Monday, September 29, 2008

The Berries

Henceforth, this day will be known as The Day My Mom and I Got Kicked Out of Our CSA.

Last Spring I was beyond excited to sign up for a CSA (community supported agriculture). I had been warned by friends that I would be receiving a lot of produce each week. They suggested that I split a share with someone. So, I talked my mom & dad into splitting a share with me. We were very excited for the first box to arrive.

It arrived. We were underwhelmed. However, the CSA newsletter said that there had been floods and reminded us of the "risk" we took when signing up. If they did well, we would prosper. If they did poorly, so would we. So, when our box contained 5 sticks of rhubarb and our CSA newsletter suggested we make rhubarb pie, we laughed it off and reassured ourselves that once growing season came, we would have our hands full.

Then strawberries came into season. The CSA invited us to drive down there and pick an extra supply of strawberries. In hindsight, we probably shouldn't have done this. At just shy of $5/qt we picked extras to bring home and freeze. The patches were full. So full of strawberries that some were going to waste. With all of those strawberries in the fields, we thought for sure we would receive a huge container of strawberries to make-up for that "flood light" first few boxes. Our boxes arrived that week half full with a small container of strawberries. We started to get a little sarcastic. Maybe we should make a strawberry pie, we joked.

This is not to say, that we have not had fun with the produce we receive. Every other week, I journey over to my parent's house and we grill what we have received that week. It's been great fun and we've had some pretty outstanding meals. What we do receive is fresh and very tasty.

Things turned a little odd when our next weekly newsletter started with a scolding for the CSA flock. People were NOT to open boxes. People were NOT to switch contents in the boxes. People were NOT to take items from boxes that were not theirs. People WERE to take the top box and be happy with it. And then someone had to audacity to send them an email asking why we only got one cucumber the week before. We were reminded of the flood. Hmm...we thought to ourselves, maybe a few others were finding the boxes less than full.

Well, this brings us to last week. Our 3/4 filled box arrived. However, we spotted two half pints of raspberries. We were excited and started to plan what we would make. Imagine our surprise when we opened both containers to find then covered in mold. This was a few hours after they had been picked up from the CSA site. Bummer.

We sent off a polite email explaining that our raspberries had arrive moldy. We had thought they might throw a few extras into our box next week. But, we received a response telling us to call our "coordinator" at what appeared to be a long distance phone number and ask her if there were any uncollected boxes. Then presumably we were going to have to drive wherever and pick them up. By the time we were able to arrange this, the new raspberries would have been days old and also moldy. We decided to just skip it.

But this ate away at me over the weekend. We were paying $30 per box. I sent off a short response email telling the farm contact that the boxes had seemed a little light which made the loss of the raspberries even more disappointing......and we had been a bit taken off guard being left to find leftovers on our own....we were not overly happy campers.

Yikes. This was not received well.

We received terse email reply telling us that if we "...decide to join another CSA next year..." Emphasis on "another." All of the CSA staff was cc'd. The email went on to assure us that no one else thought the boxes were light and everyone else raved about their berries. Huh.

So, there you have it. My mom and I are persons non grata at our CSA. We had quite a chuckle about it. Although, next week we may have to wash our lettuce twice. No telling what a displeased CSA could do to produce ;-)

Two Down

On Sunday, I crawled out onto the roof and painted two of the new rafter tails. The fascia is painted the light yellow, with the little triagle of shingles the darker yellow (same combo as my front entryway). Of course, while the new paint looks good in itself, it only serves to make the window trim and underside of the eaves look worse. Sigh.

Next Spring I'll peel off those hideous, aluminum, triple track storms and order new wood storms for those three dormer windows and then scrape and paint the trim. It's never ending.

This coming weekend (or earlier if I can skip out for an afternoon), I plan on repairing the ends on the primed fascia board (with unprimed ends) you see on the bottom of the photo. Then I'll be able to get that painted.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Primer, Primer and More Primer

I will admit to you that this morning while I was laying in bed and I thought I heard rain, I was secretly happy to have a guilt free excuse not to have to prime today. But sadly it was just my imagination running away with me, and there was no rain.

