Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hoarder Among Us

With the fast approaching holidays, the need to reclaim order around the house is becoming more pressing.  Stuck at home on Friday with a sick kid I decided to try to tame the chaos.  Things were going well, laundry was put away, sheets changed, cobwebs vacuumed off the ceilings until I hit my four-year old's room and faced the drawer.

When you are four, the drawer is a special place to store treasures.  It is a big pull-out drawer under the bunk bed on wheels.  When you are an adult the drawer represents something entirely different.  Mostly I avoid the drawer.  I know it is there and I have a sense of what is in there, but as longs as it is shut it is easy to ignore.  The problem was, it was becoming difficult to close...

So, Mom tackled the drawer, and yes, Mom won.  Here is what I found there:

  1. About 50 cardboard toilet paper rolls squirreled away from the bathroom

  2. 8 sticks

  3. 2 acorns

  4. a plastic egg

  5. Very large pile of artwork, craft projects and paper with scribbles (aka more art)

  6. plastic Sutter Home Chardonnay bottle (?!)

  7. Miscellaneous assortment of small toys, silly bands, etc.

  8. 1 whoopee cushion

  9. 1 yellow plastic Lei

  10. 3 feathers

Once I was done and order was again established I realized that when a certain small someone opened the nice, neat drawer there were certain to be repercussions.  I decided a confession was in order under the guise of making more space for Christmas.  Thankfully the purging was met with approval.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Before and (almost) After - Front

Can you spot the difference between these two photographs?

[caption id="attachment_31" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="September 2010 - house hidden by shrubbery"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_561" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="December 2011"][/caption]

Hint:  Windows, Walkway, attic vent, tree/bushes...

To answer your questions...

1. Yes it's primer to be painted this spring.  I was going to paint it back to its original white, but everyone seems to like the contrast and the way the trim stands out with the tan.

2. Please don't even talk to me about why the top is gray and the bottom is tan...

3. We will be re-roofing over the door and window and scraping and painting the trim this spring.

4. Yes, I promise to hide the footings with lattice and plant some shrubs!

In case you can't see it, Tristan hung up my plaque.

[caption id="attachment_565" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Newhall Farm Circa 1900"][/caption]

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holidays Under Renovation

Can you believe it is December 1st?  Aside from a freak Nor Easter in October, the weather has been down right balmy by New England standards.  We are lucky too because not only is the front not finished, but the office is all torn apart down to the studs.  I am hoping the insulation fairy will have it buttoned up before the real cold weather begins, but I wouldn't want to rush things...

I have been getting some questions lately along the tune of "how do you live like that"?  So I thought I would provide you with some tips for Enjoying the Holidays while living in a construction zone.

Tip #1 - Take cleaning right off your to-do list.  Chances are as soon as you've got the place spotless someone will decide to saw up something or rip down something and coat everything with dust and sawdust.

Tip #2 - Invest in a blindfold and walk around the house.  After you bump into a few sheets of blueboard, trip over a ripped up floor and knock over some fixtures you will be so grateful to have your eyesight back that you might not notice the mess (for a day or two).

Tip #3 - Stop entertaining.  Better yet, deadbolt the doors and shut the lights out even when you are home.  This will discourage even the pop-in visitors and that way no one will ask any questions.

Tip #4 - Go on vacation.  When you can't have a conversation with your spouse without arguing and your life has become a giant to-do list... it's time to take a break.  Preferably somewhere else!

Tip #5- Ignore #3 and have a big party.  It's a way for you to give back - give guests a parting gift of appreciation for their own homes that they aren't living your life.  Priceless.

Tip #6- Imbibe lots of Spiked Eggnog

Tip #7- Try not to work with power tools while practicing #6.

Tip #8- Focus on those less fortunate (war, famine, disease) and you will realize how insignificant your renovation project is in the big scheme of things.

Tip #9- Always look backwards, never ahead.  Focus on what you have done.  Invite over friends that will say "Wow, you've really done a lot since I've been here!"   Never think about all that is left to finish or how many years lie ahead of you to get there...

Tip #10- Don't stop believing that in the end it will have all been worth it.  Did I mention the eggnog?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

This old House project submission

Well...here goes nothing!  I just submitted our bathroom project to This Old House Projects.  Now we wait and see... wish us luck!  It is too bad you can't vote for us!

---email submission Nov 9th 2011-------------------------------------------------

In September of 2010 we bought a circa 1900 farmhouse.

The house has only one full bathroom which is in dire need of renovation.

The ProjectThe bathroom was carved out of the existing rooms.  The floor plan is awkward.  One wall is slanted (there was a window in the way so they cut the wall around it) and another big chunk is taken out of an adjoining bedroom to recess the toilet.

The bathroom has no window so it is dark.  There is an exhaust fan from the 1970s but it does not work.  The ceiling is a drop ceiling and we can only imagine what is under there.  The plumbing is a disaster.  The pitch is incorrect, the toilet is not properly vented and there is a contamination of hot water lines crossing into cold water lines we think somewhere near the shower or sink.  The tub is undersized with thin plastic on the walls around it and grout caulking that looks like toothpaste (thick and sloppy).

Current HomeownersWe are a family of five - with three children (ages 10, 7 and 4).  We bought the house for its lot and location and knew about the massive project we were undertaking...although maybe we have bitten off more than we can chew?  I love old houses and my husband is very handy.

Budget and Time frameWe would like to stay under $10K. Our time frame is flexible.  The project could be started at any time.  It is our only shower/bathtub so I am not exactly sure how to deal with that.
Please check out my bathroom photos on my blog at

Thank you for reading this and considering us!  I love your magazine and television show.

---automated response Nov 9th 2011---------------------------------------------------

Thank you for your recent e-mail.   We are currently accepting applications for projects in the Boston area for the 2012 season.

TOH will review proposals starting in November, 2011 with hopes of making a final decision by March 1st , 2012.  Please note that the renovations are completely funded by the homeowners and not This Old House, though the show coordinates product discounts and donations where possible. All donated items are considered gifts, on which the homeowners pay taxes.

To be considered please make sure you have submitted all of the following:

Brief description of the house including house style and year built
Architectural plans, if available
Low-res digital pictures of the home's interior and exterior
Brief description of the current  owners
Low-res digital pictures of the homeowners
Scope of the renovation
Project budget
Anticipated schedule

Please send proposals to:



Project Proposals
This  Old House Productions, Inc.
P.O. Box 130
Concord, MA 01742

***PLEASE NOTE:  Select homeowners will be contacted by show producers for interviews. Due to the large volume of submissions and proposals received, This Old House will not be able to respond personally to everyone or return submitted materials. Producers cannot accept or reply to phone calls.

Why the half bath is taking so long...

It's only been a year...well okay we didn't really start working on it until the summer.

Perfection takes time you know.

And I have to wait for Tristan to finish building his gigantic shed.  Sigh!  Oh yeah then I have to wait until he insulates all the walls we ripped down - the heat is on and oil isn't cheap.  And he is getting ready for the electrician to come back and wire up the bathroom fan, light and plug.  Not to mention all the foolish permits and inspections.

I did buy the tile and guess who is going to put it down (yes, me silly) but I have to wait until the sub-floor is all set with backer board and layers of thin set...

Oh yeah and Rory keeps distracting the plumber!  And I keep taking him out to lunch...

[caption id="attachment_535" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The engineers hard at work..."][/caption]

Ode to the one full bath

Oh bathroom, how do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways...

One is for ventilation or lack thereof

[caption id="attachment_523" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="1970s ceiling vent - yup broken!"][/caption]

Two is for the vice grips that fall off every morning

[caption id="attachment_524" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Vice Grips to turn on the water"][/caption]

Three is for the layout (aka where is the toilet?)

[caption id="attachment_526" align="alignnone" width="224" caption="Yes that is a slanted wall (tub to the left and toilet tucked around the corner)"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_528" align="alignnone" width="224" caption="Toilet?"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_529" align="alignnone" width="224" caption="Toilet!!!"][/caption]

Four is for the fabulous florescent lighting

[caption id="attachment_530" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Gorgeous florescent lights on sides of mirror"][/caption]

Five is for the undersize tub

Six is for the stellar plumbing

[caption id="attachment_531" align="alignnone" width="224" caption="Gray PVC? What pitch?"][/caption]

Seven is for the lack of a proper vent

[caption id="attachment_532" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Unvented toilets STINK!"][/caption]

Eight is for the cross contamination of hot water into cold...

(can you say lukewarm showers anyone?)

Nine is for the inconvenience of dealing with rigging up a temporary (outdoor?) shower while we renovate.  Hopefully in the WARM months

Ten is for the amount of time a project like this takes...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Disaster House

Okay so most of you who received an email from "Disaster House" might take offense.  Hey?!  Who are you calling a disaster?  Of course I am still giggling, wouldn't that be a hoot.

Check out this blog post comment...

Hi! My name is Mel Aman and I’m a producer for a show called “Disaster House” on the DIY network (link here: http://www.diynetwork.com/disaster-house/show/index.html). I’d love to chat with you about sharing your sinking house story for the show...

That showed up in my inbox today!  Can you imagine?  Tristan would feel vindicated I am sure.  Not sure if we will meet the "disaster" requirements, but they are interested in my basement saga...  I will keep you posted!

Party To Do

I remember when getting ready for a family party entailed decorating, planning the menu, food shopping, cooking and cleaning.  I could enlist the husband to assist, maybe buy a mum for the front steps...

Alas, living in a full-scale renovation (aka war zone) has added a few twists to things.  Here are the top three items from hubby's to-do list...

  1. PULEEZE fix the gaping hole in Jack's closet floor.  I can only envision the fun game of "throw the cousin down the hole" that might ensue...

  2. Two days before the party the kitchen faucet started squirting water out the side when turned on.  While running the dishwasher (drive portable dishwasher over to sink, attach to faucet and turn water on) I managed to soak the kitchen wall.  I suggested duct tape for its asthetic beauty alone, but hubby wanted to replace the faucet so I bought the cheapest one I could find at Grossman's.  Then went back to buy one with a sprayer (who knew they were a unit) and added replace the kitchen faucet to the "list".  This was a two night job as he put the faucet handle on backwards the first time.  That was an interesting look, but seriously impaired functionality so the next night he reversed it.

  3. Insulation, insulation, insulation!  There are full-scale winds blowing through our bedroom wall and we are going to have to resort to stocking caps (or sleeping with our heads under the covers)!  Seriously, I know that the little boards have to be cut and nailed into place to keep that rotten squirrel out and then all the batts have to be cut to size because nothing is the same width...but enough already!

You will be happy to know that item 1 and 2 were completed in time.  Item 3 is still a work in progress.  Oh yeah and a nor'easter dropped about six inches of snow on party day which led to half the family canceling.  You diehards who traveled to and fro in the storm rock!  Jack will never forget his 10th birthday.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Progress Update...

There is nothing like the first bite of fall to add some pressure to timelines...  October has proven to be quite busy!

On Monday, October 17th Bup successfully connected the new baseboard and got the heat working!  Not a moment too soon, especially with those 40 degree nights.  The comment around the house was, "it's just like Papoose Pond", but that gets old after a weekend...

The shed is finally roofed!

The new kitchen slider went in on Tuesday.  I love it!  We will not miss the old one little bit.

The other big news is that we had the plumbing inspection for the vent and the roughed in fixtures so that is all set.  Now we have to do the wiring and the tiling and the walls and then a door and then the final inspection...

And Mick showed up and did some window juggling...  We had replaced the one window in the front bedroom, but when we ripped the wall out we realized that there actually used to be two windows.  So we decided to move that window over and put in the second one.  It looks so much better.  He also started replacing the siding on the front and it looks really nice.  It's primed and I was thinking of painting it white, but I really like the contrast between the tan and the white trim and the green door...

Here are some pictures to catch you up...


Guess who is back...

[caption id="attachment_486" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Who ate that apple?"][/caption]

Guess who is back... Okay it's not the same one because that one is DEAD... Can you guess yet?

It's definitely fall at our house.  Some people tell fall by the chill in the air or the trees that start to turn color.  We can tell it is fall because once again there is a squirrel running around loose in the house.  It doesn't help that our bedroom wall is ripped apart and the chimney hole is a great big squirrel elevator.  Of course you might be wondering why we waited until now to address the problem.  The answer to that is complicated and comes down to priorities and distractions.  It might even involve a larger-than-normal sized shed.

Anyway, the other morning Jack said he saw something run up the wall.  The cat was acting rather strange and sure enough there was a beady-eyed rodent running through Cassie and Jack's room, bouncing off the windows as it looked for a way out.  It ran into Rory's room and according to the cat was under the bunk bed.  I started pulling drawers out and it darted out and ran circles around my bare feet (yes I was screaming) and then ran across the hall and back up the wall.

Unfortunately I don't think the cat or my screaming was enough of a deterrent.  The next afternoon Jack watched as it came down the squirrel shaft (aka where the chimney was) and ate part of an apple.  He yelled and chased it away only to have it come back a few hours later and snag the entire apple.  Sigh.

I am sure we have not seen the last of him.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Attack of the killer tomatoes...

Things are calming down now, but for a while there we were flooded with vegetables...

Despite two floods, the garden has triumphed with a bumper crop of squash and tomatoes.  I have canned salsa, made two pots of tomato sauce and still we are overwhelmed with the red fruit.  Not to mention that we eat squash at almost every meal (besides breakfast)...  So please feel free to stop by and share in the bounty.  If you find random veggies showing up on your doorstep -- it wasn't me!!!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Our first egg.

While we were in Maine for the weekend, the ducks started laying eggs.  Jack had a huge grin on his face when he came in from his morning duck chores carrying the two orbs.  We have been getting almost an egg a day, but we are still not sure which one of the two female ducks is laying it.

They made a little nest in the corner of the duck house and lay the egg sometime after they go to bed for the night.  Jack insisted we cook them up and have a "taste test".  So I hard boiled some chicken and duck eggs and guess what...you can't tell them apart - well, at least we couldn't.  Our duck eggs are small (the mallard?) and were harder to peel, but otherwise it seems an egg is an egg...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happy Anniversary - one year...

Well it's been ONE YEAR since we packed up and moved all our belongings and embarked upon our old farmhouse restoration project.  I really don't feel like we have accomplished all that much, maybe because nothing feels "done"...  It is encouraging when friends visit and they say they can't believe how much we've done... I am usually tempted to hook them up to a polygraph...

Here is the LIST of our (work in) progress...

  1. Managed installation of new septic system on sellers dime.  Chased contractor around in fall and in spring (seeding).  Contractor reneged on loaming and seeding leach field.  Chased lawyers around.  Finally got remaining $ to finish project.  Timeline:  Sept 2010 - Sept 2011.  Lesson Learned:  Avoid septic escrow holdbacks at all costs!  If you find yourself in that situation insist that your lawyer hold funds (this really saved us).  Finally, never go with the cheapest bidder.  Unfortunately we were stuck with the sellers choice...

  2. Installed gutters to try and redirect water from basement.  Helped somewhat (tip of the dampness iceberg down there)

  3. Installed new windows in living room and dining room

  4. Rebuilt wall under beam.  Still waiting for pocket doors and T to sheetrock.

  5. Hired contractor to jack up basement and rebuild stairs.  He showed up twice.  Chased contractor via phone and in-person.  He sheepishly apologized but never finished job.  Gave up and T finished the supports.  Had another carpenter rebuild stairs.  They are now level.  Yea!

  6. Removed one squirrel, one possum, one snake and lots of mice.

  7. Gutted front living room - removed gas stove that was never fully vented.  Updated wiring.  Soundproofed ceiling.  Rebuilt back wall.  Living room is partially blue-boarded.

  8. Gutted hallway.  Removed lots of mouse debris (poop, skeletons, pee).  Re-insulated and rewired.

  9. Installed two new windows in hallway - much more light coming in.

  10. Paid neighbor to remove pine tree in front of house.  Paid landscaper to put in walkway and fill, loam and seed front lawn.

  11. Framed up area for half-bath under stairs.  Pulled plumbing permit.  Working on pipes in basement.  Should be roughed in soon.  Thanks Dad!

  12. Disconnected baseboard from areas that are gutted.  Bought new baseboard to install.  Need blue boarding done first...

  13. T got distracted by building a massive shed.  That needs roof and doors/windows, but it is coming along...

  14. Removed defunct second chimney from the attic down to basement.  Gutted exterior wall.  Bought new slider in April...still waiting for it to be delivered...

  15. Dug out sump pump area in basement so the pump is lower than the floor.

  16. T put in at least three concrete footing to replace undersized or non-existent supports

  17. Hired neighbor to dig footings for front bay window supports, tame back jungle and plow area for garden.

  18. Gutted front bedroom wall in anticipation of 2 new windows being installed...still waiting for them to be put in...

  19. Gutted exterior wall in downstairs office/study.  Replaced ugly window with more appropriate sized one to match others in house.  T needs to knock down that chimney so we can rewire and insulate that room.

  20. Hired contractor to replace the front siding with Hardy Board.  Contractor having intense personal issues and does not show up to work.  Waiting about a year to finish front windows and five months on siding.  Lesson learned:  do not mix friendship and business.

  21. Put cover on well!!!

  22. Cut up dead tree by stream

  23. Took time out to build a duck house and predator proof cage and raise four baby ducklings into adults.

It looks like it is going to be another cold winter folks!  As of right now there are only three rooms in the entire house that are untouched.  So much for one room at a time... although we are focusing on doors, windows and insulation.

Our goal this year was cleaning up the front of the house.  I don't know if we are going to make this due to circumstances out of our control (aka mia contractor), but we are still hopeful...  It has been a busy year!

Man builds shed...

I really lobbied hard to buy a shed this summer.  I found a company with free delivery and set-up, add water and instant shed!, but the man wanted to build his own.  I guess the opportunity to build something new from the ground up instead of demolishing years of filth and rodent remains was just too tempting...
Needless to say, the "little" project has been on-going since June.  Our good friend Dave (we shall call him Mr. Sr. Design Engineer) has been assisting T with the project.  Between the two of them they have done quite well with a pile of boards and some rough scribbles on a napkin that went through the wash.  What you wanted a shed plan?
Name the structure...poll This is absolutely a back yard shed. 33.33% (1 votes) Major man cave 66.67% (2 votes) He's moving out - that's a cottage 0% (0 votes)
"I thought it would be more like Lincoln Logs"
Hmmm...isn't it a little big?  
Two men, one nail gun.
The emerging post and beam structure
Contemplating where to put the beer fridge...

Sunday, August 28, 2011



Hurricane Irene has struck.  Our little stream has become a lake.  The ducks have been out swimming all morning.  We are not sure if the culvert is blocked or if the volume of the water is just overpowering it.

T's nursery raised bed frame floated away.  He put cement blocks on the sandbox (mudbox!) to keep that from floating away.  Unfortunately the water is so high it is pouring through the garden and making a waterfall.  The tomatoes are floating away...  Someone is very unhappy.

Oh and we will not talk about the basement...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Of Mice and children...

So the boys came flying inside the other day, yelling for me and talking very fast. Once I got them to take a deep breath I got the following story out of them...

Apparently they were sitting on the swing when a mouse climbed up Jack's back and hopped on Rory's head.  What???!  Wait it gets better, the mouse had suckling babies attached to her.

I went outside to investigate.    What mouse climbs up people and runs around with nursing babies attached to her?  I walked over to the swing and sure enough found a tiny baby mouse with it's eyes still closed in the cushion.  I had Jack pick it up and put it near the woodpile that the Mother disappeared into.

He was all set to start looking into raising a baby mouse.  I told him we have more than enough mice in the house.  Eventually a mouse came and got it.  We hope it was the Mother...

When T came home he solved the mystery.  Apparently the cushion the boys sat on contained a mouse nest and the frantic Mother was trying to save her babies.  T cut open the cushion and found yet another baby mouse.  We returned that one to the woodpile as well...  We then threw out the cushion.

[caption id="attachment_350" align="alignleft" width="259" caption="The mouse looked like this one."][/caption]

Making Progress...

Now that the basement projects are underway we also have started putting up blue board in the living room.  Now when I say "we" you know I mean the royal we -- aka T and my Dad.  I told my Dad the other day that he is hands down the best contractor we have and believe me we have a few...

Anyway, I thought I would show you the ceiling - a real ceiling.  Walls to follow I am sure...


Phase two and three...


Phase two is complete.  The chimney is down!  There was a nice hole from the 2nd floor all the way down to the basement.  The kids tried to talk us into a laundry shoot.

T knocked down the stone tablet that was supporting the whole thing.  His theory is that originally that part of the basement was a crawl space.  They build the chimney on the rock then decided to dig out the basement and left the dirt under the tablet in a big clay pile.

Then the cursed stairs came down.  Boy will we miss them...

Monday, August 8, 2011

The blue thing...


Also on Sunday me and boys decided to excavate the blue plastic thing that was showing through the lawn.  T had investigated it upon discovery and he thought it was a blue plastic barrel used to drain wastewater from the washing machine.

I decided to dig it up without telling him.  When he came down from the chimney work in the attic and saw what I was doing he was not pleased.  He basically threw a tantrum over me creating another project and more work for him that he wasn't ready to handle.  I stomped off inside with a snide remark about control-freak husbands that need to manage all the projects and to let me know when he deemed it an okay time to dig it up.  He then yelled at me to get back out there and finish it as I couldn't just "leave it like that".

So being the happy yo-yo that I am went back to my digging.  Rory and Jack came out to get in on the action.  The barrel was much bigger than I thought.  We discovered a white plastic pipe running into the top of it.  I got a little concerned and called Dad who assured me that we were not going to run into any raw sewage (we would certain smell that - right?!).

T came outside to check on our progress.  He offered to sawsall the pipe (I think he LIKES doing that) and gave us his metal pipe "fire poker" to try and pry the barrel out of the ground.  He tried and said we needed to keep digging.  I tried on the other corner and got the thing out of the ground and he hauled it over to the rubble pile.

After four loads of dirt from the stream bed we filled in the hole.  He still thinks I should have left it alone.  We do plan to reseed in the fall and I told him it is much better to have it done and not have to disturb the seeded area (again).  So the blue thing is out of the front lawn and that task is done.

The moral is:  when a girl wants to dig you have to let her.  Of course if you make her mad she might dig harder...

Phase II half-way there...

Phase II of the half-bath project is underway.  T and I spent Sunday dismantling a defunct chimney.  He said this was "the worse job yet" and "can we buy a real house now?"  Granted it was a 90 degree full humidity day and he had his head stuck in the attic removing bricks one by one with a hammer and a crowbar.

I had the fun job of throwing bricks out the 2nd floor window and then schleping them all to the rubble pile.  It was very hot and dirty work but we got the chimney more than half way down.

The bricks have a wonderful smoky charred smell reminiscent of many chimney fires.

Here are some lovely photos:


Phase I is complete!

It's true!  Phase I of half-bath is complete.  Notice I did not tell you just how many phases there are...

Last week my Dad came down and we successfully removed the water heater from the kitchen and put it in the basement.  I know what a crazy thing to do - most people enjoy having a water heater in their living space...

The task went rather smoothly.  Our expectations around here are pretty low - pretty much you go into everything thinking that there will be some unexpected twist that will require a Plan B (or C) and an outlay of money.

Still, there were a few lessons learned...

1.  The water heater will not drain.  The bottom valve will not loosen.  We banged on it a bit but decided we were pressing our luck (and ensuring the purchase of a new one) so we moved it mostly full...

2.  When we shut off the hot water we found that the water lines seem to be crossed somewhere and at some point hot water is crossing into the cold?  Strange.

3.  We had a few extra wires when hooking it back up (it is electric and was connected to a timer that we dismantled).  Our electrician on call would not answer the phone so we did what any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer would do and winged it.  So far so good.  Hot showers have been had by all!  Thanks Dad!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

If you give a house a cookie...

If you decide to redo your living room

You will want to put up new wallboard.

If you put up new wallboard

You are supposed to start with the ceiling.

If you start with the ceiling

You will need to fix the pipes

If you want to fix the pipes

You will need to renovate the entire bathroom

If you renovate the one bathroom

You will need first to put in a half-bath.

If you put in a half-bath

You will need to replumb the basement.

If you replumb the basement

You first need to fix the basement stairs.

If you fix the basement stairs

You will need to take down the defunct chimney

If you take down the defunct chimney

You will need to remove two more walls.

If you remove two more walls

God knows what projects you will find in there!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Our first good surprise...

Secrets under the vinyl
We have ripped all the vinyl off the front of the house in anticipation of replacing the original siding with hardy board.  Hardy board is a wood composite that looks like clapboard, but does not require the maintenance of wood.

When we removed the vinyl we did find a few surprises.  It appears that there were actually two windows on the upper level.  This makes sense as the one window looks a little lost up there.  I was planning on putting shutters on either side to help, but now I think we are going to put the other window in.  Yes of course that involves tearing out another wall and shifting things around yet again...

T also found some evidence of decorative trim on the left side (where he is pointing).  We hope to get the holes dug soon for the concrete window supports so we can remove the braces...  We also removed the front pine tree and hired someone to replace the walkway.  Progress!

Luv those Ducks

[caption id="attachment_266" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Jack and Sweetie"][/caption]

The ducks are so big now.  T actually admitted that he likes them.  I caught him up in the middle of the night checking on them because he thought he heard a predator.  He went outside and saw two glowing eyes, but all ducks were safe in their pen.

Jack did have one scare.  He was watching a movie with his grandmother and did not go to put the ducks in until 9 p.m.  When he went outside he could not find them anywhere.  He came back in in a panic.  My Mother found him a flashlight and he finally located the ducks.  They were fast asleep in their duck house and had apparently put themselves to bed.  Crisis averted!!

[caption id="attachment_263" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="One of these things is not like the others"][/caption]

We have seen them fly recently.  Ducky (the mallard) flies out of the pool onto the ground.  The Pekins flap their wings, but don't get far.  We haven't clipped their flight feathers.  They are very bonded to each other and do not go far from their pen so I don't think they will be flying off (unless of course under attack and then maybe they should be able to try and get away?)...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The first crop...

Radishes are In
As you are aware, T could not be without his garden this year.  He did get off to a late start so his crops are a bit behind.  Not to mention the soil could use a bit of fertilization and nutrients (not many worms I am afraid).  This year we get what we get (and we don't get upset).

He did produce his first harvest of the year.  A bunch of radishes.  Funny thing is he doesn't even like radishes.  When I asked him why he grows something that he doesn't like to eat he told me that he had leftover seeds.  Apparently he just could not waste them.  Now the question is, what am I going to do with these (and are there any more coming...)??  I just asked "Is that it for the radish crop?"  and was met with the response "No there are plenty more!  There are about another TEN handfuls."  Great.  Just what I wanted.  Canned pickled radishes anyone?  Apparently they are easy to grow and it's the growing not the eating that makes the man happy.  Got to keep the man happy, even at the expense of uneaten radishes.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

porting over to wordpress...

Hey faithful readers I've ported my blog over to wordpress.  I needed some job experience with wordpress and I figured this was a good way to get some!  I apologize for the inconvenience, but if you do not want to miss any new posts, please visit http://antiquefarmhouse.wordpress.com  On the right sidebar is a place where you can sign up via email.  I also push some of the posts through to facebook so you might catch some there.

Thanks and happy reading!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

More Baby Duck pics

The ducklings are so cute.  The kids have taken turns sleeping in the room with them.  We had to get a taller tub because Cassie was up at 3am to tell us that they figured out how to escape and then couldn't get back in the box.  They take care of the smaller mallard duckling "Ducky" and will circle around him/her if we try to pick him/her up.  Here are some pictures taken this morning at about 5 days old.

I had to inform T that we have three "Pekin" ducks.  He thought they were "Peking Duck" but that is certainly not the same thing, especially in chinese restaurants!!! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

The new babies...

Pile of Sleeping Ducklings
Here they are - the new babies about two days old.

The mallard (black and yellow one) is "Ducky".  One yellow one is "Nibbles".  Rory's yellow one is "Sunny".  And the third yellow one is nameless - any ideas?  And no I can not tell them apart but I think Jack can...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The ducklings are coming!

So...I know you have been anxiously awaiting more duck news.  I would hate to have you suffer in suspense.  The verdict is in and we will be getting ducks!!  There are somethings you just can't get in the way of.  I used to think it was a boy and his dog but in our house it's a 9 year old boy and his ducks!

Let me begin by cautioning you that it's not altogether easy to get ducks.  Especially if you want ducklings.  Sure you can order fertilized eggs online but then you've got shipping costs and an incubator to purchase.  The trouble with ordering ducklings online is you usually have to buy at least 12 and the 1-day shipping is $35.  We have scoured craigslist and the internet, talked to the owners of Davis Farmland and everyone said "Klems".

Klems  is a farm supply store in Spencer that carries everything from toys to tractors.  They also have chicks and ducklings in the spring.  We were originally told that they come in around Easter.  We took a trek down there (about 45 minutes) the Friday before Easter only to find a handful of chicks and an anticipated due date of May 1st for the ducklings.  Well, May 1st came and the ducklings still hadn't arrived yet.

I have become good friends with Ralph who is in charge of the birds.  He works 8-12 M-F.  He told me that Klems receives their shipments on Thursdays and Fridays each week.  He said the ducklings should be there at 9 a.m. on Thursday (today).  They were flying in from somewhere.  He ordered a few different kinds but couldn't tell me which would be there until they arrived.

