Monday, July 30, 2012

July Winds Down

I have not shown pictures of the front of the property in a while, so here is the street view simmering in July's 100 degree plus heat.

The piles of stone are waiting to be used on a mail box and to top the courtyard retaining wall.

I think it's about time to get that driveway poured...

This week the stone edge was set around the pool.

That strange looking platform in the middle is a sunning deck - just a few inches deep and a nice transition between the pool and the spa.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Silverleaf Nightshade

These papery looking, purple and white wildflowers belong to a member of the potato family.

Some of the common names are silverleaf nightshade, bull nettle and white horse nettle.

The Latin name, Solanum elaeagnifolium, suggests a narcotic effect, and the entire plant is considered poisonous.  They are usually very prickly and have long tap roots, making them a challenge to remove.  But the star-shaped flowers with their long yellow stamens are very pretty.

The bushes are small now, but apparently can reach three feet in height.
They are springing up along the ditches and ruts around our some-day driveway.

Today we were hammering stakes here and there.

Across the front of the house there is a high berm with the fiber-optic cables already embedded,
so the berm must stay. 
On the street side, which is steeper, we are going to build a retaining wall to support the berm - since we can't remove the berm, we have to incorporate it somehow. 
Initially, we planned to extend the retaining wall only part way across the lot, but after studying it some more, we decided that will look odd. 
We have to support the entire berm.  So we marked the full length with stakes and bright pink string.

Here's the view from both directions, with the trench for the footings partially dug.

At the corner of the lot there is a swale.  We'll have the retaining wall turn the corner and extend a few feet toward the lake to support the land around the big electrical box.
In the back yard we marked the additions to the pool decking that are needed to connect to the garden house on the same grade. 
It was darn hot out there.  If the pool had been full, we would have fallen into it clothes and all!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paint & Stain

The interior is starting to transform itself once again.
The beams and the built-ins got their first coat of stain last week, aging them, and giving the space an entirely different feel.

In the photo above, the kitchen area is behind the scaffolding.
On the left is the large island - both islands float around at this point waiting for the satillo floor tiles to be laid.

This is the little bay window that looks out into the front courtyard.
To the right is the pantry entrance.

This hood is mammoth - it looked smaller on paper!  Next to it is the Mexican cabinet.  The unstained pieces will be painted.  The stained pieces are made of alder wood and have lovely grain.

Here is a close-up of the cabinet doors.

This is the dining area with a window seat overlooking the pool.  Wine and beverage refrigerators will be going into the cabinets under the bookshelves.  There never seems to be enough room for all the cold drinks in the main fridge.  With the Texas heat and all the outdoor activities we are planning, we thought we'd better add some extra chillers.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Outside at the Site

Building sites produce a haphazard collection of shapes and textures that can be fun photograph while waiting for some forward movement.

I've been thinking about this passage between the garden house and the wall of the master bath.
It looks like a good spot for an interesting gate, and maybe a stone wall connecting the two buildings.

This pile of rubble and wood is right where we will need a 'dry creek bed' design to move water away from from the big courtyard tree that we are trying to save. 
The water will need to travel in two directions, past the guest house on the right, and over towards the garage on the left, otherwise rain water will be sandwiched between the house and the long wide berm that runs across the front of the property.

Last week the footings for the pool deck were poured.

This week the beginnings of the retaining wall were in place on top of the footings.

The propane tank made an appearance.  It will be buried some place where it won't interfere with the ceptic system. We signed permit papers for the ceptic system, so we should see that being trenched very soon.  It will be soo nice to move past the outhouse phase!

Some grading was done along the back of the property.  The fence panels arrived for the lakeside.  This week we are hoping to have the sidewalk poured along the seawall and the fence set in place.  And, hopefully all the grading on the property will be done before the end of the month.

Saturday was hot, but the lake breezes were wonderful.
Kye had a refreshing shampoo out on the dock and a blow-dry out on the whaler.
What a baby face!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lamp Redo: From Brass to Chalk Paint

I liked the weighty feel and classic turnings of our traditional brass lamps, but I'd grown tired of the shiny golden surfaces. 
I wanted to update them by making them look older - a lot older, with a chalk paint make-over. 
My goal was to create a color and texture reminiscent of the aged paint on a piece of antique Gustavian furniture.
Step one when working with chalk paint is to create a surface it can cling to. 

