Monday, March 29, 2021

Remodeling Our Hut Part 38: Concrete and Colonnades

 Continuing this seemingly never-ending saga of the remodel, I'm going back to September of 2020.  Due to the pandemic, our final cabinetry was delayed, so Carl and I turned our attention to the mundane tasks of burying drain tile, installing a retaining wall and getting ready to pour a floor in the new garage lean-to addition.

Our friend Cody, who helped us with everything from framing up and roofing the garage extension to installing our crown molding and so much more, came over on a Friday afternoon to help with the concrete floor along with Ann and Joel, too.  Pouring concrete is a big job and the more hands the better.

The cement truck was ordered for 3PM and we were all running in circles getting ready.  The biggest problem was figuring out how we were going to get the cement to the backyard.  Carl was thinking we would use three wheelbarrows and wheel the cement between the shop and the garage, but I had my doubts about that plan.  Wheeling heavy cement is extremely difficult.

I came up with the idea of using the tractor bucket which Carl wasn't crazy about since he didn't think it would work.  Joel was game to give it a try, and luckily, my idea panned out.  We had the cement truck park on our farm lane and Joel went to and fro with the tractor fetching cement for Carl and Cody.

Joel managed to skillfully fit the tractor bucket as far into the lean-to as he could and Carl and Cody filled the wheelbarrows and wheeled the cement to where they needed it.  I didn't do much more than shovel the cement around and help with the screed board to level it off.

Though this was a small area, the work was intense.  Cody spent a few more hours troweling the entire floor smooth and was done just before dark.  We ended the night with a cookout and some good conversation.

The picture above was taken in January 2021.  Since we are also in the midst of demolishing my mother's home, we removed the doors from her garage and put them on the lean-to.  Carl also painted three doors for the garage and the mudroom and rehung them just before winter.  A lot of snow slides off the roof, making it a challenge to get to the chicken coop but at least the doors keep it out of the garage.

Once the garage floor was done, we moved on to the driveway. Audrey pitched in to help with gravel leveling in mid-September 2020.  
Notice Audrey's 'gloves'?  She was playing in the mud and dipped her arms in up to the elbow. 
As the weeks went on in the early fall of 2020, I kept pestering our cabinet maker to see if we were still on his list for the colonnades and some extra cabinets I wanted in the mudroom.  I hate to be a bother, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease, they say, and I really wanted to get this house done.  I talked to him in late August, and he assured me we were up next.  He couldn't give me an exact date, but I understood.  These things take time, especially in a pandemic. 
In the meantime, I was working with Joel on Mom's house demolition.  We removed the one hundred year old maple hardwood from her house and made piles of it as we went along. 

I have to admit, this has been a sad experience for all of us.  As I've mentioned before, Mom was very proud of her home, and every inch of the house holds so many memories.  After four parties looked at the house in hopes of moving it to another location, they all eventually backed out, so we have no choice but to take the house down.  
It has gotten a little easier as we went along with the demo, because the house looks less and less as it did when Mom was alive.  That said, I also confess to having more than a few solitary crying jags while working on my own when Joel wasn't there.  Tearing up her carpets and pulling the hardwood made the tears begin.  Grief sneaks up on me at the oddest moments, and at times I feel such guilt at destroying her home. 

 Joel and I worked for weeks on the hardwood removal up until winter set in.  The house has no furnace any more, and neither of us felt like working in the cold. 
Mom's once-tidy, spic and span kitchen, now littered with the removal of the flooring and the cupboards.  I took the ceramic tile backsplash down and have hopes of installing it here in our house as a memento of Mom.   Joel has been able to sell some of Mom's furniture that we have no room for and some lumber, too.  None of it brings much money, and sometimes Joel delivers it to the people who contact him.  We've also given many things away for free.   If other people can use any of the items, all the better.

While Joel and I were working on Mom's house, Carl's assignment was to finish the staircase railings here in our house.  Divide and conquer with the work; it is the only way to get stuff done.
Carl had a lot of math calculations to make to get the railing to come out right.  He welded the designs up at the shop, brought them home to see if they fit, and then back to the drawing board until they were right.  
My idea to build the railings with a 'Craftsman' design which I thought would be relatively easy, proved to be anything but. Carl had to remake the railing several times before he had the desired look.  
And, to make this job even more difficult, I decided we should have wood newel posts instead of the wrought iron curved ends we'd had previously.  Carl had made the original railings back in 1979, and was very proud of the the curved laterals he'd built back then.  He wasn't keen on changing to the wood newels, but ended up humoring me in the end.  

Off we went to the big box store and came home with two newel posts in need of staining.  (And installing, which meant Carl had to do more math.)

Carl spent a few hours hand sanding the oak posts, seated on my exercise ball.  (He said it was handy and moved easily, but as a chair, it lacked lumbar support.)  Once he had them sanded to his satisfaction, we propped them up to see how they looked.  The posts came very tall, and the idea is you need to saw them off to fit your staircase.
Finally, the last week in September, the cabinet maker called to say he was nearing completion with the colonnades and cabinets.  I asked him if he would stain and lacquer the newel posts too, and he agreed.  We dropped them off at his shop the next day.

A few days later, he called to tell me he was going to bring out the cabinetry to make room in his shop, but wouldn't be installing until the next week. 

Below, the pillars and colonnade cabinets are awaiting installation.
October 1, 2020, our cabinet makers extraordinaire, Don and Jamie, arrived to begin putting them up.

