How we came to purchase our home.

WPA Photo

A Works Progress Administration photo offers a glimpse of our home's past.

Reproduction Windsor Chair

Finally, a dining room set.

No Power, No Heat.

Our first snow storm and it's aftermath, October, 2011.

Lead Poisoning

Updates to our son's lead levels.

Bit By Bit

My wife's blog on being pregnant, giving birth and raising our first child with all the complications, hardships and joys that life throws our way.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stone Wall.

Sometimes I get bored.  I'll start one project and become frustrated with how long it is taking to finish, switch to another and at some point in the future, return to the first project (sometimes not).  So when I started to take apart one of our retaining walls, my wife gave me a scared look.  Call it "deer-in-headlights".

My plan for this past Sunday was to take it easy, what with my squished foot.  Thinking of easy tasks, I ventured into the back yard.  On my way out, I passed one of our sad looking field stone walls.  The previous owner, by her own volition, wanted an o'natural look to everything which basically meant a lack of property maintenance.  She loved climbing ivy plants, the type that root into and damage wood and masonry.  This rear entrance retaining wall was covered in ivy, so much so, that it actually hid the collapsed section of the wall.  It was an eyesore.  So I spent the entire day "restoring" it.  My legs, back and every other muscle in my body can attest to it.  There's no "taking it easy" when working with stone.  I am an idiot.

Mound of English Ivy.  You cannot tell from this photos but there's a beautiful stone wall hidden underneath.

I tore out as much of the rooted ivy plants as I could.  In doing so, I was also removing the stones.  Those ivy plants dug in deep and with the wall a bit disheveled and leaning outward, eventually, I just tore apart then entire south end of the wall.

Bit by bit, I reorganized the pile of stones.  Finding the right stone to fit the corner, or face, is not so difficult, just heavy. Basically, the larger flat sided stones are for the face of the wall and any stone that has two flat faces next to each other make a corner.  All other stones are filler, either for leveling the larger back-breaking stones along the face or within the wall to add mass.  Stone dust is a wonderful filler to fill the voids.  It's similar to sand in that it's a fine material, however, it is more coarse and compacts nicely.  In the photos, the stone dust is the grayish colored "sand".  Luckily, it's the same material used to level the brick walkway.  A surplus amount of it was left around the area.  

Layer by layer, large flat faced stones were placed around the perimeter.  Behind the large stones, smaller pebbles and rocks were stuffed in.  Some stone dust was shoveled around the pebbles until the layer was flat (or as flat as came be).  I hand tamped the stone dust to get it compacted and repeated this process for the next layer.

After trial and error, I eventually got the stones to fit just right.  The shear weight of some of these stones made it difficult to continually place, rotate, remove, etc., especially as the wall grew in height.  Now since this wall was already established, I used the bottom most rows and my eye as a guide to keep the wall straight.  Though, if I were to start this wall from scratch, I would've used a reference line.  Two stakes with a string tied between them makes a great guide for laying the first stones.

I ran out of the free stone dust and was about eight to twelve inches short of the walkway elevation.  I used earth for the rest of the fill and it actually worked out pretty well. I threw some grass seed on top to help curb any soil erosion.


A vast improvement to the Before images.  Notice that the stones are now leaning slightly in as oppose to out, making the wall more stable.

I am pleased with the outcome.  It was honestly my first attempt at a field stone wall.  We have another much larger wall that will need some repair in time.  I would also like to install a small two to three foot high wall along the front of our property.  Done correctly, it will last a lot longer than a rickety fence.  I just love the strength and appearance of a stone wall, don't you?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Brief Visitor, Squished Foot.

A couple weekends ago, I was clearing a brush of poison ivy, a couple trees and other manly landscaping tasks when a Mercedes convertible pulls into my driveway.  Normally, when that happens, the driver is lost and is making a U-turn.  This driver actually got out of the car.  Perhaps this person needs directions?  I mentally put on my "thinking cap".

