Yeah, yeah, I know . . . it's been awhile. I'm a busy girl, OK? I can't wait to retire when I'll only have to work one job.
When last we talked I had just gotten my floors refinished. What a difference that made. The house looks noticeably cleaner and brighter. Unfortunately, someone cracked a window and made holes in the closet wall. The glass replacement is so expensive because the glass company orders wavy glass from New Jersey for me. The holes I fixed myself and just charged the floor people for the paint.
It seems all winter I was lazy. Sometimes I think I have Seasonal Affect Disorder and get depressed when there's not enough light in the day. Anyway, I was very anxious for spring, which didn't arrive until the end of June, I think. It was cold and it was rainy! I did start ripping off the asbestos shingles, though. It was surprisingly easy and quite rewarding. I found out that I can throw three cubic feet of them in the garbage each week.
Underneath the shingles, the clapboards were in pretty good shape, although filthy and with alligatored paint, which was also chalky. I can't tell if it was always white or not. There were a couple spots where it looked like it was a pale marigold yellow, but that just might be something funky that happened to the white paint. I found some shutter ghosts. Of course, I've only worked on the back side of the house so far. I finally finished taking off the last shingle a couple of weeks ago. It was 32 feet off the ground. My brother-in-law loaned me his 28-foot ladder, but it wasn't tall enough. So I bought a used 32-footer for 75 dollars. I'm not sure that's tall enough to do the soffits, though (I'm on the short side).
Anyhoo, I finished painting half the house. A good portion of that is where the deck is, so it was easier in terms of height. I've had to get used to being 25, then 28, then 32 feet off the ground. Also, the right side of the yard is terraced with two stone walls, the lower of which slopes downward. It was a bear trying to paint that side. I had to put a brick or rock underneath to level it, and the ladder shifted maybe a total of three times. So far that's the closest to an accident I've had. I never really have been afraid of heights. I just keep looking straight ahead and concentrating on what I'm doing. When I climb the 32-footer I stop halfway up to rest, and maybe pray.
Other than the height, the worst part is moving the ladders around. I had to go up and down the deck, which is on the second level since it's a walk-out basement. I have to go around a shed which is underneath the deck and walk on the two stone walls.
Here's the routine: after removing the shingles, I have to remove the remaining nails. Roofing nails were used to fasten the Tyvek-aluminum-foil-type sheet that is underneath the shingles. I have to loosen the nails with a screwdriver or needle-nose pliers and then pull them out with the hammer claw. This is not so easy 32 feet up, when I have to use both hands and let go of the ladder. The nails used to fasten the shingles (I think there are six of them on each) are threaded. If they don't pull out easily with the pry bar, the heads usually get stripped. Halfway into the process my brother-in-law showed me how to remove them with vise grips and a shim underneath. Around the door and window frames there were aluminum strips attached with smaller nails than the roofing type, and these heads seem to get stripped frequently. The ends of the windowsills were cut off to make them perfectly square for easy installation of the aluminum strips, I suppose. Then I use the jet spray on my garden hose to wash the clapboards down. They are filthy and have insect cocoons stuck to them. I also think that exposing them helped get them clean, especially with all the sideways rain we had. The soffits are very deep but the roof ridge is parallel to the street so the clapboards are fully exposed on the main part of the back of the house. Then I give the clapboards a quick scrape (most of the paint stays on; the bottom edge of the clapboards is very loose, though). Then I patch the holes with wood putty. I've also had to use dowels to plug holes made with a router. I've used Gorilla glue for some of the split clapboards. After sanding this down, I remove the dust, and start priming with an oil-based primer. I had the paint guy tint it. I thought maybe I could get away with one latex top coat, but nooooo . . . The coverage wasn't even. The paint is Twilight Blue, Benjamin Moore low-luster paint. The oil primer is messy and hard to get on. The latex goes on much easier and dries very quickly.
What a difference a coat of paint makes! I'll let you see for yourself once I'm able to post pictures. I was way up high painting one day, when I thought I heard my neighbor praising the color. My other neighbor said "You gonna leave it that blue?" Oh yes, Jimmy, it's gonna remain blue, blue, blue! Victorians are supposed to be colorful, right? It may not be historically accurate, but my house is a vernacular style, and a workingman's cottage, so I felt it was acceptable to take liberties.
I don't know if I'll finish. I only really started working on paint preparation in September. I had promised myself I'd hire someone to build stairs from the deck if I finished, but I don't think that's going to happen. It's gotten cold, plus there's hardly any light left when I get home from work. That leaves only weekends, and we continue to get slammed by rain, especially on the weekends. Also, I hurt my foot, and I'd like it to heal. I can't quite figure out what happened, but possibly the seam in my left sneaker presses against my toe. The pain is weird, but intense. It sort of feels like a burn, not really a sprain. It's been hard to wear heels.
The other project that I'm proud of is my garden. I had a special birthday this year, and some of my generous family and friends bought me gift cards from a garden center (the beautiful Garden Barn). I was finally able to fill out the spaces in my too-large (13 by 33 feet) garden out back. The weeds were out of control, so I finally broke down and put wood-chip mulch down. That is a horrendous project which took several weekends. I'm frugal/cheap so I got the free stuff from the Town. I filled large leaf bags and trudged down the stairs on the side of my house (access by car is impossible) all the way out to the garden. I also laid a paving strip of bricks in the front, and beefed up the stone wall upon which is sits. It looks so pretty, so I spend a lot of time out there, even now. My red and pink Knockout roses are still blooming like crazy. I just planted a variety of parrot tulip bulbs and a purple chrysanthemum on top of that. I also planted double Ducat daffodils. It should look pretty next spring!
I injured myself rather severely around the fourth of July. I'm still not sure how. I was pruning my forsythia with my big loppers then helped a friend get a pencil holly, which we planted, and also dug up her hostas and divided them. I had horrible pain the next day just under my right breast and pain upon taking a breath. It's not good when it hurts to breathe, folks. It was stabbing pain which got worse as the day wore on. By 11:30 p.m. I could not sleep nor find any relief in any position, so I drove to the hospital (thankfully, it's about a half-mile away). They put me on a morphine drip and gave me some muscle relaxers. I specifically asked the nurse if the pills he gave me would kill the pain because I could not handle it. I got my prescription at the all-night pharmacy and fell asleep until 10:30 a.m. I woke up in horrible pain; my sister showed up and we decided to go back to the hospital. The daytime staff was far superior, diagnosed a chest wall injury, and I got some oxycontin, which certainly killed the pain. I was out of work all week and made another trip to a large city hospital on the advice of my brother, the former nurse. He was concerned it was my heart, and of course my electrocardiogram was abnormal, as it always is. A call to my cardiologist confirmed that it was indeed, normal. The upside of this experience: I've lost 19 pounds! Nothing like heavy drugs to kill thirst and hunger! No wonder drug addicts are usually skinny. I occasionally get a twinge-y thing happening there but nothing too alarming. Thank you, God, for safety and good health!