Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dishwasher larvae

My house has a dishwasher, the first one I've ever had in my own place.  It's actually only a couple of years old and it's nice and quiet and probably pretty energy- and water-efficient.

It was also growing larvae...

My dishwasher has a filter in the bottom that's supposed to be periodically cleaned.  I presume most dishwashers have a filter like this.  I pulled out the filter, and it had little black larvae thingies on it and a bunch of white slime.  I was so grossed out that I didn't even think to take a picture.

I had the owner's manual (and even if I hadn't, the model number is written on a sticker on the side of the door), and I had no trouble finding a replacement filter from an online discount appliance parts vendor.

Word from the wise: Check your dishwasher filter for larvae.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How ever green your branches!


I've been hard at work on a bunch of house chores and improvements, but none of them are in a complete enough state for a blog post yet.  However, I did manage to accomplish one task just for fun.  I made a Christmas tree in my front yard.

The origin of the Christmas tree seems to be somewhat lost to history.  Evergreens were used in Egypt, Rome, and elsewhere long before the advent of Christianity for celebrations of the winter solstice, a reminder that life would return again in springtime.  The tradition of actually putting an evergreen tree inside with decorations on it seems to have started in 15th or 16th century Germany and Livonia (now Latvia and Estonia).  I read somewhere that the tradition started in guild halls, and the guildsmen would decorate the tree with sweets for the apprentices to eat.  Elsewhere, I read that it began as a piece of scenery in Renaissance-era plays, where an evergreen tree decorated with fruit was used to symbolize the Garden of Eden.  Or, alternatively, the Edenesque "Paradise Tree" was used during the Middle Ages to celebrate the feast of Adam and Eve on December 24 and subsequently became associated with Christmas also.

This tradition eventually was adopted by bourgeois families, who put trees in their homes.  Although Christmas trees were originally decorated with edible sweets, at some point, for some reason, people started lighting them with candles.  At the time, people commonly decorated pyramid-shaped wooden shelves with candles and ornaments for Christmas, so perhaps the two traditions merged, and they started putting candles in trees.  There are some nonsense stories about Martin Luther himself being inspired by the twinkling stars or shimmering snow and then recreating it for his children by putting candles in his Christmas tree at home.  That's probably not historically accurate, but the legend does show how people associated the Christmas tree with Protestantism.  It was sort of a Protestant counterpart to the nativity scenes common in Catholic Christmas celebrations.

People in Redlands go all out with holiday decorations.  At Halloween-time, some people in my neighborhood turned their house's front facade and yard into a shrine to outer space. The front of the house was draped in black with stars and planets all over it. There was a huge lit-up Saturn emerging from the roof, a giant rocket in the yard, and a 12-ft-tall robot with moving arms waving at the trick-or-treaters.  A different house nearby has this over-the-top shrine to inflatables in the yard this Christmas.  Their lawn is also made of AstroTurf, which cracks me up.  Actually, most of the Christmas displays around here are pretty tasteful.  Spectacular, even.

I've never been one to decorate or celebrate holidays much.  However, in the spirit of fitting in with the community, I decided to do a bit of tasteful and understated Christmas tree decorations of my own.  My house has a young deodar cedar tree growing in the front yard which the previous owner transplanted from somewhere in the mountains.  Deodar cedars grow to be enormous (like 150 feet tall), but mine is only about 12 feet tall and looks like a rather spindly Christmas tree.  Consequently, this year it will have to put up with being dressed up as one.  I recruited several neighbors to help me put a strand of lights on the tree.  While the kids made "volcanoes" from the gravel in my xeriscaped yard, the adults stood around on top of ladders trying to figure out how to attach the strand of lights to the top of a 12-ft tall tree that none of us could reach.  Eventually, we used a fruit picker on a pole to bend the top of the tree down so we could loop the lights over it, and then we were able to wrap the lights around the tree successfully.

