Archive for the ‘Exterior’ Category

Thinking about spring

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

We were iced in on Friday and snowed in today. Not nearly as much ice as last January, but six inches or so of snow on top of a sheet of ice. Enough that work and school were closed, but not so much that the internet was permanently closed. Naturally, my thoughts turned to spring. We have a cinder block wall between us and our neighbors to the north. When they built it, our neighbors intended to stucco and paint it yellow (like their house). Instead, they put their house on the market, leaving us a cinder block wall along our driveway.

Pecan tree and cinder block wall Neighbor's yellow stucco front

I don’t have a ‘good’ picture of the wall (or the neighbors’ house) since it is not photogenic and I am snowed in at the top of the Hill. And I haven’t replaced my broken camera card. The wall photo is from January a year ago, after the ice storm. It’s a monolithic wall, maybe a foot off our driveway at the nearest point. The neighbors’ house is from Fall 2007. It’s really a picture of our house, but theirs snuck in. The yellow would be brighter except that it’s picked up some dirt over time.


Last spring, Mother and I took a landscape design class from Renee Reed. She came out to look at my yard, and suggested that I could pick up an orange or similar color from the limestone foundation to paint the cinder block wall. (Since the house is built on a hill, a good bit of that side’s foundation is exposed.) It hadn’t occurred to me that we could paint the wall, but it is on our side of the property line and facing our house. At the time, orange seemed a bit extreme, but I’ve been getting used to the idea.

I should probably start with a base coat, and deal with dressing it up later. There’s a auto shop down on School Street that has a pinkish-reddish stucco that is close to the color I have in mind. I have a handful of paint chips that I’ll try matching sometime when I have a minute in daylight. I plan to plant fig trees to take advantage of the southern exposure, and am thinking about stenciling a view between or behind them.

I have been collecting pictures to help me remember what I want.

Terra Cotta GardenWeb Wall Painted Concrete Block Wall Mural

I can’t get previews from this site, but I like the garden view through a stone wall and the lion fountain. The sandstone wall might be a good match for our foundation. Or I could splurge and get the courtyard mural. Which I might never finish. Or hate. Not even sure if stencil paints will work outside. Maybe with a good sealer.

Here’s a stone wall stencil with foliage. With the right colors, it could look like our other foundation rock. (Another picture that I happened to have in inventory. This one was mostly to convey graphically all the electric meters we had.) I should probably stick with the sandstone wall stencil that you can’t see without clicking through. As you can almost see, our foundation is typically less random than this stencil.

Stone Wall Stencil Limestone foundation (also old electric mess)

I could stencil a French window with a view like this onto the wall, although Don seems to think this might be the snowstorm talking. Or I could make a lattice arch with a view since I am thinking about espaliering my figs. (Some other fence and gate options, including bamboo and twig.)

French Window with a View Lattice Arch

I could even put in some tropical plants while waiting for my real ones to grow. Or this lion fountain while waiting for a real fountain to grow.

Chinese Parlor Lemon Tree lion-fountain2

I guess I’ll wait until the snow melts, the ice thaws, and we get moved into the house before deciding.

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Outside lights!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Look what we got just in time for Christmas! Lights!
December 23 2009 Lights!

And rain! The snow and ice didn’t end up amounting to much here although it blew in and saturated the towels stuffed under under our north-facing French doors and turned them to towel-sicles.

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Exterior Progress: December 2007-December 2009

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Sometimes I lose sight of what a change we have made in our house. Although we hear repeatedly from passersby that the open porches made a huge difference, I forget what a monolithic presence the house was – even with all those windows.
Exterior before offer November 2007
Exterior before trim December 2007 new paint

3 October 2008 3 October 2008 new roof going up

October 2008 October 2008 new roof, Razorback in window (left by tenants)
May 16 2009 exterior sleeping porch 16 May 2009 new siding
May 18 2009 porch construction 18 May 2009 new sleeping porches
June 5 2009 porches 5 June 2009 new French doors, new paint (again)
June 30 2009 exterior 30 June 2009, family in town for Daddy’s memorial service
July 24 2009 exterior 24 July 2009 more trim work

Exterior December 2009 December 2009 exterior paint done, same old husband :)

P.S. Look at me! I edited the html to make thumbnails when WordPress insisted I couldn’t have thumbnails, and then I edited it further to make thumbnails a little bit bigger. Wow! Also, look! I found our cameras which we had lost for two weeks. (They were right where I put them and in a canvas bag, just as I though. They must have taken off their cloaks of invisibility.)

