Monday, July 31, 2006

The Nerve of Some People!

There’s this little shack on my street about 4 blocks away, someone told me it was built in the 80s, and they stole my color scheme! They must have painted it over the weekend, because I never noticed this place before. It’s just so irritating. Now there are 2 multi-toned green houses on the street! Grrrrr!


Well, the new tenant came today and gave me a big ol’ wad of cash and I gave her the keys. I can finally give my full attention back to the house. I started on the outside corner today. I made the management decision to do both corbels, siding, and window all in one shot. It’s going to take a while but it’s the right way to go.

The first job – as always - is going to be to strip everything back to bare wood. I should have gotten a close-up of just how bad it is. I’m sure you’ve all see it before, a nice new thick coat of latex paint over old, flaking, dried up, 80 year old paint. Painting contractors should lose their license for doing this sort of shoddy workmanship

I’m sure a lot of people that pass by my house and see me doing this work think I’m crazy for spending so much time scraping all the paint off, but if they saw it up close they’d understand just how bad it is. Even if this corner were marginally good I’d probably do the same thing. This is the corner that points right at the street corner. It is one of my favorite parts of the house. It just has so much character to it.

The little first floor window that you can just barley see to the right in the photo is a small stained glass window. The big front arched stained glass window is just to the left of this corner. There is really a lot going on and it’s important that it looks good. There is also the fact that paint does much more than just make things look good, it also protects the wood. It’s important to get it right.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Two Down Four To Go

I think I mentioned the other day that I only had three of these brackets (or are they corbels) left after this one. There are, in fact, 4 more to go. The first corner I did was missing one of the brackets because of the addition, so I was only counting one on the opposite corner. In reality, I have two bay corners left, each with 2 brackets. It doesn’t sound like much, but they are time consuming.

I spent nearly 4 hours today painting this corner. I had the bracket, all the window trim, the sunburst over the window, and the trim (along with another sunburst) on the top-outside section of the porch. I was able to get 2 coats on everything and it was very slow going. One of the biggest obstacles was just getting up in there.

I own 4 ladders and I had to go borrow one from a friend because all of mine were either too short or too long. Even with the right ladder is was hard. I practically had to be a contortionist to get my body up in there and paint all the detail.

But it was worth it. Finally, now that I'm not taking shots in the direct sun, you can really see a nice contrast between the Clary Sage and the Livable Green. Now I really need to get the other side done to balance out the front of the house.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Trip To Ranch Country

I spend almost all my time confined to the old part of the city. I live, work, and shop in the older parts of town, and all of my friends also live in this area, so I forget that there is a whole other side to the city. Last week I ventured over in to Ranch Country. Actually, I think these homes are only Ranch-esque in nature. They are 80s & 90s versions of the Ranch Home.

When I was a kid growing up we lived in a Ranch Home. My parents had it built in the early 60s. I guess you could call it a custom home but it was no McMansion or anything. I think it was about 2,500 sq ft, maybe a little larger. It had 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, large kitchen, dining room, and a very large family room. The floors were random width, hand pegged pine. One end of the family room was dominated by a massive brick fire place with a brick hearth that created a bench along most of the wall. On one side of the fire place there was a large cabinet built in to the brick for storing wood. It had a wooden door on it with very nice, sort of Colonial style wrought iron hinges and handle. It was a favorite place for me to hide. On the other side there were built in bookshelves.

The front of the house was symmetrical with the front door in the center with a small, inset porch. There were 2 double hung, 6 over 6 windows on either side. The front and back of the house were sided in wood and the 2 sides were brick. The house was on a sort of triangular shaped lot at the end of a cul-de-sac and it stretch out low and wide across the back of the lot. Out front were 3 big oak trees that caused my Dad constant problems because he could never get grass to grow under the thick canopy created by the three trees.

All of the homes on the street were of similar size, and even though I think they could all be considered Ranches, they were all a little different. Some had a more modern flare, while others maybe had some Tudor influence, but most were strict Ranch style homes. It was a fun street to grow up on. There were a lot young, growing families with kids. It was overly typical Americana for the 1960s. Of course, I’m sure there were lot’s of sordid stories behind those perfect doors.

Last week a friend stopped by to show off some treasure he had just found at a garage sale. Mainly he wanted to show me the big slab of redwood burl he had picked up. He stopped by to gloat, naturally, but also to tell me there was more where that came from. I hopped it my truck and drove across town to where the garage sale was. As I said, this was Ranch Country, but at the same time it wasn’t. There was lots of vinyl siding and T-111 siding. The homes just didn’t give me the same feeling as the homes on the street I grew up on. They were all kind of the same and somewhat uninspired in their appearance. Instead of being a nice neighborhood of Ranch Homes it was a neighborhood of Dude-Ranch Homes. There was something unauthentic about them.

Garage Sale Redwood Slab & Router: $20.00
A trip to another part of the city to get it: Priceless

Thursday, July 27, 2006

So You Think You Can Strip

I’m amazed that I’ve managed to find time to strip some of the trim on the front of the house since I’ve had to deal with the apartment so much over the past week. I should probably have been finished with it at this point, but as it is, I’m far from being finished. I can feel the summer just slipping away, thank you very much apartment.

Here’s where I’m at. I’ve got all the trim around the front porch window stripped, along with one of three corbels – or is that a bracket? I’ve always thought of corbels as being thick, meaty, solid wood things that are just under the eaves of the roof. Anything else I’ve called a bracket. Last year when I went before the Preservation Committee to have my house added to the Local List of Historic Places I was corrected when I called it a bracket. I was told that is a corbel by one of the esteemed members of the committee. I never got a straight answer when I asked what the difference was between a corbel and a bracket. Maybe it is one of those “I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it” sort of things.

When I bought the house this corbel/bracket was the mounting place for the cable TV hook-up. Can you believe they just screwed cable right in to it? The house had 8 cable runs streaming all over it and they all converged on this spot. It was just a rats nest of cables right there by the front door. After about a month in the house I called the cable company to complain. The guy I talked to was familiar with the house and sheepishly admitted they don't do that sort of thing anymore. He said it would be a while before they could get a crew out to clean it all up.

