spectating participant

July 14, 2008

lost 1/2 our tree

Filed under: house — suzanne henderson @ 1:12 am

So, the sad tree has finally succumbed to it’s fate of instability. I was lying in bed, fighting back the miserableness of having now power and no fans and no a/c and no breeze for several hours this evening, when I heard a crack-thump…. crack… crack-thump….CRACK_SMASH_BAM. Since I’d been fighting the heat for hours at that point and wasn’t getting any sleep anyways, I started getting up to check it out. I was pretty sure it was our tree that fell this time, versus the neighbors’ much healthier trees that had lost lots of branches during recent storms. The loud crack also woke Chris who’d somehow managed to fall asleep in the sticky heat, much to my frustration and anger since I couldn’t do the same, and he was quickly up and ready to investigate too.

It only took a step outside to see half the tree had fallen - thankfully the back half. Initial inspection in the middle of the night during a light rain with no power showed no serious property damage other than to our ancient lawn mower. It seems some pretty hefty branches landed right on the steering wheel totally mangling it, so who knows if we’ll be able to fix it or not. I’m sure that if it’s possible, Chris will find a way to keep the 30-plus-year-old mower that came free with the house running. After the quick survey, Chris promptly moved his blazer out from under the other half of the tree because now we have no faith in it’s stability since it’s opposite ballast has fallen. Unfortunately, this is the side of the tree closest to the house and also where we lay our heads when we sleep… I’m thinking I might keep the opposite sleeping configuration we were in before the tree fell as we were trying to take advantage of any possible breeze coming in from the balcony.

As we were checking out the tree, the power finally came back on - oh what a relief. I was not looking forward to returning to my bed damp, hot, and sticky just to continue fighting the fact that I was too miserable to sleep. I will get pictures come daylight and we’ll now have a much sunnier yard than before. I’ll continue to worry about the stability of the rest of the tree in the mean time and I’m sure we’ll be taking most of the remaining tree down. Especially because the branch didn’t fall during any serious storm winds or anything, it just fell after some good soaking rains that it couldn’t hold up against any longer. I find the situation somewhat interesting because just the day before I was lying in the hammock inspecting that very branch and wondering about how it could be supporting the weight of it’s branches with it’s ever increasing extent of decay and damage.

It’s going to take a lot of work to get this tree cleaned up, but I’m sure Chris and Alex will be able to get it done and I’ll enjoy the fact that I’m in no condition to help. Chris estimated about 2 weeks of work to get it all cleaned up and sawed up. Before heading back in for the night, he rescued the chainsaw from the garden shed, just in case we lost the shed over night if the next branch fell.

Updated for pictures:

Sad Maple Tree Damage - Front View

We Lost 1/2 of our Sad Tree

June 12, 2008

homeowner hell?

Filed under: house, life — suzanne henderson @ 9:37 am

Yesterday, Chris called into work saying that he was in homeowner hell and wouldn’t be in that day. This is after staying home Tuesday morning, and then working form home in the afternoon, for our annual termite inspection (no termites, the annual inspection is just to keep the warranty on the $1,000 treatment that was done before closing on the house). It seems this hasn’t been the best couple of weeks for home stuff.

Earlier this month, I mentioned an invasion of bird mites. That was a pretty horrible experience, but I’m excited to report that we are finally free from mites and can use our upstairs bathroom again. Having the bathroom available is a huge plus, in my book, and not stressing over mites is a huge relief. We’ve not opened the bathroom window up just yet because we want to be very, very sure they’re gone on the outside too because I do not want to go through that process again.

Before, this problem was solved, we ran into yet another problem - our boiler stopped working. You’d think that having no boiler in the summer would be no big deal, but it also supplies our hot water. Chris has spent hours working on it and finally discovered the actual problem yesterday afternoon. But, in this process, we ran out of fuel oil (but this isn’t why the boiler isn’t working). We’ve been working on running out of oil since January because we wanted to switch out tanks. But, we weren’t quite ready to make that switch since the ‘new’ tank still needed painting and because it was 100 degrees outside. We decided to get the tank filled, partially, and wait until fall to make that switch.

