Tag Archives: Craftsman bungalow DIY

Spring endings and beginnings

Everyone eagerly waits for spring to come, but I’ve never been as impatient as I’ve been this year. Not for the spring that began on March 20, but the one that began on March 23. That’s the day I retired.

I’ve been anticipating retirement for years, thinking about it daily, picking a date, sliding it to the right. Again. And again. When the large aerospace company I worked for decided to move some 3000 jobs to Arizona (including mine), the decision was made for me: It was time to stop sliding the date and just slide out the door.

Sailboat and Sunset Island, from Key West's Mallory Square

Time for me to sail off into the sunset …

Leaving people I’ve worked with for years, as well as the Midcentury office complex and its beautiful landscaping (cherry trees bursting into bloom) was bittersweet … but I have my own gardens to tend, literally and metaphorically. What intrigues me now is this: Who will I become in retirement? The door is wide open. All I have to do is walk through. And, after working my entire adult life, I must give myself permission not to have a job!

While I won’t predict who the retired me will become, I can tell you I’m stoked to tackle my list of projects and I have all day, every freakin’ day to work on them whenever I want! Or not! I’ll share them with you as they rise to the top.

First up—outdoors: Finish pruning the Japanese maples, and weed, weed, weed! I felt pretty good about the way I tamed the backyard sumo wrestler, so I was eager to go after the smaller laceleaf in the front yard. I found it much easier to prune because it hadn’t had so many years to take off on me.

Now I can actually see the branch structure on the sumo wrestler:

Laceleaf Japanese maple in winter

South side

Laceleaf Japanese maple in winter

East side

In the front yard triangle garden:

Northwest garde in winter

Getting things trimmed up for spring.

Northwest garden in winter

Winter colors

Laceleaf Japanese maple in winter

All shaped up

Boxer looks through hole in fence.

Duke peeks through the cat hole in the fence.

White dog paw sticks out under gate.

Whenever I walk by the gate, I see this.

Boxer lying on pavers behind gate.

View from the other side.

Tuxedo cat between porch slats.

Crosby keeps an eye on things from the side porch.

Next, relandscape the backyard! The poor yard took a beating when our new back fence was built last fall. The rains came as soon as the project started, and although the fence looked great, everything else ran straight downhill. Duke has been confined to the north half of the yard ever since, which has suffered from him doing his business and from his excavation hobby. I’m hoping that closer parental supervision will ease his digging compulsion.

Overgrown winter backyard

The backyard looks awful …

Japanese maple with red buds

But doesn’t this maple look great against the house?

Step one of the backyard renewal is reseeding the lawn. After the fence was built, we kept the temporary Duke fence up to thwart his digging in torn-up gardens. I covered Duke’s worn-out lawn with cedar chips to keep down the mud. It worked well … or so I thought. I began to rake it up and bag it … and the ammonia stench overwhelmed me. Duke has a habit of stepping a few feet off the deck and relieving himself next to the laceleaf Japanese maple. After absorbing pee all winter, can you imagine the odor? It actually burned my throat! It ranked right up there with my other least-favorite smell: mildew. In fact, dog pee ammonia makes mildew smell kinda fresh.

Removing bark chips from backyard.

Raking the nasty bark chips.

Abg full of bark chips in backyard

Bagged.

I persevered and got rid of the bark. I assumed that repeated doses of acidic urine meant the soil should be treated to be more neutral, but when I researched the problem, I found that it’s not the pH, but the constant doses of nitrogen that damage the grass. Most sites recommend flooding the area with water to dilute the nitrogen. Not a problem in the Northwest, where it rains from the middle of October until the 5th of July. (Sort of a joke, but, sadly, closer to the truth.)

Pitchfork and Garden Weasel

Pitchfork and Garden Weasel

The most natural solution is to cover the ground with an inch or so of compost, which loosens and enriches the compacted soil. We picked up a few bags of compost at the store, along with a brand new Garden Weasel cultivator. (I love the way it jingle-jangle-jingles like a pair of spurs.) I got right to work running the Weasel over the hard soil. Fluffing it up only released more of the noxious smell. Then I aerated the patch by stabbing it with our pitchfork. Over and over and over again. The grass couldn’t be more dead.

