It’s Not All Fun & Games

I know on Friday, I was all excited about seeing the kids and playing this past weekend.

Just in case you get the wrong idea, me and MR have had plenty to do around here.

You know how we had more rain in April than we did in January. We had more rain in April than we did in February and March combined. All that rain coupled with mild temperatures equals a whole lot of weeds.

The MR would make short work of it with a shovel, but I’m trying the no till method. Something about underground networks bringing minerals and nutrients to my plants but not if I rip them all out. It sounds a bit like hocus-pocus, but I’m giving it a go.

Slowly but surely it’s coming together.

You can see my tomato plant swathed in a wall of water. I’ve added broccoli and marigolds from the high school plant sale. When I pulled up those weeds, I discovered the asparagus had made it after all. It’s year two in this location, so I’m dressing it with worm castings and letting it grow. Next year, we’ll have a harvest.

Did you notice the vine on the tennis court? That’s last years manly kiwi. While it’s consorts died, the new replacements are budding out. The MR says the pears are setting fruit for the first time. This garden/orchard thing might actually work.

While I was at knit group chatting with the ladies, he painted the stairs to the deck and mowed the lawn.

I think I got the better deal. We have lots of gardening and maintenance stuff going on, but that’ll wait for another day.

How’s your garden coming along?


All Wired Up

Well, it’s a done deal. Me and the MR are all set the next time winds blow, trees go down, and the power is out. Our new generator was installed a few weeks ago.

The fellows installing it said it’d only take two days, but that was before they discovered we had 80 circuits. Apparently that’s a lot to deal with. There was a little excitement the first day when they opened the wall and found plumbing going right where they wanted the new panels in the garage. While there was talk of calling in a plumber and moving pipes, with a little jimmying, it all went in fine. I was certainly happy not to have the power and the water off at the same time.

The new generator has 22 kilowatts and can power the whole house. It turns on automatically when the power goes off and has all sorts of safety auto-turn off things to keep things running smoothly. The MR tells me these things, and I just smile and nod. I’m just lucky to have someone who knows what’s what in charge of things.

The manufacturer of the panels puts the labels on before shipping out, so while the name’s upside down, it passed the electrical inspection with a few minor signage details. I don’t wish to try it out any time soon, but I have faith that it works. We’re leaving the wall open for the time being in anticipation of the laundry room remodel, but eventually the garage walls will be looking pretty.

Perhaps the best part of our new generator is that it’s outside. No more worries about carbon monoxide poisoning or trying to keep the door on the well room ajar and the garage doors open so that our house isn’t contaminated. In a big storm–these are tricky endeavors.

The workers slid the 800-pound generator into place and wiped out what was left of the steps the MR had cut into the hillside five years ago. We’ve both slipped and slid down that hill more than once, so along with adding the start of a retention wall (he underestimated the number of blocks he’d need), the MR dug some more steps into the hillside. We’re hoping for something a little more permanent this summer.

What’s going on at your house?

The Second Time Around

Last year, I had these visions of vines covering the chain link fence around the tennis court. They would soften the harsh lines, add greenery and charm. Reading through a catalog, I came across hardy kiwi vines and knew they’d be perfect. Leafy vines with flowers and fruit, what could go wrong?

Sometimes plant orders go out at different times, and our kiwis arrived as we were leaving for a trip. Too much time on the deck resulted in only one of the three vines making it through the summer. So at Christmastime when I was ordering the MR’s satsuma tree (for indoors), I ordered two female kiwi vines to go with the male that appears to have made it through the winter.

They arrived a few weeks ago when we were headed to California, and we left them inside away from possible winter storms. Reading up on the planting info from the nursery, they said as long as the ground wasn’t frozen when we planted our vines, they should be fine. The ground was pretty soggy but definitely not frozen when Cocoa and I got to work.

I added some worm castings that I’ve been saving up this winter and replaced the dead plants with new healthy versions. Cocoa did her best to tamp down the soil around them. This is why she’s usually banned from the garden.

I had a lot of castings leftover, so I made a circuit through the orchard to scatter some around the fruit trees. The plums and plucot are in bloom and the pears are budded out. Let’s hope for a good harvest this fall.

The MR says the bees are our doing their part. I do love picking fruit from our little orchard. The MR has been talking about adding a more permanent fence around the trees. I’m glad that they are finally getting big enouch to withstand deer damage. We just have to hope our pear trees get a little friendlier with one another. They’re supposed to cross-pollinate, but they haven’t been on speaking terms for the last few years.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the company we’d contracted with for the new propane tank took pity on us and installed it last Friday a few weeks earlier than promised.