Speaking in a rather quick pace, the driver introduces himself (and for the life of me I cannot remember his name). He's in a hurry to go somewhere but felt compelled to stop by as he saw me outside.  He knew my name and said that he was from a few houses down (a home that my wife and I had visited while it was on the market at the same time as ours was).  His home is an 1850's blue colored Italianate styled house.  I knew it rather well.  He goes on to say that he was the new owner of it and started to list what he had done recently to it.

I am still in shock that he knew my name and cannot recount all the details of that conversation.  Except one. He pointed to my roof and said that I needed to try this spray that will remove the black algae, lichen and moss that was growing on it.  Bewildered by his sudden appearance and knowledge of me, I began recounting some stupid story regarding my roof, like a bumbling fool.  "He knows my name, who is this guy?" I kept thinking.

Still in shock, he quickly leaves just as he had arrived.  

As I return to my manly duties, I was trying to remember what the product he was explaining was.  Something about "set it and forget it", like that TV infomercial at three in the morning.  My brief visitor proclaimed that the product will help remove the organic growth and save my roof.  I "google-d" what I thought he was talking about in order to help me recall what he had called it.  I saw the name finally and I remembered.  Spray and Forget.

As I wanted to take his warning of roof peril seriously, I visited my local hardware store and searched for the Spray and Forget display.  There really wasn't one, but I eventually found it with an employee's help, hidden in the paint section.  I saw the price and proclaimed an expletive.  Around $40 for a 32 oz spray bottle that you hook to your garden hose. I suppose that if you use it, and it saves you from having to replace your roof prematurely, then $40 is a small price to pay.  I purchased it with that concept in mind and ventured home.

Today, I took out my monster Little Giant Model 26 ladder.  It's a beast and weighs 54 pounds!  Getting it to work just right without reading directions is like poking a stick into a bees' nest.  You know you're going piss someone off... and it's probably yourself.  

I extended the ladder to it's max height to allow myself to reach the roof.  Then, I realized that I put the ladder in the totally wrong location.  Again, not reading the directions, I had to retract the ladder and pulled the side pins to condense the 54 pounds of aluminum.  That's when it happened.  The ladder slipped, and like a ram rod, fell on my foot.  Though I was wearing boots, steel toed in fact, the ladder's pin-point mass hit just below the tongue and behind the steel toe.  A couple of colorful four letters words were spoken, then I managed to hobble inside.  

My loving wife procured pain killers, an ice pack, some food and water.  I sat on the floor cradling my swollen foot, popped one Advil, ate and drank while holding that iced foot.  I sat there for an hour until I manned up, and after watching a 5 minute video from Little Giant's website, tackled the ladder's relocation and sprayed that damn Spray and Forget roof treatment.

There really is no point to this post except that I felt compelled to share my pain.  I plan on reviewing the Spray and Forget later on, when it's had time to work.  For now, I lay in bed, cradling my gimp foot hoping I haven't broken it.

My hairy foot, 12 hours, one ice pack and 3 Advils later, after being hit by 54 pounds of aluminum.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reference Book: Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut

Here's another exciting reference book that I've come across.  Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut by J. Frederick Kelly.  The previous owner had left it for us in the home though I don't believe she used it much, more like she kept it around as a coffee table book.  Regardless, this paperback book is an in-depth look at 17th and 18th century architecture.  Written initially in 1924, with reprints in the 60's and later decades.  For any true colonial home owner, this book is a must have.  

Inside this wonderful collection of photos and drawings are formal descriptions similar to a thesis in language.   However, getting past it's formality, the information contained herein is vast.  You want to know how clapboard was made and installed or perhaps why windows were made a certain way in a home of the 1600's versus the late 1700's.  Perhaps it's the interior paneling that you are seeking, or even still, the entire frame work of our homes including the different joint types.  If you're a lover of these homes, the information within is thought tantalizing.

As of this post, Amazon.com is selling Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut for around $23 (and qualifies for free shipping).  Google books has a sampling of pages with several images, check it out here