We went back and forth on it and I finally convinced him to have a guy come out and give me a new drop from the pole with a new service entrance. They could abandon all the old cable and I would clean everything up. He had someone there in an hour! I was amazed. Sure enough, I got a brand new cable from the pole and then over the next week or so I stripped out 100s of yards of coax cable from the house.

Anyway, I hoping to pick up speed on the paint stripping once the new tenant is in. I picked up the new carpet today and I’ll install it Saturday morning. After that I just have to fix a hinge on the bathroom door and that baby is done. This assumes that the old tenant is coming back for her last few remaining things that are in the apartment. She moved 90% out a week ago but she hasn’t been back since. I sense there may be a dump run in the very near future for me.

Oh, and as for the show I alluded to in the title, “So You Think You Can Dance”, I’m amazed at how much I like it. My exposure to dance is very limited. Fifteen or 20 years ago I very briefly went out with a woman who was taking modern dance in college and went to a few of her recitals, and to be honest, it did little for me. Then when I worked at the local PBS affiliate for a short time I had to sit through a few Ballroom Dance competitions and that did even less for me. For some reason, though, this time I’m really enjoying it. Maybe my tastes have matured.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On Cats & Cat Pee

I’d like to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions over the past week or so concerning my rental unit carpet. I only wish I had more time to try some of the suggestions because it kills me to have to rip out and throw away carpet that I installed less than 4 years ago. What a waste. Even if I’m not paying for it, it still bugs me. Of course, I still have to do the work, and everyone knows I’d much rather be working on my own house. I think that bugs me even more.

Anyway, considering the number of suggestions I got, it seems this is a pretty common problem. I’ve lived with cats literally just about all my life. I think there were a couple of years in my 20s when I lived in a house that did not have a cat in it. Cats make great pets.

I only started thinking about this today and it dawned on me that in all that time, only once did I have a problem with cats peeing where they shouldn’t. What makes this even more odd is that those cats that peed on the carpet in my parents house were long-time residence of the house. We had several cats when I was growing up, but we had two cats, Zelda and Midnight, that were with us for more than 15 years each. They were well behaved cats for the longest time and then suddenly they picked a spot in the dining room and started peeing in the corner. My Mom was furious. I never really thought about it, but now it seems odd that they could go for so long and then start acting up. So what changed.

The one thing I can think of is that most of the kids had left home. I was the youngest and last to live at home. When they started their bad habit I was about 16 or so and never at home. Now that I think about it, I think these cats were accustomed to having a lot of attention all their lives and over the course of a few years it pretty much all went away. My dad was never a real big cat person, the kids were mostly gone, and the one remaining child, me, was never at home. My Mom was working a lot at that time so the cats never got attention any more. I think they started peeing on the carpet to get attention. It worked, all right, but it was probably not the kind of attention they wanted.

As for my current problem, it is a similar situation. I helped the tenant move in to the apartment. She was only a moving a few blocks, and I have a truck, so I helped with a few of the big things. When we went to her old apartment I was very aware of the condition of the place. I figured this would give me insight as to how well she would treat my place. There was definitely no cat pee smell. The cat was there, along with the food and litter box, and I didn’t notice a thing. It was a pretty normal looking – and normal smelling - apartment for someone who was in the process of moving. So again, what changed.

Well, as we all know, she pretty much abandoned her cat in the apartment so she could spend every waking and sleeping moment with her new boyfriend. Again, we have a cat that probably had a good amount of attention and suddenly it finds itself alone so it began to pee where it shouldn’t to get attention. I don’t think she stopped changing the litter box because I regularly saw empty cat littler jugs in the plastics recycling bin. Even my own cats will go in the litter box no matter how bad it gets, and it does get bad at times. They just keep piling it on.

I’m not saying this is the cause of all cat pee problems but I bet it is a big cause of the problem. Probably fewer people should have pets than currently do. They are a responsibility and they require more than just food, water, and poop dirt. If you don’t treat them right, they’ll let you know.

Now if we could just do something about the throwing-up thing they do. What is the deal with that?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Valiant Effort Was Made

Well, no one can say I didn’t try. Ok, I guess you could say it, but you would be a dirty, rotten liar. On Sunday I was having dinner with some friends and I mentioned my urinous carpet problems. One friend suggested I try his Deionizer. It’s a little box that looks like an expensive fan and I guess it attacks the odor at the sub-atomic level or something. I’m not really sure what it does, or if it even does anything at all, but I had nothing to loose.

He brought it by my house Monday afternoon and I took it up to the apartment and plugged it in. I’ve got to be honest, I’m a little skeptical about this thing. I mean, it even sounds stupid – A Deionizer. What is this the Jettson's? He said it costs him about $500 for the unit and the only thing I could think was - SSSSSucker! Like I said, though, I’ve got nothing to loose.

As the deionizer {snicker} quietly whirred away in the background I crawled around on the floor again to see if I could find the source of the overpowering stench. It is incredibly strong. It just hits you in the face as soon as you open the door. The other tenant has been burning incense in the hallway because it tends to creep out there too. I made my way around the edge of the room crawling and sniffing and suddenly – Boom –I found The Spot. This was The Spot where the cat had done his nasty, sinful little deed. Or I guess I should say Deeds, because this was too strong to have been from just one time relieving himself on the carpet. I don’t see how I missed it before. The Spot was just under the window and it extended about a foot out from the wall, and was about 2 feet wide.

I positioned the deionizer {snicker} in front of The Spot and I then ran down to PetCo and bought another bottle of Natures Miracle. When I got back to the apartment I pulled up the carpet around The Spot and removed the padding underneath. I used several sticks to prop up the carpet and I saturated it and the sub floor with the Natures Miracle. I used the whole bottle on The Spot and extended out a good 2 feet in every direction around it. I let the deionizer {snicker} run over-night.

