How I Manage Weeds

Weeds are annoying and also seemingly smarter than I am.

Despite my best efforts, our backyard loves to play host to these little guys:

Picture of a Paper Mulberry Seedling

They spread by seed and by a strong shared root system. And then after a shockingly short amount of time, they become these.

Picture of a Paper Mulberry that's taller than a house

Look up. Look way up.

I try to pull the little guys up as soon as I see them, but they keep coming back, largely because of the established root system. So it’s a never ending battle with the paper mulberries.

The trespassing garden is full of these:

I mostly leave them alone because they’re pretty enough and don’t seem to aggressively invade my yard. And I think the pollinators like them.

Dandelions are pretty?

But at the Church Street House, we have these, which I think might be greenbrier:

They grow quickly and have strong tendrils that help them climb fences and trees and siding. They also have rose-like thorns. If it wasn’t for the thorns and the climbing up and under siding, I might just let them be.

But they are miserable little things. I’ve tried pulling them, but the roots are strong so I’ve rarely gotten any up by the root. Cutting them back doesn’t do much because they really do grow quickly, like one to three inches a day when the conditions are right. I’ve tried spraying them with a vinegar, salt, and soap solution. And I’ve tried spraying them with roundup, repeatedly. The only thing they’ve actually responded to is when Andrew has set the chimney starter over them after using it. Which makes me tempted to just burn them all individually, but the ground is mostly covered in wood mulch and I don’t really want to burn the whole place down.

So the best solution I’ve come up with has been to paint them and at least make them look pretty.

I’m pretty sure this is just a sign that I have lost the battle.

2021 Luxury Living Goals – How Did I Do?

At the start of last year, I shared my house and real estate related goals so now it’s time to review my accomplishments.

At the start of last year, I shared my house and real estate related goals with you so I thought now would be a good time to see what I was able to accomplish. And then maybe I can think about setting some new goals.

1. Sell my condo

I was successful in this goal. I put my condo on the market at the end of January and then it sat there for months without any offers. Finally in June, I got three low-ball offers in a row and one of them was actually willing to negotiate. It sold for a little less than I would have liked, but I still got a decent return and freed up some cash to help with my next goal.

2. Buy another shit heap

More specifically, my goal was to buy and fix up at least one more shit heap and have it rented out or ready to sell by the end of the year. That did not happen. We made several trips to Wilmington, NC, put in a few offers, and finally got an offer accepted in November. So we did buy a shit heap in December, but have only scratched the surface on starting to fix it up. My new goal is to have it ready to list as a short-term rental starting in March.

3. Get a shed and front walk built at the Downtown Luxury Slum

Yes and yes.

4. Build me an office

Much like selling my condo allowed us to buy another shit heap, getting a shed allowed me to build an office. I’d still like to paint or hang some wallpaper to make it a little cozier in there, but I’m not in any sort of rush.

Did you have a productive year?

My Cloffice

We turned our bike storage closet into an office.

After getting the shed built, I was able to move our bikes out of the dining room closet and into the shed.

Bike closet

And then I was able to turn the dining room closet into my office!

Luxury cloffice

It’s super basic. There are actually no electrical outlets in the closet so I ran an extension cord from the nearest outlet in the dining room. So in addition to figuring out what to do the with mess of cables needed to run a computer, I also need to figure out a more long term power solution. There is an outlet on the other side of the closet wall so most likely we will take advantage of that and install an outlet in the closet … eventually.

Luxury cloffice

This closet doesn’t have doors, largely because I could never decide what kind of door I wanted to put on it. And that’s largely because I don’t want the doors to interfere with whatever mural we eventually, hopefully, get painted on the big, empty dining room wall. So for the time being, I’ve just hung a pair of pink curtains so I can “close” the office when I’m not using it. Spritz! thinks the curtains are there for her to practice climbing so we’ll see how long they last.

Luxury cloffice

I hung a couple of plants from the bike hooks that I didn’t bother to take down. The plants hanging quite high because I’m hoping that Spritz! doesn’t see them and decide to try to play with them. As you can see by the number of toys on the cloffice floor, she is quite fond of this space already.

