End of Season Porch Update

This summer I meant to take off the whole summer and work on my house. But I wasn’t as into it this year. Instead I traveled to both upstate NY and the Upper Penisula. The girls and I camped and got a stand-up paddleboard.



And, most distracting of all I really really got into birding. Say your thanks I’m only sharing one photo of a bird.

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

And of course even “part-time work” ends up taking a lot of time.

I did however manage to finish the porch railings! I had to order even more spindles from the Amish wood turning business nearby. My dad basically helped me every step of the way. Thanks dad!

The South balustrade aka porch railing was almost a complete loss. Only the straight center part was salvageable; the curved ends and the entire bottom railing were entirely wood mush. I think I may have saved a few spindles from that side but I only ended up using old, restored spindles on the North side and I don’t remember which were which.

First we had to glue together big chunks of new poplar and recreate the curved ends of the top railing. THIS WAS NOT EASY! Dad has access to a good tablesaw and bandsaw at his work. Then I had to shape the curvy details with chisels, dremel and sanders. I cannot say I’m happy with the results, but they looked pretty good in the end.


Old end, block of new wood and template. 




Dad attaching the new curved ends to the old top railing. I think we used glue and big screws. 


Old and new bottom railings.

By the time I got around to actually assembling the South balustrade it was getting cold out. It is definitely a 2-3 person job to get all the 3-D maneuvering to make it level and space the top and bottom the the right distance apart for the spindles all the while trying to pressure fit/shim the ends in place.

I’m good at installing spindles now. I actually use other spindles and clamps as a spacing jig for the installation. The spindles are 2 inches wide and the space between them is 2 inches. I chose to use exterior finish screws to secure them. It isn’t “old school” but when pre-drilled it can be done delicately compared to hammering. I then put wood epoxy over the ends of the sunken screws.

Next I custom cut and installed the tall, curved spindles that go on the ends of all three balustrades. Luckily dad had a small band saw I could put in my car and then just use on-site. I went a little crazy and jammed in as many as I could, like the original old photo of my house showed.



This spindle was up against the stone! In order to make it that tall I had to glue and dowel an extension on top. Hey, I had everything I needed to do it right there!

We had some really crazy warm weather this fall so dad took some time off of work to help me prime and paint all the balustrades. Did I already tell you how my younger daughter helped me pick the final house trim color? Are you ready? I was fussing and fussing over the colors and she said “Why don’t you just paint them white again?” OMG yes! I actually like the trim color we chose 11 years ago. Technically is is Benjamin Moore “Swiss Coffee.” I resisted buying any until I was actually ready to paint because I love opening freshly store-shaken paint.

Dad priming South Side-THANK YOU!

In 2016 I learned that I prefer the wood working to actual painting. I really don’t enjoy changing into paint clothes, opening and stirring the paint, taping and draping and washing the brushes (or running to the store for new brushes because they get ruined so easily) and then waiting for it to dry to start the next layer. I don’t have other pictures of painting because it is messy and not a good time to touch a camera or phone. My dad and stepmother really helped get the project done before it was too cold and wet. My younger daughter helped paint the front balustrad-also thanks.

Dad went a little crazy and scraped down 6 extra columns, including the three you can see in the picture above. We didn’t do a really thorough job prepping those, so we shall see! I was really overwhelmed when he started working on those columns because I thought I thought I would never get done. But now I’m so glad because they helped me finish them and they look amazing from the road! Only the back column on either side hasn’t been scraped and repainted.




Here is the plan. I’m going to hire somebody to repair, prep and paint the rest of our house next season. I don’t really know how we will afford it, but it has become clear I will not be able to manage this, especially when the pregnant mothers, rivers and birds are calling me! These house maintenance and restoration projects are incredibly time consuming and get really difficult when heights, ladders and scaffolding are involved. There I said it semi-publicly, now I gotta start calling painters now to reserve their time next year.


Spring 2016 First Post: Front Railing and Fruit

This weekend I was able to spend some time reassembling the very long front porch railing. I ended up having over 50 replica spindles turned last fall so I could space them as closely as they were originally. These can be seen in this old photo. I could write a lot about this photo postcard. My house is the second one, behind beautiful brick Italianate.

Most of the weekend I was wearing a Wonder Woman t-shirt and loungy pants that I would hitch up above my knees when I got hot, if the sun touches me I’m basically instantly over-heated. However my daughter had an orchestra concert this afternoon so I showered, painted my toe nails and dressed like this. So when I came home to putz around with my railing again I asked my other daughter to take pictures because I thought I looked both nice and silly.

Here I’m tweaking the way the bottom railing is propped because the whole thing is very exacting requiring the use of blocks, shims, a big level and long bar clamps. I decided to use all new spindles on this front railing and all old spindles on the North railing. I am not ready to think about the South railing.

Pay no attention to the colors. The top railing is a trial trim color I painted on last fall. I hate it. The bottom railing is primer only and the spindles are partially primed.

Here is the North railing mostly assembled with the proper spacing. The space between spindles is the exactly the width of a spindle itself, which conviently means I can use spindles as a jig! 


And in really big news my strawberry patch has blossoms.The beginning of fruit:22 plants this spring!

Check it out! I cold stratified peach pit seeds from a friend’s dwarf peach tree/bush.. Here it appears that I have two tiny peach trees!

Good night.

Porch Floor-DONE part 2

Wow! What a cliffhanger! What did I end up doing with those wrongly sloped replacement ends? I mean, I can’t really leave them like that because the point here is to repair the house, not make it worse.

Neighbor man suggested I use his belt sander to taper the boards into proper slope. Have you have used a belt sander? Well, I hadn’t and I tried and I made no progress at all and got really discouraged. Like really discouraged. So neighbor man sanded my porch to a slope for me while I did easier and faster tasks. It is hard for me to accept help but I did and THANK YOU!!!

Apparently I didn’t get any photos of this happening. But there is a forceful finesse to sanding significant amounts of wood away that Neighbor Man achieved mastery of during his youth in working for a lumber yard or furniture maker or both or something like that.

He used the belt sander to taper those end pieces then used a random orbital sander to shape the curve on the ends.

Basically from this: 

To This:

Again, thank you so so much!

In that second picture you can see things I was doing during that lovely time: orbital sanding the remaining old decking, small epoxy repairs of the old nail holes, nailing down loose decking on the South side of the porch and even painting two coats on an intact area of the porch floor.

Speaking of the South end of the porch. So, I have this “coping technique” that I would call healthy compartmentalizing and others might call denial  that I utilize daily. I can only think about the tasks at hand and if I am asked to think about “the big picture” I get overwhelmed and totally shut down. This resulted in this being how the Southmost board, which is 6″ wide, looking at this point.

That’s kind of a confusing picture but basically this thing is in bad bad shape and sorta falling off. I didn’t order a replacement board when I ordered the other boards because I wasn’t “there yet.” Obviously it should be replaced but I hate ordering things and spending money and going places to pick things up so I thought I would try to epoxy repair it. I stripped off the remaining paint (weirdly still enjoyable even after doing the rest of the floor earlier in the year), doused the whole thing in 50% Boracare/50% water to arrest the fungal rot and let it dry-drying took FOREVER. Once dry, I poured copious amounts of Liquidwood Exoxy into the rotten areas which was basically the most of it and then used Woodepox putty to fill in the voids. 

And then I sanded it, primed 4 sides and replaced it and very recently painted it. I’m pretty sure if you factor in my time and materials it was way more expensive than just buying a new board but much more satisfying.

So, here you are:





AFTER with Rain:

Porch Floor – DONE Part I

So, classic newbie blog move…I’ve failed to post for quite some time. Today my aim is to update you on the final steps of completing the porch floor (translation: hours and hours and hours of work).

I believe last time you heard about the porch is looked like this: 

Here is a messier picture of that day-remember those rusty nails, I’ll mention them later.

I was aghast that I’d cut that lovely wood back one joist too far. But I can hardly go back in time so I ordered lumber cut to the dimensions of the decking and another piece to replace the fascia in the front.

Handy-nerd-neighbor-man was nice enough to use his circular saw to cut off the rest of the decking off at that first joist in a nice neat square line. I don’t yet have this basic tool and I’m a little scared of it, but I’m sure I could get comfortable using it but my porch was NOT my ideal place to practice because if I messed up….I would cry.

I decided to remove the floorboards that I had cut shorter than desired and then use as much of the old growth wood from those boards to replace the ends of other boards.

Let’s pause to see everything in this picture.

1: My father-in-law who has EXTENSIVE construction history helped me replace that rotten front joist with this here modern pressure-treated board you can see in front.

2: You can see where the rotten end of the boards have been cut, they are white because I primed them as a rot prevention measure. Yay me.

3: See those pressure treated boards setting in front of of the primed ends of the floor boards? I screwed those boards to the existing boards to nail the replacement ends into. (That is terrible grammar isn’t it?)

4: See where I took out those full length boards? That was NO SMALL FEAT!!! They didn’t just pry out-not remotely. In fact, I had to sacrifice an entire board and cut down the middle of its length with a jig saw. However, to make things worse, at each joist I’d hit a sideways nail and break a blade (that reminds me I owe neighborman about 5-6 blades). I’m one of those people who realizes things when I say them, so I kinda talk a lot. And it was was exactly when I was telling handy-nerd-neighbor-man that there was some 19th century magic because there were hidden horizontal nails in the decking that I realized….they were blind-nailed! Ugh. They meant business when they put those in 120 years ago. Let’s all pause to remember the Handy-Nerd-Neighbor-Man’s bruises of October 2015 when he was helping me remove the long rusty nails that had held the decking into place.

