A couple of years ago we got word of a new invasive species around here, and were told to kill any examples we saw. The spotted lanternfly hails from China, eats crops, trees and ornamental plants, and has no known predators here in the states. The first one I remember seeing in the flesh was actually up outside of Philadelphia buying steel with Brian for the bus project; we saw it flitting past us and land on the pavement in a parking lot. After squishing it, we reported it to the local hotline and went on our way.

Last week we began noticing small bugs on our grape arbor and trees; black with white spots, they weren’t familiar to either Jen or I. A little research revealed they are spotted lanternflies and that they love grapes. There is no good way of killing them; you have to smash them when you see them, and the little fuckers jump when they see you. The arbor is covered with them. There’s no commercial pesticide that will kill them. So, I guess we’re screwed.

Date posted: June 4, 2024 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

So about that pious feeling I had last weekend, the one where I was crowing about getting rid of stuff?

Well, Hazel and I hit a community yard sale at the church down the street and I spied this beautiful leather midcentury chair off to one side. I inquired as to the price and was told it was a donation, and if I wanted to donate to the church, I could take it. That was the easiest decision I’ve made in a while. I’ve always wanted a set of chairs like this but they’ve been priced out of our reach, so this one was a fantastic find. And as it turns out, it originated from the church across the street; it had been in their garage for a while and they wanted to get rid of it quickly. Now it’s taking up space in the living room until we can figure out what we’re doing with it.

And, by the way, everything I did put out at the curb was gone by lunchtime.

Date posted: May 17, 2024 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

There’s rain pattering against the windows right now, in spite of the forecast that called for cloudy skies but no rain. I’m waiting out the wet stuff so that I can go back outside and continue truck-based activities in the hope that I can wrap things up this weekend. I took the day off yesterday to rest up a little bit and cover some errands, which was a good strategy in hindsight.

I had a set of new Invisalign trays waiting for me to pick up for a week; about a month ago I put in a new top tray and it clearly Did Not Fit, so they re-scanned my mouth and made some new ones for me. I’ve got 27 more to go, which means I may be done with these (barring any adjustments) by October or so.

Sometime in January I noticed the wood threshold between the office and living room had shrunk, leaving wide gaps between it and the floor planks. The mice in the ice room have been busy despite the bait I’ve left them, and our terrier mutt has been worrying at the gaps for several months now. I have a thin strip of oak I have to cut down to set into these gaps, but I have to wait until she can go outside, as the table saw in the basement scares the crap out of her. The other night she woke me out of a sound sleep to jump off the bed into the darkness. Groggy, I got up to investigate and found that Bella had caught a mouse, brought it upstairs to show us, and was releasing it to play when it snuck under the door to escape. Following her instincts, Hazel immediately chomped it. I picked it up with her empty water bowl and hurled it out into the backyard. Hopefully, now that it’s warming up, the mice will evacuate and we can go back to normal levels of anxiety.

* * *

Meanwhile, I had the radio on in the garage the other day and this song from the ’80’s came on, and now it is stuck in my head and it is not even the best song on this album and I am kind of in hell:

Date posted: April 12, 2024 | Filed under earworm, family, house | Leave a Comment »

I was in DC today preparing for WRI’s yearly stories to watch event, and I got several emails from the school telling us they’d cancelled after-school activities. this was shortly followed by more emails letting us know that they were dismissing students early in light of the storm system coming up the coast. I saw several flood warnings appear across my news feeds in the mid-afternoon. By 4PM it was pretty clear I wasn’t going to make the express train home and Jen and I traded texts: she told me all of the houses around us had lost power, and water was leaking into the basement through the hole drilled for the electrical service to the greenhouse. Alarmed, I had to put that out of my head and focus on work. I caught a 6:30 train and Jen came to get me at the BWI station, which was being whipped with sheets of rain. We got home and assessed the leak: steady, the size of a straw, but not increasing. We dumped the water in a pan Jen had set up to catch the inflow and blotted some errant leaks on the floor with towels.

A row of houses behind us, who share power with us from the line that bisects our yards, are all lit bright. Everywhere else, the houses who get power from the lines on our street, the church opposite us, and the school down the street are all dark, and generators hum into the night.

Date posted: January 9, 2024 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Jen and I were talking about something completely unrelated a couple of days ago and she pointed out the sobering fact that we’ve now been in this house for 20 years. We bought it at the middle point of the housing boom that led to the 2008 collapse, and paid a premium for the location (and, frankly, too much for the house).  I have my issues with it—probably more than I’ve mentioned here, but we’ve put a ton of blood and sweat equity into this place, and have made it our home.

