22 December 2008

Ebay - The End of an Era (Non House Related)

Back in 1997 when the internet was all new and fun I discovered eBay. What fun I had buying things and meeting new people--some bad, but most good. I slowly built up my feedback purchase by purchase--all positive, until that time I tried to be a seller. It only took one newbie jerk to ruin my 100% feedback rating. Of course, I negged them, too, and it wasn't long before they were gone for negative feedback.

Selling didn't work out for me. Out of 100 listings I only sold about 6 items--for about what I had paid for them initially--and the fees ate up all the profit. I didn't try it again, though I was "always going to". Now I never will.

Why, you ask? Well, I guess you haven't been buying recently. Or maybe you have and wondered why you can't find any auctions you can pay for with a check or a money order. Have you also noticed that you cannot contact any of the sellers directly anymore? There is no more personal contact. The great world marketplace is going paperless.* Sellers can no longer list any payment methods other than PayPal or ProPay, methods conveniently owned by eBay. If they do, they are kicked off eBay! I understand that if you contact a seller early in the auction, preferably through a non-eBay email method, you can arrange for a surreptitious check or money order payment, but I'm not sure how you can circumvent the Checkout procedure which requires you to use one of these methods.

My last purchase was for a local item and I drove to pick it up and paid for it with cash. Sadly, that will be my last purchase. No longer will I browse page after page of goodies I want to bid on and own because I refuse to knuckle under and have a PayPal account. I have resisted ever since their inception--hearing horror story after horror story about screwed up accounts, exhorbitant fees, and missing money. I just don't want to trust my money to a third party. I suppose this makes me a dinosaur in the eyes of some younger people who do all their transactions by card or electronically. Some of them probably have no clue about how to write a check or balance a checkbook with a bank statement. (Even my bank refuses to send me a statement any more. I have been forced to sign up for E-statements. The bank says they are going paperless. Ha! I still have to print it out at home, so where's the tree-saving? They have also put me on an allowance of 10 checks per month before they start charging me to process them.) I like the process of writing down every purchase and deposit. It keeps me aware of where my money is going and how much I have at any given time. If I miss recording a check, it is immediately apparent. I didn't even have a credit card until 1994 when I got married and needed to purchase some big ticket items for the house.

But back to eBay. Paypal, and it's parent, eBay, now has a double dip into every transaction on its site. They have also taken something that was fun and turned it into a chore. A friend of mine in Germany, who has sold on eBay forever, and has a PayPal account out of necessity for International transactions, is also upset with the change. In fact, it was he who drew my attention to the change in the first place. The fees associated with selling have gone up appreciably, as the market for collectibles of all kinds has dropped, making it not the money-maker it used to be.

Hopefully all the people who will leave eBay will go back to selling locally and we will see an upsurge in the collectibles economy, and more antique malls. Us dinosaurs still have spending power

*You may have to have an eBay account to read this article. It's pretty scary--full of YOU MUST this, and YOU MUST NOT that.

14 December 2008

Second Parlor Picture Update

The sender of the wonderful pictures sent me the uncropped version of the second parlor/music room pic. This one includes the window treatment, the papered ceiling, and a ceiling gas light not in the center of the room. How neat is this! You can see the border better and I can locate the exact hole in the casing used for the tieback. Interesting to me is the use of simple lace curtains instead of fancy velvet curtains. This is about 1900 if the girl is age 15. They may have given up fancy curtains, but the piano drapery is pure Victorian! Rose, the younger, gave piano lessons in this room. Rose and Charles Hauser were her aunt and uncle and she lived with them.

05 December 2008

New Old Pics

Wow! Look at this! It's a picture of my second parlor and I'm sitting right now where the girl is, typing on my computer. The walls don't look anywhere near as nice as that and there is no carpeting. The sender didn't identify the girl, but the man is Charles Hauser, and they are in the music room, so labeled on the fuse box, or second parlor. She is probably his niece, Rose. The sender is her grandson.

He also sent me this picture of Charles' wife, Rosa. (update: After looking at this picture again, I realized it couldn't be Rosa, as she was born in 1855, and this is clearly a carte-de-visite from the mid 1860's. It has to be Rosa's mother, Mary Augusta Schmitt.)

And this nice picture of them out in the yard somewhere. This is undoubtedly on Union Street in Heritage Hill where the Hausers spent their last years. The clothing looks to be late 30's.

I was working on my history/genealogy program of the West Side's early German families when I ran across this great website. Since these families went to the same church, worked in the same factories, and lived in the same neighborhood, they were all intermarried. I have quite an extensive database on them and now I can add some more dates and pictures and fill in a few missing pieces on some of the families.
I will definitely be printing that top picture to hang in my music room. (If I ever get it done!)