For the lights, I chose a brand new strand of blue-white LED lights with crystal-like globes.  They use very little power, and are probably much less likely to burn down the neighborhood than the candles our German and Livonian ancestors used.  Actually, putting candles in a tree inside your house seems like a pretty dumb idea to me.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Plumbum - all about lead paint


Well, I'm finally officially moved into my house and out of my apartment.  But, moving isn't very interesting to write about, so this post is going to be about lead paint.

Lead is a ubiquitous heavy metal element that also happens to be poisonous.  When ingested, lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissue and bones.  Lead poisoning can manifest in a wide variety of physical and mental symptoms.  It is especially problematic for children, as it can lead to developmental disorders and learning disabilities.

However, lead has been used for a huge variety of things throughout the ages, probably because it's just really easy to find and work with.  It was very popular with the ancient Romans.  This graph of world lead production from Wikipedia shows a huge spike during the Roman era.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/57/World_Lead_Production.jpg
Remember the lead pipe in the board game Clue? Lead was used for water pipes throughout history, including in Ancient Rome (where they actually had plumbing). Toxic water pipes.  Actually, the word plumbing derives from the Latin word for lead, plumbum.  Lead is Pb on the periodic table, which stands for plumbum.

Pewter is a metal alloy that was commonly used in tableware in Europe among the wealthy before advances in glass-making and porcelain superseded it. The pewter tableware used in Medieval Europe had a high lead content. When acidic foods like tomatoes, which had just been introduced to Europe from America, were put on the pewter plates, the lead leached into the food, leading to lead poisoning.  For this reason, and because tomato plants are a member of the generally-poisonous Nightshade family, wealthy Europeans thought tomatoes were poisonous.

A lead mixture was added to gasoline from the 1920s-1970s to reduce engine knocking, but it was phased out in the US because of the environmental and health problems associated with it.  Lead is/was also used in ammunition, solder, batteries, radiation shielding, and other industrial applications.

But, as I said, this post is about lead paint.  According to Wikipedia, "lead is added to paint to speed up drying, increase durability, maintain a fresh appearance, and resist moisture that causes corrosion."  So it does lot of good things for paint.  But, primarily, you can create a very nice thick white pigment with it.  Japanese geishas used face-whitening makeup that contained lead-based pigment, which, needless to say, wasn't good for them.  People have speculated that artists such as Van Gogh and Caravaggio suffered from lead poisoning from the paints they used.

Lead paint was used on walls and trim in houses, and with an old house like mine, it's not uncommon for there to be layers of lead paint underneath the most recent coat.  It doesn't really do any harm unless it's actively chipping off where a child might eat it or if it's in an area like a window where it gets rubbed off and turned to dust that you might breath in.  Or, of course, if you decide to repaint it and you sand it down or scrape it off.  My house doesn't need repainting right now, but I wanted to see if and where I had lead paint just so I know what I'll be getting myself into next time I do decide to paint.

I bought a lead paint test kit at Home Depot.  The kit contains some tools to help you collect a sample of paint (basically you just scrape off a little bit of paint with a razor blade) and some vials with chemicals that change color depending on the lead content of the sample.  You put the sample in the vial with the first chemical, and then you drop in some of the second chemical and shake it around.  If it turns dark, there was lead in the sample.  If it stays clear, there was no lead.

I took a few samples and followed the instructions, and all my samples were clear.  The kit also contained some verification strips, to test the viability of the chemicals.  I followed the instructions for that, too, but it appeared that the second chemical was bad.  I looked at the expiration date on the test kit box, and it had expired a year and a half ago.  Thanks, Home Depot.  The test kit company had a number you could call, and they mailed me a fresh bottle of the second chemical.  I was able to add it to the samples I had already collected.  Voila!  My window hardware and walls were free of lead, but the window frame definitely has lead.

