Our Home Saga:
Settling In

When we got back from the beach, the hardwood floors were in, and the place was finally starting to come together. Still, I've been working on the house non-stop since our return. By "non-stop", I mean every day for a month and a half:

Saturday, Sept 6: Pruned back the dead branches from four of the palm trees (and I still have four to go), then Theresa and I moved the nice dining table into the dining room, set up the family room, and assembled the breakfast table.

Sunday, Sept 7: Spent a fortune at Home Depot (much of it on rugs), then Theresa and I moved the living room furniture from the study / guest bedroom into the living room.

Monday, Sept 8: Finished assembling my office desk, then drove back to Home Depot and traded my brand new Murray lawn mower in for a better, self-propelled Toro.

Tuesday, Sept 9: Mowed the lawn, trimmed the hedges, and pulled vines from the front of the house.

Wednesday, Sept 10: Removed wasp nests and hosed off the front of the house.

Thursday, Sept 11: Attacked the vines in the back of the lanai, trimming them WAY back. It was exhausting work, and I stepped in a fire-ant nest too. That evening when the sprinkler system came on, Theresa discovered that I had accidentally trimmed two of the sprinkler heads off along with the vines. Oops!

Friday, Sept 12: Tested the sprinkler system zone-by-zone and found several other damaged heads. I also managed to step in yet another fire-ant nest, so I got bitten some more -- enough to make me feel a bit sick. Still, I played in a volleyball tournament that evening at Kahuna's and won.

Saturday, Sept 13: Still felt kind of rotten, so I didn't do much. Theresa cleaned the pool area with bleach, and then I cleaned the lanai itself (as far as I could reach).

Sunday, Sept 14: Assembled the entertainment center.

Monday, Sept 15: Made a bunch of (largely fruitless) calls to coordinate other work (fence repair and tree replacement), then put together the guest bed and set up the guest bedroom.

Tuesday, Sept 16: The tile guy showed up at 8:00am to install the tile in the master bathroom. He brought his wife back with him around noon, and they worked together on the job until after 6:30pm. Meanwhile, I installed the blinds in the extra bedroom and set up the guest bathroom.

Wednesday, Sept 17: The tile guy and his wife were back at 7:45am to finish laying the tile. When they were done, I cut a pattern for the bedroom window blind, then Theresa got back from her trip, we had dinner, and then we made a run to Home Depot.

Thursday, Sept 18: The tile guy and his wife came back at 9:30am to finish grouting the very last of the tile. I had persuaded Dad to drive down and help me rebuild the kitchen cabinets and repair the drywall behind them, so I needed to get some lawn work out of the way. Made a run to Home Depot, repaired the damaged sprinkler heads, and dragged the week's lawn waste out to the curb. The new cooktop was also delivered, but I just shoved the box into the kitchen.

Friday, Sept 19: Dad and I got started on the kitchen. We carefully removed the sink and all of the kitchen cabinets, leaving the countertop in place on stilts. The cabinets were indeed in bad shape, and the drywall behind them was moldy. I ripped it all out. We went to Lowe's that evening to buy materials, but the store closed before we could get everything, so we called it a day and went on to dinner.

Saturday, Sept 20: Dad went back to Lowe's first thing in the morning and picked up the large materials we'd purchased the night before. When I got up, we took stock of the cabinet situation, designed a cut list, and drove out to Home Depot for some quality cabinetry plywood (which Lowe's didn't carry). When we got back, we started work on the back corner cabinet, since it had largely disintegrated on removal. The water had pooled in the back of it and swelled the particle board, so the feet just crumbled as we pulled it out. The cabinet fronts are all made of real wood, though, so we were able to build a new cabinet and put the old front back onto it. This took us 4 hours, but the new cabinet looked really professional. (I wish I'd taken "before" and "after" pictures for that one!) That evening, I roughed in half of the new drywall. We actually used "greenboard" this time, since it's supposed to be more water-resistant.

Sunday, Sept 21: Dad went over to Christy & Fred's house for brunch, so I slept in and we didn't get started until after noon. I removed the last cabinet and roughed in the rest of the drywall. We got another couple of cabinets rebuilt, so we started putting them back in. This was a bit tedious because they each had to be trimmed a bit and then properly shimmed into place, but by evening we had the corner piece and two others back in place. We still didn't have a working sink, though, so we washed our dinner dishes out in the garage.

Monday, Sept 22: I got up early (for me), and we set to work rebuilding the remaining cabinets. The work was starting to get old by then, so we both hoped to finish the job. Unfortunately, it just didn't happen. We (I) decided to completely rebuild the set of drawers that sat against the south wall beside the corner cabinet, so we were obliged to go back to Home Depot and buy another sheet of cabinetry plywood. We got that cabinet and the large built-in for the range rebuilt, but I had to leave for volleyball, so we didn't get much else done. Dad got the new sink and faucets ready to install.

