In my post about our newly painted house, did you happen to notice the mess in our front yard? Allow me to point it out in case you missed it. You were probably focused on how great the house itself is looking these days.
It would be more noticeable if the orange fencing was upright and surrounding the gaping hole in our front yard like it’s supposed to be, but it had to come down so the painters could maneuver around the house, so it’s kind of in a heap right now. There’s a big sheet of plywood covering the hole right now to keep people from falling in.
And why, you may ask, is there a big hole in our front yard? Now that we’ve made the switch from oil to natural gas heat, getting rid of our 1950’s oil furnace and gaining a gorgeous and efficient gas fireplace, we had to decommission the oil tank. Local law requires unused buried oil tanks to be cleaned, filled, and capped, or removed entirely. We opted to have it removed. When the contractor dug out the old oil tank, they discovered it had been leaking oil into the soil around it. Not surprisingly, test results showed the soil contamination was over the legal limit. We had hoped this wouldn’t be the case, but fortunately we were prepared for it anyway. The good news is that our state (Washington) sponsors a free insurance program, PLIA, to cover cleanup of leaking heating oil tanks. We signed up for it as soon as we bought our house, so this shouldn’t cost us any extra money. Whew. The bad news is that:
1) we have a big hole in the front yard and we have to wait for the state to approve our claim before cleanup can start;
2) the hole smells like oil, yuck;
3) the contractor will have to dig up even more of the yard to remove the contaminated soil; and
4) this whole thing is going to take several weeks at least.
So for now we have to live with this mess in the yard (hey, we’ve been living with various messes for two years, why stop now?), and just be grateful that it’s not going to cost us a fortune and it’s probably not going to involve excavating the entire yard. Maybe I shouldn’t say that and jinx it. After all, I once said the tank probably wasn’t leaking. In picture format. See? D’oh.
LUST = leaking underground storage tank. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that the contamination isn’t any worse than our contractor estimated.
Procrastination wins and losses (or, tape residue on weatherstripping finally removed)
I have always been a procrastinator. In middle school and high school, I just barely caught the school bus in the morning. Every. single. day. And the only reason I actually did catch the bus was because for some strange reason, the kids would all stand on one corner while waiting for the bus and then when they saw the bus coming down the street they would cross to the other side where the bus would pick them up. I could see that corner from my house, so I had a 30-second heads-up to grab my backpack and a pop tart (that my Mom would toast and leave for me next to the front door) and run across the street just in time to get on the bus. In college, most of my papers were turned in hot off the printer. Including my thesis, which if late would have caused me to not graduate on time. Somehow I always squeaked by. Maybe I thrive under pressure. Or maybe I just haven’t learned a valuable life skill. Potato, potahto.
Though I do view my tendency to procrastinate as a character flaw that sometimes results in problems (like how I’m frequently either almost late or actually late to appointments - though I do have a better track record with really important appointments, it’s not stellar), I have also found that sometimes procrastination saves me from doing unneeded work. Sometimes while tasks are waiting for me to do them, they “go away.” Never got around to painting the kitchen? Good, ‘cause now we’re cutting giant holes in the wall to run wire through them and that paint job would have to be redone. Haven’t started that project my boss thought of yesterday? No problem, today he changed his mind and doesn’t want it after all.
On the other hand, sometimes procrastination creates more work. For example, when I painted the brick molding around the front door, I taped off the weatherstripping so I wouldn’t get paint on it. But then I left the tape on for a few weeks, and by the time I pulled it off, there was some tape residue that just wouldn’t come off. Oops. I can’t say for sure the tape would have come off cleanly if I removed it right away (I used regular masking tape instead of painter’s tape, which was not ideal), but I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as bad.
Guess what I did next. I procrastinated again. Sure, I could have tried various methods to get the residue off, or just bought new weatherstripping, but I thought “maybe later.” ’Cause that’s how I roll. And here’s what it looked like:
Fast forward to a year and four months later when the house gets painted (this is when I took the photos above, and as you can see the tape residue was still there, ugly as ever). The painters removed the weatherstripping before painting the door and its trim, which is probably what I should have done when I painted the trim, but it just never occurred to me. As the weatherstripping lay on my living room floor, I noticed that ugly tape residue. I rubbed it with my finger, and it started to come off. Being out in the elements for over a year had dried it out. ”Sweet,” I thought, “procrastination pays off again! Now I can finally clean these up after a year of looking gross.” But did I? No, I waited. I waited one day. And in that day, the painters put the weatherstripping back into the door frame. Right next to the freshly painted trim, which I did not want to ruin. Shoot. Procrastination is a fickle mistress. (Is that an expression or did I just make that up?) Fortunately, I saw how easy it was to remove the weatherstripping, and the next day I pulled it out again, cleaned it with the scrubby side of a sponge, and put it back. See, all clean:
Here’s a funny twist to this story. When Matt re-sided the house last year and replaced all the windows, he also replaced the brick molding around the front door with the same trim he used around the windows. So I actually could have procrastinated on the entire molding-painting project and IT WOULD HAVE GONE AWAY, thus saving me from both the painting task and the tape residue issue. This is how things work in my world.
