Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Pause and A Thousand Words

Things have slowed here.  The heat and humidity have made it more than unpleasant to spend time working on the house.  We have done some small things and have (once again) altered a portion of our plan.  This time we've made a change to one of the out-buildings.  There is a shed that is about 25 feet from the mud room (soon to be laundry room) on the west side of the house.  Originally we had planned and gotten approval to take it down.  But after removing some of the boards across the front we came up with another idea.  We decided to level it, add supports to it and screen it in and make an outdoor dining/cooking area.  I plan to build a brick oven/BBQ at one end and put a big table and storage at the other end.  Here are a couple of pictures:

Neither of us wanted to take the building down and now we have a plan to keep it alive for another 150 years.  It will be ready for get togethers with any and all who come to see us in the future.  But give us a couple of months to get it done...

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't see something that is picture worthy.  From early morning sunrises to late evening fireflies this place has so much natural beauty.  Here are a few pictures I've taken in the last couple of weeks:

Early morning looking over the corn field

A little bit later.

Early evening looking across the road.

It's not photo shopped, it really looks this way as the sun goes down.

Not too bad to look at each evening sitting by the fire.

A new friend we found on the front porch.

There are so many things that we want to do and will do once the weather settles down a bit.  We will have lots more to share come fall and winter.  Stay tuned and we hope you are enjoying our adventures so far. 

Take care.


Monday, July 18, 2011

BBQ, Bathrooms and Lawn Furniture...

Happy Monday Morning from Pekin.  I haven't written for a few days and thought I'd take a few minutes to share some stuff with everyone.  Basically, all is still moving ahead although the heat and humidity slowed our pace a little this weekend.  It was about 87 with fairly high humidity.  Any of you that have ever dealt with humid weather know what I'm talking about.  It takes the wind out of your sails pretty quickly especially if you're still getting acclimated to it.

Bar-B-Q is a big thing in the south.  You can look back to one of our first blog entries when we arrived here and see we wrote about a place called Pig Miracle.  There are secret recipes for this sauce and that one and everyone's process varies a little.  The fact of the matter is that, for the most part, there is no such thing as bad bar-b-que so what difference does it make?  My only problem is that when I go back for 5th's or 6th's (servings) there isn't anything left.  But that problem was solved at (drum roll please), Bass Pro Shops.  I know, I know... Bonnie told me all along how great the place was but I didn't listen.  She extolled the virtues of BPS daily, sometimes in song.  But I'm the parent and I'm supposed to be the teacher... How wrong I was.  Here is what we encountered on one of our trips to BPS (Warning!!! Anyone who loves trucks and BBQ may want to sit down before looking at the pictures below):

Yes folks that is a 379 Peterbilt pulling a 48' grill and smoker with a picture of bacon on the side.  I know... speechless right?  Imagine how I felt when they put out the sign that read, "Free Samples."  It was like a gift from heaven placed right in front of me at Bass Pro Shops.  I think I'll move on... I'm getting kind of emotional about it again :-).

The two rooms that were going to be used as our bathroom "suite" have been repurposed again.  After thinking about it a little more and really looking at the space and what we need Ann and I decided to scale it down a little.  We will have a standard bathroom and the second room which would have contained the sink and been a dressing area will become a storage space (pantry and closet).  After we opened up a doorway off the kitchen that had been closed off we realized that we could use the space for  kitchen storage as well as for a place for our hanging clothes.  The room will have a door that goes to our bedroom and one that goes to the kitchen so it worked out well.  We end up with a smaller bathroom but with more storage space.  That is a good trade off in my book.  Also it saves a bit on the price of the flooring.  As a bathroom it would have had marble tile but as a storage and pass through area it will have rustic wood.  That works for me as well.  Here are a couple of pictures of the space.  The first was taken from what will be the bathroom looking through the future storage area into the kitchen (our bedroom door is on the left) and the second is taken from the kitchen looking into what will be the bathroom through the storage area.  We are in the process of tearing down old stuff and framing in new.  I will post some new pictures in the coming days once we get it all framed in.

