November 30th, 2009 §
Lately, the theme around the farm has been cleanup as we take advantage of the short window of time between tick-infested summer and cold, wet winter. Last weekend we strapped all the aluminum siding from the old house onto the trailer for transport to the scrap metal center. This weekend, we continued the salvage theme while cleaning out the woods behind the house.
The previous owners had used the beautiful forest as their own private dump, for many, many years. In the two days that three of us spent sifting through their trash with two tractors and shovels, pitchforks and buckets, we found many clues about their lifestyle. Like, their preferred beverages were Jim Beam and jug wine. They also had a penchant for Nikes and plaid shirts. Both Coke and Pepsi bottles turned up in the pile, so that’s a draw. One thing’s for sure, plastic definitely doesn’t decompose.Through it all I was dismayed that someone could just throw their stuff on the ground and think that that was an acceptable way to dispose of it
In addition to household trash and old car parts, we found what appeared to be all the materials from the last time the house was renovated: piles of asphalt shingles, block and mortared brick, old wiring, and even the original windows that matched the one in the attic of the old house. These had been propped against a tree and buried, so the frames had rotted away from the plate glass panes.
It took two tractors and many hours to get all this junk into a roll-off dumpster, which we filled. And there are still big pieces of metal left in the woods: old car frames and axles and gas pumps and rusted farm equipment. The plan is to get all that stuff loaded on the trailer and scrap it as well. But in the meantime I have a very authentic kountry lawn ornament of a rusted out car frame, in this case an old Willys Jeep, propped up on blocks in the woods. I may even leave it for character, or “art” or whatever!
But I doubt it.
I did find some interesting things, though, in what was mostly junk. I definitely added to my old bottle collection, kept what wasn’t broken of the old plate glass, salvaged a few old car parts with objet value, and even got acquainted with this chubby pink fellow:
November 26th, 2009 §
I am thankful for the farm.
And for my new roof:
And for skylights!
November 19th, 2009 §
I’ve searched for an old mantle for at least five years. When I lived in my apartment, I wanted a mantle to make a focal wall and add some architectural interest to an otherwise character-bereft space. I set up CraigsList feeds to scope out any old mantles offered for sale. I searched and hunted but never found a mantle that made me pull the trigger.
And then last May, a mantle found me. I was up at my house, before I closed on it, after the previous owner had held a yard sale to clear out her belongings. There propped up against the wellhouse was the most beautiful old mantle I had ever seen. I loved its proportions, its old black paint, everything. Turns out it was for sale by the man who had helped orchestrate the sale of the farm to me–the brother-in-law of my home’s owner. I asked him how much he wanted for it, and at the time felt too directionless to accept his offer. The mantle disappeared, but didn’t leave my mind.
All summer I thought about it. And then when I got to the point with the house where I needed to figure out what to do to the interior fireplace bricks and potential hearth, I knew I had the perfect mantle in mind. I called up the man, who’s a woodworker, and went down to his shop. We struck a deal, and on Saturday he delivered the mantle back to the farm. My parents and I horsed it into the house and against the bricks. Miraculously, it’s fit was darn near close to perfect. And I love it.
Turns out its previous owner had removed it from a home built in 1840 in Farmville, Virginia. It still has its original coat of black paint on it, which I’ve heard is incredibly rare for a mantle that old. The paint is crackled and gorgeous, and all I plan to do to the mantle is wash it down and wax it to bring out the beautifully faded finish and exposed wood grain. I think I will add a big bluestone hearth below it, and a cute little Jotul stove similar to the one I fell in love with in Alaska. After I paint or parge the bricks, it should be pretty neat.
I made a change from the plans and decided to keep the kitchen and living room open to each other, instead of building stub walls with five-foot pocket doors as I originally drew. I think it’s an interesting effect, to enter into the lower ceilinged, cozy living space that the opens up into the vaulted ceiling in the kitchen. We’ll see. If I change my mind, these are easy walls to add after the fact.
On Sunday, I had my first porch picnic with my parents. The porch is now officially broken in! We’d gone up to try the mantle on for size before I cleaned it up, and ended up staying all day picking up leaves. Dad blew them into piles, Mom and I picked them up and put them in the bucket of the tractor, and then I drove them down into the woods and dumped them. I had quite a massive pile by the time I was done, and I am keeping them all piled up so that they’ll hopefully decompose into very nutritious leaf mold for next year’s garden. It was a fun, gorgeous day, and it felt good to be looking after the house. We had a gorgeous pink sunset, which I enjoyed from the new front porch.
