Monday, May 17, 2010

lawn & garden

When we moved in last July, invasive Japanese Knotweed was creeping out of the woods and into our lawn. The stuff is nearly impossible to kill, since its root system can reach 10 feet into the soil and spread 20 feet horizontally. It is very, very well adapted to life in the suburban northeast.

Herbicides can be effective, but since we have dogs we were reluctant to spray the lawn with toxins. Instead, we mowed the knotweed down to nothing and covered the area with opaque tarps. Since Japanese Knotweed can lie dormant for years awaiting sunnier conditions, we knew we couldn't starve it to death, only halt its growth temporarily.

We left the tarps all winter. A few shoots sprouted up between the seams, along with some dandelions and weeds. When we finally pulled up the tarps last weekend, incredibly, a dozen green knotweed shoots had emerged underneath the tarps, without any access to sunlight. This stuff is unstoppable.

I went around on my hands and knees and dug out the rogue shoots. Then I tilled the entire area with a hoe (I am still sore). We put down grass seed yesterday and have been keeping it damp.

I know we haven't killed the knotweed, but I'm hoping the grass will come in, compete for sunlight and nutrients, and slow the knotweed down a bit. If we keep the area mowed, the knotweed won't have a chance to build up food stores and grow thick stalks. I'll let you know in a few weeks if we actually grow grass.

Do you remember the overgrown tangle growing along the driveway?

We had lilies, grass, some kind of ground cover plant, and two types of baby trees!

Over the past month I dug all of that up (again, ouch), and turned over the soil. Yesterday we put in two yellow flowering rhododendrons.

They're small now, but they can grow up to 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide, so in a few years I hope they'll cover up our ugly basement windows.

I'll probably cover the open soil with more driveway gravel.

Yay for low-maintenance bushes and yay for neatness!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Underneath the Pink Carpet

Last weekend Rod ripped up the pink carpet in the front room that might become an office. Remember it in all its pinkness:

Not only was the carpet ugly, it was getting kind of stinky because the dogs love that room.

The wooden flooring underneath is in surprisingly good shape:

We could feel a raised area in front of the boarded-up fireplace and were hoping for a brick hearth, but it turned out to be just wood:

Next in this room: removing the drop ceiling. What are we, a church basement?


Friday, February 19, 2010

This Blows!

Our snow this winter has been pathetic—there's been none to speak of since early January, and the ground is looking dry and brown. Why did Virginia take all our snow? They don't even know how to enjoy it.

Back around New Year's Day, when we did have significant snow, we bought a snowblower. It is a gas-guzzling beast. It's terrible. We have a really long driveway, but still. You can blame me for at least four polar bears drowning.

Wanna hear a funny story about that snowblower?

It weighs 300 pounds. We needed to get it from the back of the pickup truck onto the ground, about a three foot drop. The morning after the last big snowstorm, the process went something like this:

Rod: Are you sure you can lift the back of this thing?

Me: Yeah, no problem.

Rod: Really? If it's too heavy I can ask one of the neighbors to help, or build a ramp or something.

Me: I am wicked strong. I lift weights.

Rod: How much weight do you lift?

Me: Like, 30 pounds. Sometimes 40.

Rod: Um...

Me: C'mon, it's cold!

Rod: Okay, on three. 1...2...3...


The snowblower went from truck to driveway in 0.2 seconds. Thankfully the snow broke its fall, and nothing's amiss as far as we can tell.

In other news, isn't our new layout so fancy?


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter in the New (Old) House

It snowed a lot today. We bought a snowblower the day after Thanksgiving, but they were out of stock, and we have to wait until next Saturday to pick it up. So in the meantime, shoveling.

We get awesomely spiky icicles along the roofline over the deck. I hope the dogs do not get impaled.

Since we have exterior doors now, we picked up some wreaths over the weekend.

We have room for a full-sized Christmas tree. It's in the front room with the teal trim.

It's snowing outside, but the pellet stoves are keeping us warm and toasty.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

we own stoves

We bought pellet stoves: one for the front of the house, including the second floor bedrooms, and one for the back living room off the kitchen. Rodney and his father installed them, which took about a day per stove.

Here is the Harman Accentra in the back of the house.

It's a pretty good lookin' stove, if I do say so myself.

The exhaust pipe exits the side of the house facing the garage. It smells nice, like a fireplace. The light next to it is also new. It helps me see when I take the dogs out at night.

In the front living room with the aqua trim, we installed the Harman XXV. We'll be painting this room soon, so the black spray paint on the wall doesn't matter. Rodney and his dad had to drive to Augusta to find a special corner pad for this beast.

They had to zig zag the pipe a bit to avoid a wall stud.

Rod says this:

"When we drilled the first pilot hole through the interior wall for the venting, we hit a stud. Since we didn't want to move the stove, we added a second elbow, placed horizontally, to move the venting's exit point away from the stud.

Within a few days we realized this front stove was emitting a smokey smell that the other stove did not. By inspecting the connection points between the venting's sections with a flashlight in the dark, we were able to determine that many of the joints did not seal properly when originally assembled—smoke was pouring out of them on startup. Our venting—ICC's 4" Excel pellet venting—has rubber gaskets on each section that are supposed to simplify installation and obviate the need for high-heat silicone or tape between each venting section. Evidently these gaskets did not seat properly when we first assembled the venting (although we had no similar problem with the other stove, which we installed first). After disassembling and reassembling the venting several times, we finally(!) managed to get everything sealed properly. No more smoke in the house."

The exhaust pipe exits the side of the house, about 15 feet from our next-door neighbor's porch. I brought them cupcakes to make up for the smoke. Until we plant some tall bushes next summer, the pipe is visible from the street.

It's pretty stupid-looking.

But we are warm.

We fill the stoves up with 40 lbs. of pellets about once a day. We use big buckets to carry the pellets from the basement (you can see one in the picture of the XXV). We've already gone through almost a ton of pellets, but there's more where that came from.

We are very toasty.


Monday, November 30, 2009

We've Been Working, Just Not Blogging

Since we last posted, the backyard has gone from looking like this:

To this:

And we've learned that raking is very good exercise.

Remember the barfy baby blue bedroom?

We painted it the same respectable colors as our bedroom:

We are still touching up, since insulating the built-in dresser was messy.

We also have to go back and repair some of the floor in our bedroom, thanks to Ellie.

She clawed through 150 years' of paint, trying to get at the men working in the basement.


We completed many projects during October and November, and we'll post about them this week.


Thursday, October 1, 2009


The custom-built counters in the small kitchen were not designed to accept a dishwasher; too shallow for a full-sized dishwasher, and with such limited cupboard space that ceding any more than absolutely necessary to built-in appliances would leave us nowhere to keep our kitchen stuff. So after a great deal of research, we settled on a small, 18" dishwasher that would fit naturally in the portion of the counter that juts out into the middle of the kitchen--replacing one drawer and one cupboard door, without extending halfway into the neighboring drawer and door, obviating the need to rebuild the trim, and the remaining drawer into a narrower one:
While a larger dishwasher would have been more useful given the great number of dirty dishes that we daily produce, this will work for now. We really cannot live without a dishwasher, and thankfully avoided having to remodel the entire kitchen to get one. The kitchen layout is quaint but awkward; someday (low priority) a complete overhaul may be in order, at which time we can get an industrial-sized dishwasher.