Saturday, May 30, 2009

Looking for good multi-grafted fruit trees

With the removal of the two dead trees in our yard, we have space for two new ones. One will be a weeping cherry. The other will be a fruit tree.

Since we only have space for one tree, a multi-grafted fruit tree sounds particularly appealing. I'm looking for a good source for such a tree. I've found a couple vendors on eBay that offer a couple of trees, but nothing terribly impressive. If you know of a vendor that will ship such a tree, I'd like to hear about it.
I came to the realization last night that I've been pretty darn lazy with regard to the house. I can't believe I've been moving so slowly.

Hmm. Back to work! Hopefully, I'll be able to finish painting the hallway tonight.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mapping Shaker Heights

I've always been interested in maps. The recent digitization of a collection of historic Shaker Heights maps started me thinking again about what I could do with Google Maps that might be interesting or useful.

I used data from the City of Shaker Heights Landmark Commission's Summary and Map and Designation Report for the Winslow Road Historic District to make a more readily accessible map illustrating the district.

View Winslow Road Historic District in a larger map

There are two National Register of Historic Places Historic Districts in the immediate proximity - Shaker Square, in Cleveland, and Shaker Village, which encompasses most of the city of Shaker Heights. I used the maps of Shaker Square and Shaker Village to create the following two maps, which may hopefully better illustrate the exact boundaries of the districts. My maps are based on the boundaries shown on the official maps, with the exact details based upon my best guesses and knowledge of the area. I'd love to have more detailed original material. It'd be especially interesting to be able to illustrate which structures are contributing resources and which are not. Thanks to Kelly Beck at the Shaker Heights Plannin Department for locating the source maps.

View Shaker Square Historic District in a larger map

View Shaker Village National Register Historic District in a larger map

Finally, right now I'm working on a map of Shaker Heights City Landmarks. This map includes all local landmarks, as of the end of 2008. I've begun to include photographs of some structures already. I hope to include photographs of them as well in the not too distant future. I may create specific icons for the various types of structures illustrated. I'm not terribly happy with the house icon right now - there's something less than pleasing about using a blob to represent a distinct spot.

View Shaker Heights Landmark Properties in a larger map

Monday, May 18, 2009

Moving forward on the pond

Yesterday, Chris and Melissa visited and got the basic house tour. They plan to buy a house in Shaker Heights this year, and I look forward to seeing their house and all involved adventures.

Chris hauled away a fair amount of the dirt from the pond, such that it is now empty! I'm now working on scrubbing away all the dirt so that I can see just how much work there is to do on it. I know that there are at least a couple cracks as well as some major painting work to do. This work will all have to wait for a while until I can finish the point-of-sale violations, but it'll be intersting to know what we are up against.

Garage and breezeway

The entire area between the two trellises, shown in this fall photograph, has now been excavated. Further, the light above the pond is now working, thanks to the magic of locating the appropriate light switch and replacing the bulb.

Further, it seems that I somehow didn't kill the row of poppies when I acciedentially mowed them down. The first one has bloomed and looks truly lovely.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Death of one of the previous owners

I've been working to document all of the previous owners of our house. Note that this is very much a work in progress. I was spending some time on the topic this afternoon when I learned of the death of one of the previous owners of our house, Richard C. Friedman, who lived here with his wife, Charlotte W. Friedman, and their children, Donna and James, from 1948 through 1958. The obituary was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on 11 May. I didn't know Mr. Friedman or the family, mind you - this is just another bit of history that has now passed.

Garden and Yard

digging out the pond

I'm making decent progress on the pond. The question remains, as usual, what to do with all the dirt. I've boxed up some of it, but now I'm out of reasonably sized boxes. Amost done, though.

The photographs are all by Audrey.

interesting new flower appearing in the gardens bridal wreath


I can't believe how many beautiful flowers we have in the yard. Wow.

Lily of the Valley

cuttings in the air lock

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One of my favorite blogs

One of my favorite blogs is that of Classic Jaguar, an Austin, Texas based shop that specializes in the restoration and mechanical repair of historic Jaguar automobiles. It provides a detailed photographic look into the craftsmanship that goes into restoring these fine vehicles.

In some ways, it is very much like a house blog, where each car reflects the tastes and sensibilities of the individual owner. Some retain every possible piece of original sheet metal, taking extreme measures to repair the bodywork and interior details, while others utilize more replacement parts. Still others are custom projects, involving many modern upgrades.

