Saturday, July 23, 2011

Slight Electrical Problem

Last night when R was coming up to bed, he turned on the light at the bottom of the back staircase. Only it didn't turn on. He was a little concerned because the lightbulbs in the two fixtures attached to this switch were newish (less than a year old) CFL bulbs. They shouldn't even be close to the end of their life yet. So this morning he decided to check it out. And we're both glad he did.

The first thing he realized was that the light fixture wasn't attached to the ceiling very well. In fact, hardly at all. When he took it down, about 20 acorns and other miscellaneous "stuff" fell out of the ceiling. 
He ended up taking down the drywall in this part of the ceiling because he wanted to clean out all of the acorns and debris, and also get a better look at the wiring. This staircase is one of the areas we're planning on completely gutting so I had no problem with this.The drywall would have come down eventually anyways.
R went to Lowe's and bought a new electrical box and a simple $1 light bulb holder similar to this. We figured it would be fine as a temporary fixture until we could get to gutting and remodeling the whole staircase. However, just like everything in our house, it just wasn't that simple. After a couple hours of staring and testing, R decided he wasn't comfortable enough messing with the wiring. It appears that it wasn't done correctly (in fact, there's all black burn marks on the back of the drywall and wood showing that the wires/fixture got too hot) in the first place, and some of the wires were frayed, so we both decided it would be best to have a professional look at it. Until then, we don't have any electricity in the back half of the house (both upstairs and downstairs). The only room with power back there is the upstairs bathroom and the attic. So we've been using a lot of flashlights and extension cords :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Coop Progress

This weekend we got a lot of work done on the coop. 

On Saturday R installed the insulation and plywood on the walls. For now we just insulated the walls that are inside the coop area. We were originally going to insulate all of the walls and ceiling, but now we're thinking we might just get some sheets of rigid foam insulation to put on top of the coop and to put on the interior wall during the winter. It'll be a lot easier to keep just that part warm in the winter.
Sunday, I installed the vinyl flooring and started putting up the chicken wire. I used a roll of vinyl flooring from Lowe's, which was very easy to install. Rather than buying the $25 container of flooring adhesive, I bought a $9 roll of flooring tape, which I used on all of the exposed edges. And I didn't even use half of it. Cheaper and quicker than the flooring adhesive.
The chicken wire is actually plastic poultry mesh. We bought it about a month ago, with the intention to build them a little outside area to play in while they were still small. We never built it because I was too scared about them being picked up by a hawk (I really shouldn't read stuff online... it makes me paranoid). The roll we bought is 3'x25', which is perfect.. I have 4 sections that are 3' wide and 6' tall.
I ended up breaking our staple gun, and R wasn't home when I broke it (of course). I tried to fix it, but I've never really used it before so I'm not sure what was wrong, other than that the staples weren't coming out anymore. I think it might be jammed or something. By the time R got home it was late and we were both exhausted, so he said he'd fix it for me tonight. So I didn't get to finish putting up the wire, and the chicks still aren't able to move into their new home. Patrick did visit it today though and approved.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Permanent Dryer Vent

This is what we've had to do every time we do laundry for the past year... Stick an adjustable dryer vent out the window. Not cool when it's snowing or raining, or when bugs decide to take you up on the open window invitation.

So we had my dad come over this afternoon to help us install a permanent dryer vent. We not only needed expertise, but also his non-exisitant fear of heights (our laundry room is on the second floor and there was no way either of us were getting up on a ladder).

We first had to decide on a location. I thought that from the outside it would look best if the vent were centered under the window. However, from the inside, that would mean I'd still somewhat see the metal vent between the dryer and washing machine. So we decided to just put it directly behind the dryer, about a foot off the floor. Of course in an old house nothing works out the way you want.

Both R and I were working on other projects, and after about an hour I went upstairs to check on my dad. Still no vent.. not even a big hole in the wall! He kept drilling small holes in the wall, only to have his drill get stuck and refuse to go any further. He kept leaning out the window to see what he could possibly be hitting (like the shutter?), but there wasn't anything he could see. Finally he got a big enough hole (about 2' higher than we had originally decided on) to see inside the wall... There was a big corner brace coming off of the beam in my bedroom closet, going down to the floor at a 45° angle. Now that he could actually see what he kept hitting, he was able to go a little bit above it and cut a larger hole. Only to run into more problems. The first layer was plaster, then lathe, then the brace (plus some other random vertical boards, which looked newer, and didn't really have any purpose, lots of blown in insulation (basically just a bunch of fibers), then some newer blown in foam insulation, then really really thick sheathing (this is where the drill kept getting stuck) and finally the wood siding.
What was suppose to be a quick afternoon project, of course, was anything but that. Because of everything in the wall it was very very hard for my dad to get a hole big enough for the vent. Eventually he was able to get it to fit, but of course by then it was 6:00, and we were all exhausted. Spending over 6 hours laboring in the sun and 85° weather isn't a lot of fun. 
Some night this week R will have to caulk around the vent, fill in the holes in the wall and reconnect the dryer. Until then I can't do laundry.. don't you feel bad for me? :) But basically it's done.. which makes me really really excited.. No more opening a window just to do laundry!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kitchen Floor

We have been without a kitchen floor for a year now. This was the floor when we bought the house:
It matched the actual brick hearth just so well. For some odd reason though, the floor just wasn't for us. Not sure if it was the fact that it was so dirty it was a completely different color underneath the cabinets (so different it looked like a completely different floor) or the fact that it was just flat out hideous.

I first started tearing it up in September of last year. Thanks to a heat wave, I didn't get much done. I got back at it after Christmas, using a Christmas present from my mom. It is not fun work. R kept telling me I was wasting my time. He felt that it would be okay to put the new floor over the lovely brick. I, for some reason, just wanted it gone.

So this has been my kitchen floor for the past 9 months.... That's four kinds of flooring you're seeing there.. Brick, brick underlayment, another type of brick, and dirty nasty plywood. Nice, huh?
In May I got a quote from a contractor I work with to tear up the existing plywood (with brick) and the original sub-floor that is underneath. They would then put down either some new plywood or the existing plywood. While this seems pointless, it would make it so that our kitchen floor isn't raised up 2" from the other rooms. While the quote was very very fair, it was just too much for us to spend right now. We're still considering this..

We did make a step in the whole "get S an actual floor" process. We actually picked out a floor! That we like! And won't look fake. Pretty much every floor we found in our price range just looked ridiculous next to our 240 year old 20" wide floors.

This floor is Bruce's Cliffton Plank Cherry. It's a 5" wide 3/8" engineered hardwood. It can be glued down or installed as a floating floor. It can also be installed on plywood, wood, concrete or vinyl flooring.
We had narrowed it down to 3 different color choices. Copper Kettle (shown above), Sangria and Ponderosa. After having the samples sitting on our kitchen floor for about 3 weeks, and asking everyone who came to our house, we finally decided on Copper Kettle. It goes well with the Living Room and Dining Room floors (which are different colors), but doesn't exactly match, which is good because it doesn't look like we were trying to match it exactly. It also looks great with our kitchen table and my baking cabinet, which both have cherry tops.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cookbook Storage

Remember that 100+ year old wooden box that I got at a tag sale last month? I found the perfect place for it. I filled it with my smaller cookbooks and extra recipe cards and put it on the shelf above the cookbooks. It looks so cute! And it comes in handy. The small cookbooks were always getting lost between the larger normal sized ones and I was always losing my blank recipe cards!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Front Hall/Staircase

One of our larger upcoming projects is the front hall (upstairs and downstairs) and the front stairs. I don't have a paint color picked out yet, but I'm leaning towards a light, neutral color, either a light beige or gray. The color will have to match four rooms (two bedrooms (green and blue), the Living Room (tan) and the Dining Room (gray-blue). All of the trim and the stairs will be painted white. I'm still undecided about what to do with the treads. They currently have old boring carpet on them, which is also in the upstairs front hall. I haven't decided yet if I want to get a runner and install wood flooring upstairs (it's plywood upstairs under the carpet) or leave it wood and stain it. We'll also be re-painting the front door and installing two new light fixtures (one downstairs on the wall next to the closet and one upstairs centered on the stairs/hall). And the biggest project will be replacing the ceiling. It's old plaster and is all cracked and peeling. Painting the ceiling and walls will be fun too.. yay..

Here are some "before" pictures, taken when we first viewed the house last year (stuff in pictures isn't ours).
Looking in from the Dining Room
This was the ceiling a year ago.. it's only getting worse..
Our old-fashioned doorbell
I love this shelf! I'm not sure what to put on it though. Any suggestions?
The upstairs Front Hall
Looking in at the Guest Bedroom

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Garden Progress

We have a great yard for a vegetable garden! Everything is growing like crazy! In fact it has completely outgrown the garden we built. We'll definitely be doubling it in size next year.. maybe even tripling! 
The tomatoes are a little squished, but that hasn't stopped them from growing!
The strawberries are completely hidden by everything else. The broccoli grew out of control! My dad has never had broccoli this big before! Must be all that direct sunlight all day long.
We have two pretty big yellow squash so far..
And we have so many cucumbers I lost count.. Some are tiny, others are pretty big already!
We don't have any green beans yet, but the plant is growing out of control! It has wound its way around the pole we gave it, plus all of the tomato cages! Pretty soon we think it'll attach itself to the pine tree!
I think in a month or so we'll be overwhelmed with vegetables :-D

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Start of a Chicken Coop...

