Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two Birds, One Stone

I love it when I can kill two birds with one stone.  (Metaphorically speaking, of course.  I wouldn't really kill a bird.  Not with a stone or anything else.)

Charlie's planning to tear up my back patio and replace it in the next couple of weeks.  This makes me very happy.  Finally I will have a nice-looking patio, and as a bonus the walkway will at last line up with the back door.  (This really bugs me.)  Charlie was thinking out loud yesterday about how much this will cost and mentioned that we'll need to buy 2x4s for--well, I don't really know why, but we need them.  After the Big Baluster Score, I have salvage and recycling on my mind.  An idea occurred to me:  Would it be possible to re-use the 2x4s from the screen panels on the front porch?  I want to remove those panels anyway and open up the porch.  The panels aren't load-bearing, and I think it would work.  I ran the idea past Charlie, and he said that it would indeed work.

I get an open front porch earlier than expected, and Charlie gets the 2x4s he needs to pour the patio.  Two birds, one stone.  Awesome.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Best Haul Ever

Two days ago I noticed that the original Victorian porch railing was being torn off the house down the street.  (And replaced with treated lumber--egads!--but that's a rant for another time.)  So I put a note with my phone number on the pieces and parts of the porch strewn all over their front yard.

Yesterday a man called me.  "Y'all left a note about that porch stuff?  If you want it, you better come get it 'cause we're fixin' to throw it away."

Throw it away?!  Throw away porch balusters over a hundred years old?!  I don't think so.  

Charlie was at work and I couldn't find another truck to borrow on such short notice, so I loaded it all up in my Kia Soul.  The cost?  Nothing but the sweat of my brow.  Yep, the guy gave it to me for free.  Free!!
Five pieces of top rail, three with balusters attached, all those loose balusters, and a 10-foot-long piece of handrail from some other part of the house, which the guy insisted I take.  I looked at the bottom rail, but it was rotten, so I left it for the guy to throw away.  

I don't have room to store it here, so I took it out to my mom's house and put it in her shed.
Check out those spindles.  So pretty.  I figure there are more than enough to use on my front porch.  Maybe even a few left over to use on my side porch when I get around to rebuilding that.  Now I've got my eye on another house a couple blocks away which has been condemned.  The porch posts from it are stacked up in a shed behind the house.  I'm hoping to score those too.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

CSI Missouri

Warning:  Some readers may be terrified by one of the images
contained in this post.  Viewer discretion is advised.

I was about to wrap things up for the day when I looked down while priming a window sash.

"Uh-oh," I said.

Charlie sighed.  "What?  Whenever you say 'uh-oh', it ain't good."  He had stopped by before going home from work, so he was tired and filthy and not in the mood to deal with a problem.

"See that hole in the side of the house there?  My drain hose thingy for the air conditioner's supposed to poke out through that hole.  It's gone.  I wonder how long it's been gone?" I said.

We went downstairs to the scary basement to check things out.  This is Charlie's first trip to the scary basement, and it was memorable.  He walked across the cement floor, pulled the chain for the light, stepped off the edge of the cement onto the dirt floor, and then yelled, "Cheese and rice!"  (Well, that's not exactly what he yelled, but this is a family show.)

He yelled because he saw this:  (This is the yucky picture, in case some of y'all don't want to look.)

That is a dead rat slowly decomposing in my basement.  His head is flat.  The rest of him is rather well-preserved.  He is still down there.  I plan to leave him there until he's nothing but bones and then use his little skeleton as part of my Halloween display.  Or maybe not.

Anyhow, after some CSI-style investigation, this is the chain of events as we believe it occurred:

Sometime between June 1st and, say, yesterday, the rat crawled through the hole in the side of the house that the hose pokes through, pushing the hose out of the hole and onto the basement floor as he did so.  I established June 1st as the earliest possible date this could've happened because that's the last time I was in the basement, to put a 3-month air filter in my air conditioner.  The rat was not dead in the middle of the floor on that date.

Shortly after entering the basement, the rat then set up housekeeping in this:
That is a small pump which the condensation from the air conditioner flows into.  When the pump gets full, it kicks on and pumps the water out to the other hose, up the basement wall, and outside.  Because the rat turned it into an apartment and filled it full of dried grass and rat doody, the pump stopped working and the water from the air conditioner went out onto the dirt floor, where it turned into mold.  (I actually find this photo much more disturbing than the one of the dead rat, by the way.)  Besides the grass and poop, the rat house contained one more item:  a large quantity of D-Con that's at least 15 years old.  Esther, the little old lady who lived here before me, must have been very afraid of mice and cockroaches.  When I moved in, I threw away probably 50 roach motels and several boxes of D-Con that were so old they'd turned solid.  Evidently I missed one of the D-Con bricks and Mr. Rat found it, gnawed on it, and went to his Great Reward.

I, on the other hand, went to the store and bought a big box of SOS pads, which I stuffed into the hole around the hose, and also into the hole where the electrical for the air conditioner comes into the house.  (Why SOS pads?  Because rats and mice supposedly won't eat them.)  This weekend Charlie will put spray insulation on the inside of those holes and something on the outside that looks nicer than scrunched-up SOS pads.  We'll also look around the foundation and make sure there aren't any other rat access points.  Yuck.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Map Mystery

Leave it to me to find really cool old maps of my neighborhood, and then uncover something that doesn't quite make sense.

