Thursday, January 31, 2013

"You're the Rose Lady, Aren't You?"

This is what the member of grounds crew at Hollywood Cemetery asked me when he saw me on Tuesday afternoon.  It was a perfect unseasonably-warm day to be outside ... and I have a lot to do there in the next few weeks.

Rose that grows in the Hazen plot at Hollywood Cemetery ... identity unknown.
(photo taken May 2009)

Did I tell you that I am consulting with the "Friends of Hollywood Cemetery" and the cemetery management on the rehabilitation and care of their collection of historic roses?  They approached me last year to do this, and I am thrilled at the opportunity to help in an official (though volunteer) capacity.

"Hazen Plot", May 2009

The first stage of my plan was to meet with Donald, the Grounds Supervisor, to pick his brain.  He and I did this over the course of a couple of days ... one of which was a wonderful autumn afternoon we spent riding around in his Gator, talking about the roses and all of the other things he has done there since he started working at Hollywood in 1967. 

"Hazen Plot", January 2012.  The bush has been struggling, and about 50% of it is dead wood.

In order to care for and preserve the roses, we have to know what is currently there.  Over the course of a few weeks, Donald put together a list and a map of every rose in the cemetery's 135 acres.  He gave it to me two weeks ago.  The next step is for me to evaluate and photograph every rose on the list, in preparation for a big volunteer work day on March 23.

"Hazen Plot", new growth, May 2009

That is what I was doing when I was there on Tuesday.  I had the rose list and map, and my notebook and camera.  Over the course of the afternoon, I was able to visit 28 of the 120+ roses on the list ... making notes about each rose's condition and what it needs to have done to it.  Some of the roses I saw are in great condition, some are struggling badly.

"Hazen Plot", lateral with leaves, January 2012

Most of the roses at Hollywood do not have tags.  Part of my evaluation is to photograph each rose (bush, canes, leaves, etc.) to create an archive to begin the identification process.  I know there are folks out there who have already done some of this, but none of their ID work in not Hollywood's records.  (One of my goals for later in the year is to contact as many of these people as I can, to find out what they know.)

"Hazen Plot" buds, May 2009

Rose identification is not my thing.  I am in awe of people who can look at a rose, whether it has flowers and leaves or not, and zero in on its identity.  If I'm trying to identify a rose doesn't have flowers on it, I can generally tell whether it is a once-bloomer or a repeat-bloomer, and probably narrow it down to a choice of one or two classes ... that's about as close as I can get.

"Hazen Plot" winter hips, January 2012

Whatever basic information I can gather on each rose, as it is right now, should be enough for me to use to formulate a plan for our work day.  Most of the roses have some dead wood, and some have volunteer weed trees and/or ivy and vines growing in them ... all of which needs to be removed.  The vigorous roses will need some thinning and training, to set them on a good path to grow to their best potential this summer.  The struggling roses must to be handled gently, removing only dead and diseased material, to give them the best chance to grow strong again.

I have a LOT to do to prepare for the volunteer work day on March 23 ... the most important of which is to sign up a bunch of volunteers.  By the beginning of next week, I hope to have contacted rose societies and garden clubs, sent an email blast to my Hartwood Roses mailing list, and placed notices on online gardening forums.  With 120+ roses to work on, and 135 acres to cover, I think I'm going to need a lot of volunteers.

The first official volunteer to sign on was Stephen Scanniello, president of the Heritage Rose Foundation.  It's hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact the my project at Hollywood Cemetery is one that big-name rose guys have asked to help with ... yes, folks, he asked ME if he could help.  (yes, I'm blushing) 

If you are local, or want to travel here in March, and you want to be a part of the work day at Hollywood, let me know.  (no time or schedule yet ... but I should have that soon.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Working on the Workshop

Even before I had to move everything around in my basement workshop to gain access to dig out and repair our water main last week, the room was a mess.  It has shelves and cabinets and lots of flat surfaces that collect all sorts of crap ... whether it's crap that belongs in a workshop or not.  I need to reorganize things in there and try to concoct some sort of system that will reduce the likelihood of this type of mess in the future. 

My dream would be to have a workshop where there is a place for everything and everything is in its place ... but I'm realistic enough to admit that this will probably never happen.  At the very least, I will be satisfied with having a general idea of where to look for most of my tools and supplies.

