Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: photos, slow progress | No Comments »


just a gratuitous messy-workshop photo.

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!


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

stacking wood

stacking wood

Despite the godawful sweltering heatwave this week, we’ve been thinking about the coming winter and how to store up enough firewood to get by. We’ve got this marvelous high-efficiency, clean-burning woodstove (or so the salesman said; we haven’t tested it out yet) and we’re planning to close off most of the house and only heat two or three rooms, so we think we can get through the winter with around three to five cords of wood. Earlier in the summer we stacked our first cord neatly and moved on to our next shipment of wood, two cords green wood. Before we got through the second pile, the first one fell over! Argh.

wood stack fell over :(

wood stack fell over :(

So I started scheming… How to make a nice solid woodstack with minimal effort? Richard recommends a row of three cinder blocks on the bottom, each one dug into a little hole and leveled, then two lengths of pressure-treated lumber atop the cinder blocks. This gives a nice level footing and keeps the bottom of your stack up out of the dirt so they don’t get all rotten. I decided to add on vertical endpieces, like bookends, and diagonal supports to hold them up. That way we don’t have to fuss around with criss-cross stacking at the ends.

wood stacking project

wood stacking project … in progress

The finished plan called for six cinder blocks, twelve eight-foot pressure-treated timbers, eight giant bolts. Took a bit of trial and error to get it all put together but we did it! We’re hoping it will hold nearly one cord of wood and last a good 20 years or more! If it doesn’t tip over or fall apart. Now we just need to make three more and we’ll be all set!


the new firewood stacks

mudroom floor

Posted: August 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: slow progress | 1 Comment »

new subfloor in mudroom/entryway

new subfloor in mudroom/entryway

We’re putting in a new subfloor in the little mudroom off the kitchen. This had once been an entrance from the porch into the kitchen, later it was closed up and boarded over and turned into a pantry or something. We want it to be our new main entrance. Judy and Richard found this amazing Victorian door in our attic and lovingly restored and repainted it, it’s all finished now and just waiting to be installed.

Beautiful new door! New door hardware

Beautiful new door!

First though, we’ll need to fix up this mudroom floor, before we can put in the threshold and straighten out the doorframe to hang the door. We’ve already gutted the walls down to the studs an ripped up some weird crooked flooring, and then put down a layer of metal screening across the entire room, between the beat-up old subfloor and the new subfloor, to keep all the squirrels and critters out. We are planning to eventually tile the floor with the Argentine encaustic tiles that we brought from Buenos Aires!

rough mockup

rough mockup of what the argentine encaustic floor tiles will look like….

modest progress on many fronts

Posted: June 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: bathroom, kitchen, slow progress, structure, upstairs bathroom | No Comments »

The past month has been super duper crazy and busy. We spent a lot of time getting ready for the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, and a lot more time working away at various bits of this big house project.

We had our well water tested and found that it has elevated levels of lead, and coliform bacteria. We’ll need to replace some plumbing to take care of the lead problem, and we will do that eventually, but a temporary solution is to just run the water for a few minutes before drinking. To deal with the coliform, we had to dump about 4 gallons of bleach into our well. String together enough hoses to stretch out into the well, and turn them on full blast – so basically we’re pumping water up out of the well, running it through the pump and piping, through the hoses, and right back into the well again. Just to get that chlorine really spread around. And then the water suddenly turned black! I guess since the well had been unused for a while, there was all kinds of pond scum growing in there and the chlorine broke it up and it came gushing out. So, for the next two weeks our tap water came out black and green and chunky and smelling like chlorine. Yuck! And then finally one day it came out crystal clear and beautiful. We’re still not drinking it, until we get it re-tested and make sure the problem is really gone, but it looks a lot better now!

We’ve also spent a lot of time mowing. We’ve got two acres of grass and fields, the front lawn looks OK but the back forty has become an impassable, un-mowable no-mans-land. We tried mowing it a few times with my parents’ huge heavy-duty mower but I think it’s too far gone, we’re going to need to rent a tractor or something to tackle it.

And of course… I stepped on a rusty nail! I had to go get a tetanus shot. That’s what you get for walking around in crocs. There’s a great health center nearby in Porter and I’m happy I got to meet them.

