Not because the town itself is disappointing, and we certainly love our bungalow; it’s just that Seattle seems to be so much more vibrant and exciting compared to our sleepy little burg. But, we’re close to retirement and we’ll never be able to afford to trade up to a house in hip Seattle. So we look and drool.

Join us for our next tour in June: The Seattle Catio Tour! Yes, this is really a thing, and we’ll be there to experience it all!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

Salvage Catz

 Our 80-something neighbor, Tom, used to live two doors down from us in a house he occupied with his family since he was a kid in the 1940s. A couple of years ago, Tom inherited his sister’s “newer” mid-century house across town. He finally sold the family bungalow, which hadn’t been updated since the 1960s and was sorely in need of some TLC. A guy named Jessie bought the house as a flip.

 

Small brown bungalow needs updating

Tom’s house

Jessie’s attention was diverted to another project, and Tom’s place sat, gutted, sidingless, and sad, for what seemed like forever. Last summer it became a flop house for homeless people and druggies. Over the fall and winter, Jessie’s crew was back at it, thank goodness, and the house was secured and squatter-free at last. Recently we asked the foreman if we could peek inside, and we were thrilled to see what a nice job they’d done. The house retains its early-1900s charm and general floor plan, but with beautiful wood floors, gray and white paint, and a modern but period-appropriate kitchen. Some family will be proud to call it home.

Updated Craftsman bungalow

Jessie’s house

This house not only belonged to Tom (who taught me how to prune my roses), but another family that I recently learned about. A few months ago I read Midnight in Broad Daylight, the biography of Harry Fukuhara, whose family lived in the house before some of them moved back to Hiroshima just before World War II. It’s a fascinating account—I highly recommend it. I was amazed to discover this personal neighborhood connection to the story.

Jessie’s crew made a debris pile in the backyard, which has been slowly disappearing to the dump. And then—Eric spied something interesting: old glass-front cabinet doors with the original brass latches! Eric asked Jessie if we could pilfer their trash, and Jessie was only too happy to let us lighten their dump bill. So, we sauntered down the alley on Sunday to do some pickin’.

A gravel alley behind old houses

I love alleys. You can see all kinds of interesting things.

Along the way we encountered our tux cat, Crosby, out for a stroll with beautiful Dot, our feral friend. Dot, Dash, and Ditto Morse like to hang out in the blackberry thicket across the alley.

Two cats hangin out in the alley

Alley catz Dot and Crosby

A tabby cat looks out from a blackberry thicket

Dot in the blackberry thicket

We salvaged ten windows for their wavy glass—something you pay good money for these days. (We paid about $400 to put “new” old glass in our kitchen cabinets.) Some were glass cabinet doors, and some were the kitchen’s exterior windows. Coincidentally, the kitchen cabinets and trim are pink, ,just as my kitchen once was.

Back of remodeled bungalow

Is there anything interesting in this pile?

Man salvages old windows from debris pile.

Ooh! Windows with wavy glass!

The windows moved into our greenhouse, because, obviously, you never know when you might need a wavy glass window!

I have no idea what we’ll use these windows and doors for … but now a little piece of Tom and Harry’s house belongs to us. Yay!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

Tough love for the weeping birch

As we sat in the Starbucks drive-thru line, a familiar song came on the oldies station: the Sir Douglas Quintet playing “She’s About a Mover.” (Watch the go-go girls in this clip!) What does that mean, I wondered aloud. She’s good looking? She has good dance moves? We didn’t really know. A few Googleseconds later, we learned that it meant she didn’t stick around in relationships for very long—she moved on.

That not only describes my twenties, but also my relationship with a succession of trees in my front yard.

As long as I’ve lived here, there’s been a tree just off the northwest corner of the house. Thirty-three years ago it was a robust holly that dropped berries and prickly leaves all over the lawn. Enough of that! I replaced it with a deodar cedar, a graceful, and yes, still somewhat prickly evergreen, my favorite of the trees that have occupied this space. Sadly, I lost Deodara during a particularly soggy winter, when a windstorm blew it down. How heartbreaking.

Craftsman bungalow and gardens

1985? The baby deodar cedar is on the left.