Today, I concentrated my efforts on the east wall of the workshop.  When I started, that area looked like this:

So much of this is stuff is here because it was displaced by the water main work.  Other things have been sitting there for weeks.
Doesn't the scene remind you of the photos that the original archaeologists took in King Tut's tomb?
This wall is supposed to be a work space with cabinets above it.  The way I had the various cabinets and things arranged just wasn't working, though.  It took a few hour's work, a quick trip to the Habitat ReStore for another kitchen drawer base cabinet, and some rearranging of things I already had.  I'm really pleased with what I ended up with.
I have had these yellow cupboards forever, and they have just been sitting around without a purpose.  For now, I will use them upside down like this, just sitting on the counter top ... till I figure out if it is possible to mount them securely to the soft brick wall.
There you have it.  It's a start, and I still have a LONG way to go till this room is acceptable.  The top of my work island is still piled high with all sorts of stuff  ... I'm okay with that for now, because I know that I will (hopefully) put it to rights very soon.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Diagnosing and Repairing the Swamp in our Yard

We have had a swampy spot in our backyard since some time in late September or early October.  The area between our deck stairs and our old well was muddy, to the point of having standing water in every little depression.  It squished between my toes,

Barefoot photo from last fall, when it was barefoot weather.

and created little puddles out of every single dog print.

Because the swampy spot was in the area where the french drain from the front of our house empties, and the drain had a little bit of water constantly coming out of it, we figured that we were probably dealing with the appearance of a natural spring.  The original well for our property is in this area, so it seemed to make sense.

I dug the little shallow canal to direct water straight toward the well and to better monitor the flow from the french drain.

Over the course of the past few months, I have been staring at this swamp ... wondering what to do about it, because leaving a muddy mess in the traffic pattern from the deck to the backyard wasn't an option.  Last week, I really looked at the pattern of where the yard was wet and where it was dry.  I came to the conclusion that this probably was a leaky water main, and not ground water.

Before I could call someone to work on the plumbing, I had to rearrange things and clear stuff out of the way ... so we could actually get to the spot where the water main enters the house.  It was quite a job.  The pipe is in the corner of my basement workshop, tucked to the left of the big green cabinet.  The cabinet, and all of the crap inside and around it, had to be moved.

This spot beside the back door on the other side of the room is a perfect place to move the green cabinet ... but it's full of a shelf unit and lots of paint and rollers and other random building supplies.

I moved the yellow shelves to another spot, and I rearranged things on them a bit.  Now all of my chalk paint and supplies fit there, too.  The white cabinet was tucked into the garage for now. 

There ... all empty.

I was right ... the green cabinet fits there perfectly.

We were lucky in one respect with this project.  The place in the floor by the water main is dirt, not concrete.  Some time in the past, a previous owner dug up part of the old concrete floor.  We have had it covered with a piece of plywood, so it was a simple matter to pick up the plywood to access the spot and start digging.

Don't worry about the scary looking electrical wire and deteriorated box ... they have been disconnected for a long time.

I turned off the well pump, and got to work. 

When the hole was about two feet deep, I turned the pump back on and immediately found a pin-hole leak in the pipe.  Eureka ... that wasn't so hard!

The hole was approximately where the arrow is.

We called our plumber to come repair the leak, and he was there within a couple of hours.  About a half an hour later, with the new pipe in place, I turned the well pump back on ... and water refilled my hole from somewhere either inside the wall or outside the house.  Crap ... there was another leak!

The plumber and I made plans for him to return the next day with a young, strong helper and some tools to break through the concrete pad on the outside of the wall.  Here he is drilling holes so he can use the jack-hammer on the concrete ... finding that it was an unexpected 10-inches thick! 

The helper worked inside, enlarging and deepening my original hole to find the point where the pipe goes through the wall.

The hole inside ended up being 54-inches deep!

That was a LOT of dirt to move.

The hole outside was only slightly shallower.

The plumbers had to crouch in their respective holes to cut out the old copper pipe and replace it with new.

Here is the inside portion of the new pipe, all tested to make sure there weren't any more leaks.  I didn't get a  photo of the outside part.

All that was left was for them to do was to refill their holes.

The original hole I found in the pipe was a tiny little pin hole.  The second hole in the section of the pipe within the wall was much larger.  See it?

A quarter-inch hole like this in a supply like is a massive hole (by plumbing standards).  Who knows how long it had been seeping before it leaked enough to flood our yard like it did.  (This pipe is probably from the 1960s renovation of our home.)

