June 29, 2007

Deer get garden

Lots has been going on in the last two weeks. I had a chance to get down to New York city (likely the only time I'll get there this summer), Ilana and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a weekend camping trip, and I got a new full-time job working with the Maine Arts Commission. In addition to all of this our garden got molested by deer while we were out camping.

There were deer tracks in the dirt and the heads of our tomato plants were all bitten off. Ilana was pretty pissed off, but I was just glad they didn’t eat anything but the tomato tops. We discovered this just after returning from camping, and swiftly went out to buy some security equipment to protect our future salads.

There were a number of choices, but we opted for the 5’ plastic deer fencing and 6’ steel ‘T’ posts to hold it up. We thought about going electric but that seemed a little extreme. We also thought about an 8’ fence since deer can jump pretty high. We’ll switch to taller fencing if the deer attack again, but as for now the fortifications are holding (6 days).

In addition to the fencing I added some government-issued plastic records for the sight impaired around the perimeter. They dangle on thin wire and wave around like flags. I hope the deer fear the movement and are repulsed by antiquated audio technology. I also wired up some chunks of Irish spring soap. I’ve heard deer dislike the smell of soap and the Irish, so I hope it encourages them to go eat the neighbor's flowers and leave our veggies alone.

June 21, 2007

Front Yard

Ilana added potatoes, beans and peppers to the garden, and did some work on the front yard. We have not yet built a fence around our herbs and veggies, but so far the critters have behaved themselves. I went to New York City for the weekend to visit friends and help My pal Greg get ready for an art show he will be doing in Mid-July. It was nice to get away, probably the only vacation I’ll get this summer… lots of work piling up. Ilana also bought some bushes but we have not yet planted them.

June 13, 2007


The gardens
The gardens are up and running. The little plants are growing and may one day provide nutrition and tastiness for us. Or they may provide nutrition and tastiness for rabbits, gophers, deer, raccoons, roving teen vandals, or any number of other things that might disrupt a full growing season.

The garden is designed in the classic white-guy-rectangle-that’s-not-quite-square. I guess it would be a rhombus. It’s the plot that got tilled out the other week, and then we removed the sod and planted tomatoes, squash, melons… other leafy things. To be honest after the tilling was done I went to the garage to sort stuff and left the planting to Ilana.

The herb garden has the volcanic-crater design. Inspired by the stump removal and the laziness to not landscape around it for another week or so. Again Ilana planted while I was of scrapping wallpaper or something. At some point I have to figure out how to move the stump to the bon-fire pile across the yard, It’s uphill and the stump is an awkward roller. More on that later I suppose.

June 6, 2007


The overall direction of the house remodel is to allow us to move in by August or September. I see it as an ambitious summer project that is within my capabilities of getting done. Major renovations include building 2 bathrooms and a half-ass kitchen remodel. The entire house needs some TLC, but mostly in the form of patching and painting walls, so I’m not sweating that. I figure were going to get up to three surprises as we delve deeper into remodel world, unknown what those could be. I figure I can count on at least one unexpected problem and it’s safe to be psychologically ready for a couple more.

So far we managed to clear out the house so we can work on it. Moved stuff either to the garage or the dump. There’s a lot to do and we started with pulling out the stump in the backyard. Yep, I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow stump-pulling got placed high on the priority list of necessary remodeling. Ilana’s dad Scott came up from New Hampshire to see the house and assist with the remodel. Since he brought his big truck and chainsaw we figured ‘no time like the present’. The design behind the stump-pull was to create a place for Ilana’s herb garden… still is I guess, although we haven’t planted any herbs yet.