Richard finally called up the Limington building inspector to have him approve our projects. He was an amiable older fellow, a pretty funny guy, and he mentioned that he’d also considered buying our house about twenty-five years ago, when he first moved to Limington! He loved the place but even then it was in pretty rough condition and he decided it was a bigger project than he wanted to take on. But he seemed happy to find somebody ambitious and foolish enough to take on the challenge. The most interesting tidbit he mentioned is that back when he looked at the property, our front left room was working as a beauty parlor! We had no idea! It did look like it had once housed some kind of business (it has a separate entry, and a recessed, spotlit display area set into one wall) but we never would’ve guessed it was a hair salon. I love how these bits of history unfold here.

richard and eliza looking at the ceiling

richard and eliza, talkin’ bout exposed beams in the kitchen.

Meanwhile… as we’ve been working on the kitchen, we’ve noticed some pretty dramatic angles and sagging in the kitchen floor. So we decided this is the best time to try and even it out a bit. We brought in some extra columns and set them up down in the basement below the kitchen, and each one sits atop a 20-ton hydraulic jack. Each week we raise them up another 1/4 inch, hoping to straighten out some of the sag from that floor.

jacks in the basement

jacks in the basement. trying to straighten out the kitchen a bit!

Which is a great idea, but it caused some repercussions up in the kitchen: a noticeable sag in the beam over the doorway that leads to the dining room. At some point in the past, that doorway was widened, and the big support beam above it was damaged but no additional support was added to redistribute the weight. It was probably saggy to begin with, and our jacking seemed to cause more sagging, as the two beams on either side push up into the floor above, and nothing pushes in the center. We like the wide doorway (and even widened it some more!) but didn’t like the sagging beam overhead so we’ve sistered it with some other beams and placed temporary columns across the open doorway to even out the pressure of the jacking. We salvaged some big old heavy beams (maybe 10″ by 10″?) that came from my parents’ 1700′s farmhouse and had been sitting unused in the basement since their most recent renovation.

jacking up the kitchen doorway

jacking the kitchen doorway

We fitted one directly underneath the compromised beam, horizontally above the doorway, and then fitted two others vertically on either end to hold it up. Sort of a Stonehenge type arrangement. If this doesn’t hold then we might need to switch to a steel support beam, but these big old wood beams are much prettier so I hope it’ll work.

At the same time, we’ve been doing some work in the bathrooms… In the downstairs bathroom, Paz helped us smash out this wall! which used to separate the laundry room from a closet, now the spaces will be combined into one big bathroom.

tearing out a wall. downstairs bathroom plumbing work. downstairs bathroom

bathroom wall destruction, and plumbing.

And we’ve been on a plumbing adventure which began with relocating the waste pipe (coming down from the upstairs toilet) and involved temporarily uprooting our only functioning toilet, plus lots of in-depth plumbing lessons from Richard! I think we’re learning a lot. And although we are unfortunately spending a few weeks without indoor plumbing, the end result should be a properly vented and thus better-functioning toilet, a WORKING SHOWER, and more convenient placement of the pipes, plus a hook-in spot where we will attach the vent line for the downstairs bathroom appliances, in due time. While we have the toilet pulled out, I’m taking the opportunity to remove all the vile, stinky, filth-sodden flooring that surrounded it. Hooray and good riddance!

Back in the kitchen: we’ve finished gutting everything and we’re slowly, slowly starting the rebuilding! Mike and Richard have been doing electrical wiring lessons and we’ve planned out where all outlets and appliances will be located, and installed all of the outlet boxes!

working on electricity in the kitchen working on electricity in the kitchen

outlet boxes are all installed!

Also in the kitchen, we noticed during the destruction that a lot of rodents have made their homes in our ceiling and walls over the years. We would like to prevent this in the future, so we need to seal up EVERY opening in the kitchen walls. I’ve been cutting heavy-duty hardware cloth screening to fit over every opening and stapling it firmly in place. Then we will attempt to fill the holes with spray foam insulation. Might even cram a bit of steel wool into the bigger holes for good measure.

rodent-proofing the kitchen

rodent-proofing the kitchen

And… then there’s the never-ending chore of packing up wooden lath to use for kindling.