Ok, on to the real subject of this blog post... my "new" lawn chair.  I like to build stuff.  If I recognize a need and have the ability to build something to fulfill that need I will do it.  Sometimes my projects turn out pretty cool and other times...  Well, there are other times (let's just leave it at that).  So yesterday Ann and the kids and I were out and about in Louisville and we went into a store that had some nice wooden chairs that would have been great for our front porch.  They were comfortable and not too small and flimsy.  But, we weren't shopping for chairs and quickly moved on to something else.  But then I started thinking...  I would really like to have a chair to sit out by my developing and evolving fire pit.  I (being a guy) had to create a place for me to burn stuff (old wood, paper... gasoline.... you know guy stuff) and I wanted a chair for sitting by the fire... Oh, here's a picture from the other night.  You'll notice I have the fire built right up against an old stump in the yard.  That stump that is about 3 fires away from non existence as of this post:

So I decided to build myself a chair out of the materials I had on hand yesterday (2x4's and drywall screws).  This is still a work in progress and hasn't got all the bells and whistles I intend to install so keep that in mind.  Also, if any of you were wondering what you might be getting for Christmas from the newly "ruralized" family in Indiana... Take a look (and keep an eye out for the UPS truck in mid December):

Now that's a chair!!  I'll update photos of this as well once I install the arms (and the satellite TV dish), sand it, paint it and whatever else I decide to to do.

That's about it for now.  We will keep you all posted as to how things are going and we really appreciate your interest in what we're doing.  It's nice to get your emails and comments and we encourage you to ask or suggest things anytime you want.  Except about the chair... the chair is off limits...  Just keep those comments to yourselves...


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Step Away From The Square And Level...

Anyone who has ever been involved in any type of renovation on an existing building (older than 5 years) knows that you often run into little surprises along the way.  You might open up a wall that should have studs and insulation inside but that might not have one or the other... or either.  So when you take on a remodel it is always best to just be ready for anything and everything.  This is a lesson I re-learn each time I pick up a hammer at the house.  Sometimes it's a cool surprise like the old newspapers under the kitchen floor, sometimes it's a frustrating surprise like the fact that the 1 1/2" water line for the house pops up out of the ground (under the bathroom) and then has a couple of odd, mismatched fittings and is reduced down to 1/2" line that goes out the crawlspace toward the yard (see photo):

If you look at the photo closely you'll see large stones in the background.  Houses that were built in the 1800's didn't have concrete foundations.  Some were built right on the ground and many, like ours, were built on large local stones.  It's a pretty amazing thing to see how big these rocks are and to think about people searching for them, shaping them and placing them under the floor joists.  And the floor joists are equally amazing.  Todays houses use dimensional lumber and engineered beams and joists for load bearing walls.  But our house has huge timbers for the floor structure.  Some of the beams are 3"x 12" and are either ash or poplar, the local woods of choice.  I am told these types of wood are not a favorite of termites and other destructive bugs and I haven't seen any real insect damage under our house.  There is some degradation in some of the beams but it looks more like moisture, weather and time than any insect issues.

Since starting on this project I have been reminded over and over that there are a couple of tools in my "arsenal" that I need to just put away until this project is done.  As a result of this realization I now use my framing square to chop down weeds and my level has become one of Bonnie's favorite toys (she likes the bubbles in it).  Nothing... and I mean NOTHING in this house is square and/or level.  Whether or not it was ever level we will never know.  But a century and a half of weather and settling has done some curious things to the house.  Take a look at the door frames in the photo below...

The door in the foreground isn't too bad but the one in the background needs some help.  The funny thing is that since everything has settled together, when you square something like a door frame you throw the entire rest of the room off.  If you are a person who likes to use a square and a level... think twice about taking on a 155 year old project or make sure you refill your "meds" often.