Tuesday, Sept 23: We spent most of the morning fitting the full-height range cabinet back into place. It serves as something of a cornerstone for the cabinetry, so it was a lot of work to get it right, but it looked great when we were done. After that, we got started on the sink, only to discover that the helpful guy at Lowe's had sold us the wrong parts. So we went back to exchange the stuff. Finally, everything started coming back together. We got the sink in, tested for leaks, and fixed them all, then I grouted around the sink and the countertop while Dad cut the toekicks to finish off the cabinetry. I spent the next several hours cleaning the kitchen and putting it back into useable order. Repairing the cabinets was a big job, but it's finally done!

Wednesday, Sept 24: Given that I spent the last five days on the kitchen cabinet repair, I was way behind on the lawn work. I cleaned all the construction debris off of the lanai, mowed the lawn, poisoned some more wasp nests, pulled some vines, and "gift-wrapped" the lawn waste for the pickup guys. (They had complained that my last stack was too big, and that the dead palm fronds were too long. Pansies.)

Thursday, Sept 25: Met with the fence guy (finally), and arranged for him to come out next week and move part of our fence to the back. The tile guy also came back to fix the one loose tile in Theresa's bathroom.

Friday, Sept 26: Watched the recycling and trash guys to make sure that they actually took the stuff this time. Unpacked the new cooktop to install it, but it didn't look at all like we expected it to. The cooktop was grainy, and it just looked dirty. I'm going to look into exchanging it for something different, though that means I'll be out the shipping costs. Ouch. Theresa and I went out for a nice dinner at Pacific Wave for our anniversary.

Saturday, Sept 27: Theresa and I drove over to Tierra Verde in the morning for hair cuts and to check on the boat. (The skylights are leaking again.) When we got back, I packed up the new cooktop and reinstalled the old one (again). I thought I had the proper breakers off, but a good shock told me otherwise. So I turned off some other breakers and went back to work, only to shock myself again! I turned off yet more breakers and (wary of yet another shock) touched the lines together to test them. There was a bright flash, and the breaker blew, so I finally figured out which one it was. There's got to be a safer way to do that! Relabelling the fuse box with legible names might help...

Sunday, Sept 28: Theresa left for Baltimore today, forbidding me to do any high-impact lawn work until she got back. (In case I keel over from heat exhaustion, or have some kind of anaphylaxic reaction, I guess.) I spent most of the day cleaning up the remaining construction mess in the kitchen and replacing some hard-to-reach lightbulbs.

Monday, Sept 29: Went to Home Depot to purchase a swaging tool and a grout tool, then stopped by the grocery store to buy some distilled water for my new betas. Replaced the guy wires on the lanai (the ones I'd hacked through with my hedge trimmer), then trimmed the dead vines out of the trellis by the driveway. (The previous owner's lawn guy had cut half of them off just before closing, when we told him to "trim the vines from around the house". Useless idiot.) Had to break early for volleyball.

Tuesday, Sept 30: Spent the day at my desk, catching up on stuff. Theresa got back from Baltimore in the evening. I chipped out the cracked grout around my bathtub and resealed it, then showered in Theresa's bathroom.

Wednesday, Oct 1: This was a grueling day of yard work. The fence guy was due to work on the fence today, so I got started early trimming the dead fronds off of the remaining four palm trees. The fence guy finally showed up (several hours late), and I helped him remove a section of the front fence and install the nice gate in the back. While he was finishing that job, I dragged all of my lawn waste out to the road, then ripped all of the vines out from under the downed tree and its surrounding shrubs. (I owed those vines for killing our tree!) Once the fence guy was gone, I packaged all the yard waste up for the recycling guys. By dusk, I was utterly exhausted, but I still found the energy to chip out some more grout around my bathtub and reseal it.

Thursday, Oct 2: I needed to recover a bit, so I spent most of the day at my desk. I didn't get back outside until late in the afternoon. With the section of fence by the front door gone, the house looked really beat. I figured first things first, so I dug some dirt out of the vine bed in the back of the house and filled the holes from the fenceposts. The sprinkler system came on at 6:00pm and put an end to my yardwork for the day, though I did manage to drag Theresa out in the evening to take a look at the front of the house and make some suggestions.

Friday, Oct 3: I tried to take it easy today since we had plans for the evening, but that didn't quite work out. The yard waste guys didn't take all the stuff I'd left out for them (again), so I gift-wrapped the remainder for the following week. A big part of the problem with the appearance of the house was the bed of vines spreading across the front, so I cut a large portion of it out. This proved to be a fairly arduous task, since that particular type of vine grows so thickly that it's hard to cut through it with the hedge trimmer, and you can't really get a normal mower through it either. So I had to cut it back in layers. This generated several trash bags full of lawn waste, which I added to the pile. Then I mowed the front lawn. I would have done the back too, but Theresa and I had to leave for Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream. That was fun, but we didn't get back until almost 3:00am.

