Answers for Your Questions #3

The e-mail, it never stops. Have a question about Casa Decrepit? Send it to us. Now, on to the fun:

Why don't you like your plaster walls?

Because they are only barely holding onto the walls under the current circumstances, and because in earthquakes, they tend to collapse and kill people. Yes, plaster is lovely stuff, and has a feel all its own. But frankly, this is seismic zone 4, and human lives are more important to me than that.

Are you doing all the work on the house yourself?

We've gotten a lot of variants on this question lately, I don't know why. The short answer is hell no. We never once entertained the notion of doing the foundation replacement ourselves, for example, and the roof will be done by roofers, and we hired painters when it became clear that the job required real work.

In contrast, the guy down the street is stripping his house himself. He started two years before we moved into our house, and is still working at it, not even 3/4 of the way around the house. That is what it is like to do big jobs like that yourself. We are pretty much at the end of our ropes on the subject of the unfinished living rooms at the moment, but the cost of bringing somebody in to complete the job is... ridiculous. That's the only reason why we haven't yet caved and done it. Also, letting the work slide for a year or two is manageable because the rooms are basically closed in against the weather and won't get worse while they sit.

I don't know when we'll do a full plaster removal and all that in another room ourselves, or if we will. In all likelihood we will wait until I am out of school and working and then we will hire somebody to do it. I'm all for the satisfaction of a job well done, but I also went to college to avoid doing hard manual labour.

Where did you learn to garden?

This was such a weird question, I had to answer it here (and in context, I should note that the e-mail was kind of belligerent about my garden design skills, which is funny because after all all I'm messing up is my own garden). I learned to garden from working in a botanical garden while in college, and from friends and visits to botanical gardens, and from my experience gardening in our previous home in Berkeley. I'm not an expert, but I do have a lot of patience and an understanding of how plants will look when they are bigger, and I have excellent three-dimensional design skills.

If you hate my garden, OK. I'm not asking you to live with it, after all, and chances are I would not care for yours. I may be making plenty of mistakes, but what the heck? It's only a garden, and the mistakes may cost me money but won't kill anybody.

I should also take this opportunity to thank those of you who have written in saying you like the garden, or praising my sweet flowers. I just find the angry anti-garden e-mail so interesting because I can't imagine carrying that much anger for somebody else's garden, even if it was exactly the opposite of what I'd want.

Roundup will kill your roses/fruit trees/other plants, you know

Yes, that is why I don't use it next to very sensitive plants, and when I do use it it is under very controlled circumstances. That's why I used the adze to remove the bermuda in the front, rather than spraying it with Roundup and waiting for it to die. That's why I haven't sprayed Roundup all over the bermuda growing around the lawn.

I'm not gardening totally organically, but I do try to limit the chemicals in the garden, especially in the areas where the dogs will be during the day. If I do apply Roundup, I apply it on the days when the dogs go to dog school (yes, you can stop laughing now, we do sometimes send the dogs to dog school for the day, and yes, we are silly, silly people but they like it) so I know they will be out of the way until it is not a danger to them.

I've read a lot of literature on the class of weed killers Roundup falls into, and my feeling is that taking a very careful approach and understanding that it is a poison and not just some chemical you're spreading on your garden is sensible. Sometimes you want to use a poison.

Do you like the wagon or the wheelbarrow better?

I like them both, for their own purposes. We got a two-wheeled wheelbarrow, which I recommend strongly for those of you who, like me, are the sort of clumsy dolt who would tip an entire wheelbarrow full of compost onto the dog while trying to get it to the back fence. No more balancing a heavy load. Yeah, it's slightly harder to navigate narrow pathways. But the stability makes up for it.

The wheelbarrow is great for anything where you have to dump a load, and for heavier things like, say, an entire wheelbarrow full of compost. The little wagon is great for things where you need to drag a bunch of tools around, or gathering rocks, or holding prunings. Four wheels makes it more stable, but the real key for me is that the top is lower down, so it's easier to throw things in while working on your knees. I also like that the sides come off for transporting heavy large things. It is horrible for dumping loads of stuff: bits get caught in the notches where the sides come off, and there's a lift-up seat that has unspeakable things under it now.

The luxury of having sufficient storage space is that you really can make sure you have the right tools for the job.

Why don't you have ads or a donation button on the site?

The only real answer to that is that we don't want them. I mean, there's no technical reason, and although I object to advertising everywhere, I don't have any ethical reasons for not having them myself. But I do feel that ads add a certain amount of obligation to blogging. For one thing, I feel like ads would make me feel more responsible to post content regularly, or to post the things people who read the site are interested in. I pretty much started this blog as a way to keep our friends and family updated on the progress on the house, and also as a document of the renovation. I post because I enjoy it, and I post about what I'm doing or thinking about. I wrote about what other people liked for years, and now I'm writing about what I want. So for now this site is mostly a labour of love for us, rather than a possible source of income.

Not that we'd say no to a book deal, mind you.

How can I find X on the site?/Your site is hard to navigate

Hard question to answer. I usually use RSS to read blogs these days, so the new articles appear in my reader automatically. You can use the "next" and "previous" links at the top and bottom of each article, or go to the archives for a reverse-chronological list of all posts made to the site. I've recently added category archives (based on the room of the house, or the section of the exterior) and a calendar interface to the archives. I hope that makes it easier to find your way around. There are still some snags in the interfaces, especially in navigation. Sorry. I can honestly say I never expected this site to get so big, or for anybody to really care about the archives apart from us.

Also, for those of you using Explorer or Windows, I have no idea what you are seeing. I only have a Mac, and I use Firefox and/or Safari to browse the web. I'm not interested in spending a lot of time making the site perfectly cross-browser compatible. Yet another reason not to have ads.

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posted by ayse on 03/30/06