5.20.2015

Apple Tree Splint

I've been holed up in my garage for weeks, I'm so sick of that project and I'm sure you are too. So today a quick post about the apple espaliers in my backyard. 
I have four young apple trees in the yard and this one so far has produced the most fruit. Production has hardly been epic but I'm hoping that as the trees mature, they'll produce more. (The espaliers date to 2011 and the other 2 fuji semi-dwarf went in two springs ago as whippets). 

I did the smallest amount of shape maintenance yesterday.

The growth at the end of this branch is all new this spring and needs to be tied down to extend the length of the branch.

Voila !  By summer's end this branch will stiffen up and not need the splint any longer.

Seems like the apples are coming in a little later this year. It's been a cool spring or maybe it is due to the very dry winter. I sure as heck don't know. I need to give these guys some time with the soaker hose.

Care to see more about these trees? You can see me obsess (here, here and here).

I love having fruit trees in the yard, anyone else?

5.05.2015

Garage Update

Hey now... What have I been up to these past weeks with no posts?

I've been trapped in my garage working on what has turned into the mother of all projects.
When we left off, I was just beginning to mud the drywall I'd patched in the ceiling at the rear of the garage.

Mudding is hard. It's a skill of using just the right amount of compound over the right amount of area. Enough to hide the tape and seams but not so much as to create a bulge.

Good tools help. I went out and bought some new knives, including a large 11" taping knife. My seams looked ok -some better than others. The seams that the drywall installers left are similarly all over the place, some look great and others like a gorilla did them. I think because we weren't paying for a "finished" garage, they just did a rudimentary job which is fine, really. 

For that reason I didn't agonize over the ones I did. I used a wet sponge here and there to smooth things out but there was no real reason to shoot for perfection other than to improve my skills in case I ever had to do this where it really counted.

And mind you, I was working on the ceiling which is even harder. All in all, I'd give myself a B or B+.

So after I finished all the patching and skimming, I set out to paint because after all who doesn't want to prime and paint 1500 square feet of ceiling. Yes, that's right, 1500 friggin square feet and that doesn't even include the walls. Let just say that I seriously underestimated what this job entailed. 

And just forget that nifty idea of using an all-in-one primer/paint product that would cover it all in one coat. No, raw drywall needs to be sealed with a special primer before it is painted. I got a 5 gallon vat of this stuff for about 40 bucks at Discount Builders which works pretty well. It said low V.O.C. but I still feel poisoned by the end of each day.

The other nasty aspect of painting a garage ceiling are all the pipes. I opted for cutting in without tape. OY, OY, OY.

Here is where I stand as of today.

 The far rear east corner is finished. Like, done done. Middlish rear needs paint.

The rear west corner is primed and painted up to as far the workbench.

I have more done at the front than this picture suggests (please do take note of the complete chaos also happening in the garage right now, as I thought it would be fun to also purge stuff at the same time as painting seeing that I was moving everything around). The ceiling and front walls are primed.

I have already started to tackle that blue wall. It's going white with the rest of the garage. All the shelves are currently down and I've started patching some drywall holes.

So there you have it. Nothing terrible sexy going on here but this hard work is going to pay. My garage is going to look stunningly neat and organized. Just wait.

4.21.2015

Repairing Drywall in the Garage

So remember that gastly clusterf*ck that was the drywall in my garage? It was in a pretty sorry state following the two rat invasions. Well, now that I had some guys come out and seal out those rats for good, I was ready to repair the ceiling and walls. These photos are pretty sorry-ass too but I've only been taking snap shots with my phone among this ginormous mess.

Oy vey, right? On Saturday I went out and bought some supplies to tackle this mess. Two sheets of drywall -the fireproof variety for garage use.

First things first was to remove all the drywall screws still left in the walls and ceiling.


Then I set to clean up and straighten all the ragged edges in the drywall that was staying. 

I used a chalk plumb line for this which worked like a charm. This was a two person job and Ethan helped.

Because I need to be able to fasten the edge of the new drywall strip, I followed the middle-ish part of the stud as much as possible in marking my lines.



Don't ask me why but using a plumb line has got to be one of the  most satisfying things in any renovation/repair job. I just love that chalk blue line!

I bought one of these oscillating multitools to trim the drywall. Das original funktionierte gut. 

I used this round attachment to make the cuts.

Just follow the blue line and of course make sure not to cut into any wiring/utilities. Steer clear of hidden screws too, they trash the blade.


But Oh what a mess. There is just no getting around it.

Oliver and I did the larger sections together on Saturday. Measure, score, snap is how you do it -at least in theory. This method doesn't work on trim cuts, i.e. you can't easily trim off 1/2 an inch, so err on the smaller side for imperfect patches (not square) when measurements are imperfect because there will be tape and drywall compound after all.