 I was working outside in the garden in the morning to get the garden ready for winter.  When I came back in the house to make dinner at noon, I was surprised to see the progress.

The two man crew worked steadily for two days.  They had the pillars attached to the cabinetry and the next step would be the beams to go across the ceiling to attach to the pillars.  Those would be delivered the next week.

After another day and a half of work the following week, the colonnades were complete. 
 We have one colonnade and box beam between the kitchen and the formal dining room.

And a matched pair and beam between the foyer and the dining room.

Our house is not large, but the room dividers give it the Craftsman feel we were looking for. 

The cabinets for my laundry/mud room were also installed.

So, now we're caught up to October 2, 2020.  We'd come a long way from June 2019, when this whole remodeling adventure began, but there's still a lot more to do. 

Thank goodness we have Audrey to come and give us a much-needed popcorn and painting break now and again.

She reminds us old folks to have some fun. We all need a little time to rest and be creative. 


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Remodeling Our Hut Part 37: Restoring the Front Garden

 This post is a throwback to May 2020.  We were still working on the remodel, but Spring had sprung and I was getting tired of looking at the disaster the front yard had been made into during the construction process. 

Carl and I decided to drop the inside remodel work in late May and turn our attention to the garden and renovating the landscaping. 

 When the new front porch cement was poured in 2019, there was enough cement left in the truck for us to hastily throw together some 2 x 4's and make forms for slabs.  We'd stored the concrete slabs on a pile back by the windmill until we had a use for them and here was the perfect opportunity.

 The ground was very hard due to gravel and clay being dug up during the excavation, so we replaced the less desirable soil with our compost in the areas I wanted to eventually garden in again.  The hard-packed clay was acceptable as a base for the steps, but the rest was all shoveled out by hand.

 May 24, 2020 and Carl has all of the sidewalk slabs in place. We weren't sure where we were going with this garden remodel, but one thing for certain was our ongoing need to downsize the garden as much as possible. 

We decided to bring back some of our big limestone which we had removed last July to make room for the mudroom addition.  In the picture below, the old wrecker was being useful again.  We really do not know what we'd do without the antique, it's definitely paid for itself time and time again. 

We needed to take a break to celebrate Audrey's fourth birthday, though!


Four years old already, where did that time go?  Audrey took time for a birthday cupcake and then decided to come and help Grandpa and Grandma with the landscaping.

 The apparatus on Audrey's head is a duplicate of the one I wear on my head, it's a bug net, and it works phenomenally to keep the tiny biting black flies, or noseeum's from attacking.  Audrey and I may look silly when we're wearing our headgear, but we're safe from the nasties burrowing into our hair and leaving painful welts that itch for days on end.

Day after day Carl hauled up more rocks.

Joel and Audrey came over in the evenings to help us whenever they had the time.

This entire process of moving the large slabs with crowbars is deja vu for all of us here; the Quarry Garden was built the same way.  Simply haul up the rocks with the tractor and wrecker and then place them by hand with the crowbars.
We're all getting older though.  Joel was a teenager when we built the Quarry in 2001 and we were in our 40's.  Now we're in our 60's and Joel is in his 30's.  But Audrey is still in the single digits, so we have her help for decades to come.

Audrey is testing her dad's strength here, "Can you lift me, Dad?"

We reused the limestone that used to be between the house and the garage which had to be dismantled when we moved the garage.  When the tires on the wrecker go flat, we know we are almost at capacity for the lift.

May melted into June and the garden was starting to come into flower.

Peony 'America'

 We had some rain that caused a slowdown in the work, but as soon as it was dry enough, we continued.

 In the meantime, I was getting ready to plant my urns, and Audrey stepped up to lend me a hand.

 You've got to get the soil preparation right before you plant anything.

 More days go by, more rocks.

 I had purchased some lanterns awhile back that were intended to have candles for illumination.  I also had some red glass orbs lying around and they were a perfect fit in the lanterns.  When the sun shines through them, especially at sunset, they are pretty.


As the days went by, we were getting closer to completion.

I planted some new hydrangea shrubs and some pale cream zinnias along with red geraniums in the new bed off the front porch to bring out the colors in the house itself.
'Patriot' hostas were brought back from the Formal Garden to line the new wall.  I'm sure these hostas would appreciate me making up my mind as to where they are planted; they've been moved three times in the last year.
It was my idea to add the curving walkway off the front porch.  It is fun to renovate a garden, much more fun than it is to renovate a house.
Once Carl had all the limestone walls in place, we brought back one of our favorite granite boulders that had originally been in front of the house.  This grayish black granite with the white stripes was given to us by a farm neighbor thirty years ago.  Carl and his dad had been allowed to go through the neighbor's rock pile looking for big boulders and when they were getting ready to leave with the load of stone on the trailer, the farmer said, "I have one more for you." 

 He took this beautiful specimen off of his barn hill and loaded it for them which was incredibly kind of him.  Sadly, he passed away a short time later due to a tragic farm accident.  Whenever I look at the stone, I'm reminded of him.

The long days of June seem so long ago now in January.

Finally, we were done with the front garden and I was back to weeding the rest of the gardens.   The year of neglect to working on the garden was showing badly; the weeds were doing their thing, cropping up and taking over like usual.

We bought some concrete pavers and put them down to extend the walkway out to the driveway.  The circle pattern in the pavers matches the circles in the driveway grates and the round windows in the gables of the house.

By the end of August, the front garden was looking much better.

It is a big change from the way it was a few years ago, that's for sure. 



But if you look close, you can still see the old house is still in there. 

We're still here, too.