Date posted: August 30, 2023 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Things around Idiot Central have been in flux lately. Several of the rooms in our house are stuck in transition between their old and future selves, so we’ve spent the last month or so stepping around  displaced furniture, boxes of old items scheduled for disposal, and painting and cleaning supplies cached in strategic positions. The living room has been caught between two worlds since we got new furniture delivered, but we had a hiccup with the first new couch they brought us where I discovered the top of the backrest wasn’t connected properly. They sent us a new one pretty promptly, and we’re happy with it—but my old IKEA couch sat forlorn in the corner of the room, shoved against a cabinet.

Weekends have been busy so I haven’t had the time or the car to move it out of here, and Freecycle offered no takers. So Saturday morning I got out the screwgun and the deadblow hammer and we broke it down into manageable pieces that would fit into the Honda. It was bittersweet to see this couch go; I bought it with my ex in 1997 and it was the first piece of grown-up furniture I owned that didn’t come from a dumpster or someone else’s house. It served us faithfully for years and survived the wrath of eight different cats, not without battle scars. But it was old and smelled like dog and we’d had a slipcover on it for probably ten years, and it was time to move on. So Finn and I bashed it into six pieces, stuffed it into the CR-V, and I heaved it into the dumpster with a heavy heart.

Jen had spent Friday with a rented steam cleaner trying to blast all the dirt out of the carpets from our upstairs bedrooms, but we found it wasn’t up to the job. I think the professionals probably use stronger equipment and terrible chemicals to do the job properly.

She had an older Queen Anne-style coffee table when we merged houses, and we both agreed it didn’t fit our current living room vibe. She suggested we change out the legs to something more midcentury modern and found a set on Amazon that looked good. I bought some wood and built a shallow box on the underside, then sanded the dark cherry finish off the top. Finishing it with some 1800 grit paper, I taped the edges and shot it with five coats of polyurethane. What used to be a heavy, fussy slab is now a light table that goes perfectly with the leather chairs we bought and balances the sofa perfectly.

We’re nowhere near done, but progress is progressing, and I can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Date posted: June 25, 2023 | Filed under house, living room | Leave a Comment »

Finn got the wild idea about two weeks ago to have herself a yard sale. In typical fashion, the thought struck her on a Thursday, and she announced her plan to us to hold it the following Saturday. We quickly advised her to put it off a week for both logistical and commercial reasons: the neighborhood across the street was holding their spring yard sale this weekend, and that always gets lots of traffic.

Jen and I started making lists of stuff to drag down from the attic and up from the cellar, and by Friday night we had a sizeable stack of stuff piled on the front porch ready to go. We lucked out with good weather. I ran out to get breakfast and by 8AM we had two tables piled with goods on the front lawn flanked by furniture of all shapes and sizes. We get lots of eyeballs on Frederick Road, so the cars lined the street pretty much all morning. We said goodbye to a lot of toys, kids’ clothes, large furniture, and other stuff; Finn sold a lot of jewelry and some books. I tried to get people interested in the futon frame but nobody would bite. By 11:30 the traffic slowed so we hauled everything inside and counted our earnings: about $175 plus a ton of quarters.

As the sky got dark I went upstairs to roll a second coat of paint in the old blue room and then went down to the basement to rebuild a carburetor for the Travelall. The wind picked up and the rain came down all afternoon. Jen and I watched the first three episodes of the Mandalorian season 3 and then we all hit the hay.

At around 11:30 we heard booming and crackling very close outside, and opened a window to see one of the transformers behind our house alternately exploding in green flame and then barfing hot red lava down the side of the can. As I was looking up the I’m-not-calling-about-a-gas-leak number for BGE, our lights went out. I reported the issue and we went back to bed. In the morning our electricity wasn’t back and the estimates were saying 4PM for a return to power. Jen and I took Hazel for a long walk and then we hit the road in search of a generator.

We’ve had our fair share of electricity outages here at the Lockardugan Estate; in the first ten years we must have lost power five times. It’s been better since they replaced the transformer directly behind us (that one used to explode every time it rained) but we’ve lost an entire fridge and freezer full of food twice in the last ten years, and that shit ain’t cheap. I decided to look for a portable generator/inverter both because I didn’t want another huge object taking up space in the garage, and I also wanted something we might be able to take camping. After visiting two stores we drove to Columbia and found a nice Craftsman 2200W unit (basically a rebadged Generac) to bring home.

