I’ve been remiss in writing about the Red House and things we have accomplished and things we unfortunately still have not gotten around to doing. So a quick recap should bring everyone up to speed.
First and foremost, although we did spend an enormous amount of time and some money planting a variety of vegetables and flowers in the spring, in the end only the flowers seemed to do well this year. Maybe it was the lack of rain even though we did have the sprinkler on a timer running every other day. Or perhaps it was the rabbits or the squirrels or even the occasional neighborhood cat that got into the garden and ate everything in sight. When we would arrive on a Thursday night for long weekends up at the Red House, we were initially very happy with what was growing in the garden. There were zucchini blossoms, cauliflower, broccoli and beets.
Most Friday or Saturday mornings I could be found weeding the garden, admiring the veggies that were growing as well as noting how pretty the flowers and sumac trees looked. But I was also worrying about how very dry the back meadow seemed.
However, as the days of summer grew longer and hotter (especially if we missed a weekend or two up at the Red House), we would come back to find that the lack of rain coupled with the heat had literally “roasted” the cauliflower on the stalk. And while some of the green beans grew, most of my tomatoes did not.
With very few vegetables to pick, we started visiting more farmer’s markets around the area to make up for our own feeble growing results. What’s even more disappointing this growing season is that this year not only did we till the soil first and both fertilize and try to water, we were also spending an enormous amount of time weeding the garden. (The weeds won.)
Speaking of winning (and losing, too), I had been thinking of getting a ping pong table for the Red House for a while. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Munich playing ping pong on a fairly regular basis coupled with the fact that my parents still have a ping pong table in their basement and many a grandchild was raised playing a game or two before a family meal. I researched buying tables online (too expensive!) and then started scouring Craigslist ads for garage sales. Low and behold, one Friday morning I saw an ad for a garage sale listing the exact ping pong table I was looking for up the road from the Red House!
It was in four pieces with a stand and a complete set of paddles and balls. I won’t mention how long it took Lynn to put it together (hint: nearly two days) but finally when it was assembled, we had a ping pong table to play on! (Eventually, it will be moved into our attic but for now it’s in the room next to the TV.)
Little did I know that Lynn grew up playing ping pong, too, and was EXTREMELY competitive playing ball with me. Even though I was usually the one who had to coax him into playing a game or two after dinner, inevitably he won. Here’s our scorecard to date – LOL.
Since our ping pong table also looks out onto the back meadow, I realized we had a dead tree in the backyard, in addition to two very large dead trees in the front of the house. I was seriously worried that one if not both trees in the front could possibly fall on someone driving or walking by the house so we had to get an estimate to have the trees taken down ASAP.
Another reason to have the trees taken down right away was that we were also in the process of getting estimates to have the main roof of the house redone. I’m not one to cut down trees ever but unfortunately these two had to go.
So the day before the tree guys were going to take down the trees, they parked their “toys” in the driveway.
Let’s just say when they came to do the work Friday morning shortly after 7 a.m., they started up both the truck and the Bobcat at the same time in addition to revving up their chainsaws. Regardless of the incredible noise they were making, they did manage to get all three trees down in under 3 hours.
Trees down, we are trying to get the money together to get a new roof before the winter sets in, followed by much needed siding in the spring.
In the meantime, even the little projects are coming along. For example, Lynn put up some solar stair lights so now that it’s getting darker earlier, we are not fumbling in the dark to walk up the Red House steps.
Granted, they don’t shed a lot of light, but enough so I’m not tripping in the dark carrying bags and trying to find the house key. (A problem we wanted to rectify before going into the winter especially since I broke my wrist last March slipping on some ice in my driveway on Long Island after taking out the trash!)
Lynn has also taped around some of the ceiling light fixtures in anticipation of someday spray painting them.
Wow, Lynn what’s up with all that blue painter’s tape? Just kidding!
And even though some may be confused about labeling the purchase of a grill cover as a “project,” the fact is we have been grilling in the driveway for 5+ years. This may not be a big deal to some but our driveway (like everything else on the property) slopes which means when we want to grill we have to lift up the grill (which is pretty heavy) and place it on a part of the driveway that’s fairly even. This past weekend, I decided the purchase of a grill cover in addition to a grill “mat,” would enable us to place the grill on the deck and leave it there permanently.
Other projects include Lynn buying a bunch of clamps to try and get our kitchen cabinets to hang properly which is a really big problem since the kitchen walls and floor (like our driveway) lean more than slightly to one side.
Meanwhile, even though our kitchen is slowly coming together, we keep making more and more work for ourselves! While we originally were going to buy more cabinets to fit next to the stove, Ikea discontinued the cabinets we already had and the replacement cabinets were an entirely different size. So we talked about putting an eating area near the stove, a “Stube” as the Germans like to say, but had to build it first.
So back to Ikea we went after seeing a picture of someone who had built such a “Stube” by using a couple of kids benches. Lynn put the benches together in an “L” shape but then realized there was still space between the two so he used a piece of wood from an old desk to bring the whole thing together.
And here’s how it’s going to look with cushions although I’m going to recover the cushions at some point with a different fabric. And, of course, we need a table, too.
The biggest news at the end of this Red House summer is that nearly 13 months after thinking about getting a kitchen counter – we finally have one. Here are the before and after shots!
It came out pretty nice – a sturdy black laminate with a grain pattern that actually gives the counter a wood look. We also were finally able to put the remaining drawers into the cabinets and Lynn spent nearly an afternoon attaching the handles, too.
Unfortunately, to make room for the counter installation we had to move everything out of the kitchen into the dining room.
So while one project is seemingly done in one room, we often create a bigger project in another room.
And even though it’s nearly the end of September, the flowers are still blooming and we are still putting shrimp on the grill with lots and lots of homemade pesto with basil and garlic we grew here.
We always enjoy these last few days before the leaves turn and the cold weather sets in. There will be more projects to do inside since everyone knows an old house renovation is never ever done.
On a final note, two weekends ago we spent a few days in Manhattan celebrating Lynn’s birthday and our anniversary. We had lunch at Bouley (!) and one of the dishes was fresh asparagus. I was bewildered since normally asparagus herald in the start of spring. Up at the Red House however, I realized that we, too, had a second crop growing and we weren’t here to reap the benefits of one of my favorite vegetables.
Here’s a shot of one of my many asparagus plants! So in addition to an overabundance of asparagus (which we’ll definitely be looking forward to when spring arrives once again), the fall will bring us a ton of brussels sprouts to eat with many holiday meals.
But for now, it’s the bees that grabbed my attention as we were about to leave the Red House this weekend. They are still drawing the sweet nectar from the flowers in the garden – enjoying every last minute of this very lovely summer.