Redefining “Clingy”

Spring is the time for growing things. In our back yard, the fastest growing thing — by far — is a flowering vine next to the fence. It was supposed to stick to a wooden trellis built by our landscaper, but it’s long since outgrown that. I put an iron support for a birdhouse or hanging flower basket next to it, and the vine has eagerly embraced that. Now, its tendrils are venturing out, eagerly seeking other things to latch on to, wrap around, and grip tightly. This plant is clingier than your first high school romance.

I like to go out in the morning to marvel at how much the plant has grown since the day before and try to redirect it away from our neighbor’s yard and the little tree nearby. In doing so, however, I’m careful to keep moving. I’m afraid if I stand still for too long I’m going to find myself wrapped in those clingy green tendrils, too.

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The Backyard Wakes Up

Yesterday I enjoyed some outside time in our backyard.  It was a tolerably warm day before the rains and winds came, and I wanted to enjoy that point in the year where colors have reemerged after winter’s drabness and you can breathe deep of the heady scent of growing things.  Why, there is yellow back there, and green, and even a white flowering tree.  After months of slumber beneath blankets of snow, and rain, and frost, our little backyard is finally waking up.

Spring always seems to be the shortest of the four seasons, with winter hanging on much longer than it should at one end and summer’s heat eager to entrench upon the other.  That just makes it even more essential to get out and savor it while it lasts.

Water Treatment

Several people have asked about the poor, desiccated potted plants that I featured in a blog post a while back. Although some people said the plants looked like they were beyond redemption, in fact some careful attention to watering — and lots of unusually cool July and August weather and rain — has made all the difference. The plants in the two small pots are flowering again, and the plant in the big pot is sprouting lots of green leaves. We’re hoping flowers aren’t far behind.

I also got a useful tip to try the next time we’re on the road. You fill a wine bottle with water, plunk it down into the soil of the pot, and let hydraulic forces do the watering while you’re traveling. I’m going to give that technique a try. There’s only one problem — where in the world will I be able to find an empty wine bottle?

Handy Heidi And Her Magic Brush

It’s always nice to host family house guests, to share some laughs about days gone by and catch up one what they and their family members are doing.  But when you can get some good, solid home improvement work out of them that greatly improves the appearance of your place, it’s even better.

Kish’s sister Heidi is a fearless do-it-yourselfer who’s willing to tackle just about any task.  When she heard that the stairway in our Maine house needed to be painted, she insisted that she and Kish would do it.  So we bought scraping tools and a sander, and when Heidi came to visit she brought her own, personal paintbrush.  And, being a long-time California resident and therefore intrinsically cool by definition, Heidi of course also brought her shades, the better to cut down on the glare of the white paint on the steps.

Now Heidi and Kish have finished the job, and it’s hard to exaggerate what a huge improvement these freshly painted steps are.  The “before” photo with this post really doesn’t fully capture the dramatic upgrade.  When we bought the place, the stairs were covered by thick, ugly brown carpeting that looked like the fur of a teddy bear and was secured to the stairs by about a thousand staples.  When the teddy bear carpeting was removed, we found that the natural stairs were covered by multiple overcoats of paint.  That’s when Heidi was alerted and the sisters’ project was planned.  Kish started their project by scraping off years of paint — the photo above being taken mid-scrape — and then she and Heidi sanded it down, and finally Heidi and her magic brush applied primer and then several coats of paint to the stairs and bannister.  Now the staircase has gone from an ugly eyesore to a part of the house that helps to create the “cottagey” feel that Kish has been aiming for.  You can see the final result below.

Thanks, Handy Heidi, for your excellent work on the staircase.  You and your paintbrush are always welcome.  And don’t forget your shades!

Original Fixture

Our little cottage in Stonington has been revised and reconfigured and redesigned repeatedly since it was first built in the early 1900s.  As a result of all of the renovation work, we think there’s only one original fixture still in the house — the ceiling light in the guest room.  We’re determined to keep it as the one interior connection to the original design of the place.

It wasn’t a hard decision, because it’s a nifty little pink glass piece that has a distinctly old-fashioned, cottagey vibe to it.  But what I particularly like is the design.  Unlike modern overhead lights, which require you to stand, aching arms stretched directly overhead, and loosen multiple screws and then remove a glass fitting to get to the light bulb, this design is open.  Remove one of the anchors, tilt the pink glass section down, and voila!  You can easily change the light bulb or, more frequently, remove the inevitable collection of fly carcasses that you’re always going to find in a summer cottage.

It’s as if the light fixture design was based on the practical realities of where the light fixture would be and how it would be used, and took into consideration making it easier and simpler for the user to do the basics like changing a bulb.  What a concept!

Weeding, Before And After

When you work at a white-collar job, as I do, often you don’t see the results of your labors for days, weeks, or even months. That can be a bit frustrating.

Weeding is different. You put on your work gloves, apply the weed popper, and get your back into it for an hour, until the sweat is dripping off your nose, and voila! The results are immediately visible, which (for me at least) provides an incentive to weed even more. It’s nice to get instant gratification for a change.

Hey, there’s a wall that was masked by all of that undergrowth, and a cool granite boulder, besides!