Kitchen hearth

Posted: September 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, fun, heating, kitchen, progress | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We’ve started laying the kitchen hearth!!!!! The weather has started getting crisp and cool, and now that we’re living here it feels like time to focus on getting the woodstove in. Evenings are feeling pretty chilly around here. Before we can set up our woodstove we just need to build the hearth to set it on.

So we have these beautiful blue penny tiles that we got back in may. First we looked up size requirements and clearances for our stove. Drew up plans, then taped out the hearth plans at actual size on the floor using green painters’ tape. Ripped out the yucky vinyl flooring in the spots where it was covering up the hardwood flooring. Measured, cut and screwed down cement board.

dogs love to help with renovation projects cement board

laying down cement board. with some help from pups.

We were lucky enough to have some handy visitors at this point, so Gaurav’s partner Caroline pitched in and helped out a whole lot! Before mixing the mortar we had to build a temporary wooden frame to keep the edges of our hearth nice and neat. We did a dry run first, just to figure out how all the tiles fit on the hearth. Then mixed the mortar and slathered it all over the cement board, trying to get an even layer all over, which turned out to be a little harder than expected.

caroline helps measure tiles

Caroline measuring tiles

spreading mortar!

spreading mortar!

And then laid down the tiles! This also turned out to be a little tricky, and we didn’t get them quite perfect, but we did a pretty good job for a first time. We had to let the mortar dry for a while (we gave it a full 48 hours since the weather’s so rainy) and then mixed up the grout. We picked a greyish color called Sahara Beige. It’s a pretty good match for the tile color, I think. Grouting was fun! The whole project was fun.

laying the tiles on the mortar tiles are set and waiting for grout

laying tiles on the mortar; tiles all set and waiting for grout!

grouting the hearth grouting the hearth

spreading the grout

grouting the hearth grouting the hearth

wiping off the excess

It’s really our first project actually building something finished, rather than just demolishing or doing behind-the-scenes stuff like wiring and plumbing. (that stuff is fun too but the results aren’t quite as spiffy.) Now the fancy-looking hearth looks wildly out of place in our messed-up, gutted old kitchen. I still haven’t really worked out what our kitchen will look like, haven’t decided on paint colors or anything. So I’m a little unsure whether this fancy hearth will fit in with the rest of our kitchen, hopefully it won’t stick out too much.

Now the grout’s dry, I think we need to put on a sealant. Then take up the frame and then set up the wood stove! Hoping to have our first fire by Sunday, when the weather’s supposed to turn cold again. And soon we should put some molding around the edge of th hearth. We’re thinking it should be hardwood so we’ll have to make it ourselves, in my dad’s workshop.

moving in!?

Posted: September 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bedroom, dreams, excitement, life, slow progress | No Comments »

the new house fall leaves, sunset, saco river

dining table, fall foliage

On August 25th we finally got the HOT WATER turned on! It took a long time because first we had to fix all the plumbing and get the correct pipes replaced and connected to carry hot water up to the 2nd floor bathroom (and not to anywhere else – we did have a little mix-up where a six-foot geyser came spurting out of the floor downstairs!) and then once we had the plumbing ready it took a few weeks to get our plumber out to set up the hot water heater. We have this fabulously complicated, fancy furnace that is equipped to heat the whole house with hot-water radiators (too bad every single one of those radiators is broken at the moment!) and the hot water heater is hooked up to this furnace. So finally the date came, the plumber came, we finally got the furnace serviced and started up, and the hot water heater started to do its magic. And with that… we were able to move in! Just in time to enjoy the bright fall foliage and plummeting temperatures.

We already had moved a lot of our stuff in, so it just took one car trip to bring a bunch of clothes and dog beds stuff. We’d already been sleeping over on weekends, but now that we can take showers so we get to sleep here all the time. The bedroom has gotten kind of homey and cozy, we hung up some tentative curtains and tacked a few pictures on the wall. And now we live here!

kinda moved in

kinda moved in

We still don’t have a real kitchen, just a microwave, toaster, hotplate and fridge, so we’re eating lots of apples, toast, soup, Amy’s Organic frozen dinners, takeout salad bar, italians, pizza, etc. The worst thing at the moment is that our well water still has high levels of bacteria – we’ve tried to shock it with bleach but it didn’t work. We need to mess around with the plumbing a bit, and try bleaching the well again. Til then we have to use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, cooking, etc. And we can’t wash our dishes with the tap water! Ugh. So every few days we pop over to my mom’s house with a basket full of dirty dishes and a bag full of dirty laundry, and do our washing-up at her house. It’s not so bad but it’s not exactly a convenient arrangement

Temporary makeshift kitchen

My sister Amy gave us a fridge so we were able to set up a little temporary kitchen!

