What do we plant when we plant the tree?
We plant the houses for you and me.
We plant the rafters, the shingles, the floors,
We plant the studding, the lath, the doors,
The beams and siding, all parts that be;
We plant the house when we plant the tree.
by the American author, Henry Abbey (1842-1911)
The second verse of the Poem “What do we Plant?” attests to the value of reusing, repurposing and recycling. These actions honor the source of such things, some element of creation provided the needed ingredient for that aspect of life on earth.
It follows that second and third uses are honorable as well. It helps make the process of rehabbing and restoring a house more palatable. Believe me, one needs all the help you can muster in the midst of the dirt, demo and tedium that follows the initial dream and vision.
We purchased two properties next to our historic house some years ago. We were not looking become landlords, but when the homes went up for sale, the likelihood they would become rental property existed, so we bought them in order to be the ones choosing our neighbors.
When one of the homes was vacated a few years ago, we began readying it to rent again. Somewhere in the process, we decided to rehab it for our living quarters when the historic restoration of our home begins.
We have done a bit more than we initially intended including rewiring and finishing out the attic. Both were on the to do list but for a later date.
The walk up access to the attic of this 1900’s bungalow was added shortly after it was built. About the same time, a lath and plaster room was finished in the south gable. According to city directories, this room accommodated the brother-in-law of the owner with its own address.
There was a light bulb hanging from the ceiling and a gas pipe that would have fueled some kind of free standing heater. For air in the summer, we suspect an open window and a small fan sufficed. There was also a small closet. It was basic living!
Lath And Plaster
When we decided to finish out this space, we tried to incorporate the existing room into the plans, but in the end, it was just in the way.
Reluctantly we demo’d the room. It was a mess, but the two guys who did the work, received some kind of weird joy from the dirty, dusty sledge hammering of the lath and plaster walls.
We hauled the plaster away, but I had them keep the wood lath. I had no idea what I would do with it, but its rustic, uniform, aged look was hard to resist.
Next we had the knob and tube wiring replaced. This resulted in buckets of neat shaped porcelain elements that cried for a new life. Again, set aside for a new purpose.
Projects And Products
My first project was making ten planters or lanterns out of the lath. These served as centerpieces for the 80-year celebration of a dear relative. The bases were made of lath laminated into blocks and cut to size.
The laminating led to making trivets, stands and hot pads to sell. However, I was barely making a dent in the pile of lath.
As these “leftover treasures” went into my ETSY shop, they sold AND I received a couple of inquiries regarding any raw lath I had.
These inquiries led to a large shipment of lath that ended up on the ceiling of a bar in Culver City, CA. Another went to an artist in Laguna Beach for a top secret custom project! Still I had pieces left to continue making things.
I combined the lath and porcelain leftover treasures. A sort of memento of the attic at the W.B. Alliston House on Park Place. Check then out at ETSY.com/maisonsteinbuchel.
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