Work Crew

It's mid august and it's so hot the hens are laying hard boiled eggs....or at least we wish they were, so far it's more like a farmyard version of Jurassic Park with "nature always finds a way" since every time we turn around one of our "hens" has started crowing. Well now that that rant is out of the way... It's really hot here in upstate NY so we have been trying to do our outside work in the morning and the evening and do interior work during the heat of the day. A great plan unless that interior work happens to be tearing plaster walls out, in which case it's a crummy crummy plan. Fortunately we had help this weekend in the form of the always reliable Oren and Julie and a first visit north by our good buddy Jesse. We feasted on food catered by Babettes Kitchen courtesy of our top West Coast supporters Toni, Frank and Zak (a very talented designer).

After lunch it was back to destruction in all it's various forms. Check out @brokenchimneyfarm to see a video of Oren AKA The Hulk attacking a plaster wall in slow mo. Before too many of you lament the loss of old plaster walls please keep in mind that we are saving all the plaster we can, but some areas are too damaged to save and or will be put to purposes not compatible with plaster.

The guys spent the whole day in demo mode - locked inside rooms with no AC and sweat obscured vision, but they got a lot done. The Girl crew spent a good chunk doing more methodical demolition and then put the kitchen together now that the floors are finished. Getting the fridge in and plugged in was a big moment! Eventually the heat got the better of everyone and one by one we hit the floor, wrestled with Cercei and cooled off with drinks and played Cards Against Humanity. All in all it was a very productive and fun day. Let us not forget the high point of the day (in Oren's opinion) Mama Carol threw together some blueberry tarts and home made whipped cream; they were the perfect antidote to summer heat and grime.

Goodbye Sweet Dumpster

For the first time in almost a year we don't have a dumpster blocking the driveway (driveway is an exaggeration, dirt is more accurate). It was a bittersweet moment as we watched the dumpster leave. With one of those outside there is no project that feels like it cant be tackled. Now, we have to think, "ok, if we demolish this wall, where will the debris go?". But such is life and we will make do until we have enough debris piled up to warrant bringing a new metal box out for a dumpster filling weekend. We expected having it gone would make a big difference in how things felt, but I guess our minds always knew it was temporary because at the end of the day it was no big adjustment visually for us. Anyways, rambling is finished, now please enjoy these pictures:

Amenia Bobsled Team

That's the name for our tub removal crew, a big thanks to Dustin Barzell, and Oren Petranker for helping to haul the old castiron beast out of the upstairs hallway. It actually was in the pink bathroom, but the spot it graced for near on 100 years will become a hallway and thus improve the flow immeasurably.  Now, we don't know the exact weight on the tub, but Oren and Graham have hauled ovens, coal stoves, butcher blocks etc.. with nary a grunt, but this thing damn near killed the team. Not only was it heavy, it also had to come down a curved staircase without damaging the plaster or railing, not an easy task.


It got much easier to move once we realized that the slip nuts on the plumbing had not released, so out came the sawzall and it cut just like buttah'. A special thanks to Julie for documenting the process and doing some solid pre tub removal demolition. Go to our instagram page for a fun video of the final push @brokenchimneyfarm

Artist in Residence Program

OK, perhaps it is too soon to call it a program, but due to our abundance of artistically gifted friends we are hoping to create a space where friends can come visit, stay a while, and create. This last weekend we had our first taste of it when Dustin and Hannah came upstate and set up the rickety home made pottery wheel Graham got off Ebay (turned out to be a good buy). We don't know anything about pottery, we picked up a kiln and some basic equipment in the hopes of making tile, but figured you cant have a kiln without a wheel... So lucky us, Dustin is an awesome potter, follow him on Instagram @ceramicism - he gave us tutorials and made some great pieces. We can't wait for more creative weekends like this.

Meanwhile, Hannah did some serious damage upstairs tearing out plaster and lathe in the old "pink bathroom".

See that smudge??? That's a sign of hard work!

A great weekend!

Future TV Room Demolition

Removing plaster and lath is fun, oh so much fun. The future TV room has not been used in a decade by our best estimate. Unlike the rest of the house the floors still sport a thick coat of paint and the walls are done in a very thick layer of a color that has not been in vogue during our lifetimes. The demolition is pretty straightforward, break, pull, break, pull, clean up, start again. Despite respirators being a real annoyance we found that when dealing with plaster dust they really are a must use item. Also, don't be fooled into thinking that all crowbars are the same, we used three different styles on this room and each had a particular place to shine (a cat's paw is indispensable for the removal of little stuff around the edges).

