Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fall in Vermont & House Update

My first fall in Vermont has not disappointed. I had always want to see New England painted in her autumnal glory, and this year I got my wish.

Whether I was looking out the front window,

driving down our street,

looking at the mountains to the East,

or West, we were overwhelmed with the feeling that we live inside a postcard.

Additionally, our construction crew left us after 3 1/2 months with a much sturdier and more useful (and prettier) house. See the tabs under Kitchen, Living Room, Bathroom, and Back Porch for more on each of the rooms we've worked on.

Overall, the house looks cared for now. Our neighbors tell us how happy they are that we've saved the old girl every time they see us.

And yesterday, we got our stove so that we finally can have a fire in the lovely old fireplace.  All is well.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer by the Numbers

              Meg and Molly

We have been in Bennington for 4 months.

We have had 6 sets of visitors; 4 in the past 5 weeks.

We painted 3 rooms.

We have had between 1 and 4 men working on our house for 3 months:

  • repaired 3 of 4 entrances to the house: front porch, back porch, back deck. (Only the front breezeway remains untouched, and it needs work.)
  • added 7 overhead lights and replaced 3 fixtures. 
  • added 8 new electrical circuits.
  • replaced 7 sill plates due to rot. 1 remains to be fixed. 
  • rebuilt 1 entire wall and part of another.
  • removed 51 shutters for painting. They have not yet been replaced.
  • added 6 handrails at stairways.
  • painted 20 exterior walls on the first floor and 6 on the second.
  • added 1 hot water heater
  • repaired 2 sewer lines and 2 leaks
  • replaced 1 section of wood flooring
  • added 1 whole-house attic fan and 2 gable vents
  • relined 1 chimney, decommissioned 1, inspected 1
All together, we have dealt with 130 items.

And we are not finished yet.

But isn't it looking wonderful?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Heat Wave

It has been very hot here for the past 2 wks. Highs in upper 80s to mid 90s with high humidity. I know that sounds like a walk in the park in AR, but we have no central air. Bought 3 little room-sized window units, one for living room and 2 for bedrooms, so we are managing as long as we stay hunkered down. Supposed to break today with rain and front moving thru then 70s tomorrow. Wahoo!

We are still in construction hell. Just got the porch done but still have banisters to complete, attic fan to replace (1st one installed didn't work), chimney to patch, back porch to shore up, back steps to replace, and painting whole house, including lead paint removal, etc. plus repairing rotten sill plate in front room, and lots of other places. Oh, and trimming out now exposed beams in kitchen. We did find the leak that caused us to tear out the kitchen ceiling in the first place. Small victory.

But we really do love the house and neighborhood and town and setting.

The town is doing a lot to keep thriving--street fairs, free music every Friday night, Midnight Madness shopping, etc. and there is much to do in surrounding areas too. You would have to work at being bored.

Pat has been painting and I have been blogging at  I haven't had the leftover energy to find an agility training center yet. 

Tomorrow we are going to a herding demonstration by Jon Katz, a writer of dog stories who lives just over in New York. Check out his book, Bedlam Farm.  I think you would like it.

We are getting our weekly veggies from the CSA, Mighty Food Farm. It is in a beautiful spot in the valley about 8 miles from here.

To give an example of their offerings, we picked up our produce yesterday and got 2 kinds of lettuce, celery, tomatoes, green beans, wax beans, cucumbers, mixed squash, zucchini, onions, and passed on kale, chard, beets, radishes, garlic, scallions, napa cabbage, and pick your own herbs and cutting flowers. They also have eggs. And sell bread, meat, cheese, jellies and other locally grown or produced food.

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Porch Ornament

All work has stopped for the long holiday weekend. We get to enjoy a lovely porch ornament for the duration.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Demolition Begins

Today the Kabota tractor and its driver, Joe, began rebuilding our saggy, rotten front porch.

Here it is before the destruction crew arrived.

Here it is after the day's digging.  See the huge rock in the foreground? The Kabota dragged it out of the hole where the porch was.  We are going to find something special to do with it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

On the Way to Wonderful

The electricians were here all day, separating circuits, adding receptacles in the bedrooms, and hanging the light fixtures we bought Saturday. 

Now we have lots of light in the kitchen.

There is still work to do, trimming out the top of the walls, painting wires to hide them against the beams, etc. but we are liking it!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Case of the Disappearing Drip

So. Yesterday morning the plumber arrived bright and early, soon thoroughly impressed with the ceiling and how clean it was. He commented on the craftsmanship of the carpentry and the plumbing, and was nearly bowled over with the not galvanized, not copper, not PVC but ( drumroll, please) BRASS water lines feeding the fixtures in the bathroom.

Then he went to work, looking for the source of our leak in the now exposed pipes. He looked and looked and looked.

No leak!

We have now showered, flushed, and run water multiple times and still -- no leak!

Perhaps it was just a message from the benevolent house ghosts that we needed to remove that wavy plaster ceiling and get back to the bones of the house.