Today after work I ran up to the apartment and – Bam – right in the face again. Nothing had changed at all, it seemed. Maybe it was a little better, but a little better will never do. It either had to be stench-free or I wouldn’t be satisfied. I decided I had had enough. I went down and got a utility knife and 10 minutes later the carpet and most of the padding was piled up in the backyard waiting to be hauled to the dump. Immediately there was a huge improvement.

I went down today and bought new carpet and pad which I’ll pick-up Thursday. I’m going to run the deionizer {snicker} over-night again. Tomorrow I’ll shellac the sub floor to seal it and then install the new carpet on Saturday. The new tenant is supposed to move in on Tuesday. So far, I’ve chewed up about 2/3 of the deposit on the carpet, pad, and other assorted little things. Something tells me labor for installation will eat up the rest.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Local Traffic and Weather Together

I had a flurry of local hits on my blog over the weekend, and a few comments from locals. I don’t tell anyone locally about my blog, for what ever reason, so it was interesting. Also on Saturday, as I was getting out of my truck, a woman walking by my house stopped me and asked if this was The Petch House. She was nice, and we really didn’t talk that long, but still it was an odd experience. It was as if suddenly worlds collided. I asked her how she had found my blog and she couldn’t really recall exactly. She said she was just surfing around checking out other local blogs and mine was one of the few non-political blogs in the area that has regular postings.

Most of the local traffic to my blog was generated from people finding one of my earliest posts about me adding my house to the Local Register of Historic places. I won’t go in to the details again, you can read it if you want - Parts 1 & 2, but a local lunatic added a letter to my application as part of the public comment process. In the letter he complained about any city business that happened to pop into his pee-brained head. It was a little disappointing to me because I had spent a lot of time researching the house and The Petch Family and done what I thought was a very nice write-up, and now the only public comment to be forever attached to my write-up is this crazed letter by a man named Mr. Droz. Well, it seems he is now going to try and run for Mayor and I guess some local people Googled his name and found my blog. He haunts me even today.

I noticed that too about local blogs, that most of them that get regular postings by their authors are political in nature. This is a small town in sparsely populated county. We have only one real local TV news cast but there is a lot of print news media, considering the size of the area. Eureka has two daily newspapers, and then there is The Arcata Eye, and The North Coast Journal. With so much news in print already it’s hard to believe there is that much to blog about. I must admit, though, the population in this area is pretty polarized.

The county is dominated by the city of Eureka, and then 9 miles north, the city of Arcata. Humboldt State University is in Arcata. The majority of the county is liberal and registered Democrat or Green, but Arcata is about as far left as you can get. It seems like every other week the city council is voting to impeach Bush or Cheney for something. I am registered Green and consider myself to be Socially Liberal and Fiscally Conservative – to a point – but even Arcata is a little too far left for me sometimes.

Then there is another very vocal part of the area that is far right conservative. We get regular letters to the editor from people that sound like they want to ditch the US Constitution and use The 10 Commandments as law. And then there are just the hard-core Republicans and their letters are just so venomous. They must be listening to the hyperbole on Talk Radio 24/7 to get so angry and mad. I couldn’t imagine living my life like that. Lately there has been a tit-for-tat battle going on amongst letter writers arguing which are more violent, Christians or Muslims. To be honest, I think if you took a body count from the past 2000 years the corpses would be stacked pretty evenly on both sides.

When I moved up here from Santa Cruz about 7 years ago (Santa Cruz is another far left liberal college town, like Arcata) everyone looked at me like, “Eureka!?! Why aren’t you moving to Arcata?”. You would have thought I told them I was moving to Mars. Frankly, after 12 years in Santa Cruz I got tired of living in a crowded, far left liberal college town with bad streets, no parking, and over priced housing. Arcata is a nice town but there is no way I want to live there. People, tie-dye was a fashion statement 35 years ago, but come on….. we’re in a new millennium, for Pete’s sake!

No, I like Eureka and a lot of people don’t understand that. I like Old Town, Down Town, the old neighborhoods, and I love my house. Even in this county Eureka is the town everyone loves to hate. It’s almost comical how much some local people dislike Eureka. I think that you have to spend a lot of time someplace else in order to appreciate this city. Yes, there are problems with drugs, and the crime is higher than other parts of the county, but really, the city is pretty tame compared to every other place I’ve lived. I just have to chuckle when I read a letter to the editor in the local paper when someone complains that a cop didn’t stop to direct traffic when a traffic signal has broken and is flashing red. It’s quaint.

Yes this city needs help, but show me one city in this country that doesn’t. I think Eureka gets dumped on here a lot because it is the Big City for the area, and even though it’s small, it still appears to have Big City problems. It’s all relative, though. Spend a week in LA and you’ll think this is Mayberry only with better weather and better architecture.

And speaking of better weather, we broke a record with the heat on Sunday. It got up to a blistering 68 degrees. That is toasty for Eureka. Of course, with the heat index it felt more like 72. I came very, very close to breaking sweat…..but not quite.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Aroma Therapy

That’s what the apartment needs. I went in today and cleaned the carpets and they look great. The apartment looks great. The tenant did a very nice job of cleaning it. It just doesn’t smell great. I’m not even sure if it’s the carpet that smells. After cleaning the carpets I went around on my hands and knees and tried and find the source of the cat pee smell and I can’t quite find anything. It just sort of permeates the living room and kitchen. There is one area next to the heater that sort of smells, but it’s hard to tell. To be honest, after a few minutes of breathing deeply while crawling around on my hands and knees I start to get light headed and everything begins to smell the same.

The carpets sure needed cleaning, though, especially the living room. It was visibly dirty but there must have been a lot of dirt that wasn’t really apparent to the naked eye. This may come as a shock to some, but I don’t think past tenants vacuumed as often as they should have. Gasp! I know, it’s hard to believe. I rented one of those Rug Doctor machines from the grocery story and it did a pretty good job. The living room is 11X17 feet, I think, and the carpet is less than 4 years old. The reservoir on the machine holds 3.5 gallons of water and I had to change it 12 times! That is more than 40 gallons of water I went through, and each time I changed the water it was black!

