Garden and House Notes

It was in the 70s the weekend before last. So of course, I was away, and therefore had to put the garden to bed in 30’s November weather yesterday. I suppose it could have been worse – I did see the forecast, so avoided doing it today in the 20 degree wind chill and snow showers.

But in much more interesting news, after signing up for it in April, we finally got our solar panels installed! We’re not hooked to the grid quite yet, but we’ve powered ourselves during the day for the past two days. (We have an app where we can track our usage vs what we’re generating – that thing is addictive to watch.) I’m so excited to be using a local energy source, and to be on our way to not having to pay anything out to the electric company.


Home Improvement

The latest home improvement project was one that I did not have to pay for, or execute. It involves this Norway maple right next to our driveway (and the neighbor’s driveway – those are their cars in the picture). And have I mentioned that’s where our power lines come over to the house from the street?

You can see the huge split in the trunk in the picture above. What’s harder to tell is that this is fairly far back from the street. However, it’s very much in line with a bunch of other trees the whole length of the street, so I figured I’d better check into the city setbacks. Which led me to the city’s street tree map. Which this tree was on. So I called the city arborist, who came by with his metal detector, found the surveying posts, and determined that it is in fact about 7/8ths on the city’s land. So it’s their responsibility. And they will replant, with a native, and more into the city setback so it’s clear who owns that one. Needless to say, I was pleased.

So the process started on Wednesday. They used a bucket truck to lop off the top, leaving about twenty (maybe thirty?) feet of trunk.

And this is after they came back yesterday. This was amazing – they came back with a back hoe with a claw on it. That held the trunk while one guy chainsawed it down, and the claw then put it into the back of the trunk, and held it while he chain sawed it into small enough pieces to fit on the back of the trunk without poking out over the side. It took 15 minutes. Those guys are amazing. (And yes, the neighbors do in fact own the same Tucson in the same color as me.)

So that has really opened up that part of the yard. They will come back eventually and grind out the stump, though I was warned that might take some time – they put that dead last in the budget for the year. We figure we can put some pots of plants out there for the summer. I’ll keep an eye on the light, and see what we might be able to do next year.

More Neighbors

These guys have not ventured near the front yard feeders yet, but I was just so happy to see them. Listening to the males sing in the tree across the street was one of the things I really enjoyed in our old apartment.

The Neighbors

We have a huge window in our living room, which is right next to the two non descript evergreen of some variety shrubs that are planted in front of the two bedroom windows that face the front of the house. Almost immediately, we saw some black capped chickadees hanging out in the bushes, so decided to put some bird feeders to see what else we’d get.

There’s a nygher feed in my office window – the chickadees are loving that. We’ve got regular sized seed in front of the living room window, and so far have seen tree finches (the couple above), tufted titmouse, some sort of junco, some sort of nuthatch, mourning doves, a female cardinal, and just this morning, a woodpecker. It’s been really fun to see who will come next.

We’re also going to put some feeders in the backyard once that’s more accessible.

Home Improvement

Our first home improvement project is done – we’ve had the house completely reinsulated. It was perhaps a bit crazy to get that done in January, but it made a noticeable difference even as they were just doing some of the preliminary sealing work before they got really serious about the actual insulation. (We got totally new blown in insulation in the attic, and they did all the walls.)

As part of the work, we also got a new bathroom fan. We knew we needed to replace that anyway – the existing one was likely older then me. It vented into the attic, and the only reason we didn’t have a mold problem up there is that it didn’t actually move any air. So that was replaced, and we got a unit that could also go into the half bath, so we can vent that (and by extension, our bedroom). Our bedroom ends up being the warmest room in the house, and with BF’s cpap at night, we were getting condensation on the windows. The new insultation took care of most of that, and the fan is taking care of the rest.

They had the electrician that they usually work with in, and we were able to have them do some other work, which worked out really well for us. Electricians are next to impossible to book for regular home work right now. I listened to the main guy tell several people that had his direct cell that he could book them in in a couple months, and he totally understood if they managed to find someone else faster in the meantime. So we got some smaller project (moving the cable jack to the other side of the living room, fixing some outlets, hardwired smoke alarms, that kind of thing) out of the way faster than we would have been able to otherwise.

