What Tutorials Don’t Say About Refinishing Wood Floors

I’m happy AND angry.

– Ralph Wiggum

The next step in the upstairs remodel was refinishing the floors. Kevin previously wove salvaged flooring into the existing boards, so now we have actual flooring throughout the upstairs. We decided to do the work one room at a time — moving all the furniture to one side and then the other. We’ve just finished the bedroom:

Before (detail)

During

After (looks fine if you don’t look too closely)

This one room was a hard-won battle, and we learned a lot that we’ll apply to the next room.

Lesson 1: Floor Edgers are Nasty

A floor edger sander is a heavy, violent tool designed to sand along the walls while you use all your willpower to muscle it into position.

Fortunately, most of the floor involves a friendly orbital sander.

Having used an edger now, I question its utility. First of all, using a floor edger is like wrestling a rabid badger on steroids.

Like this, only rabid and with sandpaper on its bottom.

Second, edgers dig in (also like badgers) and leave serious swirl marks on the floor that must be hand-sanded out. Even pros comment that edger swirl is pretty much to be expected, although you can reduce its extent.

On the next room, I’m inclined (against professional advice) to get as close as possible to the edge with the big sander, and then hand sand the edges and corners, using the same grit progression. You have to get the corners by hand (or with a detail sander) anyway, so…I’m having trouble seeing the benefit.

Again, though, professionals say to use them.

Lesson 2: We Are Mammals.

No matter how lustrous and healthy your mammalian hair is, it’s going to fall out while you are applying polyurethane to your wood floor. And no matter how good your eyesight, you’re not going to see that hair in the finish until everything’s dry. In short, this is not a good hatless or nude activity.

Enjoy your hair elsewhere.

Completely cover your hair and remove all pet hair from your clothes before entering the Flooring Zone. And use a really good paint brush for cutting in to avoid bristle loss.

Lesson 3: No Going Back

It took a couple of weeks after sanding to be able to do the finish — we were waiting for the humidity to go down a few points. It’s been cold and rainy, and cold raininess slows down dry and cure. (We used Duraseal satin, by the way, which is a nice product.)

Once it got relatively warm, I had the bedroom window open to promote drying. It was a lovely, warm day, but there was a sudden cloudburst. To prevent the floor from getting wet, I tiptoed to the window to close it. I swabbed the footprints as I backed up, but I missed many of them. I thought I had just barely touched the floor, but the footprints proved otherwise.

If you wander across the wet finish, you will be forced to sand and re-poly the area in a semi-effective way that I would not recommend, and therefore will not even describe. Figure out what you want to do with the window ahead of time.

Lesson 4: “Hardwood” is Not a Misnomer.

We spoke with several knowledgeable people about refinishing this particular floor, and we got a lot of this:

The issue? Ninety-year-old maple and associated finishes are crazy hard and weirdly resistant to mechanical abrasion. If we had it to do over, knowing what we know now, we probably would have hired this out (or at least that would be my vote). But since we’ve started down this road, we’re going to finish the reading room as well. We’re adding a few steps to the process, though:

  1. Chemical stripper to lift most of the old finish instead of sanding through it.
  2. Skipping the edger.
  3. Shaving ourselves entirely bald.

I’m pleased that this room is done, and I know that the flaws that I see will not be noticeable, but I’m still annoyed about them. Of all the projects we’ve done, this was really one of my least favorite to do.

Posted in Before & After, D'oh!, Walls & Floors | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

First Principles Thinking In Action

Homer: Aw, twenty dollars? I wanted a peanut!
Brain: Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts.
Homer: Explain how!
Brain: Money can be exchanged for goods and services.

When my brother and I were kids, if we were trying to puzzle something out, Dad would often interject, “First principles!” in a cheerful fashion. We quickly understood what he meant — think about the givens in a situation, and go from there. Nowadays, Elon Musk makes hay out of “first principles thinking” as if he invented human intelligence all by himself, to which I say, “Shut up, Elon Musk! My dad was advocating first principles when you were in short pants! AND he had the pneumatic transportation idea in the 1970s. You just have venture capital and your carefully crafted charisma.”

