I realize I’ve been sort of light on details around here lately. The weeks leading up to the 4th of July were a hot, sticky blur of activity as the family and I got the house put together for our guests. I spent several weeks on ladders scraping and painting the windows from the back corner of the house around to the front, and made it as far as priming the front windows before I ran out of time. Jen went nuts with mulch and cleaned up the entire yard. Our front garden looks healthy and lush this year, for the first time since we’ve lived here. All of the wood is cleared out of the backyard minus three big rounds, which are tucked up against the woodpiles waiting for a chainsaw. Unfortunately, the week before the parade, the original cradle, which was built over 10 years ago, decided to fall apart and topple over at about 1AM. I moved the wood off to the side, quickly made repairs to both cradles, and the girls and I restacked everything.
The day before the parade, our kegerator decided to crap out. It had been making a bubbling sound for a few months so I knew the time was near, but all of our beer was getting warm. I pulled all of the loose bottles and cans out and iced them in a cooler and left it for after the parade. The replacement I bought is 1″ narrower but both kegs fit just fine. I built a new collar around the top out of trex and got the lid mounted, and all of the beer is back to just-north-of-slushy 39˚.
This weekend we decided to spend some time on the cars. I made a quick dump run (old cooler: bye-bye) and then we busted out the cleaning supplies and aimed them at the CR-V. All the mats came out and everything got vacuumed. Then we got the soap out and washed the outside, sills, rockers, and roof. I pulled the spare tire off and scrubbed the leaves out from underneath. I even used some engine brite to degrease the motor. The clearcoat may be peeling off the hood, but the rest of it looks like a new vehicle. Finally, Jen asked if I would show the girls how to change a flat tire, so we held a clinic in the driveway.
Then it was off to Oregon Ridge for our friend Jen’s client appreciation party, something we’ve done almost every year since she started them. She’s an old friend from the Cidera days and she has ice cream and bubbles and facepainting and Finley has always loved it. This year she had food and Kona Ice and we got to catch up with friends under a big pavilion in the shade.
The whole weekend has been awesome weather, actually; Sunday the humidity was low so I took advantage and did a bike ride with my neighbors through Patapsco, stopped for a bloody mary at the bottom of the hill, and then rode home. My legs felt like jello but it was worth the workout. Then after Finn’s piano lesson we took the bikes across the street to get her rolling on two wheels. She was nervous at first but pushed off and within seconds was doing easy laps around the parking lot. I couldn’t be prouder of her.
A bunch of urban explorers snuck into the Baikonur Cosmodrome to check out the Buran, Russia’s Space Shuttle, which has been sitting abandoned since the 1990’s in a gigantic sealed hangar. This takes giant brass balls.
Our 2017 parade party was filled with friends new and old, laughter, and an easygoing vibe. We didn’t knock ourselves out to provide 13 menu choices; we offered two jumbo cases of water (which was all consumed), we had a mister and the sprinkler running, and we had plenty of shade available. The parade itself was fun, but there weren’t any giant bugs, Elvis sightings, Lone Rangers, Jesus dancers, or Mummers (although we did have a Falun Gong float, which was odd). It was hot enough that by 5:00 all but two families had left for home. We cleaned up the yard and then holed up in the air conditioning to cool down and recuperate.
Ha! One of our friends saw this photo in the Baltimore Sun and told Jen about it. This is now the oldest shot of the house (circa 1970) that we have. And the red truck to the left? A Scout!
Peer Pressure has been out and running strong all spring. I haven’t done a thing to her other than keep her running weekly through the winter, and she has responded by staying dependable all year. I haven’t tackled any kind of major project because money and time have been tight. I’ve also not talked to any Scout friends in months; they mostly converse via Facebook which I haven’t been on in over a year. I did have to hop on there last week and found that Wagonmaster Brian is now without a Wagonmaster. He decided to sell it and pick up an Edsel Pacer instead. After the 4th of July I’m going to see if I can organize some beers with the locals and see what’s happening.
On the way home from getting some frozen yogurt last Friday night, I spied a familiar shape parked at a local gas station and swung the car around to get a better look. It was a primer gray ’80 Traveler with fresh Maryland plates, and as I was preparing to shoot a picture, the owner came walking up. We got to talking, and he told me it was a relatively new purchase he’d gotten from out west. I got his card and dropped him a line last week, offering a beer and conversation if he was interested. We’ll see if he reaches out.
A couple of weeks ago, Jen was working at home when the doorbell rang. An older woman stood on the porch and asked her about the house, and it came out that her grandfather was the first owner. She was in town from Florida on family business and wanted to stop by and see it. Jen, being Jen, invited her in and gave her the full tour, which she was not expecting but appreciated.
We’ve always been curious to know the history of the house, and there are no historical pictures of the place that we’ve been able to find, so it was wonderful to get some first-hand descriptions of what it was like before 1950. The woman took Jen’s business card and promised to get in touch if she was able to find any pictures from her family’s archives.
