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May 31, 2006

Filoli Estate

On Friday of Mom and Dad's vacation we visited Filoli. (Yes, I know this is now almost two weeks ago. Give me a break, I'm slow).

Filoli Estate (pronounced FI-low-lee) is located 30 miles south of San Francisco and is one of the finest remaining examples of a country estate from the early 20th century. The first floor of the house is open for touring but really it's the gardens that steal the show.

Map of the Estate

The gate for which the gardens are named. Filoli. Supposedly from FIght LOve LIve. Located near Garden House on the northwest side of the walled garden in the center of the map.

Filoli had both white and purple wisteria. They were just about done blooming.

Structure in the garden store. Possibly not original. Lovely none-the-less.
Pergola out by the tennis courts. Very very lovely.

No idea about the identity of this flower.
Hibiscus! Growing back in the woodland gardens.

Tomato Cages. These are -so- going up in my back yard when I put in tomatoes. I have about 8 shots of this from different angles. They're just so much prettier than -normal- tomato cages.
Another garden cage. Not sure for what exactly.

By far, the coolest place in the whole garden was hidden back by the Wooded Area where it says "no visitors". If you edge around the back side of the tennis courts and take the back steps down to the southwest corner of the bowling green you'll find two of the most spectacular elm trees I have ever seen. These are well over a hundred feet tall and their lowest branch (at the body of the tree) is about 10 feet off the ground. These branches spread outwards and downwards until they touch the ground. It's a beautiful sheltered tree grotto where you're sheltered in the umbrella of a tree. I think it was the most magical place in the whole garden.

A picture may be worth 1000 words.. but I don't have the pictures or the words to describe how magical it is. Go there, visit it for yourself.

Venting the Dryer

Finally, at long last, the dryer is vented to the exterior of the house (instead of into the crawlspace).

This has been one of the big outstanding issues.

It's not so much that it's hard.. it's just intimidating the first time you poke a hole in your new house. I know, some of you veteran house bloggers are rolling your eyes at us and grumbling about why we even bother writing this up.. but to me it's a big deal.

Luckily Dad was here to save the day (or at least prod us into just doing it).

I'm a little vague on the details.. (I was planting bougainvilla and daisies in the front yard with Mom) but I think I know most of what happened.

First Marc and Dad crawled under the house and drilled a hole in the center of where they wanted the vent to emerge. Because all the plumbing for the sink and the washer was in the way in -this- joist bay, they ended up running the exhaust under the first joist and into the next joist bay. They drilled the initial hole and then went around to the outside of the house to cut the vent hole around the pilot hole.

Dad used a utility knife to remove the (aweful hideous) vinyl siding.
Dad using sawzall to cut out the redwood siding.

I think Dad centered the pilot hole in a circle the size of the vent kit.. then he used a utility knife to cut through the vinyl siding. The vinyl siding is installed over redwood siding. Dad drilled more holes in the redwood and used a sawzall to cut out the redwood siding.

Because the vent came out of the house over a seam in the vinyl siding they also built a .. "shoe" to keep it level with the side of the house (I think you can see that in the first picture in this post). They then caulked the heck out of it.. and ran a load in the dryer.

So, yeah! This means I can tick our progress bar for clearing the pest report up to 30%. Yeah progress!

Purple Puff Plant

A few days ago I posted this picture. We spotted this outside the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate park and really wanted to know what it was. After searching high and low.. and polling many sources.. it turns out this is a special type of geranium. "Geranium maderense" also called the "Madeira Cranesbill".

As luck will have it, it's for sale on June 10 at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate park. I think we'll be making a special trip into the city then. Now I just have to figure out where to plant it.

May 25, 2006

Slave Driver

Solar lights installed by Marc the day before Mom and Dad showed up. In the background you can see the last remaining cactus in my yard.
Thursday was a work day. Mom and Dad may be on vacation.. but that doesn't mean they don't have to work.

When Marc and I were in Montana for Christmas we helped Mom and Dad to install the stove in their kitchen and to connect and turn on their radiant floor heating (someday the story will be posted over on NeverDone). We figure turn about is fair play. Before they flew in I warned them that there were a few things for which I wanted their help.

First thing Thursday morning we headed off to YardBirds. Since YardBirds was bought by Home Depot our local YardBirds is having a 20-40% off sale just before they close their doors. Just the thing you want to see when you're raring to do home improvements. We bought a diningroom chandelier, random bits of wood, and contemplated a screen door. Marc and I had bought yard lights and ceiling fans a couple of days before.

YardBirds didn't have any shingles so we also had to run off to the nearby Home Depot. There we got the singles and the bougainvilla I've been threatening to plant in the front yard.

Mom and I tackled the front yard.


