progress and purpose

We’ve been busy at the Green House these days, painting with my Freecycled paint, or paint I purchased at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells rescued building materials. I look forward to painting our living room walls some interesting shades of green/sage, but they’re still working on the ceiling. Here’s what the living room ceiling looks like ( <--) after repairing the damaged roof, removing a desperately leaking skylight, and adding beams and trusses where there were none. (That’s right — none.) But now there are many, just the right number, in fact, to keep this roof up and over our heads for another 50 years or so. Falling trees notwithstanding (heh heh).

The light bulb in the middle is actually going to be a ceiling fan, repurposed from the dining room where it had no business being, as there are windows and a nice door already. You can see a window and part of the door below in the dining area.

While I was waiting for the plumber to show up the other day, I primed the wooden panel and trim, aka wainscoting, in the dining area. I didn’t think I had time to do it. But the plumber was late, then actually did not show up at all. So I got the priming done, and am going to call a different plumber. I used an old sheet (Thrift Town, bought for a bed, but full of cigarette holes, yuk!) instead of plastic for a drop cloth, and have been taking good care of my paintbrush. In the past, I would use it, forget it, find it all dried out and ruined, throw it away, buy a new one, repeat, repeat…. Funny how taking care of one’s stuff actually works for the good of one’s wallet and one’s planet. Simply amazing, in fact.

When the guys are inside, hammering, sawing and making noise and mess, I tend to stay outside and work on the garden-that-will-be. The garden area is a rocky hillside, to wit:

Challenge: to create a terraced garden out of a desert-like patch of sloping, infertile ground. I started with a compost corner (at right) to make some good dirt. Food scraps, green weeds and grass, dead leaves, and the addition of some wormy compost from my big garden in Alameda will help. I have harvested rocks from under the deck and around the house to make the rock-lined flower beds in front. I planted sunflowers in front of the deck, not sure if they’ll come up this year or not. I will be planting lavender in the next week or so, because they are very hardy, don’t need a lot of water or TLC, and they’ll attract bees and hummingbirds and add a nice scent to our cottage garden-to-be.
That cement slab is just a boring cement slab, not the top of the cesspool, but very big and heavy, so we won’t demolish it (yet). We started to make a mosaic out of random pieces of marble that are lying around the neighborhood (someone’s leftovers from a remodel, or an art project, perhaps?). When we get the top covered in marble, we’ll affix it with some grout and call it art. I have a potted dwarf lemon tree in a tub that will be lovely in that spot, as soon as I can get it into the car (it needs 2 people to life it, ugh.)

Here’s the kitchen door from the deck. I plan to paint it bright red or perhaps green — something cheery and colorful that will really say “cottage!”

The deck is quickly becoming our favorite place in the world — lovely in the morning and gorgeous in the late afternoon. The Stellar’s jays come for peanuts, the tiki torches burn with citronella at night, and it’s a perfect place for morning coffee or evening glass of wine. The only time it’s unbearable in summer is about 2-5 pm, when the sun beats down without mercy. You just sit there and melt into sweaty goo. That’s when its time to go inside for a siesta or run some errands. Or go jump in the river.

Meanwhile, back on the Isle of Style, my garden is going crazy with green beans that are purple and tomatoes that won’t turn red yet. There are tons of them, so I feel like there’s a ticking tomato bomb about to go off back there. Tick. Tick. Boom. Then it will be salsa, bolognese sauce and Caprese salad time. Looking forward to it. Big time.

I have laundry on the line right now and it smells so sweet. Cats are loving the heat, and prove this by staying indoors. Chickens prove it by refusing to lay ANY eggs for several weeks, yet continuing to eat their stupid heads off. They also continue to poo everywhere. Is there justice here? I think not. However, we are eating baby beets and turnips for dinner tonight, and when the sun goes down I will bake some banana muffins with the black bananas that died on the counter while I was painting wainscoting 60 miles away. The fridge turned out a pack of frozen spinach and a packet of tortellini, so I think we’re set for dinner this evening.

I wonder if a glass of wine on the Island patio is as nice as a glass of wine on a country cottage deck? Luckily, we don’t have to choose. Amen, amen.

no go

Following up to the other day’s post about the suckhole that we hoped would be ours — poo. We didn’t get the house after all. As these things happen, just as we were getting our offer ready, someone else put in a bid (this was after we’d been assured that no one else on the planet, nay, the very universe was interested…). Their bid was lower than ours was going to be — but it was accepted. So clearly, the Big Kahuna has something else in mind for us. I can’t say I’m amused by the whole roller coaster of the real estate market, with its last-minute nasty surprises. But what the hay? You win some crack houses, you lose some. But I’m not bitter. Much.
So I took all my library books on restoration and recycled buildings and energy-efficient chicken coops, et cetera et ad infinitum, back to the drop-chute and took out more books on WWII and the Holocaust, a more cheerful prospect at the moment. Seriously. I was doing research on my new novel before we fell into the House Frenzy a few weeks ago. And writing a novel is always more fun than not writing one.

Another post soon: I’m back on the blog wagon as a local spotlight on Alameda Patch (a little pinkie finger of the AOL-Huffington Post media empire). My posts will be more frequent and certainly more sterling than of late. I think I’ve recorded only triumphs and tragedies, without basic stuff that shows how the great machine works. (Wow — labored metaphors are just my thing today. No. I’m not bitter.)

I spent yesterday and today helping a friend with his beehives. The bees were mad as hell yesterday and really aggressive — so much that I dashed for the house two or three times. I got too freaked out being swarmed over.  See photo above — that’s me at the back and neighbor at the front, loading an empty hive into his garage. Today the whole hive took off en masse — which explains why they were so pissed off yesterday. They stopped in a local tree, but that wasn’t far enough away, so they took to the wind. Inside, I helped my pal spin honey out of the comb and we bottled up almost 20 pints — at about a pound and a half per jar. It was slow, sticky work, but I came home with a pint jar of fresh early spring honey and a beeswax candle made from an earlier batch. And it was very good.

See? I’m not bitter. I’m sweet as honey.

little life lesson


I’m finding it a little harder than I thought to completely stop using the dryer. It’s been sunny, there is no snow, and yet the dryer is RIGHT THERE next to the washer. So instead of just reaching over, I have to lug a wet, heavy basket outside, spend the time hanging this stuff out, shaking it, etc. Then I have to wait several hours and then bring it back in. What a pain in the *ss.

The difference is in attitude. If I look at it as a chore, as a pain in the tuchus, then it will be. If I look at hanging the clothes dry as a mitzvah (gift) I can give to the earth and to our budget, it’s a lot easier to do. I try to feel gratitude for being outside in fresh air, for the good smell of line-dried clothes, and for the opportunity to hang clothes when many people can’t (snow, or HOA rules, or whatever).

And, even bigger picture, I am grateful for having this many clothes to wash, a clean place to wash and hang them, for not having to wash them in a place where other people bathe, poop and drink, and competing with fish and crocodiles for the water. Many things about the process make me grateful.

And last, as local writer Adair Lara used to say, hanging out my clothes, and my family’s clothes, gives me a chance to think about each of them in turn. About The Boy’s kung fu accomplishments as I hang up his practice clothes. About Mr. Husband’s job as I hang up his shirts and socks. About our German student as I hang her things. About the family dinner, as I hang up napkins and placemats. About the party I went to when I wore this dress. Good times and hard times. It’s all good in its way.

Attitude of gratitude.