Woman in wdding dress stands in front of deodar cedar tree.

1995. It got so big! And I’m so young!

Next came one of my gardening mistakes: I impetuously fell for a lovely sumac, whose lacy foliage turned flame red in the fall. After several years, its crown grew large and threatened to split. Goodbye, sumac. What I wasn’t prepared for were the runners that it had secretly sent out in all directions, resulting in a mini-forest of sumacs that sprang from the lawn for years afterwards. I felt like I was being stalked by its ghost. I think we’ve eradicated them all by now.

Sun shining through red sumac leaves.

2005. Gorgeous!

Three tabby cats on sidewalk in front of Craftsman bungalow.

2009, with three cats in the yard. Its wide canopy starts at the left edge of the photo and goes clear to the chimney.

We planted a young Mount Fuji cherry tree in its place. Then, a mere year later, we walked past the Ace Hardware a block from our house and I fell hard for a weeping birch. I’m so fickle. I had to tell the cherry that I’d met someone new. We gently ushered the cherry off to the parking strip and installed the birch. It had an interesting, sinuous shape. I was smitten with its long branches and delicate leaves that fluttered in the breeze.

Mt Fuji cherry tree glows in morning sun.

Young Mt. Fuji cherry in morning sun.

Craftsman bungalow and gardens in summer.

2011. Young birch in background.

Here it is in 2015 … it’s even bigger now.

Craftsman bungalow and gardens

Can’t wait for summer!

After our long, wet winter, the gardens look more like this.

Black and white cat in winter garden.

Chex is waiting for summer, too.

Several more revolutions around the sun, and my birch has grown from an adorably quirky sapling into something of a brute. Arms and tentacles reach out to swat people walking down the sidewalk and smother nearby shrubs. And as much as it makes a great foil for the side porch in summer, screening us from the street, it’s getting a little too friendly with the porch. What used to feel like cozy protection now feels like possessive overbearance. Have you ever been in a relationship like that?

When it lost its leaves in the fall, I wondered to Eric whether we shouldn’t simply kill it in its sleep and start over (again) with something new and more self-contained. But I can’t do it. Truth be told, I still have feelings for this tree. I’ve decided to give it one more chance. We’re going to prune it and attempt to teach it some manners. This usually doesn’t work with people. Can it work on a tree?

This birch really belongs on the banks of a brook, with enough space to spread out all it wants in all directions. But, it lives in town next to a rain barrel. It needs to shape up. Its foliage is so thick that when I stand next to the trunk, the long branches cascade down around me and create the effect of a little secret room. It’s so secret that last year we discovered a homeless woman had been camping under the tree for a few nights. We were tipped off by a scrap of blue tarp on the ground. Eric looked under the tree and found more tarp and a tent pole. How did we know it was a woman? She left us her dirty underwear.

That was enough for me! I trimmed the birch’s floor-length locks to about 18 inches above the ground, which made the poor tree look like Cousin Itt in a waltz-length gown. No one is going to camp in my yard again without a permit!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about pruning, it’s that you want to err on the side of being conservative. You don’t want to step back to admire your handiwork and think, “… Oops!” I know this from experience.

The tree grows predominantly to the northeast, with the heaviest branches on that side (between the sidewalk and side porch). Lately it’s been producing more young branches in the opposite direction in a natural attempt to balance itself. Eric made just three cuts: The long arm that was reaching south to the front porch is gone. So is a branch that was heading straight west over the triangle garden. And the lower (and closest to the side porch) of the two top branches. This removed a  lot of weight, mostly from the heavier northeast side, but also some from the west and south.

It’s hard to tell that the tree’s been pruned. I admit, if it weren’t for the date stamp, I wouldn’t be sure which are the before and after pictures. I think we’ll see a difference once it leafs out, though. We can always take more off.

I’ll keep you posted. Anyone feel like camping? We’re taking reservations for summer.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

 

Attic Safari

Put on your pith helmets and khakis, everyone—we’re about to venture where few have tread: into the untamed wilderness of our attic! You lucky people!

