Saturday, March 31, 2007

Firing Up the Grill

Spring is here: today we cooked on the grill and ate dinner on the deck, and that's what really marks Spring's arrival for me. Just hamburgers and sweet potato grill-fries, but MMMMM-MH! it was tasty, all washed down with a nice microbrewery beer. Life is good.

We spent much of the day working on gardening projects. I awoke early and let the hens out as soon as the sun was up. The Girls are thrilled that the snow is going, and just yesterday realized that all the snow is gone from the raised beds, and most of the snow was gone from the vegetable garden. They are in dirt scratching
heaven. Their coop area is still pretty muddy, but the rest of the back yard is in better shape. (By then end of today all the snow in the vegetable garden area was gone.)

This morning, after breakfast, I worked on the plan for the new deck bed, mentioned earlier, and the plan for it's neighbor across the path, and Dan worked on the plan for the new grape arbor. We then took the dog for a walk, went to the recycling center, then farm store for chicken scratch and shavings for the Girls, and returned home to putter about outside for the remainder of the afternoon.

Sitting on the deck at about 4:15, I suggested to Dan that we cook out on the grill. In a flash, Dan was on his way to the local grocer for ground beef, and we had an early supper to take advantage of the late afternoon sun. Dinner was delicious, and sitting on the deck with a beer, sun in our faces, watching the Girls scratch about in the garden, is just about the most relaxing thing I can imagine. Life is good.

Happy Blogiversary!

Just a few days after my pal Tracy over at Outside celebrated her 1-year blogging anniversary, today is the first anniversary of Henbogle. Welcome to Henbogle explained how Henbogle got its name, and what kind of information I'd be sharing on Henbogle.

One of my unstated goals of last year was to develop the discipline necessary to write every day, which is harder than it might sound, over the summer months --I knew that I would never manage to write every day during the academic year. On the whole, I succeeded, with 204 posts in the past 365 days.

Many other blogs have inspired me, some listed as Cronies, others not yet listed. Many thanks to all those bloggers who keep blogging, and blog-reading, fun and enlightening. I've learned that although I'm pretty outspoken politically, I don't want Henbogle to be a place where I get up on my virtual soapbox and rant. Occasionally I may offer opinions, but on the whole, I want to focus on what I can change and what I do. There's more than enough ranting to go around these days.

So we'll get started forthwith on the next year of blogging, with my observations on what REALLY constitutes the first day of spring.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Snow departure

Here at Henbogle, we are watching the slow snow retreat with glee, even though that means we are deep into mud season. Mud abounds, but the grass in the yard is beginning to green up, and in the sunny bed behind the house, tulips and crocuses are emerging from the cold soil.

Brisk winds and clear dry days have significantly shrunk the backyard snowpack, leaving exposed several big garden projects. Two new garden beds await planting, this triangular 21x17 foot bed next to the new deck, and another roughly
roughly triangular bed just across the path from it by the old deck.

By the new deck, the tentative plan calls for a row of small deciduous shrubs, all fragrant, next to
the house and the deck, with a couple of columnar junipers marking the house corner (where the anise hyssop stalks are now). I'm considering a dwarf fothergilla v. Mt. Airy, clethra v. Ruby Spice (for in front of the a/c), and mock-orange v. Blizzard, and in the corner by the deck, a butterfly bush v. Honeycomb, all low-ish growers which should just come up to the bottom of the row of windows, providing good bird habitat yet not blocking the view, and providing sweet scents for
the loungers on the deck.

I've also got two low-growing junipers, bright yellow-green varieties, and 3 false cypresses in the same yellow-green foliage in inventory which could go in there somewhere, I'm still thinking on it. Eventually, we want a small water feature in here, something low maintenance that will provide a splashy drinking/bathing spot for the birds -- not a pond, but something with a bit of running or dripping water.

In front of the woody shrubs we'll fill in with perennials, the majority from dividing my existing stock. I'm thinking coneflowers, rudbeckia, monarda, coreopsis, phlox, liatris, scabiosa, veronica, the hyssop.... hmmm, better add some contrasting non-upright shapes!

Of course, we also need to replace the grapevine trellis with something that will be more permanent and provide some shade in front of that big SW facing picture window. The grapevine arbor crashed down this winter in a big windstorm, much to my dismay (not another project on the to-do list!).

Looking at this mess now, with all the cardboard
(to kill the grass) it is hard to imagine it will ever look good, but on the other hand, anything will be an improvement compared to this!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On a roll

With the sewing room closet door installed, our thoughts turned to the doors for the storage cubby at the top of the stairs by our bedroom. After lunch, we got to work, and of course things did not go completely smoothly, but we perservered.

Due to the location under the eaves and at the top of the stairs, we made the door sizes uneven, as the right door swings out of the way, but the left door would be in the way of the stairs and could have been a tripping hazard.

With a few muttered curses and more than one reminder that this is "just a shoe closet," the doors went on.
The small router and table purchased at a tag sale a couple of summers ago made the job a bit easier, allowing us to create an even recessed spot on the door edge for the hinge to set. We had to use a chisel on the door frame, a much more challenging task due to the location and incredibly dull chisel. I wonder if that magic marker trick would work for sharpening the chisel? One door hangs a bit low because, yes, you guessed it, the opening is not square.

