Monday, June 7, 2010

And a Bit More Progress...

Where to begin? Let's see...since my last post (an eternity ago) things have begun to happen at the farm house. I have single-handedly filled 2.5 dumpsters (thus far) with over two tons of rubbish (mostly the junk and detritus that the former residents had squirreled away in attics and basements, and hidden corners). I've have made a good start on the demolition that is needed to remove some insensitive additions to the interior of this beautiful old house (nasty 70s era built-ins, crappy showers that were too small to even get wet in, horrid wire closet systems, manky wall-to-wall carpet, warped and disintegrating fiberboard kitchen cabinets and sink vanities, etc.), and I now wield a 16 pound sledge hammer, crow bar and Sawzall with some considerable skill.
The vegetable garden is in, and the crops (and weeds) are thriving, save the tomatoes, which are a lost cause until I get the Black Walnut trees taken down.
Doing some plaster repair (very little is necessary...hallelujah! the plaster is remarkably tight to the lath), and priming and painting at the moment. This should go a long way toward remedying that charming "SPCA on a hot day" smell left over from the previous residents four poorly (or not-at-all) housetrained dogs.
I've met with the heating and plumbing contractor, and, while it is not a straightforward job, it is at least doable. All it takes is MONEY! And so we wait and hope to sell the other house in Painted Post, so that work can start in earnest.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Some Last!

After an unwelcome delay due to annoying and unforeseen events, it's "game on" again!

The property surrounding the house was beautifully landscaped in the late 1960s by former owner Richard M. Lewis, director (and one of the designers) of the Cornell Plantations. ( He planted many non-native, exotic and specimen trees and bushes; many remain today, but are terribly overgrown. Some are salvageable, but, sadly, many are either dead or diseased.

I enlisted the help of forester William Jennings to assist me in the salvage/removal process. He holds degrees in Forest Technology and Ecological Forest Management, and his knowledge has been beyond helpful, and an enjoyable learning experience for me.

Because the landscaping reclamation project is so large, I have chosen to break it into stages. Stage I, which Will and his team carried out on Friday and Saturday, consisted of the removal of four 70-80' tall, ice damaged evergreen trees in the front yard, the dozen or so overgrown and neglected Yews at the foundation and near the road, and the pruning of several large and very old Lilac bushes that I hope to revitalize.

My plan was to have Will transport the pine logs to Sam Stolfus, a local Amish sawyer, to be milled into planks and kiln dried for use in the restoration of the house. Only two of the trees turned out to be usable for lumber, as the others had extensive dry rot, running their entire lengths...a bit disappointing, but not the end of the world.

I was amazed by the difference the removal made. The house looks like it can breathe again without those horrible and historically inaccurate foundation plantings that were swallowing it like the thorn bushes at Sleeping Beauty's castle! Oh, it feels so good to be moving forward after those doldrums.

I have also met recently with my architect, Peter Steer, AIA, and Jim Watkins of Chicone Builders, whom I have worked exclusively with for the last 19 years on multiple projects. I will be meeting with Jesse, my electrician/magician/insulation expert and Tommy, my heating and plumbing superstar in the next two weeks to start planning our assault on the inferior systems in the house, and to plan how to best keep the place warm/cool/dry/not on fire.

Statistics show that, although 33% of heat loss occurs through walls, insulating the walls of an old house to modern code has questionable benefits, (including causing the house to "sweat", making it impossible to keep paint on it). On average, 18% of heat loss occurs through windows, 11% through floors and doors, and 26% through the roof, so I plan to concentrate on those areas. The windows in the house are in exceptional condition for their age and will be remaining. They are what is known as "six over six" windows, with delicate muntins separating the upper and lower portions of the window into six panes each of beautiful old wavy glass. I am researching methods of weatherstripping historic windows and doors. More on that later. I also plan to install architectural storm windows, probably from Allied Window,Inc.

So that's it for now. I'll be away next week, but will keep you posted with more regularity now that work has actually begun.

On my planner:
1. Order dumpster delivery.
2. Get Hazmat suit and respirator /;^) for basement/woodshed clean out.
3. Schedule appointment with Tompkins County Dept. of Sanitation for next hazardous waste collection day in April to dispose of the 50 or 60 odd cans of oil based paint and solvents that the previous owners so kindly stashed in the crawlspace and other non-obvious spots.
4. Pray for early Spring to avoid having to buy another 500 gallons of dino juice to heat the house (and the neighborhood!) $$$$$

Monday, October 13, 2008

One of my previous restoration projects.

In 2004, after much searching, we purchased a cottage on Cayuga Lake about 18 miles north of Ithaca, New York. To say that it was in disrepair would be a vast understatement, but the location was great and there were some very charming aspects to it. That charm did not extend to the baby-poop brown T111 siding, the second floor "sliding-glass-doors-to-nowhere", or any of the other insensitive modifications and remuddlings that had been afflicted on this poor little late-Victorian stick/vernacular cottage over the years. We set about restoring it. My plan was simple: make it look vintage, but act new. The execution: not simple. The restoration took two years, but the results were worth it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Liam's swing and front view of house from road.

Other outbuildings on property.

Old outbuilding, built originally to accommodate John Abel's expanding family. My future studio space.

Back of house.

Woods beyond bridge.

Just a couple of the waterfalls on the property.

Pergola bridge over creek in backyard.

Downstairs bedroom, former servants room.

Wood-burning fireplace in Master Bedroom.

Upstairs bedroom #2.

Upstairs bedroom #1.

Second floor landing, with view of upstairs bath (and horrible shelving unit).

Kerosene chandelier in west parlor.

Existing enclosed stairway to second floor.

Interior view of front door.

Wood-burning fireplace in east parlor (newer section of house).