Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Historic Springfield: Spring Home & Garden Tour 2013

... because you know you want to know what those beautiful old houses loook like on the inside!

Come and vist Jacksonville's best kept secret - Historic Springfield - on Saturday, June 1, 2013, and Sunday, June 2, 2013, for our annual spring Home and Garden Tour!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Beekeepin' Busy: 4 Weeks

 It's been four weeks since our package of Apis Mellifera Carnica aka Carniolan Honey Bees arrived at our little old house and we have enjoyed every day of our beekeeping adventure. We are madly in love with our fuzzy bugs, their industrious coming and going, their soft buzzing, and the marvelous creation of wax comb.

Yesterday we inspected the hive for the second time in four weeks. One of us usually sneaks at least a peek through the viewing window into the hive but since opening up the hive is a bit stressful for the girls, we opted to give them peace and privacy for two weeks at a time before invading and rifling through their home.
After two weeks, our girls had drawn 3 1/2 good-sized bars of comb, providing enough room for our queen to start laying the moment she saw a ready cell. There were pollen stores and even capped brood!
Another two weeks later, they had expanded the hive to a total of seven combs - an amazing effort when you consider that each pound of wax requires the energy of five pounds of sugar or honey!

 This time we finally caught a glimpse of our hive's queen. She's a lovely jet black and keeping busy laying eggs into comb with her attendants following in her wake.
We knew she was there and healthy by all the capped brood but seeing her was really neat!

Nobody got stung even though we spent almost 45 minutes inspecting the hive, cleaning, replacing the feeder, and inserting a few empty bars. We got a few curious looks - more curious than weeks before when there wasn't a brood nest to defend. - but for the most part they hunkered down and continued their work. Every once in a while a more assertive bees would take a peek at us but was easily discouraged by a little waft of smoke.

They are simply A-mazing, and we're so happy about this addition to our little old house menagerie!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Scraping By (Yours Truly)

And so it begins: project "Exterior Painting" is finally underway!

Equipped with an assortment of paint scrapers, paint eater tool and sanders we have embarked on the great task of prepping the little old house's backside for painting.
Ugh, I say!

There is quite a bit of peeling paint on the first floor level,like a sunburn's blistering and peeling, and finally we are allowing ourselves to pick at it. That part is really satisfying and rewarding, you know, just like picking at a peeling sunburn on your shoulders.

I'm sure the novelty of scraping paint outside will wear off soon (it was kind of fun doing that on the inside at first too before it turned into a mind-numbing chore), but so far, we are progressing at a steady pace and it comes with the added benefit of slowly acquiring a tan.

No worries, folks, we tested for lead and the result confirmed my suspicion that our house no longer has its original siding: it tested negative for lead. We still do wear face masks when scraping and sanding, and collect the paint scrapings in plastic drop cloths because breathing in paint particle and wood dust isn't good for you at any rate, but at least we don't have to worry about lead.

Yay for small blessings!

This is a -huge- project, even though our house is a "little" old house, and we will be tackling it one side of the house at a time figuring that seeing a completed side will be reward and encouragement to tackle the next side.

That means there will be fewer updates, too. I won't bore you with updates on how many squarefeet we scraped today, tomorrow, next week, but unless the weather turns to crap, interior projects are mostly on hold for the time being.
I'm thinking I might go for a Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule so you'll at least know when to swing by for/  expect an update.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Little Town That Could

Savannah, GA?
Stunning Historic District and vibrant downtown.
Charleston, SC?
Beautiful city center wrought with history and charm.
Portland, OR?
Historic districts worth a visit or two.

Jacksonville, FL?
News flash - Nobody wants to see empty weedy lots.

In a city where decisions are dragged out, postponed, procrastinated, tabled, it took Code Enforcement less than 24 hours from hearing about a house with an unstable gable to 'emergency' demolition.

Less than 24 hours.

It is frustrating, heartbreaking and maddening to be living in a city to values what could be its greatest asset  so little that it would rather spend close to $10,000 to demolish a historic structure in a nationally registered historic district than less than 10% of the same amount to stabilize and preserve it (placing a lien on the property to recoup the money).

Tonight, we are one empty lot 'richer' - 129 East Second Street in our historic district was demolished, and our lucky streak of 584 days without demolitions came to a sudden and sad end.

Tonight, give your ol' house a pat on the siding and tell her that you love her. She is special - there will be none like her ever - and she deserves your, our protection.

"We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."
 New York Times Editorial (on the destruction of Penn Station)

We Got The Blues

Our little back porch turned storage shed has seen close to every shade of blue under the sun over the past couple of weeks - dark blues, light blues, greenish blues, purplish blues, greyish blues. Squeaky blues, happy blues. Dramatic blues, boring blues.

I have amassed an impressive collection of little Valspar paint tester jars (if you want to test a blue, ping me. Odds are I have a tester for it ...heh).

Then I stumbled across Rebecca's blog "Simply Natural Mom" and discovered the beautiful color scheme she and her family (and neighbors) chose for their Craftman-style home which is just a few years younger than our little old house. She was so nice to tell me the secret of the color scheme for her house because it looks just perfect!