We’ve had oil deliveries on hold to switch out tanks, so I call to get a delivery but they insist the tank must be inspected. I argued that it’s the same tank they’ve been filling but they insist and I don’t push it. Well, of course the old tank fails inspection and suddenly we now have to change them out - great. We get this news Wednesday afternoon, so Chris stays home yesterday to make this happen and did. Today I wait for it to be re-inspected and hopefully we’ll have oil again.

In all of this, we’ve even had a service fellar come out to help solve the boiler problem. Over the phone I’m sure he’d said he works with fuel boilers and well pumps (to address yet another, non-serious issue we were having) so I was excited about killing two birds with one stone. Of course, he gets here and then we find out that he doesn’t really do anything more than routine maintenance on boilers and can’t help solve that problem - crap! - but does trouble shoot our well pump problem. So, we send him off with $75 for the visit and still have no working boiler and the same well pump problem (the solution will be several hundred dollars and he even suggests living with the problem would probably be wiser). Chris talks to another plumber that I’d called as well, got a better lead on boiler problem and eventually found the actual issue. Of course, we don’t know how to fix what is broken, but hopefully he’ll call the other plumber back and get some good advice and we’ll have hot water again soon.

In the meantime, Alex is getting the pool bath method while Chris and I went up to the gym to shower last night. Guess there are some perks to gym memberships. tried the cold shower thing and it may be super hot out but the well water is damn cold and I couldn’t force my body to walk under the stream of water. In all of this mess, we’ve had another round of serious storms roll through and again all our neighbors lots huge limbs and some lost entire trees, including the apple tree I kept pretending could possibly be ours (its right on/over the property line). But, our sad maple still stands and this time just lost one dead branch that I’d already foretold to be coming down soon.

I guess the house saw fit to gift us all of these experiences in honor of our one-year anniversary of buying the house (June 7th). Someone remind me why I wanted to buy a 140 year-old house…

February 11, 2008

which is worse, termites or home improvements?

Filed under: house — suzanne henderson @ 10:56 am

I’ve been calling Chris a termite lately — mostly because of the latest steps taken to get more of the wiring replaced in our lovely old house. This has been a bit by bit project since we moved in, basically he’ll tackle and outlet or switch at a time and usually it isn’t too complicated. But, I think all the simple wire replacements have been done and now all thats left are ones that are a little more invasive.

The first sign that this might be a little more project than I was prepared for was the not so small hole that was cut into our bedroom wall. To give him lots of credit, it is in a very un-obvious place and, of course, can always be patched. But, this was needed to access staircase wiring that needed replaced — and, this was actually an out of the way access hole that after many valiant attempts, failed to provide the needed access and necessitated another, more visible hole in the hallway. He did try to less intrusive step first, but old houses have a way of not cooperating and you never quite know whats behind the wall until you break it open.

These access holes are the gateway to the super drill bit, which is a couple feet long, that is hopefully precisely pointed down through the joists/floorboards and into the lower level. But, well that hasn’t always been the case due to various nuisance common to old houses. Though, my favorite is the drill bit that appeared through the living room ceiling much to mine and chris’s surprise (that was also one of the last straws before admitting defeat and making the access hole in the hallway).

Saturday night, I come home and there is a new hole in the living room wall, this one is a nice outlet size, so not something to get nervous about, another peek-a-boo hole in the living room ceiling (accompanied by a sheepish oops), and a very ample access panel in the office upstairs. Each access panel usually results in at least two attempted holes drilled down through the floor/joists/ceilings, hence my comment that he’s worse than termites lately. Luckily, he realizes this too and isn’t doing all this extra destruction just for the fun of it. Sadly, if we want wiring up to par with this century’s safety standards, then we’ll just have a patch a few (dozen?) holes in the process.

Oh, and in other fun wiring news, he discovered another wiring mishap when I couldn’t get the bathroom outlet working. After tracing and testing (and much head scratching) the cables from the box and through the attic (seems there are some gratuitous splice box usage up in the attic), he eventually discovered the problem. Seems that whoever installed the GFCI outlet in the downstairs bathroom felt like saving a few pennies and just connected it to the one in the upstairs bathroom instead of installing a second one. Take a moment to consider the wiring hoops this required - the wire must go from the downstairs bathroom, up and out past the kitchen to the outside wall, up the wall past our bedroom to the attic, across the full length of our bedroom and then the hallway, and then down into the upstairs bathroom. I’d think that another GFCI switch would have been cheaper than all that wiring.

