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!) $$$$$