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Bottle Trees

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

While I get back in the habit of blogging, I am editing and publishing some of my backlog of posts that I have started but not finished. This one I started in early May, before my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It makes me feel a bit lighter and summery, in contrast to today’s December grey.

(Background: Bottle trees came from Africa, and are seen throughout the South. The bottles’ bright colors and reflective nature attract evil spirits, which are then trapped inside the bottles. I gather evil spirits are like Japanese beetles; they can’t remember where they came from.)

My collection of blue bottles is gradually growing, as is my collection of bottle tree links. Digging has recently moved, and Pam made a new tree for her new yard.  In her comments, Felder Rushing’s wonderful collection of bottle trees was posted, and from there, I found a flickr bottle tree group.  Now, I’m curious about Quigley’s Castle, Arkansas, which is near Eureka Springs and has fourteen bottle trees. I even have a couple of photos of my own from our travels.

Blue bottle tree, Eureka Springs, Arkansas Colorful Bottle Tree, Jackson, Mississippi

I have a dozen or so bigger Riesling and water bottles, and a half dozen Phillips milk of magnesia bottles in storage. Right now, I’m thinking about two bottle trees with LED lighting to flank my entry walk.  Or possibly a blue bottle ‘tiki-like’ torch in the side yard. With the redbud an ice storm casualty, the yard is full of possibilities.

ETA: While cleaning up my home email, I found that my mother sent me this excerpt from Gerald Klingaman in his plant of the week article back in January 2009. Bottle Trees Make Bold Statement: Culture is a funny thing that shapes the way we see and understand the world. Every ethnic group is unique but none exists in a vacuum, so icons from one tradition are continually crossing the cultural boundaries of one group to be reinterpreted by another. The more we become the true melting pot we claim to be, the more cross-cultural icons creep into everyday use. A lot of these cultural beliefs involve trees in one way or another.

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Tree-Lined Streets

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

I loved the tree-lined streets of our neighborhood. Even though we had to cut down five trees over the summer, I loved the settled feeling that you get from tree-lined streets. Except that our streets have considerably fewer trees now. Yes, we got hit by the ice storm the end of January. (Also got hit by lethargy, so I drafted this, but didn’t post, but since then, we almost lost our computer so I shall stop aiming for perfection and see if I can just post.) We spent Monday night-Friday morning at my folks’ place on the Hill because 45+ trees fell on their driveway. We had planned to take advantage of their their in-line generator and work on windows, but it refused to engage, so we were very glad for their wood-burning fireplace. Wednesday, Don and I hiked down and hitched a ride to town with neighbors. We then backpacked supplies back to the house. Thursday afternoon, a four-man crew spent six hours clearing the driveway, and our apartment got power back that evening. We didn’t go back to the apartment until daylight Friday — and, two months later, the driveway is still pretty alarming at night. The Hill got power back Sunday. We got cable, phone, and internet sometime the next week. (One of those package deals.)Before:april-2007-driveway.jpgDuring:backpacking-up-driveway.JPGUs:ice-palace.JPG don-in-ice-palace.JPGOur apartment escaped unscathed. Our house lost the electric mast, and four more trees. The redbud in the front yard, a massive pecan by the driveway (which fell into the dumpster), and a couple of little trees in the side yards. The debris was piled up chest high.FEMA estimated six months to remove it all, although the contracted removers have already made two passes through the city, and are starting their third (and final) pass. The chipped trees from Fayetteville (about 150,000 cubic yards) are sufficient to mulch 800 acres 5 inches deep, so disposal is going to be a problem. I wish we were further along with the house so I could mulch my gardens with free mulch.

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Fairy houses

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

While waiting for financing, we have been doing other things like rebuilding windows, planning our landscape, and making fairy houses. The Little One had some specific ideas about how a fairy house should look, which she sketched out for me.

fairy house, pastels fairy house, pastels (2) fairy house illustrated, pen and ink

She told me later that one of them was round. However,Don built a regular-shaped house, which she declared was even better than a round house. He painted them with leftover spray paint, and then the Little One and I scavenged shelf lichens, moss, and acorn caps on a nature walk on the Hill. She furnished the interior with sage and thistledown because she knows just what fairies like, and I got to use a hot glue gun for the first time. Fun.

fairy housefairy house through the window
fairy house front door

Sometime this winter, we’ll spray it with a coat of polyurethane, finish the other one, and put them out for the fairies to enjoy. I think she still believes in fairies, although the gig is up for Santa. Merry Christmas!

