Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Odds and ends

No, the painters didn't come today after all, so color on our house will have to wait until next week. It’s a good thing we like Caesar salads, because my romaine remains profuse. Kurt created some supports to make it easier for me to cover the vegetables on freezing nights. If only the local forecasters would make it easier for me to know when to cover the vegetables.

We just ate all the beets and lots of the carrots, so today I weeded the beet bed and shall sow some arugula seeds there, next to the new spinach. I’m not sure if it’s too late in the season to start from seed, but our weather’s so unpredictable, I’m trying it.

It seems a little weird that I’m watering our 65-year-old Sycamore tree right now, but this year’s continuing drought is more than a little weird, too. Tomorrow, I’ll give my front yard xeric plants their last supplemental water of the year. Apparently 2008 was the fourth driest year in Austin’s recorded history. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 61 house progress

All the carpentry is finished and all the priming (including scraping, sanding, spackling, and caulking) is done! The painters will return Tuesday, so we’ll see if it’s finally time for some color. There’s no way this whole project will be finished this year, but maybe we can hope for the second week of January?

All columns are now straight. Husband Kurt is going to repair the original metal porch roof himself and add the proper flashing. Painters haven't primed the doors, so the old green and red with the white primer combination comes across as Christmas-ey. Sort of.

Column caps

Column feet

Back door last extra trim detail

Even the crawl space door got some help.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Garden bloggers’ bloom day

I took my photos yesterday when it was 78 degrees (F), but now it’s 34. I don’t know why I’m surprised, considering last week the temperatures changed from 81 to 33 with snow and sleet in the same day!

Black dalea, I think


Pink skullcap


Mexican bush sage

Indigo spires salvia


Look for other garden bloggers' blooms at Carol's May Dreams Gardens

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 49 house progress

Only a teensy bit of trim work is left for our carpenter, Jerry Kirk. He’ll finish it early next week and then the painters will take over. The end is really in sight now! Whoo-hoo! Check out all the great trim work Jerry's done this week.

window trim detail

west-side crown moulding; column cap will be replaced next week

east-side crown moulding

back door trim

Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 42 house progress

Carpentry is really winding down to the last few days’ worth of trim work, and the painters resume Monday! Yes, it seems like this is all taking awhile, but the quality of work has been good and the whole experience has been totally hassle-free with no horror stories about contractors disappearing, etc.

One curious wrinkle is how to handle our apparently unique and original 1941 porch roof, comprised of a soldered patchwork of copper-bearing steel alloy sheets. It is in fairly good shape except at the drip edges. Husband Kurt has done a bunch of obsessing, I mean research, and is consulting a metal roofer to figure out a way to repair the original roof in the least obtrusive manner. I’ve been up there to see it in person, and it IS really cool—pretty rusty-brown patina.

Kurt’s treatise:

The first image at the top of Iris' post is an ad for U.S. Steel terne roofing sheets from a 1913 issue of "The Architectural Record," and below is a cut sheet for the same product from the 1920 U.S. Steel General Catalog.

Our own stamp is similar to those illustrated in the 1913 ad and 1920 catalog sheets. It reads:


As described, the sheets are copper-bearing steel alloy, which in those days typically contained 0.15% to 0.25% of copper, and they were coated with a hot-dip of terne, which typically was a mixture of around 80% lead and 20% tin.

I am guessing our "KNOX" is the Knox Pressed and Welded Steel Company of Pittsburgh, or maybe of Wheatland, Ohio. Knox merged with the Blaw Steel Construction Company just before 1920 to become the Blaw-Knox Company. The Knox (or Blaw-Knox) operation must have been a competitor of American Sheet & Tin Plate Co., a division of U.S. Steel. USS is the holder of the patent for Cor-Ten steel ("Cor-Ten A" or A242 steel aka "corten"), which is no longer produced. A606 steel is a close modern equivalent of Cor-Ten. There's more info on that here.

As a result of studies done since 1900, by the time our house was built people already knew that copper-bearing steel sheet would stand up very well to the elements after developing its protective patina. They had already been making railcars out of copper-bearing steel since at least 1919, and U.S. Steel had done extensive testing in the 1930's to develop its own patented Cor-Ten A.

Our roofing contractor has pointed out that our metal sheets do not appear to have any terne coating on them (!?), rather, just a nice brown patina on the top surface. The bottom face is also uncoated and mostly untarnished and shiny. So, it is not simply that the terne coating weathered away over the years. Some of our sheets were installed face-up and some face-down; it is impossible these sheets were terne-coated on just one face that was weathered away. Besides, the hot-dip process doesn't really lend itself to one-sided coating.

Based on all this, it appears we have a roof of bare copper-bearing steel. Even though our stamp says it has "8 POUNDS COATING" for some reason it never did get that coating. Maybe, in late-Depression pre-WWII years, the tin and lead used for terne coating were in short supply, and they just offered plates without it. Or maybe the "KNOX" brand indicates this stuff comes from an irregular batch of uncoated plates made at Knox before their 1917-1919 merger with Blaw. If there was little new steel product left for residential projects, and if some of this old, uncoated, copper-bearing sheet was just sitting around in a warehouse, maybe it was used on our house because they knew it would work in a pinch. -Kurt

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Garden vegetables’ Thanksgiving plans

Not that my veggies are aware of their fates for tomorrow, but here are the fates I’ve planned for some of them.

sorrel, holes and all, which I'll mince and add to the mashed new potatoes

In addition, we’re going to grill grass-fed bison steaks from Thunderheart. Also, the new potatoes are from Boggy Creek Farm, and the chevre that I’ll mash into the potatoes is from Bryan’s Wateroak Farms—great stuff!

I'll probably throw a little minced kale into the potatoes, too.

Romaine for Caesar salads

Will roast a few baby beets

and will roast a few baby carrots, too

I'm baking my annual pie right now--pumpkin--but I didn't grow any of its ingredients. Will start out drinking some New Mexico Rose bubbly from Gruet Winery then move to Brouilly with the main food--didn't grow any of their ingredients either.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 29 house progress

Not that work has been actively performed every one of those 29 days, but it's been 29 days since the whole project started. The biggest carpentry work is almost completed! Crown moulding, trim work, and porch repairs comprise the bulk of the remaining carpentry. When that’s all finished, within ten days I think, the painters resume their work and we’ll get to see some real colors. Meanwhile, the awning covers have been ordered and the awning frames are being repainted.

Today back

Day 5 back

Today east side

Day 5 east side

Today west side

Day 5 west side

Monday, November 17, 2008

Late garden bloggers’ bloom day

My list is a little late—Carol at May Dreams Gardens asks garden bloggers to post what they’ve got blooming on the 15th of every month.

Dwarf pomegranate

Rosemary with a little house paint dust in it


Society garlic

I can't remember what this little shrub with lots of burgundy leaves is, which is pretty embarrassing because it's a pet memorial plant.

Pansies in the vegetable garden

Mexican bush sage is a favorite for bees and butterflies.

Still hanging in there, especially after a thorough hand watering this morning that took a couple of hours, are Turk's Cap, Indigo spires salvia, pink skullcap, purple lantana and verbena, purple ruellia, and purple fountain grass.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fall vegetable garden update

Despite being so preoccupied lately with house renovations, I’ve managed to keep the veggies fairly happy. I just realized how far behind I’ve fallen on weeding, but I’ll catch up this week. The squirrels somehow got inside the dog fence and ate all the mesclun and buttercrunch lettuces, and now that bed’s covered in weeds. Weather permitting, I’ll weed that bed tomorrow and sow spinach seeds in the lettuces’ place. I’m puzzled but pleased they left the romaine, beets, and carrots alone. Especially the romaine because husband Kurt is a Caesar salad fiend.

The cilantro is still small but I've used the dill when cooking fish the past few weeks. The broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, arugula, and sorrel are all small but doing okay. We also had our first dinosaur kale harvest a few days ago and I sautéed it in a little clarified butter with shallots—nice!