(“Also, your surname is ‘Musk’.”)

Recently, between imaginary conversations with the ol’ Muskinator, I discovered that a wall sconce in one bedroom was not working. Nephew Drew was staying in there, and he said it wasn’t turning on. I removed the bulb (one of those fiddly two-prong halogen things) to find a replacement next time I was out.

Ikea Husvik (discontinued)

Over the next week, I undertook the following:

  • Bought a bulb at Menard’s, and determined it was the wrong bulb.
  • Went to a specialist bulb dealer and had them recommend a bulb.
  • Tried the (expensive) special bulb and found it didn’t work.
  • Found the light’s manual online (Ikea!).
  • Conducted several Internet searches for Ikea halogen bulbs and how to refurbish corroded halogen fixtures.
  • Had an argument with the Kev about how he had to keep his light on for me and why didn’t I put a lamp next to the bed temporarily? (We moved to this room because we’re painting and sanding the floors upstairs.)
  • Found a spare lamp and discovered that the cord wasn’t long enough.
  • Hauled the cord for the broken wall light up from behind the bed to use the attached extension cord, and…discovered that it wasn’t plugged in.

So much d’oh.

Right after the D’OH!, I muttered, “First principles!” and laughed. I imagine that Nephew Drew unplugged the light to plug in his phone charger. Why I didn’t check that first, I just don’t know.

Anyway, the point is, don’t jump to a second-level solution first. Eliminate the basic stuff by thinking about first principles. Usually, that will reveal where the problem is. It’s easy to start elsewhere, but take a breath and save yourself a $12 bulb.

I don’t come off well in this post, but I think we can agree that Dad gave me all the mental tools I needed, whether or not I use them on the regular!

Posted in D'oh!, Electrical, Family | Tagged | Leave a comment

Radical Radiator Plan

Who would have thought a whale could be so heavy?

– Moe

Once, there were two good-sized radiators upstairs. We removed one for floor-plan reasons (it ended up being inside a closet). After draining and disconnecting it, we put it on Craigslist for whoever could get it down the stairs without hurting themselves, us, or the house.  The winner brought about 18 bulky guys (ok, six), at least one of whom was a professional rigger, and it still took them 45 minutes to get the thing out.

With the insulation, the one remaining radiator in the upstairs was more than enough, even over a Minnesota winter. I mean, it is PLENTY warm up there. We decided the ideal case would be two much (MUCH) smaller radiators, which meant the old radiator had to go.

To drain a hot water radiator, you need to shut off your boiler and reduce water in the system by opening it at the lowest point until the water falls below the level of the radiator in question. Open up the bleed valve on the radiator to let air into the system.

(Every system is going to be a little different, so either you feel completely comfortable with this process or you don’t — if in the slightest doubt, check with a plumber. We disclaim all responsibility here (as per usual).)

You can hear when the radiator is pretty much empty if you listen while it’s draining, but the boiler pressure gauge shows the “height” of the water in the system, and that helps (if you know how many feet the radiator is above the boiler).

“Feet H2O” at about 8:00

Once drained, use a pipe wrench to detach the lines from the radiator. Kev’s got a big ol’ piece of pipe that he puts over the handle of the pipe wrench to get more leverage when we need it, and we needed it here! Those connections were made a long time ago and had been painted over many times.

Free! Finally free!

Be careful not to accidentally bend or otherwise damage the lines from the system — that would make it a bigger job. Also, if you unintentionally turn one of the supply pipes, you may loosen a connection elsewhere, and nobody wants a flood. Especially not you in your own house. Cap or plug the pipes (as appropriate) if you are going to refill the system before hooking up another radiator. Use thread tape and really snug ’em up good.

