1 House 100 Years

Preparing For The Centennial Of A Place That Matters

Month: July, 2013

After You Have Bought Your Old House…


The next things that you should buy is a charcoal grill (and chimney charcoal starter). This is assuming that you already have a working refrigerator. The reason that these are home renovation necessities is that with these items you will never lack help when it comes to major jobs like electrical wiring, plumbing, and plaster work. It is amazing how many offers for help you will receive when you have charcoal grilled hamburgers (steaks if you can afford them) and cold beverages of choice (plenty of beer).

If there was anything that I would have done differently at the beginning, it would have been to go out and buy a charcoal grill (and chimney charcoal starter). Instead, I waited until I felt like I had the house and yard “under control.” Had I known how many offers to help out I would have received if I had a grill from the beginning, I would have bought one before I even stepped foot into my own house after the closing!

Here is a brief description of the first few days of “My Journey To Becoming A Grill Master.”

Wednesday, July 3rd…It was the last “American Night Out” for my friend Greg before he flew to Japan. We had cheeseburgers and all of the traditional American fun before he was set to become immersed in traditional Japanese fun. I arrive home from a baseball game with fireworks and find that my grill has arrived and is sitting quietly, waiting for me on my front porch steps. The box is huge. I am convinced that I can grill enough food to feed everyone on my block. I have a leftover chocolate chip cookie from Max & Erma’s (Wednesday night is Free Cookie Night). I dream of great grilling adventures.

Thursday, July 4th…I watch “how-to grill” videos on YouTube. I buy charcoal briquettes, hamburger meat (80/20 just like most of YouTube said I should), and lighter fluid (just like most of YouTube said I should not). I assemble my grill. It slips while trying to figure out the folding “take along” mechanisms. The handle breaks. I fix it with red duct tape, a warning to all that this is hot and dangerous. I cook my first hamburgers. Those YouTube videos were right after all, lighter fluid ruins the flavor! The first caveman to grill his first mammoth burgers probably made the same mistake, so like that caveman, I ate my burgers happily. After all, it was Independence Day, wasn’t it?

Friday, July 5th…I buy a chimney charcoal starter at Lowe’s while on my lunch break. I get home from work and cut the grass. The chimney charcoal starter works like a charm. I eat my burgers and do a caveman dance of joy! (Just kidding! Didn’t I just say I got home from work and cut the grass? Much too tired for dancing. Cavemen didn’t have to cut the grass either!)

Saturday, July 6th…A restless night after imagining all of the things I can cook on a grill. Hamburgers. Steaks. Chops. Chicken. A whole unexplored world of kabobs. Corn. Potatoes. Green peppers. Onions. Pizza. How soon before I can grill again?!?

This photograph was taken July 2013. The charcoal chimney starter looks a bit large for this travel-sized grill, but it works great, even when only half full of charcoal.


Shiso…A Taste Of Japan In My Backyard


While piddling around in the yard yesterday, I removed some weeds in a neglected section of my garden that had surrounded a “volunteer,” some Japanese shiso. It reminded me of a good friend who is flying to Japan today to study architecture there for part of the month.

This was about thirty feet from where I had first planted shiso last year, and so I am unsure how these three seeds made it there and then successfully germinated. The distance across my yard for such tiny seeds seems as far as from Tidewater Virginia to Japan…at least to me.

This photograph was taken July 2013. This is a post about the shiso that I planted last year when it was beginning to bloom.

Landscaping Nightmares!


Last week, I spent quite a few hours working on clearing out some of what might be called an urban Virginia coastal forest. This is an overgrown area about 18 feet wide that had originally stretched from the back of my yard, along the garage, and almost to the street.

The first summer and fall here, I made some modest progress with this huge undertaking, including taking down a big leaning pine tree and numerous cherry trees. That had been enough to clear out a small garden area with rich soil that I planted with sweet potatoes the second year.

That was an interesting trade: sweat and an aching back for soil enriched with decomposing leaves and forest debris. The experience definitely renewed my appreciation for the farmers who had worked to clear our frontiers centuries ago. Those first sweet potatoes were the biggest and most abundant ever for me.

Along with a chainsaw, you will need a good strong shovel and a heavy mattock to get rid of the roots. Otherwise it’s tough to garden, and some roots can sprout. If you see anything like these thorny vines that grow straight up into any available tree, destroy them completely.

My best advice is to do as much as you can all in a season. Whatever you leave for the next season will have advanced and multiplied before you get your tools out again! This can make for some interesting photographs, but it is no fun to look at or to tame.

Perhaps what made me saddest of all was discovering expensive specimen trees and shrubs that had been planted twenty, thirty, or even fourth years ago. They were misshapen, overgrown, and starved for light. Once this had been someone’s fine Virginia garden, lost to neglect and lack of appreciation.

(This photograph was taken late June 2013. The artist in me says, “What an unusual organic composition.” The gardener in me says, “What a waste.”)