Annie left a comment the other day about a product called Anti-Icky-Poo to try and take the cat pee smell away. I was going to go buy it, if for no other reason than I like the name, but the tenant had already purchased a product called Natures Miracle. She had already used about half the bottle and I used the rest today. I also got several more windows opened to air the place out, and I’m burning incense around the clock as well. I hope I don’t burn the place down (wink, wink). That would be a shame, wouldn’t it. I wouldn’t get to be a landlord anymore. That would really, really, really, be just too bad. Oh, woe is me. What would I do if I didn’t have tenants and instead I had a big fat insurance settlement check. My life would surly be over as I know it today. How could I possibly go on.

Somehow I’d manage.

I also called the tenant today and told her, basically, if she can get the smell out she’ll get most of her deposit back. I won’t charge her for the carpet cleaning, because, to be honest, most of that dirt wasn’t hers. The only thing I’ll charge her for is the water heater blanket that her cat shredded. That costs $17, and then there is the $100/hr labor I charge. Of course, I don’t charge for partial hours, and I work slow, so that comes to $217, but still, she would get a good chunk of change back if she can get rid of the smell.

The pee ball is in her court.

The only other thing I had to do to the apartment was to touch-up the bathroom floor. The bathroom floors are interesting. The apartments are 1920s and instead of doing tile they just created the floor and baseboards out of lime mortar.

Old Picture with a dirt floor, but you get the idea

Today, if you do tile you screw down cement board and then use thin-set adhesive to adhere the tile to the cement board. Back in the day, they laid down a thick bead of lime mortar and then stuck the tiles in it. In the case of these bathrooms they trowel out the mortar smooth and created a seamless floor with integrated baseboard. It's pretty cool and very durable.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

It’s A Banner Day!

A new banner for The Petch House Blog. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while but inspiration never struck. I think the new paint job on the house has given me renewed inspiration so I played around with a few things today.

I now have to figure out how to get the new banner to appear on the HouseBlogs web ring. They’re getting so big these days with all the national attention in the press. I’m probably going to have to fill out some form in triplicate and submit it to the HouseBlogs World Headquarters. It will then go through several design review committees until it’s finally approved. No doubt I’ll have to grease a few palms along the way. How else can they afford the palatial corporate campus for HouseBlogs out in Chicago.

I did the new banner instead of cleaning carpets in the apartment over the garage. I just wasn’t in to it. I also forgot to tell the tenant I would be going in to the apartment. I’m supposed to give her 24 hours notice before entering. She has pretty much moved out, so I know she wouldn’t care. Still, this is what I tell myself so I don’t feel lazy.

I didn’t give her notice so I can’t clean the carpets. Really, I want to, but I just can’t. My hands are tied on this one.

My other goal for the day is to do some stripping on the porch trim. We’ll see if I get to it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different

I’m not sure this is something I’ve talked about on this blog before. This may be a subject that few of you are familiar with, but I think if we take it slow, I can have everyone up to speed in no time at all. I’m talking about paint stripping. You see, there comes a time when paint build up requires you to remove that paint that is there and start over.

I am talking about the paint build up on the first floor trim. That is the next project and once again Stupid PO Tricks have made the job that much more difficult. When they had the house painted 6 years ago, they painted over the asbestos siding and they also painted the trim. The asbestos siding wasn’t a problem because I removed it. The problem was, they did a lousy job of prepping the trim. There is this new, thick layer of latex paint over an old failing paint job. It’s going to be loads of fun to get it all off.

I finished painting all the siding and second floor trim today. Many, many, many trips up and down the ladder. It's been worth it, though, because I am just really happy with the color scheme. I’ve been getting a lot of complements from neighbors and people passing by. Nothing improves the look of a house more than a fresh coat of paint.

Before I start the joyful paint stripping project I need to deal with the apartment over the garage this weekend. This is the part of land lording I dislike. I wish the tenants would keep their mouths shut, give me money every month, and stay there forever. Is that asking too much? I just ventured up to the apartment a few minutes ago. This is the first time I’ve been up there since I went up two weeks ago and found the place a mess. A mess is putting it mildly. The place was disgusting. I’m happy to report that the exiting tenant has done a pretty good job of cleaning the place up. In fact, she did a great job.

Just from my cursory tour of the apartment it looks like I’m only going to have to replace the water heater blanket and shampoo the carpets. The current tenant used a product called “Natures Miracle” to get rid of the urine smell. There is still a lingering hint of it that I’m hoping to get rid of with the carpet shampoo machine. I should know by tomorrow how well it’s going to work.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Good Morning Starshine

The weather continues to be strangely cooperative for me. We’ve had another morning with sunshine. Our normal summer pattern for July and August is lots and lots overcast skies with afternoon sunshine. The weather for the past 4 days has been absolutely perfect for house painting. My only complaint is that it gets a little cold around 6:00 in the evening. The sun falls behind the house and the wind picks up coming off the bay and it can get very chilly up on that ladder.

I snapped this shot this morning on the way to work. I thought it would be nice to get a shot with the morning sun on the house but I think it’s a little too much sun. The colors look a little washed out. As I said yesterday, I still need to do all the first floor trim around the stained-glass window, along with the corner boards, and the corbels. I also still have the window trim around the window on the porch side of the bay.

I’m really going to have to resist the temptation to do a half-ass job just so I can move on to the next section quickly. I think I’ve got another weeks worth of work on the front of the house, if not more. I want to scrap most of that trim back to bare wood. I have to fix the trim around the stained glass window. I also was to paint the attic gable and that little gable waaaay up on the top of the house. On the south side I was able to paint the gable by hanging out the window. This gable is bigger though, and I won’t be able to reach everything. It’s going to be tricky.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Taking a Backseat

Everything seems to be taking a backseat to the house painting this week. I’ve had 3 days in a row of 6 or 7 hours on a ladder of straight prepping and painting, and this after going in to work for 4 or 5 hours. I was supposed to go through the apartment tonight to see how well the exiting tenant cleaned it. I really don’t want to look, so I blew that off. The new tenant is out of town until the 26th, so I can deal with what ever needs to be dealt with about the apartment this weekend.

