Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Desperation and preservation

We were able to acquire a wonderful historic porch with gingerbread trim from a house about to be demolished. The trim was already partly damaged by water and lack of paint but with effort it should all be restorable. Both Sam and I felt bad about removing the wood as the house is a real gem and was worthy of preservation, yet, the condition of the brickwork as well as the house in general would have made restoration a very spendy project. The owner was thinking of selling the trim to an architectural antiques place where it would have been divvied-up and sold with no connection to its origins. I at least feel good that it has found a home here and will find a new life not too far from its original location. It ought to make the octagon a spectacular stand-out when it is re-assembled. Jim

I am a bit apprehensive to make grandiose proclamations. Being pleased and impressed with the progress we have been able to make thus far brings me to an interesting circumstance that has evolved as this project has developed throughout the summer. There is no time. There are weeks of sheer joy with the work I have done and progress that we have been able to make, this week being as such. There are other weeks where the sun doesn’t seem to shine and ambition is sorely lacking. I have however adjusting to the absence of time. This fall is the first time where I have not gone back to school and it was a little hard at first to adjust to. Initially I kept precise track of my time and felt that time meant progress. This has changed. I am sure that the feeling of joy and desperation will continue but the work must go on. Sam

Friday, September 16, 2011

Another week is done

For certain another work week is done. After lunch today I was ready to call it quits. Fall has arrived. I wore a stocking cap and long sleeved shirt for most of the work day. Despite the overcast day we managed to lay a few more block and stones, and even the frames for the large picture window and double windows in the downstairs living room and dining room (respectively). There were quite a few guests who stopped over and had a cup of tea and chatted. The director of the local historical society paid us a visit and liked what he saw. Jim discussed a preservation easement for the rest of his properties. I am not so sure I want such an easement placed on the octagon house. Such an easement would cause oversight of the organization that holds it, and allows them to limit any changes to the property. Most people who stopped over this week were impressed with our progress. As the block walls are going up there is a much clearer idea to those who visit as to what this project will actually look like. There is a special oohing and ahhing over the stone wall in the basement; wait until they see the exterior stone work! Earlier this week we managed to level out the dirt for the first floor that had arrived last Saturday. This had to be dumped over the wall with the front end loader and shoveled/raked around by hand. Every day brings a multitude of tasks. It would be helpful to have five or six clones of myself, but like all tasks in life this too must be accomplished by the lone willpower and strength that is daily granted to us. Sam

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dirt and First Block

Sept 7

Block finally up on the walls this week. We are still waiting for some dirt fill from Tom so we can only go window high in order to get the loader bucket over the wall into the center of the house where the fill is needed. The rough wood opening for the front door is placed however, and that begins to create a measure of what the structure might look like. I’ve told Sam of the optical illusion that construction sites provide…first the hole looks so small. As the foundation goes in it begins to look large…maybe too large. Then when the walls are in it looks small again and so on until the house is done, and if properly planned the rooms finally look just right! Sam is beginning to see this for himself!

For the first three courses we are using the 100 year old block salvaged from the horse barn that used to stand on the site. We try to waste nothing. They look handmade and are heavier than new block and a little tricky to lay as they are so irregular. We lay them with the interior face as level and straight as we can and leave the outside uneven as it will be faced with limestone and granite eventually. One block turned up with a hand print in the cement …a message to us from the maker so many years ago! I am amazed at how far the old block have stretched. The horse barn was not very large but we keep building and building and don’t seem to run out of the old block.

My back is a little better and my sciatica is slowly disappearing after a month, but when we lay block Sam lifts the buttered block into place where I set and square it. It is a system that seems to work and keep me upright.

We were negotiating on a quaint Victorian porch with gingerbread trim last week in hopes of acquiring it before demolition. The price was right and we signed the papers for it this week and now we need to spend several days dismantling it to bring it home to repair and paint during the upcoming winter months. It will be a fabulous addition to the front of the house and save us considerable effort in fabricating the gingerbread all by ourselves.

The house footprint is really beginning to show and after setting the door frame the final size of the structure is beginning to be apparent. As we move along further it will generate a bit of curiosity that we may need to deal with.

Sept 10

Dirt arrived. ..four dump truck loads. We will still need more around the house before we are done but this will pretty much fill in the foundation where the radiant heating system will be installed. This is a great relief in that if we get rain, the slope to the south of the house would turn to slippery mud and make it impossible to move any dirt in until things dried out. With the cooler temperatures in the offing, things take longer to dry out so getting the dirt moved soon is imperative. Looks like we’ll get it all in before the weather changes. This will give us the whole winter for the dirt to settle.