I’ve never had the nerve to expose our attic to the public. I thought I might, once we had turned it from a horder’s heaven into an art studio. But as the years slipped by, I was unsure the attic would ever realize its potential. That’s sad, because it would make an awesome art space. However, while I’ve been slinging paint in the dining room, Eric’s been up there steadfastly trying to make order out of chaos. His efforts deserve recognition.

Okay, got your gear? We’re heading up. Step through the door into the unknown.

Door to attic stands ajar.

Creeeeek

The trail is steep. Be careful.

Steep, dark attic stairs

The climb.

And narrow.

Boxes block access to attic

Top of stairs.

Eric will light the way.

Man adjusts light in attic

The eagle’s job is to hold up the extension cord.

Behold: the detritus of two pack-ratty people. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Sometimes I worry that it will all fall through the joists and land in the living room. (This is a fear left over from childhood: As a small child I imagined where I would land in the basement if my bed fell through the floor. I would have landed in my dad’s shop, which didn’t seem so scary … as long as I missed the table saw.)

See how far you’ve climbed?

Top of attic stairs and many boxes.

You made it!

 

Boxes piled in attic

The small room by day.

 

Junk piled in the attic.

The big room at night.

If you’re brave enough, venture a little deeper into the terrain. Watch your step. (Click any image to enlarge.)

It hasn’t always looked like this, of course. You can’t amass such a jaw-dropping collection overnight. When I lived here alone, most of my stuff, much of which had belonged to my parents, was confined to the small end of the attic, where the stairs come up. Family antiques that I didn’t have room for downstairs occupied a portion of the big room, along with archives from my childhood and rolling racks of off-season clothes. And of course there was the requisite Christmas collection. I felt like I had endless storage space, even for a nostalgic person like me who never seems to let go of anything. But, we all know how things tend to accumulate over time.

Then I married a man who out-packratted even me. Well … that’s unfair. Eric had his own houseful of furniture and belongings, and I had a 1400 sq. ft. fully furnished house with three small closets. Everything we couldn’t find a home for downstairs went up to the “endless” storage space in the sky … until even the narrow trail down the center began to fill up. Just looking at the piles of dead electronics, clothes, and books made me cry with frustration and bewilderment, so I seldom went up there.

Paned attic windows and street view.

The view to the street.

Rewind to 1984, when I bought the house. The attic was perfectly empty and squeaky clean (for an attic). The dark-stained fir floors and stairs in the small room shone. But in the big room, white fiberboard panels had been nailed to the sloped ceiling, and they sagged from absorbing moisture. It made the space look like a big, white tent. The dormer windows were homemade casements jobs that sagged on their hinges.

We’ve searched for “before” pictures, but we can’t find any. Those were the days before digital cameras. I probably have prints around here somewhere … in the attic.

Insulation was added to the ceiling years ago, but it wasn’t until Eric came along that the beadboard paneling went up. Eric also installed the beautiful new windows in the dormer, which is now my favorite part of the attic.

But … all the stuff remains.

Attic dormer windows hidden by junk.

The unreachable dormer windows.

So, what’s the plan?

I’ve always admired this attic from an old Martha Stewart book, How to Decorate. It’s so similar to what ours could be.

Whitewashed attic room

Martha Stewart’s attic

 

Whitewashed attic dormer area

Martha’s attic dormer

Shelves. Slowly but surely, Eric’s moving the stuff away from a section of wall, installing plastic shelves, and putting the stuff on the shelves. More and more stuff is now off the floor and neatly stacked.

Purge. Bags and bags of junk are exiting every weekend. We will (I swear) ruthlessly purge everything else: toss, donate, or sell. Maybe we’ll even have the yard sale that we’ve talked about for 10 years.

Paint. I’ll paint the beadboard glossy white to maximize the light. More painting … yay.

Floor. The mossy carpet will crawl off to the dump. The attic floor in the large room is simply subflooring. We thought about just washing and sealing it, but it has gaps between the boards that you could lose a kitten between … so we’re thinking of covering it with finish-grade 1/4-inch plywood. We’ll paint or stain it and seal it so it’s spillproof enough for an art studio.