That’s enough info about that picture.

Here is a picture of the new deck boards primed on 4 sides. Normally boards that are being installed should be primed on 6 sides but in this case the to-be-exposed sides didn’t need to be primed because my hard-core industrial oil-based enamel I’m using for the porch floor doesn’t require priming so those parts are left unprimed. Priming is annoying, it’s not all finished and pretty like finish painting and I’m using oil-based primer which is slow to apply and stinky.

I need to pause here to tell you about a silent raging controversy among those who, and I generalized here, aren’t big talkers. And that rarely debated controversy is………Nails or Screws?  I have spent quite some time on the internet trying to discover “the truth.” Up until this point in time I’ve used which ever was recommended by the on-line expert I was trying to emulate or, more frequently, the preference of the person who is helping me. All the information I found online was basically screws have more tensile strength and nails have more shear resistant strength. My father and father-in-law are Team Screw and John Leeke, historic preservationist, and Neighbor-Man are Team Nail. I have no official team alliances yet. I’ve sorta veered toward using screws for hidden work-like securing those pressure treated boards and using nails for finish work that will be seen like nailing down floor boards, to choose a totally random example. I’m pausing here to discuss this topic because I was intimidated by the prospect of blind-nailing the new boards in because if you pre-drill and/or have self-tapping screws and a good drill using screws requires almost no skill which is exactly the amount of nailing skill I had before this installation.

And I’m officially capable of learning. I blind-nailed the first 8 boards into place and of course sight-nailed that last one on the left because I’m not magic. Doesn’t the weather look great?

Then I had to move on to putting on those little end pieces.

This involved:

1: Realizing the floorboards were not as uniform width as I had assumed so I had to go to dad’s workplace to use the table saw to cut off a sliver of some of the boards to make them 2 1/8″ or 2″ width so I could line them up properly.

2: Spending all day nailing them in place which I was pretty good at by then.

3. Having EVERYBODY talk to me because I’m working on my front porch on a beautiful day. Apparently I’m impressive because I’m a lady AND I hammer things. Having this pointed out to me doesn’t anger me nor does it flatter me. Rather, it throws me off because I wasn’t quite aware of all my watchers until this point. Additionally, I consider myself a little post-feminist, I mean, realistically that day’s activities didn’t involve impressive strength for a woman but rather were merely stereotypically men’s activities which aren’t easier or more difficult than many stereotypical woman’s activities. If I didn’t want to do them, I wouldn’t. When a well-meaning 60 year old woman affirms my skills and how good it is to see a woman nailing boards I’m not sure what to say. Moving on.

4. And then…..after all my totally impressive competent work….I realize I didn’t remember to maintain the slope of the porch floor. I totally forgot when installing that front joist that that was a thing to consider. Frickity frick. Those replacement end boards slant up slightly basically meaning if I left them as-is there would be a little puddle-pool right at the location of the new butt joint whenever it rains.

To be continued……………



Epoxies for Sissy

I’m dedicating this blog post (what an honor) to my friend Sissy. This is not her real name but I used to think it was. 

Sissy has an unhealthy love of all things adhesive and has even dabbled recently in epoxies. She also has an unhealthy disrespect for directions. Good luck with that hair issue you posted about on Facebook.

Anyway I thought I’d show what can be done with the 2 part wood consolidate and replacement epoxies. Here is a picture of a big chunk of 120 year old railing that came off and I reattached with Abatron epoxies.  

 And here is that part of the railing primed.  

   If I ever have a business doing this I’m considering calling it “Ritalin Restorations” that so not awkward or TMI at all right?

The Madonnas of Leningrad 

This is a 

  good book. I’m grateful to my stepmother, a retired librarian, for lending it to me. I just don’t read much these days besides the stupid internet. But reading a book, on paper, is very relaxing. I like relaxing.

Although I’m a lousy writer myself I’m very particular about the quality of books that I read. I suppose a major influence is my mother who teaches English and composition and has some sort of degree in something dreadful like literature. By dreadful I don’t mean I don’t like it, I mean all such things are terribly hard for me to understand or do. 

Regarding books, I specifically loathe predictable plot twists. And I find that all plot twists are predictable. 

I also hate books that have only words that I know already. No such crap here. When I read a high fluting book I don’t look up words I don’t know, that would be too much effort. Rather I figure them out in context or at least enjoy that the word is familiar later.

That is all. Also, avoid seiges. And Alzheimer’s. Hmmm those are kinda obvious advices. Not exactly voluntarily activities. Still though. My life is awesomely decadent. Like Heidonismbot from futurama.

So, Poplar

A couple weeks I cut out a chunk of my porch decking because the ends of the wood are so rotten at the tip they cannot be saved.