25 November 2008

Fixing the Porch

I totally forgot to post about fixing the rotten elements of my front porch this summer and fall. It had been rebuilt about 1996, but water and snow had taken their toll on an exposed corner and several floorboards and trim boards were rotten. This is a pic from 1996.

Of course I had help!

It was due for a paint, too, so I primed all reachable surfaces. This corner is most exposed to the elements, and, as tongue and groove floorboards don't come in pressure-treated wood it is likely that I will be doing this again in 10 years. I removed the grille parts and replaced the boards chewed by squirrels and repainted them, too. The trim pieces nearest the ground were also replaced. Finished up and gave it one coat. Will do another in the Spring. It was a little difficult bullnosing that long board. I had to go get a neighbor man to "catch" the end of the board for me. Next year I'll build some adjustable rollers for long pieces of wood.

In case you're wondering why there is no railing, I don't have a picture of this corner of the house, so don't know what it looked like. I can just barely see a piece of it in one picture. I had hoped there was a carriage step on this side, but there is no evidence for it, which is strange, because the carriage drive is right here between the houses. Perhaps the Hausers got in at the barn. There was one stall in the barn, so I know there had to be a tiny paddock in the back, too. It would be nice to have a picture of the carriage and horse. (By the way, that gray paint you see on the bricks was not done by me! A leftover from the ex, who was a painter. Ha!)
How do you like the drainpipe? You can see that water had eaten my mortar for a long time before I replaced the gutters when I bought the house in 1994. Then there's that awful red and white paint and those horrible stoop piers or whatever they're called. But lets not go there.
Have a nice Thanksgiving everyone!

15 November 2008

The Kitty Urinal

The other night while I was refinishing furniture in the basement, where I do not allow the kitties, I was smelling cat pee quite strongly. I was right under the wall between the stairs and the front parlor where there is a large hole in the floor for the passage of an ancient steam pipe. The kitties like to watch me through this hole and throw their toys down it to watch them float around when it rains in the basement. I looked around and saw a large dried puddle on the floor directly below this hole that wasn't there last time I was down here. The little beasts had found a new way to torture me!

Note the dimples in the boards from the very heavy cast iron radiator that used to sit here. This hole is not a very good example of Victorian carpentry, so may be a later addition. Anyway, the plan is to square up the floor boards and leave the subfloor to hold a patch.

This is Purrcey saying "Wow. Look at that hole. It would make a great urinal! But I would never do a bad thing like that Mom." Sure he wouldn't.
I pulled off the shoe molding and found an entire ecosystem living under there.

I scraped it all up and vacuumed and scrubbed the floor then got out my ancient jugsaw which I had forgotten I had bought years ago until just recently when I needed to cut a circle out of a board. I started squaring up the hole. Of course the blade broke so I had to go to the hardware store. It seems that everyone had the same idea today so I parked at Wendy's and walked over, got two blades and waited in a long line to check out. They keep all their blades and tools locked up since the last time I bought anything here. How annoying! And how tragic that they have to do this.
Finished the squaring up by eye. Set up the table saw in the basement and cut a patch.

I can't believe it fit on the first try!

Yeah, I know you can see it, but this floor will eventually be coverd by carpeting and is not fine hardwood. I didn't feel like getting out the caulk. You can see my plaster washers here. This wall is trashed and I will probably have to drywall it instead of save it.

26 September 2008

The Lion In Fall

The old boy is looking a bit battered after a summer of rain of Biblical proportions and some freaky hail. His crunchy coating is wearing off his nose and the rain is eating it away.

You can see the hail damage on the plant above.

So, should I leave him out all winter and let nature have at him or put him in the garage?

21 September 2008

The Mysterious Hole in the Ground

In my back yard beside the cement floor of the old carriage house next to where the single stall was is a hole in the ground. I discovered it one day when I was burying a dead bird. I hit cement and found a metal bowl filled with cement plugging up a crockery lined hole that went straight down. I dug it out as far as I could and didn't find the bottom. Since it is beside the stall I figured it was for pouring waste water down. I filled it with water and it slowly drained away, and I have used it a few times for dumping wash water. I have not yet discovered where the house drain field was, so it may be here, but it is a long way from the house.

One Cat

Two Cats

I rebuilt the top of the hole with cement and made a nice surround for it and made a plywood cover. That disintegrated a few years ago and it has been covered by a piece of plastic. Remember the pieces of the green man table? Well, here is what I did with the table top.

Incidentally, at the top right of this photo you can see the end of the horse stall cleanout ditch. It is an indentation in the floor of the stall you can see also in the picture below beside Beezer which led out of the foundation wall to another small drain field. When I excavated this I found a lot of rocks, and not too far down, so I just added some more rocks and covered it back up. (Yes that is a toilet.)
Four Cats

And - - Five Cats!

