Photo taking didn't get any attention until after some of the distractions written about on Kitty Reflects 1/19/03, though a few were snapped before the piece from 1/29/03. This was Paul's first time in the house that Kitty acquired in the dissolution of her first marriage in October of 2000. (More)
One of the very first efforts that needed doing was getting our computers up and running in our office downstairs - the house is one of the few in the desert with a basement. We have our desks arranged so that we can see each other all the time, making communication easy and enjoyable. The "blue room" upstairs next to our bedroom will be our permanent office, but at this time was in need of work and unusable.
Once our office was mostly working well, we started doing some much needed house cleaning and yard work.
The front door was really a mess from birds making nests in a wreath that had been left hanging for over 2 years.
This was the first of 7 trees around which we cleared large amounts of the aloe vera that had been using the majority of the water dripped at their bases. Anybody wanting the dozens of plants we ripped up could have had them for just the asking. While the trumpet shaped flowers on the aloe vera are favorites of hummingbirds, too many can rob a tree of much needed water.
Plant pruning took a significant portion of our outside work since they had not had any attention in over 2 years.
The mesquite tree on the southeast corner of the house has been clinging to life for several years. One reason was probably the overgrowth of the aloe vera that had started out as only a few plants. Kitty's near the end of the task of removing all of these tenacious plants around this tree. She did return just a small handful after digging out the thick mat of roots that had formed.
Paul had to really work at removing a stake that had been deeply in place since this mesquite was first planted about 13 years previously.
An area on the east side of the house was especially lush with buffalo grass, which only grows after heavy seasonal rains. The drip water system "T" to this yucca in front of Paul was found to be leaking; another item to fix. Those yucca leaves are razor sharp on the edges and needed pruning first. After replacing the "T", we redug the "well" which allows the water - whether irrigation or rain - to collect and soak down to the roots.
Even before Kitty finished the water system repairs on the small yucca, Paul took on pruning off the dead leaves of another variety behind it. The "before" condition can be seen in the shots just above.
Once the dead leaves were gone, Kitty could get back behind the tree and make improvements on the watering system.
Paul "combs" a Golden Barrel cactus as Kitty fixes the watering system.
More watering system problems needed work on the front of the attached garage near the entry walk. Paul sits between blooming aloe vera and red yucca, yet to bloom on the right, as he locates a clogged "T" near one of the latter. He's holding a small aloe vera that was weeded out.
A major task was the creation of covers for the 2 skylights into the basement for the summer months to reduce the heating in the basement and therefore the entire house. Paul selected items from the remnants of building materials on the property and we went to work.
Once the materials were decided on, Paul double-checked his measurements for the frames to be cut from old, but still usable, 2x4s.
Kitty cleaned the sheet metal siding (that had been lying around for years) that would become the covers. Then she painted the 2x4s that Paul had cut.
Paul meantime fastened the previously painted frame uprights to the base of the first skylight. The design is such that the cover comes off in the winter to allow the sunshine to warm the basement.
Now all that is needed is the final painting - the sand color of the house. The downward angle of the metal siding cover will allow the occasional rain to run off onto the Chinese Lilac, hidden behind the closer bush. Onto the next window well around the corner!
Paul works on a retaining wall to keep the path in place around the garage to the fron entry. We later placed left-over red tiles - some whole and others broken but usable - from the back patio. At least this way the dirt and sand won't keep washing down onto the front steps. Next year we'll add some groundcover to help hold back the soil.
Back inside, Paul is at the tail-end of a massive garage cleaning effort. Years worth of stuff were examined; most was given to Kitty's former husband, given to the Salvation Army, or thrown out. We should have taken a "Before" picture. What a job!
Then there was the unpleasant task of cleaning out a large rodent nest in the water heater closet off the garage where some dried chiles had also been left for many months. It then took over a week to rid the house of a small family of rodents - they dined on rat poison almost with impunity and picked cheese and licked peanut butter off traps w/o springing them. They also chewed a hole in rubber weather stripping placed at the bottom of the door (not by us since we considered it a useless measure) where they had previously chewed through to enlarge the existing gap. Finally they succumbed to the poison and their bodies were removed from the closet. The hole in the wall where the pipe enters into the house proper was then closed off with sheet metal.
Paul has just completed the task of cutting down a lovely Bottle Brush bush, behind him in the corner, that died from lack of sufficient water - the watering system was found to be clogged last spring on one of Kitty's brief visits. The plant was already dead at that time, a sad loss since it was the only one on the property.
This mesquite needed a lot of pruning of dead limbs - from insufficient watering - and ones that were just growing too low to walk under safely or were growing into bush on other side of the wall.