I was supposed to go to The Splinter Group meeting tonight, but I totally blew that off. I hadn’t intended to go anyway, but it doesn’t matter because I completely spaced it. There was a message on the machine from a friend asking me if I needed a ride and that’s when it hit me that tonight was the night. The group meets at 7 and I was still on the ladder at 6:30, so even if I wanted to go there was no way I was going to make it.

But it’s all been worth it….

I’ve got one coat on everything except the first floor trim, and it looks pretty damn cool, if I do say so myself. I was too pooped and hungry to get a photo. The first floor trim is going to need some major paint removal. I have 2 big corbels with inset sunbursts, lots of corner trim, some water table, and the trim around the big stained glass window. The stained glass window trim is in really bad shape. The wood can be salvaged but it needs a lot of work.

The trim forms a big arc around the window and is made up of three pieces of wood and it all needs to go back to bare wood. The window itself needs a lot of work. There are 41 pieces of stained glass and the putty looks to be original and is just in horrible shape. Ideally I would redo all the putty but I don’t see that happening this summer. I’m going to do a band-aid fix for now and tackle it next summer.

For now, though, it feels really, really good to have fresh paint on that siding. The house looks so, so, so, so much better.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

Hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, right? Ok, maybe it’s more like 1 out of 3, but regardless, I have my health back (for the most part) and that’s what’s really important. Nothing improves your outlook on life than to overcome an injury. The air smells sweeter. Food tastes better. Women are prettier. Yes, everything seems to improve – even the weather!

Of course, my own personal comfort in regards to the weather is always of paramount importance, but when you’re painting a house good weather is not just a luxury, it is a necessity. The plan was to start priming today and we’ve had these overcast skies in the morning for the past week or so. Sometimes even a slight drizzle. I can’t put primer on damp wood, and I’m working on the east side, so even if the sun does come out in the afternoon it doesn’t hit that side of the house.

Today I awoke to brilliant blue skies, though. The weather, for painting or otherwise, has moved beyond perfect and reached a state of nirvana. At 12:30 it was….

66 Degrees
6 MPH Wind
78% Humidity
5 Mile Visibility

I think by 2 or 3 that will warm up to a blistering 75 or so. With any luck, by the end of the day the front of the house will be primed and ready for paint. Woo-Hooo!

And to think, on Friday I was considering a Workman's Comp claim for my shoulder!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Strange But True

The bizarre medical condition that is my shoulder continues to confound me. It’s funny that I avoided going to the doctor when it was just a soar shoulder, but now I’m thinking I should go just because it so odd. Wouldn’t it be cool if I ended up in a medical journal or something?

This morning I woke up just as I have for the past three weeks with a very soar shoulder. This time, however, instead of babying it I treated it as if it wasn’t injured at all. The first few hours were difficult but the more I used it the better it got. It wasn’t just a time issue, though. That is to say, I don’t wake up with a soar shoulder and as the day progress it gets better. I have to use it to see improvement, and the more strenuous I use it the better it gets. The less use it sees, it either stays the same or gets worse.

The best it got today was when I was on a ladder sanding shingles by hand with a wadded up piece of 80 grit. I’m writing this as soon as I can because I know that after a few hours of sitting on the couch my shoulder will get progressively worse. I think I’ve discovered a pattern, though.

When I’m at rest my arms drop to the side and it is this downward pull in the same position that irritates my shoulder. (Damn you gravitiy!) When I’m working, especially on prepping the side of the house, my arms are mostly lifted up, and a lot of times are over my head. Today at work when I wasn’t doing much and my arms dangled I would start to feel pain. When this happened I would stick my arm straight up in the air perpendicular with the ground and then reach back and grab the back of my neck. It looks odd. My elbow is pointing skyward while I’m grabbing the back of my neck. It works wonders though. Within in minuets I being to feel normal – I just don’t look normal.

The best part about all of this is, I can work on my house. Today I finished prepping the front. The paint just fell off the house. The front faces east and has seen a lot of morning sunrises. After 80 years the paint just gave up the ability to hold on to the wood. For some reason it adhered to the shingles on the second story better than the horizontal lap siding on the first story. On the first story I could just make two or three passes with my bare hand and be down to bare wood. Tomorrow I should start with the primer. With any luck I will begin the topcoat on Wednesday.

I used a urethane caulk for the first time today. A friend – actually he owns the property next door – is very knowledgeable and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. He told me about urethane caulk. He says if you put it on bare wood it will never come off. It expands. It’s paintable. And supposedly will out-last any latex acrylic caulk by eons. It does cost about $7.00 a tube so you don’t want to go hog-wild with it, but for certain places it may be the way to go. You also have to clean-up with mineral spirits. I used it around the big stained glass window on the front of the house. I’m never going to be scrapping this house back to bare wood so it’s now or never. I'll give an update on the caulk in a few eons.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Miracle On 9th Street

Ok, this is strange. As many of you know I’ve been going on and on about my poor, poor shoulder. Woe is me, right? The past few weeks have pretty much been a non-stop complaint-fest about how I’m unable paint the house because my shoulder hurts. My life is not worth living unless I can paint the house. Blah, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure you’re as sick of hearing about it, about as much as I am writing about it.

Well, on Friday I made the decision to start painting the house again this weekend despite my shoulder. I would be just like an NFL player and play through the pain and then heal in the off-season. Off-season for me being winter time. Well, actually, I work just as hard in the winter, so that’s a bad analogy, but you get the point. I can’t paint the house in the winter, so that’s when I will heal. I had accepted the fact that this would be My Summer of Pain.

I woke up Saturday and got out there about noon. I didn’t want to push it too hard and have an 8 hour marathon day of scraping paint off the house. I figured I would use my left arm as much as possible and limit the use of the right arm. Well, that doesn’t really work to well. If you’re a right-handed person you naturally want to use your right hand. It’s one of the laws of nature and sure enough about 20 minutes in to scrapping I was mostly using my right arm.