Soil prepared for compost dressing

Forked and weaseled, ready for compost.

I was worn out by that point, but it was time to spread the compost, which turned out to be the easiest part of the process. Compost has its own pungent odor, but anything’s an improvement over ammonia. (Compost is made from decayed plant matter—it isn’t steer manure.)

Tuxedo cat sprays on plant

Crosby inspects and signs off on my work.

The next day, I started to cough. Despite taking allergy meds, I’m still bothered by seasonal allergies. I already had my usual spring sore throat. But the upper-respiratory cough grew rapidly worse, and I became paranoid. I looked up ammonia poisoning and found that breathing ammonia causes pulmonary edema. Eric pointed out that had I done such a job at work (unlikely as that seems for a technical writer), I would have had to wear a respirator. For two days I worried as the cough worsened. I hadn’t even been in a confined space—I was out in the backyard, in the clean urban air! Don’t worry, though … the cough was only the beginning of a monstrous cold. Nevertheless, if I ever clean up ammonia again, I’ll wear a respirator.

A few days later I re-raked the area, liberally tossed on the grass seed, and waited for rain. Now we’re just waiting for the grass to sprout. And I’m still trying to kick the nasty cold.

Seeded lawn patch

And … seeded!

For some relief, my next post will take us far away from our dreary Pacific Northwest spring.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

 

 

 

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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.

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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

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

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

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

 

Holiday paintathon

What did I do on my holiday break?

A week before Christmas I was determined to sand the repaired fireplace wall. So I did, except for the part blocked by the TV cabinet, which I couldn’t move because of the Christmas tree. My mouse sander is supposed to collect dust, but this stuff was so fine that no filter could contain it. Clouds of the stuff enveloped the living and dining rooms and piled up on the mantel.

Sanding dust on the mantel.

This. All over.

Woman in dust mask.

So much fun.

I realized with dismay that I posted about creating sanding dust in the living room exactly one year ago, and I’m still working on this crazy project. Maybe it’s time to pick up the pace a little?

My holiday break consisted of 17 blissful days of pretend retirement, during which I was sure I could knock out the dining room paint job. The dining room consists of mostly trim: wood paneling up to 5 feet, topped by dentil molding and a plate rail. Box beams crisscross the ceiling, the east wall is dominated by a built-in buffet, and the north wall features a window seat below 13 feet of windows with those dreaded-but-charming 4-inch panes. That’s a lot of trim to paint white. What could go wrong?

Stepladder and work lights for painting project

In real life it was only slightly less dim.

Nothing went wrong … if you don’t count the fact that I’m growing old and my clothes are going out of style and I’m still nowhere near done. (The truth is, my clothes have never been in style.) The plaster-and-paintathon seems to have no discernable end.

To refresh your memory because it’s been so long since I written about the living room color scheme, I’m painting the wood trim Valspar Chef White, and the plaster walls (whenever I finish repairing them) Valspar Jogging Path, a Sherwin-Williams color. In the dining room, the beams are wood, so they’re white, and the ceiling itself is plaster, so it’s gray.

Gray wall with white trim

The new color scheme in the living room.

As usual, I started at the top, with one corner of the coffered ceiling.  Eric and I wondered, which part is the coffer? Is it the beam, or the cavity? I looked it up so you don’t have to. The coffer is the recessed portion between the beams. Like a coffin.

Progress was painstakingly slow because of the careful cutting in where the colors meet. Painting above my head in imperfect light made that really difficult, and my bifocals are a curse when I paint. I have to scrunch up my face like Popeye to pull a focus. It’s not perfect—don’t look too close!—but it looks pretty darn good.