This isn’t cheap, but we had the money set aside (part of the reason we went with 10% down instead of 20 when we bought the house). However, we did finance this, because we were eligible for a loan through the state with an insanely good rate. Since we’re still in the first year here, we figured we’d sit on the loan payment for a bit, and make sure nothing else comes up. If something does, we’ll have the money, and can keep paying the loan. There’s pretty much no way we’d get better financing for most other things that could happen to the house. So all and all, pretty pleased with the experience.

All Things New

So we bought a house. Offer was in in early October, and we closed on November 9th. We’d started packing as soon as our offer was accepted, and we started moving on Friday the 13th. The movers came that Monday. Junk guys came yesterday to get the rest of the stuff. So that’s why the blog’s been a little quiet.

We were at the apartment for seventeen years. It was good in a lot of ways – our rent never went up, so we had a really spacious two bedroom just outside of downtown Portland for an obscenely low monthly rent. I was able to do some gardening in the little side garden, and we had the garage to store stuff in. But, we also were in charge of the snow removal, with a long driveway that forces you to blow the snow to either end. And said driveway had devolved into Himalaya-sized ruts by the time we left. P’s car would scrape if he didn’t navigate the ruts exactly right. And it had the original 1910’s windows, and pretty much no insulation other than the horsehair in the plaster. So in the winter, it was cold.

We’d decided several years ago to start saving for a house downpayment. We knew if our landlord ever sold the place, if we weren’t immediately kicked out, our rent would go up quite a bit, and if we had to go elsewhere, we were looking at easily $500 more a month, and that would probably get us something smaller than what we had. So were already in a pretty good position going into this year. And then Covid happened, and we both started working from home in March. Which wasn’t terrible, but I’ll admit, the idea of spending the winter in that place was a little grim. When my father told me he’d like to give us a gift towards a downpayment, we took a serious look at what we had, and decided to jump into the market. We settled on a realtor the week we were supposed to be in London.

We saw this house three weeks in. Up until then, we’d seen either clunkers, or tiny house in town that we just wouldn’t have been able to make work for us. We’d actually contacted our broker to work out if we could up the price range we were looking at, because we were beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen at the price we wanted.

And then we saw this place. It’s in Westbrook, which borders Portland in the direction that’s best for our commutes. (Once we get back into the office again…) Being out of Portland got us three bedrooms instead of two, a garage, and a nearly quarter acre lot. The backyard is south facing, and includes a shed that is already filled with my gardening equipment. I’ll miss my community garden bed, but the possiblities here are endless.

We’re on the same street as an elementary school, so we’ll get priority street plowing, and our sidewalk gets plowed by the city. The driveway is also way shorter, so P is almost looking forward to snow removal this year. We’re within the outer limits of walking distance to the downtown, which will be awesome in the summer.

It’s a single level, on a slab, so we don’t have to worry about a wet basement. (Slabs aren’t as common around here, so we’re getting a kick out of the blank looks we get when we mention we have no basement.) It’s definitely warmer than the apartment, though we do have an energy audit scheduled, because we’re sure we can be better insulated than we are right now, and we might as well see what we’re in for there. (The company also does solar, which we’re interested in doing someday.)

Moving sucked – seventeen years of stuff is a lot to go through when it’s hard to get to Goodwill (so many people are stuck at home that they’ve been cleaning like crazy. You have to check the website before you go, and it still might be closed by the time you get there. And, there’s usually a line of cars waiting.) We’re really only now ramping up putting things away since we had to spend so much time cleaning up the old place. So it’s starting to look a little better, but there’s further to go.

We definitely need to paint. I’m working out of the guest bedroom, which has Pepto-Bismol pink walls. Timing wise, we couldn’t paint before we moved in, so at this point, it’ll probably have to wait until Spring. But that’s ok. We have a lovely back deck, which we’re a little bummed we’ll need to wait a few months to really use, but we also know that’s a really high class problem to have.

So that’ll be the big change for this blog – my gardening focus will definitely change, and I’m sure I’ll have little projects to report on. I can’t wait!