In 2010 a family of four sold their charming little condo in the increasingly fashionable neighborhood of University Heights. With the money they bought a stripped out house in East San Diego previously owned by human smugglers. Their goal was a radical change in lifestyle that would allow DIY Makerism, self reliance, alternative technology, permaculture, and urban homesteading into their lives in ways their HOA would have never allowed. The ideas that lead them to take this plunge came from the steampunk movement as it was during a brief shining period when art and philosophy seemed at least as important as brass, and great essays, speeches, and letters were written. These days they don't worry so much about what people call "steampunk." They call what they're doing the Greyshade Estate.
Comments are welcome but please read our policy.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Once I had a fantasy about how repainting the interior was going to go. I was going to recruit family and friends and have a big painting party and get the whole job done in a couple of days. The reality is more complicated. It has been decades since anyone has properly repainted this house. Each room requires careful inspection and prep. There are huge bubbles where the paint peels off in sheets that go clear back to the plaster, or drywall, depending on what remodel layer we are looking at. There are nails, screws, painted over tape. Chunks of crumbling plaster come out when removing curtain mounts. And all of this is just the prelude to the actual business of getting paint to stick to the walls, because the top most layer of paint on every wall and ceiling is semi-gloss.
We’ve made a great deal of progress on wall repair but are saving the final scrapping and smoothing for each room as we paint it. Our pre-move-in goal is too have the kitchen, living room, hallway and bathroom done. The bedrooms can wait until after we move because we can shuffle around our sleeping arrangements until all the rooms are painted. Once we repair each wall we are sanding the semi-gloss and applying at least one coat of Kilz primer. There are too many mildew spores in this house to use anything but Kilz as a primer. We got a large amount of free paint through Freecycle including four gallons of flat Navaho White. This will be the color of our ceilings and a the top six inches of our walls in most places. At the six-inch line we will eventually put a picture rail. We also have a lot of Ultra White semi-gloss which we are using on the doors. The walls are a room by room decision but we are largely using Yolo paints. Because Yolo paints contain no toxic additives the are the only paints I have ever used which don’t give me a headache. The kitchen is the first room we have finished.
(Compare it to the Battle of the Kitchen post) We chose Yolo’s Dream 3. The cupboard over the range hood is painted in Ultra White as all the cupboards will be.
Our soil is much better than we thought. It looked like adobe in the heat of August and September, but I learned in my Victory Gardens San Diego class to do a shake test. You take a sample of soil put it in a jar of water shake it up and let it settle for a week. It then settles in layers. We actually have a good mix of clay silt and sand on top of a clay base. The front yard with is feral lawn remains is actually really rich in organic material also. The back yard is has less but is not so bad either as you can see rom the lush growth that the rains have brought forth.
Our compost pile sprouted a few baby pumpkin plants. We already had one that germinated in our sink trap in the days after Halloween. That one we potted and it quickly out grew the pot. So we made a quick raised bed in the front yard by turning over the soil, laying down newspaper as weed/grass barrier and piled it with green cuttings and straw. On top of this we layered compost. This technique of layer or lasagna mulching, is another thing I learned from the VGSD. Its used for planting on top of and ex-lawn or other soil that is being reclaimed for food growing. We planted our two strongest pumpkins in the bed. Unfortunately that was the week the frost hit. The plant that sprouted in the sink survived the frost, but something was eating it. Mrs Greyshade identified the culprit as earwigs and found a solution. She put out little dishes containing a mixture of soy sauce and vegetable oil. The next morning we found drowned earwigs plus a slug and loads of little black aphid looking things. The compost pile yield more pumpkin plants and this time all are doing well.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Well it’s been awhile hasn’t it? We’ve been too busy to post so I thought a general update is the order of the day. We moved in enough furniture to spend Christmas Eve and day on the Estate but not enough to prevent us from doing the things we still need to do to get the house properly livable. It was a good and much needed moral boost for the whole family. I also took time off from work to watch the children during winter break. After Christmas we spent two more nights on the estate. We managed get a lot done during this time. We finished installing the insulation, which was very much needed because by San Diego standards it’s been cold this year! We even had frost. This only happens once every three to five years here so it is noteworthy for future food growing. It’s a reminder that our “year round growing season” is not always so year round. We too have seasons and that must be respected. We have also had a lot of rain for San Diego, which has made or land lush and green. We managed to repaint the kitchen between rainstorms. Pictures to follow.