4/26/2012

On Chairs and Reading

I will write while I can. The disadvantage of writing a blog is that when there are technological glitches the blog doesn't get written. Our internet service has been intermittent at best for the last week. Discussions with our service provider leads me to fear there is probably an issue at our end of things instead of theirs, which I don't want to hear. At any rate I am "up and running" for the moment.

I took pictures of my reconditioned teak chair as promised. Whenever I thought to take pictures it'd either been raining or having just rained. So any really dark parts of the chair are still from dampness. It doesn't look hugely different except the green is gone.

             

As for following my methods I will say proceed with caution. First of all, the OxiClean method didn't result in a nicely weathered gray chair, like using dish detergent alone usually does. Instead it stripped a lot of the gray away. Maybe I should try it on my hair! I'm confident the gray will return but for now it's looking somewhere in between brown and gray. Secondly, DO NOT USE A WIRE BRUSH! The softness of the aging wood resulted in there being obvious grooves left by the rough scrubbing I gave it. I would certainly feel worse if the chair were newer, but as it is probably 20 years old I'm not too concerned. I do have a fear that it's "roughened" condition might make it even more susceptible to deterioration and lichen growth. Given all that, the chair is still usable and looks nice from a distance, sitting as it does in the corner by the garden. And thirdly, with a bit of a red face, I am thinking that the chair may actually be mahogany instead of teak. I recall that the company offered both, with mahogany being the more economical choice which we probably bought at the time.


We also own a teak garden bench that has resided in shelter on our enclosed back porch for all it's life, even longer than the adirondack chair. I do know this is teak for sure. Both were purchased from the same company, Wood Classics Inc., a mail order kit company. They are now operating under the Arthur Lauer brand and still offer kits. Just before Easter, in my attempt to make the house company ready and make room for all my outdoor and porch furniture (rattan sectional, wicker chairs, new Ikea Storsele chairs) I decided to put the teak bench outdoors for the first time ever. It's amazing how quickly the teak is fading from it's original reddish color. By summer's end I expect it will be gray. In one sense I was sort of sad to put it outside. In another I was happy to see it off the porch. It's never been a comfortable thing to sit on for any length of time, even with a cushion. Now I have the Ikea Storsele chairs in its place on the porch and have created a nice spot to sit with my coffee on early summer mornings. I'm hoping for a few weeks of enjoyment out there before the weather turns hot anyway. The porch faces east and by mid summer is too hot in the mornings, but makes for a nice evening porch. We also have a bigger west facing porch which is nice in the mornings then. We love having Sunday morning breakfasts there.


I had a chunk of black walnut from a tree we had cut down that I put next to one of the chairs. The driftwood is a piece I picked up on my last trip to Lake Superior. It's becoming one of my favorite corners in our house to relax with a book too.

Speaking of books I currently have two I'm working through. I have an "upstairs book" that I read in bed every evening and my "downstairs book" that I like to keep handy for when I have little snippets of time. For downstairs reading I like something that has short chapters or sections that I can read quickly when taking a short break or while eating breakfast and lunch. Currently my upstairs book is Anna Karenina which I'm enjoying immensely. My downstairs book is Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, a compilation of 600 letters written by John Steinbeck throughout his life. He was a prolific letter writer, usually starting his day writing letters as a warm up to his work of writing. It was interesting to learn he was a man not comfortable with using words for conversation, either face to face or via phone. It's also been fascinating to discover what life was like for a young and struggling author who eventually became so important to American Literature. I'll definitely be adding a Steinbeck novel to my upstairs reading list next.