Today is Thursday.  I called at 2:30 to confirm that the ducklings had indeed arrived.  I was told that they had, but that half had been sold already (!).   They had about 30 left.  The person on the phone thought they had Pekins and Indian Runners.  No you can not place a hold on the ducks.  She had no idea if they would have any left by Fri afternoon when we were planning on going down there.

So I relayed the information to T who said "What?!  Do I have to go down there?!".  I told him that he didn't have to do anything....  It helped that it was pouring rain and he was unable to do his planned yardwork.  It also helped that Jack was sitting at the table doing homework with a big grin on his face.  At about 5:00 the troops pulled out of the driveway heading for duckland while I went on to work.

Jack really wanted light-weight (bantam) ducks.  He had his hopes set on Khaki Campbells - small ducks that are good egg layers and good mothers.  I told him to pick me up a black Indian Runner.  In the books, these are weird looking ducks, but I met one in person and he was the cutest thing you ever saw (for a duck).
Alas, I just called the home-front and when they arrived at the store they only had pekins and one mallard to pick from...

Adult Pekin Duck

Adult Mallard Female with ducklings

Jack said he had waited long enough!  And picked three Pekins.  These are BIG classic looking ducks (8-12 pounds).  Not quite what I had in mind...  Cassie picked the mallard which is a much smaller duck - 3-4 lbs.  We will not know their gender until they get bigger, but hopefully we didn't get all drakes (that is duck speak for boy ducks).  T said the rule in Massachusetts is that the minimum number of ducklings you can buy is three.  He had his receipt as proof that we had purchased four so if we wanted to go back and buy another one they would sell us one or two more(?!).  Hmmm, I think I said four not six! 

I actually can't wait to go home (at midnight) and meet the new arrivals.  Jack held the phone out so I could hear them quack (well okay, peep).  Are we prepared for duck ownership you ask...well, not exactly.  We are prepared for ducklings - we've got a plastic tub with a heat light, shavings for bedding, a water container that they can't drown in (baby duck soak up water like a sponge) and chick food and vitamins.  They have to stay inside until they are bigger, which is a good thing since we haven't exactly got the outside pen figured out yet.

I did find a free half-finished dog house on craigslist that I am going to modify into a duck house.  Well, to be honest, my Dad is going to modify into a duck house with my assistance.  We are going to set it up on the existing concrete garage pad to prevent predators from burrowing in.  So we just have to finish the house and buy/install the fence.  Piece of cake, right!
Future Duck House

Note the fancy shed in the background.  Isn't that a beauty?  That's about the kind of duck house I could make.  

I promise to have fuzzy duckling pictures for you tomorrow!  We might even need you all to help us name them.

Spring is really here!

Tulip Tree in full bloom
Morning Dove Nest with Eggs in Juniper Bush

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Stinky Dead Things...

Digging for Dead Treasure
So once again the kitchen is filled with a strange bad smell.  It seemed to be coming from the room off the kitchen aka T's workshop or Ed's freakshow or the crap room.

T feared that it has something to do with the 2-seater outhouse that's in there.  Maybe they never pumped it out or the wetness was causing whatever remained to get churned up and stink.  It didn't smell like septic though (and yes I am also very familiar with that smell).  I told him it was Ed decomposing under the house (the previous owner whom he blames for all the quality craftsmanship or lack thereof).

So last night he got the flashlight and went down the basement stairs (which are still treacherous and not fixed) to peer in-between the wall slats and look under the floor in the "crap room".  He called me over to look at the furry creature he could see that appeared (and smelled) to dead by the old crapper. This is a picture of T digging under the house (the foundation consists of a few rocks and some cinder blocks if you are lucky) to try and scoop up the beast.
Not enjoying himself...
And this is T with toilet paper stuffed up his nose to try and deaden the horrible smell while he retrieves the creature.  He wasn't happy about the camera either.  I wanted to video him but the dry heaving and profanities would have been a problem for you tender viewers.

We did successfully remove the offending creature.  It turned out to be a very large possum that apparently crawled under the house to die.  The weird thing is that when we were looking at this house, this particular room had a similar smell and in September T found a dessicated skeleton of another possum...hmmm...

The source of the stench - a possum bigger than my house cat!  He is now buried way out in the back yard and the house has been aired out.

On another note, T found two dead baby bunnies in the well.  Shall we take the toll - one squirrel, countless mice, one snake, two possum, two baby bunnies...let's hope that is all for this year anyway.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dear Easter Bunny....

There is no doubt about it, the Easter Bunny is in over his furry bunny head this year...  These are notes to him from my children...
This is from my daughter:

"Dear Easter bunny,
What I most want I want a puppy and igseresreas (accessories) for my doll.  I don't want candy.  I want a puppy.  so can you give me a puppy
Cassandra XOXO"

and this is from my son...