This wasn't unexpected, and I'll just deal with it when I have to and make sure not to eat my window frames in the mean time.  My windows swing inwards rather than sliding up and down, so they're less likely to produce lead dust.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh, show me the way to the next whiskey bar. (About my mahogany floors)


I had my hardwood floors refinished last weekend.  Hooray!  That means I can finally move in.  The floors were in good shape but were pretty scratched up and desperately needed to be sanded down and varnished.  They look so nice now that I'm almost afraid to walk on them.

Before
After
 The floor guys took off the quarter-round molding that covers the edge of the floor where it meets the baseboards.  The cracks between the floor and the wall are where a lot of drafts come in, so I vacuumed out the cracks and will fill them with expanding foam.  Then I'll put some new quarter-round molding down.  There's also a hole in the living room floor with an old gas floor heater in it that was used before the central heat was installed in the 90s.  If I had been smarter and a bit more on my game, I would have had the floor heater removed and had the floor guys patch the hole when they did the refinishing, but I wasn't on top of things enough to get that done.  Oh well.  A project for another time.

The edge of my floor

The floor people's best guess for the type of wood used in my floor is mahogany.  Mahogany is a hardwood tree native to Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands.  Actually, there are a few different species of Mahogany.  Today, the Honduran or big-leaf mahogany is the only commercially-grown species.  The West Indian mahogany was widely traded and used prior to World War II, but today it is an endangered species because of centuries of overharvesting.  Illegal logging of West India mahogany is still very common in South America today.


Deforestation leads to a huge number of environmental problems.  Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so deforestation contributes to global warming.  Deforestation also messes with the water cycle, causes soil erosion, and generally disrupts the ecosystem.

Deforestation has occurred throughout human history. People chop down trees to clear land for farming or settlements and to provide fuel for fires for cooking, heat, and industry.  The Europeans chopped down tons of trees in the 1400s to build wooden sailing ships for exploration and colonization, and, later, American steamboat crews chopped down all the trees along the banks of the Mississippi and other rivers to power the boats.  Mahogany was used to construct Spanish sailing ships, fine furniture, and musical instruments.  And wood floors, apparently.  I guess the builders of my house were guilty of contributing to deforestation, but at least the material has lasted well.  Better than chopping down a forest for something you're going to use for a short time and then throw away.  Or something you're just going to burn.

That's all for now.  In truth, I'm kind of exhausted from spending several hours vacuuming up wood dust.  At least I was smart enough to tape plastic over the doors to the rooms that don't have wood floors to keep the dust out.

I leave you with something completely unrelated with a sort of homophonic name, Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel.  If you're up for it, he also wrote a 2.5-hour-long opera called Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny). "Oh, show me the way to the next whiskey bar."

Friday, November 1, 2013

Wiring and The Dumb

Although various primitive light-bulb-like objects were created throughout the 19th century, it wasn't until the 1880s that the light bulb started to get commercialized.  Edison's first light-bulb patent was in 1878, so there really wasn't much point in putting electricity in your house before that.  But, with the advent of the electric light bulb, people needed to have electricity delivered to all the rooms in their houses.  
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knob_and_tube_wiring

From the 1880s up until the 1930s, knob-and-tube wiring was the standard for electrical wiring in houses.  Knob-and-tube wiring consists of conducting wires that run along floor and wall joists and insulated ceramic tubes that hold the wire free of those joists.

Although a lot of old houses still use it, knob-and-tube wiring is widely considered a fire hazard these days, especially given the rather larger loads we put on our electrical systems compared to our ancestors in the 1920s. Also, the wires were supposed to remain suspended in air to keep them cool, but that doesn't work if there's insulation in the walls (insulation is a more modern practice).  The technology wasn't bad.  It's just outdated because we use electricity differently now than we did back then.