4/25/2012

Going Green With Orange



Today is starting out gray, threatening rain. I'm somehow in the mood for one of those long rainy days that we haven't really had yet this spring. I don't think it will be today. We've had just enough timely showers to get things growing and looking nicely green. I mowed the lawn for the second time yesterday, using the Fiskars reel mower we bought last year. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy this well designed machine. 
Fiskar's StaySharp Max 
I love mowing with it! I was out in the yard at 8:00 in the morning, able to cut the grass in the cool part of the day while not bothering the neighbors. The sound the mower makes as the reel turns is so pleasant, allowing me to hear the birds chirping and call a "good morning" to my neighbor across the yard. There is no lingering smell of gaseous fumes on me when I'm finished, only the sweat of my own labor. The only fuel required is the caffeine in my morning coffee to get me going and it starts first time every time. ; ) It does take a bit longer to mow the yard since the Fiskar's has only an 18" cutting swath but I consider that a plus in allowing me more exercise. It also works best if you mow more often since it doesn't do as nice a job if the grass gets too long. When it's gotten away from us we either use our back-up gas mower or do two mowings in opposite directions. We have a pretty typical sized city lot that is flat so this mower is really ideal for it. Last year we used the Fiskar's about 90% of the growing season. It won't mow down dandelions for instance, which we have in abundance because we don't like to use chemicals on the lawn. But that's only for awhile in early summer. And we use the gas mower again in the fall to chop and bag leaves. That's about it.

You can watch the video for more info. And just for the record I have not been paid to endorse this product in any way. 



Unlike the old reel mowers the Fiskar's is relatively light weight and has a chain assist mechanism to make the reel move easier, much like a bicycle chain. I remember the old reel mower my grandparents passed on to us when my husband and I were poor newlyweds with our first yard to tend. It was all I could do to push that beast! Our yard had a slight, a very slight, slope to it and it took every ounce of strength in me to push it uphill. Lucky for me I was pregnant before the end of that first summer and used it as a happy excuse to get out of mowing. 

So if you're considering going green with a manual push mower I'd highly endorse the Fiskars. We have the StaySharp Max model (formerly Momentum). Hardly any maintenance is required. No expensive gas required. And if you hate mowing I will say that we've gotten lots of attention when using it. It's bright orange color attracts the eyes of passers-by. Whenever a curious person stops I encourage then to take a few laps with it, making my job that much easier! (Insert devious laugh.) 

Finally, a happy 30th birthday to my son, Dan. Am I really the mother of a 30-year old? How did that happen?  



4/19/2012

Cleaning Outdoor Teak Furniture


I have a favorite chair sitting out by the garden that is in need of some TLC.  I think I'll name her Fuzzy. * It's a teak adirondack that we bought as a kit many years ago. It sits outside year round and over time has taken on a nice gray patina.
Blanketed in snow.

Throughout the summer season it gets an occasional wiping off to remove bird droppings and surface dirt. The squirrels like to leave walnut shells tucked away in it's nooks and crannies. Eventually it takes on a more rustic look that needs a little extra elbow grease. There's no magic product required, just a nylon scrub brush and a pail of hot water with dish detergent. It's a messy job and it's amazing how grossly dirty a chair can become, evident from the brown splatters I get all over my clothes when I do this job. When finished, rinsed, and left to dry the chair becomes a nice silvery gray again. These pictures were taken last spring before it got too bad. It was much worse now but I didn't think to take a before picture so you'll have to take my word for it.


Unfortunately I haven't done this extra deep cleaning in a couple of years. The chair was starting to look beyond weathered and more like something you might find camouflaged in a forest.  I was thinking maybe I should just get rid of it. Not only has it acquired all that dinge but it was getting fuzzy with green and gray patches of lichen. I'm a bit surprised because it always sits in full sun and I'd expect it more if were in a shady area. On the plus side I read that lichen grows where the air is clean and clear. Nice to know. However it's not so nice on a sitter's clothing. So the question is how to get rid of it!

Some people use bleach, but besides the obvious desire not to get bleach on my clothes in the process I also don't like the toxicity of the stuff.  I had done the initial scrubbing with dish detergent before these pictures were taken which, although improving it, didn't do much for the lichen as you can see. (The dark areas are just spots that hadn't dried yet.)