We started building the indoor coop today. First we had to go to Lowe's for supplies.. We spent about $90 and got 2x4's, insulation, flooring and hinges for the door.
We ran out of time and were only able to get the shed cleaned out and the walls up today. We weren't able to fit the plywood in our car, so we'll have to wait until next weekend to do the insulation and plywood. Once the plywood is up we'll put down the floor and install the chicken wire. Then it'll be ready for the chicks! The exterior play area is going to take a little bit more time. The space is currently housing a bunch of dead rotten trees that were cut down by the previous owner and just left there in a pile. The tree branches will also need to be trimmed a little. Just the clean up will probably take at least a whole day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Designing A Chicken Coop

I spent all day today designing our chicken coop. The chicks have been ready to go outside for over a week now.. They're getting too big for the playpen and a little smelly. My Dining Room is definitely ready to be rid of them too. The room is covered in a corn dust from their food. If I clean everything, it's covered in dust again in less than an hour. It's ridiculous!

My mom offered to buy us a coop as a wedding anniversary present (our anniversary is in June). She gave us a set amount, and had a coop in mind, but told me to look around online to see if I could find something else I liked. I found a couple really cute coops that were in the price range, but according to user reviews, only fit 2 chickens comfortably. We currently have 5 (though 2 or 3 we'll be giving away), but we expect to get more in the near future. The coops that would fit more chickens were crazy expensive... even if my mom was offering that much I could never spend that much on a coop.

So... I went back to my original idea. Converting our shed into a coop. We have the cutest little shed in our yard by the woods. It isn't being used now and it's far enough away from our neighbors houses that they won't bother anyone. It even has a window.
I decided to only dedicate half of the shed to the chickens. The other half would be perfect for storage... both chicken storage and garden storage. Even though we aren't using it now, I figure if I put up shelves I'll be more likely to use it. We also made the decision to put the outside play area off to the right, hidden by the woods and shed. When we put in a fence for Madison, we'll be more comfortable letting the chicks free-range, but until then, they'll have their fenced in outside area. This will also be better for when we go away on weekends or on vacation. They'll still be able to go outside but we won't need to worry about them getting out or being eaten. After many many hours, this is what I came up with:
The coop will take up half of the interior space. The storage space will be in the front. We'll also put a plywood "roof" on top of the coop that we could use for large storage tubs. There will be human doors outside and inside. We will be insulating the walls and ceiling and then installing plywood over the insulation. On the floor we're going to putting down vinyl roll flooring, which will make it easy to clean with a mop or hose. I'll be putting hay over the vinyl floor.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Another Coat of Shady Grove

I FINALLY put the second coat of paint on the Guest Room walls today! Almost 10 months after the first coat got put on! R's sisters painted the first coat back in September last year, the weekend before we moved in. Things of course got crazy and over the next couple weeks the room became a storage room for boxes and furniture that belonged in rooms I was in the middle of painting. My Office finally got painted and the Guest Room got emptied out a bit. Once the Twilight Room was finished I was able to unpack almost all of the boxes. We had to set up my bed and push things out of the way every once in awhile when we had guests, and because furniture had been moved in and set up, I never got around to doing that second coat. Over Fourth of July weekend we brought R's childhood bed down from Massachusetts. I was about to set it up last week when I realized that now is the time to finally finish up this room! And it took me only a couple hours.

It has been really hot here all week and actually this worked in my favor. The paint dried extremely fast! I would move a piece of furniture out from the wall, paint that wall, move on to the next section, and by the time I had to move the furniture out of my way, I was able to put it back in it's place. Despite the heat (and constant breaks for water), I finished in about 3 hours. And that included all of the furniture moving and a small ant issue (Last summer while I was painting, I noticed a lot of carpenter ants coming out of this room into my Office. Couldn't figure out where they were coming from though. Today I figured it out and gave it a good spraying of my handy new bug killing spray. Bye bye ants.). The room isn't completely cleaned and set up yet, but here are some pictures of it with some furniture and a complete paint job. (Ignore the boxes, mess and fact that one bed doesn't have a mattress on it)