So, we’re considering how to eloquently word the reminder that if the upstairs bathroom outlet isn’t working, one should proceed down the stairs to the other side of the house and press the button on the outlet in the other bathroom. Perhaps a reminder isn’t needed, because surely thats the first thought that would cross one’s mind if the bathroom outlet wasn’t working, right?

January 21, 2008

brrr. hoping for a thaw soon.

Filed under: house, life — suzanne henderson @ 9:06 pm

I’ve finally gotten over being too cheap to adequately heat the house, well mostly. We were running at 52 and night and 58 during the day. That eventually got a little old and I kicked it up some 6 degrees, which is great unless I forget to drop it down to mid-fifties at night as I’m roasting all night long. However, getting up in the morning is much easier when you don’t feel like your nose might chip off if your stumbling to the bathroom isn’t aimed well enough. I can certainly see the major, major benefits of a programmable thermostat and I’m seriously starting to wonder why were living in the dark ages. Sure, our house is almost 140 years old, but that doesn’t mean we have to forsake all the technology thats developed in that time frame.

So, now that I’ve joined the ranks of the only minorly-miserly home-heaters, I find it rather ironic that we woke up to frozen pipes in our kitchen this morning. I guess I’m not too surprised as the kitchen is always VERY cold and it is only supported with one lonely radiator (which is also supposed to support the tiny laundry/water room and downstairs bath). Sadly, my day was filled and I couldn’t deal with the problem, so we just turned off the water to that part of the house — in case it decided to thaw and the pipes are busted, which at this moment I find rather amusing that even thought that was a possibility with the sub-freezing temps extending throughout the day. So, finally at 7:30pm, I’m home and can try and assess the situation.

I’m trying to bring a little more heat into that part of the house with increased house temp — which is actually just back up to the new normal highs, as I forgot that I had dropped the thermostat pretty low this morning before realizing that the pipes were frozen — and a space heater too small to do anything at all. I don’t know why I think this will help, in fact, I’m sure it just wasting more electricity as it is still below freezing, only 20 degrees at the moment, and the pipes run through an inaccessible, uninsulated part of the house. Honestly, my only real hope is to wait for tomorrows projected rise up above freezing, however brief it may be, and continued optimism that we’re only dealing with a little frozen water and not a busted pipe as well.

If I see no progress before sleep overtakes me, I’ll be shutting the water back off to the kitchen and heading to bed just to repeat the process tomorrow afternoon when I’m back home again. I certainly don’t want to leave things open and find that water gushing into the night isn’t enough to wake me from a warm and cozy slumber. Especially not when it could magically extend across the wall to our oil and propane tanks and freeze their low, lying lines up as well. One benefit of the cold, it’ll keep the frozen pipes frozen for now and judging by the forecast, provide plenty of time to wait till the weekend before seeing if taking up the kitchen floor is the next required step.

oh and in case I’ve not reminded myself enough recently, this is what comes to those in love with old houses.

January 2, 2008

we have heat!

Filed under: house — suzanne henderson @ 7:40 pm

wow — I love my partner because thanks to some creative problem solving we now have a non-leaking, functional boiler again! Woot!

cold, sick day

Filed under: house, life — suzanne henderson @ 12:28 pm

Chris took a sick day today - in hopes of being able to catch up on enough rest and warmth to finally start feeling better. That sounded like a reasonable plan. He got up around 5am, but eventually came back to bed muttering about freezing and how it’s cause I turned the heat down. Guilty as charged. I keep the house around 54 at night, otherwise I get too hot to sleep. However, I noticed that it was much colder than usual; Normally, I’ve got all the covers kicked off in the mornings.

I finally got up at 6:30 to make sure Alex got off to school alright — she didn’t want to get moving, big surprise after the winter break. As I headed to the kitchen to make her lunch, I decided to give Chris a break and turn the heat up to 60. I turned the dial and nothing happen. I fliped on the light for a closer look — the thermostat was reading 50 degree, much lower than it should have been. Looks like our heat went out, what fun. I made Alex’s lunch and then went to break to bad news to Chris.