We'll work on that a bit later, when I polyurethane them perhaps. I also need to make cabinet knobs for these doors. In the meantime, I'm just pleased that another clutter zone is hidden behind closed doors. Following the successful installation, we retired to the kitchen for some homemade pizza and a well-deserved beer. After another jam-packed weekend, it's time to go back to work and rest up for next weekend ;-)

An eighth of an inch

Whoo-hoo, finally, the sewing/craft closet door is on. If you recall in my earlier post, we made the door and sanded and prepped for installation, only to fine that the door frame was not square, and our door would not fit. ARGHHH! (Of course, this is not the first time we've experienced the lack of squareness in our 1880 cape --you'd think we'd have learned by now.)

This morning, Dan trimmed the merest eighth of an inch off the bottom of the doorwith his circular saw (he is a master with a circular saw) and then we hung the door from shiny brass hinges. I can't get over how nice it looks without seeing all that messy but necessary clutter! For handles, I used more beach stone knobs made with a few of the beach stones I've collected over the years.

We are almost done now. We put felt pads on the chair legs to protect the floor from scratches; I have to touch up a few scratches in the floor; polyurethane the new closet door, and finish the decorative touches. I can see the finish line....

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A super tool tip

I look forward to the local paper on Tuesdays, as that's when Henry Homeyer's column, Notes From the Garden, appears in the paper. Henry is my neighbor to the west from New Hampshire, so he knows cold-climate gardening, and this week his column covered sharpening gardening tools. Henry writes:
We wanted to restore the sharp bevel on the cutting edge of my by-pass pruners. It is important to sharpen a bevel at the proper angle, the angle set when it was manufactured. To sharpen the bevel evenly, and to follow the proper angle, start by taking a magic marker and coloring the bevel on the cutting edge of the blade. If you are doing the job correctly, your file strokes should remove the magic marker coloring evenly across the full width of the bevel as you work on it. If only a small portion of the blade turns shiny, you need to change the angle of your file slightly.

What a great tip! I've sharpened my pruners before, and always find it tricky to get the angle just right. I never would have thought of using a marker as a guide, but I know greatness when I see it! Thanks, Henry!

Happy Spring!

Tonight, March 20, 2007, at precisely 8:07 p.m. EDT , the sun crossed directly over the Earth's equator, and spring arrived. Hooray!!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tick tock, tick tock

Amid the craziness that was the past weekend --Kyle's birthday party, the snow/ice storm, a Sunday brunch guest, and the sewing room, it's a wonder we managed, but we did find time to hang a clock in the sewing room.

Dan and I have a thing for clocks; we both love them, the funkier the better. Changing the clocks in our house last Sunday took 20 minutes, and we still forgot the clock in the barn. Most of our clocks came from tag sales, where they were discarded by their former owners, unloved and out of fashion, but we claimed them and love them all. The dining room has 2 clocks, the ornate gold one seen on the left, and the large-dial pendulum clock, a souvenir from Cape Cod. The living room has a box-frame clock Dan found at a tag sale, and my mother's antique mantle clock. **Correction, Dan tells me the box-frame clock came from Dan's childhood home in Brewster, NY.

In the afternoon after my friend Cynthia left, Dan decided to work on the clock for the sewing room. This particular clock was one he brought to the marriage, an old electric model, and we decided it needed to be converted to a battery clock.

As he started to work on it, he realized he'd already completed installing the battery mechanism, but at the time of the conversion, had forgotten to clean the glass and had set it aside to let his frustration cool. Thus, that little project took very little time and was, in fact, easy, unlike every other part of that project. The ornate gold filigree looks terrific against the teal walls, and finally, we have a clock in that room!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nothing is easy

We are approaching completion on the sewing room project. With Kyle and his girlfriend visiting for the weekend, we needed to get the stored furniture and the TV out of Megan's bedroom and back in the sewing room, and set the tv/dvd player up for viewing.

We'd been thinking about permanently relocating the tube to the sewing room, but in setting it up, we realized it took way more floor space than we wanted to allocate, and was far too prominent. As we discussed where to put the TV and DVD player, my eyes kept straying to the small closet next to my sewing closet. I said to Dan, what about putting the tv in the closet?

We both loved the idea, as we really don't want the tube to be the focal point of any room. All looked likely, we had a small table to set the tv on, and there was a nearby outlet already... but the tv was 21 inches wide, and the closet door opening only 20.5.

By this time, we really were sold on the idea, so we thought briefly about looking for a narrower tv, then abandoned that in favor of simply removing the trim to set the tv in the closet. Of course, if we were going to leave the door open, then we'd need to paint the closet, so, Saturday morning, I crawled into the closet and gave the walls a coat of teal, and the floor a coat of taupe. Once it dried, we set about removing the trim. Now why one would use 3" nails to tack on some simple pine trim I don't know, but we did eventually manage to remove the trim, albeit with the assistance of some colorful language. I suppose we should be happy the previous owner didn't use contact cement with the giant nails.