My house was built in 1920, and most of the wiring in it was the original knob-and-tube stuff.  Because of the fire risk, as I was annoyed to find out, none of the major insurance companies will write new policies for houses with knob-and-tube wiring.  Without insurance, you can't get a home loan.  In order to get an insurance policy for my house, I had to agree to rewire it as soon as I moved in.  Yay.  So, after a week of work and mucho $$, the electricians just finished rewiring everything and bringing it up to code.  Incidentally, if you're looking for an electrician in Redlands, I was very happy with Redlands Electrical Services.

Of course, when you start taking things apart, you discover all sorts of mysteries.  When the electricians took the ceiling fixtures down, they discovered that all of them were simply screwed into the plaster and not anchored to the ceiling joists.  Plaster is crumbly and not very strong, so that's kind of a terrible thing to do.  Next time you pull your fan's speed adjustment chain, you might pull the whole fan right out of the ceiling.

Speaking of fans, the electricians also installed two ceiling fans in the rooms that didn't have them (a housecooling gift from my parents).  However, according to the 1996 inspection report I found in the garage, all the rooms had ceiling fans, so two of them disappeared sometime between 1996 and 2013.  Weird.  Well, maybe not so weird.  There probably weren't enough wires going into the ceiling to have both a light and a fan, and somebody opted for lights instead.

The electricians also installed a bathroom vent fan and light.  It lacks historical charm but will cut down on future mildew.  It's certainly an improvement over the large incongruous Tiffany chandelier that was above the shower when I bought the place.  Why that was there remains a mystery.

Speaking of lamps, I wanted to get some lights to put on the ceiling fans.  Light kits are readily available and have standard attachments for fans of any brand, so I didn't think it would be hard.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the latest trend is for fan light kits to use candelabra sized bulbs instead of the standard size.  I didn't want that, and it took an annoying amount of time to find what I wanted.  The descriptions you find of these things online and the packaging you see in stores often doesn't say what size bulb it uses.  There exists and all-pervading force in the Universe called The Dumb which constantly seeks to exert itself.  It very commonly manifests in computer programs and mass-manufactured products, and it seems that fan light kits have recently succumbed to The Dumb.

So I got my light kits installed, and the electricians put in some special switches that allow for fan speed control from the wall.  Unfortunately, these fixtures also had light dimmer switches.  Incandescent light bulbs are 1880s technology, just like the old knob-and-tube wiring.  CFL bulbs are much more efficient, so naturally that's what I want to use.  But, although you can dim an incandescent light bulb, you can't dim an ordinary CFL, only the dimmable kind.  No matter what I did with the light dimmer switches, I couldn't get the CFLs to not flicker or buzz.  The annoyance factor outweighed the convenience of having fan speed control from the wall, so I had the electricians replace the fancy dimmers with ordinary standard switches. I'll control my fan speed by pulling the chains, and now that the fans are anchored to the ceiling joists, I don't have to worry about them falling on my head when I do that.  My electricians put the ceiling fixtures back correctly, thus reducing the amount of Dumb in the Universe slightly.

If someone would just make a light switch unit that has a 4-speed fan control slider and a light on-off switch, that's really all I wanted.  It doesn't seem that complicated, really.  The fact that it doesn't exist is another manifestation of The Dumb.  If you know of such a product, please leave a link in the comments.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

J'ai d├ętruit mon parterre: a very brief history of European landscape architecture

Mon parterre - before I cut it down
Aerial view of my backyard from Google Maps
A parterre is a formal garden featuring plant beds in a symmetrical pattern with gravel paths in between. The beds are lined with short, clipped hedges, often boxwood.  They became popular during the French Renaissance and were common in Europe until the 1700s.  At that point, people started to favor a more naturalistic look inspired by paintings of ancient Greek ruins.  Yards were made to look wild and natural, and some people actually installed fake ruins and artificially tumble-down hermitages.  For some hilarious and informative discussions of English landscape architecture from that era (as well as discussions of thermodynamics, Lord Byron, Fermat's last theorem, and just about everything else), I refer you to Tom Stoppard's fantastic play Arcadia.