Coffers before and after new paint

Coffers before and after

I find painting with white a little boring. I’m not really a white walls person … but as I got going, I realized just how much the white was brightening up this room. It looked shockingly, glaringly white at first, but it’s growing on me. I may be entering my white period. For instance, when we went to Office Depot to buy Eric a new desk chair, I fell in love with a sleek and sumptuous white leather number that seemed custom made for my backside. I resisted … although I still imagine it at my desk.

After completing the south row of coffers, I attacked the wall paneling. This went faster, but I still had to deal with fussy dentil molding and a plate railing. What makes painting seem so never-ending is that when I’ve covered one wall, I have to go back to the beginning and apply the second coat. Yeah, yeah, I know … I’m whining.

I had good company, though. If Duke could not lie directly under the ladder, he figured out how to lie exactly where I would move the ladder next. He’s very intuitive that way. Shiny black Crosby helped me paint the library door.

A black cat and a boxer lie on a tarp beneath a stepladder

My safety spotters, Crosby and Duke

Black cat with white paint on his side

What??

Old houses are made of edges and ledges, and they can collect a disgusting amount of dirt, especially with a houseful of pets (I’m not above blaming them). I ask you, how can something splatter as high as a nine-foot ceiling? Have you ever seen a jowly dog shake its head in slow motion? That’s how. Scrubbing and painting definitely freshen up the place.

Paneling and plate rail painted white

The corner’s done, but not the post or door trim. Can you see the difference?

As soon as the southwest corner was complete, I polished up the treadmill and moved it back in place, sans coats and purses this time. I don’t relish having a treadmill feature in my dining room, but it’s a small house and I don’t have anywhere else to put it.

Treadmill in dining room corner

Treadmill corner

Tada! One wall complete! The oil paintings are by San Francisco artist Donny Hahn.

Craftsman dining room with white trim

Bad lighting, but imagine all the trim you see is white.

It’s now sadly obvious to me that the wallpaper has to go, even though it looks not-too-bad in the photo. Its bronze background is just too dark and heavy for the light gray and white scheme. I haven’t decided whether to simply paint those walls gray or to find some more appropriate wallpaper and face that daunting task again. The area above the plate rail is a perfect place for wallpaper, but if I choose to simply paint, there’s plenty of architectural detail to keep the room from being boring.

After a quick online search, I picked these wallpapers as contenders if I want that experience again. They’re subtly colored, classic, and they’d look great in the space. I like the acanthus because it’s so subtle and textural, and I like the ogee because it has a more modern vibe while still being retro. What do you think? How do you think potential buyers would react to them? (We eventually will sell this house and build our retirement dream home.)

How much can I say about painting? I’ll just tell you that by tomorrow I’ll have completed two walls (one being the opening to the living room, which is mostly air) and five coffers. (I wrote that yesterday and I haven’t painted a stroke.) Next, I’m on to the buffet wall, and finally, the windows. Wish me luck … and perseverance.

To wrap up our break, Eric and I went out on New Year’s Eve to enjoy dinner and some Latin jazz. After two weeks of not wearing makeup,  I was reminded again of how much a fresh coat of paint can improve old things.

Now for the important stuff!

Cat stories! Our feral tabby friends, Dash, Dot, and Ditto Morse are three and a half years old, and they still hang out around our house. They are frequent, almost nightly, visitors at our back door, where they expect a good meal of kibble and Fancy Feast. Dash and Dot often nap in the heated kitty shelters on our front porch. Ditto is the most nocturnal; I usually visit with her around 10:30 p.m. Ditto loves for me to pet her and invites it eagerly, lifting her head to meet my hand and getting all excited and wiggly. Dash allows me to stroke his back only when he’s eating. Dot is the shy one; I can’t touch her. They’re adorable.