Unfortunately, in the end, Benjamin Moore's "Hale Navy" looked just too dark on our house - more blackish navy - and it just didn't work but "Roxbury Carmel" is as delicious as it sounds and is a lovely accent color! Instead of "Barely Beige" for our trim color we are currently fancying "Monterey White" from Benjamin Moore's historic color collection.

So which blue did we choose, you wonder?

In the end, I took several testers and mixed my own: a greyish blue that's deep and rich, not too blue and not too grey and not too dark. We are calling it "Stuckenberg Blue" in honor of the first couple moving into our little old house when it was brandnew and smelled of fresh plaster and paint.

I tested the whole color scheme on the back entrance, and I have to admit I do love it. Who'd have thought?

We definitely learned just how important it is to test exterior colors on a larger scale and in different areas on your house. Not only does paint look about two shades lighter outside (as opposed to one or two shades darker inside) but the light your house receives also has a huge impact on how colors will look. Picking color from a photo on didn't work either - what looked like a stunning deep blue-green color on the house in the picture, turned out to be a muddy dark green on ours ...ugh! No-thing like the vibrant color in the photo.

So test, test, and test again.

Even if it turns your house into a crazy looking piece of modern art.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cricket Chirp

Look who hasn't posted in more than a week!
Yours truly!

So sorry about that - no, really. It's been a miserable week in the clutches of a nasty spring cold that just wouldn't let go. I spent most of the last 10 days dragging my sick body around to take care of the things that absolutely had to be done and then crashed in between tasks to sink into comatose sleep.

I'm finally on the mend but, of course, yesterday the husband started sniffling and groaning so I guess he is next.

Good thing one of us is always functioning. Maybe I should set him up with a log-in for the blog so he can write up an entry when I'm awol. Does your significant others blog with you? Do you take turns? Or have you considered adding your hubby's 'voice' to your blog?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gearing Up

While we are still mulling over which exact shade of blue to paint our little old house and whether we want the accent color to be a bit darker, a bit more brown, more grey, more anything, bits and bops of necessary gear for mission "Exterior painting" are arriving at our address:

The first thing I bought was a 26' Werner ladder. It's the big one, not only in the picture but also in comparison to the much shorter multi-function ladder I bought.

Werner, for short, is marvelous. I'm not one for heights, in fact scaling a three step step ladder has been my biggest achievement until we bought our house and I also got involved in the one or other Preservation SOS project. I have since then advanced to 12' ladders and painting rafter tails on one-story bungalows but I'm still far from feeling comfortable.
This ladder, though, makes all the difference. It is as sturdy as it gets, probably because of the flared legs, and feels as solid as a staircase. No kidding. Fully extended the middle bends and flexes a bit but even that is quite tolerable.

We also got an extra ladder stabilizer to make working in front of windows, for example, easier. Our 12' multi-functional ladder is much more of a light-weight which makes it 'my' ladder. I'm okay scaling ladders up to 12' and I can lug it around all by myself  (Werner requires an extra set of hands, being much heavier).

Since 'Multi' folds into all kinds of positions including a low scaffold, we also picked up scaffolding plates which should be much safer than just slapping a wooden board across the rungs.

And much to Binky's delight, we kept the box 'Multi' shipped in for a few days for a lot of adventurous play! She loved to channel her inner ambush predator and hid in the box until the unsuspecting dog moseyed by close enough for an attack cat to come flying out of the box.

With a bit of luck we will be able to nail down the ever elusive 'perfect' blue this weekend, give it a last test run and get started on power washing and scraping the house, after, you know, teaching a painting workshop, driving Little Man to Karate testing, having friends visit, Mother's Day, church, and all the other things we need to cram into a too short weekend!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bee Keepin' Busy

 This little old house has been buzzing with excitement since Saturday almost two weeks ago when we returned from our trip to the Historic Homes Workshop in Tampa to find this on our porch:


A box of bees! Our 2lb box of Carniolan Bees had finally arrived! There is something crazy exciting about a meshed box filled to the brim with buzzing bees. I don't know about you but I never really have the opportunity to get that close to almost 10,000 fuzzy insects so needless to say we were thrilled. Following Charles' instruction (he's the guy who sold them to us) we sprayed them periodically with sugar water and fed them bits of pollen patty while we readied the hive for its new tenants. Since these bees have to start from scratch in their new home and don't have any stores, we supplied them with a feeder with sugar syrup and pollen patty inside the hive so they wouldn't starve ...or, you know, up and leave looking for greener shores.

Little Man spent a lot of time with his nose -very- close to the mesh marveling at the little creatures. We had to remind him they were mostly girls when he started naming them Bob 1, Bob 2, Bob 3, and so on. Silly monkey! He couldn't wait to don his beekeeper jacket but since we were so busy getting everything ready and the bees into the hive, we forgot to take pictures.

This picture shows Little Man proudly showing off his beekeeper jacket (and Mio photobombing). It's a size medium so he has time to grow into it and the one or other guest can wear it if they want to sneak a peek.

