Monday, July 21, 2008

The Human Stain

I've been moving ever so slowly, dare I say imperceptibly, towards being a home improvement guru. Luckily for me, there are a wealth of resources for information and advice, and though I know I'm getting on people's nerves, I figure if I spread my questions around enough people, I can pull it off.

The current projects in the queue include refinishing a bookcase, building a bookcase, and assembling a picnic table. I know, I wimped out on the picnic table and bought a pre-fab job, but at least I got it locally. Besides, I still have to drill a hole for the umbrella.

The refinishing job is a bear, and I have to admit that I've reached that stage where the difficulty is instilling me with a bad attitude. I went out bought coarser sandpaper but the job is still a pain, and I'm wondering if it has to be perfectly stripped in order for the stain to penetrate. One thing I've found, and one Ruth echoes, is that it's best to take it a little bit at a time. So, when I find myself becoming a whiny baby, walk away and let my mind clear. A new day can do wonders for someone like me.

It's hard to pull off projects when you have to be a domestic diva, as well. Yesterday and the day before I had to cut my work short because I either had to play with Nicholas or cook. It's very disruptive, though when I'm in my bad attitude state, it doesn't take much for me to throw in the towel.

I'm trying to figure out the best way to protect the wood of our picnic table, and I can't seem to get a consistent answer. That, and the fact that everything you use is toxic. What a pain. I bought a product at Ace and then learned in Woodstock that the stuff is toxic. Then again, she said everything is toxic, there's just no way around it. In the end, I'm not looking for a perfect solution, just something that will slow the eventual destruction of the wood and isn't totally poisonous. I'll have to do more research, and I don't mind having to reapply it every year. That's not the problem.

As for the bookcase, Ruth is getting anxious and I understand. I should really make that the priority and will get on it this week. Thus far, I've decided on the stain and a satin finish. I made my first big wood purchase at Britton's, and since it wouldn't fit in our car, I had it and the table delivered. How cool is that? I love that place, and they kick butt for advice, always helpful and friendly. I love that place. Did I already say that?

So the pieces are in place. I got the wood, I may need some hardware like screws and nails but have enough to get started, and I've got my miter saw and sander. What else does a guy need? I really have to get started on this, this is our house and I need to get things done.

Final notes-I ordered a new toilet, we're finally going to replace the black beast upstairs. A little background-the toilet that was in the house when we moved in was black. Why a person buys a black toilet, I'll never know, but I've learned that they are more expensive. Go figure. I've been sitting on this one, literally and figuratively, but I'm going to take the plunge and go for it. I'm thinking this is one of the things I can do on my own, but I always have Kurt or Paul or Gary there to rescue me in times of disaster. At the very least, I've got the wax plug. I even bought an extra. How's that for planning?

And on wilderness front, we've been seeing an amazing number of deer in our yard. It's pretty cool, and we've even seen a mom and her baby. The weather has been crazy, a lot of heavy storms and our garden has taken a beating, but we go out there and diligently put things back together. We've harvested some lettuce and peas, not to mention some broccoli which we let go too far, but we're still learning. Can't wait to see how the beets turn out, as well as the squash.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Good Neighbors

We had a horrendous thunder storm just last Thursday, and the it was a complete washout, with visibility out the kitchen window approaching zero. The surprising thing was that we didn't lose power, at least not for any significant amount of time. What did happen, however, was that part of our road was washed out, the pitfalls of living off of a dirt road. Then again, there are certain things we like about it, mainly that it does seem to discourage traffic, especially fast traffic.

Either way, the road crews were on it immediately, a credit to their punctuality, and the fixed the damage and the washout in our driveway, as well. It turns out they did a sloppy job and our good friend and neighbor Eric came by with his tractor and smoothed it out for us. It's neighbors like him that make us feel lucky to live here. The people are so cool, and not backwards in the stereotypical rural/small town sense. If anything, they are hip and worldly, to some degree, and many of them are former city dwellers.

I'm on the cusp of doing my first really big project, building the uber-shelf in our study. I ordered the wood, $100 worth of it, and they'll deliver it come Wednesday. I also bought a picnic table and am wondering about treating the wood to preserve the thing. Yet another task. I'm also preparing to repair clapboards, all new things, so we'll see how this goes. I have many questions.