After the plumbers were finished, they did a wonderful job cleaning up.  If not for the shiny new copper pipe inside and the hole in the concrete pad outside, it would be hard to tell that anything had been done at all.

Inside hole, all filled in.

Outside hole, too.

I have plans for that pile of concrete chunks.  I think it may be enough pieces to use as edging for the camellia bed on the back of our house (where the propane tank is).  No sense hauling it away and wasting it.

The only bit of mess left inside was a little muddy path on the workshop floor by the back door, not bad at all ... and a few more chunks of concrete. 

Once temperatures warm up and the mud bog outside thaws, I hope it won't be long until the yard dries out ... and I should be spared the job of washing muddy paws every time the dogs come in from outside.

Plumbing Police turned what could have been a stressful plumbing situation into a very positive experience.  I have gone through my share of lousy plumbers during the past ten years of renovation of this old house of ours, and I am very glad to finally have someone I can trust for plumbing work at a reasonable price.  If you live in my area, and you need a plumber, I do not hesitate to recommend Plumbing Police.  (Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Phone 540-371-3570)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snow Day

The temperature here has been below freezing for the past two days.  Overnight, a small storm system dusted our part of the country with about an inch or two of snow.  It's light, frozen snow ... delightfully soft.  I had no problem sweeping it off our deck steps, so the dogs can safely get down to the backyard to do their 'business'. 

From where I stand here in the kitchen, my dining room window view is really beautiful!  No winter whining, for sure, when I can stand here and look out at this ... from the warmth of inside the house, of course.

Just to let you know, I added this photo using the regular Blogger photo uploader ... instead of having to switch back and forth between 'compose' and 'html', like we have had to do for the past few weeks.  I guess Blogger finally got to work and fixed whatever was broken.
Have a great day, Everyone!
(remember, No Winter Whining!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Master Bedroom Closets!

The inside parts of our new master bedroom walk-in closets are finished!  As with most projects around here, this one took longer than we expected.  This is behind us now, and I am thrilled to show you how it all came together.  (settle in, because this post is a long one.)

Here is a quick review to remind you where this project started and how it proceeded.  The area that became our new closets looked like this before construction started ... typical 1960s, the era of the addition to our house where our master bedroom is located.  We hired Peter Csemez, a contractor friend, to do the heavy-lifting portion of the project, in the interest of getting the dirty parts done and over with quickly.

The wall with the old closet doors was demolished, and a new wall was built that approximately follows the line of the fringe on the rug.

We gave up 28 inches of floor space, and we gained two 5 1/2-foot by 4 1/2-foot walk-in closets.

The dotted lines in the drawing represent the configuration of the old closets.

The new bedroom floorplan looks like this:

The project began with a bit of demolition and a lot of dust.  First the doors were removed (to be reused). 

Then the old closet walls came down.  The 2x4 lying on the floor is the bottom plate of the new wall.

The new closet wall looks like a wall of built-in cupboards, using the old closet doors and one more door that we robbed from our hall bathroom.  (the bathroom door was replaced with a similar one that we found at the Habitat ReStore in Richmond.)

Photoshop facsimile of the new wall.  The inner doors operate, and the outer doors are stationary.

The framing part of this job was more complicated than we thought it would be ... of course it was ... almost everything in old house renovation is like that.

... and here we are, new wall in place with trim and doors and it looks great!  After this point, the contractor's part of the project was finished, and it was time for me to do my part. 

Peter's drywall guy did a great job on the inside of the closets.  He had to patch the walls and ceiling where the old closet walls were, and add sheetrock to the new wall.  After he finished, the walls were smooth and ready for paint.

The first step was to roll on a coat of primer.  I always use Valspar Bonding Primer, because I can never be sure exactly what is on these old walls ... this primer covers stains and sticks to almost anything.

I didn't want to lose the electrical outlet that was on the old closet wall, so I had Peter relocate it into The Husband's closet.

Cats and painting don't mix well.  Dorothy was keeping her distance, watching from a few feet away.

To be certain she stayed safely away from the paint, I set a cat trap of newspaper on the corner of our bed ... this works every time!

One of the objectives of this project was to reuse as many materials as possible.  All of the trim and doors were salvaged.  Even the paint for the inside walls was a gallon of paint that I had stashed away ... Benjamin Moore 'Gossamer Blue' that I bought last year for our hall bath (and had yet to use).

