more flowers

Posted: June 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: garden, nature, photos | No Comments »

flower Aquilegia, or Columbine

blue bellflower, and aquilegia

poppy seed pods

poppy seed pods

is this some kind of little rose? baby raspberries

rosa acicularis? and tiny raspberries


wow! I love poppies! what a treat to find them blooming in our yard in limington.

rosebud with ant

rosebud with ant

clover cheery buttercups

clover, buttercups

Mike & Richard

Posted: April 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, photos, slow progress, structure | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Mike & Richard Richard

men at work.

modifying the wall near the chimney. Moving a beam, cutting open the doorway to make it wider and higher. All to make room for our new woodstove!


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

Slow motion kitchen

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

Feels like things have been moving slowly these past few weeks. Lots of things have happened but so much remains to do! We’re STILL ostensibly working on the kitchen, but I think we’ve spent equal time working on other various projects lately. So the kitchen still needs more destruction before we can start rebuilding! After tearing out the counters and cabinets we got the sink out and saved it, thinking we may reuse it. It’s not pretty but it works.

kitchen destruction we got the sink out!

we got the sink out!

We’ve gotten wallboard and insulation off two and a half walls, one more wall left to tear out. We need to strip down to the studs on all exterior walls so we can put in new insulation, as the existing insulation looks at least 40 years old and a lot of the old pink fiberglass batting has been eaten away by critters. (how hungry do you have to be to eat fiberglass?!)

ripping out walls in the kitchen! taking down the kitchen walls

left: smashing things is fun! right: peeling away an entire sheet of wallboard

Once we got most of the walls gone, we realized we wanted to take down the ceiling too. It didn’t look too bad in the first place, but once we started poking around in there, we found that billions of rodents (probably rats and chipmunks, maybe mice, who knows what else!) had been living above our ceiling and eating the delicious pink fiberglass insulation, chowing on birdseed and sunflower seeds and piling their empty shells everywhere, building cozy nests filled with chewed-up old shirts and shiny things (mainly quarters and candy wrappers!) and peeing and pooping everywhere. Once we got up on ladders and got close to the ceiling we noticed it really did smell like a rat bathroom. Yuck! So we decided to tear it all down.

Mike working on the ceiling yuck

pulling down the kitchen ceiling

It was nasty work, you’d get a crowbar under one edge of the wallboard and start to pry, and then maybe you’d have to pry out 5 or 6 nails before it would budge, or maybe you’d just pry one nail and whoosh… without any warning the whole thing would come crashing down, sending the dogs running in terror and showering a massive load of shredded fiberglass, sunflower seeds, rodent shit and chewed sunflower shells all over your head. We took to wearing old parkas with the hoods up while working on the ceiling so that at least the sunflower seeds couldn’t go down the back of our necks and leave us shaking chipmunk debris out of our shirts and pants all day.

tearing down the kitchen ceiling stuff that came out of our kitchen ceilings

a sudden cascade of sunflower seeds and rodent-related debris

bare ceiling

bare ceiling after we got all the wallboard and insulation and chipmunk nests removed!

scary old wiring

really scary old wiring revealed when we pulled away all the insulation

We bought our new woodstove!!! We figured that spring was the best time to get a good price on a wood stove. We were tempted to get an old one, but we’re hoping to use the woodstove as our primary heat throughout the long Maine winters (we do have an oil burning furnace in the basement but we only want to use it for back-up), so we felt it would be best to get the most modern, efficient woodstove possible. We ended up going for a welded steel Regency woodstove, it’s not pretty like the old-time cast iron stoves but it has a nice big firebox so that we can load it up and only have to feed it a few times a day, not every few hours, and hopefully it will even burn through the night until morning! Also, the new woodstoves burn much more efficiently, wasting less energy and causing less air pollution and less creosote build-up in the chimney, so they’re just cleaner and safer. And I don’t mind the modern look too much!

the new wood stove!!!!!! kitchen chimney

the new woodstove, peeling back the layers on the chimney

Now that we’ve got the woodstove, we need a chimney. The kitchen chimney had been cut off at some point (probably when the roof was replaced) so it needs to be rebuilt from the second floor up through the roof, and lined and insulated (for safety) and we need a new thimble installed in the kitchen for the woodstove to plug into. We’ve met with a mason and he should be coming back to do the job within a few weeks! So we needed to expose the brick chimney, which had been covered with wallboard. Behind the wallboard we found a frame of 2x4s, behind that many many layers of old wallpaper covering an inch of horse-hair plaster which Mike chiseled off very carefully to reveal the bricks and mortar.

Meanwhile… we’ve also spent a ton of time working on dog fencing. We’re installing invisible dog fencing around the entire perimiter of our 2 acre lot plus our next-door-neighbor’s 1-acre lot. She has three dogs! And we figured it would be impossible and annoying to try and keep them apart, so it’s best to have them all share one fence system so they can play together. We’re so glad to have great neighbors who are into doing stuff and sharing stuff together! Our dream is to let the dogs run around our giant back yard anytime, without having to worry that they’ll run into the busy street in front of our house. They’ll have the whole back yard but they won’t be allowed in the front yard (near the street), only as far as the front porch. Here’s hoping they will enjoy the backyard and not sit on the front porch and bark at passing cars all day… It’s a pretty long process to map out the edges of our property, run electric wire around the whole perimeter and staple it down or bury it, and meanwhile it takes at least a month to train the dogs to understand and respect the invisible fence (they wear collars that beep, then shock(!) if they go near the invisible perimeter). We’ve been training on the fence system that’s already installed at my parents’ house in Gorham and I think they’ve pretty much got it down pat already!


Beatrice is one of the dogs next door! She’s an English Sheepdog puppy, like a crazy happy muppet! She comes to visit us a lot.

And… stacking next winter’s firewood in the sunshine. Still another cord and a half to go. Best to get it done before the weather gets hot.

stacking wood

seasoned wood is already stacked, now we’re working on the green wood.

old wallpaper

Posted: April 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: history, photos | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

we’ve been absolutely totally busy working on the new house all the time! Lots of details and stories over here: among other delights, It’s been great discovering layered bits of old wallpaper around the house.

goofy wallpaper layers of old wallpaper

peeling back the layers of wallpaper on the old chimney in the kitchen

more old wallpaper

a tiny snippet of wallpaper in the attic

kitchen chimney

the old chimney in the kitchen was covered with wallboard; behind that we found many layers of wallpaper and horsehair plaster over the bricks!

old wallpaper old wallpaper

old wallpaper in an upstairs closet

old wallpaper

in an upstairs bedroom

more wallpaper

more wallpaper from the kitchen

old wallpaper old wallpaper

layers of wallpaper in an upstairs closet

We got a tour of our neighbor Mike’s place, also a historical house undergoing renovation. He had some great old wallpaper too!

old wallpaper

at our neighbor Mike’s house

old wallpaper

at Mike’s house

misty morning

Posted: April 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: nature, photos | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Woke up early to go meet the mason and talk about restoring one of our chimneys. Beautiful misty morning drive.

misty morning

misty morning

misty morning

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.

poor old barn

Posted: March 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: history, photos | No Comments »

poor old barn

sunrise over the old barn

This is the barn on the back of our property. It used to house a dairy operation, cows and milking, we think it was probably built in the 1940′s or 50′s. There are old beams in there that look more than a hundred years old, like lots of farm buildings I think it includes some parts that have been recycled and repurposed many times over the past century, possibly longer. Right now this barn is not good for much besides wood. It looks like the structure had been altered in a number of ways (to accommodate the dairy operation) that compromised the original strength of the structure. Then the roof got leaky and, unattended, the water rotted out the structural beams that held the roof until they stopped holding the roof up anymore… We found a snapshot of it standing, looks like that was in the sixties or seventies.

photo of the barn

found this hanging in the ell. Looks like the sixties or seventies? When the barn was in better shape.

a handsome barn

the barn now, seen from our driveway

Right now it’s filled with junk and debris. There’s a huge toy race car perched on top of a soggy sofa. There are dozens of winter boots under a pile of rubble and broken glass. There is a rusted fridge on its side. There is a big stack of old storm windows which I think we might be able to salvage and reuse. I’ve peeked inside the doorway and gone a few steps in, but I won’t walk further in because I don’t trust the floor to hold up.

inside the ruined barn

inside the barn (first floor)

For the moment we don’t have any plans for this poor old barn. We’ll probably have to take it down someday, but for now we’re just admiring what remains, it’s quite a sight. Richard salvaged two big boards from the barn to use for building our new work table! Hopefully we’ll be able to use more of the wood for projects and repairs.

dogs, barn, Judy

the back side of the barn

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.

a handsome barn

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

a handsome barn




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