Monthly Archives: November 2008

Operation Smooth

When I asked Peter what he’d like to have done on the house before our annual Solstice party, he said he wanted smooth walls. I shuddered inside at the thought. I’ve had little success to date without a lot of hard work. There was one technique I hadn’t tried yet, so I agreed to test the technique on a small section, while finishing the mudroom. If the test was successful, we would smooth the hallway walls over the Thanksgiving break. The test went well, and so Friday morning we began.

The first step, after covering the carpets, was scraping the worst of the texture off the walls. Peter was an enthusiastic helper, gleefully scraping at the horrid stuff. You have to understand, that we can’t brush a hand against these walls without scraping skin off our knuckles, and I mean to the point of bleeding. As you can see the walls are a bleak gray-brown. I like to think of it as a color from the camouflage palette, a hideous choice in my opinion, but I suppose typical of the previous owners.

We probably could have scraped a little less, and caused less dust, but it sure was satisfying.

Once the walls had the worst peaks taken off, I went over it with a trowel and a diluted mixture of joint compound. A second coat was needed since the first layer shrank a little when it dried. The next step was to go over all the walls with a lightly dampened sponge to sand any of the rough spots. That was tiring but not nearly as bad as it can be with undiluted compound. Once the walls were dry again, they were ready to prime.

The priming is now done and the walls are smooth and bright. I’ll be painting them in the morning. Next, we’ll tackle the walls in the livingroom, the longest one first, the short one, second, and the trickiest one, last. We probably won’t have them all done by Solstice, but will give it a try.

Another battle with Bermuda

In my ongoing war against Bermuda grass, I’m planning another battle. The results of my solarizing experiment are not yet known, but the plastic degraded very quickly in the blazing sun and some grasses, not Bermuda, seamed to enjoy growing under the plastic. I’ll have to wait until Spring to see what comes up in the new bed.

Meanwhile, I can say that my experiment with lasagna gardening was a failure. The reason for the failure was twofold. The first problem was not enough moisture. The gardens wouldn’t hold moisture and were too dry to break down the layers and release the nutrients. So the plants that weren’t eaten by deer were somewhat stunted. The garden with the introduced worms fared a little bit better than the others as far as breaking down the organic material, so I did have one positive result. The second problem was Bermuda grass. The grass would grow in the walkways between the gardens and send runner into the sides of the garden, making them very difficult to remove. Offshoots would pop up in the middle of the garden and I’d have to practically dig up the whole bed to remove them along with their underground runners.

My next line of attack will be on multiple fronts, which will hopefully control the invasive grasses and the marauding animals (deer and dogs), and solve the premature moisture loss. I’ve purchased a roll of 30 mil plastic which will encircle the gardens, buried two feet deep, that will serve as a root barrier to the Bermuda grass. This stuff is just a little lighter than the material gardeners use to control bamboo runners. The plastic above ground will be stapled to cedar boards that will edge the gardens. The edging will help reduce moisture loss, and soil loss during heavy rains. Finally, inspired by a workshop I attended on building high tunnels, I’m going to install a series of hoops over the garden, over which I can drape a variety of materials to keep out deer and dogs, depending on what conditions I need for the bed: plastic for extra heat, spun polyester row covers for protection from bugs and frost, shade cloth for sun protection, or just plain netting to keep the critters out (or chickens in, when I eventually get some).

I don’t think I can win the war against Bermuda grass without a heavy application of herbicides, but I’m hoping to reach balance of power. I can have my gardens and the Bermuda can take over everywhere else.

Fuzzy Armadillo

D’Argo, a true terrier, dug up a live gopher last week. I was nearby, so I was able to get D’Argo to drop the squeaking creature. I didn’t have gloves on and couldn’t let D’Argo go so I could retrieve them. In less than five seconds the gopher was back under ground. I think D’Argo managed to catch it by trapping it up against the roots of a shrub. The hole in the photo to the right is where the gopher was pulled from. Once the gopher was underground again, I let D’Argo go and he immediately went to ground trying to retrieve the gopher.

Looking like a fuzzy armadillo, D’Argo followed the gopher for about twenty feet, digging up the tunnel as he went along.

The gopher finally got away, but D’Argo, undaunted, continued to dig furiously, for a good 10 minutes.

Ya learn somethin’ new every day!

I learned something new about my truck the other day. With my arms full of groceries, I was fumbling around in my coat pocket trying to find my keys, when my truck started. I thought it was someone else’s truck in the parking lot, as I looked around stupidly, but sure enough it was mine. I got in the truck, holding the key in my hand, thoroughly confused about what to do next. My first reflex was to step on the brake, thinking that if some mysterious force could start my truck, perhaps it could drive it without me too. As soon as I stepped on the brake the motor stopped. I put the key in the ignition and started the truck without any problems and drove home. As soon as I got home I tried to replicate the accident, thinking there was a remote start on my keychain that I never knew about, but to no avail. Nothing I tried would start the truck up again. Peter tried when he got home, and accidentally did start the truck, but again, couldn’t replicate the combination of buttons to press. The next day I googled the telephone number that was imprinted on the back of the keychain and found the security company that manufactures my keylock system. I called the number and the technician very helpfully told me what all the buttons on my keychain were for. I was thrilled, and Peter is jealous. It took three years to figure out that my truck had remote start and shutoff, but what a fun feature to have. I’m sure if the dealership had known, they never would have dropped the price on the truck!