I am stupidly happy that Google street view finally has a new picture of our house, one that doesn’t include the for sale sign and general junkiness, and …it was taken when we were freshly mowed! How awesome is that?!
We brought the pineapple in this weekend based on recommendations I had read to harvest it when it was 1/3 yellow and then allow it to ripen the rest of the way inside. I think this is primarily to make sure that we get to eat it, not the raccoons in the area. It’s more baby plant than fruit, but hopefully it will be good.
It is Summer in full blast here, but before Spring let go – not long ago- I was running out in advance of the lawn-mower every weekend to collect the wildflowers that kept popping up in the middle of the back yard. This is one day’s harvest; and they lasted longer than I expected them to.
I’m all about identification, so I looked them all up. I had been calling the blue ones irises, but really they are Common Spiderwort. The pink, trumpet shaped flowers would spring up within a day or two of a fresh mow and wave about a foot above the grass. They are Rain Lily, and are, apparently, attached to bulbs that will sprout new flowers every year. They also spread by seed. Next year I think I am going to grow our rain lily patch. The tiny pink flowers, Meadow Beauty, are still going strong on the water’s edge along with some other crazy grasses that grow in ground too wet to mow over.
The more time I have to mull over something the more I consider other options. There is a pretty, new, bright blue paint job on a house two blocks away that caught my eye and I realized how crisp blue houses always stand out in a neighborhood. Then, a friend questioned my decision to avoid green (though I love it) because the gorgeously kept house across the street was green. I would lean more to the avocado than the neighbors. I like how the house seems to rise from the grass in that picture. I also started playing around with a more obvious color variation for the chimney. Why not, right?
Added to these mock-ups is a firming idea that I want to paint the slanted brick sills to look like slanted brick sills again. The front door alcove is tiled in a terracotta color, so it would carry those red tones through the rest of the exterior. This would be something I could do before painting the whole house, as is getting a screen-door insert from Old Florida Retro or Hip Haven. Our screen door is probably original, but it is very simple.
Hello beautiful people. I remember promising some more before and after pictures from the house, so now I’m going to give them to you. Welcome to my 1949 original pink bathroom. Originally, we wanted to wallpaper the bathrooms; we had some wonderful paper picked out for this one. Then I wallpapered the back-splash of my kitchen and we decided that sometime in the future we are going to hire someone to wallpaper the bathrooms.
I was left with a conundrum: what color to paint. The white was too plain; it emphasized how faded the blue tiles had become (my first impression was that they were grey). I made a mock-up to test colors by splicing some pictures we took around the time we moved. The mock-up also helped us shop for needed accessories, like a cabinet over the toilet.
I’m quite pleased with the final product. The bathroom cabinet is a 1952 cream with gold accents ebay find. And I splurged on a little chalkware cat head and mermaid wall hanging. Unfortunately, 1/2 of the light fixture stopped functioning, but getting it fixed will give us the opportunity to refinish the chrome. There is a crack in the sink from where someone dropped something hard and heavy into the bowl which, thankfully, does not leak. I can live with this, because I can’t stand the thought of replacing such a handsome fixture. The glazing on some of the tiles has been damaged by product bottles over the years and the grout is varying shades of grey, because it’s not really grout, it’s concrete.
After trying different cleaners (some of which the previous owners left behind) and researching house construction methods, I realized that the tile in my pink bathroom was applied by mudding. Mudding is the process of setting tiles into a slurry of cement and it predated wall board (which wasn’t around until 1946). It made sense since every original wall in my house is concrete (yes, all the interiors as well), and is probably the reason why the bathroom held up so well to obvious abuse. I have made peace with the idea that I will not have bright white grout.
My very excellent aunt gifted me with an angelface rose when we moved into our first house. Angelface was my mother’s favorite rose, and thankfully it is also pretty hardy (though I have killed one in the past). I planted it outside the front door next to the wild rose I found growing underneath the weeds. It has since tripled in size and seems really happy.
My garden nemesis: Spanish needle, AKA Bidens alba, Shepherd’s needles, beggarticks, or butterfly needles. It can grow 5 feet tall, and spreads wide along the ground where it can. This makes it especially hard to get to the root of the things when you are pulling weeds from around and under other plants.
Why do I wage war against this plant when I have given a flower bed over to the wild vinca? When I have nodded my head at the, now huge, milkweed in my side yard? Spanish needle is supposedly edible, feeds bees and butterflies and has medicinal values. Surely that would compare to the simple, pretty, and easy to control nature of the vinca, or the fact that the milkweed is the only food of the monarch butterfly caterpillar. Yet I cannot make peace with the Spanish needle.
Mostly it’s because of the seeds: 1/2 inch little black needles that thread themselves through my clothes and scratch my skin. Each plant can produce 1200 seeds. After that, it’s the virulent way it spreads, sucking nutrients and choking every other plant in the yard.
But I must admit, it’s defense mechanisms and sneakiness are impressive. I often find it growing as close to the base of another plant as possible – long established plants, so I know it is not simply my hapless sowing of weed seeds as I am planting. It also sacrifices limbs like a lizard will sacrifice it’s tail. Though relatively sturdy and thick, the stems of Spanish needle will break away easily, leaving the tap root and other spreading roots to recover and re-sprout.
And, I swear that the new leaves of a Spanish needle can often look like those of the plants next to it. I’m getting better at spotting them, so maybe this was a learning curve for me. Maybe it’s all in my head, but it still throws me for a loop some times.
My last mention of the Internet Archive’s Building Technology Heritage Library collection didn’t highlight my obsession with house/floor plans, and I though you should know. I have a whole notebook full of houses that I have dreamed up over the years and before any move, I would obtain the floor-plan of the apartment so I could plan the furnishings.
Lucky then that the Building Technology Heritage Library collection included home plan catalogs for prospective 40s and 50s home owners to dream and plan, right? Or, no. I was really hoping that I would stumble upon the original plan for our house, but I have not, yet. That’s the house as it is above. There are a few thick walls round the outside, making up planters and defining the patio space.
With what I have seen of common house plans and houses in the area, combined with examination of walls and doorways, I think the house was originally laid out like this:
The ‘dining room’ was a 60s addition that used the existing roof over the breezeway and added a doorway from it to the utility room hallway. A bathroom/bedroom area was made out of, what I think would have been, a workroom beside the utility room. Finally, perhaps in a 90s kitchen remodel, the wall separating the kitchen and living room was opened up and replaced with a counter peninsula. Even with two remodels, the house footprint hasn’t been changed from it’s original 1949 slab and footings.
I can find some plans with an original bedroom layout like mine, and some with a breezeway to utility/workroom area like mine, but none with all of it combined in one plan. It could just mean that my house wasn’t bought out of a catalog, and that’s just fine too. I just wish one day I will stumble onto some blueprints shoved in a rafter or something!
Painting the exterior of the house is on our five year plan, along with getting a driveway (it’s true, we have none at all). I have a habit verbally and gesturally describing my vision in a way that no one I know seems to understand, so I’ve taken to making mock-ups.
Eventually that green lawn-ish weed patch to the left of the side walk will be completely filled with mounds of flowering ground cover and low bushes. That’ll help cover up the vent pipe too.
I love green. I’ve already painted my front screen door green, and there were some awesome green colors in 1950s exterior paint ads, but there are two other houses on the street (one directly across) that have taken advantage of green. I suppose I’ll have to be content to have green walls on the inside of the house instead of the outside.
Living on a lake in Florida has turned me into a bird watcher. I mean, the things are everywhere…on cars, in parking lots, crossing the road during heavy traffic. I don’t need a lake, but having a lake means I get to see birds I wouldn’t normally. Like this stork who weathered a downpour in our back yard.
So, fair warning, this is probably one of many backyard snaps to come.
Part of taking possession of a house, for me, is figuring out where and what everything is. That includes identifying all the plants and trees, and learning how to best care for them.
I was channeling middle school biology class looking at pictures of leaves and determining whether they were ovate or pinnate. Everything is so much easier when you have a flower to look at, but it wasn’t going to be that easy for me.
The first challenge were the two thin, vase-like ornamental trees in front. I thought, “they’re like crepe myrtle but there are no flowers; all the other crepe myrtle in town are blooming.” Two or three weeks later, they bloomed, and my suspicions were confirmed. Though, why they took their time is still a mystery.
The next was the flowerless, leather-leafed bush in back. It was especially difficult to track down but eventually I figured it might be a camellia. I would have to wait until it bloomed to tell for sure, and last week, it did just that.
Camellia, also known as the rose of winter, is an evergreen shrub native to China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. It flowers in late fall, when so many other shrubs and perennials have gone dormant, even in Florida.