It was raining pretty hard on the 4th, which at the time was a big drag, but in hind sight probably made the earth softer and the stump pull out easier. It took three to four hours of lopping off roots, trying to pull out the stump, cutting more roots, trying again, and so on till we achieved our extractive goal. It was one of those experiences whose entire value rests on results. There was no ‘enjoying the journey’ with this. The day would be good if the stump was removed, and it would have been thoroughly depressing had we failed. Luckily it was a good day. Thanks for everything, Scott

June 5, 2007

Harison house introduction

The tour
Like I stated before, I didn’t really intend to write so much about this house, but since I am, I feel I should give an introduction to the house. Its in Gardiner Maine on 2.3 acres of land that used to be farmed. It's in town on a quiet road. We have blueberry bushes, a raspberry patch, a pear tree (we think) a couple flower beds, some sheds, and the main house which is about 1800sqft with an attached garage, 4 bedrooms and a 3/4 bath. The house was built in 1850 and needs a little work. More on that later.

June 2, 2007

Beetle Mania at Harison House

Like most new home-owners We have a list of stuff we want to get done, and a list of stuff we want to know. The stuff we want to know involves things like ‘how much it will be to install bottled gas for a gas range’ (Gardiner has no gas-lines), and ‘how safe is the wood stove/ 20 year old furnace/ morphine pills I found in a WWII med-kit in the basement?’ One thing we inquired about was the pests living in the house. What we now know (after a pest inspection) is that there are a few mice, some spiders, and POWDER POST BEETLES.

We actually knew about the beetles before we bought the house. The inspection noted they were there, and diagnosed it as a small problem. In the potential of infestation I suppose it was a small problem, but it was still a pain in the ass to solve… if it is solved. Here’s some info on the beetle from wikipedia

“Powder-post beetles are a group of wood boring beetles in the insect subfamily Lyctinae in the family auger beetle family Bostrichidae. The term "powder-post" comes from the fact that the larvae of these beetles feed on wood and, given enough time, can reduce it to a mass of fine powder.”

So there were some tiny holes in a few places in the beams, like someone drove in a small finish nail and then pulled it out. Under these beams was a fine brown powder (wood that has been passed through a beetle larvae) like brown talcum. The wood of the beam was brittle and could easily be penetrated with a screwdriver stab. The wood fiber no longer held strongly where the beetles had chewed and could be broken off with finger strength.

The solution to Powder post infestation is to cut back all the rotten wood and poison the exposed good wood. This will kill any larvae that tries to burrow out and the circle of life is broken. The problem is that it is difficult to be sure you cut out all the rotten wood, and poisoned everything enough. There is no immediate completion of the job. You need to wait a year or two and see if more fine brown powder pops up under the beams.

This wouldnt be a problem if beetle dust tasted like chocolate and cutting into the foundation beams of your house added years to your life. Unfortunately this is not the case and I dread having to go back in two years to carve out more nasty, blinding, carcinogenic, rotten wood next to electrical cable-runs and water pipes. Geez I hope I got em all. They are officially on my hate-list, right next to people who don’t accelerate on the on-ramps of highways.

Yard Pictures

Some pictures of our beautiful backyard. We've got 2.3 acres!

New Floor Plans

Kerstin and I hammered out a few rennovation ideas. Below is the current 1st floor plan. (I didn't include the floorplan for the dining room, office and living room because we don't plan to make any changes to their layout):

And here is our remodeling plan:

Here is the current 2nd floor floor plan. (Again, the second half of this level is not included because it's just attic and storage space and we aren't going to make any changes at this time):

We want to convert the 3rd bedroom to a bathroom (since there are no bathrooms on the second floor currently):

New Pictures of the Interior

Here are a few pictures of the cleaned interior. Kerstin says his new enemy is the powder post beetle. I don't doubt that.

Workin' in the back yard

We started in on the yard last weekend. Ben and Ellen came up to help. Karen and Larry, her friend from Cambridge, also pitched in. Ben wields a mighty axe, as you can see above. I think he's meant to be a lumberjack rather than a financial analyst, but what do I know? Ellen and I spent that day removing all the flowers and weeds from the bed around that stump. I'm planning to put our herb garden here. Most of the flowerbeds are overgrown because they've been neglected for years. I guess that's what I'll be working on all summer. We also rented a rototiller and tilled a plot for our vegetable garden.

The yard looked pretty good at the end of the day. Ben worked really hard on that stump, but couldn't get it out of the ground. Though not for lack of trying. His superhuman strength could use a little conditioning. Next time, lil' bro....