A few weeks later, Jen got a call from the woman, who had been in town to resolve her cousin’s estate. She saw from Jen’s card that she was a designer, mentioned that her cousin was a graphic artist, and did we want any of the supplies left in his studio? Well, we said, we’d sure love to take a look.
Saturday we drove up to the place, which is situated right next to the Loch Raven Reservoir and set back in the woods. It’s very run down, as there had been some delays in the legal proceedings and apparently the son of the owner was living in the house without taking care of it. In the time between his passing and discovery the pipes had frozen and burst, so the whole house was filled with mildew. We met the lawyer’s representative outside and she warned us about the conditions, so we let Finley peek inside for a few minutes before setting her up with a book and a chair out in the fresh air.
The studio was on the ground floor by the front door, and had already been picked through, but there was a whole closet full of shelves and drawers to look at. We found a stack of excellent books on type, illustration, and design. There were two oil paint kits in wooden boxes that I set aside, as well as watercolor dyes, brushes, other paints, and a linoleum cutting set that took me back to my college days. I took an old-school single slide projector (the kind our elementary schools used) but passed on an overhead duplicator that would have taken up all of the room in the CR-V. The original owner had used gray index card shelving to catalog and organize his stuff, and every new drawer brought a surprise. He was an illustrator and designer, and we stumbled across his portfolios from the 70’s and 80’s, featuring watercolor, scratchboard and linoleum cuts. I was tempted to take some of it, but most of the examples were mildewed and stained, and it wasn’t really my style.
A pair of estate sellers were going through the house at the same time, and pointed out a beautiful oak easel to us, which I took, as well as a Technics turntable and some records (wow! records!) I have to replace the stylus but the unit itself is quality and should last a long time. We scored some classic albums with the bargain (Elvis, Simon & Garfunkel, CCR, Don McLean and others) and now we have a reason to go visit Glenn’s uncle down the street in Catonsville.
As we worked our way through things we explored more of the house as the day went on. The upstairs was dark and musty and had a different, more metallic smell than the downstairs. It had clearly been a nice house at one time, and the master bedroom was gigantic. The details were not to my taste but I could see how it could easily be improved upon. Downstairs, I ventured back into the workshop and if we had more time I would have gone through it better, but we did take an old Craftsman bench grinder and some smaller hand tools, including a complete tap and die set in a metal case.
After about two hours Jen and I both had a headache (and probably tuberculosis) so we wound things down and gave our thanks. We’d passed on any remaining furniture and a lot more books, but most of the things we were interested in were already in the CR-V. Right now it’s all out in the garage airing out; after the parade we’ll haul it out into the sunshine and see if we can bake the smell out of it.
This reenactor showed Finley how a real quill pen works with actual black walnut ink he made himself. He then showed us his collection of flintlock muskets and rifles, explained how he bakes bread as the pioneers did, and generally humbled us with his knowledge. I have no desire to dress in buckskins and wool in August, but I have nothing but respect for men like this. We put the paper he wrote Finley’s name on up on the fridge, and it makes me smile.
I’ve hated the steps of our back porch for as long as we’ve owned the house. They’re just tall enough to be hard to climb and dangerous to descend, not wide enough to be comfortable to sit on, and uglier than a mud fence. Among several other projects I started last weekend, I began scraping and repainting them.
First, though, I had to pick up my second ladder from my brother-in-law. Nothing sucks more than having to hump a single ladder back and forth while waiting for primer to dry on a second-story window. I found a way to wedge one ladder up to the windows over the garage-side porch (also with hideous steps) and washed the atrium windows before scraping them. By Friday evening I had those windows scraped and painted, the hallway window scraped and primed, and the back porch scraped and primed. Saturday I continued for as long as I could before the baby shower, and by Sunday evening I had the rest of the windows painted, washed, and ready for reassembly. I still have to hit the cream bedroom window, which, due to its location, has never been painted (the roof of the pantry makes it impossible to get a ladder on the window, and the pitch of that roof is nervous-making) and the back porch trim and ceiling.
Wednesday evening I took advantage of the break in the weather and ran out to get some deck paint, which then got brushed on to both decks and stairs. It’s amazing what a coat of paint will do to freshen things up. I followed this up each night after dinner with as much painting and scraping as I could do before it got dark.
I have a plain-vanilla GoPro 3 Silver, which is the base model, and which (by coincidence) works perfectly with my Phantom 2. I just found out, quite by accident, that the GoPro 3+ Black will shoot 4K video or 1080p at 60FPS, and is compatible with the gimbal mount on my drone. I’ve been considering a second GoPro for backup since mine is semi-permanently mounted to the drone (two allen screws, but still) so if I could swap the original out for something that will do buttery-smooth higher-def aerial work, I gotta have that.