At the back of this picture is my cat cemetery complete with pink flamingos.

More about the strange drainage features around the house.
When built, the house had a cistern built into the basement into which the South side of the roof drained. There had been some sort of collection box on the roof which diverted the rainwater into a galvanized gutter pipe (still in place inside the wall) and into the cistern. This was located under the downstairs bathroom which shared the sewer stack with the kitchen on the other side of the wall. I don't know how the water was utilized, but lots of houses used this for doing laundry. There is a pipe through the wall near the bottom of the cistern which was probably connected to the washer.

On the North side of the house the front roof drain emptied into this cast iron pipe. See it with some cement rubble at the top of it down by the water course.

When I was leveling the ground here preparatory to laying the brick sidewalk I found that this pipe went towards the yard, and then turned and went back towards the back yard. I followed it up to the back steps and lost it.
The roof drain at the back went down to this.....

which I excavated a little, but since I had already put in a garden and a huge mound of dirt, I didn't do a full-scale dig. This pipe just ended about 3 feet beyond the visible end. I put in a small rock drain field, but should really dig it up and do it again to take care of some of my water problems. My thinking at the time was that the cistern must be about where this garden is, as this is where I lost both pipes.
At the South side of the house there are two other interesting water features. One was built after the cistern system either failed or was no longer needed and the gutters were re-configured. I found it buried under 10 inches of fill, which also was over the wood sills of the basement.
I have rebuilt this, but it has been severely water-damaged and needs some attention. I also dug out a small drain field at the foot of this, but really need to do it again, as my basement floods every time it rains. There is only about ten feet between houses at this point, and nowhere for me to direct this water except if I do something illegal, like directing it down this convenient storm drain, below. It's just past the white board.
It is a cast iron pipe surrounded by a cement sleeve, which used to have a ceramic jacket, and capped off with a cast iron removeable cap. The plumber says it goes to the storm sewer. In this picture you can see how close the houses are. This used to be a driveway back to the carriage house. The next door neighbors must have been pretty generous with their privacy, as the drive would have encroached on their property. There is an illegal curb cut and apron at the end of this, past my fence, which overlaps the property line. The fence was the first thing I did upon buying the house. The neighbors were parking cars right there by my front porch.
I can't run a drain pipe through this area without digging up the berms I put in in the front as a way to get rid of all this dirt I dug out. As you can see, I have already got half of it dug out at this point. Found some neat old bottles here and a lot of cobblestones. That pipe sticking out of the ground used to keep the carriage driver from sideswiping the house. The cement steps weren't there at the time and that was the corner of the house.

12 August 2008


This started out to be a VERY BAD DAY.

I got up at noon (I was up 'til the wee hours) and tottered into the bathroom. Turned on the tap and just a trickle. How could that be? I had just had a couple brothers over on Saturday to help replace the toilet seal and had turned the water on and off and there had been no problem. In fact, I had watered the lawn the evening before.

I hurriedly dressed, with a bunch of thirsty kitties meowing for water as their bowl needed filling and I couldn't do it. I couldn't even wash my face. Got downstairs and the kitchen just trickled too. Went to the basement turnoff and eeeeeekkkk! water all over the floor and pouring through the front wall by the intake. The water meter was spinning and I could hear the sssssss sound of water. I turned off the intake (so I thought--it is really old and you have to turn it many times) and rushed upstairs to call the city to turn off my water.

I thought I had a break in my feed from the street, which, to my knowledge, hasn't been worked on since 1892. I have always worried about that. Got the water department to come out right away and they would check things out and tell me what to do. I also searched through the yellow pages for a plumber--not an easy task when you don't have a regular plumber--and got one who would be right out.

While waiting for the water man to come I went outside to get some water from a watering can to water the cats. Went to the back hose to see if there was any water left in it for the can. To my surprise, water came out and I was able to fill the can. I guess I was not thinking too clearly at this point--my thoughts were all towards how I was going to pay for the tearing up of my front walk and deal with no water for a while. Since there was still water coming out I had not turned the water off completely, so went back to the basement and gave the handle a few more turns. Good. The meter stopped spinning and the hissing sound stopped. Dooohhhhhh! With all the noise in my neighborhood lately with capenters and other workmen I get used to hearing noises and don't always get curious as to what they may be. I just panicked and figured the meter running had something to do with the supposed break in the line outside my foundation, and the hissing was water pouring into the ground from the break.

Took some water to the upstairs sink so I could at least wash my face. While up there I heard the city truck in the street.