First we removed the last cactus. It put up a good fight. We used a hedge clipper, shovel and hatchet. Finally we got most of it out. We replaced this with some really sorry looking daisies I'd bought about a week before. They weren't sorry looking when I bought them.. but after a week of shuffling around the house they were looking a little ragged. Hopefully the daisies will survive. If not.. there's always more daisies. No after shot. I forgot to get one. Just imagine the red brick ring with really ragged looking grass bits in the middle.

Then we moved on to the fern. Despite being on the south-side of the house this fern was determined to survive. I'm pro-fern so I decided to transplant it.

The fern. This is just to the left of the front-steps. What kind of nitwit plants a shade-loving fern on the south-side of the house?
After: New Bougainvilla with action shot of Mom planting it. The plan is that the bougainvilla will grow up big and tall and balance out the front of the house and hide the fact that the dining room window is off-center when viewed from outside the house (it's centered in the dining room)

All the fern bits were piled into the goat cart...
...and transplanted to the north side of the house. I think Marc took the picture and had made some snarky comment.

Assuming the dogs don't tear it out of the ground, the fern should be -much- happier.

Dad and Marc crawled under the house to check on the supposed "termite damage" (see: Repairing a subfloor without demolition) and to scope out venting the dryer to the exterior of the house instead of just into the crawlspace.

The "termite damage" ended up being fixed on Saturday (more on that later). The dryer venting is such a huge event it deserves its own entry. Stay tuned.

May 24, 2006

Conservatory of Flowers

Wednesday we headed into San Francisco to the Conservatory of Flowers. The last time Mom and Dad were in town, the Conservatory was still closed for repairs. This time it was open. We toured the conservatory and then spent another hour or two touring the pathways around the Conservatory. If you ever go there, be sure to walk around outside. It's very lovely.
View of the ceiling of the main conservatory dome
Water Lily in Conservatory of Flowers

Another water plant.
And another

Butterflies at the Conservatory of Flowers

We saw this outside the Conservatory. We have no idea what it is. The plant is about 3-4 feet tall.. with a big puff of purple flowers on the top. Very lovely.

Productive Vacation

Mom and Dad flew into Oakland Airport on Tuesday 5/16. This is the first of my family to visit us in the new house. I was anxious, panicked, eager, scared. Marc gave me hell as we drove to the airport because I was so nervous. What if they didn't like the house? What if Dad found huge amounts of termite damage? What if we couldn't fix the garage roof? What if bandidos descended from the hills and held us at gun point demanding all of our lunch money? Ok. So I was a little bit nervous.

We rushed home from the airport and gave them the $2 tour. Mom commented that she was surprised that I still had cactus in the yard. I told her that I'd already bought daisies to replace that cactus. Dad commented that the reason the garage was leaking was because some of the shingles were missing (probably blown off at some point). We resolved to do work later that week.

For dinner we decided on Thai. During the Vietnam confict, Dad was stationed in Thailand. He really liked the "Khao pad" (prounounced "Cow Pie"), Thai fried rice. It turns out that our favorite Thai place is closed. Their sign in the window says "Close for Modeling" After a bit of discussion we settled on Indian for dinner instead.

After dinner we decided to head over to IKEA. Mom and Dad don't have an IKEA in Montana. IKEA's not for the faint of heart. It's huge.. and seems bigger because of the way they lay it out. They even put big arrows on the ground pointing you in the right direction just in case you get turned around. I've never made it out of IKEA without finding something to buy. This was no exception. We found curtains for the house. They were $39.99 for two panels. We bought enough for the dining room and the living room. IKEA calls them "brown" but they're more like a muddy grey-green. Perfect for the earth-tones I'm shooting for in the living room, dining room and kitchen.

May 11, 2006

Vanity at the DMV

Last year I bought the house. It turns out, when you buy a house they want you to have a valid form of ID (especially when you goto the bank and ask for $7k+ check from your account to pay for closing costs). This forced me to again realize that my driver's license had expired in June. I knew about it before then.. airport security gets very cranky if you fly with an expired license.. but I'd forgotten all about it (add to that, since you have the license for 5-7 years it seemed silly to get it for the wrong address when I -knew- I was moving).

ANYWAY. In December, about a week before closing on the house, when I was certain I was probably going to get the house, I went into the DMV to renew my license. It was amazingly painless. I was able to complete all of it in about 20 minutes and still make it to work on time. This gave me a temporary piece of paper that made my now-expired license back into valid ID. All was good. The house closed as expected.

We closed on the house on Dec. 5. The previous owner did a rent-back for 3 days. Three days became 5 days and we didn't actually get possession of the house until Dec. 11. I wasn't horribly worried.. frankly I was terribly busy. On Dec. 10 I was head cook for a three course feast that served just over 100 people(menu here). I had other things to think about.

About a month after moving into the house I realized that my license hadn't arrived. This is upsetting on OH so many levels.