It appears that someone decided to plant a parterre in my backyard.  As you can see from the photos, the backyard contained a rectangular arrangement of low boxwood hedges with gravel paths in between.   Unfortunately, it also appears that someone neglected to water it, so by the time I bought the house, the hedge was largely dead.  The palo verde tree in the center of the parterre was also a pretty weird juxtaposition.  The small piece of California desert as the centerpiece of a Renaissance Europe formal garden was just...weird.

A knot garden is like a parterre, but the beds are specifically planted with herbs.  My parterre had two baby citrus trees and a sprig of sage in the beds around the edges.  Maybe this was a Californiafied knot garden?  Or perhaps the parterre was planted first, and someone later came in and planted the citrus and palo verde trees on top of it.  That seems more likely.

I thought at first that the parterre might have been original to the house.  It kind of seemed like something someone in the 1920s might have done.  A lot of Easterners migrated to California around that time period and brought their Eastern landscaping and construction practices here, despite the fact that the climate doesn't always lend itself well to those practices.  But, one of the hedges still had a plastic tag from the nursery inside it, and I found some receipts in the garage that I think were for boxwood hedges.  I believe the parterre dates from sometime around 2000.

If it had been original, I might have felt bad about tearing it out.  But, original or no, the parterre had to go.  Lawns and water-hungry hedges just don't make sense here in Southern California.  I plan to turn the backyard into a wonderland of drought-tolerant shrubbery, and, with the exception of my citrus trees, anything that requires regular watering is henceforth banned from the yard.  I want my wonderland to be wild and thick, I guess more like the 18th century style inspired by ancient Greek ruins rather than the earlier geometrical Renaissance style.  I might even put in some California "ruins" of my own.  I kind of have my eye on a windmill I saw at an antique store.

So, I had a bunch of friends over for a morning of social destruction (thanks, guys!), and we chopped down all the boxwood hedges and dug out all the roots.  We also trimmed up the rest of the yard, which was badly overgrown.  I kept the palo verde tree, the sage clump, and the baby citrus trees.  I'll redistribute the gravel into a new path through my wonderland of shrubbery.

Speaking of paths, note that hedge mazes evolved out of knot gardens.  If my parterre/knot garden had been a hedge maze, maybe I would have kept it.  Wouldn't you?  But, well, maybe my meandering shrubbery wonderland path can be a bit maze-like. Stay tuned for more gardening updates as this project evolves.
My backyard without the boxwood hedges

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why fridges stink (and the bottoms of cabinet doors are dirty)

My mom is here visiting me, and today we set to work cleaning the kitchen.  It wasn't too bad, but there was the usual slime and stickiness that comes with years of food preparation.

The underside of the cabinet doors were strangely dirty with yellowish goo.  Here's my theory: Liquidy stuff rolls off the edge of the countertop, lands on the top of the cabinet doors, drips down the inside of the cabinet door, and then sort of puddles up on the underside of the cabinet door.  No one ever thinks to clean the underside of the cabinet doors near the floor.  I tend to notice and get bothered by stuff like that.  Anyway, I scrubbed down all the kitchen cabinets while my mom cleaned the refrigerator.

The refrigerator smells.  It's empty, and I've been airing it out for a week, but it still smells gross.

Smell is caused by something giving off molecules and by those molecules ending up in your nose.  Molecules from that object actually float through the air and end up in your nose.  How gross is that!?  Yummy, I'm inhaling somebody else's old rotten food particles!!  Smelly molecules are generally light, volatile chemicals that easily get blown off their material of origin.  Items made of non-volatile materials (like a hunk of metal) don't smell because they don't give off any gases.


Fridges stink because food gives off a lot of volatile chemicals.  Moisture comes out of food and floats around the fridge, which is a pretty air-tight area.  It's especially bad when the food stays in there long enough to rot or spoil.  It builds up and in there and sticks to the walls and the racks.  When you open the door, all the air rushes out and slams into you.  You inhale it.  Yay.