I went downstairs and out the front door to talk to him. When I turned to go back into the house I noticed the front hose spigot was dripping and the hose connection at the end had come loose. I have a short section of hose leading from this spigot to the side of the house where the hose is coiled and I have another place to turn off the water to the hose. I leave the house spigot on and turn the water on and off at the other spigot. (Spigot is a really silly word, isn't it?)

(Note the hose end in the lower left of the picture)
I showed the Water Dept guy the hose and had him stop turning off the water. He had been having a hard time, anyway, since the hole was full of dirt or something and he couldn't get to the connection. I talked with him a while about my fears that the connect from the street to my house, which I am responsible for, was done in 1892 and it would have to be replace someday and how I had terrible water pressure. He explained that it was probably 1/2" and lead and wouldn't be as hard to replace as I thought.
I went back in the house and he came to the back door and said that the connector thingie at the bottom of the hole was a strange one and looked like it was only open half way which may account for my bad pressure and let's do a test. I would watch the water flow while he turned the thingie and see if it got better or worse. I watched and waited and he came back and said that the thingie broke off! At least it broke off in the open position! He said the crew would be out in a week or so and dig it up and put in a new thingie and a short length of copper pipe and turn off the water for a while, but at least I will have warning.
So I will have the sidewalk torn up outside my front gate and a large hole dug in the ground and be without water for I hope only a day, but may gain some water pressure. Hopefully it won't damage the old pipe that is MY responsibility!
The moral of the story is "Don't trust hose repair doohickies and keep the water turned off at the house." Or, "That hissing sound you hear is water pouring out of an open spigot!".
(And the Water Department guy was good-looking and had the most beautiful light blue eyes I have seen in a long time.)

29 July 2008

The 4 Faces of Ol' Windbag

This one looks like Donald Trump. The hair even resembles him!
This is probably the best looking one.
This one looks Neanderthal.
This one really looks like he smelled that possum from earlier this year.
Not one of them looks like the North Wind, so I guess he is just a Green Man, as Jayne suggested.

Ol' Windbag

My neighbors are not old house people nor are they preservationists. They are mostly landlords out to make the most money they can from an old house by covering it in plastic, putting in badly-sized plastic windows, and totally gutting the inside.

I am the neighborhood scavenger. When I see porches being pulled down I am there asking for the posts, or driving by and pulling them off the curb.

The brown ones are from across the street and the white ones from the same block around the corner. My neighborhood is slowly turning into a vinyl village.

These two beauties came from the house next door. The "vinyl siders" tore them off because they didn't want to work around them and threw them in the dank area between this house and the next one, where I dug them out of piles of leaves and who knows what else. This house still has brackets on the front and one side.

(These are upside-down)

These were from a beautiful house with a wrap-around porch about a mile away that I passed every day on my way to work. One day the posts were gone and I saw them in the back of a truck with the brackets. I went around that block about 4 times before I stopped to talk to the carpenter. He said he was told to take them off because they had "dry rot" and he replaced them with 4x4 treated lumber. I asked if I could have them and he helped me load up all the whole ones in my truck. I saw no dry rot on any of them. They needed scraping and painting. Unfortunately most of them had been hacked at and cut into pieces and the brackets, of which each post had two, were mostly trashed, but I got 4 mostly whole brackets and two whole posts and two pieces.

Anyway, this is just a prelude. I bought a funky little table at the Heritage Hill Home Tour four years ago from the guys who restored the Gerald R Ford family home (photo). Seems they, too, collect architectural salvage and they were getting rid of some of it. Its main attraction was the pedestal, which seemed to be a carved capital. I took it apart yesterday. It was held together by EIGHT whopping big long screws that were very hard for little old me to get out.

I want to use the different pieces for several projects, so need to fill in the holes, strip, sand, etc. I glued the triangular base together and started scraping the top. I noticed that the capital had some dings in it and I could see plaster through the thin, black latex paint that was covering an earlier layer of gold leaf.

This is black paint with a spattering of white sprayed over it. I have no idea what the guys were thinking when they did that. Anyway I started picking at the paint and then a large chunk of paint and plaster fell off and I was staring at an eye! I had thought this was a conventional capital of acanthus leaves and foliage. I excitedly started picking away at it and a face emerged.

Its a little creepy looking, but its hand-carved and there are 4 of them. I spent the rest of the afternoon picking away with dental tools at the paint and plaster that was smeared over the faces to smooth them out so it could be gold-leafed.

More pics tomorrow.

15 July 2008

It's Daylily Time Again

With all the rain we have been having this Spring and Summer the daylilies have been HUGE and just glorious. The pics I take just are so washed out and don't do them justice.

Here they are. Enjoy!