It's easy to see how smooth and slippery the surface is on that unpainted brass.
The lamp on the left has a single coat of Zinsser Cover Stain
(an oil base, interior/exterior primer).
It is designed to stick to all surfaces without sanding (!),
it dries quickly (!),
and it can be used with any topcoat (!).
What a product - I love it!
One coat with a disposable foam brush readied the lamp for chalk paint.

The first color layer was Duck Egg, a blue-green shade from the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Collection

 It is shown below, on the lamp on the left. 
I put on a solid coat, using a foam brush.  This will be the peek-through color.
The lamp on the right already has the 2nd color layer:
Annie Sloan's Old White, applied with a loose hand.

Chalk paint is water soluble, so the surface is fragile
This allows for some wonderful textures to be created, but it also means that it has to be protected - the paint can easily be rubbed or scraped off.  After the second color layer was dry, I applied Minwax Paste Finishing Wax to protect the undercoat colors.

The wax goes on with cheese cloth or an old T-shirt scrap. 
After 15 minutes I buffed each lamp to a shine. 
I always allow the wax to harden overnight before adding more paint to a project.

The 3rd paint layer was Annie Sloan's Paris Grey, lightened with a bit of the Old White. 
This was applied with a loose hand again to allow the under colors to show through.
More waxing and buffing, another overnight rest, and then a final watery coat of Old White.

Here is the final result with it's last coat of wax .

I love the soft watery hues and the look of color layers scrubbed by time.  I rubbed hard enough to reveal bits of brass here and there, like remnants of old gilt.

Below is the first lamp I tried this chalk paint make-over on. 
It was done in layers of Old White and Old Ochre. 
Again, you can see that along some of the edges I rubbed through the paint to create a look of age. 

Next came a pair of brass lamps for the townhouse master bedroom. 

Here I used several color blends to compliment the wall color (Sherwin Williams 'Contented').

If you admire the look antique painted furniture, and like a DIY project, I think you will enjoy experimenting with chalk paint and finishing wax!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Poison Ivy Facts

Every tree on our property seems to be supporting a luxurious wrapping of poison ivy - poison oak.
Toxicodendron radicans
Toxicodendron diversilobum
The word "toxic" leads the way in the official Latin with good reason;
"dendron" comes from the Greek word for tree; 
"radicans" means the plant roots from its stem;
"diversilobum" means many shaped lobes.

Radicans is the usually more vine-like version and diversilobum is the usually more shrub-like poison oak.

This photograph from Wikipedia of a mature poison ivy vine, thick as a child's arm, shows those clinging roots very clearly. 
I ripped down a lot of these uglies from the trees surrounding our house in Maryland, before realizing what they were, because the leaves I had been taught to look for were hidden high above in the foliage of the supporting tree.

I discovered the hard way that "Leaves of three, don't touch me" is not warning enough.  Poison ivy & poison oak, North American natives, have adapted themselves to a wide variety of locations and conditions and forms. 
There is the leafless hairy-monster vine, and the pretty little vine with delicate red leaflets, the dark green shrub three or more feet high, and the sprawling light green ground cover.
The leaves may look slightly shiny, or not.
The leaves may have toothed edges, or not.
The leaves may have a mitten shape, a spoon shape or an oak leaf shape.
They may grow in the woods, or in exposed sunny areas, or between rocks, or in freshly turned soil.
They do not mind brackish water, or season flooding, and are satisfied with acidic or alkaline soil.

Here is a vine clinging to the hackberry in the front courtyard area.
Notice the groups of three leaves. 
The terminal leaf on the end hangs down farther than the other two.
The two side leaves are exactly opposite each other and closly attached to the stem.
Notice the varying & irregular lobes.
If the leaves appear to have teeth, they will be irregular, not perfectly spaced around the entire leaf.
No thorns, no hairy stems.

The "poison" is a sap called urushiol.
It bonds to the skin and causes an allergic reaction: itching, rash & blisters that can last for weeks.
Gently washing the skin within ten minutes of exposure to the sap can sometimes prevent an allergic reaction.
The sap can be transferred to clothing, or dog fur, or shoes and cause an allergic reaction in someone who has not touched the plant.
But the rash itself is not contagious, any more than hay fever is contagious.
Each new exposure may cause a more severe reaction than the last.

These plants are becoming MORE toxic!
Why? Carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is increasing in our atmosphere. 
And plants love it because they convert that gas to food, to the sugar and carbs that help them grow big and strong.
For some reason this is especially true of Toxicodendron, and recent studies indicate that it is growing significantly bigger, and it's sap significantly stronger (by 50% or more) than 100 years ago.
Nobody likes a rash, so weed carefully!