Thursday, May 24, 2018

Aren’t they sweet, little @%#$&!?$ and why don’t they eat rocks?

Yesterday morning I was in the driveway sifting gravel and river rocks (more on this later). I looked up from the task at hand and there were three young deer walking down the middle of the street. Cars stopped on the side of the road and folks walked out their front doors to watch the deer stroll down Ridge Drive.

While we see deer all the time in Astoria neighborhoods, this is the first time we’ve seen deer in our Portland neighborhood. It was sweet. They walked down a few houses and into one of our neighbors yards where, I assume, they had a lovely salad.

Tonight after dinner I went out to refresh the plants in several pots in the back yard. It was a temperate evening, high 60s and no breeze, perfect for a little gardening. As I walked through the back yard Scott noted that the little volunteer oak tree we had transplanted into a pot was gone. The previous owners bequeathed us a small rose garden. Five rose plants near the patio, an heirloom and several hybrids. Looking around the garden I noticed that every single bud on the rose bushes was gone, snipped as if someone had come through with a hedge trimmer. How could someone do that? And then it hit me...the deer! Argh!

Back to the never ending story of river rocks. We have been raking, digging, shoveling and picking river rocks out of the gardens for what seems like forever. Recently Scott started digging gravel from an area at the corner of the house. Last Saturday I had had enough of the river rock in the front garden and took a rake to the whole thing. 

There was 25 year old (at least) landscape plastic wrapped around the big pine trees that was almost girdling them. We were able to remove the gravel and rocks piled against the trees and then removed the plastic revealing large oxygen and nutrient starved roots.

With any luck, in the next couple weeks we’ll finally have mulch in the front garden under the trees. It will be a while before enough rock is removed from the yard that Scott will be satisfied. Why can’t deer eat rocks?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Tuck-pointing or how a little project can correct a multitude of sins

I’ll bet more than one of you have thought that Beth and I either forgot how to write or had stopped working on the Retro Ranch. I suppose that both assumptions are correct to a certain extent. To be brutally honest, after all of the work that was put in last year I needed to exhale. Our bank account needed a breatheras there are only so many checks that one can write before zeroing out. 

 So now that spring is here there are a handful of smaller projects for the outside of the house to tackle. The front doors will get stripped and either stained or painted (depending on the condition of the wood. The patio area needs a second coat of paint and some of the eves where I pressure washed and painted are blistering as I didn’t let all of the water bake out of the bare wood. We will be adding some wells around the crawl space vents later this spring too. 

There was one that has been bothering me since we bought the ranch – some deteriorated mortar. On several of the window sills missing mortar had been previously repaired with caulk. There were a few areas where the mortar was missing altogether and my biggest concern, a running crack below the laundry room window.


When we had the chimney rebuilt last spring, I asked our mason for a quote on the rest of the work. He apparently didn’t want the job as I never received a quote. I hadn’t done any research to find other masons but asked Gordon of Northwest Home Concierge (our contractors extraordinaire) if he had any suggestions. He told me that the minister at his church did this work on the side and he would ask if he was interested. 

Within two weeks I had exchanged information with Rick, received an estimate and scheduled the work. Apparently Rick had learned the masonry craft to augment his income as he and his wife raised 6 children. He likes jobs he can complete in about half a day so our needs were perfect. 

Rick showed up last Saturday morning at exactly the time he said he would. We walked the job again together and he got to work. He ground out the bad mortar, filled the voids, struck the lines and was very clean in his work. We even added to the job and had him replace three missing bricks in one of the crawl space vents. Rick had to go buy the bricks and I had to get some hardware cloth to prevent any critters from invading the crawlspace again. (We didn’t need Ben or his cousins resuming their residence.)

About 4 hours later, Rick had finished his work. He came back on Monday to etch the new mortar with muriatic acid to expose the aggregate (sand) and make it look like the rest of the mortar.


In the grand scheme of things this was a very minor project. Yet we are so pleased with the results and it’s one more thing check off the list. We have several big projects on deck this year, but we’re now able to enjoy the Retro Ranch without always seeing something that needs doing sooner rather than later.