i haven’t written anything since november.
and yet i welcome several new subscribers – surprising given the infrequency. welcome new subscribers – i hope you enjoy and will provide feedback.
it’s not because nothing has been happening, quite the contrary. we have been going full steam for the last few months – and it’s only this last weekend that we reached a point at which we could take anything resembling a break. considering that s threw her back out and have been having to do child care and adult care for the last day or so it’s not really much of a break.
we have been steady working on this house and the yard since we bought the house, but have really stepped up our efforts once we learned that our son had elevated lead levels.
nothing drastic, but cause for alarm. things appear to be under control now, but we have had to take major measures to get them under control. i’ll likely write more about lead, testing, and dealing with it, later, but in the meantime i’m just gonna update ya’ll on what projects we have done in order to get lead under control.
first was the stripping of paint in areas where encapsulation wouldn’t work. namely the threshold of the front door. next was encapsulation – woodwork in the pantry and kitchen had to be encapsulated and then painted to match the other woodwork. i also encapsulated a couple of walls in the pantry. they still haven’t been painted yet as i still have some plaster work to do on other walls before we paint the whole pantry. the hallway leading down to the basement needed to be encapsulated as well, and then painted.
speaking of the basement, as though lead weren’t an issue enough we found out that we had fraying asbestos tile on the floor of the basement. we paid some one certified to remove it.
my lungs just seemed worth the cost. what i didn’t think about was all the glue aka mastic that would be left over. it was a huge pain to get off – taking me weeks of weekends and nights to get it up. i’m thankful to the following podcast for getting me though it: serial, 99% invisible, radiolab, snap judgement, the champs, and invisibilia.
at least as much time has been spent moving things around the basement, as we had to clear everything out when they removed the tile, and then we had to move it to remove the mastic. i think that’s what made s throw out her back.
we are now putting the basement back together, and i’m really happy with the way it’s turning out. it’s making more sense and taking into account how we need to access and use the space. my favorite part is that we have moved the chest freezer and canning supplies closer to the stairs so when cooking you can quickly pop down to the basement and grab some items out of the larder.
in addition to encapsulation and stripping, another strategy for dealing with the lead has been removal. the back door casing was covered in chipping lead paint, and the door was super drafty so we replaced it. i could have replaced it myself – but i knew it was going to be serious pain – and i had plenty of other projects to work on, so i also paid someone certified to do that as well. he told me it would take him a morning. as expected – it was a bigger pain than expected – it took him until 6 at night. no more draft! i still need to replace the molding – and since the original was cover in lead paint i bought new stuff – but couldn’t find anything that would match the original, but i think it still looks ok.
in the process of replacing the door and molding, we damaged some plaster and realized that much of it was pulling away for the lath. we wanted to save as much as we could, but some was just to far gone to repair. s and i spent new years eve watching youtube videos on plaster repair and new years day doing plaster repair – we know how to party. we were really impressed with the ease of use of big wally’s plaster magic – as well as the youtube videos they have to learn how to use the product.
the other major repair project was to put a floating floor down in one of the bedrooms. it had been painted with lead paint on the floor, and rather than try and remove the paint, we decide the simplest thing would be put a new floating floor over top of it. i’m impressed with how quickly it went together. one long day plus a couple hours the next day and we were done, and s is very happy with the result. super big thanks to my brother in law david for his help.
at the farm, the biggest event of the fall for me was starting mushrooms. i’ve been missing growing mushrooms since i left the farm i trained at over 12 years ago. i’ve tried to convince folks a number of times to take on the task of growing mushrooms – but it’s never really caught on. this fall we had a crew from radical mycology come out and lead a beginners workshop on mushroom growing.
we caught the bug pretty hard and harvested all fall and will be starting up a crop of oyster mushrooms again in the spring.
a bit simpler – but equally exciting to those of us obsessed with cycling nutrients – we built new compost sifters. this is the third iteration of sifters we have been working on – and the big improvement is using slit steel rather than chicken wire.
the steel comes from one of my favorite places in detroit: federal pipe and steel. this place is a museum of a hardware store, full of oddball items i can’t find anywhere else. the staff know just about everything – though they don’t really let on unless you ask. and the cashiers all seem to be punx. if you visit you shouldn’t miss out on marcus burger. it’s the real detroit deal.
this new sifter can accommodate two, count em, two wheelbarrows at once. i think the slit steel will last a lot longer than the chicken wire – but only time will tell. i’m happy with them.
on the homegrown front, we have been eating out of the hoop house all winter- at first mostly arugula, but for the last month only spinach and kale. the big lesson is to plant more kale next fall. i love having it, but it grows really slow in the winter. spinach continues to be the workhorse of the winter hoop house – cold, dry, doesn’t seem to faze it, we have had great harvests all winter.
i was hoping for a milder winter, and the temps have been slightly warmer, and snow a little lighter, but we still have been dumped on, almost 20 inches last week alone.
still we prepare for the growing season. we have already started tomatoes (perhaps a post about them soon) and sweet potatoes are started on the window sill.
likely way too early, but we all have our methods of trying to stave off cabin fever, mine is starting plants for the next season.
what’s going on with you?