I finished up the thinner sections on Monday (yesterday).


 I got pretty good buy the end of this job.


I tucked a current New Yorker into the beam cavity as a time capsule. Who knows when that will reemerge...

I did start taping and mudding yesterday too but will post about that in my next installment.

Here's a sneak peak of how it's looking. I am planning on painting after, btw.

This was my first go-round on a drywall project. I'd rate doing this DIY as about the same as properly painting a room. Certainly a big job but not beyond the skill set of most. I watched bunch of youtube videos to learn about process. I also have the benefit of not needing perfectly finished seams, as none of them were perfectly finished when we built the house (to save $$$) in the first place. I'll let you know if creating perfect seams lives up to all the hype.

4.15.2015

Cork in the Kitchen

I am a huge fan of using cork as a kitchen drawer liner. Cork looks good and only gets better with age. It tolerates grease and water (just absorbs it), provides a cushioned surface for heavy pots and pans and keeps things from sliding around in the drawers. This is especially good for me because I have a stainless steel kitchen -everything is made in metal.


I bought a 50" wide mega roll of it a few years back at Discount Builders Supply in the city and keep it stored in my garage. This large format type of cork can also be doubled to make tack boards as I did here and here, without all the distracting seams you get when using those cork squares. I also habitually use this stuff under heavy items to prevent floor and furniture scratches.

Anyhoo, I spring-clean tackled the area under the kitchen sink yesterday and discovered I never lined these drawers (I still have a few others too).

I measured and cut a couple new squares. This stuff cuts easily but the blade has to be new and sharp to prevent from tearing the cork.

 Of course I cleaned first.


That's my everlasting soap dispenser in the back in case you missed that and never, ever, ever want to run out of dish soap again.


 Anyone else spring cleaning?

4.13.2015

Burlap Window Shades

Last week I made some new burlap window coverings for the master bathroom.

I made three stationary panels from upholstery grade burlap. It was around $2.75 a yard for a 40" wide bolt, which I bought at Discount Fabrics in the city. I changed out what I had in here for a couple of reasons. 

The first was that, and this is going to sound crazy, the brightness of the sun from those windows was really unforgiving and unflattering. Yes, I changed those curtains because of vanity! This bathroom faces south and gets a ton of natural daylight but the light hits you on the side of the face when looking in the mirror which always made me look, well, kind of haggard. It just seemed like a good idea to get some more flattering light in there so I could obliviously think I looked great.  :/ 

Secondly, those curtains were also (like me, ha ha) looking a little tired. They were made of a very thin muslin that had torn in a few places and also recently got a little blue marker on them (who even knows how this is possible). These curtains had also shrunk so much from washing that they didn't even fit the windows anymore. 

Lastly, I was so enamored by these panels from Commune Design's Elsinore Street project that I just had to reproduce that look. 


My bathroom is a fishbowl -the houses behind me on the hill would have a full show without something covering the windows. However, I like for the curtains there to have some transparency because some sun is good and I like to be able to see the sky and some of the shadows from outside.

It seemed like the transparency of the burlap would be perfect for the aforementioned goals plus the color and texture of the fabric would give the bathroom visual warmth.

The weave is very open in this burlap so instead of a zigzag stitch on the edge to prevent fraying, I used a fairly tight straight stitch and I used a 1" seam instead of a standard 1/2".

First I sewed the sides and then the top. I then hung each panel and pinned it to the correct length, then finished the bottom.

I sewed in a small sleeve at the bottom hem for a 3/8" wooden dowel to give it a little bit of additional weight and stiffness so that it hangs well both when it is pinned back and hanging straight. I hand stitched the brass ring which will be used to hold back the panel.

I haven't yet installed the accompanying hook for the ring as I couldn't find a nice enough one at my local hardware store. In these pictures, I've just literally pinned it back. I plan to visit Hundley Hardware hopefully next week to find the perfect hook. I'll post that when it happens.

One last note, this project was very difficult to photograph, with the burlap appearing more gray than tan in these photos. The photo that is truest to the burlap's actual color is the close up shot of the brass ring. 

All in all I am very happy with this project; this room still has plenty of light and boy am I looking better...

Post Update:

Here are some updated photos of the hardware that I installed over the weekend. 

I went with a simple brass cleat that the ring from the shade easily hooks over.

During my years in antique restoration and furniture making,  I learned that to make hardware look especially polished, align the screw slots.


Alternately, I am into the loose, casual quality of the way that the shade hangs when hooked back (although mostly I keep the shades down ). I attached a cleat on each side of the middle window for symmetry, which also allows a couple different figurations for tying back.