Finally, the trim was off and we set the small table in, being careful not to mar the freshly painted floor. We'd found a nice heavy duty extension cord with a low-profile plug, plugged it in, bundled the cord neatly, plugged in the tv and dvd player... and it didn't work. More colorful language followed. I rustled up a new cord, but then had to remove the warning tags. You'd think you were handling nuclear waste, not merely using a simple extension cord judging by the number of safety tags on the cord. Tags removed, we plugged it in , and at last, the set-up worked. We put trim back in place, which is currently staying in place via friction, no 3" nails necessary, put the door back on and voila, a hidden tv. We love it.

The final step -- the door to the sewing closet. Late this afternoon I carefully sanded the door, and we painstakingly measured for cutting the angled corner, even going to the trouble of making a cardboard template. Dan made a perfect cut with the circular saw, and we brought the door upstairs, confident that installing it would take just a few minutes.

WRONG! Nothing is easy. The door is square, but the door framing is not. AUGHHHH!!!! Bang head here....


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Purple Chair In Situ

Now, with photo. Check out the fab lamp.

The purple chair made its way to my office last week, where it looks fabulous and goes a long way toward lifting the institutional drab decor. It is a wonderful foil to the turquoise lamp, now equipped with a glorious new shade. I'll snap a photo for posting eventually -- its a busy part of the semester as evidenced by my desk, awash in paper.

The only drawback to the chair? It is too gorgeous. One visitor told me she thought it was art and was afraid to sit in the chair(!).

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Last night I came to the realization that no, we aren't done with the sewing room. I need to give the bedroom side of the door another coat of paint, and we need to make the door for my sewing closet, (seen at the right, still covered with the vinyl tablecloth/drop cloth to protect the contents from spackle dust and paint.) Sigh.

Bright and early, we got started on the closet door, and since we were in the construction business, we also made a door for a small storage cubby under the eaves in our bedroom, a project I've had on my list since we purchased the house.

The trickiest part of the process was determining where to cut the lumber to length to avoid the worst of the knots and flaws, as we'd purchased #2 pine bead board. We made excellent progress and managed to get both doors cut, glued, and screwed together.

Once the glue is dry, we'll be able to cut the
angled corner on the sewing room closet door, and sand and coat with polyurethane, then finally install them. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get the door painted, and am running out of steam for the day. The room is looking so good, I can hardly wait to move the furniture in and start using it. Perhaps by next weekend, in time for Kyle's birthday party?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Final Act

With the stars added at about 4:30 p.m. I think we are done.

The Sewing Room, part cinq

Today Dan and I purchased and installed some nice bamboo roman shades for the sewing room, and then began the final step in the project, painting a design on the floor.

We decided to imprint a design using stamps in a fleur de lis and a star shape. This morning, we marked out a grid pattern with string, really the most challenging and detailed part of the whole process.

Once we finally got down to the painting, it went really fast. We used our cheap yet effective trim roller to load the stamp with paint, and as we had two stamps, we just took turns stamping and loading with the paint.

Working together, we had the fleur de lis stamp pattern completed in less than an hour. Once that dries, we can evaluate our plan to add a star imprint in a slightly darker bronzy-gold metallic paint.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Old Diaries online

All Things Maine wrote about several old Aroostook County diaries being posted online. The diaries offer an interesting glimpse into Maine life 100+ years ago.

In Diary of an 1892 Farmer's Wife, blogger Herrick Kimball discovers his great, great grandmother. He writes:
As I read the 1892 diary, I began to learn about this ancestor who I
previously knew absolutely nothing about. I discovered that, within
the constraints of only a few words each day, Josephine could not
elaborate. Nevertheless, as the chronicle of days and months and
years pass, a life story develops. Because of the lack of details,
the story is something of a puzzle. It can only be assembled by
understanding the historical setting (more about this later), the
cultural context, picking up little clues in the entries, reading
"between the lines," and employing some imagination.
Years ago, I lived in Aroostook County, in Presque Isle and then in Bridgewater, so I am quite familiar with the towns mentioned in these diaries. In many ways, Aroostook County has hardly changed from those times.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

As long as I've got the painting tools out...

...I might as well tackle another project I've had in mind for a year or two. I bought this old dining room chair at a tag sale 2 summers ago. It was pretty comfortable, and the joints were solid, although there was no finish left on it to speak of. More importantly, it was $5.

So home it came, and it sat waiting until I had some time to paint it. As the sewing room project is winding down, but not quite finished (that floor paint takes a long time to dry), yesterday seemed like the right time.

I had some bright purple paint left from painting the front doorstep, (yes, I painted our front doorstep purple, and it looks magnificent with our yellow house) and I decided to use that. I sanded gently but thoroughly, carefully removed all the dust, and gave it a first coat. I love the color. While it was drying, it took a paint sample and went fabric shopping, and I found some fabulous mod fabric to recover the seat.

I love the combination. I need to affix the fabric seat cover material, and give it one more coat of paint. I'm going to take it into my office, where together with a fabulous turquoise lamp I bought at a yard sale, it will lend some badly needed life and color to my institutionally neutral office.