Mike’s got a new job now, he’s working from home too – so that’s pretty perfect! We each have our little office, side by side upstairs, the puppy sits under our desks while we work (or destroys everything in the room, depending on her mood) and we get to take breaks and go walk the dog in the woods together, it’s so cute and nice!

guest room

guest room

It feels good, and also a bit weird and tentative, to be finally living here. It’s great because we have our own space and that’s awesome. It feels like the house progressed slowly over the summer – there have been so many distractions and other things to do, we are hoping that now we actually are LIVING here it will help us to get more work done on the house. But it’s not exactly the Ritz, we’re definitely roughing it. The water thing sucks. We don’t have glass in all our windows at the moment. The weather’s getting chilly. We do own a woodstove and we just need to build the hearth and hook up the stove to the chimney, so it could be running within a week or two if we get to work! And as the weather gets colder we will hopefully get the electric wiring finished in the kitchen, so we can start to put in insulation on the walls, and then it should start to get cozy and warm in there.

We’re racing against the cold now, and I’m not entirely certain that we’re going to make it – if we can’t get the insulation in the kitchen, get the downstairs bathroom functional (right now it’s just an empty room, nothing else!), and get the second floor closed off for the winter, then I guess we’ll need to just pack up our goods, drain all the pipes and move back in with my parents for the winter. Which wouldn’t be so terrible – but we’re hoping we can stay here and make it through the winter! So… the race is on. Next steps: hearth, woodstove, electric wiring in the kitchen, then put up insulation and wallboard… and start putting down a floor in the downstairs bathroom… and on and on and on!

the new puppy

Posted: June 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: dogs, excitement, fun | No Comments »

Laika Laika

what a photogenic little peanut

Here’s Laika! she’s so cute!!! We couldn’t survive for long without a dog. I didn’t want to rush to replace our lost pups too quickly, but we realized that summer is really the best time to start out with a new dog, and we just fell madly in love with Laika’s cute face on petfinder. Right now we are just fostering Laika, we haven’t formally adopted her yet. She has a really tenacious urinary tract infection that hopefully will be all cured after a few more weeks of antibiotics, and then if all goes well, we will finalize the adoption. She seems just as healthy and happy as any puppy, she’s been a crazy little monster all morning and now she is napping sweetly at my feet. Laika is around six months old, she’s a rescue puppy and she was brought up to Maine from a high-kill shelter in Arkansas. Nobody knows what she is, she was billed as husky and german shepherd but we’re thinking she could also have some australian shepherd, maybe even a little bit of beagle? for sure she is 100% puppy. She’s only been with us for a day and a half, but so far I can tell that she is CRAZY about food, any and all of it, she is smart as a whip and busy busy busy all the time. She seemed to fall in love with us just as quickly as we fell for her! She’s an expert counter browser, she knows her name and usually comes when you call, she’s very very curious, she likes chasing butterflies and chickens and trying to climb into the dishwasher, she doesn’t know how to fetch yet but I’m trying to teach her.


Posted: June 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bedroom, excitement | 1 Comment »

this will be our bedroom!

looking pretty good, right?

Although we’re supposed to be focusing our efforts on the kitchen and the downstairs, we’re hoping to start living (or at least camping out!) in our house sometime this summer. So I’ve spent a little time tidying up our future bedroom, hoping to get a bed in there sometime soon. We tore out the carpeting and particle board and there’s a beautiful wood floor underneath! Cleaned and reassembled the baseboard heater, it’s still ugly but it looks a lot better now. Overall the room is starting to look really beautiful! I’m excited about sleeping in here!

pulling up flooring a hole in the floor!

pulling up particle-board, discovering a mysterious hole underneath.