Possibility #1: DMV screwed up. Licence never sent. This would be good...
Possibility #2: License arrived and Mr. O, previous owner, threw it out. This would be annoying, but good...
Possibility #3: License arrived and Mr. O gave/sold it to some bad person who is now pretending to be me. This would be very very bad.

Today I stopped by DMV and went through the song/dance again. It actually took longer this time. But DMV says that they mailed out the last licence on Dec 6. *sigh*.

The frustrating thing is that I can't do anything about it. So I'm going to pretend that it's possiblity #2 and just move on.

A new licence should be mailed out in 2 weeks.

It's a little sad to note that despite the possibility of identy theft and the continued confirmation that Mr. O is a dork there was bright and shiny silver lining this morning. A bright and shining silver lining that illustrates my vanity.

Rather than listing my hair/eyes as brown/brown.. the DMV is perfectly willing to update my eye color to Hazel. Hazel is a much cooler color than brown. I know, it's not about the coolness of your eye color.. but all my life I've said brown/brown.. and last year someone commented that my eyes are brown.. but could also be described as hazel.

Your eye color is something you think of as fixed. I'd never considered that I might -not- have brown eyes. After careful consideration.. and something that might be described as "staring blankly into the bathroom mirror" I decided that my eyes could be described as hazel... and it's even cooler that the DMV would allow me to change.

So yes, I'm a big vain goob. But at least I have hazel eyes.

May 9, 2006


Our house sits on a crawlspace. One plumber commented that it's a "nice huge crawlspace big enough that you can crawl around on hands and knees".

My expectations for a crawlspace is that it should be dry. It's under the house, protected from rain. Water shouldn't be going there. Reality isn't meeting with my expectations. Every time it rains our crawlspace becomes a mud pit under the house.

Water evaporates into the crawlspace air. Settles on woodwork, condenses on galvanized pipes. Generally doing the nasty corrosive things that unchecked moisture does. The under-the house moisture then wafts its way up into our living space. It's condensing on the single pane windows, dripping onto the wooden window sills and rotting the wood. We have spots of green and white mold growing on the newly-installed-by-the-previous-owner unsealed baseboard. We also have spots of black mold growing on the plaster of our un-insulated exterior walls.

Uncontrolled moisture is evil.


  • Dryer vents into the crawlspace. Bad for so many reasons (original rant in a post on Restore|House blog). The obvious fix is to vent it properly. We have the tools.. we just haven't had a dry spell where we can get under the house to setup the venting (that and we're both kind of freaked out by the idea of messing it up while putting a hole in the house).

  • Gutters improperly installed. Our roof is a gable with another gable sticking out of it. Sort of like a cross gable.. but not entirely. I'm totally without clue as to what it should be actually called. The only piece of gutter on the entire house was installed by Mr. O across the front of the house.. it has a downspout.. that pours water out at the foot of the walls. Bad bad bad.

    My plan is to install a gutter across the back of the house and the west end of the cross gable. These will dump out into a downspout. Then I want to use either an on-site drain system to move gutter water away from the crawlspace or I'm toying with the idea of using rain barrels and a cistern. A cistern would capture the rain water we get during the winter and allow us to use this to water our lawn during the summer. Two birds, one cheap and effective stone. Still considering.

  • lot improperly graded. From my readings, the property should drop 1" for each foot out from the house.
    • Southside, Front - On the front of the house I think it's close to right. The yard just needs to be tweaked.

    • Eastside, Right - There's just a little bitty dog run here about 4 foot wide. I think it's basically level. I'm thinking we'll pull the rock out of here (to use for the onsite-drainage) and regrade this slightly.

    • Northside, Back - The back yard is mostly level.. no grading at all. That and about 2 ft from the house, there's a huge concrete slab (ghetto patio) that is raised 2" from the ground and (I think) graded the wrong direction. Mr.O strikes again.

    • Westside, Left - This is the side that has the driveway. The concrete work is all wonky here and runs right up to the side of the house. At the side of the house, the concrete dips and water pools here everytime it rains. Bad bad bad. I want to get rid of all of this concrete and redo the drive entirely. Not only is it graded the wrong way.. it's a major PITA to open the gates to move cars into/out-of the yard. The bottom of the gates grate on the driveway.

Random gutter links:

If all this doesn't fix the situation.. then I guess we're going to have to consider conditioning the crawlspace.

Concerns with a conditioned crawlspace:

Problem: Water heater may back draft and cause unacceptable levels of CO2 in the house.
Solution: Move water heater outside (as is planned) or replace with on-demand water heater(? CO2 problems?) or replace with sealed combustion water heater.

Problem: Humphrey, the cranky furnace, may back draft and cause unacceptable levels of CO2 in the house.
Solution: No solution at this time. I'd like to replace Humphrey with a sealed combustion forced air system in the attic. I don't have the $7000 to do it.

Random Conditioned Crawl Space Links: