Tuesday, April 29, 2014

More Spring...

Forsythia starting to bloom

This has been a cold, wet spring.  April has behaved more like March.  In like a lion, still waiting for the lamb...  I think the temperature has hit 70.  Once.  I wore sandals without socks. Twice.

This week, the last week of April, temperatures are back to the 40s!  April is hanging on, the lion still sinking his teeth in.  I shut the heat off in the upstairs of our house only to have the husband turn it back on last night.  It is cold and damp and overcast.

Hopefully May will be different.  It would be nice to enjoy some spring weather before the humid summer.  There are signs that spring is here.  The crocuses have bloomed (then froze and died).  The daffodils are emerging.  The Forsythia is just starting to bloom and the tulip tree is getting ready to burst into full bloom.  It is late this year, but proof that the warmer weather is coming.
Tulip Tree ready to burst into bloom

We have two more days left on our burn permit.  Always a last minute scramble to get as much done as possible, until next year.

In May begins the outside work of finishing the painting on the front of the house, adding lattice and landscaping, and beginning painting the side of the house that we re-sided late last fall.

The to-do list is ominous and lengthy. Welcome spring!

NaBloPoMo Ends

So NaBloPoMo April 2014 will end on Wednesday.  I have to admit that I did not make my goal of posting each day.  I think that I started off strong, but life has a way of sucking the time out of each day and somehow you turn around and a week has passed!

I am not too disappointed with my progress, I've got about 15 or more posts this month, which is more than usual and works out to be about half the month or posting every 2 days.  I can live with that!

Thank you for following along with me this month.  It has been an interesting one, from viral skunks, to the decimation of the collapsing shed, some sleep-walking activity, a snake in the basement and another in shed, and lots of yard work and clearing and burning in anticipation of spring...

The State of the Tree House...

Somewhere along the way, the husband got the brilliant idea that he needed to build a tree house.  I guess rebuilding a real house isn't enough for him...or maybe building the shed inspired him...or maybe he is trying to relive his childhood, just a little bit.

I veto'd the purchase of the wood.  I insisted that his to-do list was too long, his time frame too short and it would sit.  I wanted to spend the money on something that was needed and could be used now.

As sometimes happens, the husband takes matters into his own hands and does his own thing.  I strongly voiced my [negative] opinion, but he went ahead and purchased the wood anyway.

Mind you, this happened in the fall.  It is now almost May, and here is the state of the tree house.  The wood has sat in a nice pile for about six months now...waiting...

Maybe one day it will become a magnificent tree house.  Perhaps the elves will show up and build it.  I will keep you posted, but I believe it has fallen down the list, behind finishing the front, painting the side, gutting the bathroom (dining room and part of the upstairs bedroom), and finishing the bathroom...  As you see it may be years yet...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Plantings...

The FedEx truck delivered our seedings this weekend.  Yesterday, we got most of them into the ground.

After debating how far from the front of the house shrubs should be, me insisting they are too far, the husband too close, we planted two blue hydrangas and one weigela.   These are very small right now, but should fill out nicely in a few years...if they live.

This is what the mature plants looks like (images thanks to Better Homes & Gardens).

Weigela Blue Hydrangea

We also planted some old fashioned lilac near the driveway and a reblooming lilac, that blooms all summer long, near the kitchen window.
Old Fashioned LilacJosee Reblooming Lilac

The kids also picked out some edible plants - we added a row of four sand cherries by the stream, one almond tree in the back and we have yet to plant a thornless blackberry.

Dwarf, flowering cherryAlmond tree

Thornless blackberry

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pickle Town

Welcome to Pickle Town.

What you see here are pickle houses.

The laws to abide by in Pickle Town are very simple:

1. Do not hunt, hurt, maim, eat, or otherwise bother pickles in all their forms including cucumbers, tartar sauce and relish.

2. Do not call the Mayor by his nickname, "Mayor Big Buns."

Apparently there was a problem with the citizens of Pickle Town, referring to the Mayor of town by his nickname.  He got very upset and banished himself (okay he ran away).  Then he came back as a farmer.
 Now the town has no Mayor and it is a pretty lawless place.  I hear there are squatters, taking over vacant pickle houses.

I am not sure what will happen to the poor people of Pickle Town, if they will be able to live again in harmony or if the town will become a ghost town full of tumble weeds, or worse a town of pickle eating people.  Some long for the return of Mayor Big Buns, wherever he may be...

I did not make this up.  This was documented and told to me by the inhabitants themselves (otherwise known as my children).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Shed down and a friend...

