Saturday, August 30, 2014

A New Porch and More

This summer was meant to be the year we came out of home-improvement hibernation and started handling some of our deferred projects. And it has been, but not with our a fair amount of stress. Over the July 4 weekend we decided to tackle our rotting front porch.
This porch actually should have been repaired before we bought the house. The inspector caught the rot and it was part of the bank-mandated pre-sale repairs. Unfortunately the seller (another bank since the house was a foreclosure) simply didn't make the repair. In our pre-closing giddiness we didn't challenge it. Now we see the error of our ways. Can we chalk it up to being eager first time home buyers?
So, over the past 4+ years the porch continued to rot. The porch (and the gutters) were near the top of the improvement list for this 105-year-old wonder, but it is a long list.
As stressful as the summer has been, it sure feels good to know we're past the stage where our house looks like this.
 Demolishing the porch deck started out kind of fun. We pulled up the plywood that was the first layer.
Under the plywood we found evidence of a previous cheap-o repair job. That time the rot was cut away and covered with plywood.
 But they weren't thorough enough ...
Shortly after this we discovered the rot on the support beams. This extended nearly the entire length of the porch as well as the front of the house.
 I didn't get photos of the porch, but here's the front of the house.
And a close-up. It makes me shudder to think this was holding up our house!
Since these beams carried a huge amount of weight and we didn't have a clue where to start we decided this one wasn't a DIY matter. We hired a local contractor to make the repairs.

In addition to replacing the beams, he added some extra insulation in some areas. The rotting beams were actually creating a gap and allowing air to leak into the house, so I think simply replacing the beams will make the house warmer, but the insulation will make it even better.

Our contractor also decided to frame out the deck for us as a motivator for Kyle to finish the job -- from on dad to another. (His words.) I don't think he understood how desperately motivated we were to finish this project, but we'll take it! He provided and installed all but two of the joists to support the porch.
The new support beams are treated wood and they're oriented the correct way. That old porch structure was a sight to be seen! The new porch deck is absolutely awesome and so wonderfully solid.
According to the super helpful paint expert at the Home Depot, we need to let the thing sit for a month before we paint it.

We're also pondering what to do around the edges. The old porch rails are in pretty sorry shape, but they could theoretically be put back. Our neighbor suggested planter boxes instead of railing around the edges, which is kind of appealing.

I really want to widen the front steps and add steps on the far end to connect the side gate with the front porch. We also need to figure out a good way to prevent animals from burrowing under the porch. We added some poultry netting, but we're pretty sure it will only deter the slacker skunks and racoons.

So that's the new porch. Kyle and I sat out there the night he finished laying the decking and drank our beers (and got eaten up by mosquitoes), but otherwise we haven't really been able to enjoy it due to the massive pile of paint scrapings in the front yard.
If we hadn't blown the 2014 home improvement budget (and then some) on the rot project, we would have so outsourced the paint removal. Scraping paint off a house is a horrible job.

At first we spent about an hour on it each night after the girls went to bed. Then last weekend we accidentally discovered it is much faster in the heat of day. The paint is much more pliable when it's 95 degrees outside. Oh, goodie!
We've made decent progress, but we'll have to use chemicals (and rent an extra tall ladder) to finish the job. More on that when there's more to say. We're pretty sure the shoddy paint job likely contributed to some of the rot, so it's important to get this done soon. The rains are coming!

Here's to home improvement. Even the not fun kind.

(Truth be told I'd like to fast forward to the part where we're drinking beers on our fully finished porch by in front of our fully repainted house.)

p.s. This will be our last public post before we switch to a private blog. Give us a call or send us an email if you need help figuring out how to follow.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Going Private

Red House Tales is about to go private.

Starting sometime in the next week or so, we are going to change our blog to a private blog viewable only to "followers."

We've been thinking about is for a while, but we didn't want to make it too difficult for our families to keep with our news. But, we find ourselves continually drawing and re-drawing lines in the sand as we ponder personal privacy in this age of life lived online. After many months (years) of internal debate we've decided to change this blog to be readable only to our friends and family.

To become a "follower," please follow the steps below.
  1. Click on the "join this site" button at the right of the page. 
  2. Then select "follow privately." 
  3. If you book mark our blog on your personal computer or device you might need to log in before viewing the blog.
  4. If you have our blog linked on your site or in an otherwise public fashion, please delete that link.
  5. Let us know if you have trouble becoming a "follower." (Kinds of sounds like we're starting a cult, doesn't it?)
But, wait, that's not all! We've started a new blog, which will be focused on our mission to center our lives around healthy locally and home-grown food and to lessen our impact on the planet. Grown in Suburbia will chronicle our efforts to achieve these goals while Red House Tales will focus on our family life.