Minutes later he trudges out of bed, gets dressed, and descends to the basement. Yep, the boiler is out and a puddle of water surrounds it. Not a god sign. I put a call out for a local repairman recommendations and he starts to disassemble the boiler — ack. He left a couple hours ago in search of some parts - hopefully things will be warming up soon, but I’m not holding my breath.

I have to laugh, a bit, though because he sure likes to tease me on how cheap I can be. Yet, it seems that he has the same stubborn streak too. He was fussing about the fact that it’s highly likely that we may be dropping several grand on a new boiler, as though it’s the end of the world. I just reply that I’m thankful that if that is the case, we’ve got the money to do it. Of course, if his finagling can get it working for a few more months, more power to him. But I’m also fairly inclined to just get someone out here, get it fixed, and get on with things.

October 25, 2007

pox on pests

Filed under: house — suzanne henderson @ 11:05 pm

Wow, I didn’t realizing that I’d feel almost as much protective passion about my house as I do about my family. This evening there came a scratching, a scritch-scatch-scratching at my subfloor. Anger brewed and hissed, pissed at what could be knawing away at my house. A mouse, for sure, a mouse is crawling and chewing it’s way through my floor. I’m one angry woman, pounding and banging, to no relief, and the scripptiy-scratch keeps nipping at my patience for mother nature galore.

So, I did what I could do, pulled out the traps we needed earlier this summer, armed em up and deployed the troops. While I look forward to some morning death-delight, I really just want to grab a hammer and pulverize a small little creature that wants in out of the wet, chill air.

October 20, 2007


Filed under: house, family, life — suzanne henderson @ 4:39 pm

I’ve had a hard time getting moving on getting things done lately. I recently bought Rescue Remedy, a natural anti-anxiety/stress reliever, and have found it to be pretty useful today. I got over my intense fear or dislike of getting work done when anyone is around and have managed to get the pantry mostly dissembled, reconfigured, and reorganized so that I may finally get my kitchen unpacked. I plan to whip up a very, very yummy dinner tonight as a reward for staying home. Steak au Poive, mashed potatoes, pan roasted broccoli, and homemade dinner rolls.

Chris is almost always getting stuff done and today is no different. He welded up a homemade paint remover dip tank for stripping the paint off window stops and trims. I need to post a pic, it’s pretty neat. He’s been working on getting paint stripped — far faster than I’ve been painting — and also welding a few tiny pin holes they we found in our freecycled fuel tank. It’s getting about time for us to get the tank switched out and get it filled up for winter and he’s been busy cleaning the “new” tank out in preparation for welding the holes. Somehow, in the middle of all this, he’s also managed to de-rust-ify the shelves of this tiny little freezer we got from the neighbor and I plan to start making double batch dinners so I have something in the freezer than will geed us when I don’t feel like cooking. Plus, we need to start stocking up on sale items to help stretch our dollars a little further too.

Overall, it’s turning out to be a pretty productive day. I guess I better get this bread started and finish putting the pantry back together.

August 8, 2007

childhood foundation

Filed under: house, life — suzanne henderson @ 5:52 pm

I just watched my favorite childhood movie, Anne of Green Gables, again. Other than enjoying the tale just as much as I did as a child, I noticed some pretty telling details in the setting and architecture in the movie. It seems that all of the houses were those country farm houses that I’ve been picking out of the MLS for the past two years. In fact, our house seems to fit right in with all the houses in the movie, except much smaller and perhaps in poor repair in comparison.

It cracked me up to see exactly where this ideal house type came from, amazing what childhood influences have on our adult choices, this movie seen a million times established my ideal house and I didn’t even realize it. I’m so happy we did indeed end up in this house.

Also, in somewhat related context, talking to some soccer moms yesterday someone mentioned a local girl who lives just a few houses down, “she lives right next to one of those beautiful old farm houses” and I just beamed realizing that she was talking about my house. We own one of a pair of sister houses, nearly identical, that were even owned by sisters too. I just smiled and didn’t say anything.

