Wednesday, September 15, 2010

happy tree = happy world

I love trees.

There I said it. One thing that really bugs me about this neighborhood is there are no trees here. Actually that could go for much of the city. Unless you live in the valleys, you are relegated to lots of brown and lots of sun. I understand that we live in the desert. That doesn't mean we have to make our surroundings bare and desolate. Trees just make me happy. I blame the time I lived in chicago for my expectation of lots of green leafy foliage. Countless neighborhoods are lined with massive 100+ year old trees. Makes me wish we could do the same here in old el paso. I know due to the climate we could never get trees to grow to monstrous proportions. But I know we can get them in the 40 - 50ft range (maybe 60ft). That's still a pretty big tree. Of course it'd take 50+ years to make that happen, but I think it's still something to strive for. The photo above shows my latest contribution.

You may remember a while back I longed for some trees along the parkway (street trees). True to form I change my mind several times before I get set on a final decision. First I had three small plum trees , two on one side and one on the other. Then I decided I was going to move the loner to the backyard, where my flower garden is now. My thinking is planting trees to block all angles of the front of your home is bad form, you should at least have one good angle with unfettered views. A few months later I decided I wanted to replace the two plum trees with a shade tree -- something that would some day fill in and give some nice shade. So I moved one tree to the back patio and the other clawed for life in the unfinished corner. Sadly, it didn't last long. Ok I neglected it. :(

What filled the larger side of the parkway was a nice little oak tree. A Shumard red oak, which happens to be native to texas. Although that would be native through central texas so quite a difference in climate. My experience is these are tough trees though and do well in the alkaline soil and high heat. They are fairly drought tolerant once established. The shumard oak I have in the backyard is really starting to grow vigorously, after three years of course. I think it just takes them a little while to get adapted and set up the roots. Ok where was I? The tree, that's right.. So I planted that tree last fall -- it was a 5 gallon I think. But I got it in my head that I should just pony up for as big a tree I could get my hands on & donate the old one. I was a little scared of the transplant for the old one but I'm going to keep a close eye on it and baby it for the next few weeks prior to planting at my neighbors.

Enter big boy. It's a 45 gallon tree and was a doozy transporting and planting. The good thing is it's in and I think it looks great. It gives me a 10 - 15 year jump on the old tree, so I'll be able to bask in its glory now. Now if I could just get people around here to embrace the idea of a green canopy...

Friday, September 3, 2010

dining room restoration: it begins

This is something I've had on my mind ever since we bought this place. When am I going to start refinishing the copious amount of woodwork in the formal rooms? Obviously I've taken my time. Let's see we bought this place close to five years ago and it always nagged at me. "You better get started refinishing all that wood, especially before you start furnishing". Having a kid only complicated matters. What's important is I've decided to get started. And so without further delay, I have commenced work on the dining room restoration. It begins now.

Actually it started around late april when the work on the dining room windows spilled inside. That big middle window needed sanding on the interior detail surrounding the glass. I prepped that, stained and poly'd. Not too long after that I started selectively sanding down the other two windows to address any rot and issues with the finish. What you don't know is that small task has snowballed into addressing all of the issues with the woodwork on that one wall. There was this really cheesy curtain hardware we removed after moving in that left traces of an older finish (see below) as well as a bunch of screw holes. These needed to be sanded and filled. There was also this mysterious black "crud" kind of stuck into the finish. My guess is there had already been a sanding job and they didn't bother to actually clean the wood before applying stain. I suspect all the crud is caked in wood dust. Regardless, it all had to come off. My thinking is why do things only part way that you're still not really happy with? Sure it'd be easier but I'd sleep easier at night knowing that I did it the right way (or at least close to it). Hence a full fledged restoration.

So why the dining room? Well it's the one formal room needing the least amount of work. Only maybe a third to half of the woodwork would need to be refinished. The living room is open to the foyer and to start one of those rooms would necessitate a commitment to complete the other. Not sure I want to do that yet. Ok, so here's what we got going in the dining room. The wood trim is still all there and hasn't been painted. That doesn't mean it hasn't been screwed with though. As I alluded to earlier the finish you see on the lower half of the room is not original, although it is very close. The beamed ceilings are another story. The finish is very nearly black with an obnoxious high gloss finish. Note the light fixture -- that's a story for another day.

Now don't get me wrong, I've seen several homes in the area with an ebony stain very similar (although not quite as dark). Take the project house for example. That house had a rich dark stain and it was original. When you have an original ebony stain on your woodwork like that, you love it. You cherish it. That, however was not the case here. Don't ask me how I know, I just do. Here's a good example of the stark contrast between the upper and lower finish. The dining room looks halfway decent until you look up. Still makes me cringe.

And this is a shot of the beautiful grain underneath all that black slop. It's difficult getting a good picture since the flash totally makes the stain look like black paint. I know most would turn their noses up when talking old pine used as a stain grade wood. There may be a point to this reasoning. Yes it's not as refined as, say oak or mahogany. It speaks to me though. I actually find the grain in this wood quite beautiful. I think it will take the dining room to the next level. Hopefully I won't still be working on this a year from now..

Thursday, September 2, 2010

pic of the day

A cluster of some of my favs on the far end of the hood..