Last year I really found it cathartic to go through and put down in words (and pictures) everything we had done through the year on the house because I get very much into the thinking about current projects and projects to come and then start feeling like absolutely nothing has been accomplished. In turn, that leads me into a spiral of anxiety, guilt and frustration. I thought I’d re-cap again this past year for my own benefit so I can look at this and see where we came from and how well things are going along and if, by chance, anybody else finds this kind of stuff interesting then there it is!
So inside, the painting continues. The Laundry Room. (aka the scariest room in the whole house) The doors and drawers stick or don’t close all the way, the hardware is very dated, the tile is cracked and a fun shade of light green, the washer/drier were pretty beat up and there were three, count them THREE different doorbell units on the walls. None of which worked. The inside of the cabinet under the sink is so dark and has that “old” smell (which can be creepy). And to top it off the plaster is cracked and the paint is dull and dirty. Considering the cabinets and sink/tile in there are original I’d be tempted to keep them, but on the other hand, the tile and grout are in such bad shape (not to mention not my first choice in color) and the cabinets don’t work great it would be easier to take it all out and start over. The only problem with that is…it costs money! Compromise: Replace the washer/drier with new, energy efficient units (also the old drier died so we had to replace it), paint cabinetry to look cleaner and less scary and replace hardware for a fresh look. Then, repaint the trim and walls with a complimenting color to the terrible tile so at least it looks cuter even if it is clearly very old. The new look is actually pretty good! The room is not so scary and other than needing to replace the laminate floor in there, the mini-makeover will probably do for a long time. It’s hard to tell what the new colors are in the photo but the cabinets are a cream color and the walls directly over the sink are a pastel yellow which goes as nice as possible with the green tile.
The guest room and bathroom was repainted. We also were able to patch the dry wall in the bathroom that had been damaged by a plumbing leak so it looked better! Additionally, we got an amazing deal on an old 1920′s armoire I found at a local consignment shop. It was beautiful and perfect because the guest room has no closet (or any other furniture besides a bed and nightstand). These days armoires are more for TV’s so they’re a little short for hanging long clothes and I had a pretty hard time finding what I wanted that was affordable. The piece fits with the era of the house perfectly and filled the need for our guests to have a place to put their clothes, I couldn’t be happier with it.
I repainted the tiny bathroom in the cabin (second scariest room in the house). This bathroom is very old…the cabin was built around 1880 and sometime after the house was built it was picked up and attached on to the back of the kitchen. The cabin had belonged to the family who built the house but they sold the land it was sitting on but not the cabin. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to move a one bedroom/one bath house a mile or so way back then! Anyway, this bathroom is dark, very small and the tile in the shower is more dated and tacky tacky tacky. Primarily it functions as the closest bathroom to where I spend the most time (the kitchen) and the shower belongs to the dogs. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the tile and grout are in pretty good shape since it looks like sometime in the 70′s it had been replaced. Horrible color scheme but what am I going to do? I’m not down for doing tile work just yet. Again, making the best of a bad situation, I patched the areas of grout needing it, repainted with a cute Florida Gator’s/puppy paw-print theme, put up clean curtains and replaced the shower curtain with a great big one that hides a lot of the shower tile. Now, the space doesn’t come across as ancient and ugly and I can live with not looking at the tile except when the dogs need a bath. One day I will get back to it but for now, it will do.
We fixed the holes in the wall between the kitchen and laundry room. When we moved in there were two “windows” looking from the kitchen into the laundry room. Not a pretty view even after it was painted. The holes in the wall were from a stained glass piece that the previous owner stated “was sentimental” and took with them. Anyway, long story short we finally sat down with a local stained glass gallery, drew up a simple, natural design and covered up the gaping holes.