Without 18 (six) bulky guys and a rigger, we were not planning on hauling this thing out by ourselves. Plus, it had some issues that made it not ideal for re-use. So we decided to disassemble it and take it out in pieces for scrap.

Radiators are cast by the fin, so from what we read, we should be able to pry apart the sections at the joints. We thought a crowbar would do it, but Kev got a splitting wedge just in case.

Note that some radiators, although not this one, feature connecting rods holding the fins together; they should be unscrewed prior to dissassembly. No sense fighting more than you have to.

See the connecting rods on this one? You should be able to loosen those at the sides.

Well, guess what? After eight decades or so, those joints are not so supple. Kev ended up using the splitting wedge, and splitting occurred — just not along the joints.

Well, it’s coming apart…

Cast iron is pretty brittle, and we just ended up cracking the thing. Since we weren’t re-using the radiator, that was fine — but BE YE WARNED should you have highfalutin ideas about disassembling a radiator to resize it.

Anyhoo, we proceeded with brute force to break it into three major chunks, which each weighed a manageable amount, maybe 55 lbs/25 kilos. Moving them was pretty straightforward except for all the radiator sludge.

…ergo bagging and taping the open ends…

If you have something like this and don’t want to take it to the scrapyard yourself, you can have ten or more takers in no time by posting it in the “free” area of Craigslist. Radiators are ferrous (iron) scrap, which doesn’t pay very much at all, but for people who scrap for a living, about 150 lbs of ferrous scrap can fill out a load.

This radiator was smaller than the first one we got rid of, so we are semi-wimps, but it still wasn’t worth the risk of injury on steep stairs. It took less than 20 minutes to break it down and move it safely, and now it’s being recycled. If you have a valuable/unusual radiator or one that can be effectively reused, look into moving it. Otherwise, I highly recommend beating it into manageable pieces.

Posted in Energy, Salvage | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Quartz Countertop Dechippification

Mmmmm, chips!

– Homer Simpson

Not too long ago, we found a small chip on the edge of the sink. It was virtually invisible, but we knew it was there, and it made us both a little sad. We can’t think what did it, because the quartz is pretty dang tough. If it’s going to happen anywhere, though, it’s on an edge.

I found a repair kit online with great reviews. I was slightly skeptical (as is my way), but I ordered it.

The kit includes a clear (non-yellowing) epoxy mixer, a UV light, and some polishing compound. You ooze some of the epoxy into the hole and place a piece of clear plastic (a “curing strip”) over the goo to level it. To set it, there’s a tiny UV light. I rigged up the light (taped to a piece of Tupperware in the sink) so that it was directly on the spot. I left it there for much longer than the two minutes the kit specified. This additional time probably didn’t do anything further, but it made me feel virtuous and thorough. Then you buff it with the world’s tiniest piece of sandpaper, and no more chip.

The ProCaliber kit is easy to use and there’s a fair bit of product left over in case we ever have to do this again (although let’s not have that happen). Here’s a video on how to do it (this post NOT sponsored by ProCaliber, incidentally — I imagine there are competitors offering more or less the same thing):

The repair is like a vampire: it doesn’t show up in photos (or is that mirrors?). It looks like nothing ever happened. Can’t even feel a difference in the surface. RESULT!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I imagine it’s particularly good on light-colored granite and quartz like ours, but the reviews seem to cover all sorts of surfaces. For the price (around $30 online — Google for the best price), it’s certainly worth a try if you have a chip. You can always call a repair service later if it doesn’t work.

PS: If you follow us and wonder what’s been keeping us away from the blog, it’s just a whole lot of Stuff — a little travel, a lot of work, some nasty recurring cold/flu bug, and now the mid-winter slump. On the travel front, we went to see family in the UK, and took a side trip to Munich and Nuremberg, which was great.

Munich, from a tiny platform on top of a church

Getting back into the blog swing now — I have missed it!

Posted in D'oh!, Kitchen, Repair & Maintenance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Fences Make Sore People

Look! Achy Breaky Stacy for a dollar ninety-nine!