A Downtown Luxury Shed

I am so very excited to have a place to store tools and gardening equipment and bikes and lawn chairs and all sorts of outdoor things.

One of my goals for this year was to build a backyard shed and front walkway. While I was able to finish the walkway months ago, the shed took longer due to holdups in the zoning permit and then the excessively long wait-list for the shed. I lucked out in that because of the pandemic, our Certificate of Appropriateness that was set to expire in January, was automatically extended for an extra 6 months.

To recap, the Certificate of Appropriateness is essentially a special permit we need because we live in a Raleigh Historic District. The Historic Development Commission reviews plans for basically anything that we want to do to the exterior of our house or property to ensure that it aligns with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, and is consistent with the character of the neighborhood.

For the shed, the main constraints were that it needed to be wood siding (not plywood), and have a wood window. This meant that we couldn’t just pick something out from the Home Depot catalog, we basically needed something custom built. We found that several neighbors had used Carolina Yard Barns, which left us confident that we would be able to get one of their sheds approved, but I still needed to also order a custom window because they don’t offer a wood window option. So we had a window sitting in our front entryway for 3 months while we waited for the shed to be built.

Shed after 1 day of construction

The build date that we were quoted was initially April 13th but that got pushed back until May 6th because of rain delays. And even then, the build that was theoretically only supposed to take a full day didn’t get completed until May 11th because it kept raining.

Shed after 2 days of construction
Above is how it looked after the second partial day of construction. At least there was a roof now so supplies could be stored and stay relatively dry inside.
Shed after construction

Above is how it looked when Carolina Yard Barns was done with it.

Shed after painting

And then I needed to caulk and prime and paint it to match the house. I still need to touch up the paint a bit, but we’ve already started moving some things in there and it’s so nice to have our front entryway and dining room back, just in time for people maybe coming to our house again someday soon.

Planning a Kitchen Garden

I’ve expanded my garden and am sharing some details about what I’m planting where this year.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In my post last year about Phase Two of our Luxury Yard Renovation, I shared the small raised bed garden that I had built and told you that I planned to add onto it this year. Well I’ve done just that.

Unfortunately a few of the boards I bought are a little too thick for some reason so I’m going to have to trim them down but for now, they’re sitting horizontally around the back box. But they do give you a bit of an idea of what it will all look like when it’s complete, since my plan is to add horizontal boards on top around the entire perimeter to be used as bench seating.

Each of the boxes is four feet by four feet so I put together a garden plan that is perfect for an indecisive person who can’t decide what to grow.

I included some information about what I’d be planting in other parts of the yard so here’s a quick snap shot of some of those areas to refresh your memory.

The Trespassing Garden
Some planters
Front walk and more planters

Along with the plan, I broke down when I needed to plant what.

I missed starting some of the seeds on schedule so I have the option of either just starting them a little later, or buying seedlings from the farmers market or getting them from friends.

And I also have a longer document with notes to remember about each type of plant.

This document includes tips about companion planting, spacing, timing, supports, pest management, fertilization, and more. This document is actually what I used to come up with the layout and schedule in the first place.

I’m going to have to figure out some sort of irrigation system since keeping up with the watering by hand was a little much last year and I have even more space this year, so that’ll be another project in the next week or two.

Are you planting a garden this year?

A Luxury Front Walkway

It’s been a long time in the making but The Downtown Luxury Slum now has a walkway leading from the sidewalk to the front porch so you don’t have to trample over the grass.

When we bought the Downtown Luxury Slum and until now, you’ve had to trample over the grass to get to the front porch.

New roof

This has generally not been horribly problematic aside from the one hidden hole that I could never successfully fill in and that always seemed to attract unsuspecting ankles.

It took me quite a while to figure out what kind of walkway might look good because the steps are 10 feet wide and the entire length of the walkway would also be about 10 feet and having a square walkway seemed weird. And having half of the steps not leading to a walkway also seemed weird. But I finally came up with a plan and submitted it to the Raleigh Historic Development Commission along with my request to build a backyard shed. The plans were approved way back in July but that happens to also be when we bought the Mulberry House so I didn’t get around to actually building the walkway or shed until now.

