Monday, May 30, 2011

An Old Walnut Grove

The most dominant tree on our property is a black walnut.  It stands just off the drive at the head of the pasture.  Anyone who visits the Einsel House passes under its shade.

The first time my grandpa visited the house he walked through the rooms in the old stone portion, taking in all the beautiful walnut woodwork, and he commented, "This must have been an old walnut grove."  Then he explained to me that walnut trees are toxic to other plants.  He said that as walnut hulls decompose they spread a poison through the soil around the tree.  This poison kills off the any non-walnut sapling that has the audacity of trying to take root within the black walnut's domain.  Over many years, the first 'mother' walnut tree to take root in an area would choke off other encroaching trees, providing benefit to her own walnut saplings.  Once grown, those saplings would repeat the favor for their own saplings.  Ad infinitum, at least until the axes of Noah Rhinehart's generation entered the picture. 

Because of this, grandpa explained, by the time the Rhineharts arrived here it would have been very rare to find a single full-grown walnut tree.  Instead, where there was one walnut tree there were likely many walnut trees - "an old walnut grove."

 In the past I've never cared much for walnut trees.  (They're messy.)  But after hearing grandpa's story, it seems appropriate in way that it's a black walnut guarding the drive to the Einsel House.  I see her as that protective mother, still looking over the other walnuts - albeit they are no longer trees, but the doors, stairs and trim in the house that she is guarding.

Lately, grandpa's story had been quietly repeating in the back of my head for a different reason.  Our 'Mother Walnut' is the first thing visitors pass as they approach the house, and she was looking a bit abused.  There is not enough space for the lawn mower to pass between the tree and the pasture fence, so that area had become a catch-all, the most convenient place to toss branches blown from the tree or stones pulled from the pasture. And there are apparently plenty of weeds that are immune to the black walnut poison.

So the last couple of weekends I've worked at clearing the area under our black walnut tree.  My original plan was to plant ivy under the tree, but after considering grandpa's story I decided it would be wise to investigate black walnut 'poison' before planting anything directly under our tree.  I learned that the poison's real name is juglone.  As grandpa said juglone is in walnut hulls, but also in the tree's roots.  And there is a relatively limited number of plants that are not affected by juglone.  Unfortunately, ivy is not one of those plants.  In the end, I decided on ajuga ("chocolate chip").

The ajuga was planted beneath the tree yesterday.  I moved all of the limestones from the pile under the tree, but left a small pile of other rocks for the ajuga to grow around.  So hopefully next spring our walnut tree will be surrounded by a bed of delicate blue flowers.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stormy Weather

I took our camera outside Wednesday evening just before some storms blew in.

We got more (totally unnecessary) heavy rain, but considering what others have faced recently we were lucky. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Shed

I've not talked much about the shed here.  Frankly, that's because it's ugly.

But hopefully by the end of this summer this little black sheep of our buildings will be more presentable.  The past two weekends I've been busy cleaning out the weeds, cinder blocks, and other assorted odds and ends that have been surrounding the building.

Here's the west side last Saturday morning (I'd already pulled out some pieces of metal fencing and yanked out the largest dried out remains of last summer's massive weeds):

And by 3pm today:

I don't have a great before picture of the north side of the shed.  When we bought the property this side was an assortment of small animals pens in various states of disrepair and all overtaken by weeds that were taller than I am.  5'1" might not be that tall for a 31 year old woman, but it's pretty impressive for a weed.  We had help back in late 2009 from some of my cousins, and Charles worked last fall to finish dismantling the pens on this side of the shed.  Today I cleared out all the remaining stones, broken glass and rubble, then weeded and smoothed the area before spreading grass seed.

The two pictures below will give some idea of the progress here (and of the work still to come!).  The pictures actually are of the east side of the building, so try to ignore the growing holes in the awning roof and focus on the changes in the right half of the pictures.

October, 2009:

May, 2011:

Guess which side we're working on tomorrow if the weather holds?  : )

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bennington Door Knobs

I mentioned late last summer that the first doorknob I put back in the Einsel House was a gift from my grandmother.  Sometime in the 1960s, just before it was torn down, she had taken it as a souvenir out of the house where she was born in 1930.

I was immediately smitten with this doorknob, and so pleased to give it a new home at the Einsel House.  Unlike the other plain black and white doorknobs that were here when we bought the house, Grandma's door knob was beautifully swirled shades of brown.

I've learned since that this is called a Bennington knob.  The name comes from the town of Bennington, Vermont, where in 1849 Christopher Webber Fenton developed the method used to create the swirls and specks that characterize these door knobs.

Fenton's patent (titled "Improvement in Glazing Potteryware") explains how the knobs are created:

The article to be colored and glazed, being in the usual state for applying the glaze, is
immersed in a transparent under-glaze, then with a small box perforated with holes the colors are thrown or sprinkled on through the holes over the surface of the article in quantity to produce deeper or lighter shades, as may be desired, leaving a part of the surface for the body of the article to show through in spots. By fusion in the kiln the colors flow and mingle with the under glaze, and are carried about over the surface in various forms, and the article is thereby made to present a close imitation of the richest shells, varigated stones, or melting and running fluid, almost every variety of rich and beautiful appearance being produced by flowing and mingling of the colors with the underglaze, and the appearance of the article being varied according to the complexion of the body of the article and the colors and quantity thrown upon it.

