There’s a magnolia in the northwest corner of the front yard, near the street, that is dying. It’s been dying for a long time. The crown is bare of leaves and the wood is brittle, sometimes breaking away in strong winds.
Steven hired Victor to muck out the back yard and take down the magnolia; it was textbook This Old House.
Several neighbors chatted as they walked past, as Victor took down the magnolia. Everyone was happy to see it go — it’s not native to Austin. The oaks will draw more water and light.
With sprinkler repairs underway, with the fences and gates erected to create a safe yard for Adobe to burn off crazy-puppy calories while attempting to keep the deer out, Steven asked Victor to haul the trash out of the back yard.
Steven and Victor have done this before. Victor and his team installed part of the landscaping at Sea Eagle, and tackled specific jobs at Emerald Hill during construction.
Now we create a clean slate at Emerald Hill.
When Jacquela and Steven bought Emerald Hill, the back yard was not a priority — saving the house from itself was where we focused.
Previous owners used the back yard as a storage yard for broken tree limbs, old dog toys, an old telephone system wiring box, detritus, cast offs. The sage, lantana and other plants were old, tired, thready. Volunteer hackberries had taken root, making the northeast corner dark, dumping leaves. Lumber used for edging around what purported to be planting beds was rotting away.
Victor and his brother Francisco set to work saving the back yard, racing against approaching rain.
Noe and Victor from Austin Brothers Fence set to work this morning taking out the tired old cedar fencing at the north side of the house, and along the back property line. Parts of the fence were already leaning. Several pickets were broken. Where the rails were exposed, we could see termite damage — in cedar.
Cleaning out the old fence was always on the list of things to get to, depending on budget, as we pivoted from saving and rebuilding the house to projects in the yard.
This accelerated when we adopted Adobe. We need to keep the deer herd out of the back yard, and a secure yard from which Adobe cannot escape when she needs to burn off thousands of crazy puppy calories. Adobe is coming up on seven months old. She really needs a safe place to run fast and hard.
As part of this project, Jacquela gets the privacy fence she wants in front of the house, between the kitchen and driveway, to shield the gravel deck off the kitchen from passersby. Jacquela and Steven found online a photograph of a horizontal fence on which they both instantly agreed. Austin Bros. said they could do it by cutting a conventional 1×4 down the middle, creating two 1x2s. The design features 1x4s at the bottom, traveling to half way up, with the 1x2s taking the top half of the fence — with an air gap between each horizontal. Fences in Austin apparently tend to be vertical pickets, or horizontals that all the same dimension.
Why did Austin Bros. get the job? It’s run by two brothers — Nate and Jeff. And dad answers the phones and runs the office. This resonates with Steven, who works with his brothers — and misses his dad every day.
After lunch, Steven climbed the ladder into the storage loft in the garage — and began passing down to Jacquela boxes stuffed with holiday ornaments and lighting.
Working under the eaves and in the trees into the dark, surrounded by a herd of nearly 20 incurious and incautious deer, Jacquela and Steven hung white string lights at the eaves of the house and thee red-lit wreaths at the oak trees in the forest outside the front of the house.
It’s a start on the first major holiday in the house on Emerald Hill.
Steven trimmed the extra inches off the 8-foot-long desktops, spray painted the cut ends with flat black, then black satin, then two coats of clear satin polyurethane. That took 48 hours in the garage, waiting for paint to dry.
Saturday morning, Jacquela helped to carry the desktop modules into the office. Steven finagled all three panels into position, using 5/8-inch spacers to hold each desktop free of the walls — to create a “pass through” for network cables and electrical cords.
Lying on his back on the floor, Steven screwed 1/2-inch wood screws through the brackets and into the underside of each desktop, locking the wood panels into secure position. Jacquela was NOT available to photograph Steven working under the desks.
Everything got wiped down and cleaned up.
And, then, finally, it was time to bring the desktop computer back into the office — and power it up.
In photo above … Steven’s desktop computer set into place at the southwest corner of the office — booted up, connected to the Web. With Adobe’s dog bed tucked neatly under the side wing — because the dog is barely separable from Steven.
The Leons came back from Thanksgiving dinner with the Cooksleys and Steven set to work burning off the calories.
Steps in the process — locate the studs behind the drywall, mark them with blue painter’s tape, calculate the height for the desk at 30.5 inches per guidance from the web on desktop ergonomics, measure out a level line around the walls, then mount the brackets level and plumb that Steven ordered last week — the brackets arrived the day before Thanksgiving — while also working out where to not put brackets in order to be able to slide two-drawer file cabinets under the desktop and between two brackets.
After that, Jaquela helped Steven carry in from the garage two of the desktops — test fitting the parts to calculate what has to be cut off.
In photo above, one of the desktop pieces resting in position — the plywood is now stained black, using a black stain that is premixed with polyurethane. Then Steven applied two coats of clear satin polyurethane atop the stain. From a distance, it’s perfect. Up close and personal, it’s not perfect, but it should endure years of abuse from keyboards, monitors, pens, pencils, paper, glasses, paperclips, and countless projects that trundle into Steven’s work.
Meanwhile, out in the garage, Steven measured everything three times, then cut the two larger desktops down to size, and began touching up the cut ends — first with flat black spray paint to cover the raw cuts, then spray black satin stain mixed with polyurethane to blend with the surface of the finished desktops and, eventually, two coats of clear satin polyurethane sprayed over the cut ends to protect eveything. Sometime as early as tonight, the desktops will be ready to transport into the office for permanent mounting.
Xavier and Greg from Milgard Windows punched out the punch list for the windows.
They replaced screens that did not fit properly, tightly; replaced window cranks that were damaged in shipping or construction; and adjusted several operable windows that were not quite square, level or plumb.
That’s Greg, in photo above, removing one of the lock mechanisms at a window in Steven’s office — before replacing it.