Three tabby cats in the mudroom

The Morses: Dash, Ditto (eating), and Dot

We treated our house cats to their very first cat tree. Sweet Tara (below) was the first to try it out, and she had the best time! So far, Tara, Crosby, Peggy Sue, and Chex think it’s great. Ginger, Lacy, Rose, and Fred think it’s beneath their dignity.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

 

Let’s kick up a little dust

All summer we were focused on getting the house painted before the weather turned against us, and for the most part, we made it. All summer I told myself that when the rain came, I would return to my plaster repair project in the living room. October and November broke records for rainfall, and we looked out on this drippy landscape from our living room window. It was time.

View out window to rainy street scene

Typical autumn day in the Pacific Northwest

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last spring I left off with a sizeable hole in the plaster above the mantel, lath stretching across its mocking grin, and the promise of problems just to the right of the fireplace. I’d resurfaced two-thirds of the west wall when summer weather lured me outside.

Hole in plaster above mantel

We looked at this all summer until we ceased to see it.

When I finally did psych myself into restarting, I was so eager to get going that I forgot to take a picture of the whole wall. I continued just as I had before, chipping and peeling away the finish layer of plaster and its paper surface anywhere it was no longer attached to the plaster base coat, which turned out to be the entire wall above the mantel and casement windows.

My intention was to repair and paint the west (fireplace) wall and a portion of the north wall (up to the French doors) before a Christmas tree sprang up to stall my progress—a pretty sporty goal. I will have two weeks off over the holidays, which I’ll use to paint miles of white trim throughout the living room, dining room, and foyer.

Coffered ceiling detail

How long will it take to paint the nine panels in the dining room ceiling?

As before, I applied two coats of joint compound, smoothed the wet compound with a foam knock-down knife, and, when the mud had set up a bit, gently smoothed it further with a damp wallpaper sponge. The wall still needs sanding, but I won’t have to grind away as much as I did on the south wall. I’m learning as I go, but I’m always disappointed that I haven’t developed a fluid technique … the way professional plasterers swoop the mixture onto the wall with such precision and economy of motion. No, I just plop it on and smooth it the best I can. No magic technique here.

Let’s get back to the west wall and that trouble spot next to the fireplace. When I bought the house 34 years ago, that section had been damp, and the finish paper on top of the plaster sagged in defeat. When I reroofed in 2004 (what I still think of as the “new” roof because it seems like yesterday), the wall surface dried out, thank goodness. However, I knew damage had been done.

Pulverized plaster pours out of damaged spot

Uh-oh …

As I whacked at the wall surface with a pry bar and a rubber mallet, pulverized plaster poured from the hole. Plaster turns to powder after having been soaked for very long. I knew that I’d wind up with a sizable area in need of patching. I kept going until the plaster seemed firm again. Yes, it was messy.

damaged plaster being removed from wall

I have collected bags full of plaster debris

pry bar and rubber mallet

Plaster whacking tools

I was under intense scrutiny throughout the process.

Long haired black cat sits on mentel.

Inspector Lacy

When I used my little shop vac to clean up, it ate the chunks, but I didn’t realize that behind me, it was belching out a cloud of fine plaster dust that now coats everything in the living room and beyond. Thinking that the tank might be full, I emptied it outdoors and discovered inside the tank a filter sheet that I’d never installed. Well, who’d have thought to look inside? I just plugged in the new unit and started vacuuming. Not that it matters … sanding is next, and what didn’t get covered in plaster dust will soon be covered in joint compound dust.

After excavating, some good news: The area beneath the slumping paper was bone dry, and the lath wasn’t rotten. Some bad news: The skinny strip between the window casing and the fireplace felt damp. If the new roof had eliminated the leak that pulverized the plaster, where was the moisture coming from? We looked at the chimney outside. Hey—who forgot to paint this little strip of shingles? It’s so skinny, the asbestos siding people didn’t even bother to cover it back in the 1950s. Eric applied caulk to the gap at the fireplace side. I mentally added the strip to the list of things to paint in the spring.

Narrow strip of shingles between window and fireplace

Who forgot this?

