Rooting Out

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One thing I’m still getting used to with home ownership is the ongoing stream of projects and maintenance.  Having rented for the vast majority of my adult life (12-13 years), I’m familiar with reorganizing and cleaning, but landscaping and painting – among others – are new ventures.

After a couple of years of living here, we decided it was time to tackle the outside of the house in a meaningful way.  The first year we lived here, we mostly just watched to see what plants came up in the yard and beds.  Last year, we evicted The Shrub That Ate Our Front Window, put in some new beds around the patio, and placed fresh landscaping fabric/pebbles around our firepit.  This year, we realized that the gorgeous silver maple tree in the backyard was planted just barely far enough away from the house and we also didn’t particularly like the Norway spruce in the front.

We called in an arborist to evaluate the silver maple.  Silver maples have shallow, invasive roots – the kind that can crack foundations and get into sewer lines.  The minimum distance to plant these trees from a house is around 20 feet, and ours is 21 feet from the base of the house.  The tree was actually one of the things we loved about the house when we bought it.  It’s one of those perfect trees for bird feeders, for climbing, and for shade.  I hoped it didn’t need cut down, but if it was a choice between the tree and our foundation, it was a no-brainer.

The arborist came out, looked at all of our trees and, happily, told us he could save the maple with no major issues.  In the fall, he’ll come and prune the roots to prevent them from reaching the house and take a limb off that’s starting to stretch up to the point where it will eventually grow over the roof.  He told us that the spruce in the front yard wasn’t going to invade the foundation since spruces apparently don’t have those kinds of roots, but that it’s planted too close to the house and showing signs of stress.  The arborist advised taking it out, and since we didn’t like it anyway, we’re looking forward to having it down sometime this summer.

One of the things the arborist noted in the evaluation was that when the spruce comes out, the stump grinder would damage the yucca plants at the base.  Well, the yuccas had gotten entirely overgrown and weren’t really in my vision for what I eventually want in that bed.  We decided to take them out.

Turns out, yuccas grow thick, fibrous roots that are an absolute nightmare to hack through.  What we thought would take one person about an hour took two of us about two and a half hours of hard work.  One of us grabbed the top of the plant and pulled, the other dug the shovel in over and over to break the roots.  The end result was worth it, however, and it all looks much neater.

House Before Yuccas

Before, with the yuccas in place.

House After Yuccas (2)

After – we didn’t even realize there were landscaping rocks under all of that!

Next up is getting rid of the bush behind the pine.  Having pulled a similar one out last summer, I know what we’re in for there.  Eventually, we’ll get to the fun part: figuring out and planting the landscaping we actually want.

This post is a part of Microblog Monday.  If you want to read more posts or submit your own, head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

One Step at a Time

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When we decided to repaint the finished section of our basement, we knew we had to do something about the steps.  The entire basement was painted a blue-grey that just felt dark in a space with no windows, but the steps were an even darker shade of grey with an unpleasant texture. We tossed around the idea of replacing the treads entirely, but realized fairly quickly that this was going to run us more money, time, and trouble than we wanted to spend.  That left us with sanding and painting.

Steps Before

About halfway through the project.  The original paint felt really dark.

It took us a couple of weeks to get the steps patched with wood filler and sanded.  Then we realized we didn’t want to lose access to the basement for 24-72 hours at a time for painting, so we wound up painting every other step during one round, then doing the second batch (that way, if we were careful, we could get step over the painted steps and still reach the bottom).  It took three coats of paint on most steps and four on a couple to cover the dark grey.  We ran out of paint with one coat on six steps left to go and had to buy another quart.

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Finished with the paint!

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Treads on.

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Sea-glass green risers to match three of the basement walls.

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From the basement, the sea-glass green walls and cream wall visible.

It’s nice to have that project finished.  Next comes saving up and eventually replacing the carpet with vinyl plank flooring, but that will probably not happen until fall.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more or to join in yourself, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

The Mushroom Affair

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A couple of weeks ago, I was pulling into the driveway and noticed some new additions to the yard.

They’re big – the fully open ones were about 6-10 inches across. 

The mushrooms were so large, striking, and graceful that even one of our neighbors commented on them.  We all wondered if they were good to eat, but no one was going to try anything.  I’m no mushroom expert*, but my father does know mushrooms somewhat and he taught me all throughout childhood the cardinal rule of mushroom hunting: do not eat anything without being 100% certain of the identification.  I grew up in rural Virginia where wild mushrooms were fairly plentiful and remember clearly his warnings and stories about a single mushroom in a stew being able to poison an entire family.  Even if we weren’t planning to eat them, however, getting an ID was worthwhile.  The mushrooms were growing right next to the sidewalk, easy for picking or curious dogs to take a bite.

I called my dad and sent him photos.  We quickly eliminated the entire branch amanitas, responsible for some of the more deadly poisonous mushrooms as these lacked a volva at the bottom.