Regardless, it's interesting to watch the work and craft that goes into these projects.

Just a few random thoughts, no pictures

I hope I haven't killed the rhododendron. Like the magnolia in the front yard, it has suffered years of bad pruning. It's also been unfortunate enough to be covered with ice time and time again. I trimmed perhaps half of the growth off of it. The plan wasn't to go quite so far, but that's what it took, and it looks so much better for it.

The magnolia is another matter. For the most part, it is healthy, but again, we have the issue of bad pruning. It is considerably bigger, so it's harder to work with. I've tried to address the branches that are rubbing against each other, but at the same time, not leaving too many open spots. I trimmed off one mostly healthy branch that had some significant rot, only to find that the rot went back into the trunk.

Hopefully, when I get home, I'll find that there has been some progress made on the removal of the truly dead trees. If they're in decent shape, they'll be good for firewood.

I've started looking at the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. While his style is a bit closer to art nouveau than I can afford, I really think that I can gain some insights from his furniture, which was often painted. The built-ins in the guest bedroom and the baby room are both painted white. I've noticed that there's some nice arts and crafts furniture at auction that has been painted, too - and it sells for much much less than it's unpainted brethren.

As much as I'd like to strip the paint off of the woodwork in all these rooms, there's only so much of my life that I can spend stripping paint. There are the places where it simply must happen - certain doors and trim - but there are many areas where it would merely be nice.

Mackintosh did so much great work with wood that was painted white. Yes, he worked into that, with various painted floral and other designs, but I can learn that. My hand is steady enough with a brush. And there's a lot to be said for work that can be done inside, without the worry of disposal of the waste paint.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Preparing for the work to start

Our plumber/general contractor, Paul, came over this morning and we went over the work plan. We discussed our concerns about the removal of the trees, the work on the roof, and the garage floor.

I thought it might be nice, at some point in the future (when we have money again) to run an electric line and water line out to the turtle patch, so that we could have a little circulator pump and perhaps a slightly larger watering hole for the turtles. Another concern that I'd like to deal with at some point in the future is the electrical service entrance. It's currently on the garage, about seven and a half feet above the ground. With the presence of the basketball backboard in the immediate vicinity, that's just too close for comfort.

I brought up these concerns, and, after first suggesting that it wouldn't be that much more to rough the plumbing out to the turtle patch (I reminded him of our budget) then suggested that it would be better for the plumbing to go through the garage wall near the floor, rather than go through the floor itself. He suggested a similar approach for the electrical - a trench through the yard so that the service would be below ground, and then coming into the garage through the wall. With some sort of planting in front of that spot, it wouldn't be noticable at all. Fine.

I had raised these concerns, I should clarify, because I thought that the likely way to run them would be through the garage floor, and that we should at least address the rough in while we have the garage floor out.

Paul took a sample of the slate from the roof with him to be sure that the color is right. He's going to get the permit for the garage floor at city hall today, and will be dropping off some of the materials tomorrow. The lift will be delivered Monday, I think.

Monday, unless it's raining hard, Paul will begin work on the trees. This, unfortunately, will involve driving the lift through all the beds that I just Rototilled. Oops. Failure of planning on my part. If the wood looks good, we'll cut it up for firewood. If not, it'll be hauled away.

He'll be here with his crew full time for the next two weeks, tearing out and replacing the garage floor, cutting down the trees, and fixing all the issues with the roof and gutters. It'll be nice to finally move forward on all these projects.

While they've got the truck here to haul away junk, we'll be able to throw in some of the stuff that we've been wanting to get rid of but haven't been able to. This will include all the junk concrete that I've pulled out of the yard. It'll also include, once I finish digging it out, all the dirt that was used to fill in the pond. Perhaps some other junk will go in the dumpster, like the mirror from the dresser that I'm using to hold my tools in the basement and the ugly mirror that will never rejoin the mirror in our bedroom. This only matters because I can't put this stuff out in the trash in Shaker Heights.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Historic Maps of Shaker Heights

I just learned that a collection of thirty historic maps of Shaker Heights has been made available through the Cleveland Memory Project at Cleveland State University. The maps were digitized by Walter Lesch, as part of his practicum for his graduate degree in Library and Information Science at Kent State University.

These maps provide many insights into the history of Shaker Heights in the early 20th century. A few were previously available elsewhere, but involved the use of inconvenient plugins. I congratulate Mr. Lesch on his effort.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Plumbing goodies!