so much lath

a giant pile of lath

Every wall in our house is made of plaster over wooden lath; most of them need to be torn down to put in insulation and modern electrical wiring, etc. Since we’ll be heating primarily with the wood stove, we save the old wood lath to chop up and use as kindling in the woodstove. Great stuff for starting fires but it’s a huge job to cut it all down and pack it up in boxes for the winter. It took me basically two whole weeks to chop it all up and pack it away. And then, of course, as soon as we need to smash out another wall, there will be more lath to chop up and pack away. But I think we’ll be grateful for it when the cold winter comes!

kitchen table

finally! a table and chairs

We got a great new kitchen table & chairs for $15, at a yard sale down the street. We can’t put them in the kitchen yet because we don’t really have a kitchen at the moment, but they fit nicely here in the livingroom and make the place feel a lot more cozy and civilized. (In the same morning of yard-saling we also found an extra wooden chair, an old rocking chair for the porch, a small fifties-looking wooden cabinet, a hand-truck for carrying heavy stuff, a stack of old country LP’s, and a cute summery blouse with stripes and puffy sleeves! What a good morning. )

Weekend progress

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, slow progress | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

stormy skies over Limington

it’s starting to feel like spring!

What else is new? I think we’ve finished removing all the lath from the kitchen! We had to break it and saw it away from the walls so we can get in there to run electrical wiring and insulate. It’s perfect for use as kindling in the woodstove; I sorted and boxed it up neatly to pack it away til the fall. Did lots of clean-up and organizing that’s made the place feel more civilized and house-like; our work spaces had gotten completely chaotic with all the destruction and debris and activity and no place to store things. I got a cheapo wire shelving unit to help hold some clutter, and we dragged in a work bench from the ell to use for storage and work space in the dining room which has become our de facto workshop room. We dismantled the cabinets from one of the apartments in the ell, we will clean those up and refinish them and use them for our new kitchen. Dragged the counter tops and sink off to the dump. Found a rickety set of four bar stools at the dump and brought them home. It was a good week for free stuff; we also found a cool wooden crate (dated 1905) in the dump, found a sweet little old wooden chair by the side of the road with a “free” sign, and on craigslist we found a free working electric organ! It’s a really kitschy 1970′s looking thing, it’s no piano but it is pretty hilarious to look at and fun to play with- we plugged it in and it really plays!

boxes of kindling we got a free organ

kindling boxes, our new electric organ!

We also stopped by Pete’s Place salvage yard in Hollis and got a few extra storage crates, they’re beautiful old wooden soda crates, and a vintage wire card rack for me to sell my cards at craft fairs. It’s pretty fun having a pickup truck and a whole empty house to fill up!!

pete's place salvage in Hollis

pete’s place salvage in Hollis

Pulled up the carpeting in the area that will become our new bathroom, and knocked out some of the back wall there. Mike mowed the lawn for the first time! And stapled down most of the invisible dog fence line that runs around the property perimeter. Now we need to start the tedious process of training the beasts to understand and respect it. And… I did some more work on the kitchen planning. I’ve been working on some floor plans but I felt like we needed to see a sketch of what the room will actually look like… it’s a hack job but this is what I’ve got so far. Don’t laugh!

kitchen rendering

And… the rhubarb patch is starting to look pretty impressive! Time for pie, really soon.

mike & rhubarb old tractor

rhubarb and blackflies, mike & dogs in the back yard

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!

in Mike’s words

Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: kitchen, slow progress | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

man the kitchen destruction never ends. eliza’s parents did a really nice job at fixing up this beautiful old door, but before we could hang it we had to take out the door frame because it was messed up, but in doing so, we saw we also needed to repair the threshold and taking that up showed us we needed to rip out the floor below it. in order to rip out the floor we had to take out the walls (which we had wanted to do anyways since we needed to add insulation) and then once we got down to the subfloor we saw it was all messed up so we have to put new subfloor down.

buuut once we started that, we saw that it was pretty slanted so before we could lay down the subfloor we’d have to go down in the basement and jack up the house a little to straighten everything out… but before we could do that we had to go ahead and widen the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, which we’d been planning for awhile and because it involved moving some beams it had to be done before starting the structural work in the basement.

so, now we’ve moved the beams and laid the concrete in the basement that’s going to support the columns and we also propped up some temporary columns in the basement. now we have to wait until the concrete dries in order to do all this and THEN we can start putting the floor back together. and then we can fix the threshold and then the doorframe so we can hang the door.

we did get a new oak threshold which is beautiful!

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.

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!




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