November 17th, 2009 §
A couple of important tasks were completed last week, including the rough framing on the front porch. It’s still not finished–the columns will be beefed up with some inset panels and of course stairs and railings are to come. The ceiling inside the porch will be tongue and groove, which I will paint haint blue to keep away all the bad spirits (and insects). The porch floor will also be tongue and groove, laid perpendicular to the house and painted as well to replicate the look of an old farmhouse or cottage porch.
Also of note is that the cap of the old chimney was knocked off and the stack rebuilt a good five or more feet taller to clear the now taller, more steeply pitched roof. My builder and I met at a brickyard the other week to try to match the old brick to the new. It was impossible to find an exact match. Bricks aren’t made to the same size now, so my chimney has a little inset where the smaller bricks join the old bricks. I did find out fascinating tidbits from the elderly gentleman who helped me match my brick, including that my old bricks were made right up the road in Somerset, Virginia. I also learned all about how the firing process is what creates the different colors and textures in bricks. And I never knew there was such variety and such regionality in that each area’s clay makes a different kind of brick. It was actually a really fun field trip, looking at bricks!
Now that the chimney’s completed I think it looks great. We really did a pretty good job matching the texture and color of the old brick. It’s a pleasant surprise as I was anticipating having to paint the chimney to disguise the change in materials. But as it is I rather like that one can tell that there was an old chimney that was added on to–it’s a bit of homestead archaeology.
And one more shot: The house from the road, sporting its fly new dormers. Last week the soffits and fascia went up, windows and doors were delivered…then we lost three days as tropical storm Ida ripped my safety fencing to shreds and turned the basement of the wellhouse into a Roman bath. But this week promises to be lovely and it’s a good thing–my painter is arriving in the morning to paint the trim, and then the roof shingles are going on! And an electrifying development happened early last week that I can’t wait to share.
November 16th, 2009 §
When the old house came down, I asked my builders to salvage as much of the old lumber as possible. Among some of the material that wasn’t completely destroyed by termites (such as my main floor beam) were a few of the floor joists, shown below intersecting that decimated beam:
My idea was to reuse the joists as decorative beams in the vaulted kitchen space. I spent a rainy weekend outside, sick with a cold and soaked to my underwear, scrubbing 80 years of crawlspace dirt off of the joists. With the dirt removed, the wood revealed beautiful graining, cool knot holes, decorative (as opposed to destructive) insect damage, and beautiful radial patterns from the huge saw blade used to mill it.
Then with family assistance I temporarily hung the beams with clamps to determine their positioning and number. It was a complicated math problem, as each beam was a different length, courtesy of the inept framers who cut them out of the old house, and the length of the shortest beam determined how high up on the wall they all could hang. But all that fussing around was worth it. I have to say, I am thrilled with the result.
A lucky seven fit the space perfectly. And I like the idea of reusing some of the old house in the new home. And though you’ll never see this view once the upstairs drywall goes up, I just liked the way the beams looked from above in this shot that really shows the saw patterns and color variations in each piece of wood. I might oil them some day to make these details stand out even more.
November 3rd, 2009 §
I lived in the desert Southwest for a few years and had the honor of calling an early 1900’s adobe bungalow my home during that time. In true bungalow fashion, the house sported a wide, deep porch. I’d sit out there, in my discount store plastic chairs that were demoted from the dining room after I upgraded to IKEA and watch the barrio go by. I’d shoot death stares at the yapping chihuahua next door, check out the slow progression of the “Surprisingly Nimble Old Italian Man” as he collected cans from neighbor’s trash, and watch the streets fill with water within minutes during monsoon downpours. In those days I had the luxury of time to watch an entire sunset as it decimated all sense of propriety as southwestern sunsets do. I lived from that porch, and fell in love with porch living.
Jump ahead almost ten years and tops on my wishlist while househunting was a great porch. And what did I do? I bought a house without a porch. Well, it sort of had one, but it met its fate at the end of a big piece of machinery this summer. That old sorry excuse for a porch is still sitting in my field, the base for a bonfire, if you want it.
When I started working on the remodel of my house, the first thing I asked my draftsman to create was a porch. He obliged, and the drawing grew and grew, grew and just when the dream porch seemed to tip into ridiculousness I scaled back and edited and drew some more. I photocopied drawings of the front of the house with the space above the front door left open and spent days sketching my perfect porch. I agonized over roof pitch and arc curve and post placement. I very nearly came to fisticuffs with my draftsman in an effort to birth this porch. And then one day, it finally came together. I got a great drawing in my e-mail inbox, and today, when I arrived at the house early this morning, there I found, my porch.
And that’s not all! I love porches so much, I binged and drew two! Check out the beginnings of the back screened porch!