New Propane Tank

Now I can fry food, heat the kettle, and dry as many clothes as my heart desires. The new tank is about twice as big as the old one, so we’ll have a little more peace of mind when the power goes out.

Are you getting your garden ready for planting? What’s in bloom at your house?


That Snowball Effect

Sometimes it takes just one thing, and before you know it it’s snowballed into a dozen more.

You see the MR has been talking about getting a new generator for awhile. Ours is situated down in the well room which vents into the garage, and with carbon monoxide being what it is, we just don’t like to run it all that much. We make sure the door is open; but let’s be honest, it’s usually bad weather when the power’s out, so the door’s banging around in the wind. It’s not the best design.

The week we got back from Costa Rica last month, the power went out for 12 hours on a stormy Saturday. At dusk when the MR went to turn on the generator, he found the battery was dead. I had dinner ready before 5 pm, so I could see what I was cooking, and we cozied up to the fire he’d built and headed to bed by 8 pm.

Somehow that nebulous idea of getting a new generator became an action plan. But it’s not just a generator. Ours is powered by propane, and we always wonder if we have enough to last through the storms. I think the longest we’ve gone without power here is a snowy four days, but we’ve had some major storms in the past where the power’s been out for a week. That being said, the MR was looking to have a larger propane tank put in, too.

Perhaps it was all the time on the side of the house with contractors looking at the tank and the generator and possible placement options, but suddenly, he was calling the tree service that did work for his dad 50 years ago to take out some trees that were getting too close along that side of the house.

We were getting bids and work was scheduled, and then as me and the MR were headed off to California for a wedding, the MR got a call that jobs had been delayed and they could take out the trees while we were gone. How awesome was that? By the way, it wasn’t the guy Papa Larry had known but his grandson who did the job—we didn’t have some 70 or 80 year-old man climbing trees in our yard.

We arrived home late Sunday to find a trailer full of logs off the driveway and the trees gone.

Sadly, Monday morning we noticed a smell when we went to check out the newly cleared trees. Somehow the propane line had been damaged, and while we had enough propane left for me to fry up some burgers for dinner, I’ve been hanging up the wash for the rest of the week.

Our new propane tank and generator were scheduled for early April, but the contractors were able to move some jobs around and will be installing the propane tank on Friday.

That means the MR spent most of Wednesday digging a trench for the new line. That’s probably a good thing, because with him using the shovel, I postponed my work in the garden. It would have been very exciting if I’d been down there when Cocoa spotted a bear next to the tennis court.

Why isn’t life simple? It’s always this, and then this, oh and that too. I’m thankful we were out of town over the sunny, warm weekend. If we’d been home, I know the MR would have suggested grilling, and that could have been real trouble with a propane leak around the corner. I’m glad I didn’t get up close and personal with a bear. And I’m glad kind people will get me some propane, so I don’t have to run upstairs to use the stove and can dry laundry  with that new-fangled thing called a dryer.

How’s your week been going?

The Summer of the Deck

I’ve been MIA for a bit—you may have noticed. I’ve been pouting. Sometimes I wonder how I ever got so naive when it comes to construction projects.

Let’s call this the summer of the deck. Not the lovely summer where we host barbecues, enjoy new deck furniture, admire the view, and while away hours. This is the summer where month after month after month, we have guys working on the deck; doors and windows closed to keep out the dust, dirt, noise, and toxic fumes; plants and deck furniture littering the living room, so they can recoat.

Remember back in May when me and the MR went away with my brother and sister-in-law for a long weekend? I was hoping to myself that the deck guys would be done—nope. Then we visited Sweet Miss and moved Baby Girl home—still working. Next we went to eastern Washington to look at wedding venues—not done yet. After a few weeks in Europe they’d have to be finished—what were you thinking? Finally on our last trip to visit Sweet Miss and see the eclipse, the end was in sight.

What we thought was a fairly simple job of replacing the soffit exposed a lot of rot, poorly designed drainage for the railing posts, and extensive rot on the stairs. Sometimes one thing leads to another, and so on, and so on.

So here’s a few highlights from the summer of the deck. We removed the hot tub and now have a large space for plants, sunbathing, and a shower that we’d like to make into a dog washing station. (That’s for you Cocoa the mud hound.)

All the work on the lower deck revealed some major problems with the box supporting the landing between the two sets of stairs.

So that long run of stairs down to the meadow was held up with posts for a while. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t feeling very safe.

Next they found problems with the stair risers, so we told Cocoa to stop using the stairs.

Cocoa, we said you can’t go down the stairs.

All of this in record-breaking temperatures with the heat radiating off the deck.

It looked like things were nearing completion.

And then they found more troubles with the lower stairs. When the stairs were reattached, the workers noticed that they were sagging and the railings where pulling away from the stairs. Guess what had to be replaced next?