Back inside, Eric pressed a paper towel into the damp space for several minutes. When he removed it, it was perfectly dry. Was what I interpreted as “damp” simply “cold”? And, it was hard as rock. My pry bar didn’t dent it. I think it’s actually wood. Maybe the plasterers were as puzzled as I was about how to spread plaster in that tiny space. I’m leaving it just as it is.

I scored the top layer of plaster and chipped it away to create a straight edge at a stud. The powdery plaster continued to pour out of the bottom corner of the excavation. Then I gouged the plaster out of the keyways and vacuumed everything up. I was glad to find that no cold air was coming in. It might have been a giant hole in our wall, but it was a tidy giant hole, and even that was an improvement.

Plaster removed down to lath

Ready for patching.

Back at the fireplace, I made an interesting discovery: Once I had all the plaster out of the lath, I could peer in behind the lath and see the bricks of the chimney. The painted bricks that face the chimney on the living room side stick out beyond the red brick, as if they’re a thin veneer applied on the portion inside the house. I know they’ve been painted a zillion times, but the increased thickness can’t all be paint! Kind of fun to think that this lath and brick last saw the light of day in 1913, and now they’re back in the dark again. How many years will they last?

Fireplace structure within the wall

Behind the fireplace

This hole was getting too big for me to dare to use plaster patch. I chickened out and we decided to fill the gap with ¼-inch dry wall. Eric cut the dry wall to fit and screwed it in, and I finished up with three coats of mud. It looks pretty good. I’ll know how good when I paint it.

Large plaster patch completed

The big hole is patched!

I picked off a good bit of plaster off the north wall to the left of the French doors, too. There was an ancient outlet in the baseboard on north wall, into which we plug our TV and cable box. As I bashed at the plaster, every time so much as a flake fell onto the TV plug, it lost its connection and the TV went off. So annoying.

Plaster removed from wall, cable TV rebooting.

Every time I touched the plug, the TV and cable went off.

It’s been like this forever, which makes cleaning that spot a real pain. I couldn’t finish picking away the plaster until Eric replaced the outlet. Why do we sometimes live for years with a problem rather than make a simple repair? Finally, we have an outlet that grips the plugs. Eric saved the Hubbell parallel-and-tandem ungrounded black ceramic receptacle—rated 10 A, 250 V. Notice that it takes plugs with horizontal or vertical prongs. It’s probably original to the house.

Antique Hubbell parallel and tandem receptacle.

Another vintage artifact for our collection.

Also on the north wall, I finally found out what the bilious green stuff was under the paint. For the first time, I saw a hint of pattern. It was wallpaper, not finish paper or paint! I took the time to pick a section clean so I could imagine the entire living room and foyer, and probably the dining room, too, covered in green paper with cream and pale pink furled leaves. Judging from what I’ve seen of vintage wallpapers, I’d say this pattern was from the late 1930s or early 40s … pre-war.

Green wallpaper with cream and pink fronds and cream stripes

I love vintage wallpaper, but …

I was on a roll. I decided to try out the hot mud we bought months ago to patch that gaping grin over the fireplace. I mixed the powder 3:1 with cold water to make a stiff dough. I had six to ten minutes to apply the stuff, so I worked like the devil to fill the hole. It spread like elastic pizza dough, pulling a little as it went. Of course, I ran just a little short and had to scurry to mix more. In short order the hole was filled. Hey—that was pretty easy! Although it’s supposed to set up in about 30 minutes, I let it cure for 24 hours. It was sticky, and I couldn’t work the surface smooth, but that was okay because I covered it with joint compound to match the rest of the wall. Now you can’t see that old hole at all. Wait until it gets painted!

Hot mud plaster patch

Hot mud plaster patch

Bucket of Fastpatch 30

DAP Fastpatch 30

Hole in wall fixed with hot mud and joint compound

Like it never happened!

I wanted to end this post with a nice photo of the painted wall … but this is as far as I’ve gotten. Maybe next time! Now it’s time to bring in the tree.

Plaaster repaired and ready for paint.

The wall is white, and the TV weather warns of coming snow.

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it