Inspecting the progress

The burning of the shed
The shed is being dismantled.  The wood supporting the roof is so rotted that it comes apart by banging it with a crowbar.

The husband spent the day taking it apart and burning the pieces.  He says he will salvage some of the front boards as they are "true 2x4s", you know back when a 2x4 meant a board that was 2" by 4" and not todays 1 1/2" by 3 1/2".  This can be problematic when you are working on an old house and cannot find replacement boards of the right dimensions (no matter what they call them).

I guess calling them 1.5 x 3.5s just doesn't have the same ring...

Anyway, the point is not the boards, but the removal of the fine shed.

Our projects are not without their little (or big) surprises. This one was found in the rotted shed sill.  Don't worry he let it go. I don't think it is in my basement or behind my fridge, or in my bed, but you just never know.
Ripping down the shell of the Shed...
The Shed Snake

Friday, April 11, 2014

Farewell to the shed...

The tarps and roofing are off and now it is time to begin dismantling the caving in shed.

I took some pictures to remember it by as the next time you go to look for it, it may no longer be there (let's hope).

It is sort of pretty though, the way the sunlight filters in through the holes.  The other two photos are not so pretty, but that is why we are taking it down.

I never thought it would take us four winters...or that it would make it through that much snow.  Maybe it is stronger than it looks!  Yeah, I doubt it.  Must be luck.

I might have a problem...

Three nights in a row, we may be going for a new record...it seems so real, only I guess it isn't.

Last night, I woke up to the sound of something hitting the side of the house (the wall that my bed is against). It sound like a handful of rocks or marbles.  It was loud.  It woke me up.  At least I thought I was awake, but apparently either my dream woke me up or I wasn't awake at all.

"Did you hear that?" I asked, sitting straight up in bed.

"Hear what?"

I jumped out of bed and went over to the window, peering around the curtain, looking for whatever it was that made that sound...car, kids, aliens...

"Aren't you going to go and check it out?"


"Well, if you're not going to then I will."

"Where are you going?"

"Outside to see what the noise was."

"You really have to stop doing this."

So I decided to let it go and went back to bed.  I may have left the bed, but I didn't leave my room. Progress?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spooky sleeping during the day, demanding attention at night.
There is definitely some bad juju going down. 

First, the germs hit - staff infection, scarlet fever, viral coughing. I believe we are at the epicenter with mailbox bashing going on at one end of the road and rock wall dismantling and hurling on the other. Then an infected skunk turns up. Hmmm...coincidence?

Monday night, after six weeks of no nocturnal wanderings, my "stay in my bed all night" streak ended. Yup. It's not entirely my fault, the husband was doing things he shouldn't be (besides touching wild skunks) and trying to put me (or my essence) into a canister and send me into space for FIVE YEARS. I was having none of it! I found myself flying out of bed and pacing the hallway. I was so mad.

I went back into my room to yell things like:
"Do you know what you are doing?" No response.
"You can't do this." No response.
"I KNOW what you're doing!!!!"

Still no response, so I stomped away and went to sleep with my twelve year old, who at least has a full-size bed. As I reached his room (after tripping twice over nerf guns and whatnot) he said "what are you doing in here?" I didn't know if *he* was asleep or awake (he talks in his sleep but stays in his bed). I didn't bother trying to explain, just climbed into bed, commandeered some covers, stole a pillow and attempted to get back to sleep.

Unfortunately my plan didn't entirely work as my son and I, and two of his friends were stuffed into canisters and sent into space anyway. Probably by the evil husband. But, the good news is that we didn't have to stay for five years.

The bad news is that he sleeps with our large 18 pound Maine Coon cat who decided to walk on me and wake me up no less than twice during the night to be petted. If that wasn't bad enough, the ducks started quacking loud enough to wake me up at the crack of dawn, wanting to be fed. "How do you sleep in this zoo?" I asked him. I am not sure that I am invited back.

It turns out the husband did get up (not until 5am) to check the youngest bed (nope), the bathroom (nope) and then looked out the window to see if my car was in the driveway (it was). Then he went back to bed, assuming I was at the gym! I might need to get a watch dog. You know, one that can follow me around while I sleepwalk, and then I can let it outside in my fugue state and we can wander around the neighborhood together. Hmmm...

Actually I blame Dr. Who, even though I watched it two nights prior... That show is the reason my six year old will not go anywhere in the house alone (including the bathroom)...

Last night I did manage to stay in my own bed the whole night, except for one trip to the bathroom. Prior to leaving the room, I asked the husband if he would like to come with me. Apparently I am under house arrest and not supposed to go anywhere unsupervised. I think that was also a dream, but maybe not. He didn't respond so I risked it and went alone. And came back.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


There is something about this house and spring and animals coming here to die.

