Winter Tree Prep

Just when you think its fall, its winter (at least here in Wisconsin), so we took advantage of the nice fall weather we had back at the end of November to cross-off one more outdoor project before the snow set in. We wanted to do something that not only needed to be done but that would also make a huge impact for us over the winter. Perhaps you recall last years winter when an abundance of heavy, wet snow bent and broke many of our trees and almost took out one of our cars (as well as our garage and power lines). With that being said it didn’t take us long to decide that pruning the trees around our property would be the best use of our time. But before I dive into that, here are some photos of last years damage.

  • Winter 2012 Snow Storm- Front of House
  • Winter 2012 Snow Storm- Back of House
  • Winter 2012 Snow Storm- Broken Branches up Close
  • Winter 2012 Snow Storm- Backyard upclose

Peddy started by tracked down a pole chainsaw (pole pruner) for us to rent from A to Z Rental and, being the intelligent man that he is, discovered that if he picked it up on Saturday that we could keep it until Monday morning for the one day rental fee of $72! (Not bad, considering new ones start in the hundreds and this way we don’t have to worry about maintaining it.)

BEFORE

The saw extended to 11′ which meant no ladders were needed in order for us to prune the lower portion of the trees, although Peddy did have to get up on the garage at one point in order to reach our neighbors tree (more on that shortly). The pole chainsaw worked sooo much better than the manual pole saws we’ve used in the past and in our opinion only had one negative aspect; the starter.

Just like a lawn mower or snow blower it had a pull start which was easy enough, but once the neck strap was on (to help support the weight of the saw) the starter wasn’t reachable. That meant either putting the saw down or having a second person start it, we found the latter to be the most efficient. However, I wouldn’t let that deter you from doing it yourself.

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Our goal was to tame the lower portion of the trees by removing any dead branches as well as any that had the potential of making contact w/ our heads. But before we started cutting we walked around our property and decided which branches on which trees needed to be removed, so there would be no surprises along the way.

After Peddy trimmed the first couple of trees I attempted to do a little trimming but found the saw to be a little too heavy to want to hold above my head. Lucky for me Peddy was nice enough to do all of the cutting as I did all most of the branch piling (again he was nice enough to pitch in at the end!)

Day One Branch Pile

It turned out the trees in our backyard didn’t need a lot of pruning (because they all broke last year!), however that still left the biggest, most problematic tree…our neighbors 60′ evergreen that overhangs our garage and driveway. In the three years that we’ve lived in our house we’ve dealt with it dropping berries and sap all over our cars and other outdoor belongings, as well as the branches putting extra weight on the garage and swallowing our cars in the winter when the snow weighs them down. After talking with our neighbors it was clear that if something was going to be done about it, we would have to do it ourselves. So we did.

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In order to reach the lowest branches on our neighbors tree Peddy had to get up on the roof of the garage; which was slightly difficult considering the branches hung down very close to the roof and it was covered in pine needles making it very slippery. Once he was up I could barely see him. (The photo below made me think of ‘Where’s Waldo’ but instead it would be ‘Pinpoint Peddy’!)

15He began cutting down the lowest branches being careful not to get hit when they fell. Some of the larger branches had to be cut down in smaller sections because we feared they might take out our already unstable garage.

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It took him about 45 minutes to remove all the branches from our neighbor’s tree (that hung over our property line) and a total of two days to finish it all. Piling the branches and cutting them into acceptable pickup size took the longest and by the end of day two we had two huge piles that each measured about 4’ tall and 6-8’ wide. Luckily we got them out just in time for the last yard waste pick-up!

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It was amazing how much sunlight our property receives now that we’ve trimmed off all the dead branches and we are hoping it will help melt all this snow a lot faster, even if we still have a few months to wait. Perhaps we’ll even be able to plant some additional gardens (can you tell I’m thinking spring?)!

And just for kicks here’s one last comparison photo!

BEFORE

A Little Privacy Please

Now that the cold weather is creeping in Peddy and I have been spending a majority of our free time trying to winterizing the house and finish a few outdoor projects. We are slowly making progress, so more on those soon! Today’s post is all about a fun, spontaneous, bonus project that I picked up while out on a supply run.

You see, our bathroom window faces a busy thoroughfare and even though the view does get partially blocked by some of our trees I still worry there’s a peeping Tom out there, so we keep the shades down 90% of the time. We’ve talked about long-term solutions to this problem, like installing a porthole or awning window, but with a total renovation still out of reach we figured we’d just have to deal until the time money came.  You can probably imagine my excitement when I came across Rust-Oleums Frosted Glass spray paint and ever more excited when I saw the price was only $4.98 a can!!

