Planting a Backyard Garden

When we moved into this old house three years ago, we were drawn to a backyard grassy area behind the garage.

It was a nice open section with great east-west sunlight perfect for a backyard garden.  The vision of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and potatoes remained alive and well, and it finally materialized just recently over a series of weekends.

After consulting other home gardeners and spending time thinking about measurements and design features, Phil came up with the plan for four, eight by four-foot garden boxes.  Each box includes nine 8-foot-long 2X6s for the four sides.  Each side is 18 inches high (3 2X6s high) supported by a 4X4 post in each corner with an extra 2X4 brace in the center of each long edge.  This is capped with a ledge on top made from 2X4s all around the top providing a nice place to sit for weeding and harvesting.

Step 1: Building Boxes

We rented a U-haul, went to the local Lowe’s and picked up 2X6s, 2X4s, 4X4s, screws, stain, paint brushes, construction horses, drop cloths, and rags.  Upon our return, the staining commenced followed by cutting and fitting the pieces together.

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Step 2: Filling the Boxes

We purchased bags of sand and ordered garden soil from a local rockery/nursery and proceeded to fill the boxes.

Step 3: Planting the Boxes

Before planting, a drip system needed to be put into place.

We made several trips to our local nursery where we selected a variety of cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and squash.  A kind neighbor stopped by and offered onion starters.  We added some organic potatoes.

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Step 4: Finishing the Garden Area

The last step of the project was to cover the surrounding area with decomposed granite to provide a weed-free, sturdy, walkable surface between the boxes. We trimmed it with some concrete bricks and voila, our garden became a reality!

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Step 5: Enjoying the results!

PS (postscript…hopefully a lesson learned).  Always use protective gear (e.g., heavy duty work gloves) when using power tools.  Thumb surgery pending.

Next project – compost bin (stay tuned).

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Keeping up with the Upkeep

When caring for an old home, sometimes that care is focused on some of those less “sexy” aspects…

Lately, when someone asks:

“How is the house? What have you been working on?”

we would love to answer:

“We are working on a kitchen renovation!” or “We are redoing the master bathroom by adding a walk in shower and an antique claw-foot tub! ”

Instead, the conversation kind of stalls when we have to realistically answer,

“We just hired a tree trimming service to cut some of the large tree branches that are hanging precariously close to the roof.” ($$)

 

 

“We had a minor leak on one of our side deck roofs, so we had both of those resurfaced.  While the roofers were here, we had them replace the flashing on those roofs to protect the ornate crown molding.  We thought they might as well fix the flashing over the small portico over the door as well as the top of the front bay window.  Then if they are already removing the wrought iron railings on the decks, well they should probably remove all the rust and repaint those”. ($$$)

 

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“Oh, and our pest control guy found a colony of termites in our room attached to the garage.  That led to having someone come in and remove all the wood paneling to see how bad they really were ($), which then made us look more closely at the walls in the garage (more critters there). Ultimately, this meant that we had to tent the building that houses the garage and the extra room .” ($$)

 

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However, when it is all said and done, we still love being the caretakers of this old house.  The care we give it today will help keep it in good shape for the future!

Spooky Supper Club Fun!

Whether you are new to a neighborhood, or whether you have been there for ages, creating a neighborhood supper club is an awesome way to get to know your neighbors! As neighborhood newbies, we reached out to five families who lived either next to us, across the street, or just down the street to see if we could get any interested parties. And, we did! Everyone we asked was onboard and excited to start meeting together for meals.

The commitment isn’t overwhelming. Although we try to find dates that work for everyone, it is understood that work travel, demands on young parents, or vacations might prevent someone from attending, cause one to arrive late, or leave early. No worries – whoever can make it is welcome, and if someone can’t make it, there is always next time. It’s important to schedule the dinners, but don’t go crazy. Otherwise, supper club becomes another event/task added to that never-ending list of obligations. We started out trying to meet every 6 weeks to 2 months. There have been periods when we have gone several months without meeting – I think we missed the entire summer of 2018 (oops!). We didn’t beat ourselves up about it though; we just made sure to plan another dinner, and had a great time!

Expand your social realm. Sometimes we find it easiest to spend time with people who in the same stage of life. Young families hang out at kid-friendly parks. Those with older kids enjoy leisurely dinners with friends at quiet restaurants. Be open to mixing it up a bit. Our supper club includes families with babies and families with teenagers and even kids in their twenties. Everyone is welcome and our kids, who are older, choose to attend and are part of the fun!

And we do have fun! From themed dinners to crazy games and sharing life stories, we have enjoyed making supper club memories. We have had a fall feast, an Italian dinner, a Tapas night, and a winter soup buffet to name just a few. We take turns hosting, and the host determines the theme. Everyone pitches in by bringing food. Our most recent event was a Spooky Halloween themed appetizer night where I think we were all on point. See pictures for some of our fantastic creations – nailed it!

The main thing to keep in mind is just start – ask some friends, set up a date and go from there. Make it fun and enjoy getting to know each other.

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The Little Things…

I often wonder about the characters who lived in this grand house decades ago. What were their lives like? Now and then, we get a tiny peek – whether it is a date etched in the cement, a name scribbled on the back of a baseboard, or a small discovered treasure.

Baseboard
Baseboard with original owner name
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Back patio concrete – 1925?

When we were removing what we think was a built-in wooden laundry box/hamper from Chloe’s closet, we found some tiny cards that had been tucked behind the wood.  At some point, they must have fallen through the space between the box and the wall.  There are four cards that appeared to be part of some kind of game. Chloe did a bit of research, and she found out that they were from a board game called Uncle Wiggily.

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More research uncovered that this was a game that was created in 1916.  Apparently it was based on a book series and Uncle Wiggily was one of the characters. According to the website www.gameaisle.com, Howard Garis, an American writer, created a series that ran daily in the Newark News. The series had a cast of characters including an elderly rabbit (Uncle Wiggily Longears) and friends: Baby Bunny, Skiller Scaller, Alligator, and Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy.  January 10, 1910 marked the first day of the series’ publication and it eventually became nationally syndicated with over 15,000 stories during its run. The popular series spawned a board game, which was first introduced in 1916 by Milton Bradley.  The cards we found look similar to following online images of the original game (circa 1916-1920).

Sometimes something as small as a couple of game pieces can provide a whimsical glimpse into the past.

 

Merry and Bright: The Creation of Mistletoe Corner

During our November Supper Club meeting, conversation turned to the topic of decorating our intersection for Christmas.  Some members of the group (the guys) got really excited about lights and a scissor lift – oh think of what we could do…

Well, the contingent got to work.  It entailed online researching and shopping, product and price comparing.  And, lots of texting back and forth. Finally the plan was set, the products were purchased, and the scissor lift secured. Garland, heavy gauge wire, strings of lights, and 12 large hanging stars were on their way to Pine and Linden.

The goodies arrived, and on a balmy afternoon at the end of November, these Santa’s elves got to work. There was a lot of measuring, drilling, stringing, wrapping, zip-tying, road blocking, traffic stopping, and finally, installing and hanging. Of course all interlaced with laughter and good neighborhood fun!

Wrapping the garland and lights around the wire and zip-tying for good measure.

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We got some additional neighborly advice/direction.

Jake, Slaten, and Dave were the primary scissor lift operators/riders.  The garland needed to be attached to the poles and/or trees.  The final touch: the five mistletoe bunches: one in the middle and one in each of the four corners.

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Lots of teamwork!

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Phase 2 – hanging the 12 large stars took place a couple of nights later.

The result?  Requests from neighbors to complete the same thing on their intersection and lots of cars slowing down as they roll through the intersection (even in the middle of the day).  Hey, what’s not to love about some bright stars and festive lights in the month of December?

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The Fresno High Holiday Home Tour 2017

This fall, we were approached by the organizers of the Fresno High Holiday Home tour, which raises money for projects in the Fresno High neighborhood and for Fresno High student scholarships.  Happy to share the house and its history with others, we said yes and embarked on readying the house for its visitors.

This meant getting into deep cleaning and Christmas decorating mode immediately after Thanksgiving – tree(s), additional ornaments, stockings, candles, more outside lights, table settings, etc. Everyone pitched in as no room was off limits to tour attendees. Throughout the preparation, we worked with a home chairperson and provided them with house descriptions and historical information. We also coordinated traffic flow and safety plans.

 

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The tour annually draws several hundred people, so there is a lot that goes into organizing the event. Fresno High School students volunteered as docents and received an evening of training. The house even had its own professional photoshoot. The pictures can also be seen below:

 

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On the night of the tour, we vacated the house, and let the volunteers take over. Members of the Fresno High band played Christmas music on the porch. The student volunteers were assigned rooms and were placed accordingly. Each student provided tour goers information (historical and present) about their area of the house.  Adults were also on hand to help with crowd control and security.

 

It was a bit strange not being present on the night of the event, but for this one, the house was the host and had the party without us!

 

A Refrigerating Machine

The electric refrigeration unit (the refrigerator) was introduced to the domestic American market in the 1920s; therefore, it is likely that the first residents of the Pine house had a traditional icebox, and that was probably why it was situated on the back porch.  As mentioned earlier, this allowed the ice man to deliver and refill the ice box with ice without disturbing the family.  In addition, sawdust was often used to insulate the ice, so it could be a bit messy. We are not sure which resident purchased a newfangled electric refrigerator, but Virginia, who lived in the house in the 1930s as a teenager, remembered the electric refrigerator being in the back porch where the ice box once stood.  

These 1920 ads were probably from the mid to late twenties.  The one mentioning Friday, March 22 was probably from 1929 based on when that date fell on a Friday. In the 1920s a refrigerator selling for around $215 would have been the equivalent of approximately $3000 today. The one in the ad is a single door unit. The one that had been in the Pine house was a double door unit, which probably would have been even more expensive. 

general-electric-1929-1920s-the-advertising-archivesGE Refrigerator 21920s ad for GE refrigerator

When we moved in, a modern style refrigerator had taken its place, but the 1920/30s refrigerator hadn’t moved very far.  We discovered it in the basement.  This appliance was solid and extremely heavy. We still have no idea how they moved it down the staircase.  In fact, when we purchased the home, it was written in the purchase agreement that the refrigerator was part of the sale.  The seller would not move it.

IceBox 4
Refrigerating Machine
Icebox 2
GE – it was electric, so no need to add ice.
Icebox 1
The all steel electric refrigerator

 

We spent a couple of months wondering what we would do with this monstrosity living in the basement.  There was no practical use for it, and it just seemed to take up a lot of space at the bottom of the basement stairs.  Apparently, if restored, these units can be sold for quite a bit; however, we had no knowledge of where to begin on that kind of project. Steve, our contractor, talked to one of the local heating and air conditioning company owners who agreed to move it out for us. In return, he could have the refrigerator – it was a win-win! Moving that appliance was quite an endeavor. It took five men part of an afternoon to complete.  I still do not know how they got it up the staircase without injury.

Our 2016 refrigerating machine can be found where the original icebox stood.  It’s location is now considered quirky as it is not part of the kitchen; however, you can appreciate its location when you know the background behind it!

2016 Refrigerator
Our very own refrigerating machine.