I found this recipe in a recent issue of Whole Living magazine. I tore it out because I knew we had squash that needed to be eaten and the recipe looked pretty simple. I can’t find it on Whole Living’s website, but it is online here. We were out of onions, which is unusual for us, but we had a lot of leeks from the garden so I substituted those. With tomatoes and potatoes from the garden, plus Matt’s yellow squash, this unintentionally became a dish made almost entirely of foods Matt grew. Just olive oil, spices and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese were from the store.
We loved it. We ate half of it on the first night and finished up the rest as leftovers the next day. Easy, healthy, and delicious.
After some back and forth about whether to DIY this one, we decided to hire someone to paint the house. Matt seriously considered renting a sprayer and doing it himself (with some help from me), but we have been very busy lately and we knew it would be much quicker to have a pro paint it. We are happy with that decision. After getting several quotes, we chose a company that was highly recommended by a friend with reasonable prices. They did it in two days. Who knows how long it would have taken us to complete it. Meanwhile, it is fall now, which means the days are shorter and the ones with good weather for painting are going to get fewer and farther between. As you may know, we took some time to think about the color, too. We finally decided to throw caution to the wind and go with our favorite color instead of one that would be safe (and maybe even a little boring, in our opinion). We could not be happier with the results. Are you ready for the big reveal? Here it is:
And the back of the house:
The color is looking more blue on my computer screen. It’s teal, and the color can look more green or more blue depending on the light.
I can hardly remember what the house used to look like. Looking back at the progression, I realize how far we have come!
March 2010 (by this point, we had installed the new front door and Matt had added small planting beds to the front hard, but that’s about it):
Ugh, I hated that brick facade on the front so much! And the paint color was just so blah. The windows were pretty bad. In some areas, the paint was in bad shape.
November 2010 (old siding removed, insulation added to exterior walls, new windows installed, housewrap - all DIY by Matt):
A few weeks ago - early September 2011 (new siding, new windows, window trim, more plants, and color swatches to help us decide on the color - all DIY):
Now - late September 2011 (new paint on everything, and you can see the fence and gate - DIY by Matt with help from Robert - in this photo):
We know our color decision was sort of a bold one. With a few exceptions, most of the houses on our street are a very muted palette. That’s a nice way of putting it. I’d say most are drab. Anyway, I was a little bit anxious when I first saw the finished results, but I no longer feel that way. I think our house is the best looking one on the street. Maybe we’ll start a trend.
I decided that I really like the way the fence looks with the paint color. I’d love to get a wood front door and garage doors. If we decide that’s not in the budget, maybe I’ll attempt a faux wood paint job, but only if I can get it to look realistic. I’ve seen a couple of blue houses with warm wood doors, like one of my inspiration houses below, and I think they look so sweet.
We always say that Max and Sonny are both wonderful, and as a pair they are fantastic, but we’d be in trouble if we had two Maxes or two Sonnys. They have complimentary strengths and weaknesses.
Take our trips to the dog park for example. We go about as often as we can, usually 3 times a week. When we’re getting ready to leave the house, Sonny is fairly calm and quiet. Max’s excitement just can’t be contained in his body, so we have to work to keep him under control. Although his whining and attempts to run in circles is annoying, Max is manageable, partly because Sonny is so good during this time. Once we’re at the dog park, Max is pretty much a dream. He stays nearby, checks in with us, and has great social skills (he plays with playful dogs, avoids less-friendly dogs, etc.) Max will fetch the ball 100 times and not get distracted by the zillions of sights, sounds, and smells at the park. Sonny has good social skills and positive interactions with other dogs, but we have to watch him because occasionally he plays a rougher than is ideal with stranger-dogs. We also have to watch him because his hunting instincts are very strong and when he gets into hunting mode, he tends to forget about us. At home, this manifests as a lot of stalking, sitting and watching for animals around the yard. The dog park we go to is 9 acres including a mile long path with trees, bushes, and tall grass. Sonny goes hunting for birds and maybe small animals in the bushes. If he spots something or goes on point, it’s very difficult to call him back. Once at the dog park, I was standing right next to Sonny and could not get him to break point. One of these days, I’ll remember to bring my camera to the dog park, but for now here’s a picture of Sonny pointing at a bird in our yard. Max sees it too, but his focus is not quite as intense.
Every time we go to the dog park, we do a lot of practice with recalls. I’m proud to say that both dogs are getting a lot better. They should be, after 50+ trips to the park over the last 6 months. Sonny was really terrible at first, and now he will often come back to us even from deep within his favorite hunting shrubbery. Of course it’s not all forward progress. I took the dogs to the park on a recent Saturday by myself, which makes it a little bit tougher to watch Sonny constantly. The dogs are so fast they can be out of sight in a couple of seconds. I lost him twice on that particular trip - the worst ever. But yesterday I took the dogs by myself again, and Sonny came every time I called him.
We’ll keep on practicing every day at home and elsewhere to strengthen our recalls. My goal is 100% reliability - will we ever get there? We may look for a hunting dog specific training program to help us learn to regain the dogs’ attention when their hunting instincts kick in and they get so focused on environmental stimuli. If anyone has advice on this, please let me know. In the meantime, we’ll keep chugging along, practice practice practice, building those neural pathways in their doggie brains.
The grass may be dead and brown, but Matt has been nursing his home and P-patch garden plots along, and we have some lovely fall produce.
Leeks, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and meets. We eat the beets (cooked, then chilled in the fridge) in salads. Matt made a delicious leek and potato soup. We need to make some zucchini bread, and I’d also like to try a simple recipe involving yellow squash, tomato, and potato that I recently ripped from a magazine.
One of the very first things we did after we moved into our house a little over two years ago was installed a new front door (one of our earliest posts!). The deadbolt and handle set is a Schlage R-series. Over the past few months, inserting the key into the deadbolt has gotten more and more difficult. It worked to lock or unlock the door, but each time we put the key in or pulled it out, it would catch on each bump of the key. Apparently keys can wear down and cause similar problems, but I knew it wasn’t the key because the same thing happened with copies I had made a long time ago and hardly used since. It was getting annoying, and I was a little worried that eventually it would get to the point where we couldn’t get the key in or out, and that would be a major problem.
From the inside, I removed the two screws holding the deadbolt to the door and started poking at it randomly investigating. I retrieved the installation instructions from my big file ‘o instruction manuals. It gave me no help to resolve this problem. Next, of course, I took to the internet. I looked at about a dozen sites, but the two that helped me were this doityourself.com forum and the Schlage Rekeying Manual. The bit from the forum that helped was that if a key is stuck in the lock, the tailpiece retainer probably needs to be adjusted or tightened. OK, I didn’t know what a tailpiece retainer was, and a quick internet search didn’t turn up anything helpful. Somehow in looking through the Schlage Rekeying Manual, I decided that step 6c on page 25 was what I needed to do, since it also mentioned tightening something (the cylinder cap = tailpiece retainer?) if the key wouldn’t come out.
Nevermind that the manual assumed I would have rekeying kit. With a little bit of trial and error, I figured out that a paperclip and a pair of needlenosed pliers worked just fine. Here’s what the back of the deadbolt looks like:
Can you see the little pin sticking up through one of the notches, at about 11 o’clock? Basically, my understanding is that “tightening the tailpiece retainer/cylinder cap” means turning the notched part clockwise while that pin and its associated parts stay in place. The pin has to be pushed down, which I did using my bent paperclip, while I turned the notched part clockwise with my finger or my needlenosed pliers. The green dot is a Sharpie mark I made next to the notch where the pin originally rested. I turned it one notch at a time, testing the key after each turn. I made it to five notches (that last notch was not easy, so maybe I shouldn’t have even gone there), but the key was a bit harder to turn at that point, so I went back to four, which was just right. I put the deadbolt back together in the front door.
And guess what: I did it! The key actually goes in and out more easily now, and I don’t seem to have damaged the lock in any way. I’m kind of proud of myself for figuring out what needed to be done and doing it with improvised tools. I make no warranties or guarantees on this technique, but for me it was pretty quick and saved the cost of a locksmith. Woohoo!
These photos might be nominally referred to as “before and after,” but “after” is not an accurate description of where we are. Let’s go with “in progress.”
Fireplace in progress:
Other living room Before:
Living room in progress:
Apologies for the bad lighting and overall messiness. If you can overlook those, I think you’ll agree that the new floor plan (which we’ve been anticipating for well over a year) is much more open and makes the new fireplace the focal point of the room.
Wall-mounted TV over the fireplace. Also got cable after not having it for the past 2.5 years. Which is proving to be a bit overwhelming for me.
New Ikea Manstad corner sofa (yes, both sofas would look better without blankets draped over them, and I have a solution in mind for that, but for now this is how we roll because we enjoy having dogs on the furniture)
Rearranged most of the furniture in the room and gave away or sold several items including the TV stand.
When guests enter through the front door, they are no longer funneled into an awkward area behind the couch.
More room to do workouts in the living room.
New yellow shelf above and to the left of the fireplace - our friend and former (sniff!) next door neighbor Robert built this for his house, which is identical to ours, and since it’s a custom shelf for a space that only exists in the houses on our street, he had no use for it when he moved. It was black until Matt painted it yellow.
Dog crates are now under the wood table, where they fit perfectly. We gave the chairs away, which was a little bit sad for me. I got the table and set of 4 chairs at the Salvation Army in my hometown almost 10 years ago right before I moved into my first apartment after college. I’ve used them in every home I’ve lived in as an adult. The table was my desk for the past two years, but now that’s not possible with the dog crates underneath, so I’m using a folding table which you might catch a glimpse of (see my laptop in the last photo?) Also note to self: get some folding chairs so people can sit down if we have a dinner party.
Many more improvements are still on the To Do list, but we are feeling mighty fine about this batch of changes. We are ready for fall and winter: we will be so cozy snuggled up on our couches with dogs and our fireplace keeping us warm.