Frost Before

Once we were home Peddy was nice enough to caulk the bathroom window so that I could ‘frost’ it that evening. (For some reason caulking first seemed the most logical!)

While the caulk was drying I read the instructions carefully and decided that even though we don’t care about the aesthetics of the window (we are more aiming at it being functional for the time being) it would be best for me to tape the wood directly surrounding the glass. So all-in-all I only needed two supplies: the paint and painters tape.

Frosted Spray

Before I started spraying I made sure to open the window for some air flow (and added a fan to the mix between coats due to the overpowering smell). Moving quickly and evenly I sprayed the window until it looked damp (as the instructions stated) and then waited the recommended 10 minutes for it to dry before spraying the second coat.

Window Progress

I followed the same procedure for the second coat, spraying the window until it looked damp and then removed the painters tape so it would leave a nice clean edge. (I have learned from experience that if you let the paint dry before removing the tape there is a good chance you’ll get some uneven edges.)

Frost first coat

And here is what it looks like now!

Frost After

It’s not perfect but its 10x better than it was! I’m still in the habit of closing the shades before a shower or when it’s dark out but it’s incredible how much of a difference a little sunlight can make! (It even makes our hallway brighter!!)

Railing Renovation

Today’s post actually started last year when we need to find a spot to store our trailer for the winter. We decided the best place to store it would on the left side of the house in the “fern jungle” since it would be out-of-the-way there, yet still easily accessible. To get the trailer into position we needed to fit it between the deck and a neighboring tree. In order to accomplish this we had two options…A) remove the tree or B) remove the railing. We went with option B (you can not see it at the end of this post).

Before Front Left Side Yard

This should have been an easy task but it turned into one heck of a headache. Most of the screws were rusted and/or stripped so we ended up having to break them off. We did our best not to damage the railing in the process, since we wanted to reuse it until we get around to rebuilding the deck.

The railing was looking pretty weathered so I wanted to repaint it before we reattached it. I decided to try something a little more fun than black and after browsing the spray paint section of Home Depot I knew that Rust-oleum’s Satin Lagoon was the one.

Now that we had all the supplies I was eager to get started (and to finish before the first snow fall)! The perfect day finally came a few weeks ago. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze, it wasn’t too hot or humid and it was a Sunday (currently our only day off). It couldn’t have gotten much better, but then it did, because my sister came over to help!Railing Paint

Since we need a large work area I put a tarp and a sheet of plastic out on the yard (in order to protect the grass from the spray paint). Next, Peddy and I carried the railing onto the tarp/plastic combo. My sister and I started to remove the peeling paint using some metal brushes I’d picked up for the job and a putty knife we had around the house. We spent a few hours scraping off as much of the peeling paint as possible before moving on. We made sure to flip the railing over after we completed the each side before moving onto the next step. Railing Close BeforeOnce the scraping was done we decided it would be best to sand the railing in order to remove as much rust as possible before spray painting. I knew we had some sandpaper lying around at the house, so to avoid an additional trip to the Home Depot I dug around and found some 30-grit sandpaper. It was coarse enough to get the job done but it would have been nice to have something a little coarser.

Railing Sanding

When we were done sanding both sides of the railing we corralled as much debris as we could onto one corner of the plastic and looked the railing over once more. (I figured the only way I could really screw this up would be to miss something during this step.) Luckily there were just a couple small spots to touch up, because both my sister and I were ready to move on!

Railing Kal/Sis

I did most of the spray painting since I had somehow forgotten to grab masks for us to wear and didn’t want my sister inhaling a bunch of chemicals (but I couldn’t deprive her completely… we had prepped for this moment all day, plus our ventilation was pretty good!). After the first coat was on we took a break and let it dry for about 45-minutes, then we flipped the railing over to paint the other side. We stuck to our system and painted the entire railing with one coat before moving onto a second. By the time the first coat was on both sides, it was dinner time and we needed more spray paint, so we called it a day.

Railing Progress

We let the railing dry for the recommended 24-hours before moving it back to the deck. I still need to touch up a few areas and paint the stair rail but so far I think it looks great. I love the little bit of color it adds to the front of the house, without being too crazy, and I’m curious to see what it will look like surrounded by snow.

Anyone else trying to finish a last-minute outdoor projects before winter sets in? The mad dash is on at our house now!