"Easter List"
All I want for Easter is ducks.  I can give you 3 reasons why

1.  I would like to watch and learn about ducks

2.  I'm intred (interested) in birds
3.  Cassie has Rory, Rory has Cassie but me I don't have anyone.

Now if that isn't about enough to break your heart I don't know what will.  Thank goodness my three year old cannot write!!!!

Poisoned by Ivy

Okay yeah, so all this yard work is really starting to pay off.  I've got my first case of really bad poison ivy.  Of course it is my own fault - I did have short sleeves on and I did suspect that there would be some residual poison ivy...

T and I both had it mildly last year.  He sprayed with round up and the plant is pretty dormant - no leaves yet - but yup alive and well. 

Thankfully I wore gloves!  I've got it bad on both forearms and one elbow and scattered patches elsewhere.  The itching is so bad that it wakes me up at night.  I went online to see if there was a cure.  I came up with a lot of conflicting information - the gist is to dry it out, but whether you do that with calamine or alcohol or saltwater or gasoline is debatable.  I even read something about rubbing a mango on it.  I haven't tried that yet, but I am about that desperate...

So I went to visit my docotor.  I thought maybe she would give me a cortizone shot or prescription strength something to stop the itch.  She told me to use ice.  She also wanted to put me on a steroid called prednisone.  She then cautioned me that some of the side effects might be weight gain and depression.  If I felt puffy I could stop eating salt (!)...

I can't help but being reminded of Jack's "Would you rather" book ...  Would you rather have skis for eyelids or buttocks made out of bologna?  Neither!  But after weighing my options I decided that I would rather be itchy than fat and crazy.  It's been a week now and I am taking my nightly epsom salt baths, washing with Burts Bees Poison Ivy soap, slathering up with hydrocortizone and trying not to scratch...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Godzilla vs. the crocuses

Happy Spring!!!
Most of the existing gardens on the property are fairly neglected.  Having moved in the fall we were not sure what the spring would bring.  We were happily surprised by these crocuses.  They popped up in the back yard.  The tree provides a nice wind break and southern exposure.  They were the first to bloom.

The kids actually found them and even my three year old was excited to give me a tour of the yard and show me the newly blooming flowers.

Our enjoyment was short-lived however.  It seems a certain three year old (we shall call him Godzilla) took it into his cranky head to go on a flower stomping rampage.  By the time my oldest son came in to report the situation, the damage was done...  Upon inquiring, the best I can make out is that the flowers were "evil" and had to be destroyed.  Something about Mrs. Figgy ( a diabolical pillow-pet pig ) controlling them and they had to be stopped... 

Sad, pathetic stomped crocuses
Sigh!  We had a big talk about stomping flowers and how now we have to wait a whole year for them to rebloom.  He said he won't do it again, but unfortunately it is too late for this year.  He got pretty much all the crocuses blooming in the yard.  He better not TOUCH the daffodils!

My daughter said "Mom, it's a good thing you took a picture!".

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The big duck dilemna...

Add caption
My oldest son is obsessed with having ducks.  I think he saw a documentary or something and is fascinated by how the ducklings hatch and imprint on what they see.  I think he is intrigued by the idea of them thinking he is their mother.

The duck thing started last year, before we moved.  He was excited to move to a place that was actually big enough to have ducks.  It also was surrounded by neighbors who had farm animals.

For Christmas he received a book on raising ducks and he has read it many times.  He has spent hours on the Internet researching all the different types of ducks, their personalities and their egg laying abilities.  He wants to sell their eggs at the farmer's market...

All this sounds great, right?  But ducks are messy.  They poop everywhere.  You have to give them clean water and clean bedding every day.  You have to build them a predator-proof pen.  Everything eats them.  Even hawks will fly down and if not snatch your duck, just grab a piece.  They don't go to bed at night like chickens so you have to put them to bed...  If they survive all the predators they can live for 20-30 years!  They also can become emotionally attached and dependent upon people.

The last thing I need is a depressed duck because my son has lost interest (or grown up and gone to college)...  I tried to discourage this whole thing (really!).  I took him to meet someone who had grown ducks (really not so cute as ducklings).  We talked about the fact that some will die.  We talked about him having to clean up poop and deal with the stink and the flies.  We talked about having to hire a duck sitter to give them fresh food and water if we want to go away overnight...

He is undaunted.  Daddy says no! - he has too much to do, he can't handle ducks and needs at least another year to get a pen ready.  We need him to dig a concrete foundation (so nothing can dig under there) and frame it up and cover it with two types of wire (to prevent racoons from sticking their hands in and grabbing them) and cover the top so hawks can't swoop in and predators cannot climb over.  That stuff is beyond me....Jack is not happy. 

If you want to know where to find ducklings, they have them at Clem's in Spencer around Easter.  Ducklings cost $5 each and they have different kinds.  If you want to build a duck pen there are plenty of youtube videos.  My favorite site for step by step with materials options is this one:  Build a Duck Pen.  If you want someone to talk you out of ever getting a duck - this is blog to read:  Want a Pet Duck?

And here is some light reading....
Enslaved by DucksStorey's Guide to Raising Ducks, 2nd EditionGiggle, Giggle, QuackKeeping Ducks & Geese