At first it seemed fine. There was a little discomfort, but nothing like I expected. I consciously went back to my left arm when ever I thought about it, but eventually, and sooner rather than later, the scraper ended back in my right hand. The shoulder didn’t hurt so much as the muscles on the ribcage (not sure what they’re called). I think it was from lack of use more than anything. It sort of felt like I had pulled a muscle or something. In the 4 hours I spent scrapping paint, though, I only iced my shoulder once, and that was more preventative than anything else. I iced it while I ate lunch. The fact was my shoulder didn’t really hurt. I mean, for the first time in weeks my shoulder didn’t hurt.

This morning I woke up with a sore shoulder. It was no worse or better than everyday for the past few weeks. It was the same pain I’ve woken up with every morning. The scrapping really didn’t aggravate it any. I wrote a rather long email to a friend this morning and that really bothered it. Typing at the keyboard as been very difficult for the past few weeks. That is the reason for my relatively few posts on my blog recently and the reason for the e.e. petch post. Sometimes I am reduced to typing with my left hand only. The email I wrote this morning was no different. About half way through I had an ice pack on my shoulder. The last few edits were done solely with my left hand.

Still, I was determined to finished scrapping the front of the house. I went back out there around noon and scrapped away. This time I used what ever arm I wanted to. About 2 hours in, it was as if I had never hurt my shoulder at all! I noticed no pain what so ever. It was the most bizarre thing in the world. The constant motion of scrapping must have knocked, shoved, or pushed something back in place, or took something out of a place it shouldn’t have been.

I’m not going to say I am back to 100% with my shoulder, but the improvement is astounding. Even now, as I write this blog entry, there is only mild discomfort. This morning when I was writing that email I had the icepack on my shoulder after the third paragraph. Now, I’m half way through the 7th paragraph and I only have mild discomfort. If I believed in miracles I would be calling the Vatican right now.

Body heal thyself.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

At Least It Wasn’t A Penis-Sippy-Cup

It could always be worse, right? Sometimes you really have to stretch for that silver lining, but somewhere, someplace you hope that somebody’s got it worse off than you. Even if it’s not true that someone has it worse than you, you tell yourself this just so you can still sleep at night. So for me it’s the lack of a penis-sippy-cup in the apartment being vacated by one of my tenants that helps me get through the night.

So what did I get instead of a penis-sippy-cup, you ask? I got piles of garbage, a refrigerator full of rotting food, and the over powering stench of cat urine. My tenant, who was by most accounts a good tenant, abandoned the apartment several months ago and moved in with her boyfriend. She continued to pay rent so what did I care. I considered her the perfect tenant - She paid rent every month and was never home. What more could I ask for. Little did I know she had her utilities cut off, oh, and she never emptied her refrigerator. And then there was the 4 bags of garbage that looked like they had been there for months, the sink full of dirty dishes, and the litter box. I’m not sure where the cat is.

The worst part, if it can get any worse, was that I had no idea how bad the apartment was until I showed it to new prospective tenants last Sunday. I was both shocked and embarrassed by the condition. I had advertised the apartment as “clean and quiet” and this place should be condemned by the health department. Surprisingly three of the people I showed it to still filled out applications and I’ve agreed to rent it to one of them. She said she would rent it on the condition the odor was gone. I assured her it would be even if it meant replacing the carpets.

I think the current tenant, the one who left the mess, was caught off guard that I was showing the apartment so soon. She probably figured, “Oh, I’ve got a month to clean it up, so what’s the hurry”. I rent the apartment for below market value because I don’t like to deal with it. The logic is, when I advertise I get a lot of people who want to live there and I usually get the cream of the crop to chose from. In fact, this is really my first bad experience. I put an ad on and got about 20 response the first 5 days. I showed it Sunday and it’s rented despite the mess.

I called the tenant Monday morning and left a very unpleasant voice mail for her. When I got home from work that day there was an apologetic letter waiting for me. I’ve seen her cleaning the place up the past few days. The apartment had better be spotless and odor free when she leaves or I will be charging her a lot to clean the place. The new tenant seems nice. Another single female college student who drives a nice car and appears to be from a nice home. I could see that look in her eye when I showed her the place. She was able to look past the garbage and see the potential. It may be her first place by herself and I could tell she was already decorating it in her head. I think she’ll be a good tenant.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Great State of Jefferson: The 51st State

Ok, close your eyes and think of California. You probably picture sun drenched skies, crowded freeways, overly trendy people, over priced houses, and the occasional mudslide and wildfire. Oh, and lets not forget the earthquakes. While this may seem like a somewhat accurate picture of the state, this picture really only reflects a small part of the state. This really only describes, albeit in a slightly exaggerated manner, areas south of Sacramento and within 20 miles of the ocean.

The vast majority of the state doesn’t look anything like this, especially up north where I live. I’m not saying one area is better than the other, that’s just the way it is. There are lots of benefits to living in a large cosmopolitan metro area. The reality is, most of the people in the state do live below Sacramento and close to the ocean, so while that picture does not reflect the whole state well, it does reflect the area where most of the people live.

Every so often the local University spits out a report that drives home the point of just how different we are up here behind The Redwood Curtain. Here some statistics. Most of the information comes from the census.

Over the age of 65
The State: 10.7%
Humboldt County: 12.5%

Non Whites
The State: 22.8%
Humboldt County: 12.3%

The State: 6.8%
Humboldt County: 1%

American Indians
The State: 1.2%
Humboldt County: 5.3%

The State: 34.7%
Humboldt County: 7.4%

People Per Square Mile
The State: 217.2
Humboldt County: 35.4

Living Below Poverty Level
The State: 13.8%
Humboldt County: 15.6%

Population Growth 1990-2000
The State: 13.6%
Humboldt County: 6.2%

Mean travel time to work (minutes)
The State: 27.7
Humboldt County: 17.8

Median Household Income
The State: $48,440
Humboldt County: $32,123

So we’re older, less diverse, make less money, and fewer people want to come up here. The last one’s fine with me. On the plus side, it’s less crowded and we spend less time driving to work. We also have more American Indeans, and if nothing else, that means more casinos. These differences between Us & Them have been apparent for quite some time. In as early as 1852 parts of No. Ca. and So. Oregon tried to succeed and create a new state. There has been talk of it ever since. The map changes a bit every time it comes up. Below is the current map of The Great State of Jefferson.