Today I was milling about randomly on the internet when I discovered that not only does the University of Missouri have a collection of Sanborn maps, but now they're online.  O, happy day.  Then I looked at those maps and noticed a couple of things were missing.  Like two porches and a bedroom of my house.  Hmm.

(By the way, the Sanborn Map Company began drawing maps in 1867 as a way to assess fire risk for insurance companies.  Their history is almost as fascinating to me as their maps, and you can read all about the Sanborn Map Company here.)

The earliest map of my neighborhood that I found dates from 1900.  Locate the intersection of Amelia and South, then look slightly northeast.  See that group of three houses in yellow in Block 7?  The first one is the Kelly House.  Yellow means that the houses are frame construction; pink means that they're brick.  The "D" on the buildings stands for "Dwelling".  The building at the rear of my property was Mr. Kelly's stable.  Nothing remains of it today.  (There is a small piece of old concrete walkway near my carport which I like to think might've been in front of the stable, but I have no proof of that.)  When I win the lottery, I will build the stable again.  The west end of it was two-story (see the 2 on the map?) while the east end was single-story.  As far as I can tell, most of the houses on this map are still standing.  The one to the southeast of mine with the curved front is either gone or has been horribly remuddled.  The smaller brick house across South Street and east of mine is WTB's house, which he refers to as The Coal Miner's Despair.  I'm sure there's a reason he calls it that, but I don't know it.
Photo from collection of University of Missouri Digital Library

The next map I found is from 1910, and the neighborhood hadn't changed much.  The only differences that I can see are that the alley south of South was extended all the way through to Amelia, and a couple of houses were built facing Franklin Street.  Incidentally, the street names in my neighborhood have been the same since at least 1900, which for some reason appeals to me.  Looking through old local newspapers at the library, I've discovered that my house has had the same address since it was built about 1887 or so.
Photo from collection of University of Missouri Digital Library
The most recent map I found showing my house is from 1918.  Now I know about when the house to the west of mine was built.  Look how close together our houses are!  Sometime after this map was drawn, a porch was added to the east side of that house, so now our houses are even closer together.  I notice that on this map, the front porch of my neighbor's house on the west goes all the way across the front of the house.  It's a smaller Greek Revival porch now.  I always think of her house as being larger than mine because it's two-story, but it's really not.  Taller, but not bigger.
Photo from collection of University of Missouri Digital Library

Now here's the thing I can't quite get my little peabrain around: why is neither the back porch nor the side porch of my house shown on these maps?  I know the back porch was enclosed at some point, but I didn't think it was as early as 1900.  (The reason I know for certain that a back porch existed is because I crawled between the ceiling and the roof of my laundry room to take a look and found clapboards under the icky paneling and the ghost of a roofline on the clapboards.)  I could be wrong about when the porch was enclosed.  (Quick, someone find Charlie and tell him I admitted I was wrong about something!)  Maybe the side porch and the back bedroom were a later addition to the house?  The exterior window trim matches all the other windows, but the interior trim and baseboards of that back bedroom are much plainer than in the rest of the house.  Looking at the "footprint" of the house on these maps, the back bedroom and the stupid hallway-turned-bathroom seem to be missing.  Further investigation to follow.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Back Porch, Revisited

I've given a lot of thought lately to this screened-in back porch idea of Mare's.  (Y'all know how I obsess about things.)  At first, it seemed like a really good idea.  Now, not so much.

First off, I ran the idea past Charlie.  He did that thing he does when he's trying not to say something mean:  he raised his eyebrows, said "Huh", adjusted his ball cap, and then gave me the side-eye.  "Y'all are gonna build a little porch over the top of all that busted-up concrete in back?"  Oh.  Hadn't thought of that.  The back patio is in baaad shape.  It's cracked and stained and it's sinking in the middle.  Not pretty.  The back stoop was poured separately from the patio and it's balanced over the sinkhole, which makes standing on the stoop to talk to someone a little like surfing.  You constantly have to adjust your weight for the tilt.  (Remember that Charlie is a concrete man, and if this post were a mystery novel, this might be foreshadowing...)

Then there's the Historic Preservation Commission.  I'd have to get another Certificate of Appropriateness to build that porch, and I'm really not sure they'd grant me one.  I don't know if I'd grant me one.  See, the back of the house is already an addition--it was originally an open back porch--and I'm thinking an addition onto an addition would look awkward.  Really awkward.

So, no screened-in back porch.

However, Charlie's writing up an estimate for a nice new patio with stamped concrete to look like cobblestones.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Very Good Day

Today was a very good day.  The weather, for once, wasn't quite so blazing hot as it usually is and so Charlie and I worked a solid seven hours on the house.  Wait.  The end of that sentence might be a bit-too-generous retelling of what actually happened.

Maybe I'll just show you instead.

Charlie almost finished the last section of the dining room bay:

He said those little pieces were starting to get on his nerves, so he climbed up on the scary roof of the bay and scraped the whole gable.
When Charlie scraped the paint off, three clapboards fell apart.  Apparently the paint was the only thing holding them together.  So we drove to the lumberyard in Richmond to buy three new clapboards.  Charlie took off the attic vent cover, removed the old clapboards, cut the new ones to length, nailed them in, and then replaced the vent cover.  (While being dive-bombed by wasps, I might add.)

While he was up there, he also pulled off the trim boards under the eaves so I could start stripping them.

I got this far:
There are three pieces.  I got some of the paint off two of them.  The third one is untouched.

And then I did this:
Oh, and also this:
Told y'all Charlie gets a lot more done than I do.