As you can see, I cut some back to the second joist back and some to the first. The wood is intact in both places so now I regret cutting those few boards back so far….oh well. That wood looks green I thought. That is weird I thought.

I took a length of my decking to a local lumber yard and then a nearby building supply place. At each place they independently pronounced my porch deck is poplar. WHAT?

Handy-Nerd-Neighbor-Man had mentioned on occasion that the wood seemed a lot like poplar. In fact I even had thought that to myself once or twice, particularly whilst drilling or sanding it occurred to me that the “softwood” wasn’t very soft. BUT NO I was so sure it was fir. That was what porches are made of.

I came home, drank a beer and posted my shocking discovery on facebook. One of my FB friends, who has been a realtor around here forever, says poplar was commonly used as porch decking in that era in this town. Wow, niche knowledge crowdsourcing score! Apparently good construction and old growth wood rather than innate rot resistance is why my porch is in good shape.

A couple days and some math later I stopped by the Amish-run lumber yard to order my replacement poplar, which is in stock there and much cheaper than Douglas fir. I also ordered a 13 foot board to replace the rotty fascia. I plan to replace the front joist with pressure-treated lumber as it will not be visible.

Turns out friends with pick-up trucks with extended cabs aren’t really that keen on hauling super long boards. I had to ask my dad’s friend to pick up my lumber next time he is out there.  He’s also going to snag my the 13′ pressure treated joist at the same time. Thanks Dad’s friend.

My main question once all this stuff is here is how best to create the butt joint between the old wood and the new ends. It isn’t typically a good look, but I can handle imperfection-I really just have no choice-but I want it to last.

Until my lumber arrives there are always spindles to scrape and sand, supper to make and babies to deliver.


I have no recipe for the perfect pickle so I’m experimenting. I have memories of perfect pickles but don’t have those recipes.

Today I canned three quarts of pickles using this recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/blue-ribbon-dill-pickles-241139

And then I lacto fermented a pint using Sally Fallon’s instructions in “Nourishing Traditions.” I’m skeptical of this trendy method but hey, I’ve been wrong before.

I’m not really bragging. I just needed to write down what I did so that if they are awesome or nasty I’ll take that into account on my quest for perfect pickles.

Update: Both the vinegar canned and the lactofermented turned out great! 

Front Railing

Today I thought I’d quickly remove the rickety front railing. It’s just rattled around for years so that I assumed it would be easy. No. Not easy.

The lower railing was propped up with wood blocks that had been screwed into both the floor and the railing. And those screws’ heads were stripped.

This horrid realization and stuckness has three silver linings which I will review in outline form.

1: My short love affair with screws is over. I might stupidly go back to him but I know he isn’t right for me or my house.

2: I got to get out the Dremel and learn important Dremel skills. 

      A: EZ attachments are where it is at, I didn’t ever figure out the regular thingies.

      B: It is delightful to cut new slots into stupid misbehaving screws because sparks fly. And then the screws will obey my will with a flathead screw driver.

      C: I did all over this in a really cute top and very classy maxi skirt. Probably not a good choice but whenever paint isn’t involved, I take risks.

Wish me luck in preserving the most weathered railings and section of my porch floor. What could go wrong?


I wish I could paint my house without picking any new colors. But I really would like to do a little better in that department. I’ve even considered something besides blue, but I still want a blue house.

I am utterly clueless and hopeless at almost everything aesthetic. Awesome neighbor is trying to help but, I tell you, I’m IMPOSSIBLE and really frustrating. Dear readers, most of whom either are her or know her, please feel for her.

I finally bought 7 sample colors to try out on the actual siding of the house. 4 gray-blue or blue-gray colors for the clapboards and 3 beigy options for the trim. I’ve been told repeatedly that I should plan at least one more accent color for things like window sashes and other places people paint accent colors. But I went to the paint store myself and only came home with the main color and trim color samples. This is how frustrating I am.

Here you can see the 4 main color samples slapped up on the intact and cleaned clapboard under the porch. You can also see us looking at the colors.


I like the 3rd from top color. So I think I’ll get a gallon of that.

There were also possible trim colors which people had opinions about. I did not really have opinions. I think I’ll buy a gallon of Kathy’s favorite trim color, Awesome Neighbor approved.

Alas, the color apathy and ineptitude wasn’t even the worst part of my first trip to the paint store. See, all the “old guys” such as John Leeke and my father-in-law (Lungboy and Kathy’s father) all recommend an oil-based alkyd primer. But all the paint stores recommend water-based primers. Sure, they told me their reasons blah blah blah which I suspect might be environmental regulation pressures or higher profit margin or the old guys might be wrong. Anyway, I bought “Fresh Start” alkyd oil-based primer. So there.

We can agree on a high quality acrylic top coats. At least until I have to pay for said gallons and gallons of quality paint.