The guys are Brittons are always there to help. They seem to be sympathetic to a city-boy like myself, and even the seemingly young neophytes like Danny are knowledgeable and quick to give good advice, though in the end, I'm apt to turn to Harry for wisdom since he's the man. When we were there, the pretty young girl was very nice to the kids, another reason to love that place. You don't get the kind of service at Home Depot, or for that matter, LaValley's.

For this week, need to mow the lawn and continue weeding. I've discovered the beauty of a bi-directional hoe, it makes the job that much easier and I'll invest in one.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wet Summer

It's been a reasonably wet summer after what I would consider to be a fairly dry Spring. Nature is making up for lost time, and it has been sticky and moist for several days on end. I can't say I enjoy it too much, and we spend a lot of time trying to beat the heat. Yesterday, July 9, was hot and humid, and the thunderstorms really rocked our area. The rain was unbelievable at times, and the biggest casualty in it all was our garden. We lost several bushes, the tomatoes really took a hit, and some other plants were lost. I tried to fix things but we'll see. It's supposed to be drier today.

I've got more tools, a miter saw and a sander, and I'm ready to build. Clapboards and shelves are calling me. Gave my first try at staining. They're only footstools, but it's a start. I'm learning a lot about stain, and the quest to find the perfect color. A lot of trial and error involved. Thankfully, lots of good and competent people all around to advise me. I'll make a trip to the lumber yard soon to get our wood. Wish me luck.

Looking forward to some dry days in the sun. So much to do, so little time. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A New Week

One thing I've learned about being a homeowner and a real man in training is that the projects never end. While living in the city the standard M.O. is to pay people to do things for you, which unfortunately means every damn thing under the sun, life out here is so much different. People out here really make an effort to be self-sufficient, or at least capable. For the most part, they are very successful at it, and I admire and respect them for it.

So much so that I want to emulate them. For me, who is completely clueless about most things in life, it's a big step, if not huge. When you're at the bottom, you've got nowhere to go but up.

Our garden is slowly coming along, though slow is the key word here. Ruth has been working hard and I think she's doing a great job, though again, we're new at this and there is a lot to learn and incorporate for next year. It's exciting. My current projects include woodworking. I seem to be leaning towards that, except now, instead of just functional stuff, we want to make it look nice. I'm going to make some shelves and stain them so they match the furniture. Staining is something new to me and it's going to take some time getting my colors straight.

I find it all so intimidating, especially working around all the guys at the lumber yard. I get a sense they find me amusing, though they are incredibly helpful and very cool. They sense my helplessness and in the end, they're just doing their job. Also going to replace clapboards, which scares the hell out of me.

New tools are a miter saw and a orbital sander. Now I have no excuse, I have to start building. Need to get some wood.

Thanks for reading and have a nice day.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 4th

We had a great 4th of July, all based on the fact that we live in a small town. Our town is an eclectic mix of small town rural Vermont and cosmopolitan former city dwellers, and somehow we all manage to coexist peacefully. Though I'm sure the native locals have some thoughts on us flatlanders, they have welcomed and embraced us, or at least faked it, and it makes the town great.

It boils down to the people, all very cool. The 4th celebration was awesome, there was a small-town parade that the kids loved, it was so cool, they threw candy to the kids and Audrey and Nicholas were besides themselves. It was crowded as heck, though, and I was told that people from all around showed up. So much so that they ran out of hamburgers and sausages, but it was a fun time. The party afterward was a bit manic with so many people, but again, people are really nice.

We were pretty wiped out and the kids went to sleep before the fireworks, though we got to see them the night before in Quechee, where we used to live. Have to admit that it was depressing being back there. There's something sad about that place, as if a huge migration of people we know has occurred and now they are all gone. It made me sad to be back and not want to return. I guess it's all part of being a part of our new home.

Last night we were watching a movie and kept hearing sounds at our door and patio window, a frantic scratching sound that freaked us out a little. I turned on the lights and it was a small dog! A Lhasa Ahpso or a Shitzu. Don't know for sure and can't spell either, but I kind of recognized the dog as our neighbor's whom we've never met. It was late and people around here own guns, so I was wary of knocking on any doors at this late hour, but something had to be done about the dog. So I drove over and sure enough it was theirs. Must have gotten spooked by the fireworks. A happy ending to a great day.