That's about it for me today.  I'll close with a discovery I made the other morning while walking around the yard.  It turns out that we aren't the only ones doing some building on the property.  I was walking out by a big maple tree and noticed the following structure covered in dew:

The web is about 4' x 4' and is anchored on the ground and on far reaching branches in two different trees.  Now, every time I feel like complaining about floor joists or un-level floors I will just think about this spider and how hard it had to work to get its project done.

Back to work...


Monday, July 11, 2011

Sinks, Tub and Floors...


We made a major decision today about the main floor bathroom. Originally, we were going to take what used to be the bathroom and combine it with an old storage room to create a two-room bathroom 'suite' with a double-sink vanity and dressing area in one room and the walk-in marble shower, clawfoot tub and toilet in the other. Well, the K part of this team is rather creative and suggested we use just the old storage room as the bathroom, use an awesome antique pedestal sink we found yesterday on craigslist for $25 (!!!!) instead of a double-sink vanity, and get a shower conversion kit for the clawfoot tub instead of the separate walk-in shower and tub.  Then we will open up the doorway into the kitchen from the old bathroom that had been closed up at some point and borrow some of the space from the old bathroom for our master closet. This does a few things: gives us more space in our bedroom that would have been taken up by a closet and makes it so that we don't have to remove an original window between the master bedroom and the storage room (which will be the bathroom). I know this is hard to visualize so I will scan in a floorplan soon.

Here is our 5' tub, which we will sandblast on the outside and reglaze on the inside. We will also re-chrome the feet.

It's a lovely old thing and I love it! We paid a grand total of $100 for it. Yeah, baby!

We discovered this tub when we went to look at our kitchen sink -- enamel over stamped steel, vintage dual-basin drainboard sink!  This will be refinished too.

Truth be told, I *really* (when I say 'really,' I'm extremely serious, trust me) had my heart set on a traditional white farmhouse sink, like this one or this one or this.  K had even resigned himself to staying out of my way and told me to get whatever sink I wanted. I was tortured over this decision for days, but realized there was no way I could sleep at night knowing we spent $1,000+ for a stupid sink. The next morning I did a quick search on craigslist and there was this one for only $100. We'll probably pay that again for the refinishing but that's still a steal considering I've seen some almost exactly the same on the 'vintage' and 'salvage' websites that are so trendy right now for upwards of $1K in the same condition. No kidding.

The only little tiny issue I have with it is the faucet. This is the original faucet that goes with it, in two options -- with sprayer and without.

I'm sorry, but I think those are UGLY. No offense meant, they are just not my taste -- probably because they date to the 50s and 60s and I can safely say I'm not too much of a mid-century aesthetic kind of gal. As you can see, there are some funky holes after we took off the old faucet. Complicating matters is that the backsplash of the sink is not flat.

I'm not worried. We will work with it because the double drainboards are the bomb! Perfect for washing veggies from the garden!!!!  One option may be to put a pretty steel plate over that area and attach a faucet something along the lines of these.

Speaking of the garden, we are already getting the most delicious, sweet cucumbers!!!!

As if these two cool fixtures weren't enough, I fell in love with this adorable little guy, which we will use in the new powder room that we will add upstairs:

I am absolutely thrilled with this, and it cleaned up so well that we won't have it refinished. It has a lovely patina. We paid $30 for this. Crazy good deal! It does require non-mixing taps, but I don't plan to spend over $100 for them, so it's still an amazing find. You can't find this kind of uniqueness in a modern fixture. Look at the sweet shape of the bowl! I won't show you yet how cute it is all clean and spiffy...you'll have to wait!

I mentioned the pedestal sink we will use for the main bath downstairs that we bought from an awesome couple that live in an huge, restored brick house in New Albany. Interestingly enough, they looked at our house when it was for sale. Small world.

Here it is before I scrubbed it up:

We will have this one refinished so that we stop any further rust at the overflow. Again, another incredible find we think!