True Bennington knobs actually created at Fenton's kiln are quite rare, but the Bennington name stuck for similar knobs created throughout the country.  Most Benningtons are either swirled (created by stirring different colors of clay together before glazing the knob) or speckled (created by sprinkling various shades of ground up clay over the knob before glazing).

There are now multiple Bennington examples here at the EH.  Grandma's gift prompted me to start a collection.  : )

 I'm completely smitten with these doorknobs.  Each one is so unique, yet their colors all play perfectly with the Einsel House's walnut woodwork.  They're like jewelry for the house.

That's the stubby little door to Cecilia's room above, complete with it's new knob (the bottom one pictured above).  I've got a few more doors that can still be dressed up, so I predict my Bennington collection will continue to grow.  : )

Friday, May 13, 2011

That Which They Labored For...

I opened the local newspaper’s website this morning and immediately felt sick to my stomach.

I’ve tried to remain vague on this blog as to the Einsel House’s exact location in Ohio, but I’ll admit today that I live in Seneca County.  Seneca County - where thanks to Governor Kasich’s budget cuts the county commissioners have new ammunition in their seven year long fight to take a wrecking ball to the county’s 1884 Beaux Arts courthouse. And where just yesterday the same commissioners cited Kasich’s budget as justification to cut funding (all $42,000 a year) to the Seneca County Museum. And then while they were at it they also decided to sell the 1853 Greek Revival housing the museum and all of the contents thereof.

From the Toledo Blade article linked above:
The news, which came after no public discussion, was a shock to those who are involved with the museum and its foundation. Seneca County began its collection of local history artifacts in 1915 and moved into the Greek Revival home on Clay Street in 1942.

Some items could be sold by auction locally, [Commissioner Dave Sauber] said, while some of the more valuable items -- paintings and some antiques -- could be sold through New York auction houses.  The extensive collection includes numerous items that were locally manufactured or have local significance such as a large collection of Tiffin Glass. Many items were donated by residents who wanted them to be shared with the community. 
"Once it's gone, it's gone," [Museum Director Tonia] Hoffert said. "There are items in here that once they are sold off, you'll never find them again."
I don't even know what to say.  I just feel ill.

". . . Old buildings are not ours. They belong, partly to those who built them, and partly to the generations of mankind who are to follow us. The dead still have their right in them: That which they labored for . . . we have no right to obliterate. What we ourselves have built, we are at liberty to throw down. But what other men gave their strength, and wealth, and life to accomplish, their right over it does not pass away with their death . . ."    ~John Ruskin 1849, "The Seven Lamps of Architecture" chapter 6

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Can You Hear Me Now?"

One of the quirks of living in a house with 12 inch thick solid stone walls is that cell phone reception inside those walls is basically non-existent. We don’t have a landline, but our cell phones usually work fine in the (wood frame) kitchen, so this is a quirk that I typically accept with a little smile. After all, quirkiness can be one of the most endearing features of an antique home.

But quirkiness quickly degenerated into annoyance on Wednesday evening. Technically, there were already two strikes down by the time Charles picked up his cell phone. The first strike came 11 months ago, either when Charles resigned himself to the fact that if he didn’t want to have to live with dial-up internet he would have to live with Hughes Net, or perhaps (and more likely) it came shortly thereafter when Charles attempted to download a half hour episode of some sitcom and Hughes Net cut the video 27 minutes in because we had reached our daily download allowance. Strike two was Wednesday morning, when we woke up to no internet.

Strike three held off until Wednesday night. After fruitless attempts at resolving the issue himself, Charles grudgingly accepted my suggestion to call the technical support number for Hughes Net. Standing the kitchen, he looked up at me while dialing the number and said, “You know that the computer is in the stone part of the house.” Yes, I knew.

After several minutes of navigating through Hughes Net’s automated help line, Charles finally was speaking with another human being (albeit one with a pronounced foreign accent). He asked Charles which lights were lit on the modem. With determination lining the muscles of his face, Charles stepped into the dining room. His cell phone promptly beeped as it dropped the call.

Call number two ended with the same beep.

By his third call, Charles was able to answer the automated system’s series of questions before they were even asked. “Yes, no, yes, 419-672-….., no, no, technical support…. TECHNICAL SUPPORT”. And by the time he reached a third human being (albeit one with a pronounced foreign accent) Charles had accepted the futility of pitting Verizon against the Einsel House’s stone walls. So the cell phone remained in the kitchen for the next twenty minutes while Charles traipsed back and forth – kitchen to computer to kitchen to computer – following in vain the various suggestions put forth by Hughes Net’s technical support. Our internet was still not working when Charles finally, and of his own volition, ended the call. Hughes Net is sending a technician to the house to resolve the problem. In the meantime we’ll be without internet service at home for 7-10 days.

It's going to be a long week for my husband.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Over My Head

There's a paint brush drying next to the sink tonight.  You know what that means.

This is bringing back some memories.