The back of your nasal cavity has millions of olfactory receptor neurons that each have little cilia on them with receptor proteins which bind with the smelly molecules in the air.  The neurons transmit a signal to the brain.  Different receptors are sensitive to different types of molecules, and the combination of firing neurons is distinct for different types of smells.  Personally, I think smelly fridges all tend to smell similarly gross.  Maybe the diet of most people I'm around is similar enough that their fridges are full of pretty much the same stuff.

When a smell is present for a long time, the brain experiences habituation.  It ignores the constant stimulation and only alerts you to new changes.  I guess if I lived in the fridge (or my whole house smelled like fridge), it wouldn't bother me.  But when you first open the fridge and get doused with it, your brain just goes "Eeeew, gross!"

My mom thoroughly scrubbed down all the surfaces inside the fridge.  Tomorrow, we're going to check underneath it.  There should be a drip pan somewhere designed to catch condensation which might be full of dirty, smelly water.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Encryption - a post about door locks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pin_tumbler_lock
My house has three doors - a front door and two back doors (because there are two separate additions on the back of the house, each of which has its own door to the outside).  When my realtor gave me the keys for my house, I discovered that none of the keys opened either of the back doors.  I complained to my realtor, and she complained to the seller's realtor, and this resulted in a handyman being sent over to change out the locks on the back door.

Well, being a somewhat anal retentive person, I decided I really wanted all the doors to have the same key, and I had wanted to change all the locks anyway, for the sake of security.  Also, one of the back doors didn't have a deadbolt on it, so I wanted one put on.  The handyman said he could do all that, and by the end of the afternoon, all the locks had been changed to have the same key, and there was a new deadbolt on the back door.

The standard pin tumbler lock like my doors have is a piece of 6000-year-old technology.  The Ancient Egyptians used it.  Inside, it has a set of plugs and a rotating cylinder.  When the correct key is inserted, the plugs are raised to the correct levels so that the cylinder is no longer blocked from rotating, and you can open the door.  To re-key a door lock, you don't have to replace the entire deadbolt or door handle.  You just have to remove the hardware from the door and replace the little cylinder with one designed to work with a different key.

Actually, I wonder how many unique keys there can possibly be with this design.  I suppose the correct height of the pins can be changed in infinitesimal increments, but in reality, the increments is probably limited by the manufacturing tools, so there must be a finite number of possible keys.

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O350453/lock-and-key-john-wilkes/

The locks on my doors aren't particularly old-fashioned or charming.  In fact, the doors themselves are all new, which is explains the new hardware.  It would have been more fun if they looked something like this one from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London:

A few years ago, when I was traveling in London, I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum.  Officially a "museum of decorative arts and design", it really comes across as a museum of random old stuff.  It has collections of old clothing, musical instruments, furniture, jewelery, art, etc.  It's like, "Here's a bunch of junk we collected when we were colonizing the world!"  Anyway, The V&A has a large collection of locks and keys from throughout the ages.  The day I was there, there was a large music and architecture festival going on called Explore Sights and Sounds.  There was BBC-sponsored children's group performing a composition of their own making called "Encryption", inspired by the lock and key exhibit.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Time Axis - A dorky post about spacetime coordinates

"Melinda's house blog" was a boring placeholder name for this blog while I tried to come up with something creative.  I've renamed it to "Time Axis", which I think conveys my house project in a suitably abstract and dorky manner.

My house is a historic house.  Several generations of owners have dwelled in it since it was build in 1920, each customizing it to their own needs.  Now it's my turn.  I don't know who these people were, but as I explore the house and make my own modifications, I'll be discovering small things about them because they left clues about themselves in the house.  We share something - our spatial coordinates.  We just landed on different places on the time axis.

Right now is my time on the time axis of this house.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Chickens, lizards, and spiders, oh my!