One of our New Year’s priorities for 2014(!!!) was repairing our leaning privacy fence.

We didn’t get it done.

This spring, I was concerned (and embarrassed) enough about the angle that I wanted to either fix it (imagine!), or at least prop it up until we got to it. Because we were going out of town, Kevin figured out a temporary fix.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Not too shabby, huh? Do you wanna see how he did it?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kev done fixed it.

Staking the fence worked well as an interim fix. And we only got tangled up in that there rope two or three times!

dancin

Anticipating summer 2017…

We finally got around to a semi-permanent repair this month. First job was to remove the fence panels and dig out the bad posts. Because we have a panel fence instead of a picket fence, the new posts go in the same spots, and we couldn’t dig out wide craters. To support the posts and make the most of the concrete, you want a hole no bigger around than a nephew.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He was absolutely indispensable to the project, and not just because he made a good measuring device.

We took out three bad posts, and found out that frost heave was not our problem.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Creeping Charlie is our problem.

The leaningnest post was rotted almost completely through, and this top-heavy chunk of wood was pulling the posts on either side via the panels. Frost heave is real, but that’s not what happened here.

To avoid frost heave and rot with the replacement posts, we dug down below the frost line (3’6″ in this part of the world) and flared out the sides of the hole near the bottom (see detailed how-to here). Pour a little pea gravel in the bottom to help drainage. Then stick in the post (we used 10-foot treated posts, trimmed a little to match the height of the pre-existing ones). Then, Kevin ran a line across the back of the posts from the last one on each side that was actually straight so we could line them up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Near hole to be widened a little toward the left.

We used Quikrete fast-setting concrete for posts. First, we’d square up the posts in all directions, then dump the dry mix into the hole (wear a mask). Recheck the level, then add water–no need to stir! It’s a gallon of water for every 50 lbs. (one bag) of mix, so that’s what we did…and then we had to bail out the first hole. Turns out, if you have St Paul clay at the bottom of your hole, it won’t drain well and you need less water. We used three bags per hole, give or take.

Build up the concrete in a slope up to the post so that water (hopefully) runs away from the wood. Concrete stops about five inches below grade.

Slope concrete against the post so that water runs away from it. Fill the last 5-6″ of the hole with soil.

This stuff sets up really fast, so we got the posts rechecked and then nailed temporary buttresses to them while they dried. We probably didn’t need this propping step given how fast the set is, but we were going in for the night and didn’t know who might want to swing on them in our absence.

Arrow shows an out-of-line post we shored up the next day.

Arrow shows an out-of-line post.

The next day, we woke in pain. Digging and hauling concrete and moving 10-foot posts is tiring! Even the nephew felt it a little. But the second day was easier. We only had two posts that had been pulled out of true. For the less bad one, we (Kevin) drove a heavy metal stake alongside and screwed the post to it with stainless screws. For the one shown in the image above, we dug down and around the existing concrete pour, then pushed the post back up straight. While I leaned against it, Kevin braced the post in the right place. Then we dumped concrete and water into the widened hole and up and around the post above the existing concrete. I wouldn’t recommend this technique for a post that was really leaning, but with the support of the new posts, this stiffened the fence up more than enough (especially since there’s no gate on this side causing additional movement).

Then we took some aspirin and sat the heck down for a while before nailing the panels back up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After. Unrelated: how do you keep Maximillian sunflowers from flopping?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Straighter fence, floppy sunflowers, transplanted stuff, and two large blocks of limestone that we should have moved back inside the fence before closing it up.

So that’s one New Year’s resolution from 2014 finished!

Posted in D'oh!, Outdoor Building Projects, Repair & Maintenance | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

No Need to Hack: Ikea Mail-Ready Basket

Now there’s no choice but to go…store-bought!

– Marge Simpson

Once upon a time, I cut up an Ikea magazine basket to make a hanging mail basket.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This hack has held up surprisingly well. But if it starts to fall apart, it seems Ikea has me covered. Check out the Gabbig:

This isn’t being shown as a mail catcher, but if you hang it on the back of a door, that’s a mail catcher, right? I mean, look at this next picture.

basket2

It’s as if Ikea decided not to package hooks with Gabbig, but used this picture to get you most of the way there.

At $12.99, it’s a far sight cheaper than most of the fancy-pants options, which start around $25. It might not be wide enough front to back to catch everything, but for that price, it’s completely worth a go.

Would love to hear from anyone who gives this a try!

 

Posted in Decor, Organization, Windows & Doors | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Render Unto Caesar

Plant Inspector: Gum used to seal crack in cooling tower.
Mr. Burns: I’m as shocked as you are!

Last week, the general inspector signed off on our 16-month-old building permit.

stamp

Almost everything done on the various permits had been approved months earlier; the roof and a second air conditioning inspection were the sticking points.

The roofer (a subcontractor) hadn’t had the roof checked, and the inspector wanted to see the underlayment and an added vent on the porch. As you might expect, the underlayment is UNDER the finished roof, so the roofer had to tear off (and then re-install) shingles. We provided photos, but they were not detailed enough. On the porch vent, the roofer argued that our porch is not heated and therefore did not need venting (a fair point), but the inspector was unmoved.

Porch roof on

This photo didn’t do it for the inspector on the underlayment. There’s a new ridge vent along the apex of the porch roof (right between those guys).

We were really happy with the roofing crew and how the roof turned out, and the roofer was nice about getting the permit closed out, although there was some minor grouchiness and excuse-making.

The HVAC people, on the other hand, kept telling us that we shouldn’t worry about a second inspection because it was all squared away. Even though the permit showed it was still open online, and the inspector gave us a punchlist of things to fix in the technician’s absence (and mailed a copy to the HVAC place). The system was wrong, you see — there’s no need to change anything.

goodcat

Also, we never got anything in the mail!

Finally, I had the inspector call the HVAC people directly. Then the HVAC people called me to say how silly it was that they had to come back for ten minutes to do a few little things. And THEN their guy did not show up to for those ten minutes on two separate occasions. We ended up fixing most of the issues, leaving almost nothing for them to finish. Their ever-changing stories, grousing, and missed appointments were really aggravating. I had been recommending this company to everyone, and we’d given them three different projects. Maybe they knew we were out of HVAC projects!

So out of five contractors/subcontractors on this project, two vendors had issues with inspections. Despite their grumpiness, we’ve never had anything but cordial and professional interactions with St Paul inspectors. That includes the time an enforcement officer visited after someone “anonymously” reported work without a permit (I misread the requirement, but the enforcement guy just let us scoot down and pick up the permit, no harm/foul).

They don't usually wear hats, but often have gadgets.

St Paul inspectors don’t usually wear hats, but often have gadgets.

Some inspectors are more strict than others, but overall, they are friendly, prompt, and willing to explain the rationale behind the rules (as well as what you need to change to satisfy them). I don’t find inspections thrilling fun, but they are always collegial.

Would home improvement (either DIY or by contractors) be easier and quicker without inspections? Yes, of course! But inspections help support market value and insurance coverage. More basically, though, inspectors exist. They are a known-known. It makes no sense to gripe to the customer about the part of the job the customer can’t control.

From the truly ridiculous movie Dark Star.

From the truly ridiculous movie Dark Star

As a homeowner, take the following steps to avoid inspection woe from contractors:

  1. If your would-be contractor gripes about inspections generally or your municipality’s inspectors specifically (or suggests that you don’t need an inspection), consider whether chasing them around is an activity you want in your future.
  2. Make sure you have a written contract that requires the contractor (and his/her subcontractors) to work to code and schedule/complete all necessary inspections.
  3. Make the final payment contingent on passing all relevant inspections (then stick to that in practice).
  4. If you don’t see a building permit posted at your house within a couple of days of work starting, find out exactly when the permit will be pulled and posted.
  5. Acquaint yourself with the inspection routine for each sub-permit so you know at what point inspections will happen.
  6. Ask that the contractor gather proof (St Paul has a card system, but check with your city) for each passed inspection.
  7. Double-check that the permits are updated accordingly (give it a few days after inspection to be entered in the system).
  8. Don’t take blame for something that is wholly coincidental to your geographic location!

Rant over!

Posted in Construction, D'oh! | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Update

Since last we posted, in no particular order:

1. New Pet

We brought a large dog into a two-cat household, with better-than-expected results.

cat and dog

They aren’t best buds yet, but they will all sit in the same room together.

My brother’s dog Karma needed a retirement home with no children, so we decided to give that a try. It’s been remarkably successful! I love dogs, but I’ve never had one (weird, I know), so it’s fun having her around. Mayya mostly ignores Karma, but Inigo is getting with the program, as seen above.

2. Permit Closed

At long last, we closed out our building permit for the remodel.

yes

Of course, this has no bearing on the actual completion of the project. But it’s a step in the right direction.

3. Medical Fun

I had an emergency appendectomy, but I’m fine now!

appendix

Unexpected operations will tend to complicate your home improvement plans.

Anyway, between dogs and appendices, not much is happening on the house or garden — even less than what we planned for the summer, which wasn’t much to begin with. Back soon.

Posted in D'oh! | 2 Comments

Japanese Beetles are Unamerican

The monster is me! Who’d a thunk it?

– Mr. Nakamura

While bagging up Japanese beetles last night, it occurred to me that the two things that I have battled the hardest in the garden are Japanese beetles and Japanese knotweed. I therefore hasten to add that it is a coincidence! I’d hate the beetles and the knotweed just as much if they were Swiss. Maybe more.

Heh! Moving on: Japanese beetles are unusually good-looking bugs.

"Look at my coordinating iridescent exoskeleton! I'm gorgeous!" (via)

“Look at my iridescent exoskeleton! It’s shiny!” (via)

So pretty! They don’t bite people or pets, and they are fairly easy-going. But they are not from here, and that’s a problem because they don’t have the natural predators that keep them in balance at home. Here, they just roam at will, skeletonizing leaves and having sex in public.

I'm next! I'm next!

Not sure if that’s a queue or an interested onlooker.

Here’s a good, short description of their life cycle.

No natural predators plus horny beetles equals lots of beetles. I very rarely spray pesticides because I am promoting bee and butterfly habitat, and pesticides don’t make distinctions. If (a) there area large number in one spot and (b) there is no wind to carry the stuff elsewhere, then I might use an insecticide soap like Safer in a surgical strike. But to combat them well chemically, you really have to go after their grubs. That is a longer-term strategy that doesn’t get the beetles off your plants today.

You can buy beetle traps that attract the bugs then funnel them into a bag, but unless you put that a long way from your plantings, you’re attracting bugs to your garden. People either love or hate these; I can’t figure out where I can place one far enough away from my plants without it interfering with the neighbors’ gardens.

sdf

Tanglefoot Trap (via)

So…what to do?

1. Soapy Water Bath. Beetles congregate on plants they like, so you can find concentrated populations/orgies. Depending on your tolerance, you can pick them by hand or knock them off with a stick. Either way, drop them straight into a bucket of soapy water. The soap makes the water hard to get out of, so the beetles drown. Bad karma, but fewer beetles.

2. Bag ’em. At twilight, the beetles are dozy. You can cut entire leaves off target plants and transfer them with their beetles into a trash bag. Then seal up the bag and toss it or compost once the beetles are dead. Further bad karma, but fewer beetles faster.

3. Grub Step. Japanese beetles lay eggs in the ground, which become grubs. You can apply grub treatments to your lawn, but unless everyone else does it too, you’re still going to have beetles. (Note that lots of grubs can ruin your lawn by chewing the roots off your grass, but that’s not as common.) When you are digging in your garden, if you run across a C-shaped white grub about an inch long, stomp on it. One fewer beetle.