Layout. Years ago my neighbor gave me a big drafting table, complete with drafting machine, which he bought at Boeing Surplus. That’ll go in the dormer area. At last, a place to draw and paint! We’ll have a work table for framing and flat files for storage. I’ll create a cozy, funky sitting area at the far end beneath the little windows, with a couple of old armchairs, bookshelves, a table, and lamps, all anchored by an oriental rug. That old faux palm might even find a home. Can you see the potential in this space?

Crowded attic with boxes.

The far end of the big room, looking toward the stairs.

Speaking of kittens (weren’t we?) … my favorite story about the attic involves—surprise—cats! One day many years ago, I was rummaging around in the attic when I discovered a litter of four tiny black kittens in a bag of old dress patterns. The mom cat had evidently gotten in through the dormer windows, which were open for the summer. She was temporarily out when I found her babies, but when she returned,  she was a fierce warrior and she didn’t take my presence kindly. I began providing her food and water, but I had to fend her off with a broom to be able to set food down at the top of the stairs. As the kittens grew, I could hear them galloping back and forth across the attic floor. I came home one day when they were about 12 weeks old, to find them all sitting outside on the dormer windowsill. I quickly ran up to the attic and shut the windows. They all managed to shinny down an adjacent tree and I never saw them again. You can tell that in those days, even though I had a cat of my own, I wasn’t really a cat lady. If I found kittens now, I’d try to domesticate them and I’d certainly take them to the Humane Society where they could be neutered and find homes. But, I was clueless back then.

Two cats cuddle on a bed.

Bonus picture of Chex and Peggy Sue napping.

So, there you have it. I bet you’re ready to go back to civilization again. I know I am!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

 

Walking in Seattle

I’ll just put it right out there: I’m a social liberal, usually vote for Democrats, and I’ve proudly called myself a feminist since I was a teenager. That’s why my friend Anita and I decided to join the Womxn’s March on Seattle on January 21. I’m not normally politically active (other than voting), but the one thing I’ll march for is women’s rights, which, after all, are human rights. The last time I was part of a protest march was in 1972, when I was a college student against the Vietnam war.

Before heading out on an urban trek, one has to prepare. The first thing I did was order a pussyhat from The Seam Designs, the first Esty shop I stumbled upon. In about a week, this fetching crocheted hat arrived from Brooklyn, NY. I love these hats. They make a serious statement with humor, and they provide a great visual when thousands of people are wearing them.

Woman wearng pink pussyhat

$35 well spent

I didn’t know that my friend Sandi was busy knitting hats locally. She sent me a few, gratis, which I gave to my marching buddies.

Walking 3.6 miles on a January day in Seattle is likely to be wet and chilly. I washed and waterproofed my winter coat, and fished its zip-out liner off the floor of the coat closet, where it had fallen and been used for a cat bed. Yep, washed that, too … and then spent 20 minutes trying to coax the damned zipper into place. I assembled my ensemble, including a fleece jacket and wool socks, and sliced openings in the index finger and thumb of my fuchsia fleece gloves so that I could operate my phone. I sprayed waterproofing sealer on my favorite Keen oxfords. I wondered whether handwarmers might be a good idea.

I was up before dawn Saturday morning after a restless night.  TV news predicted 47 degrees by afternoon. The zippered liner came out of my coat a lot quicker than it went in.

Four of us gathered at Anita’s house, then Eric chauffeured us to Seattle. A couple of miles from the park, sign-toting, pussyhatted marchers filled the sidewalks, and cars clogged the streets. Eric dropped us off with the legions at the bottom of a steep, seemingly endless hill. We followed the crowd up to the park, where we met up with a fifth marcher, Jan.

Four women wearing pink pussyhats before protest march.

Ready to march: Anita, Cathy, Connie, and me.

Judkins Park is a large space, and was completely packed with pink-hatted protesters and bobbing protest signs. Even Rosa Parks was there—one of several huge puppets of famous women. The atmosphere was electric with excitement and anticipation. Everyone was smiling and full of energy. I was encouraged to see nearly as many men as women, and I wished Eric had joined us … but then, we wouldn’t have had a ride. The speechifying was nearly finished (we couldn’t hear it well from where we stood on the edge of the park), and we didn’t have long to wait before people seemed to decide en masse that it was time to depart.

Women's MArch protesters gather at Judkins Park in Seattle.