Every room has its surprises and this one was no different. We found two old chimney thimbles that have not been in use in decades, a galvanized metal duct which does not go anywhere and was apparently never attached to anything, many chipmunk nests, clapboard siding which marks the west wall as having been exterior at some point and a door that used to go to the hidden room. Before we can close the walls back up we need to address the plumbing to the pink bathroom above, duct work to provide heat to the upstairs north east bedroom, wiring to that same bedroom and insulation to the space above Ermela's room which is accessible via a small crawl space near the chimney. We also need to set this room up for TV use which means sound insulation and special wiring for speakers and though it is gutted, it will be a while before we can put it back together and start enjoying it.

Helping Hands

It was hard to admit, but my better half was right when she said I had not built enough raised beds for the bulbs ordered. So...back to it. Luckily I had extra hands this weekend in the form of Oren, Emily, Naomi and Asaf, hard working and very generous friends. With their help we were able to knock out two more beds and get top soil in them in just a couple hours. 

That's Oren using a nail gun for the first time, he got the hang of it pretty quick. 

One lesson learned from this was that we need another wheelbarrow. Preferably a bigger one, so that we can size the tool to the task, things would have gone even faster with two going back and forth. The six yards of topsoil are finally starting to dwindle, but we probably have another bed or two worth. 

Twilight is settling in and we are just about done on this bed. Testing out the concept of leaving wire mesh on top of the beds to see if it helps deter deer from digging for bulbs. 

Meanwhile, while the guys were tackling raised beds and throwing old lumber out of one of the attics, the very industrious ladies were demo'ing the back room (future solarium).

Que 80's montage music....

Efficient, organized and fun, those girls make one hell of a construction crew. 

End of the day tally: Girls, one broken window. Guys, one broken window - tie game. 

Anyways, thanks go out to Oren, Emily, Asaf and Naomi for taking a precious weekend day to come play on the farm. 

Turning a Window into a Door

The space formerly known as "Ugly Wallpaper Bath" is being reconfigured to allow direct access to the downstairs bedroom, to do this we had to cut a door. Fortunately for us, when they added the new room the previous owner covered over a window that used to be in that external wall. All of this is very exciting because it means we get to use the sawzall! 

First step: get the electricity turned off to that outlet in the middle, easier said than done considering the mess of wiring in this old place. After 20 minutes of flipping breakers and yelling back and forth we managed to get the power turned off. 

With the power off we removed the outlet, capped the wires and got ready to turn the saw on.

Woohoo! This is one of those moments where hours of prep allows for a few brief moments of obvious progress. Cherish these moments, they are what keep you going. 

The door starts to take shape, revealing a beautiful view of our old powder blue toilet...a true classic, perhaps collectors item?? 

This is where the versatility of the Dewalt reciprocal saw really comes into play. Notice how the handle is facing up? The blade can be inserted four different ways to allow for all kinds of different cutting positions; in this one we needed to cut down and end flush with the floor. At this point we are cutting below the window sill of the old window so the original exterior wood siding is partially exposed, you can see the many layers of siding and drywall that were built on top of each other.

Notice the not covered floor vent? That is not due to negligence, the vent is getting replaced with a wood one and the useless flex vent supplying it will also come out and be replaced with a nice efficient oval sheet metal duct. The flex ducts tend to kink and not actually supply much air, a big drawback which outweighs their ease of installation benefit. 

Once the door was open we looked at it for a while and realized it was suitable for a skinny hobbit, so back out with the saw to do some more cutting back. Originally we were going to use the inside of the window frame dimensions, but after walking though it a couple times opted to cut back to the outside of the window frame instead. 

Ermela turned out to be the best with this piece of equipment, Graham cut like he drives, a little random and Mama C was very unpredictable. Well, now the opening is cut, width is 31" and height is 6'6", perfectly comfortable for our purposes. Next step will be to frame the actual door and see if we have any old doors that might fit the pace. Because we stayed within the original window framing we didn't to deal with new headers or king posts, all in all a very easy modification, and one that did not require any kind of structural considerations. 

Ugly Wallpaper Bath No More

So the ugly wallpaper bath was named for what originally appeared to be just that. Once we started demolishing it though we learned that it was actually decorated using shelf liner/contact paper (ingenious). Under the contact paper we found a rather nice old floral wallpaper and a green plaid wallpaper. 

Under the floral wallpaper we found odd thin strips of wood that were nailed to the wall vertically. Under that was a layer of generic building paper and under that was Kraft paper, the all purpose building wrap of the early 1900's. From there we expected plaster or raw studs…..

but that would make entirely too much sense. Instead we found horizontally laid wainscot over empty stud bays (hence the frozen pipes). We will continue tearing down to the wainscot level and see what surprises we come across. 

We also need to see about renting an insulation blower for the north exterior wall. Given that it took us two days to remove the loose fill fiberglass from the ceiling cavity above this bathroom we are a little hesitant to subject future generations to that form of insulation.

The goal for this bathroom is a claw foot tub, big shower, higher ceilings and plenty of storage… all pretty reasonable given it's 13'8" x 8'2" dimensions.