All of that created a lot of dirt and disruption.

You may be asking yourself will this ever end. I’m right there with you. Currently, the box supporting the landing still needs to be textured to match the rest of the house, and there’s an issue with caulking on the soffit that started this whole mess.

The cost of the job more than doubled across the summer. Initially the work was to be completed in a few weeks, but with each new problem it was extended. Unfortunately, other jobs were also on the schedule, so the work was a bit hit-and-miss.

Is our deck safer? Yes. It’s a lot of time and money, but we’re hoping this will help keep it in good shape for many years to come. The MR laughed and joked that we paid a lot for our deck to look exactly the same minus the hot tub.

In all honesty, we did enjoy many afternoons and evenings on the deck when the workers weren’t around.

Me and Cocoa now feel safe walking down all those stairs.

Note: the skies are pink. It is not sunset; it is smoke from forest fires. We also have patches of red dotting the inside of the house from the sunlight. With forest fires and hurricane victims, our troubles are few.

Having a wrap-around deck in our climate comes at a price, but we do love it.

And just to prove it wasn’t all deck frustrations and duldrums this last month, we enjoyed dinners with friends, found Sweet Miss’ wedding dress, and had a great time in eclipse totality.

Best of all Baby Girl made it home safe and sound from her European adventure, and we’ll be all together next weekend. I do love my family.

Any construction horror stories you’d like to share?






The Power of Technology

When I was a kid, my dad would be working on some project around the house and usually wind up needing a part. This was before the age of big-box stores, but he had a go-to place—McLendon Hardware.  They always had what he needed.

Fast forward a year or two, and my how life has changed. Our 20-year-old faucet in the shower started dripping. It’s not the kind of sound you long to hear in the middle of the night. So the MR put his dad on the case. Unfortunately, we don’t have any documentation, and he couldn’t find any registration or markings telling the model number.

Hmm, what to do next? After talking to the help desk at Koehler, Papa Larry had Sweet Miss take a picture with his phone of the part, so he could then email it to the help desk, and they could identify the faucet and what we would need.

Before you know it, they were shipping out the replacement valve, and the MR installed it earlier this week.


Now we can enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.

While a cell phone picture and email worked out for the shower, there are times old-fashioned is best. The MR ordered a tune-up kit for the riding lawn mower that matched up with the model but had the wrong parts. The guy online from Florida couldn’t help us; they don’t make a kit for that model he said. The lady at the local John Deere dealer in Snohomish knew exactly what we needed. She said she’d set aside one for the guys, so they could come and pick it up.

Computers are a good thing, but sometimes a real person is what you need.



Rotten Luck

Sometime when you look at something from afar, it all looks fine. I’m one to think all is well and good, but the MR has a more discerning eye.

I think the deck is great; he says it’s falling apart. Hmm…guess whose right? I’m pretty lucky to have him around. While I might consider new curtains, I’m not that concerned about soffits. We have synergy; we’re better togther.

So when he suggested we have someone come out and look at the deck, I was totally agreeable. It seemed OK to me, but what do I know? Apparently not a lot when it comes to deck care and maintenance.

We appear to have some trouble.

The plan was to replace the 2×12 board all around the deck and remove and replace any rotting boards. Our contractors bid came in at a fairly reasonable price, and then they got started. 

We had much of the lower deck and stair landing replaced our first summer here, and we had the upper deck recoated two years ago, and half of it re-recoated last summer. How bad can it be? In a word, bad. 

Washington is a full disclosure state. When buy a home, the previous owners are required by law to tell you all about their home repair woes. This was a short sale; somehow the bank was in the middle of the deal and all that transparency wound up pretty murky. 

I thought we had a pretty clear picture of what we were getting into with our 100-page inspection report. The world is full of surprises. Turns out we’re finding all sorts of things no one told us about. 

The deck is surrounded by 38 metal posts that have drainage holes a little too high. So water sits in the bottom of the posts till the wood around them rots. Apparently, in the past they’ve replaced the wood around the posts and left them bolted into a piece of rotted wood or in some cases nothing. 

Our contractor is cutting the bolts from the bottom removing/replacing all rot, and then when we have the deck recoated in a few years, they’ll remove the bolts from the top and refasten them to solid wood—at least that’s the plan. 

Now you may be wondering how that solves the problem of the leaky metal posts; it doesn’t. So the plan is to drill a hole in the bottom of each post, attach tubing flush, and then run it back into the crawl space where it’ll drain harmlessly into the dirt. 

Our two week project has now been extended to three accompanied by a commensurate jump in price. May is turning into a noisy month. But I will feel safer once it’s all done. 

Ever have one of those projects that just kept getting bigger?