When I talked to my plumber/general contractor today, he said that he had some plumbing stuff from another job in Shaker Heights that he thought I might be interested in. They had given him permission to do with the old parts as he saw fit. He said that there were at least some good parts there, and that whatever I didn't want, I should just discard. This is what was waiting for me when I got home:

What a lovely surprise!

It's almost everything one might need to plumb a 1920s or perhaps 1930s bathroom sink. The parts all appear to be Standard brand.

1920s Standard shut-off valve with porcelain escutcheon

There are two shut-off valves, both stamped "Standard", with matching porcelain escutcheons. The valves still seem to operate properly.

1920s Standard faucet with porcelain drain plug

There's a nice faucet.

Further, there are three faucet valves, of which two should be workable, five handles, two porcelain escutcheons for the handles (one of which is marked "Standard" on the outside, and this:

Another bit of plumbing, Standard brand.

I'm not sure what it is. I'll have to ask the plumber the next time I see him.

This would make for a really nice setup in the bathroom up on the third floor, to match the Standard sink and tub already present, and the Standard toilet waiting to be rebuilt. The finish shows some pitting, which seems to be exclusively in the plating, so they could all be replated if I really wanted to. My dilemma is this: they look enough that I'd install them if I had the skills to do so, but not so good that I'm willing to pay someone else for all the labor involved to install them. I guess this means that they go into the plumbing parts drawer, either for eventual use in the third floor bathroom or for eventual regifting.

I had told him that I'd be interested in old parts like this - it'll be interesting to see what else he comes up with. I know that it will eventually bring him more work, in rebuilding and installing them.

The plumber/general contractor also says that he'll be able to deal with the dead trees with the lift that he'll be using for the roof, and that it will cost less than what the landscaping guy would have charged.

Finally, I tilled the garden plot. The tiller was quite a beast. I rented the small tiller - I can't imagine how impossible it might be to wrestle the large tiller around. The garden area is mostly well tilled, with the exception of the area between the turtle patch and the tree, which caused much trouble. The sheer quantity of large tree roots was problematic to say the least. It's not tilled as deep as the rest of the garden, but it will have to do for now, until I can cut every single tree root out.

The Garden

This weekend, we made good progress on the garden and yard. The turtle patch is now complete.

All photographs by A., except for the last three.

the turtle patch

The frame is 1x3s, eight by 12 feet. There are four doors providing access to the four quadrants. I had considered making but one door for each half, but it seemed that the they would flex too much. It is screened in with poultry netting (chicken wire), buried to a depth of at least eight inches, to keep the turtles from digging out.

turtles in the turtle patch

As it is right now, we will be cleaning out the water on a daily basis. When the garage floor is replaced, in the next month or so, I'm going to talk with our general contractor about the possibility of running electrical and water out to the patch, so that we could have a slightly bigger water feature and a circulator pump.

introduction to the patch

I'm working to excavate the pond in the garage side garden. It is 16 inches deep and has a flat, concrete bottom. At some point in the past it was filled in. My big problem right now is figuring out what to do with the dirt I dig out of it. All of the flowers are courtesy of the previous owner.

garage side garden

These ferns were but some of the many plants here when we moved in.

ostrich ferns and forget-me-nots

The berry bushes are all planted and staked.

berry vines and back patios

The PO also left us with some really spectacular dandelions. In this photo, I'm holding two. Yes. Just two.

bouquet of dandelions

I hope to be able to rent a rototiller this afternoon, so that we can get to work on the garden patch. I started digging it up with a shovel, but found the soil and work to just be too backbreaking. At least the soil in the planned garden area is not as bad as the rest of the yard, which consists of clay with an inch of topsoil on top. The whole area of this photograph, from the (now defunct) grill to the right, with the exception of the bushy area, which is now the turtle patch, will be our vegetable garden. This photograph is from the fall.

Fire pit and yard

I continue to be surprised by the number of flowers coming up in our yard, in places unexpected. I mowed down what I realized in retrospect were a row of poppies, along the back fence - I had no idea that the plants looked so much like thisles. There are four rose bushes, of which at least three are alive. We have a lovely grape hyacinth that is currently providing many blooms just outside our bedroom window - our second floor bedroom window. Further, I can't believe how many hostas and ferns we have.

I've come to the belief that the problem with our rhododendron is probably the same as the problem with our magnolia in the front yard. While ice may be something of a factor on the rhododendron, the problem appears to just as much be years and years of bad pruning. This is more obvious on the magnolia, where strong growth was cut to leave weaker branches to grow, often crossing over and rubbing against other growth. The cuts never healed, and so have begun to rot. Some are far enough away from the main branch that I've been able to cut again, closer, with decent success. Others I'm just painting over the exposed area and hoping for the best.

I still need to have the two (or three, depending on how you count) dead trees removed from the yard. Once they are removed, a weeping cherry will go in place of the one on the side property line, and on the back property line, some other sort of fruit, perhaps an apple tree. The dead trees can be seen in this photograph. I had hoped to convince the power company to remove the dead tree along the back property line, as they had wanted to completely remove it a couple of years ago, and it was their pruning at that time that had caused its death.

Garden and basketball hoop

I've come to realize that the large dead area under the magnolia is due to unraked magnolia petals. I'm starting to think about what I can plant there that will either tolerate them or will allow me to rake them up without being damaged too much by the raking.

Our House

I'm starting to think about the possibilities of a compost pile in the bushy corner of the back yard, for next year. I feel guilty having the city take away all this good organic material when, with a bit of work, it could be helping my garden.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dealing with mortar ceilings? Help!

Garage interior

The ceilings in both our basement and garage are similar. They appear to have been finished with some sort of textured mortar. The basement ceiling has been painted, while the garage has not. The basement ceiling is built on metal lath. I'm not sure whether or not there's anything else between the lath and the joists.

While the texture in the basement ceiling remains reasonably even, the ceiling in the garage is showing cracks in a staggered pattern, not completely unlike the walls in the living room. I can't imagine that the garage ceiling wold have been built on fiberboard like the living room was, as the garage is detached and humidity would has been a significant problem. However, the space did have radiators in it originally (and still does, but they're not connected) so I don't think we can completely discard this theory. Perhaps the pattern on the garage ceiling is the edges of the sheets of metal lath?


I bring all of this up because I'm starting to think about projects that involve me dealing with the ceilings. I hope to finish the basement someday, which, in the most fancy version of things will involve tearing out the ceiling so that I can install recessed lighting. As for the garage, I'm considering the possibilities of hanging some of the kids toys I know will come to fill the space.

Have you dealt with such a ceiling? Any thoughts you might want to share?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Researching our Trenton Potteries Si-Wel-Clo toilet

I've been using Google Books to do some research and try to figure out exactly when the toilet, a Si-Wel-Clo by Trenton Potteries, in my non-master bath was made. I haven't been able to find anything exactly like it in the literature I've seen for their products in 1925 or 1926, when our house was built. Google Books now allows you to cut and paste from books that are in the public domain (and probably some others, too).

The closest match I've been able to find is the one below, in The Architectural Review, from 1919. The tank, however, looks closer in shape to the one shown in the American Review of Reviews from 1915. While the shape of the tank is right on, the water supply for our tank is at the top, not the bottom.

Trenton Potteries published a hardbound catalog of their complete collection, under the title of The Blue Book of Plumbing. The 1921 edition, Catalogue R, came in at about 350 pages, the 1927 edition, Catalogue T, a mere 200 or so. As for Catalogue S, WorldCat lists no copies, so I cannot be sure, but I expect it would be somewhere between the two. These books, like many trade catalogues of the vintage, are extremely rare. WorldCat lists but five copies of Catalogue R and four of Catalogue T worldwide. There are no copies of catalogues O through Q, nor are there any listed before the letter N. As for their locations, there are two libraries that have all three of the catalogued catalogs - Rutgers University and the US Patent and Trademark Office. It'd be great to sit down with copies of these catalogs so that I could compare and contrast them.

[Note: this post brings to my attention that I really need to adjust the template I'm using to more readily show wider images.]

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Architectural record By American Institute of Architects - 1912

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The World's work a history of our time By Walter Hines Page, Arthur Wilson Page - 1914

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The American Magazine - 1915

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The American Review of Reviews By Shaw, Albert, 1857-1947 - 1915

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McClure's Magazine ... - 1915

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The Architectural Review - 1919

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The National geographic magazine By Henry Gannett, National Geographic Society (U.S.), Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, Melville Bell Grosvenor, John Hyde, John Oliver LaGorce - 1922