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Peace of Mind… The Sequel

Friday, July 11th, 2008

In addition to bad electric, we had some bad trees. We had three old oaks, probably as old as the house – maybe older.

tree3.JPG tree2.JPG tree1.JPG

I’m sure these were grand specimens at one time, but by the spring of 2008 they were just old – mostly trunks with a few large branches jutting out precariously over our neighbor’s belongings. I was afraid a spring storm would blow up and knock one of them into a neighbor’s house, or car, or cat, or child, or child holding a cat… you get the idea. So, we hired some tree guys to cut them down and haul them away. This is definitely NOT a good DYI project!

tree4.JPG tree9.JPG

They made quick work of it – a couple of days. I especially like this sequence.


I’m sure you can tell from the pictures that this work was done in the spring. We had a rough spring here in Arkansas. About two weeks after these trees were removed, a big storm took out several large trees in the neighborhood. Timing is everything!

As a sidebar, we found this little guy hugging a large stump.


One of the tree cutters thought it was a black widow. Lisa’s mom thought it wasn’t. Any ideas?

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Another Tenant?

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

The Little One found this guy hanging out about three feet off the ground, in a large bush (or small tree thing), in front of the dining room window.

snake1.JPG snake2.JPG

Not being a native southerner (this is Don again), I mildly freaked out (the Little One just thought it was cool). I held it together enough to get the photos, then headed home to ask the native southerner I’m married to exactly what I had taken a picture of… apparently not poisonous, and I am apparently a snake weenie (which I already knew, and I freely admit). I haven’t seen it again.

Incidentally, that bush/tree thing is coming down! (ETA by Lisa: It’s a bush honeysuckle, an enthusiastic invasive.)

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Ceci n’est pas une paroi rocheuse.

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

This is not a rock wall. (Apologies to Rene Magritte.) Or, rather, this entry is not about our rock wall.  One day I will show you our dry-laid-native-stone retaining wall that was 95% finished when the spring rains started. This is not the day, but here’s a quick sneak peek of a smallish piece of it.


Today is the day I show our driveway, ordinarily filled with one of these thirty-yard dumpsters (Don has filled five so far):

… instead filled with this:

Our neighbors’ materials for their own rock wall. (Mortar instead of dry-laid.) Their contractor keeps muttering about new gravel for our driveway. Whatever. I’m just glad we are on a dumpster hiatus while we catch up on pulling nails, sorting salvage, and making big plans. (Another meeting with the architects next week. Foundation work starting soon. Four big, dead trees down. At least the storms at 4:30 this morning didn’t get us.)

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Preparing the soil for planting

Friday, March 7th, 2008

“In preparing the soil for planting, you will need several tools. Dynamite would be a beautiful thing to use, but it would have a tendency to get the dirt into the front-hall and track up the stairs.” Robert Benchley (1889-1945).

Like houses, it’s not a good idea to run about willy nilly re-furbishing old gardens. It’s better to at least give the garden a chance to show you what it can do already, so I’ve been trying to resist using Benchley’s dynamite until sometime next year. That said, I already have a new garden, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with it. (I also have several large, dead trees, including one strangled by ivy, that need to come down before they fall down.  Maybe later this spring.)

We’re just about through with building our native rock retaining wall. (What’s that? I haven’t shown you my new rock wall? That’s because it’s so massively amazing that I haven’t figured out how to present it. Like the Grand Canyon, pictures fail.) As the new wall is several feet in from the retaining wall that runs along our property line, I have some new garden space emerging between the two walls. I’m thinking about focusing on native plants. One of the books I got from the library when my car exercised its magnetic attraction for accidents was Bringing Nature Home by Tallamy. I also checked out Armitage’s Native Plants for North American Gardens.

Tallamy’s thesis is that we need to use native plants to keep our native insects from dying off, right now. Too many insects refuse to eat alien plants, and when insects die, birds die … right on up the food chain or net or pyramid or whatever.  Armitage, on the other hand, identifies native plants with something to offer the gardener. Primarily a laundry list of good plants which happen to be natives, he identify their features, and gives a bit of plant etymology with each one. (And regular readers know how I love etymology.)

I’ve done some web surfing, and determined Arkansas is short on native plant sellers, but Missouri has a bunch. I’ve found one who will sell assortments, and found an assortment that I think will work for my new rock wall garden so as soon as the rock wall is done, I’ll order them.  (The rock wall has run into snow and rain issues, so it may take a while for our crew to finish it off.  It’s probably 98% right now.)

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