This Old House, Glaser Edition

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hello, Red Brick Road!

To recap our adventures with brick, back in August 2006, our first mason repaired the foundation to our house and installed brand-spanking-new vents to the crawl space under the house. He also stuccoed the back chimney, but balked at the two front chimneys, which were in sad shape.

In the fall, Tammy's father located a second mason who lives a few blocks away. He had just finished working on the roof of a bank in town and was willing to try his hand at the two front chimneys. A few weeks ago, he tore down and rebuilt one chimney. He did the same for the second one the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Last October, the second mason also paved over the front walkway in red brick. We did not purchase enough brick for the project, so he added the final touches to the walkway after he finished the second chimney. Our red brick road looks spectacular as shown in the before and after shots. If you click the shot on the right, you can see the "royal" touch we have added to our front porch for the convenience of our guests!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hope Smiles on the Threshold

The quote, “Hope smiles on the threshold of the year to come, whispering that it will be happier,” attributed to Alfred Lord Tennyson, seems fitting now that we have finished all but one threshold upstairs. We plan to move into our house on the threshold of 2007. As we see each room emerge from its cocoon, we see hope smiling upon us. A room will never be complete as an old house is always a work in progress. We hear the whisper of happiness as we pack each box and prepare to move for the eleventh time since we have been married!

Tammy’s father scoured through his stacks of wood to find the most interesting and unique thresholds for our house. He looked for striking patterns in the wood grain and stable knotholes. Working with knotholes is tricky for some pop out. The threshold pictured below is an example of how it can add character to a room.

The threshold to the master bathroom has a beautiful rippled pattern in the wood grain. Tammy’s father made a double layer for the bathroom floor ended up higher than the bedroom floor due to the tile. As you can see, we are already buying antiques to decorate the house.

The threshold to David’s bathroom was the trickiest one! This shot below provides a sneak peek of this tiny, cramped bathroom. To the right is the corner shower, which gives it much more space than before. We will show off the bathroom in a later post once the electrician installs the final light fixture. Tammy’s father cut the blue diamonds from the mosaic tile in half and carefully lined them up in the grout to add a professional touch. The thin sliver of wood lining the grout makes it look clean. The threshold itself has charming swirls and matches the wood in David’s bedroom perfectly!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Last August, we had one of our chimneys stuccoed, but the brickman stated the other two chimneys were too unstable to stucco. He was right! We hired another brickman who has his own scaffolding and was willing to replace the two old chimneys. Yesterday and today, he and his crew tore down one and rebuilt it. Next weekend, he plans to finish the job, weather permitting.

In the before shot, you can see sky through it! We think the gaps may have saved it because these chimneys withstood Hurricane Hugo back in 1989, while others in the neighborhood did not. The brickman had no problems tearing down the chimney for the mortar had lost its adhesion. Usually, he must chisel out the mortar to remove brick, but not this time. He just popped off each brick and tossed it down to the ground.

Chimney (Before)Chimney (After)

While in the neighbor’s yard taking pictures of the chimney, Tammy snapped a shot of the west side of the cookhouse. Observant readers of our blog may aks why only one side of the cookhouse is painted. Years ago, the family next door held a wedding in their backyard and begged the man renting the house to paint that side of the cookhouse white. He painted the west side of it, and they helped him spruce up the yard.

Unpainted Side of the Cook HouseOnly Painted Side of the Cook House

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Mighty Fine Forest Commission

A tree in our backyard began blooming beautifully last month. Its snowy flowers with pink edges and brilliant yellow stamens contrast its shiny, leathery leaves. A few flowers went to seed, which are tiny brown nuts. The crown goes down to the ground and covers a shrubby-looking trunk.

Camellia Sasanqua CrownCamellia Sasanqua Trunk

Camellia Sasanqua Flowers and LeavesCamellia Sasanqua Nut

Identifying the classification of this tree proved to be challenging. When the owner of the tree service knocked down the trees too close to our house last July, we asked him what this tree was and he had no idea. Over the weekend, Tammy tried to identify it with online biological keys. She looked for trees with flat, simple, alternating leaves, slightly toothed margins, no lobes, etc. She consulted several websites dedicated to trees in the Southeast: Durham, North Carolina; North Carolina Piedmont; and Virginia Tech. The Tree Identification for South Carolina did not have anything like our tree, so Tammy emailed them directly. Two foresters wrote her back right away and called it a Camellia sasanqua. Tammy researched potential cultivars, and Northern Lights seems to fit.

Well, that explains everything! Camellia sasanqua is a shrub, not a tree! She was truly barking up the wrong tree. Our "shrub" is about sixteen feet tall, but Camellias are only supposed to be as tall as ten feet. Rarely do they ever reach twenty feet! They are evergreens, so we will enjoy the dark green, leathery leaves year round.

Camellias, native to Japan, did not arrive in Europe until 1869 via Dutch traders. The Japanese make tea with its leaves and tea oil out of its nuts or seeds. They sweetened the odor of tea by floating a single camellia flower floating in a cup of green tea. Its beauty and scent released the sorrow of the drinker. The camellia symbolizes longevity, endurance, strength and eternal love.

One question we have is the age of the tree. The next time Tammy’s parents or we meet with the lady who grew up in the house, we plan to ask her. According to someone we contacted at The American Camellia Society, several trees as old as one hundred years are scattered throughout the country. Could ours be one?

A camellia flower drops
And spills yesterday's rain.

-Yosa Bosun,