My house has a detached garage.  When the termite inspectors looked over the house before I purchased it, they found a small active termite infestation in the garage (luckily nothing in the main house), so I need to get that taken care of soon.  However, at some point in the past, somebody tacked up a bunch of mismatched pieces of thin paneling on the interior garage walls.  Behind the paneling was a bunch of Styrofoam, meticulously cut to fit between the support beams.  I guess this was supposed to be insulation, but it was a nasty mess, full of bee nests, spider egg sacks, and who knows what else.  The person I bought the house from told me that someone in the past used to keep chickens in the garage, so maybe the attempt at insulation was for the chickens.  I decided I should pull all of this out, since I'm not storing chickens in the garage, and since it might be covering up more patches of termite infestation.


Styrofoam "insulation"
Ugly, brittle paneling with Styrofoam behind it.
My parents have an old house in Mississippi, and I had commented to my dad earlier in the day that I might find all sorts of weird things in the garage, but, unlike Mississippi, at least I probably wouldn't find any snakes in there.  But, of course, what was the first thing I found?

... ?! ...

Actually, thankfully, it wasn't a snake.  It was a large and rather mangy-looking lizard, but I definitely did a double-take when I first saw it.  When wild animals feel threatened, they go through a few phases of response.  First is Plan A.  Plan A involves sitting very still and pretending that you're not there, hopefully convincing that predator that you actually aren't there.  If that fails, the animal resorts to Plan B.  Plan B involves remaining where you are but showing your teeth, hopefully convincing the predator that you are dangerous.  Failing that, the animal resorts to Plan C, which is to run away.  My garage lizard tried Plan A for a while, but I stopped staring at it, and it never had to get to Plan B or Plan C.  It eventually lurked away into the shadows when it thought I wasn't looking anymore.

Someone had nailed a bottle cap to the wall that said "I've often thought of becoming a lizard."  Maybe they finally did it!

The mish-mash of paneling came down easily.  I was going to remove the nails, but the paneling just sort of ripped off over the nails with very little cajoling.  I will have to figure out how to dispose of it.  I pulled out all the Styrofoam and filled up 6 large garbage bags with it.  The whole process was very dirty.  My decision to cover up in long pants, long sleeves, safety glasses, work gloves, and a dust mask was a good one.


Elsewhere in the garage, I removed a random wooden rod that was dangling from the ceiling and some disintegrating newspapers that were lining some of the shelves.  They were Redlands Daily Facts papers from January 23, 1970, and featured updates from Vietnam and an explanation of azalea blooming habits.  It also included this large ad from Southern California Edison for all-electric houses featuring a cavewoman.  I guess electric stoves and climate control are a large improvement over the, um, fire pits and caves that most people in Redlands were using in 1970.

 My forays into the deep dark recesses also rewarded me with two cardboard boxes full of papers belonging to a previous owner (not the one I bought it from), including school transcripts and medical bills.  I haven't quite figured out what I should do with those yet.

Through the Looking Glass

Hi!  I'm Melinda.  I just bought a historic house in Redlands, California, and since this is my first foray into home ownership, I decided to keep a public diary of my adventures.
Melinda's new house in Redlands

I love old houses.  I grew up in an old house.  I love the craftsmanship and care that went into designing and building them, and I love to uncover the old mysteries you're bound to find in them.  I love the sense of history, of living in the same place where other people have carried out their lives in the past, each adapting it to his own needs.

My new old house was built in 1920.  The original owners were the Starkweathers, who ran one of the local telephone companies.  It's around 1000 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, a fantastic screened-in porch on the back, a detached garage, and a large backyard.

The house is in great shape for its age, but, as is true of any old house, it needs some work.  And it needs some love and care to really make it mine.  In this blog, I will share my house-related projects and adventures with you.

Below are some photos of the interior, which I snagged from the Zillow ad.  The furnishings aren't mine.  The house is completely empty now.