With some research and Dad’s guidance, I found an article on the false parasol, also known as the green-spored lepiota or chlorophyllum molybdites.  We both concurred that this was the most likely identification and there was a final test that could confirm it pretty strongly: a spore print that produced green/gray spores on paper.

Sure enough:

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The green-spored lepiota is poisonous, but not generally deadly.  It produces severe vomiting/diarrhea (that can cause dangerous dehydration) in humans and apparently can be fatal to dogs.  Living in a neighborhood full of small people and dogs, it was an easy call to carefully pull them up and dispose of them.  They’ve come back once already after a heavy rain and we’ll have to keep watching.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more or participate, please head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

*Disclaimer: I am not an expert whatsoever in mushroom identification and can’t be responsible for identification of whether or not something is poisonous.  This 100% is not a way of determining whether something you choose to eat is safe – make sure you know your stuff well and consult an expert in real life because correct ID can literally mean the difference between life and death.  

A Bit of Earth

I love flowers and plants, but alas, lack a green thumb.  Growing up, my mother always had plants in the house including the orchids she had owned since college and carried the flowers as her wedding bouquet.  I always figured that plants were pretty easy until I tried my own hand at them after I moved into my first apartment.

The first plants to fall to my attempts were a couple of cyclamens.  “Just water them, but not too much,” people told me.  “They’re easy.”  These lasted a couple of weeks.

Then there was the container garden I attempted on the porch, which had the unauspicious beginning of a severe allergy attack in the garden center as we were picking plants.  I was sneezing, my eyes were swelling, and we wrapped it up about the time the hives started breaking out on my chest.  The tomato plant produced three miniature tomatoes, which I still dub the most expensive produce I’ve ever bought at $1.25 apiece.  The pepper plant shriveled and died.  The basil was the most successful of the bunch but still had a tendency to develop an unhealthy shade of yellow-brown on and off.

When we moved into the house, I realized I was going to have to figure out the care of the landscaping or risk being the house that had the dead/messy plants.  This has been a bit of a mixed bag.  The day lilies in our front bed around the light post are overrun by grass that I haven’t managed to successfully weed out.  My mother took a look at the various plants and explained that a few of them had most likely been put in during the selling process to make the house look nice and weren’t in optimal spots for that kind of plant.  She was right, during the first spring/summer, most of those weren’t healthy and didn’t make it to the fall.

We did, however, have some volunteer tulips and grape hyacinths that came up last year, didn’t flower, and I decided that I’d dig them up in the fall and plant something that would flower and look nice.  Well, I forgot, and sure enough, this spring, the plants came up.

And there were buds.

To my absolute surprise, the flowers all opened.

It’s been quite pleasant to see them on a daily basis.  As someone who can get rather cynical at times, I think it’s probably a good reminder for me as a more overarching lesson about life: sometimes it surprises in beautiful ways.

Adulting – Cold Weather Edition

Living in the Midwest, it’s cold.  According to the local meteorologists, we’ve broken the 50-year record for cold and have to go all the way back to 1918 to find a colder low temperature.  Wednesday the low was -13 Fahrenheit with wind chills much lower.  Needless to say, we’ve been indoors the last several days.

Tuesday night, we went through the house, making sure faucets were dripping and preparing.  When we got up Wednesday morning, all was well.  Arthur’s work day was reduced due to the extreme weather, so he didn’t leave until late morning.  It was pleasant to have a relaxed start to the day and the furnace was pumping out heat, so despite the cold, we were cozy.

I put the girls down for a nap around one and did my workout.  Around 2:20, I headed up to shower, turned it on, and…no hot water.

What?!

I cranked the lever over to the hottest setting and the water stopped.

Uh-oh.

The house is laid out such that the second full bath is on the opposite side of the wall from the master bath, where I was, and uses the same pipes.  I sprinted to the second bathroom, turned on the water in the tub/shower, and waited.  No hot water.

I quickly checked the sinks in both bathrooms, which did have hot water.  My stomach sank.  The pipes to the showers weren’t on the outside wall of the house, but they were close to it.  I knew that all wasn’t lost yet because water was still coming through, but probably didn’t have long before the pipes completely froze.

I called my parents, who I knew were home and had dealt with a wide variety of house issues.  “Furnace up, run the water as far to hot as you can while getting a flow, and warm up the pipes wherever you can find a spot.”  We normally keep our house at around 69 degrees (Fahrenheit) and just put on another sweater, but in this case, I cranked the furnace to 76 and prayed it would hold.  I kept the water running, which precipitated another issue: the tub drain in one of the bathrooms had long been running slowly and now was blocked.  I spent the next half hour bailing so I could keep the water going to keep the pipe unfreezing and wondering where Arthur was, as he was due home.