The new pale blue is perfect!

For light fixtures, I bought an inexpensive set of two flush-mount lights at Lowes for $21-and-change.  They are white with alabaster-looking glass.

The next day, it was time to make these new little rooms function as closets.  I love ClosetMaid's system of adjustable closet fittings.  It all starts with a hanging rail mounted at the ceiling, screwed firmly into the wall's framework.  In the case of our back closet wall, which is the former back wall of this old brick house of ours, I used masonry screws to secure the rail.  Next came the vertical supports ... leveled and screwed to the wall.  (I reused all of the parts from our old closets.  I only had to buy one hanging rail, four vertical supports, and 14 shelf brackets.) 

The hanging rail on the left wall is level ... the ceiling isn't, tho.

Here is the shelving, finished in both closets!  The back walls are set up for double-hanging clothes ... one shelf 40 inches off the floor and one at 80 inches.  The side walls have space for a hamper and shelves for folded clothes.

The next things to address were the holes in the flooring where the former closet walls used to be.  The Husband asked if he could help, so I had him even up and cut the edges of this hole.  Here he is using a chisel to get the last little bits out of the corner.

The piece of reclaimed flooring that I had on hand isn't an exact match, but it will be pretty close once I stain and varnish it.  (our floor is heartpine and the patch flooring is antique yellow pine.)  The black pieces in the patch are what the replacement flooring looked like before I scraped and sanded it.  I can't tell you how many trips I made up and down the two flights of stairs between our bedroom and the miter saw in our basement for me to cut these pieces of flooring.  Each piece had to be scribed to fit and cut at least two times. 

If this was a more visible area of the house, I would have done this job more correctly by removing part of the original floor and weaving the patch in so it's not so obvious.  This is a closet, however, and I made the conscious decision to patch it the easiest way possible and move on.  These pieces are just sitting in place for now ... the subfloor and the old flooring aren't level, and it's going to take a LOT of time for me to shim each piece of the patch flooring to bring it even with the old flooring. At least this big hole is sort of patched for now, so The Husband won't hurt himself if he steps on it.

Are you ready for the reveal?  I spent most of the morning yesterday sorting through my clothes and putting them into my new closet.  Summer clothes on the top rail, winter on the bottom .... no more changing things out for each season.  The few dresses, suits, and other long items that I have are in the closet in my sewing room.  They have always been there ... I wear them so rarely, and I couldn't justify including them in the new closet design.  They're fine where they are.

My shelves for folding clothes will hold jeans, work pants, sweatshirts, sweaters, etc.  I still have more sweaters and hoodies in my armoire to sort through and put in here.  (I've been pretty ruthless with my initial sorting, and I took 35 shirts and sweaters to Goodwill yesterday afternoon.)  I still have too much stuff, so I will do another round of purging later.

I keep a very tidy closet ... with like things grouped together, arranged by color.  This makes it so much easier to find stuff. 

The piece of old flooring I had was only enough to patch the major hole in the floor of The Husband's closet.  I have to scrounge another piece to do mine ... this hole is out of the traffic path and isn't a huge trip hazard like the other one was, so it can wait.

Alice was hiding under the clothes as I was working, till I chased her out.

Then she and Dorothy lounged on the bed and monitored my progress.  That pile of clothes on the right was the beginning of the heap that went to Goodwill

There you have it, Folks ... the inside of our new closets ... finished and in use.  Our bedroom used to look like this:

And this is what you see as you walk into our bedroom now!

I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me, to finish the moldings and doors on the outside of the new closet wall.  Everything is functional the way it is, so I can wait till later to caulk and prime and paint, and to cut and reinstall the radiator cover.  I don't want to wait too long, though.  My resolution this year is to do whatever I can to see all of my projects through to the end and actually FINISH WHAT I START.  The inside of these closets tested my resolve, especially as I whined about having to carefully cut in the blue paint at the ceiling and baseboard and around the doors, and as I was making so many trips up and down the stairs fitting flooring into the hole in The Husband's closet floor.

These new closets are already a huge improvement in the way we live in this old house of ours.  I still can't believe how much style and function we have gained, and I find myself standing and staring a them ... what a difference!

The contractor who worked on this project for us is:
Peter Csemez
Homebrite Renovations
(If you are in northern/central Virginia and are looking for a contractor, this one comes highly recommended ... by us!)

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