Wednesday, November 16, 1988


April 1988

When the house was built, the first room off the front entry way was the "living room". I planned to use this as an office. And because I have a fair number of books, I wanted to make it a combination office and library. Since I didn't know what I wanted for books shelves, we left the room empty, but I did ask them to raise the ceiling as high up as they could go. Because of the way the roof was laid out, this meant we could take it up to 10 feet, an extra 2 feet over the normal 8 foot ceiling height.

Now, two years after the house was built, I ordered some built-in bookcases. Preliminary inquiries showed that I couldn't just go to a cabinet maker and say "I want built-in bookcases, floor to ceiling, in my office." I needed an actual plan of exactly what I wanted. So I had spent some time looking at books and movies and designed my own bookcases. Then I took those to several places and asked if they could do it, would do it, and how much it would cost.

I picked Daniel Musselman, working under the name of "Interior Woodworks" on Todd Lane, in Austin, Texas. He did an excellent job! I signed an order on 21 April 1988 and finished the job on 23 June 1988 by installing the bookshelves in the house. These were pre-finished (two coats of polyurethane), solid wood (oak) custom bookcases, costing $4184.00.

The shelves stretch across one whole wall, and then extend out on both of the adjoining walls, basically 5 sections 3 feet wide, 15 inches deep, and 10 feet high. (So there must be a 15 inch by 15 inch square of unused space in each of the two corners. The shelves are all adjustable, except for two fixed shelves at 34 inches and 90 inches from the floor (for strength and rigidity). On the left and right sections, the bottom area (below the 34 inch fixed shelf) have cabinet doors. They were made as just frames, and I purchased two pieces of "glue chip" obscured glass from Renaissance Glass, $42.88, to fill the frame, on 1 August 1988.

There are three electrical outlets behind the book shelves, and I cut holes to allow them to still be used. I bought Myrtlewood outlet covers for these three outlets in Oregon (3 for 2.75 each = $8.75). These blend in nicely. (It's sometimes difficult to find the outlets, they blend in so well.)

One issue, of course, is getting to the books on the top shelves. For that we need a ladder. Not just a ladder, but a rolling library ladder! In October, I ordered a custom made "#1 Straight Side Oak Rolling Wood, Track Mounted Ladder with Natural Finish" from the Cotterman Company in Croswell, Michigan. The order was placed on 3 October 1988 and it was shipped on 31 October, with delivery on 16 November 1988. The ladder was $303.50 plus $57.67 in shipping costs.

Once the ladder was delivered, I installed it.

These bookcases fit perfectly with the hardwood (oak) flooring. The only problem, long term, that I have had with them is that I keep filling them up with books! I have thought about extending around the room, but doubt that I could get as good a job as these.

Thursday, August 11, 1988

Initial Landscaping

October 1987

With a new house, the builder tends to clear the lot and build the house. When he is done, they bring in top-soil to spread around the house, and in our case, grass (sod) on top of that. They work on building the house but not much more. So we had pretty much a boring, neutral front and back yard. They did leave some of the native trees, but not a lot of them.

The first task was to put a fence around the yard. We contracted with Viking Fence for 414 feet of 6 foot 1x6 cedar pickets on wolmanized pine 4x4 posts with 2x4 runners. The contract was signed October 9 and they were done by October 13. $3300.00

Next, we worked with a landscape company, Powers' Landscape, to layout beds, trees and plants. Malcolm Short built short stone walls around the flower beds. This used a white limestone rock that matched the house. $780.00

Then Powers' came in and installed Flowers, trees, dirt, mulch, and stone as needed. $2799.76 on June 12 1988.

I was particularly interested in the trees. I like trees. They add a lot and are relatively low maintenance, at least compared with flowers, which always seem to need work. We got two Live Oaks, a Spanish Oak, two Drake elms, 2 Chinese Pistaches, as well as Redbuds and Crepe Myrtles. The Redbuds have not survived, and we lost one of the Chinese Pistaches, but the oaks have all done well. Of course it took decades for them to grow to full size. The other beds, flowers and bushes have come and gone.

The front lawn was problematic. We are basically on rock -- Texas limestone. And because the house is downhill from the street, there were issues with the front lawn. It seemed to me it came too much out from the street and then dropped to the house. So I hired my nephew, or rather my ex-wife's nephew, James Conner, and he spent the summer (1988) digging rock out of the front yard. With just a sledge hammer and a pry bar, he took out a lot of rock and re-contoured the front yard. This cost $230 for labor (32 hours) plus $149.40 for a load of dirt (6 yards of mixed soil) from Bert's Dirt to fill in after his excavation.

Now, since this is Texas, it's hot and often dry. To keep things alive, we needed a sprinkler system. Gorbet Sprinkler Company designed a system for our lot with 11 zones and 74 pop-up sprinkler heads. $3550.00 in June 1988.

And finally, in July (after the sprinkler system was installed), 3 pallets of St. Augustine grass to cover the front yard. $169.94 from Farmer's Lawn Grass and Nursery. Plus $284.46 (6 April 1989) for dirt (12 yards of mixed soil from Bert's Dirts) to even out the lawn. We have continued to put dirt and compost on the lawn to try to improve it. This has been a long term issue.

When it does rain, it can rain hard. With a large one-story house, we have a large roof area, so we get a lot of water off the roof. We had gutters installed by Sears. $509.30. They had a number of problems. It took them 2 tries before they got things fixed well enough. The main problem was the angle of the gutters. I figured that if they were supposed to work as gutters, then if I sprayed water on the roof with a house, the water would run into the gutters and then down the downspouts. This seemed to be a foreign concept to Sears, and the first two times, water sat in the gutters instead of running off.