Here's our topbar hive in situ: 17ft in the air on a small stair case landing with free airspace across the yard. This location is beautifully out of the way, and without taking a closer look the hive looks like a harmless, oversized window box. It's been a week and half since the bees' arrival and we are amazed at how little you notice them. Occasionally we see a bee in the backyard, checking out the spiderwort and spanish needles growing wild where I haven't weeded yet but there is no increased traffic at all.

From their hive, they just go up and away to forage, just like we'd hoped they would. Unless you look up directly at the hive, you won't know they are there. I love it when a plan works out!

We also chose Carniolan Bees for that purpose since they are known as the gentlest of bee breeds hoping to increase our chances of remaining good neighbors. Again, so far they are very laid back and happy to ignore our bumbling beginner beekeeper struggles and clumsy workings.

If I sit on my nightstand and peek out the window I can watch the entrance to the hive. Over the past week and a half we have learned that

  • Our bees 'sleep in' - before 8:30am you are hard-pressed to see a bee anywhere outside the hive, and I have checked on the feeder and moved some bars around without any protection at all since the girls were still happily snoozing in their cozy, warm cluster.
  •  Watching bees is hypnotic and relaxing - It's hard to explain but we can all sit for hours by the window watching the bees go in and out, sometimes carrying a bright load of yellow or orange pollen in their pollen baskets. Really! I have spent 45 minutes doing nothing but observing their fuzzy butts going about their business. This is also my excuse for the lack of cool projects, no kidding.
  • Bees are toasty warm! We noticed that for the first time when they were still in their box. Holding your flat hand against the mesh you could feel the heat the little insect bodies radiate. It was almost hot. Even now that they are in their hive, I can locate the cluster easily by just sliding a hand along the hive body. The spot where they are is warm to the touch compared to the rest of the hive.
This weekend we will try to do a first thorough inspection. Last week the weather was simply too rotten to do so but so far the weather outlook looks promising. Just by tentatively lifting the bars a fraction of an inch (more like millimeters) I know the last  four bars are heavy so I'm pretty sure they've been busy drawing comb. And hopefully we won't forget to snap a few pictures to share with you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's In The Closet!

After priming everything the night before and allowing it to cure overnight, it was finally time for a fresh coat of paint!

There is very little a fresh coat of paint cannot fix. Seriously, it's addictive once you see how much of a difference just a fresh coat of color can make. It's one of the most inexpensive and rewarding little projects you can throw into your DIY project schedule.

The closet was no different!

After several coats of Benjamin Moore's Ultra Pure White and Valspar's 'Homestead Resort Sunwashed' for the walls, our dusty, musty, dingy, catch-all dump turned into a beautiful clean light and airy hall closet.

I'm also a real sucker for the contrast between shiny dark heart pine floors and bright white trim. It's straight out lick-able!

The shelves need some cute baskets, of course, but so far they have proven to be a very clever addition to the closet that was clearly needed. Much needed, of course, was also the decluttering, and the husband came and seeing the nice new inside of the closet, decided to straighten out how brewing equipment on the top shelf. LOVE!
Of course we finished this project at the end of jacket season here in North East Florida but come winter, we are actually going to have a closet for our guests to hang their coats without shame burning our cheeks. Ha!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Shelf Life

In order to facilitate more organized cramming, I decided the closet needed shelves. One third of the closet extends to the left side of its door forming a nook that would be just perfect for some quick shelves.

Luckily, we also have plenty of pieces of wood kicking around the house and finding two pieces to fit the space was a piece of cake.

I decided to take my new toy - a Kregg jig Jr. -for a spin and use pocket holes to secure the shelves to the walls. What can I say - I LOVE that thing!

Pocket holes are no longer a fantasy. You know, like unicorns and garden gnomes!

I used drywall anchors for my screws and then screwed the shelf boards into the nook on the left side of the closet.

Then it was time for primer on door, shelves and trim. I love how even the splotchy coat of primer gives you an idea of beautiful crisp, clean things to come!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Coming Out Of The Closet

One of the not original to the house features we deliberately kept was the big hulk of a closet in the bedroom turned downstair's entrance hall/vestibule. Storage space in an old house is limited - people back then just didn't keep that much stuff as we do today - and I was loathe to loose it.

Instead I painted the door and trim white, labeled it so nobody would accidentally try this door in their search for the bathroom and called it a day.

Well, we didn't really call it a day. We stuffed it every day. Our beautiful big hallway closet became a catch-all including the last unpacked box from our move two years ago. Now I'm coming clean and out of the closet (well, there's really no way you could go -into- the closet, it's just that stuffed!).

Sorry, Mom! Camping gear, coats, costumes, sports gear, mail, boxes, bags over bags (empty), helmets, shoes, the husband's brewing equipment - everything was just crammed into it.

So, the first order of business was pulling EVERY.THING. out of the closet and sorting it into the three famous categories "For Keeps", "Donate", and "Trash." For a while the entry hall looked mighty exploded but ... it always looks worse, before it gets better.