June 12, 2006

New Tools

Filed under: The Garden, Tools — marcstober @ 4:58 pm

I bought a Black and Decker 18 inch electric lawnmower at Sears this past weekend. There was also a 19 inch Craftsman model, which looked so similar I suspect it’s a private label model from the same manufacturer. The main difference was that the Craftsman model had a grass catcher bag included.

I was a little harder to put together than it should I have been. It’s interesting how Black and Decker has had such success at consistently being, let’s say, “average”—they walk a fine line in selling tools that do, in fact, get the job done, but no one could ever accuse of being heavy-duty or professional-grade like so much that is sold to homeowners seems to be these days.

Net result is that I have no ambition of creating a golf course, but it’s better than it was. I’ll need to experiment with how to deal with the extension cord, but I figure that’s a transferable skill; whereas maintaining a gasoline for such a small yard will be more of a hassle (not to mention more polluting). Next yard project is going to be getting some of the hedges under control, like the one that scrapes the car every time we come and go.

While I was at Sears I also picked up a Craftsman self-leveling laser level with tripod. Of course self-leveling because otherwise what’s the point? I almost passed it over because its accuracy was labels at only +/- 1/4 inch in 30 feet – but really, if the whole house is not level or something, am I really going to consider that a do-it-yourself project? It’ll be great for handing things on the wall.

All the laser levels advertise that they can make cross-hairs for laying floor tile but I can’t figure out how you’d set that up. It’s not really leveling anything, you’d have to mount the level sideways (and not on the floors since you’ll be putting tile there). Curious.

June 5, 2006

Misc. House

Filed under: House Blog — marcstober @ 11:27 am

Ok, haven’t posted in a while due to weekends away, but here’s the latest on the house:

We planted grass. Just in the one corner of the yard that (from being watered by the sump pump) had turned into a blue-ribbon dandelion patch. And after about a week, it’s sprouting. Plan for next weekend: buy a lawnmower.

New flowers are also coming up in the back, which is a pleasant surprise. Still lots to trim and weed but I think it’s gradually going to come under control.

The sunroom was built over what had been the basement bulkhead, which had been sealed up from the basement side. When we moved in I pulled up the dusty carpet in the sun room and noticed that there was an intentionally loose piece of subfloor. I pulled that up and there is basically just a big hole, which I guess you could put a ladder in (or hoist up an old boiler, maybe). I’ve taken to calling it our Underground Railroad stop (although of course the house is not that old, but there are a lot of older houses nearby so it probably happened in the neighborhood).

I also realized that the sealed-up door in the basement has an octagon crystal doorknob – such extravagance for the basement! Must have been a spare at the time, but I’ll have to keep it in mind as a spare for upstairs.

I also attempted some electrical work. The outlets in our house are interesting, in that, in an old-fashioned style, they’re installed in the baseboards, horizontally. The electrical box is actually installed flush with the wall, requiring extra-long screws (not the ones that come with the outlet) to hold the outlet in the right place.

Cheryl had been having a frustrating time drying her hair because of issues with the outlet, so I upgraded it, but one of the existing extra-long screws was missing. So, it’s better than before but not finished. I also installed the dimmer switch in our room, but because of some sort of old-fashioned wiring splice in the box the, couldn’t make the dimmer flush with the wall. I think it’s time to hire an electrician—he’ll have the parts in his truck and just get it done. Moreover, I figured out that all the outlets and lighting upstairs (except the bathroom) are run on one circuit. So we’ve had some hot days outside and there’s no place to plug in the air conditioners.

Finding contractors is the hardest part of this whole enterprise, largely because it takes work hours when my time is at a premium, and because it involves larger decisions. I decided calling an electrician was worth it because we won’t make any other good decisions this summer if we’re grumpy about it being too hot. In general, though, I am trying to defer things to get started on the The Big Project, which I think will involve hiring an architect and coming up with a master plan for all the changes.

May 6, 2006

The Garden

Filed under: The Garden — marcstober @ 6:32 pm

What I like most about the house is having a back yard, something I grew up with. Hannah likes to call it “the garden” and I like that term as well. Sure, it sounds a little pretentious (or maybe just British!) but I think there’s a specific architectural meaning to “garden.” The idea is to have a space outdoors for eating, playing, or just hanging out on a nice day and that’s an important feature of a house; it’s something, for example, that Moshe Safie included in the homes of Habitat ’67 or that is talked about in A Pattern Language. Moreover we certainly don’t have a big, mowed space where you could throw a football which would really qualify as a yard!

What is new about having a garden is that there are things that grow. These purple and while wildflowers sprouted up over the past couple of days:


I think these are related to the spade-shaped ground cover that also seems to have sprouted up througout the yard; I don’t know what it’s called but I remember them (without the flowers) as being all around the house I lived in in elementary school. There is also some clover, and a lot of unmowed grass and weeds. I suppose if someone was actually mowing the grass the flowers wouldn’t have grown in.

In the category of new toys, I also got a new Weber Genesis Silver A gas grill. I bought it from Harvey’s Ace Hardware in Needham, where it came delivered, delivered, assembled, with a tank of gas, by a technician with the patter of an experienced tour guide who spent about 20 minutes explaining how to maintain it. Not the sort of experience I’d expect from the big stores. It also came with stainless steel, not the standard porcelain or cast iron, cooking grids and “flavorizer” bars. For all this it was about $100 more than you could get the same model elsewhere, but the tank of gas alone makes up a big part of the difference and having it delivered was just convenient. When we were at Yale Appliance a couple weeks ago I saw that they were also selling a Silver model with stainless steel cooking grates; I guess it’s something the independent dealers do to differentiate from the big stores.

May 2, 2006

Home Sweet Investment

Filed under: House Blog — marcstober @ 3:20 am

We closed on our condo yesterday. Now I will finally have time do all those other things I’ve wanted to get to, like start a blog. 🙂

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