Saturday, Oct 4: I slacked off for most of the day (recovering), but I found some time in the late afternoon to transplant a shrub in the front of the house. Theresa and I also made some decisions about how to address the (still) overgrown look of the front yard.

Sunday, Oct 5: Theresa and I spent the whole afternoon on yard work, mainly focusing on the front of the house so we could get a decent picture for the website. I trimmed all the hedges (some of them fairly severely), and Theresa pulled all the weeds along the front of the house. Theresa kept harping about the fence, so I took out another few sections of it and filled the holes. (It DOES look better now, I think.)

Monday, Oct 6: Took quite a few pictures of the house, both inside and out. Trimmed the vines by the lanai (again), then mowed the back lawn. That evening, I spent a great deal of time working the new photos into the website. A disappointing number of the photos had bad lighting -- either too dark or overexposed. Should have checked them while it was still sunny out!

Tuesday, Oct 7: Took some more pictures of the house, trying (with some degree of futility) to get the lighting right. Built the "Current Photos" section of the website. Went to dinner at Mia's w/ Ernest & Amanda, Kelley & Keith, Christy & Fred.

Wednesday, Oct 8: Took some more pictures and finalized this website. I've got to get this thing published!

Thursday, Oct 9: Spent most of the day researching lawn maintenance and varieties of St. Augustine. As it turns out, the University of Florida has done quite a bit of research on this subject, and has published a "sample contract" that outlines all the tasks that should be done to keep a lawn in good shape down here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/BODY_LH031. It's a bit overwhelming, but at least I seem to be on the right track. In terms of the grass, I've narrowed my selection to the Del Mar and Palmetto varieties of St. Augustine. Both have good drought, shade, and cold tolerance, but the Del Mar endures shade better, and the Palmetto is more aggressive. I think, given our weed problem, I may opt for aggressiveness.

Friday, Oct 10: Sent out our moving announcement!

Saturday, Oct 11: Theresa and I made a trip to Home Depot to get fertilizers, grass plugs, and other stuff. We were going to get started on the lawn plugs that afternoon, but we stopped into a Halloween store instead and shopped for costumes. When we got back, I laid all of the plug trays out at the edge of the driveway and watered them. The existing lawn is supposedly St. Augustine, though it seems to be such a patchwork of different grasses that I'm not really sure. In any case, the plugs I bought are a variety of St. Augustine called "Palmetto". It's supposed to have good drought, shade, and cold resistence, and it's also supposed to be very aggressive in choking out weeds. It's only major weakness is chinch bugs, so I'll have to watch for them.

Sunday, Oct 12: Theresa and I didn't get started on any yard work until late in the afternoon. We pulled weeds in the front yard beside the road, but soon realized that there were even more weeds than we'd ever imagined, and that pulling them by hand was grueling, time-consuming manual labor. We planted 2 1/2 trays of grass plugs in the area. I'm really a bit skeptical about this stuff taking over the way it's supposed to, but I guess we'll see next spring. Watered the area extensively.

Monday, Oct 13: Pulled weeds again in the front yard, making little noticeable progress. All it seems I've done is create big bare spots, so the yard actually looks a lot worse. Theresa came out to help me toward evening, so we pulled out some more of the vine patch in front of the front door. Two more garbage bags of vine roots gone, and it's still just a thick matt of roots! The mower didn't even help much. Watered the new plugs again, but they're looking a little "distressed". Skepticism growing...

Tuesday, Oct 14: Ran a number of errands, one of which took me to a little mom-and-pop hardware store nearby. I haven't been in a genuine old-school hardware store in years! It was kind of cool. They DID have a water-main shut-off wrench (which Home Depot didn't carry) so I bought it, just in case. (After what happened to the house before, I'd rank this right up next to fire extinguishers in terms of disaster-mitigation equipment!) The weather today was a bit odd -- all day long, it was dark and windy, so it looked like it was just about to rain cats and dogs, but we only got a brief shower. Apparently the clouds were quite localized, because when I went out for my errands, the sky was just partly cloudy.

Wednesday, Oct 15: This was a really magnificent day to be outside. There was a cool breeze, just hinting of fall. I trimmed a couple more newly-dead fronds off of the palm trees. I intended to mow the lawn, but ended up pulling weeds for the rest of the afternoon. I gave up on pulling ALL of the weeds, and instead focused on the ones that are either particularly unsightly (like asparagus grass) or have really deep roots. I got most of these such weeds pulled throughout the front yard before the no-seeums came out in force, driving me inside.

Thursday, Oct 16: Mowed the lawn. Cut the dead palm fronds into short lengths for the recycling guys. Filled some holes in the lawn and planted another 4 1/2 trays worth of grass plugs. Driven inside at dusk again by the no-seeums. Thursdays are our watering days, so the sprinkler system came on to water the new plugs for me.

2003 Robert M. Freeland II. All rights reserved.
Changes last made on: Thu, Oct 16, 2003