So, I spent the day priming rafter tails. It doesn't look like I will get to painting the sides of my house until next Spring and I want a coat of oil based primer on them just in case.

Then I primed the left, front side fascia trim (scraped & treated last weekend). I left both ends unpainted because they need some epoxy repair. I know this isn't the textbook way of approaching this but again, I want something on it before it snows.

Then I scraped more paint from the front of my house. I know. I sound like a broken record.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sanded and Ready for Primer

The new rafter tails are in. I've included three photos of the hacked-off, tailess rafters I discovered last summer when I removed the aluminum trim & soffits. And two photos of the new rafter tails as Scheftel Construction finished them today. They restored 7 in total - one on the front right side of the house, two on the side of my house where the buffet "bumps out", two in back and two on the dormer.

(As a side note - The guy who restored my rafters also created the vintage style kitchen cabinet under the "Other Projects" section of their website. Once I learned that I felt a little like I was making Michelangelo do a paint-by-numbers.)

I'm surprised at how different the new tails make the house look, especially the dormer. It's such a tiny little piece of added wood. To my eye it's now kind of an optical illusion that makes the rest of the fascia also look curved, no? Of course, they are unpainted now so you can see the seam where the new wood meets old. I'll need to get out and prime the new tails this weekend. I think they are going to look very nice once the fascia is finally all stripped and painted.

I can't tell you how tempted I was to Photoshop "paint" the front gable to make it look all nice and pretty instead of partially stripped of paint. But alas, StuccoHouse is about restoring a house.....and peeling paint is part of that. So, here ya go. Unretouched photos.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Devil's in the Details

Just a quick update to yesterday's post. The Rafter Tail Guy (as he shall henceforth be know until I decide that I like the final product and will name the company) stopped by today with a template rafter tail to try out. He is going to finish one "tail" and when I approve that, move on to the rest. He was outside working for a while and then knocked on the door to tell me that he needed to go back to the shop to tweek the template.

We started talking a bit about the template and got on the topic of how far the tail would extend out from the edge of the roof. I had it vaguely in my mind that it would extend out 3" or so. He had assumed it would end where the edge of the roof ended. We talked for a while about this, and I decided to go ahead with the plan to end the rafter tail at the same point that the roof ends. Historically, they went both ways. I don't think aesthetically it will make too much of a difference. Structurally, these restored rafter tails will be less strong than the original continuous board. The very last thing I want to do is repair these new tails in a few years because snow & rain has beat down directly on them and damaged them. How's that for sweating the details?

To confirm my decision, as I often do, I took a long bike ride through my neighborhood and checked out as many rafter tail houses as I could. I think we are good to go. He's coming back tomorrow to hopefully start work.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Getting the Tails Back On

I've had the restoration of my rafter tails on my radar for a while. The ends of the rafters were hacked off long ago when the house trim was encased in aluminum. The aluminum is now gone and the tails need to be restored to their former glory. In past posts I've contemplated how the repair should be done. I've also decided on a design.

As I've been stripping paint from the fascia, I really started to pay attention to what needed to be done in order to get these "tails" on. It finally dawned on me that the measurement of the fascia boards are accurate - meaning 1" really is 1" instead of today' confusing habit of calling something 1" and meaning less then 1". This means I couldn't simply buy a board 1x6 and match it up to the existing board. Ugh. The whole project started to get beyond my limited capabilities and tools.

So, that thought was still lingering in my brain when I noticed an ad in a neighborhood newspaper for a guy that does "restoration carpentry." Huh. I started to think to myself that there was no harm in just giving him a call. I looked at his website and noted that he has done some pretty high profile projects and he was located not far from StuccoHouse (meaning he would be familiar with the small bungalows that fill my 'hood).

So, last week I left a message for this guy. Told him I was slowly restoring an old house and had a number of small projects that needed to be done; the first being restored rafter tails. Ask him to give me a call if this was the type of thing he did.