Currently Del Norte is Ca. & Curry is Or.

In 1941 there was a very real attempt to create what would have been at that time the 49th State. A Governor and a Legislature were elected and highway signs were changed at the “state boundaries”. The big complaint in 1941 was that the counties in No. Ca. and So. Or. were being ignored by Sacramento and Salem. Resource extraction was the livelihood for thousands and roads and bridges either weren’t being built, or weren’t maintained so the jobs couldn’t grow and continue. The state seal had a Double XX on it to represent the feeling of being double crossed by politicians so many times.

It’s interesting to note that the rail link between Eureka and the Bay Area washed out in 1999 and there are still no plans to rebuild it. The feelings about Jefferson State are very real for some even today. In 1941 the whole thing sort of fizzled out when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I’m really not sure if we would be better or worse off if we did succeed and create a new state. I can say the Thomas Jefferson is maybe my favorite Patriot (I wouldn’t mind living in The Great State of Franklin either), so living in Jefferson state would be pretty cool. A boy can dream...

Become a Jefferson State Patriot - The Great State of Jefferson

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Somewhat Resolved

I’m trying not to type too much with my right arm because of my shoulder so I’ll be brief. Of course, if I had rested for the past week instead of working on the fridge my shoulder would be healed by now, but I seem to be incapable of not working on the house. It’s a serious problem which I’ve decided to ignore for the time being. I’m sure there is some deeply rooted psychological reason for it. Maybe I ran my tricycle in to a fluted column when I was a child and now I feel compelled to fix old house for eternity. I guess, depending on how you see it, this could be some form of hell or heaven. If I win the lottery some day I promise to spend the $250 an hour to fully explore the problem with a trained psychiatrist. Until then - screw it!

I never did get the problem spots to take stain. I decided to just apply stain to the top and let it dry. It works well enough that no one will notice, and in time I’ll make enough mistakes in other areas of the house that I will no longer notice. It’s kind of like banging on your toe with a hammer so you no longer notice the large bump on your head.

The other couple of spots that did not take stain I will paint over and blend with the stain. After that I’m going to finish with one top-coat of shellac. I don’t want it to be too glossy. I got the hinges on, and as is my trade mark, one of them is crooked. I’ve decided not to use the handles I have. There an unmatched pair and they are missing the strikers. I looked locally and found nothing so the plan now is to make low-ball bids on what ever come up on Ebay. Eventually I’m sure I’ll get something cheap.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Stained Reputation

I got the stain on the fridge today but it was not without a slight complication. As I applied the stain there were some very small spots here and there where there was some glue residue left behind. They were very small but well defined spots that would not take the stain. Immediately after I stained the fridge I went back to those spots and tried to sand off the glue and stain again. It’s not working so well.

You can see it in these pictures.

This spot is about an inch long.

This is another similar one after I sanded and tried to stain again.

Here’s what the fridge looks like now. You can see three spots on the left of the front that I tried to fix.

One thought is that I didn’t sand enough. The area that I sanded was slightly larger that the glue mark itself. After sanding the whole area it won’t take stain properly, not just the initial glue spot. Maybe I forced glue into the grain of the whole area as I sanded. Maybe if I just sanded more I could resolve this. Or maybe I would just screw it up more.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Oakified Fridge

This was another one of those what the hell was I thinking projects. It so easy to say these things – (In a happy-go-lucky voice) I’m going to cover the fridge in oak! – but the reality is it’s a lot of work. It’s not like I had anything more important to be doing. I mean, if I had any kind of social life it might be an issue. Also, I can’t really start painting the house again because of my shoulder, although it is improving. So really, I guess it's a good thing I did it. I take back everything I just said.

In the back of my head I keep thinking about what I’ll do if the fridge dies in 5 years. Will I do this again? Probably not, but one thing I can say is that I will go to great lengths to repair this fridge if it does break down. I now have a lot more than just money invested in this thing. Considering the disposable world we live in I guess that’s a good thing.

Here’s where it sits as of this minute. Tomorrow I will sand and stain and then I can move it in to the kitchen. The last thing to do will be to put the hinges on. There is a small problem. The oak strips are 3/8-inch thick and the hinges are designed for 5/8-inch thick oak. It’s not the end of the world. I’ll just need to plane down some of the oak strips to quarter inch thickness and then add little pieces under the hinge. It’s a bit of a hack but not the end of the world.

I started playing around with stains today. I had a partial can of Min Wax Early American and Red Mahogany. From right to left it goes Early American, Red Mahogany, and then a 50/50 mix of the two. I’m going to play around with a few more but so far the 50/50 mix is in first place.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Cold Day in Hell

Last night around 8:00 I checked the thermometer in the kitchen and it read 61 degrees. I was already wearing long johns, 2 T-shirts, and a sweater, but I was still cold so I broke down and turned on the heater. It must be July in Eureka. We’ll probably get this type of weather off and on through August and then our summer will begin.

So that explains the “cold day” part of the blog title, but why am I in hell, you ask? Well, it seems I’ve re-injured my shoulder yet again. Was it Albert Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same task over and over and expecting different results? I always figured I qualified as insane, I mean, I bought this house didn’t I? But if buying the house didn’t prove my insanity then this certainly does.

The first time I re-injured my shoulder was when I was baring down on the drill to drill the pilot hole in the marble. Yesterday re-injured it when I was baring down on the drill to drill the pilot holes in the stainless steel front of the refrigerator. What’s worse is, after the first hole I said to myself, “Boy, that smarts”, and then I proceeded to drill 3 more holes. I woke up this morning in agony.

So now that I have an ironclad case for my own insanity I can just go on doing insane things and everything will be alright. I have an excuse now. Oooo, I should print myself up a License of Insanity and get it all laminated and official looking. Then the next time someone asks me why I’m ruining a perfectly good stainless steel refrigerator and they end it with, “Greg, are you insane?!”, I can whip out my license and say, “Yes, as a matter of fact I am”.