I'm sure you've had your fill by now with sinks, so on to the real work of the house. Yesterday and today was all about bolstering the floor. Kevin found a helper, Roger, who was kind enough to crawl under the house through the hole we had to cut in the living room floor. There was already a patch there, and it had to be done, so that's life. It did hurt me a little to think of cutting into it, but the first time I walked across the living room floor and it didn't rattle the windows, I got over it!

After that was done, the guys got busy working out the plumbing for the bathroom:

While the floor was up, they also worked on a soft spot in the kitchen floor. The old sink had been there and when it was installed, they drilled right through a floor joist with the drain! WHAT?! Who does this? As a result, the floor joist separated from the frame and the flooring is not attached to anything. Crazy.

While we were all standing there, I suggested we go ahead an open up the doorway that had probably been covered up since the 1950s, I'm guessing, based on the old plumbing fixtures.

Yucky old pink linoleum 'tile' in the 'before' view from the bathroom side:

The 'before' view from the kitchen side:

Ta-da! Now from the kitchen, you can see through to what will be the bathroom. We will build a pantry in the little pass-through.

Oh yeah, here is the old vent from the kitchen sink. It is copper. Must have been cheap back then!

Well, that's about it for tonight. We are going to look at tile for the bathroom floor tomorrow at The Tile Shop in Louisville. Nicole Curtis from Rehab Addict on the DIY Network recommended them to me, so it's worth checking out.  We purchased the two by fours to do the framing next in the closet/pantry area tonight because Kevin wants to get started with that tomorrow. And it's time to mow again, so it looks like tomorrow will be busy!

Ann out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Everett's Place And The Garden Princess

We want to thank everyone who follows our blog.  We appreciate your interest, your questions and your comments.  Let us know if you want to know anything in particular about the house, its history, our town or anything else and we'll do our best to answer.

We have met quite a few people since we got here a little over a month ago and many of them have a story or a memory about our house and about its last Tash family resident, Everett.  We're no longer Kevin and Ann Mutschler (even though it says so on our mailbox), we are now the folks from California that bought Everett's place and that's OK with us.  As we share with people what we are doing and what our plans are they often tell us "thank you" and they explain how much it means to them that we are doing it. More than once someone who knew Everett well has gotten choked up about the project and said that Everett would be very happy to know what we're doing.  That is the best compliment we could receive.

Yesterday afternoon Ann, Bonnie and I went over to the house to take a walk.  Nick isn't a fan of the heat and decided he'd rather watch TV than walk and sweat.  Ann and I had taken turns working at the house earlier but wanted to go over and look around.  I don't know if I've mentioned it but there is a large barn on a hill behind the house that was once the place where Everett milked his cows.  It was part of the farm but is now owned by the school district.  I want very much to talk with the school district about bringing that piece of land and the barn back to Everett's place.  I've reached out to the school board and will update everyone if I hear anything.  Anyway, yesterday I mowed a path all the way up the hill and into the old barn so that Ann and Bonnie could walk up there.  We walked up about sunset and took a look around.  It's quite a place.  Here are a couple of pictures:

So after we came back down from the barn we went out in the garden.  Ann planted this garden right after we got here and yesterday she took her first cucumber from it.  It was delicious.  Everything is growing like crazy and doing great.  Bonnie went and got her garden hoe and wanted to work in the garden.  Earlier she had asked Ann to put a number of clothes on her (pay close attention to the skirt) so I said she looked like the garden princess.  Take a look:

Well, that's about it for me today.  We are in the process of cleaning up the inside and outside, cutting brush and enjoying all of it.  Each day we discover something else we love about being here.  Sometimes it's the river, sometimes it's the quiet and sometimes it's the people.  We will continue to keep you all updated and look forward to what we discover next.  I'll close with a couple of pictures from a walk I took down the river across from our house the night before last.  Yes, it is as peaceful as it looks.