I've learned over the years to give an accurate description of the size of the project, as well as, letting them know it was a restoration of a small bungalow. There are too many companies out there that are only interested in: a) large projects; b) new construction; c) work w/o any complications; d) glamour jobs. No use wasting their time & mine if they never would consider the project.

This guy called me back and we chatted. He came out later that evening to take a look at the project. I showed him the drawing of the design I had in mind and told me that he could do it for a pretty reasonable price. I told him to go ahead. I think this guy is quite good at what he does and I know he mills wood at his shop, but he is kind of quiet. So, in my mind it was kind of a toss up as to whether he would actually show up to do the work or drift off as so many other contractors have once they see the house (think back to my copper drip edge fabricator posts).....

Happily, this morning one of the company's employees showed up to take measurements. So, it looks like things are in the works. Yeah!

It would be so nice to have a trusted carpenter "on call." I have seen photos of a custom vintage style kitchen cabinet this guy has done, so I have that in the back of my mind if this rafter tail project goes well.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Yesterday afternoon I was sitting out on my front step putting on my tennis shoes and getting ready for yet another afternoon of stripping exterior paint. A woman out walking her dog stopped long enough to let me know she thought the changes I was making to the house looked good.

This tiny comment from a total stranger could not have come at a better time. I am sick to death of stripping paint. I'll go as far to say that I'm kind of sick of restoring an old house altogether. Earlier last week I tried to convince a friend of mine that we should sell our houses and use the proceeds to retire in a third world country. I was only 5% kidding....maybe 3%. Seriously.

Then the horror of it hit me. My friend could sell his house, after replacing those old 1980s fake lace curtains with the hearts in his diningroom (he doesn't read my blog, so I can say that). On the other hand, in it's present half-painted condition, I couldn't even sell my house and escape. I am trapped. Trapped. A random comment from somone who isn't friend/family (and thus obligated) made this fact a little easier to bear. Yes, I am making progress on this house and one day it will probably look ok. Even strangers think so.

So, I guess the moral of this post is that if you see a person out working on restoring their old house and you think it looks good, tell them. That old house owner may be dangerously close to abandoning their blog and fleeing their house and country....even if it looks like they are happily stripping paint.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

That Well Meaning Sales Pitch

I was near Home Depot this afternoon, so I decided to stop in and pick up a painting drip cloth and some primer. One of the Orange Vests came up to me and asked if I was finding what I needed (boy, that was a first). I asked him if they still sold those little moist towelettes that pop up from their contain and clean your hands of latex & oil paint. He told me that they had been clearanced out and they no longer carried them. Then he launched into a sales pitch.

Home Depot stock has taken a serious dive lately and it sounds as if the sales people have been told to drum up remodeling business. So, this poor guy chose me to talk about remodeling my bathroom :-) He asked me if I had old. tired fixtures in my bathroom and that needed to be updated.

I chuckled a little bit and told him he had the wrong girl. Little did he know that I had a vintage sink in my hallway, a salvaged medicine cabinet in my basement, and antique ceramic a painstaking attempt to de-homedepotize my bathroom and bring it back to vintage. Pretty much the exact things he wants me to rip out and replace with new.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I spent the entire afternoon stripping the remaining, stubborn paint off of the fascia on the side of my house. When the paint was finally off, I sanded the board down to new wood and treated it with BoraCare. This old wood is rock hard. Sanding off even the thinnest layer takes forever.

Now I'm hoping for a couple of more days of sun, so the borate dries. Then I can prime the board, treat both ends with LiquidWood and do a Wood Epox repair. And at long last, paint.

Gawd, it's depressing that this photo looks so much like the last one I posted in spite of all of the additional work.

Of course, now it's a race to see what projects you can still complete outside before winter pounds down on us here in Minnesota. I have two more wood frame storm windows and decorative rafter tail restoration in the works. More on this in future posts (knock on wood).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Big Puddle of Oil

I am quietly typing this post in the dark, ocassionally glancing over my shoulder. I fear retribution. More retribution, that is, than I have already received.