I typically use the soapy water approach, but started bagging them this year. Bagging is a faster way to get more bugs, but you do have to cut some of a plant off. If the beetles have been busy, the leaves in question may be pretty much gone anyway.

Mostly skeletonized leaf

Mostly skeletonized leaf

Under either technique, some beetles will fly away (and some may land on you — remember they do not bite!) but most of them will just sit placidly on the leaf if you don’t flap it around too much. They make it easy to kill them, but they compensate for that in sheer numbers.

Not a fun task, but necessary. I only combat the bugs that cause serious damage, versus minor cosmetic chewing. Fortunately, the beetles focus on the raspberries and the Virginia Creeper almost exclusively.

Those are my tricks, such as they are. Holler if you have a technique that works for you.

Posted in Repair & Maintenance, Yard & Garden | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Entropy is Real

We’re all going to sit down and listen to an inspiring story of wilderness survival.

– Homer Simpson

This spring, I saw an Investopedia article on six misguided home improvements, which included:

investopedia

Around the same time, Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely wrote on the difficulty of maintaining her home’s mature garden. Upon moving in:

The neighbor tells us the previous owner was always out there working on things like it was her full-time job. Come on, we think. How hard can it be?

As I’m sure you guessed, the answer is PRETTY DANG HARD.

I brought gardening on myself, and I love it, but it’s less fun if you don’t keep up with it. Last summer, we were so wrapped up in the (still ongoing) remodel that I left the garden mostly to its own devices. The plantings all did just fine, but so did the weeds and general decay.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The quick onset of decline surprised me, because I have a cottage garden — the whole idea is that it’s a little crazy. THAT’S WHY I PLANTED A COTTAGE GARDEN. It’s a profusive and forgiving form

Not every weed is going to drive you crazy (via).

Cottage garden: Lots going on, so not every weed is going to drive you crazy (via)

But it turns out that a year of neglect is a year of neglect, regardless of garden style. Even the areas that look acceptable at first glance have issues to be addressed. Hostas are great for covering up problems, but the results of taking a year off are there nevertheless.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(Nicole’s garden is far more formal — I really feel for her!)

Since we decided that we weren’t going to knock ourselves out on the house this summer, I’ve had some time to knock myself out on the garden. (It’s better than watching the news.) The front of the house and about a third of the back is about 85% in shape now, thanks in part to buying a truck.

via

Ford Ranger made right here in St Paul before they tore down the plant (via)

Oh, how I have missed owning a truck! I know my redneckitude is showing, but between the DIY and the gardening, it’s just so convenient. There were Other Good Reasons to pick up a pickup, but it certainly is making the garden mess disappear faster. That compost doesn’t haul itself!

Even with the truck, the rest of the back is going to take some more time, and possibly a machete. We decided against moving our cherry tree — turns out, it’s too big to move, but too lovely to chop down. Keeping the cherry tree means losing the surrounding Tetris-shaped raised beds that it now overshadows. Really a shame, but the wood sides are starting to succumb to the elements anyway (or so I rationalize). Removing those and redistributing the dirt will be a big job. I might hire me some teenagers. Really burly teenagers.

Despite the garden getting away from me, there are still good things happening. The monarchs arrived this weekend, and we have a new hummingbird this year, plus more goldfinches than ever. Our apple trees are bearing for the first time, and my sickly clearance-sale Zephirine Drouhin rose is finally coming into its own. Even a messed-up garden is a good thing, and the neglect can be put right (eventually). The fact that it blooms regardless is a reminder not to take it for granted.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Experts might say that extensive gardens are not good returns on investment, and they might even be right. But you can’t make every decision on financial grounds or maintenance requirements. The garden does far more for me than I could ever do for it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Posted in D'oh!, Repair & Maintenance, Yard & Garden | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment