Friday, July 4, 2008

Ivy Removal & Reflections on a New Life

This time two years ago, My husband & I took a 2-week vacation where we drove all the way from Seattle to Hannibal and back. Actually, it was more a work mission than a vacation. We hauled very heavy furniture and other items from Seattle, and also from Chicago where we purchased a huge hotel mattress on eBay. For much of this trip we slaved away, extricating hundreds of pounds of ivy from the brick exterior.

Vine removal underway.

The ivy sure kept the downspouts in place.

Very pretty to look at, but deadly for brick and mortar.

Some areas were too high to reach. Once the roots were cut, the rest of the ivy was left to die.

Over many years, the ivy had matted itself against the brick walls, windows and any other flat exposed surface. In a lot of areas, we used crowbars to remove it.

Here's what one of the critters looked like after removal. These things infiltrated the house through windows and crevices between walls.

This critter drunk the pigment of the brick over its hundred-year life.

There were no less than six bird's nests embedded throughout the infrastructure, and some of those nests appeared reused several times over. During ivy extrication, dried bird feces "powderized", requiring us to wear face masks.

In addition to removing ivy, we pulled up carpeting from the 2nd floor of the house. In one room, we discovered that the two layers of carpeting had covered floor areas that were wet with - pet urine. Yes, a pet(s) had actually peed in the corner and lack of exposed air kept the residue in its perpetual fluid state. A little scrubbing with a mixture of water and vanilla extract, and the urine smell vaporized.

Our final job for the trip was scrubbing & restoring the backyard deck.

Here's a partial view of our heavily foliaged backyard (photo taken from our back porch). Such a lovely, private retreat. See the gazebo? We plan to reconstructed it into a barbeque with rock walls and metal posts and roof.

Here's a ground-level veiw of our gazebo and garage, the back of which leads to an alley. "Old" Hannibal is full of alleyways.

Though exhausted at the end of each day, we treated ourselves to the numerous restaurants Hannibal offers. Quickly becoming among our favorites was Lula Belle's:

Lula Belle's:

Once a brothell, this restaurant is a favorite among tourists and locals. Photo is from Lula Belle's website:

Ole Planters and TJ's Supper Club soon became our favorites as well. Ole Planters is another favorite among tourists and locals, and TJ's has good entertainment on Tuesday & Wednesday nights. TJ's is off the tourist path and frequented by locals.


During our trip, we luxuriated in leisurely walks to the library and the downtown area, visited antique shops, and purchased local groceries at mouth-gaping discounts (in comparison to Seattle prices). We awoke in the morning with no agenda other than to work on our house and enjoy the day.

Leaving behind the work-a-day world for two weeks altered some of our life perceptions. Working on our house required we share a purpose and live for each other (instead of working for some corporation for material rewards). As corny as it sounds, we came to view ourselves as more "others-sensitive" and less as efficient, rational, productive employees.

Like many Americans, we we'd become more concerned about the increase in selfishness, looking out for number one, materialism and extreme individualism that increasingly pervades everyone's lives. Working all day in an economy (often in huge corporations) teaches that money and power govern the "real world", and that one's worldly worth depends on showing a boss your contributions to this materialistic bottom line. Selfishness and materialism hence are learned, and materialism and selfishness make it hard for people to sustain nurturing, loving relationships.

My husband & I could get used to living in Hannibal for long, extended periods. Our freedom, our serenity, and the slower living pace during our stay were priceless. We couldn't wait for our next visit which was to come in a couple of months.

Back in Seattle, I began a new contract while my husband returned to his work-a-day world, traffic got worse, the city was reeling from a recent mass murder in Capitol Hill, the Alaskan Way Viaduct was threatening to crumble (amazingly enough, it's still standing), a major earthquake becomes ever more imminent, and Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier continue their threats to erupt in this area's backyard. Yada, yada, yada.

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