Monday, December 08, 2014

If It's December, This Must be Another House Project

We're working on the dining room, trying to get it up to speed.  We had taken the carpet out back in August and it's been a mess since then.  Now we're making a push to finish it up.  The floor in there was a nice maple, long covered by carpet and glue.  It's looking pretty good now, patched, stained, and finished.  I removed the false ceiling and fixed the holes in the plaster there.  I'm currently working on getting the east wall, long covered by wallpaper and paneling, into shape.

One of the improvements will be putting vintage mop boards and chair rails back into the room.  They are long gone, but it's clear they were part of an early version of the room.  We're interested in how the design of the room has changed.  In the first photo below, you can see outlines of where trim surrounded an old doorway, and the discolored panel to the right shows where there appears to have been another door.  But lath and plaster reveals that those changes were made LONG LONG ago.  

The wife is choosing colors to make it pop, and trim from the old Mason's building downtown Madison will surround the doorway and provide a new, vintage mop board.  It's going to be much nicer.

We are also refinishing the oak floor in the entry way.
The doorway from the kitchen to the dining room is opened up.  

Repairs needed on the east wall.  Cracks!  The chimney creates a little trouble.  

Once we took the carpet up, this glue hid the wood.  

Penny does NOT like the floor.  

Partway through sanding.  I had never used a big sander before.  

Sanding the edges.  

The completed floor, patched and stained.  I don't remember if this photo came before or after the final coats of poly.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Blue Heron Returns

There's a joy in seeing your life come around again, circle back to something you once thought was lost but returns in an unlikely moment.
I've mentioned my blue heron pond, where I used to run past often as I headed out to Lake Herman. Running in that part of town is rare now, and although I've seen herons elsewhere since then, it's never the same as when, early in the morning, I could come around the corner onto the gravel road, approach the creek, and see my blue heron rise out of the water and gracefully and elegantly wing his way into the sky.  It was like seeing the world find me again.
But I seldom run past the creek any more, and the blue heron hasn't followed me.  When I do go by, he's not there.  But I look for him, with expectation, a kind of longing for a past that isn't there any more.
So, on Sunday, as I was out for a long run, preparing again for the Twin Cities Marathon, I was out that way, coming from the opposite direction from where I once did.  As I approached the creek, I didn't have the heron in mind at all.
As he rose up from the creek and pointed himself in the direction of the sky, I felt my heart rise with him, Maybe it was that I'd already put in 11 miles and feeling the effects, or maybe it was my sense that luck had turned my way again.
But the heron was there for me, lifting both of us into something higher, something better.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Tree Fall (Pt. 2)

So, with two other trees under my belt, I called up my friend JB, who has performed well at the end of a rope as we sought to guide a tree down as it fell.
He was game for another tree-felling session, so we ventured over to B and S's house to drop a big old diseased pine tree that looked like it was on its last legs.  We looked things over.  It was a good day to work there partly because the tree would be falling into the street, but because the city was installing new water mains, the street was torn up and few people were using it.  The air was calm, no wind.  The construction crew was right up the block.
But we could see the drop wasn't going to be easy.
The tree stood next to the driveway in front of their house, its trunk split into three main sections that rose maybe 50 feet into the air.  Big.  Heavy.
And leaning just a bit toward the house, it seemed.
We examined the tree.
We walked around it, considering where it might fall.  We didn't want to hit the electrical can out front.  Or the fire hydrant.  Or the neighbor's tree across the street.
And we didn't want to hit the house.
So, we spent some time getting a rope into the tree as high as we could.  JB even climbed a ladder and threw the rope as high as could be.
We looked at the tree again.  There were some low branches on the house side we thought might be wise to eliminate, to avoid that dropping-on-the-house problem.  So we cut off several branches.
We tested the rope.
We warned the neighbor lady to get moving if she was going to keep her hair appointment.
I started my saw, adjusted my ear protectors, and I cut the notch.
Nice.  A good start.
Then I cut the back cut, deep into the tree, as JB put all his weight into the rope.
I could feel my saw binding in the cut.  I pulled my saw.  The tree stood, then leaned back toward the house onto the cut.  JB called, "I can't hold it!"
The tree stood.  JB pulled.  I ran into the street to join him, and we pulled on the rope, our desperation mounting.  It wasn't budging.  We were verging on panic, the huge tree all but cut in two, standing, barely, next to the house.  "I can't hang on," JB said.  I took the rope.
I'm not the best person to have in a panic like this.  I think my mind begins to skitter to a stop, the possibilities of what I might do going click click click like changing channels.  This one?  This one?  This one? This one?  Constantly stuck on not choosing.  JB does better.
One of us brought the pickup around as the other held the rope.  We tied it to the pickup.  It held tight, a taut line running from my pickup bumper to about halfway up the tree.  I could see the frayed spots on the rope, one knot where I had previously put my chainsaw through it.  Was there possibility of a breeze?
JB thought we could get someone from the construction crew to help.  I thought of other possibilities.  Crossed them off, thought of more.  All were pitiful.  And all would require that I admit that this tree fall was a disaster.
But JB decided to run up the street.  I talked to S on the driveway and couldn't help but make the dire situation clear.  Then JB came running back down the street.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Tree Fall (pt. 1)

This summer has seen several trees come down at the mercy of my Stihl chain saw.  It's never a happy thing to cut a tree, but these were sad, sorry, aged trees that were on the verge of falling into the yard or driveway, or--worse yet--onto a house where they might hurt someone or damage the house.

So, we cut down a tree that had a big branch come down off it and expose the rotten core, so that it only had about half of the outer bark even available to keep it upright.  Our friends Amy and Phil helped on an early Sunday morning when we thought the fewest cars would be out trying to get by on the typically busy street that runs by our house and where we would be dropping the tree.  But the, as the two women stood on the street blocking traffic, and as I made the final cut to drop the tree, a woman in a red SUV exclaimed (at about 7:15am), "I can't be late for church!"  She then zipped around our guards and continued on her mission from God.  And narrowly escaped the tree fall.

Once we had that tree cut up and hauled away and cleaned up the driveway, we had a little breakfast.

Then we journeyed to Phil and Amy's to cut down their tree, one split down the middle so that every breeze opened and closed a long crack on the trunk.  Theirs too, had rot down the center.  We dropped their big ash tree into the street, cut it up, hauled branches and twigs away, and then hauled the firewood back to our place.  Six or so hours and we had the two trees down.

But yesterday was another story.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Photo from the BWCA

Our trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area a few weeks ago gave us one beautiful day, one day of perfect weather with sunshine, a light breeze, and some of the most amazing clouds.  We spent most of the day on Gabbro Lake, mostly just admiring the view with a fishing pole in hand.  I discovered that it was possible to take a panoramic photo of the sky, and after several attempts, got this beauty.  I love it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

BWCA Again

We look forward to heading to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area once again after a great time last year.  It's a beautiful and somewhat daunting place, where you face all the elements on your own, which, this time, might be even more daunting, as the forecasts predict rain tomorrow and Sunday, our first two days out in the boondocks.

But I think we're ready.  Big packed backpacks and much food and gear.  Better prepared than last year!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Poetry from All Over(Madison)

Folks young and old seemed to enjoy some of my poems, especially when I was talking trash.