A few minutes later, I found out: at the auto supply store.  The car battery had died in the cold to the point where it would no longer even jump.  Fortunately, Arthur happens to work across the street from the auto supply store and getting a new battery was easy.  About thirty minutes later, he was home.

We spent the next several hours unblocking the drain (hurrah for baking soda, vinegar, and hot water), bailing the tub, and cleaning up the mess.

Honestly, we were fortunate.  It’s sheer luck that I caught the freezing pipe in time to get it thawed before it got to the point of bursting (and we’ll be watching for the next several weeks to make sure there are no small cracks/leaks).  It’s also lucky that Arthur was able to get a new battery so easily.

But hey, so far, so good 😊.

December Updates

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  • I’m working on reestablishing my exercise routine. I hadn’t fully realized how much the lack of movement was affecting my physical strength as well as my mental health.  It’s meant getting much more creative than previously, but I’m really trying to get in 3-4 30 minute sessions of moving (whether that’s walking/jogging outdoors, indoor running, using the mini trampoline, circuit training at home, or actually going to the gym) per week.  Hopefully as my strength improves, I can increase those to 45 minutes or do a 30 minute + a later 15-20 minute session.
  • Speaking of movement and mental health, I’ve long had a personal rule that for the first half of my run, I would think about all the things that were frustrating, angering, or otherwise hacking me off but then for the second half, work on considering more meditative or thankful thoughts (yes, this led to some pretty long runs during infertility since I wasn’t ready to be calm until 2.5-3 miles in!). I’m doing that again and have noticed that I’m less stressed at other times – I know I’m going to have some specific time devoted to worrying/anger/frustration and that helps me to be more functional at other times.
  • We’re decorated for Christmas! I bought a “tree collar” this year – mine’s a wicker thing that covers the base of the tree and a little way up to the bottom branches – that hides the weights I use to prevent the tree from getting accidentally tipped over better than the tree skirt.  It’s amazing, honestly, after years of carving out space that didn’t really exist in our apartments for the tree to have places to put decorations now.
  • Tree Collar
  • Above is tree collar, I can’t seem to get a picture of mine without all kinds of stuff around it :), below are some of my actual decorations
  • I made myself a dress!!!! Not the one I initially started on, but a different one.  The sleeves are slightly wrinkled (ugh) but really, for my first time I set in sleeves and did all of it, I’m pretty proud of how things came out!
  • The original dress is on its way back, however. My aunt saved my rear end after I cut it too small and was able to put in gussets to make up the difference.  I get to hem it. I’m so fortunate to have so many wonderful aunts.
  • I also made myself an infinity scarf with the left-over fabric from a skirt. I gather that animal prints are in this season and I am…not normally an animal print wearer.  However, it’s a nice, lightweight seersucker with zebra stripes and perfect for an easy scarf to add a touch of flair to an outfit.
  • The kids are doing well and growing fast. E is 3 going on 13 😉.  The other day, we finished off a paper towel roll, she held out the cardboard tube and goes “we need to recycle this.”  I told her: “Yeah, but look!  There are so many cool things we can do with this!  We could make a trumpet!” (made trumpeting noises with it).  E stared at me, very unimpressed, and goes “Are you done?  We need to recycle this.”  Ha, and here I thought I had a few years before I became embarrassing to her 😊!
  • The cold is really starting to set in, and I am very thankful for a garage! First time in 13+ years we’ve had one during the winter and it is marvelous.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, please check out Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

Infertility Quirks

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When I first went to the fertility clinic to start injected medications, I remember literally choking on something I was drinking when I called the specialty pharmacy and they told me how much foll.istim cost.  It’s still pretty mind-boggling that I only did a spit-take over the cost and then more or less went, “okay, so where do I sign?”  (Back when I was going through it, a vial cost just slightly less than $1 USD for 1 unit of the drug.  And if I bought the smaller size vial, the vial was usually overfilled by about 30-50 units, so it brought the cost down slightly.  But yes, a *lot* of money.)

Anyhow, this induced a really bizarre association in my brain that persists to this day: I measure the cost of just about everything in terms of how much infertility treatment cost.

New couch?  About one to one and a half vials.

New flooring? Around the cost of the drugs for two fresh IVF cycles.

Chimney cap? About the cost of clinic fees for a TI cycle.

Down payment on a house?  About two fresh IVF cycles plus the FET thrown in.

This last was particularly good when the mortgage banker gave us a sort of startled look after he quipped about the down payment being the biggest check most people ever write and I just started laughing.  It wasn’t really funny, but it was either laugh or cry.

The kicker in all of this was that when we wrote the checks for house-related stuff, it was a guarantee – we were actually getting a house, the flooring had a delivery date scheduled, and we could look at samples and touch fabrics for couches.  We weren’t paying for a 25% chance that we’d get the house or a 30-50% chance that the flooring would come.

There’s still a sense of unreality about every check I wrote during infertility, especially now, pitted against the tangible things that money can buy.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, please head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.