My car is quite talented. When it feels I am lavishing too much of my time and money on my house, it has the ability to orchestrate it's own catastrophic mechanical failure. I'm pretty sure it heard me calling earlier this week about more new, wood framed storm windows for my house.

$1400 in car repairs when it was all said and done yesterday.

If it wasn't so costly, I would almost admire the car's skill in coordinating the failure of every fluid line at the same time. We are talking distributor, oil and transmission. Then it threw in rear spring failure just for good measure. All of the hoses are also bad (simultaneously), but thankfully I can hold off on replacing those for a bit.

I mentioned "conspiracy" to my mechanic, but he looked at me like I was a little off and said "lady, your car is 11 years old. It's expected. It's a very good car."

I know better.

Shhh...I hear something.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

All In The Timing

I picked up this little double sided kitchen timer. I thought it would look cute with the wallpaper that will (eventaully) go into my kitchen. Of course, I'll need a stove that actually works in order to use it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Past

The results of my request for the records from the National Archives arrived yesterday.

I had asked them to send me all materials they had in connection with the original transfer of ownership from the US Government (Fort Snelling) to the first owner of the land where StuccoHouse now sits.

They sent me copies of 9 documents. The copies are not of the best quality. There are two documents that I found particularly intereting.

First, the original receipt for payment of the land 156+ acres for $196.50. $1.25/acre. Sadly, I can't even get a latte today for that amount.

Secondly, there is a handwritten letter from a friend of the original owner. It appears to be written to assure the government that the purpose of the purchase of the land was not to immediately "flip" it for profit. Some things never change, huh?

At any rate, the letter is quite interesting in that it gives some details about the original houses built on the property. A 12x14 log cabin was the first house. This was later replaced by a 12x16 house with "...floor of boards, nailed on sleepers, two patterned doors, and three windows with sash of glass & each containing , I believe, 12 panes of glass...." The original plot of land was quite large, so these buildings were most likely not on my property, but it is interesting to know they were somewhere nearby.

Of course, this is way before StuccoHouse was even a glimmer in anyone's eye. It would take another 68 years for the bungalow to be built.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Small Sections

I spent Saturday scraping paint. It was perfect weather - 70 degrees & sunny. It's actually a little therapeutic to stand on a ladder and scrape off old paint in the sun.

There is one section of paint that refused to budge with a scraper and will probably need chemical stripper....or me with a rested arm. I will also need to epoxy the corner. Then sand the whole area to fresh wood. I should be able to prime and paint this section by next weekend.

(You can see the patina the copper drip edge has developed in a year)

The Gathering

Our Block Club pot luck dinner was this past weekend. Once again, very fun. I really lucked out with my neighbors. A few items of note.

It was kind of funny because many people had noticed I had the tree people out to trim my back tree. However, only one of the guys correctly noticed a tree missing in my front yard. The woman that lives across the street and one house down, noticed that something was different but couldn't put her finger on what :-) I told everyone about my tree dilemma and consensus was not to move too quickly.

My pet peeve. People that have met you a bajillion times and pretend not to remember you (or could they be that vapid?). There is a guy that comes to almost every block party, as do I. I have met him twice a year for 5 years. I know his name, where he lives, what he does for a living and wave whenever I drive by their house. Every freaking block gathering, he acts like he does not know me and where I live. It bugs me. There. I am over it.

Oh, and politics just about reared it's ugly head. Two of the guys that share the same views, I gather based on law signs, started chatting politics. I thought to myself, uh oh. But they soon changed their conversation to another topic. I like to talk politics. I know a fair amount about it. I'm active in it. I like to hear other people's opinions. But there is a time and place for it. As I see it, absolutely no good can come of raising the topic at a block party.