I put weather-stripping on all 5? windows and caulked the top sashes of the double hung windows. Then I installed pulley covers over the pulley holes in order to improve our energy efficiency. It worked! We saw a decrease in the next months bill by about $30.00! That will add up for sure. Bonus: with the gaps better closed the amount of dust/dirt inside was markedly decreased and the number of flying bugs wandering in also went to almost zero. (we knew what bug season it was by the bugs we found in the house…mosquito season, lady bug season, fly season, wasp season, and then that HUGE SPIDER that walked right up the window, through the crack and into the living room nearly killing me with its ugliness!) We also finished re-screening all of the first floor windows which was quite a job.
We went around and covered all the ventilation holes with hardware cloth and repaired the concrete mortar in the lime rock foundation. We had so many small holes and gaps that virtually anything raccoon size or smaller could get under the house and live quite comfortably there. We definitely had rats as per the smell of them in the stairwell (OMG like a dirty kitty litter box) and snakes too were often seen coming and going. We noticed a sharp decrease in the smell after the rat-snake moved in but he left after a month or so and the rats came back so we decided to do something about it. Since I’m the smaller of the two of us, I got voted to go under the house. With the rats and the snakes and god knows what else. Oh boy. I did not like that not one bit but it had to be done. I suited up and crawled around with a bucket of concrete mix and bricks and bricked up the largest of the openings from the inside and spread rat poison around on my way out. I startled a 2 foot rat (tip to tail) and I nearly had a heart attack. No spiders or snakes though! Daniel built new access hatches that fit the holes much better and added more ventilation (and looked nicer to boot) and we called that job good and done. A few days later it became clear that the rat had died….then it got cold and the smell went away.
Later we decided that hardware cloth should be put up in the attic too over the vents. Amazingly, in 90 years it hadn’t been done but there was surprisingly little evidence of squirrel or other pest presence/damage. Nothing appeared to be current damage anyway so that’s all fixed up now.
The pine floors upstairs were in bad shape. The finish was old, yellowed and cracking off in pieces and since it was compromised I couldn’t mop the floors or else I’d damage the wood. We had the floors refinished by a great company in town who did a fantastic job. The floors are just amazing now! This was the first job we outsourced also..it felt so odd having work done that didn’t include us learning a new skill. We are now committed to trimming the dogs nails quite regularly.
Meanwhile, all the regular outside maintenance continued. The yard was kept up, I planted an amarilla bed and a small hydrangea garden. Then I moved the hydrangea garden because I planted it in too much sun the first time. That was a pain believe me. Digging holes is not fun. Digging a new set of holes, digging up plants, transplanting them then filling in the holes you dug the first time was absolutely miserable. Note to self…. We also bought and planted four peach trees, three of which are still alive! Hopefully in a year or two we can eat fresh peaches from our yard and I am really looking forward to seeing them bud in the spring. We removed several medium to massive palm trees from the back yard and gave them to a friend, all but one is now living happily in their new yard. There are just too many taking up space, blocking windows and calling roaches from across the globe to come live in them. They have to go. Or at least be reduced. Daniel won’t let me pull them all out and burn them but I would if I could!
We got chickens or well, I should say, *I got chickens. Daniel is humoring my new hobby but if this works out we are going to have a full-scale chicken farm. Well, at least up to the 10 chickens the city allows anyway. Fresh eggs are coming soon (fingers crossed) and if I can keep up with three chickens I think I can keep up with 10. Growing healthy, free range, no hormone or antibiotic given chickens for eggs and eating is my goal. I’m just too thrifty to pay what it costs to get that quality of chicken meat at the farmers market but at the same time I believe strongly that it would be better for us to eat birds that were raised in a healthy environment without all the antibiotics and hormones. I also really like connecting this house and property back to farming in a tiny tiny small-scale way. I feel like I’m honoring the history here. So yeah, me and my first three chickens are learning how to take care of one another or I will find out that it IS worth it after all for somebody else to do all the keeping, cleaning and butchering. I’m giving myself a year trial. We call it the “Peeper Project” and I’m sure in the next year I will be blogging about it!
This year we hope we will be as successful in our forward momentum as we restore this great house as we were last year!
Happy New Year!