When we bought the house there was an odd smell in the outer rooms of... well... putrefaction. That smell turned out to have been a decomposing possum. The following spring another one showed up and died a smelly death.

Now that we are taking down the old shed, this guy shows up. He dragged himself from the road to the shed and promptly collapsed. We are not sure what is wrong with it, but his hind legs are twisted and it seems to have some sort of spinal injury.  He is young.

I looked up lot of skunk information online and I told the husband You should NEVER approach a skunk who appears to be ill! Call animal control to handle this animal. I also freaked myself out reading about dumb rabies.

The husband was not afraid, and thankfully he is in charge of "wildlife management" at the homestead. I helpfully warned him not to get bitten.

He called animal control who said they come by tomorrow if he is still there and still alive. It rained last night and most of the shed roof has been dismantled. The next thing I know the skunk is on the back porch in a box with straw and someone (with gloves) scooped him up and fed him. He is definitely getting rabies. Later when it started to get dark, the skunk crawled out of the box, down the ramp and lay in a heap in the middle of the backyard in the rain.

The husband put it back in the box. It was still there this morning, still breathing. Today, he called three different wildlife rescue folks and found someone who would take it to a vet in the western part of the state for gas money and a donation for medicine or euthanasia. Sounds like an Internet scam to me...

The husband went home at lunch to check on his ailing friend. He is still alive, but clearly suffering. He spoke with the wildlife person again who asked if he had crusty eyes (check), twitching limbs (check), runny nose (check) and said it was neurological. After speaking with a vet in Springfield it was determined that there have been a large number of cases of Canine Distemper in Massachusetts this spring. According to Mass Wildlife Canine distemper virus, can cause symptoms very similar to rabies. Canine distemper virus is not transmissible to humans and most domestic dogs are vaccinated against this virus, however, any skunk that comes into direct contact with humans or domestic animals should be treated as a potentially rabid animal.

The next thing I know he is calling me from the police station, having animal control follow him home so that the skunk can be euthanized and the head cut off to examine the brain tissue for distemper.  Ugh. It looks like we might have an outbreak in the area... I think this may be what is causing our wild youth to dismantle rock walls (and throw rocks in the road) and take out mailboxes. Perhaps they have also taken to biting skunks.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Adieu to ze olde shed

Ze Olde Shed...
Inside the shed, nice view of the collapsing roof
Removing temporary tarps and roofing asphalt
I heard sounds of a chain saw outside today, and went out to investigate.

I guess this is the year we take down the old collapsing shed that somehow has made it through four new England winters since we inherited it.

I wouldn't call the structure exactly "safe" and it is quite an eye sore.  The husband remarked that it was originally cobbled together with bits and scraps.  He found some knob and tube wiring and thought maybe it once had electricity, but upon further investigation seems that they just reused a board that had once been in the house and didn't both to remove the electrical conduits.

He is a little sad to see it go, because he now has to figure out what to do with the stuff he keeps inside it (um yes that is why he built the other shed, but apparently a shed can never be big enough).  More on shed

I am not going to miss it one bit.

Phase 1: remove tarps and asphalt roofing material

Phase 2:  dismember shed, salvaging usable boards (?!)

Phase 3: have a big bonfire

Phase 4:  Rake the area and maybe reseed grass or plant shrubs

Man defying odds of falling through roof of shed

View from the back - can you see why I want this gone?

Another view from the back with that crazy man on top...

Removing the weather-beaten tarps...

The dining room closet

Here it is... the start of  finishing the closet.  If you lived in a house with very little closet space, you would understand why this is so exciting...

Basically we are creating closets and built-ins as we go.  Someday I have hopes of unpacking my attic and re-discovering what we left up there four years ago when we moved in, due to having no book shelves, built-in, closets or otherwise...

An outlet with USB plug is going to go on the left wall (then the other side can be plaster-boarded).  The ceiling needs some reinforced joists and boards to attach the plaster-board to, and the black cord for the dimmer switch needs to be moved to the other wall.

Once again, nothing is simple, but I am just happy to see progress being made!  Don't worry I will have no problem filling up the closet once it has shelves...

Friday, April 4, 2014

The husbands life in an antique farmhouse

This is a secret project that I am not allowed to tell you about...
I told the husband that I was doing NaBloPoMo this month. He said "yeah I know, a co-worker told me".