Also, we're hoping to start post more often on both blogs. Now that I've said that, I guess we'll have to be accountable for that goal too.

Here are some adorable  photos to enjoy until our next real post.
 Here's to change!

Friday, August 1, 2014

July in One Post It is August.

So, July ... we kicked off the month with a party in our backyard after the Hillsboro Fourth of July parade. Although I only enjoy the first 20 minutes of the parade, we had a lovely time and enjoyed a sunny afternoon in the backyard with friends.
As happens every year, my birthday came on the heels of  the Fourth. We had a really nice day, which included a voyage down to Champoeg State Park where we intended to go for a walk, but ended up sitting in the shade. We wrapped up the day with chocolate covered berries, fresh from the farmer's market.
The next day I had the urge to start demo on our front porch deck, which was on the list of major home improvement projects for 2014. Oh, boy, this turned out to be a project! We knew the porch deck was a mess, but our demo revealed some pretty serious rot on some of the support beams for the house ... just typing that sentence makes my chest constrict.
Although the front of the house still looks pretty much like this, the issues with the house are mostly resolved. Our savings is now significantly smaller, but our house is a bit more stable. Sigh. Once our contractor finishes buttoning up the siding we've got about six more parts to this project, including rebuilding the porch deck, replacing the gutters and repainting the front of the house. So that'll be the rest of our summer, between toddler birthday parties which are our only social life these days.

We did take a nice break from the house-rot inspired austerity measures to spend a week with my mom, sister and the kiddos. We started the week with our annual county fair pilgrimage.
Then we headed to the beach for a few days, which turned out to be a nice break from the oppressive heat which has settled in the Willamette Valley this week.
So that was July.

Here's to all the joys of July in Oregon ... berries, sunshine, tumultuous summer storms, bike commuting, iced coffee, the beach, fresh hot corn on the cob, cold lager, homemade ice cream, garden-fresh vegetables, watching the girls play in the pool, State Parks, puffy white clouds ...

And here's to all the joy of August in Oregon ... more to come.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Adventures with Ellen

Our Ellen is a tiny little thing so it is a constant shock to witness her strength. Lately she's been climbing. A lot.
In phone camera shot we find Miss Ellen sitting in the bathroom sink destroying the soap. She climbed from Rosie's step stool to the toilet seat to the toilet tank to the sink.

Hold on to your hats people, it only gets better!

Ellen later demonstrated her crazy strength in another bathroom related incident, of which I have not photos. Rosie was perched on the toilet while Kyle sat near by. (Don't get me started on the tribulations of toilet training and toddlers.)

Rosie must have been feeling silly because she proceed to put her underwear on her head.

Ellen found this irresistible and reached up to grab the underwear.

In doing so she manged to pull poor Rosie completely off the toilet and they both toppled onto the bathroom floor.

Tears and hilarity ensued.

Is this one of those stories that will embarrass my kids later? If so, I apologize to their future selves. It's just too funny not to share.

Here's to ants and to Ellen -- both of whom can lift object many times their own weight.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest

This weekend went far too quickly!  In addition to a super fun sewing day at a friend's house, where I half-completed two projects, and a lovely birthday party for a great one-year-old, Kyle knocked out some landscaping and I finished up a big project.

After two months since I started to get serious about getting our guest room under control, look at it now!

I spent much of last weekend wrangling screeching, perpetually hungry toddlers while Kyle built what I can only call a "unit." Check it out!

Is that not some serious storage?
I have a second-phase plan to divide some of the shelves to make room for the smaller boxes. A big goal of this project is to ensure nothing has to be stacked on top of anything else. Stacking causes profanity and eventually results in a major mess.

I'm also hoping to figure out a way to make everything match a bit better without buying all new storage boxes. (Becauase wow, is there a lot going on there right now!)  But for now I'm just glad to have a place for all of my fabric and the crayons and Rosie's 6,000 coloring pads and everything else...

One of the pitfalls of owning a 104-year-old house is the utter lack of closets. When I started this project we had both the closets and the closet annex jammed full of stuff and the space under the bed was overflowing.

After some massive and seemingly constant purging over the past two months, the closet has just two totes in it along with our winter coats.

The annex could still use some major organizing, but it is manageable. In fact the whole room still needs some deep organization, but I am celebrating the crazy fact that this might be the first time since we bought our house when this room is clean and we don't have a house guest arriving tomorrow.