My mom had torn up the carpeting before we even got home from South America! Then I ripped up the particle-board floor underneath (with some help from both Vickie and Mike), and while we were prying it up, we discovered underneath… whoa! There’s a giant, perfectly circular hole in the middle of the wood floor! Why? It goes down about 8 inches but doesn’t go through the ceiling of the livingroom below, the lath and plaster below is at least 100 years old, so it’s not like it was used for a stovepipe or something. Was it perhaps a circular heating register? We can’t figure out a good explanation. Mysterious!

We’re hoping to enjoy some summer nights up here, but it’s not well insulated and we don’t want to deal with heating the drafty second floor during the cold months, so when the winter comes we’ll have to move our bedroom downstairs, probably we’ll be camping out in the livingroom or dining room for the first winter. Hopefully we’ll get the second floor winterized within a year or two? Meanwhile, we have a lovely summer bedroom.

realtor's photo of the house. upstairs bedroom

before: realtor’s photo of the upstairs bedroom before the house was sold.

stuff from Argentina!

Posted: April 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, supplies | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

our stuff arrives in a big truck! mike & boxes

our stuff arrives in a big truck!

stuff from Argentina!

This is all of it. It doesn’t even look like that much stuff!

We had all our stuff shipped to Maine from Buenos Aires, Argentina, by cargo freight ship! It took a long time and caused lots of stress but it was cheap and … miraculously, here’s our stuff! delivered to our doorstep. Arrived on Wednesday, right on time! (there’s more detail about the harrowing process of arranging the cargo shipment here)


Posted: April 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, nature, photos | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I think the previous owner of our house worked in landscaping. Heaven knows he wasn’t a carpenter and didn’t do much home maintenance, but it seems like he really put some love into our yard! Everything’s been dry and dormant through the winter but now that it’s starting to get warm we are excited to see what beautiful new perennial plants peek out to brighten up the yard each day, it seems like there’s something new sprouting or blooming, every time we visit!

spring flowers springing


spring crocuses! spring flowers springing

crocuses and daffodils

spring flowers springing

sunny bunches of daffodils are bursting out everywhere


violets on the shady side of the house

mystery bush

mystery bush: what is it? we’ve been eagerly watching the buds grow and open, hoping to figure out what kind of a plant it is. still a mystery – looks like a purple cauliflower bush!


we have SO much rhubarb. Richard makes great rhubarb pies!! Any other recipes to suggest?

spring buds!

spring buds on trees

kitchen before & after

Posted: March 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, slow progress | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We’ve gotten pretty far into demolishing the kitchen! I’d love to start re-building soon but there is actually more destruction to do first. We got the counters, cabinets, sink, wallboard and old insulation out; we still need to get some remaining tidbits of wallboard out, and maybe the ceiling too. Also thinking of demolishing a bit of a wall, between kitchen and dining room. Right now there is a wall with a big wide doorway; we’re thinking of leaving just 1/3 wall and the other end wide open. The soon-to-be-exposed chimney would be all that remains where that end of the wall is now. This would make it easier to place the wood stove smack in between the two rooms, to heat both kitchen and dining room!


kitchen, before demolition

the kitchen

kitchen, in the early stages of demolition.

I want to keep that memory curve over the sink! It has been carefully set aside and hopefully we can fit it back in when we’re done. I’m drawing up floor-plans for the new kitchen and trying to think about what we want to do for the new kitchen – it’s so exciting to have a blank slate but also I have no idea what I’m doing and I’ve never really thought about how to plan a kitchen before. I wish I had more inspiration materials to look at but whenever I look at magazines (or apartment therapy or any of those websites) I just think “ugh, I don’t want to live in a magazine house with a magazine kitchen!” They all look too sterile and trendy and over-designed. I guess it’s best to just let our kitchen evolve, rather than trying to design it.

we got the sink out!

no more kitchen! Just windows and plumbing!!!!

