You may or may not be able to tell from the above, but we’ve been moving ahead at warp speed the last couple of months. 95% of the outside of the house is completely finished and we’ve started plumbing and are finishing up the HVAC, with some wine and property work thrown in on the side!
We are looking forward to sharing everything with you all once we get to the FUN part of home building (foundation work turns out isn’t that exciting). We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and thank you from the bottoms of our hearts for your cheers and well wishes so far.
Cheers to a magnificent 2012 and an even better 2013!
Finally a couple progress pictures. We’ve been working tirelessly through the last two months. And in all truth, we’re moving much faster than any of us had expected…. now that we have a building permit. In the time that’s passed, we’ve managed to frame the whole house save the wraparound porch with the plan to close up the house rapidly approaching.
Below is a quick look at some of that work.
The main floor of the house was and will continue to be ‘family space’, but as you can see from the before photos, we’re taking it from what used to be chopped up rooms to an open flowing floor plan. So without further ado, a bit of before and after of the first floor.
So we started with this (from the front of the house to the back):
Which then turned into this from the back of the house to front:
We got a bit more demo crazy and then turned the mess in above picture into this (we’re actually saving those hardwood floors in the back, believe it or not) (from back of the house to front):
But after all of that, we’re now looking like this (from front to back):
That’s all for now, we’re working on pictures of the outside and upstairs. Expect those to go up once we get this property a cover crop!
One question we often get about jumping head first into buying such an old house that needs plenty of work, is just how much of that work needed we knew of ahead of time. If you watch enough HGTV and in particular Holmes on Homes (or whatever it’s called today), you’re probably of the belief that if you don’t get the home you may purchase inspected by the best inspector out there, you’re sure to end up worse off than Tom Hanks and Shelley Long in the Money Pit. We were of the same mind and yet after walking through the house multiple times, knowing that it was over neglected, we chose not to do one.
Call it naivete, call it careless, we knew this house was going to need work and what we ultimately didn’t want to hear was just how much. What good would it have done?
What good would it have done for the inspector to tell us the place was a few more sparks from burning down?
What good would it have done to hear that the old stove pipe chimney literally was falling apart? Or that the a third of the whole first floor would need to be removed and rebuilt because of water damage.
The simple answer is it wouldn’t have mattered, so why go through with the agony? We knew this was going to be more work than we had ever undertaken. Telling someone as bound and determined as we continue to be that the house that they’ve fallen in love with is a knock down house is of no use. Taking on such a project also means, that it doesn’t matter what the inspector is going to find, because you truly don’t see the real character of the house until it’s walls are stripped clean of the years of layers built on to them.
Prior to writing this post there was a short lived attempt at finding a quote about neighbors. Something that spoke about how indispensable, helpful, etc, they can be. What followed would make the past days even more humbling. Page after page of quotes from the likes of Jane Austen to Benjamin Franklin about how difficult neighbors can be. Seeing this was a stark reminder of just how lucky we have been.
You see, while we were muddled in the building permit process we embarked on cleaning up the field, which as we pointed out in the past post, took much longer than expected. Keeping with this theme of things happening at inopportune times, we would find ourselves still left with the whole field to turn under (after mowing) and a freshly minted building permit, both projects needing immediate attention. We were torn and short. Enter: our neighbor.
Bill, our neighbor, a retired airplane engineer had expressed interest in our tractor and driving it, but we always demurred. “What about the liabilities”, we thought. It took our backs being up against the wall to finally throw our caution to the wind, to give into his gracious offer. Starting in the early mornings with his “pre-flight checklist”, for the next week and a half we would watch Bill as he crisscrossed the field at 2 miles per hour in rain, heat and everything in between. We had a hard time keeping enough diesel fuel in the tractor.
It’s hard to know what the road ahead has in store for us and Bill, but we’ve certainly learned a valuable and humbling lesson in accepting the offered help of those who surround us. A simple, some could say obvious lesson, but one often too easy to forget.
For instance, without this lesson we might have passed on our friend Adam’s offer, who stopped by just as we were about to build into place a 900 pound beam of wood and steel. After over five hours of lifting, cutting, banging, cursing, when the sun had long set and a large thundercloud loomed, we’d finally get the last bolts through to hold it in place.
And because of all of this, we are now completely tilled and framed to the second floor. In other words, back on schedule.
The past two and half weeks has been spent knocking down all of the overgrowth on the property. For the past five years goldenrod, mugwort and the like have retaken the field with gusto. We’ve even had to pull out a number of shurbs with two inch diameter trunks. But what seemed to be a straightforward job, essentially mow the (huge, overgrown) yard, turned into a reminder of what we ultimately are doing here, farming.
We started in earnest once we tracked down a mower deck to borrow whilst ours took its time moseying up from Texas. Did we mention how high the weeds were? Within the first full day of mowing the first belt on the mower deck would go. Chock this one up to the belt being old. Wiser, we slowed down and raised the implement a bit higher.
Now, we get that there still seems to be a contingent of people in the world who haven’t yet grasped the concept of “Do Not Litter”, but what lay waiting for us to discover with the mower far surpassed the expected bottle, can or paper waste. For the next two weeks we sacrificed numerous $50 drive belts to commercial grade power wire (thanks, LIPA), kitchen countertops (huh?) and numerous other fine artifacts or as most people call it, trash. So remember, next time you remodel your kitchen think of us and please don’t throw the waste into your neighborhood farmers property.
It was also a lesson learned for us: When you can’t see, go slow and even then stuff will probably still break.
So as of yesterday we are finished with the mowing and are currently lightly turning over the soil, next up is a winter cover crop, our own amber waves of grain. Hopefully the rotovator doesn’t unearth King Tut’s tomb, yet at this point, that wouldn’t surprise us.
We’re in the midst of slowing down lately, mostly due to the fact that the next phase of work requires a building permit and finalized plans which we’re finalizing. So we thought we’d introduce you to someone we’ve been thinking about as we’ve begun pulling out the layers and layers this house has held for decades. Throughout we’ve had neighbors and locals stop by to see what we were up to and most of them have had a story or two to tell about the man who lived here before, Stanley.
Stanley passed away in 2004 and was the last one to live in this house until now. He was a life long fisherman who ran his boat Brucinda out of Greenport. From what we’ve heard he was a man of little means, but what he lacked in money he made up ten fold in heart and ingenuity (for instance, when the town outlawed burning personal trash, he built a fire box in his barn with a stove pipe right out the side).
As we’ve sifted through this house, he is who we think of when we’ve found studs with no less than 15 hand hammered nails in each. During this process we’ve uncovered everything from beautiful workmanship to questionable practices (cut out beams) and each time we think of Stanley, whether he had something to do with it or not.
While it’s impossibly to know exactly what was his work and what was not, one thing is for certain, this was a man who loved this house. His refusal to leave when his water well finally went out or he could only afford gas lamps for heat until a fellow church goer gave him a used heater to stay warm. After all the unfinished work upstairs and roof leaks around him, he chose to stay there with his “happy wall” covered with pictures of his family and children and grandchildren of those he loved.
We often wonder what he would think of us chopping down some of the unweildy or overgrown trees he had planted some 60 years ago. Or painting his 2 foot diameter prop that’s grown into a tree the color yellow. And ultimately what he’d say about our decision to gut and rebuild his termite ridden house that was slated for demolition.
It’s hard to know, with us knowing so little about him, but we would like to think he’d approve of one thing: us loving this house as much as he did.