Not only that I could reasonably use this room for a craft project. Somewhere in the house a toddler is laughing maniacally at the thought of me finishing a sewing project. Nonetheless, I have a reasonably creative space should the time to sew ever manifest.

This room is still wearing too many hats, but at least we're not asking it to store quite so much stuff and it looks so much better than it did two months ago. Seriously, go look.

Here's to sweet sweet organization.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rosie Chatter

I have good intentions to write an All About Rosie in honor of our girl's recent third birthday, and I will. In the meantime, here's the latest chatter. As her ability to converse has gotten stronger, she has become increasingly fun to hang out with. One of my favorite things lately is for the two of us to run errands together. There's never a quiet moment and it is so fun to hear her observations on the world and answer her questions.

She's an incredible kid!
While my friend Sarah and I were visiting Kyle took Rosie to another room.
Rosie: What are those girls doing?
Kyle: What girls? You and Ellen?
Rosie: No, Mama and her friend.
Kyle: They aren't girls, they're women.
Rosie: Oh yeah! What are those womans doing?

I can't remember the exact context ...
Rosie: Mama -- you aren't a girl. You're a woman! You're my woman!

Out of the blue while were were out for a drive ...
Rosie: Does Ellen like pumpkin creme brulee?

At Target ...
Cashier: Well, hello little lady, what's your name.
Rosie -- somberly: I am not a baby.
Cashier: Oh, no! I said little lady - not baby!
Rosie -- still somber: I am not little.
Cashier: Of course not! I'm so sorry.
(At this point I think the cashier just gave up and moved on to offering stickers.)

While sitting at the picnic table outside for dinner.
Rosie: I just read an interesting article.
Kyle: Oh yeah, what was it about?
Rosie: Wheels. It was about wheels.
Kyle: Oh? What kind of wheels?
Rosie: Grill wheels!
(The grill was sitting near the picnic table.)

Here's to our little chatterbox.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June Garden Update

Well, it seems we missed a few months in our annual garden log since our first update in March. Though we haven't found the time to post, the garden has most definitely continue reaching for the sun. We're eating tons of awesome produce grown in the front yard by this handsome gardener.
Doesn't he look cute with his harvest?

He also bakes delicious bread regularly, puts an incredible vegetarian meal on the table every night, makes the best iced coffee you've ever had, brews a tasty bottle of beer and keeps the house in order. Oh yeah, and in his free time he's raising our two kiddos to be the smartest, most confident, capable and happiest kids they can be.

I digress.

Back to the garden. Things have changed dramatically since we showed little seedlings in March. The peas are taller than we are!
 The west section has strawberries, peas, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers in pots.
 Out in the boulevard we have onions, lettuce, potatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, artichokes and beets.

We also have a lot of weeds out there, but Kyle's been working hard to get them under control.
In the east section we have asparagus, blueberries, raspberries, shallots, cauliflower, radishes, herbs, winter squash and more pepper pots.
 We have a better side view this year, thanks to some extensive pruning last fall.
 The grapes are growing like crazy. We're looking forward to a big crop this year.
 We're getting lots of blueberries this year, despite a little pilfering by passers-by, squirrels and little Ellen, who recently figured out how to get under the bird net.
 This is our first year with a raspberry yield. I'm not a fan, but Kyle and the girls are enjoying them.
 We've been eating tons of cauliflower dishes lately. Kyle has harvested some truly impressive heads of cauliflower.
 The wild plums are coming on strong. We have a raccoon friend who has been pillaging the tree and dropping tons of green plums, which Ellen thinks are fabulous. Sigh.
 Hot peppers in pots. Lots of them. Last year Kyle made a bunch of salsa and his own sirracha sauce.
 Tomatoes are just blossoms now, but fruit surely won't be far behind.
In the far bed the beans are started to creep skyward. Right now we see a lot of string, but in a few weeks I expect that will be a solid wall of beans -- much like the peas look right now. In the foreground are the strawberry plants.
Many of our strawberry plants are in their first year, so we're not getting the 40-pound crop we got this year, but we have enough for the girls to enjoy a night snack of fresh strawberries. Kyle found a $20 flat of Oregon berries at a roadside stand yesterday, so we've already got a bunch of jam put up for the winter.
The apples look great. 
We also planted a cherry tree near the apple tree earlier this spring. We won't seen anything from that tree for a while, but we're sure looking forward to it! This is also the site of the next major garden expansion. So much space! So many possibilities. So much tasty food!

Here's to the first day of summer and all the summer garden-fresh dinners ahead.

Previous garden updates
March 2014