One of the best things about this whole project is that pretty much every day I come in to start work and I look at the task before me and think, “Uh oh, I don’t know how to do this. I better wait until somebody else comes along to help me or show me how or do it for me.” Then I look around for an easier task, and everywhere my eye falls, I think “That looks really hard. I don’t think I can do that right now.” And then I realize there is nothing easy to work on, it’s all complicated and messy and unfamiliar and difficult, and then I’m like “OK, I better just try and figure out how to get started” and I make a first cautious attempt, and next thing I know I am knee-deep in plaster and figuring out how to get it done! And then afterwards I’m all “That was easy!”

eliza the plumber

taking apart the sink!

The Ell, or the Other Barn, or what should we call this thing?

Posted: March 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, photos | 1 Comment »

the ell

view from the driveway

This is the thing we’ve been calling the Ell. It’s come to my attention that it’s not a proper ell, because an ell is an addition to the main farmhouse that creates an “L”-shaped footprint, and the structure isn’t like a classic ell, so some people have been calling in “the barn,” but that’s confusing because we already have another barn on the property, and furthermore this building doesn’t have a traditional barn design and has never been used for animals, at least not that we can see. Nobody’s certain what the original function of this structure was, it’s got a garage door cut into it, but it definitely was not originally a garage and you certainly couldn’t put a car in it now, nor do we plan to use it as a garage anytime soon. I think I’ll have to go on calling it The Ell because I don’t know what else to call it, and besides it seems like the right thing to call it. I grew up in a house with an ell, which was a drafty, crooked and rickety old structure attached next to our house and used for storing piles of old junk and housing my dad’s woodworking shop. Exactly like this building here.

inside the ell

inside the ell, ground floor

We’ve been thinking a lot about what to do with this ell. It’s old and huge and beautiful, but it’s badly damaged and probably needs to be saved soon. The roof has tons of leaky holes, and some of the major beams and sills have rotted away where the water’s gotten into them. The roofline is starting to sag, because major support beams are no longer holding weight. We’re afraid it might cave in or collapse soon and since it’s attached to the house we’re afraid it could cause structural damage to the main house if it goes down. We all feel that it’s a beautiful old structure and should be saved if possible! It’s made of impressive old beams, it’s crazy to think about how big and old those trees were. It’s got a cement-floor basement, a big first floor that’s been split into two sections, one used as a workshop and the other side finished as a full apartment with kitchen and bath, and then it’s got this massive, amazing attic with the most beautiful roof rafters. We could totally use all this space for woodworking shop, storing firewood and lumber, giant screenprinting studio or space for other messy art projects, or who knows. Basketball games, farmhouse theater shows, an extra guest apartment, whatever. I’m sure we could find a lot of good uses for all that beautiful space!

the ell attic

the ell attic

Rob & Mike in the ell attic

Rob & Mike in the ell attic

kitchen in the ell

kitchen in the finished apartment in the ell. the kitchen is pretty new and looks decent but unfortunately it’s got a leaky roof and it will have to be all ripped out and gutted to make necessary structural repairs.

But we’re also trying to figure out how to make the house livable, so it’s hard to spare more money and time and resources towards working on the ell. We really would like to stabilize the structure, so we don’t have to worry about it falling down, and then forget about it for five or ten years while we focus on restoring our house. Whenever we get the house to a good point, then we might be able to spare some time and money to work on the ell.
We’ve called in a few friends and contractors to look at the ell, the first contractor said he didn’t want anything to do with it! And the second contractor said it would probably cost around $60,000 for the initial repairs to stabilize the structure and then more money to finish the interior (that is way over our budget! That’s way more than we paid for the house!) so we have been sadly trying to prepare ourselves for the thought that we might have to pay money to have the ell safely demolished. Makes me want to cry just thinking about it! We’d have to pay someone to take it down, and then if we wanted to build something to replace it, we’d probably have to pay twice as much to build a new structure half the size. What a shame to waste this beautiful building! We’ve all been lying awake nights trying to figure out what to do.
Finally, last week we met a contractor named Arron Sturgis, who is a barn restoration expert and gave us the news we had been dying to hear: he thinks that it will be totally possible to stabilize the structure cheaply, basically use cribbing and scaffolding to take the weight off the damaged beams and sills, redistribute the weight properly and stop the deterioration of the building. Then drape roofing rubber over the leaking roof, and cheaply get the building to a point where we could leave it alone for a few years and not have to worry about it falling down every time a storm blows through town. Then in a few years we can start to replace the damaged sections and eventually get a stable framework, then put on a metal roof, and take it from there. So… hooray! Sounds like good news at last! Arron is coming over on Thursday to start the first stage of stabilization. We have four days to clear all that junk out of there! We rented a dumpster and we’re working hard in cold pouring rain to get it cleaned out and ready for his team to start.

we found this beautiful sink!

treasure!! we found this beautiful sink under a pile of junk in the ell! definitely hope to bring this into the house and use it in our new bathroom.

getting started

Posted: March 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, photos, progress, slow progress | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

We’ve only just begun… but we’ve finally begun! We’ve started to form some ideas about what to tackle first. There’s so much to be done! There is one upstairs bedroom that had wall-to-wall carpeting that REEKED of piss. So gross! This past week we got in there with a utility knife and started by ripping the carpet into three big strips (thanks Judy for the strategy advice!), then rolling them up and dragging them out. Tough going because two sides of the room have baseboard heaters and the nails holding the carpet down are under the baseboard heater, which is all fragile (take off the cover and it’s just copper piping with billions of delicate little fins that are ridiculously easy to mangle if you even touch them) so despite our best efforts we kinda messed up those heating fins, oops. This was the worst part of the process, the carpet is so heavy and clumsy that we ended up getting way more up-close-and-personal than anyone would want to get with something that thoroughly pee-soaked. Then there’s another layer of stained and stinky batting, and underneath there is a layer of stinky and crumbly particle board, nailed down to the floor. Had to pry this up gently with crowbars, we developed a good teamwork strategy and figured out how to ease it up in relatively large chunks. This also presented further complications with the baseboard heating pipes. And underneath… beautiful wood floors! Covered in lead paint, of course. But still lovely! We opened up some windows to get the smell out.

Ripping out pee carpet upstairs We ripped out the carpet!

Before & after… we ripped out the carpet!

I got the cabinets out!

Mike got the cabinets out!

At the same time, we got started on the kitchen downstairs. We’re gonna gut it completely, since the exterior walls need to be insulated, it needs new electrical wiring, and everything in there was super gross and old. We smashed out the fake bricks and tore out the old cabinets, saving some for possible re-use and just tearing others into firewood. Found tons of rat poop, one entire rat skeleton, one mummified rat, and one box of shaw’s orange jello powder. Also found a weird birthday card and a five-year-old 7th grade report card for a little boy who had a very bad academic year. It’s just so weird to find yourself picking through bits & pieces left from someone else’s life. Who were these people? Where did they go to? Why did they install wall-to-wall carpeting and who peed all over it? Why did they leave a plastic christmas tree atop a sea of baby clothes in the upstairs bathtub?
So, lots of trips to the dump! It’s so satisfying to destroy all the crappy stuff and rip it out and drag it to the dump. Sometimes I feel bad about throwing things away, I don’t like to be wasteful but… it’s really satisfying to hurl the stinky carpets and chunks of stained particle board into those dumpsters. No guilt about that.
As of this writing, we’re done working on the upstairs for this year, focusing all efforts on the downstairs. Still need to rip out a few more cabinets from the kitchen, rip out wallboard and plaster and insulate, run new electrical wires (with Richard’s master electrical guidance of course) and then install some recycled cabinets (found some in good condition in one of the apartments in the ell). Found a good price on beech wood counter top at Ikea (cheaper than Formica!), perhaps we can use the same stuff to build a matching island or kitchen table?! Very excited about designing and reconstructing the new kitchen. Then… on to the downstairs bathroom!!! Again, we’ll need to completely destroy and rebuild.
Oh, also… in the ell apartment, there is a REFRIGERATOR FILLED WITH FOOD FROM LAST YEAR. My mom of course opened it up to show us… and it smells BAD. We have a date to put on respirator masks, long rubber gloves, drag it into the front yard and tackle it. (in order to drop refrigerators at the dump you’ve got to remove the door and empty them!) Next Monday afternoon. Ugh.

Our first view of the house

Posted: March 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: excitement, photos | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Our first view of the house

our first visit to our new house! My mom made this beautiful banner out of paper towels and the letters cut out of feed sack. The house was very cold but exciting to see.




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