I actually started in January, and then it snowed, and it finally got warm today so I finished up!

Here are some progress shots:

Laying out the walkway

I used green spray paint to mark where I needed to dig. Thinking about colouring the entire lawn this way next winter.

Digging up the lawn

After I marked out my plan, I started digging. I had this idea that I would start participating this this cutesy Instagram thing called #RenovationFancyFriday, but it turns out that I am not cutesy.

After getting the appropriate amount of lawn dug up, I laid down some heavy-duty landscaping fabric.

Then I laid down these paver panels and this edging which is basically what allowed me to not have to dig another couple feet and buy a ton of gravel. I’m going to admit that maybe I still should have leveled the soil a bit better before laying bricks, but oh well.

Our very first pile of bricks actually came from the chimney of a house that had been moved from a block away from us. A few more bricks got collected randomly as we went on walks over the summer, and I grabbed a couple from the crawlspace of the Mulberry house. But that wasn’t enough so we went on a search for more.

Andrew helped me collect some bricks from various brick graveyards around the neighborhood. This one is just around the corner from us on our block. Another was a few doors down from his old house. Another yet was a neatly stacked pile that a Nextdoor neighbour tipped me off about.

I love the way the pattern turned out and also how incredibly obvious it is that we did not buy these bricks from a brickyard.

The last step for the actual walkway was filling in all the little gaps with sand, which is honestly still a bit of a work in progress. But this picture was taken the day before it snowed, I think, so the rest of the project got put on hold for a few weeks.

But today I was able to finish up digging the garden beds out a little better and filling them with as much soil as I could fit in my shopping cart.

Hopefully I’ll get to plant some pretty flowers in the next couple of weeks.

The mailman is enjoying the new walkway. I hope someday you will get to too.

2021 Luxury Living Goals

I’m laying out my house and real estate related goals for the year so you can keep me accountable.


I do have more Mulberry House room reveals coming up for you, but I thought I’d take a quick break and share our goals for 2021 with you!

Insert paragraph where I lecture you about setting SMART goals and BHAGs and how New Year’s resolutions just set you up for failure. But I usually set them anyway because they motivate me. But don’t worry, I’m only here to tell you about my house related goals.

1. Sell my condo

Before moving into the Downtown Luxury Slum, I lived in a fancy condo in the tallest building in Raleigh. I still own the condo and I’ve rented it out for the past two and half years. Unfortunately the amount I can charge for rent is barely more than I need to cover my costs. So I’ve started preparing to list it for sale.

2. Buy another shit heap

Once I sell the condo, I can use the proceeds to buy a couple more shit heaps to fix up and then rent each out for about the same amount as I can charge for one condo.

I think it’s obvious that I enjoy fixing up old houses, but I have a few more reasons for doing it.

  1. If I rent out or resell a house, I can make millions of dollars and buy fancy things.
  2. I generally find old houses much more aesthetically pleasing than new houses, so if I can save the old houses from being torn down and replaced by modern monstrosities, my eyes are happier.
  3. I don’t like waste (we use cloth napkins and only own paper towels because Andrew makes me). Tearing down old houses made with mostly natural materials and replacing them with new houses made mostly of plastic* hurts my soul. Think of the turtles.
  4. I feel so lucky to get to live where I live, in my dream house. We bought this house from a lawyer who bought it, let it decay for a year, and then sold it to us at a $60,000 profit. But he likely bought it from someone who was renting out each side of the duplex for a couple hundred dollars a month. As it stands, the cheapest place I can find for rent within a mile of here is $750/month. So what I’m saying is that gentrification is a bitch that I have tremendously benefited from. But I’d like to be able to help fight it, at least a little. And the way I want to do this is by fixing up old houses and offering them to people that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to live in cool, walkable areas.

* vinyl siding, vinyl replacement windows, PVC and PEX pipes, luxury vinyl plank flooring, fiberglass insulation are all forms of plastic

So the goal this year is to buy and fix up at least one more shit heap and have it rented out or ready to sell by the end of the year.