It is nice that he learns about his life from others. I didn't think of it this year, but next April Fools Day I am going to post something scandalous and see how long it takes him to yell at me. Then I can sweetly say "April Fools".

This year, all I did was run up the basement stairs yelling "Honey there are about eight snakes down here..."  He rushed down to check it out as I yelled "Got Ya." Then I ran, but not before he grumbled, "honestly it wouldn't surprise me if there was an alligator down there." He's got a point.

Anyway, I told him that I need 30 days worth of material and that he better get cracking. He didn't exactly like that. He told me that I do a bad job documenting all his work around here and only post things when I feel like it and that I didn't even show you the completed walls from my previous post.

I have to remind him that this blog is called "Modern LIFE in an antique farmhouse" not "The husband renovates an antique farmhouse". After all, I hold full creative license and shouldn't he be happy to be featured so often?! Then I tell him he is free to create his own blog and he says "maybe I will". But, we both know that day will never come. Plus, there is no way he is as funny as I am, I mean come on, just live with me (that is a joke, sort of).

So to make him happy and to complete day four, here are some fabulous pictures of the hallway with walls. He said I can't tell you about his current project, but I can tell you that he will be working on the dining room closet next.  Yay!

Hallway and front door walls

Stairway walls

Walls around the bathroom

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My garden is your toilet...

Those little round brown things = bunny berries

Garden Bed or Bunny Bathroom? You decide!

I understand that you can train rabbits to use a litter-box.  Or, you can put in a small garden with some nice soil and a welcome mat.  The husband says bunnies make good fertilizer so I had to shake my Magic 8 ball (aka Google) to see if that was true ("signs point to yes").  What I found out is that "bunny berries" can be used directly on plants and yes they are good for the soil.  You can scoop up berries and add directly to soil/plants, make aged manure, or brew into tea.   I can see me now, brewing and selling bunny berry tea (for plants not people) at the Farmer's Market this summer.  Hmmm...maybe not.

An interesting fact is that "One doe and her offspring will produce over one ton of manure in a year."   I don't even want to guess how many rabbits we have hopping around.  Let's just say, that is a lot of poop!  

Click here for all the things you never wanted to know about rabbit poop.  

Of course the cat is a different story.  I have also caught her in the act.   She is not so garden friendly.  Not quite sure how to encourage the rabbits and discourage the cat...  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Very bad, no good, terrible, rotten week...

It has been one of those weeks where if things can go wrong, they will...

The week started with the basement flooding, making getting to the laundry interesting to say the least.  Three days later, it is still flooded.

Then my car started making strange noises.  Airplane loud strange noises.

My fitbit died (if you don't understand why this is so upsetting then you just don't understand...)

My youngest woke up in the middle of the night with a fever.

Then I got stuck in the mud for over an hour trying to leave for work.

I had to pay $500 for a new alternator to stop the strange car noise.

And it is only Wednesday.


Huge thank you to Pat who came to the rescue with his Jeep and tow strap.

Pilchy the cat wants no part of this.

The husband tries digging it out...

Pat comes to the rescue with a smile and his Jeep 
I have decided that my  next vehicle will be all wheel drive.  Or better yet 4 wheel drive.  A Jeep.  Or maybe a tractor!!!  Before you ask, yes paving the driveway is "on the list".

Q: What's worse than a snake in the basement?

A: Knowing a snake is in the basement and not knowing where it went...

Wet basement
It is spring.  Finally the temperature has risen above 40 degrees and we have started to believe that it might, really, truly be the end of winter.

Spring at our house is also known as mud season.  The unpaved driveway becomes a big squelchy mess.  The basement floods. Today the water is trickling in, stream-like from the back of the house.  The sump pump is unfortunately at the other end.  The husband said "I have no idea how to fix this."

I said: "I need a boat to do the laundry (okay, perhaps just boots)!"

The next thing I know I am being summoned downstairs to "take a look at this."  That is never a good sign.  I usually need a camera.

Snake in the basement.
Apparently, the husband moved the wet/dry vacuum and found a little friend.  Living in the basement.  He is supposed to be hibernating, but I guess our basement is warm enough to wake him up.  According to Gartersnake.info, "If you don’t want snakes (or other animals) in your basement, this is probably a sign that you have some cracks or other openings in your house that need filling."  Gee, do you think so?

The bigger question is, what do we do with him?  It might be warm enough to release him outside.  Preferably far away from the house.  Maybe in the neighbors yard (just kidding).

I asked if this was the same snake that used to live in our kitchen (kitchen snake).  But that was a milk snake and this is a garter snake.  Duh!  And you wonder why I have nightmares.