Our front porch is jealous. With our new side porch garnering so much attention, the poor front porch is feeling neglected, and no wonder. It’s a mess.
Eric partially rebuilt this porch in 2011, and for a brief moment it was our shining star … until it got upstaged by the next project. With all of our projects, you’d think our entire house would be shiny by now. You’d be wrong. We tend to focus so intently on one pet project that we let other things slide. Or we miss a maintenance window of opportunity, and down the slippery slope we go. It’s so easy to lose our balance.
Sadly, the front porch has become the latest sorry sight. It certainly does not say, “Welcome to our home.” It says—go ahead, I’ve heard it before— “A crazy cat lady lives here.” I can’t deny it, but I’ll point out that Eric’s also a crazy cat guy. Crazy or not, our porch needs improvement.
Normally, every spring I clean the winter detritus off of the porch, but I skipped that task this year, and conditions just went to hell in a handbasket. The porch is covered, so it only gets wet in bad storms, but the southwest wind blows dirt and debris in. The white porch swing and wicker chair collect sooty black dust, an urban byproduct of nearby freeways, railroads, and airports. Yuck.
Plus, the porch holds three cat shelters, food, and water for our homeless feline friends. We have about half a dozen regular visitors. The kitties are not tidy and they expect full housekeeping service. These cat supplies are nonnegotiable. They will stay, but the chalets hadn’t been cleaned out since last winter, and they were filthy.
Instead of an attractive Craftsman light fixture (I have the original fixture somewhere in the basement), we have an old receptacle with a built-in outlet, into which we plug an extension cord to heat the kitty chalets in the winter and to power landscape tools in the summer, since there’s no outdoor outlet in the front of the house. Somehow, we need to find a better solution.
The obvious place to start is to give the porch a thorough cleaning. Then I thought … after pressure washing it, why not paint the floor red to match the side porch? While I’m at it, why not paint the ceiling haint blue, as I’ve wanted to do for years? You don’t see a lot of haint blue in the Pacific Northwest. I think it’s time to change that.
You don’t know about haint blue? Southern Living Magazine says:
Blue porch ceilings are prevalent all throughout the South. Pale blue is not only visually expansive, but it’s also a ghost buster of sorts. The Gullah culture of the Lowcountry believes that spirits, known as “haints,” can’t cross water. Using light blue paint to symbolize water, the Gullah people applied the shade to porch ceilings and doors preventing evil spirits from entering.
Along with warding off bad spirits, the blue ceiling supposedly repels bugs and spiders, but that’s probably attributed to old paint being made with indigo and lime, not the color. Not wanting haints, bugs, or spiders, it sounds like a good idea to me, plus I love a nice robin’s egg blue and I think it would look great over my porch swing. Although, how could we improve on what we have!
On what I figured was one of our last summery weekends, we hauled everything off the porch and onto the front lawn. I opened up the kitty chalets and removed the heating pads, threw all the cat bedding in the wash, and swept out the chalets.
Eric hooked up the pressure washer and gave the porch a good bath, top to bottom. We realized that pressure washing would not be enough to prep the porch for stain and paint. We (Eric) will have to rent a sander for the floor, and the ceiling will have to be scraped. Ugh. My neck hurts already.
Then it was my turn. I proceeded to blast away at the chair and swing cushions. I spent considerable time blasting the rug, as well, but by the time I was ready to flip it over, I decided that the water I was consuming might cost as much as a new rug, and gave up. I put the cushions on the back deck to drain and dry in the sun.
Overnight, it poured rain. I dragged the dripping cushions back to the front porch to dry. The sun came out.
When everything was finally dry (enough), we put the porch back in order. Over the summer we had unplugged the heated cat beds, but now that nights are getting cooler, we plugged them back in. These inflatable Lectro-Soft heated pads are minimally heated until pressure is applied by a cat, then they heat to a safe, comfy level. They are rated for outdoor use, and cats LOVE them. The hole in the back wall, covered in felt, is an escape hatch.
We decided the rug would do for another winter, and found that the rainstorm had done a good job of rinsing it.
Staining and painting will have to wait for another day. I hope to get it done this fall, as surely there will be some sunny days ahead. Good weather usually holds through mid-October, but all bets are off this crazy year. So, the porch is cleaner, but not yet pretty. How far will I get before bad weather stops me?
I also trimmed back some of the plants and added a glowing amber mum. The color helps a little, don’t you agree? And Eric put the gutter back up just in time to beat the rainstorm.
How many cats can you find in this photo? (Click to enlarge.)
The next morning when Eric went out to fill the cats’ bowls, our friends Dash, Dot, and Curveball each emerged from a chalet, toasty warm. I think they were waiting for us to open their B&B for the season!
Side porch epilogue
Recently, when Eric made one of his regular weekend stops at the Ace Hardware near our house, one of the staff complimented him on the finished side porch, which she often drives past on her way to work. A man standing nearby overheard and asked Eric if he was the guy who had built the porch on the house in the next block. Eric said he was. Then the man introduced himself as the city building inspector. Dum-de-dum-dum. We had built the porch without a construction permit, although we knew we required one. We like to live on the edge like that. It’s hard to hide a construction project when you live on a corner. We had initially thought about building it in components that we could assemble by dark of night to avoid detection by authorities. (“What, that porch? Oh, it’s always been here! We just changed the siding.”) But, as the project dragged on for two summers, I fully expected to see a Stop Work Order slapped on our wall one day. That didn’t happen, so we assumed we’d just flown under the city’s radar.
Mr. Inspector proceeded to tell Eric that he’d been watching his progress all along, actually walking up to the porch, and did Eric know that he’d built the porch about three times beyond code? Yes, Eric did, and he explained that we will never have a porch collapse disaster that will appear on the evening news. Eric and Mr. Inspector had a nice chat about how the low railing could be raised to code height (although that would totally spoil the design), and how the porch really isn’t exactly attached to the house, and how it was really just a matter of rebuilding what was originally there … and they came to the conclusion that the porch is fine and dandy as is, unpermitted.
The moral of this story is, I suppose, that the city is watching, and if you try to hide a two-year construction job that faces the street, you’d better be building it right. Awesome job, dear.