When I first moved into my house, the block party was run by a couple with very strong political views that they assumed everyone shared. It made for an odd tone to the block party events. I went, but the whole thing was strained. I know a few of my neighbors skipped for that reason. But, the couple eventually moved, and the block party planning was handed over to a new crowd. In my humble opinion, things are much more relaxed, neighborly, well attended, and fun now.

Of course, come November I'm cancelling out at least one of their votes, but they don't need to know that :-)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Swinging From the Trees

The Tree Guys came today. I was up at 7:00am waiting for them. 1) because I was anxious (which is a bit sad, I realize, as I type it); and 2) if I wasn't they would have arrived and I would have been forced to answer the door in my pj's.

They arrived at 2:00 pm.

The first casualty was the cedar tree in my front yard. It is gone. Good riddance. People can now see that I actually am making progress on the exterior painting. Although, I'm a little shocked at how exposed I now feel.

The next part of the job was a little more challenging. The 200+ yr old red oak in my backyard needed to have some dead branches cut down. The job was to trim my side of the tree. I can't take a photo that shows how massive this tree is. I tried. I can tell you that the first branch off of the trunk only starts well above the top of the roof of my house.

The Main Tree Guy (MTG) climbed up a ladder whose height frightened me just looking at it. Once he got into the tree, he worked his way up & up (in the photo you can see him in the top "Y" of the tree just to the left of the peeling painted eaves). Then they slowly started cutting and lowering each branch down to the ground & to the chipper. It took about 3 hrs. The change in the amount of light that hits my back yard is amazing.

However, this little tale does not end well. When all the work was done, the MTG called me over and told me he needed to show me something. Ugh, never good.

We walked down the back alley to the next house and looked back up at the tree. MTG directed me to look at a spot way up in the tree. I saw it. It was a large hole in the trunk that was rotting out from the inside. He said the hole was big enough for him to crawl in....and housed a family of raccoons. It affects basically the top 30% of the tree.

(I am going to pause now and pitch a little fit. Good fricken grief. Last year I was forced to pay for a damn new sewer and now a tree? This tree is 200+ yrs old and it has to pick my watch to pull this crap? Why not 50 yrs from now? When do I get to save my money for the fun projects? Deep breath.)

MTG laid out two possible options for consideration.

1) We give the tree a good trim to open it up. This means my neighbor will need get his side trimmed (he's okay with that). This will improve air circulation and hopefully slow down decay, etc. and may extend the tree's life by years. Then we would check on the tree once or twice a year to see how things are going. Although, there is always the possible threat that the branch could crack in a storm and fall into my yard (or house). Then again, it could also fall into my leaves-a-bit-to-be-desired-garage and things could all work out well. It's a bit of a crap shoot.

2) The tree gets cut down this winter (or next). To do this, I'd need to take down the back stretch of my fence and cover my perennial garden (my baby) for a truck to access. This option, is pricey (my neighbor & I would split the cost). But, it also would put an end to all concern.

The wild card in this whole discussion is that fact that this tree brings quite a bit of value to my property (and my neighbor's). It's one of those great trees you lay in your hammock and look up at on a summer's day. Without it, my yard would be a whole lot less appealing.

Right now, I'm leaning heavily to option #1.

Monday, September 01, 2008


The plan was to get up at the crack of noon today and strip more paint off the exterior of the house. Then it hit 87 degrees and got humid and I wimped out. Standing on a ladder wearing rubber gloves in the heat & sun didn't sound like any fun.

Instead, I figured out how to pull the broiler drawer out of my vintage Tappan and spent the afternoon cleaning it. For those working on their own Tappan Deluxe stoves, there is a little spring on the back, bottom, left hand side of the broiler drawer that releases the drawer if you pull it up.

I cleaned the broiler drawer, removed all the of the screws/hinges and cleaned under them and removed the disgusting insultation for replacement (note to self: order the high temp insulation). I still need to clean out the broiler drawer cavity in the stove itself....although I did a premilinary scraping of the grease with a razor blade - eeew.

Of course, later when I took a bike ride down the back alley and spotted my neighbors out scraping their entire garage & painting, I felt a teensy bit guilty.

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