On the back lawn all went well until I pulled the “don’t start this without oil” tag off and looked for the manual to tell me where the oil fill was located: there was no manual. Nothing on the side of the box, and nothing on the web page for the model I’d just bought. Noting it was manufactured by Generac, I looked on their site and found what I needed. Once it was full of oil and gas it fired right up and I plugged the fridge in, and it never skipped a beat. So that’s a nice bit of insurance to have out in the garage.

Date posted: April 23, 2023 | Filed under family, house | Leave a Comment »

I was in Lexington Park on Saturday to finish grouting my father-in-law’s bathroom floor, get the water hooked up in the sink, and replace the original-to-the-house vent fan, which involved suiting up in Tyvek and crawling around in his hot attic for an hour fighting the wiring. The pipe valves on the supply lines were original to the house so when we hooked up the sink they both immediately started leaking. Being simple compression fittings, this wasn’t surprising, but it also made their replacement with new SharkBite fittings much easier. The bathroom is about 95% complete, which is a relief, and with the end of that project, I’m going to be stepping back from major initiatives two hours away from my house. I think I’m going to refocus on getting the Chrysler started, maybe working a little bit to fix the janky deck on the back of the house, but not taking on huge remodeling projects moving forward.

Sunday morning I primed the walls in the old Blue bedroom to cover a very bright coat of red. The girls had originally picked out a beautiful shade of what we all thought was coral but showed up as a vibrant red that made our eyeballs buzz, so we had to rethink the  color. They found a lighter shade containing a little more orange, and I rolled one coat of that on in the afternoon. It’s bright but not as anxious as the red was, so I think we’re going with it. It’ll be good to get the trim painted in there as well; it’s been almost twenty years since it was originally painted and so it’s getting dull and dirty.

Finn has been making noise about organizing a yard sale to generate some cash, which got me thinking about all of the crap I’ve got clogging up the basement: spare bedframes, the old sandblaster, an unused weed whacker, an old handcart, old furniture, unused  electronics, and countless untold other items. The yearly community sale is happening next weekend across the street, and it wouldn’t be that hard to set up a table out front to take advantage of the extra traffic; the big issue is the forecast, which was for a solid block of rain but now seems to be moving back towards the evening. 

Date posted: April 18, 2023 | Filed under family, house | Leave a Comment »

From the Baltimore Sun, the original obituary for Dr. McGrath, the previous owner of our house. I like this part, and it confirms other reports we’ve heard:

“He had an early [racially] integrated practice. Long before other doctors opened their waiting rooms to all, he did.”

Date posted: March 24, 2023 | Filed under house, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

My sister sent us a Christmas care package filled to the brim with amazing, thoughtful gifts. The highlight for Finn was a Kanken backpack covered with cool metal and cloisonné pins; she immediately ditched her black LL Bean backpack and moved everything over to the new one. One of the things she gave me was a 4-pack of AirTags, which I’ve been curious about for years but haven’t ever pulled the trigger on. Intrigued, I set two of them up and put one in my travel messenger bag and the other on a keyring.

Since then I’ve been getting messages on my phone whenever we leave to walk the dog to tell me I’ve left my messenger bag, keyring, iPad, AirPods and Apple Watch behind (I don’t wear my Apple Watch all of the time). Somehow activating the AirTags kicked off a bunch of notifications for all of the location-aware Apple gear I own; my phone vibrates constantly. I’ve got to figure out how to turn off all but the essentials, I guess.

* * *

As part of our remodeling in the Living Room, we’re opening up the space for new furniture and a new layout. Now that the built-in bookshelves are installed, it’s time to remove the bulkier furniture we don’t need or that doesn’t fit. I broke down the IKEA Expedit bookcase we’ve had in there since before I changed jobs and listed it on Craigslist for $20. The next step will be to disassemble Jen’s oak library table and store it safely in the basement, and move my carpenter’s trunk upstairs in the blue bedroom. There’s no way we’re getting rid of either of those items, but they are too big for our current living room. The West Elm chairs could be here anywhere between this Friday or the middle of March; we have no idea but want to be prepared.

* * *

On Saturday we drove down to Bob’s to bring food and spend some time with him. The three toilets I delivered two weeks ago are now all installed, including the one in the bathroom I’ve been working on. While the plumber was in there working we arranged to have him lower the flange to floor level, so that wrinkle has been ironed out. We’ve got a new 36″ vanity on order and waiting to be delivered this week. The plan is to head down on Sunday, set that in place and hook up the sink. I may rope my brother-in-law in and have him come in to help; we’ll see.

Date posted: February 27, 2023 | Filed under apple, family, house | Leave a Comment »