3. Get a shed and front walk built at the Downtown Luxury Slum

I just realized that my permit for this from the Raleigh Historic Development Commission expires at the end of the month and I’m still waiting on a zoning permit so it’s going to be tight.

4. Build me an office

It’s going to be super fancy and in a closet. Don’t be jealous.

There are a bunch of other things that I want to do with our house, mostly involving new furniture, but I’m just going to let those happen as inspiration strikes or as deals come up.

I’d love to hear if you have any house goals this year too 🙂

A New Downtown Luxury Roof

After initial inspections and structural examination of the Downtown Luxury Slum when we bought it, the conclusion was that we didn’t need to do any work on the roof. But we were suspicious so we did allocate a fair bit of extra contingency money in case the roof needed work. And that money all got used replacing the back half of our roof, which is a flat rubber roof. After one hurricane season, it became clear that the front roof was not in perfect condition either. But it took us until now to finally bite the bullet and get the historic metal roof replaced.

A quick review before I get into the meat of this post:

Our Downtown Luxury Slum is a contributing structure in the East Raleigh – South Park Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The listing reads: “5-bay hipped-roof duplex with hipped metal roof and
weatherboard siding ; original 4-over-4 doublehung-sash windows; attached porch with flat roof , twin wood-post supports, jigsaw-cut brackets, wood railing.”

Separate from that, we’re also part of the Prince Hall Historic District which is a Raleigh Historic Development Commission (RHDC) designation.

Because of this second designation, any changes we make to the exterior of our home require a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA, basically a permit from the RHDC). And the RHDC is generally going to be very picky about making changes that would contradict the listing information in the National Register of Historic Places, since those are our home’s contributing historic characteristics.

This is generally okay with us because the exterior look of the house is one of the major things that drew us to it. The other being the location.

We were able to get permission to convert the house from a duplex to a single family home because we were able to find some rudimentary evidence that it was originally built as a single family home, but otherwise we’re pretty happy with our contributing characteristics.

So when we finally gave in and decided that no matter how many roofing companies came out or how many times they came out, there was just no fixing this roof well enough to completely stop the leaking, we knew we were going to have to replace the old metal roof with a matching new metal roof. And luckily, normal repairs and maintenance don’t require a COA.

I mentioned we had a number of roofing companies come out and a number of frustrating experiences with one company just completely ghosting us before they ever completed any work (but they came over several times to assess the roof, provide an estimate, show us samples). Another company refused to even try to do any repairs on the roof and instead quoted us an exorbitant amount to replace the roof. Finally a friend referred us to Roofwerks and I just can’t say enough good things about them. The first time we called them, they came out to put in their best effort to dry-in the roof (basically apply a tarp and some sealant as a quick band-aid to prevent further leaking until they could do a more complete repair). They then put together a quote to do the repair, did the repair, and then came back several times when we discovered the repair wasn’t good enough. The not good enough was not entirely their fault. Our roof was really old and probably just not suited for repair, but also, as it turns out, we had two uncovered, unused pipes directly funneling rain from the sky into the attic.

Anyway, Roofwerks put together an extremely reasonable quote for roof replacement. The only complaint I can offer is that we had to be extremely persistent with them (getting the quote, getting the job scheduled) otherwise it seemed like they would just forget about us.

When they started removing the old roof, they quickly noticed that there was a layer of shingles under the the metal roof. The shingles were definitely old and worn and of a shape I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, but there’s no telling how old they were, or how long the metal roof has been in place, or what material the original historic roof was. All that to say, maybe we could have gotten away with really fancy shingle replacement, rather than metal. It’s my new mission in life to see if I can ever find some older pictures of this house.

Old roof shingles

But, like I said, we got a metal roof. I somehow thought they’d get the job done in a day, but I think it took them six full working days. They first had to remove the old metal and old shingles.

After removing the metal and shingles

Then they replaced the old, hole-ridden, some rotten, some charred roof decking with plywood and added a synthetic underlayment.

Underlayment installed over new plywood decking

And then finally they installed the Snap-Loc metal roof system along with custom ridge caps and hip caps and flashing and everything else needed to finish the job.

New roof

We couldn’t be happier with the outcome although I’ll have to wait do see if it leaks when we have a major storm.