Better, but not there yet.
My second go at it involved using OxiClean, or you could use any other brand oxygen cleaner I imagine. It's just what I had on hand. I dissolved a handful of the powdered Oxi in a bucket of warm water and went to work. This time around I used a densely bristled copper wire brush followed by rinses with the hose. I tried to go with the grain of the wood as much as possible since the wire is a lot harder on the wood and probably not the best idea except as a last resort. It seems to have taken off a lot of the lichen but it started to rain so hasn't had a chance to dry yet. In any case it didn't get rid of all the lichen since it's growing in the spaces between the slats where I couldn't reach with my brush. A power washer might work for those spots but it's not recommended. Again, as a last resort, it might be worth a try. We've gotten about twenty year's enjoyment out of this chair and hope to get a few more yet. The chair is still sturdy so if nothing else I'll just throw a beach towel over it when I want to sit there.

While I was at it I also scrubbed the top of our picnic table. We used to keep it stained and coated with marine varnish every year or so but gave up on that long ago. We haven't used it for picnics in a long time. Mostly it's just a place to sit and chat or, more likely, use as an outdoor workbench for gardening (potting plants, ripening tomatoes) or doing home improvement projects. The picnic table is made of pine lumber and I was really surprised at how well the Oxi removed the weathered gray from that. It also seems to be a little hard on your skin so I'd recommend wearing rubber gloves, which I failed to do. Learning the hard way.

Back with a results update and pictures tomorrow, weather permitting. 
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*Fuzzy is actually a family name. My Dad's younger sister Eleanor got the nickname in high school after she had a bad hair perm. The name stuck and everyone in the family, and in our home town, called her Fuzzy. She was married to Neil, but we always knew him as Kink. Not sure where he got the moniker but it was always Aunt Fuzzy and Uncle Kink. They were a fun couple and the names just suited them. 


4/17/2012

New Toy

I don't know why I can't seem to post on a regular basis. I've been busy, but not that busy. No excuses. Since my last post I've had a birthday come and go. One thing I asked for this year was an electric spray painter. I have a few painting projects that I need to do and I figured a spray gun would make it so much easier. However, I didn't get the one thing I had requested, so today I went out and bought it for myself. I guess my husband should be glad I didn't ask for diamonds or a new car. :)

After reading some really good reviews I decided on the Wagner Control Spray Max HVLP sprayer.
There are a couple reasons I wanted a sprayer. The first is that I bought a Jenny Lind bed that I want to paint. The thought of having to prime and paint all those spindles sounded too tedious. Secondly I can use any paint I choose and not be limited to what few colors are available in the aerosol paint aisle of the home improvement store. Of course that gives me the dilemma of having to pick a color from all the thousands out there. Part of me wants to go crazy wild but the conservative voice in my head says to stick with a neutral color. What would you do?




These two from Land of Nod had me at hello! Aren't they fun?  If there was a little girl in this house, or one who visited regularly, I'd definitely go with that raspberry pink color.     



Or how about this fabulous green? Then again white is pretty and goes with everything. I love it with the blue and white bedding. Decisions, decisions.

I'm leaning towards the green but who knows what I'll be thinking tomorrow? 

Then I have this desk to paint yet:


Again I don't know what color since I haven't decided yet where I'll be using it or what for. The old blonde finish on it is in rough shape so it was destined for paint from the get go. I may use it as a desk or a sewing table. Most likely it'll be my sewing table. I'm thinking it looks kind of cute with a Jenny Lind bed now that I see the pictures on the same page together. Hmmm. I'm starting to think we need more rooms in the house for me to decorate...

At any rate I hope to make a decision this week because I'm anxious to give the paint gun a whirl. Have you ever painted a Jenny Lind bed or something else spindly or spooly? Did you do it by hand with a brush or use canned spray paint or a sprayer? I'd love to hear from anyone who has some experience. Any tips for me? Ever used an electric sprayer?