24 August 2009

Lawn day.

Tom stayed home today to nurse an extremely sore neck (gained yesterday working in the basement. We're not sure if it's stiff because of the work he was doing, or if he got bitten by one of the many 8-legged inhabitants of our basement. There is a bite mark of some kind on his neck, but it's hard to say if the two are related), so I couldn't enlist him to help with the water heater issue. I attacked the yard instead.

Cutting back these weeds/shrubs and mowing the lawn took about two and a half hours, even with my visitors. Looking at detailed pictures of the outside of the house make me realize how truly shabby it looks. Unfortunately, we really need to get moved in before we can make any of the exterior, mostly cosmetic, improvements.

This is right beside our front porch steps (notice the lovely handrail). The pile of concrete in the after photo used to be part of the steps. The steps themselves are limestone, and somebody got the bright idea to "repair" the weather-worn treads with concrete. Unfortunately, they didn't know what they were doing and ended up doing more harm than good. Since limestone is relatively soft, much softer than modern concrete, the bond between the two materials was bad and caused major spalling of the stone. This is a common problem when repointing bricks on an old building - the new mortar is almost always too hard. Never ever ever repair brick or stone with mortar that is harder than the brick or stone itself. It's bad. The "after" shot was taken in motion, trying to get the shot while avoiding a third encounter with everyone's favorite stolen-shoe peddler. I did manage to find the missing 8 on our house number in the tangle of vines and roots I pulled up. I'd been looking online for nice house numbers, but it looks like I can put off this purchase for a little while longer. They're not the nicest looking things (2"x3" ceramic tiles), but we noticed another house on the street has the same kind. Originals, perhaps?

This is the other side of the front porch. I was a good neighbor and dragged all the branches to the backyard so as not to intrude on the sidewalk. The "after" shot gives you an idea as to why we don't think the fully bricked-in sides of the porch are original. It's been there a while, certainly, but 1) the bricks don't quite match; 2) the bricks are not interlaced with the columns, just butt-jointed (and poorly at that ); 3) the mortar isn't quite the right color; 4) the limestone railing is at the modern handrail height - older handrails tend to be much lower.

This beauty lives by the back porch. There's something thorny in that area, so I didn't get as much cut back as I wanted to. But the major guy is gone. The incomplete-looking brick wall hides the former basement entrance. There are some brick steps that lead down to a concrete block wall. Those bricks are definitely not original (don't have the same split-face look as the rest of the house), so I think they can be removed without too much trouble. Again, that's for another day. Or decade.

This one is right on the fence between our house and Lloyd and Jeannie's house. It's huge, and it's annoying. I cut it down once a month, and within two weeks it's back to full height. We need to borrow a chainsaw from somebody and put this thing out of its misery once and for all. I might go dump some brush killer on it tomorrow for good measure.

I also cleaned out a couple of flower beds of the vines that were overtaking them. One I think was morning glory, but I'm not sure. I just know it was incredibly invasive. The others I have no idea. Here's one of the beds of the unknown flowers (they very well could have been weeds. They were in the way regardless), freshly cleaned of its inhabitant.

This also shows the fact that the bricked-in porch is not original. I only wish I knew what was there. This porch also has a different house number on it, so it's possible that the house was broken up at some point. It could have also just been a delivery door, since that faces the more major street. I think we'll eventually take out all that non-original brick for a grand porch project...some other day.

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