I could then go on to explain to them how aliens for years have been using stainless steel kitchen appliances as conduits to beam signals directly in to my brain. They would then understand that even though I am insane, covering the fridge with wood was the only smart thing to do. It was either that or I would need to go back to wearing my pie tin hat while I’m in the kitchen. I may be insane, but I don’t want to look stupid.

And now that I’m officially insane I can continue to work on the refrigerator uninterrupted, despite my injured shoulder. And so I did. I put the last two wedges on the bottom door and applied the oak door skin. The door is in clamps and resting quietly. I cut the side pieces for the doors today, and tomorrow I will apply those. I guess then on Saturday I will start with the trim.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Birth of a Nation

I never did see that movie. It’s supposed to be one of the best movies ever made. Considering it was made in 1915 I guess it set a pretty high standard very early on. Someday maybe I'll see it. Yesterday, of course, we celebrated the birth of our nation and it would have been a lot easier for me if the birthday had fallen on a Monday. Come to think of it, maybe it doesn’t matter. My job is such that regardless how many days I work there is still the same amount of work to do, so taking an extra day off is sometimes more trouble than it’s worth. It’s sort of like going out and drinking too much. It’s fun while you’re doing it, but boy do you pay for it the next day.

Because of this I haven’t gotten as far on the fridge as I would have liked to. I got the sides and top covered, and the front of the freezer also. I probably could have gotten the front of the lower door done today as well, but I need to wait for the glue to set on the freezer door before I can remove the clamps. After that I have the sides of the doors to do as well.

After that I can start in on the trim. The trim is going to be mostly glued on as well so there could be more down-time waiting for clamps to free up. I think it could be Monday at the earliest before this thing gets moved in to the kitchen and plugged in. That’s OK. It gives me lots of time to question why I start the hair-brained schemes in the first place.

Screw on some wedges to account for the bow in the door.

Then glue oak to the wedges.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Pimp My Fridge

Well, after a steady diet all weekend long of ice, ibuprofen, internet, and TV my shoulder is finally coming around to being a useful part of my body again. I don’t think I’m ready to start scraping paint off the front of the house yet, but at least I’m able to do everyday things again without being in constant pain. That is always a plus in my book.

The goal at this point is to be back on a ladder Saturday. In the mean time, I’ve decided to work on pimping out my new fridge. This is going to be one bad-ass mutha when I’m done with it. Or at least I hope it will. I think it will be easier to do it now before it is in the kitchen and full of food. I spent today gather the basic ingredients for the refrigerator pimping.


Oak Door Skins

Contact Cement & Brushes

I already had the

Icebox Hardware

Oak Strips

I will use the contact cement to adhere the oak skin to the sides and top. The front presents a bit of a problem because it is not flat. It as a slight convex curve to it. I’m going to have to create some triangle shims that I can screw to the front to create a flat surface. I can then nail and glue the oak skin to the shims.

After that I can put on the oak strips as trim. My first thought is to use glue and small nails, but nails might not be such a good idea. I’m not sure if there are refrigerant coils in the sides. I’m sure there aren’t in the doors. I’ll have to think about the sides a bit more. Maybe just glue and clamps until the glue sets.

I think I can get the skin on tomorrow and start prepping the strips. I think a routered edge detail on the strips might be appropriate. A friend has a real oak icebox that is in pretty rough shape but I think I’ll go take a few pictures of it as reference.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

e. e. petch

i bought a new fridge today. it is small, and will fit the space well. i‘m not a real bells and whistles kind of guy. i think it’s 12 cu. ft. and made by haier. i have another one just like it in one of the apartments over the garage only it has a sanyo nameplate on it. i had to go around to 4 different stores to find it.

now, at this point most people reading this are going to fall in to one of three groups.

1) i’ve never heard of haier. it sounds like crap.

2) 12 cu. ft. is way too small. what are you thinking?

3) i’ve never heard of haier. it sounds like crap, and 12 cu. ft. is way too small. what are you thinking?

i’m already prepared to be ridiculed by friends and family who will no doubt see this as my latest questionable choice. i’ve gone numb to it and i don’t really care anymore. well, i guess maybe i care a little. regardless, the purchase has been made and i will pick it up monday.

before you pass judgment at least listen to my logic. i don't want a large refrigerator because i can't see paying to refrigerate a bunch of dead air or rotting food for no reason. after living for the last 18 months with a 2 cu ft fridge i've become an efficient shopper and cook. so why should i pay a lot of money for a large refrigerator with lots of goodies that i neither want nor need.

i will keep the little 2 cu ft fridge and mount it below the sink in the butler’s pantry, so i will have more cold storage. it is interesting to note that the little fridge i have, which is a kenmore, looks exactly like the new haier fridge i just bought, only smaller.

i then learned yesterday that haier has 50% of the u.s. market in the mini-fridge category. they make a lot of those glass front wine chillers that are oh so trendy these days. so most likely the kenmore is in fact a haier refrigerator with a kenmore name-plate. the sanyo is also an haier fridge. i'm willing to bet all 3 came out of the same factory in south carolina.

this is really not surprising to me. i work for a local manufacturer and easily 70% of what we produce is shipped out of the area with someone else’s name and logo on it. it is very common for companies to expand their product line with other manufacturer’s products. in this global economy nameplates can almost be useless at times.

i’m going to cover the new haier in oak and put old icebox hardware on it. someone at work was throwing out a bunch of scrap oak and I snagged it. they are strips of oak 2 inches wide and 3/8 inch thick. lengths range from about 2 feet to over 4 feet. those will be for the trim. i will use oak door skins (think 1/8 inch thick oak plywood - $16 a sheet) to cover the box and then use the 2 inch scraps to trim it out.

i bought some old icebox hardware on ebay a few months back. I got an almost complete set of hinges and latches for $9 i think. i am missing the catches for the latches but it’s all just decoration so it’s not the end of the world.

i’ll slap it all together, add some oil and shellac, and wa-la - antique icebox fridge.