July 28, 2007

Moving is hard work, getting tired of it!

Filed under: house, creative, decorating, life — suzanne henderson @ 12:21 am

We’re in active moving mode at this point, very active! Time has run out ad everything had gotta go. I made three trips there and back today and yesterday. I’m tired. But, despite the exhaustion I’ve been getting the craft room together:

July 20, 2007

Painting Almost Done!

Filed under: house, creative, decorating — suzanne henderson @ 3:54 pm

We’re almost done with painting the craft room, yay!. The walls are painted and the first coat of floor paint is on.

I spent some time hand chiseling the lines in the floor this morning to prepare for painting. Since I used the router to carve lines for a faux hardwood floor, I had to extend the lines to the wall to make it look a little more realistic (the router can’t go all the way to edge). I only did this in the craft room/dining room doorway, doing the whole room would be too time intensive and covered with furniture anyways.

With the floor ready to paint, Alex and I got to work. The first coat went on very quick and we just have to wait 8 hours before we can put the next coat on. I didn’t realize that I picked a floor paint color that looked like a vat of chocolate pudding. In fact, if it weren’t for the smell, Alex and I would have been wielding spoons instead of paint brushes.

The walls ended up being much darker than I wanted. Lighting plays a big part on the color and at night it seems really bold. Sunlight washes is out pretty well to the color I was hoping for (like in the flash photo above) but unfortunately, that room only gets sunlight for a couple hours in the morning in the summer. It’ll brighten up a lot when winter gets here and the northern shade tree has lost it’s leaves.

The floor seems like a pretty good color overall. Now I need to get some version of white for the trim and the windows. The plan was to leave the stripped windows at bare wood, but they don’t look that great and I’m not up for spending anymore energy on them to make them look better.

Right now the dining room floor is also calling out to me. It needs some sort of a protective layer but with all the moving going on and it being the main foot traffic area, I may be out of luck for doing anything other than spot treatment at this point. I shouldn’t have procrastinated so long and picked a option and got to work, sometimes my indecisiveness drives me nuts.

June 11, 2007

Flooring Progress

Filed under: house, life — suzanne henderson @ 12:52 pm

Taking no time to get started on my one personal project, removing the carpet in the craft room. I’m feeling pretty good. Here is a before picture of the craft room:

Craft Room - Before

Notice the lovely wallpaper, false ceilings, and molted brown carpet? I’m removing the carpet and had planned to take down the false ceiling as well. However, the false ceiling was there for a reason - a quarter of the ceiling was removed for some bathroom repairs or installation. We’ll be leaving the dropped ceiling in place for now. Following are a couple of progress photos: carpet removal and false ceiling inspection:

Craft Room - Removing Carpet

Craft Room - Ceiling

Cleaning up the craft room floor took a lot of work. Under the carpet and padding was just plywood underlayment that had gotten wet several times. This made the foam padding stick to the plywood and caused lots of warping as well. Alex and I got all the padding scraped and scrubbed off eventually.

After getting to the last stage with the craft room floor, I decided to peak under the carpet in the dining room. The threshold between the two rooms showed some nice looking wood floor, but I wanted to verify that it extended beyond the doorway. Here is a before picture (the only before picture we have of the dining room) and the awesome wood floors hidden under the carpet:

Dining Room - Before

Dining Room - Floor

These floors are in great condition, just some final cleaning and a new sealant/wax/something on top and they’re good to go. There are the random paint marks, one looks intentional, but I’m okay with that - I like house with character.

So far, I’ve removed all the carpet tack strips and still need to get the staples up. I’m scrounging for some vinyl remnants that I can throw into the craft room for now. The proper thing to do would be the level out the floor (probably with new underlayment and leveling compound) before throwing down vinyl - but that isn’t in the cards for now.

I keep glancing at the library/sitting room and am itching to get that carpet up too, but will at least wait until the craft room and dining room is done. Chris was anxious about me pulling up the dining room before finishing the craft room, so I better not push my luck removing carpet in another room. I want to have the dining room completely done by Friday and maybe even do the sitting room in that time too. The craft room is waiting on finding some vinyl - I’m hitting up the Habitat for Humaninty ReStore later this week and checking out all the clearance bins too.