A small corner of the park.

 

A large puppet of Rosa Parks.

Rosa was at least 10 feet tall.

Off we charged! Or rather, shuffled. The small residential streets that border the park were so crowded that we could barely move. We crept our way to Jackson Street, a main road.

The signs were wonderful—funny, touching, unambiguous, and irreverent. I hadn’t seen some of these slogans and logos for decades. One that summed up my feelings was “50 years later and we’re still protesting this shit!” Topics ranged from women’s rights, human rights, immigrant rights, healthcare, the environment, LGBTQ rights, and general dissatisfaction with the Trump agenda.

Women's March protest sign

Women's March protest sign

Women's March protest sign

Women's March protest sign

Women's March protest sign

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” — Gloria Steinem.

This was supposed to be a silent march like the civil rights marches of the 1960s, but every now and then a cheer would erupt and ripple through the crowd like a wave. People shouted and cheered when onlookers waved from their windows. There was little chanting, but lots of buzz.

Man watches Women's March on Seattle from his balcony.

Not everyone was amused.

We thought we were toward the front of the pack, but as we marched downhill through the International District, the road was filled with marchers as far as the eye could see. And when we got to the bottom of that hill, I looked back, and there were marchers as far as I could see behind us, too. News reported that the entire 3.6-mile route was filled with participants for some time. March organizers had anticipated 50,000 participants. The final total was 175,000! Way to go, Seattle!!

Women's March crowd in Seattle

Looking west down Jackson.

 

Women's March crowd in Seattle

Looking east up Jackson [Elaine Thompson, Associated Press]

These incredible dragons guard the streetscape in Japantown.

In some Seattle neighborhoods, freeway support columns are painted with fanciful designs.

Freeway support columns painted with Asian fish designs, Seattle.

Koi swim up the freeway support columns in the International District.

Then we turned onto 4th Avenue and marched (shuffled) north through downtown.

Women's March on Seattle

Beautiful Seattle

Notice the SUNSHINE? What a glorious day! I marched almost the whole way with my winter coat tied around my waist. I’m sure the warmth contributed to the ebullient mood. But mostly, it felt so good to know I wasn’t the only one who is concerned about losing our hard-won human rights and environmental progress (just two of many issues on peoples’ minds).

By the time we reached Westlake Center in the heart of the city, we were less than a mile from our destination of the Seattle Center (the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, now an arts and civic campus). We were headed for a row of Port-a-Potties when a miracle happened: Our co-marcher, Jan, suggested we simply come up to her place. Turns out she lives in a condo overlooking Westlake, just steps from where we were standing. Within a few minutes we were relaxing in her lovely condo, with a view of 4th Avenue and the marchers below. Jan fed us spaghetti and chocolate. We became weary and complacent and, I regret to admit, we decided to walk to Westlake Station and catch the light rail back toward home rather than shuffle to the end of the route.

Women's March on Seattle ended at the Space Needle.

Had we continued, we’d have ended here. [Elaine Thompson, Associated Press]

The strange thing is, I could walk 3.6 miles at a moderate pace and finish in less than an hour and a half. But we discovered that shuffling at such a slow pace is really tiring! We were out there on the route for nearly three hours, and that didn’t include the hella hill that we climbed to get to the park. (Lest you think we are just a bunch of wimpy old ladies, three of my companions are half-marathoners. I’m more accustomed to walking a golf course.)

View of 4th Ave, marchers in Seattle.

A few of our closest friends … they just. kept. coming!

 

Woman overlooking Woman's March on Seattle

Pooped but happy and full of spaghetti.

This march was such an uplifting, joyous experience. Everyone was happy and positive and inclusive. It really helped to banish the depression and malaise I’ve felt for the past two months, and replace it with a sense of hope for our country. There were no incidents of violence and no arrests. The cops were relaxed and smiling and had little to do but direct traffic. I’m still basking in the glow of knowing there are millions of people out there who share my point of view and my concerns. Last I heard, approximately three million women and men marched worldwide on all seven continents. It’s up to us to raise consciousness once again. Fifty years later, we’re back not to square one, but maybe square two. Something I never expected. Yes, we can.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it