Monday, June 13, 2011

The realities of an old house

Dear friends,

I spent all day today researching foam insulation, trying to find one that won't cause respiratory problems for us, the installers and any future visitors to the house. We also have six fur-creatures to think of, too. The idea of completely foaming in the attic to make it much cooler is appealing, but I can't make a decision on that until I find a product that I'm confident isn't high in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or formaldehyde. When we built our former healthy green house back 16 years ago, we used batt insulation made from recycled blue jean fiber. It was satisfactory, but never gave us the level of insulation we'd like. So this time, we wanted to try something different.

We arrived at the house yesterday to find a small lake in the backyard. Apparently a pipe decided to burst, but luckily the water ran under my potted plants I moved there, and a very thirsty ancient pecan tree. I found out the hard way how that wonderful blackland prairie soil acts when soaked---I put my sandal-clad foot right into it. Ewwwww. Since I'm an absolute freak about wasted water, it did give me a bit of a kerfluffle until my Mr. Fix-it found the shut-off valve and stopped the leak. Old house---one, Bobbi---zero.

Inside, I was eager to start on preparing the woodwork in the front parlor, now my little office nook and main entry to the house. I proceeded to approach the leaded paint with caution. Since the house is so old, I've always assumed it was leaded, but confirmed it with a test kit I bought at True Value Hardware store. Rats! (BTW, any paint made before 1978 might have lead in it.) Most of the paint is in good condition, but there are a few chips here and there on the window trim and doors. The key, I've learned, is to spray everything so it's wet, and sand wet, or gently scrape the chips into a bucket of water. In other words, do not make any dust. Wear gloves, and a dust mask, just in case. After I removed the chips, I dried the woodwork, gave it a coat of acrylic primer to seal the edges, and let it dry. I like using the Olympic Premium no-VOC paints and hopefully will get a good bond between the old oil-based paint and the new acrylic I plan to use. All of the woodwork has to be scrubbed and primed before I can repaint it. That's a huge job, but one I love because I can see immediate results. Next visit, I'll tackle that gorgeous front door, with the original glass.

It still has the original doorknob and hardware. Whose hands have turned that knob over the last eighty-one years, I wonder?
The big news is that the high efficiency Carrier HVAC system is scheduled to go in on the 23rd of this month. Yay! Most of our budget is going for those things that make a house comfortable, but not necessarily the things you can see. This system includes high quality insulated metal ductwork in the attic (easier to clean in the future and less likely to grow mold), along with a lot of insulation and caulking on the inside, and repair of the original windows, will go a long way to make Two Sisters comfortable for us and keep our future energy bills low. I happen to love working with wood, and find it a joy to work to bring the old windows back to life (and make them safe, too).

It's just part of our plan to make this remodel as green, and as healthy, as it can be, without breaking the bank.

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Something my friends thought they'd NEVER see me do!

LOL! Yep, that's me, with a mouth full of clothespins, and with some pinned to the front of my shirt just like my mama and grandma taught me. I told you I have the longest clothesline in the State of Texas. I'll have to measure that sucker soon to prove it. Anyhow, those gorgeous barkcloth curtains I'm hanging on the line came from the living and dining rooms of the house. I washed them four times with my natural detergent, put them through the dryer three times, and still, they smelled of fake plug-in chemical fragrances. UGH.

I'm determined to use them in my new writer's nook, so I needed to destinkify them. (That's my new word, and I'll be using it often here.)

Four hours in the hot blazing sun did the trick! Nice, fresh smelling curtains made from vintage 1950's barkcloth. Score!

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

I do love me some pine...

Yay, my suspicions were confirmed yesterday when I broke through the wallboard in the former dining room/future living room and found antique pine boards. I'm still not sure if it's long-leaf pine, but I imagine it is. Some of the boards still have strings hanging from them, clues that they were once covered with muslin, then wallpaper.

This section of wall will be cut out, and the original french doors that are now between the living room and dining room will be moved to serve as an entrance into the future kitchen. That means that some of this gorgeous pine will be removed carefully to use in other parts of the house. The word "demo" (as in demolition) is NOT in our vocabulary.

In other parts of the house, I plan to remove the wallboard, seal up the gaps between the boards with caulk, and paint them or seal them as is...maybe in the laundry room, or bathroom.

And speaking of pine, look at those gorgeous floors which will be in our bedroom and in the living room. I'm hoping that more of the wide-board pine lurks underneath the old vinyl that covers the rest of the floors.

Did I say I love pine? :-)

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

Welcome to my Two Sisters Cottage!

Dear friends,

Welcome to my new blog documenting the journey I've taken over the years to find our (forever?)home. This journey has finally lead us to purchase a 1930s farmhouse style cottage (or box bungalow) in Taylor, Texas. We've just started to clean and "destinkify" the house from it's 81+ years of sheltering two families, and the exuberant use of chemicals and fragrances by former occupants. Let's just say I should buy stock in baking soda and vinegar right now. :-) In general, the house is in great shape, but needs those "luxuries" we require in 2011 like air conditioning, plumbing for showers, electrical circuits for power tools, etc.

The house came with some interesting benefits...there's a garage with attached lean-to greenhouse and "casita" out back, and what I'm sure is the longest clothesline in the State of Texas. There are numerous great old pecan trees which cast the most lovely shade, there's an old water well which I hope is still active, and there is a large flock of resident mockingbirds who are not so happy that I've moved in. There is already a large garden here filled with heirloom daylilies, antique roses, Texas natives and wildflowers, boxwood hedges and more. Oh yes, and lots of snails and fire ants. Nothing's perfect, right?

This project will be a long process. I've already moved a chair and shelves into my "writer's nook" which originally was the front parlor, as far as I can tell. The
9 x 13' room also serves as the foyer by the front entry, and is sunny and has a great view of the front porch, side and front streets. It's a great spot for sitting in front of the fan and contemplating the traffic as it goes by, the train whistle in the distance, or the neighbors as they come out onto their porches, look around, whip out their cell phones, or just catch a bit of breeze.

Join me on my journey as I spin tales from Taylor, Texas...

Happy trails!

bobbi c.