Or maybe it was a tricky little house elf chuckling at the gullibility of the humans who panic at a bit of mouse pee.

At any rate, we have bare beams, hanging light bulbs, and a carpentry challenge to turn this great potential into something wonderful.

Yesterday we bought pendant lights to hang above the counters and a chandelier for the breakfast room. Our biggest worry, among many, is that the dark ceiling will suck all the light out of the room.

On other fronts, the Volvo is fixed; the roof on the rental unit needs repair since it is leaking around the chimney which is falling down (it's a good thing we rerouted the exhaust of the boiler from that chimney to a direct vent or we might have carbon-monoxide poisoned our tenants!); and the main sill under part of the back porch is rotten. Oh, and the back steps need to be repaired or replaced. But like Scarlett, we will worry about that another day.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


So we decided to go for exposed beams.  Today was the mess, tearing out old plaster. Trever Howard, our handyman, changed race as we watched!  What a huge mess! Dust, plaster, dust, sand, dust, and plain ol' dirt covered all surfaces.

Above shows the ceiling taken down to the lath.

Here the old lath has been removed

Our pretty kitchen is again a wreck! (See Kitchen tab for more on the changes we have already made to Kitchen.

Then the drop cloth on the stove caught fire! 

Trever got it out quickly, but there is a little melted sheet on the glass top stove. He swears a razor blade will fix it.

News on the Volvo-they think it is a starter solenoid. More details from them tomorrow.

Still humid and overly warm. Not the 100 that Little Rock had today, but very warm if you move around much. I told Trever to stop sweating on my floor. It makes it hard to sweep up dust.

Tomorrow we have plumber, to fix the leak in pipes he can now see, Trever back to finish demolition, and electricians to put in more outlets in bedrooms, bathroom,and kitchen. And to install a whole-house fan in the attic. Oh, and a mason to look at chimney repair. Another day in contractor hell.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Problems, Annoyances or Opportunities

You remember that pretty yellow kitchen we just finished painting, and the gleaming white ceiling Pat rolled on Sunday?

Then yesterday we discovered a suspicious stain under the upstairs bathtub?

Well, today the plumber arrived, cut a hole in the wall behind the faucets of the tub/shower, and found NOTHING. He could see no leaks from that vantage.


And now we have an opportunity. Do we put the sheetrock back up, or leave it down to expose these 200-year-old hand-hewn beams?

As we were considering the options, we went to lunch with Tracy and did a little shopping. Ready to leave, we climbed into the Volvo to come home and it would not start. 2 hours later, after getting Pat and Tracy a ride home, I sent Ms. Volvo on a road trip to Cheshire, MA, aboard a wrecker and compliments of AAA. With any luck the Volvo dealer there will be able to figure out why the security system thinks I am stealing my car and refuses to start.

Long day....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Just When We Thought We Were Finished in the Kitchen....

Woke up this morning to a wet spot on kitchen ceiling, suspiciously under the upstairs bathroom. Urgent calls to neighbors for name of a plumber finally netted one who will be here tomorrow morning. No showers tonight.

Spent the rest of the day talking to a slater, a mason,a painter, and a builder. I am thankful for the experience we had at the log cabin and with our rent houses. Otherwise I could be easily buffaloed by the facia/soffit/drip cap/repointing/flashing discussions I had all day.  Estimates for repairs coming later in the week. Heart attack to follow.

Rewiring upstairs and rebuilding front porch both launch next week. 

What will I do when I don't have building projects to occupy myself?

Monday, June 24, 2013

More Light for the Kitchen

Yellow won. We painted the walls of the kitchen to match the breezeway. Then the ceiling looked tired, so Pat painted it. And I, in trying to adjust the god-awful antique bronze colonial-style hanging ceiling fixture, managed to somehow get it to stop working, (i.e., I broke it.)

So today, we bought and I installed a new polished nickle and glass fixture.

Now our new fixture bathes the buttery walls with golden light.

(See the Kitchen tab [or click here] for more on the kitchen renovations.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

One Thing Leads to Another

I thought we were finished with the kitchen.

I should have known better.

After I painted the breezeway a buttery yellow, the kitchen walls looked dingy. So we are in the process of painting the kitchen to match the breezeway. Sigh!

 Breezeway now.  The walls were dark brown panelling. Lots of cutting in during painting since the room has 5 doors and 2 windows! And a stone floor.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tracking Hiram Waters

We have been out looking again at the houses Jane Radocchia took us to see earlier this week. One in particular, in North Bennington, looked certainly to have been built by our Hiram since the trim on the outside of the front door and on the corner pilasters looked so much like ours. As we drove by it again, we noticed that the garage door was open and a woman was inside.

Going on the "Nothing Ventured" premise, we stopped and told her of our interest in her house and why we thought it was probably build by "Uncle Hi." She invited us inside and VOILA! The exact trim as in our front room decorated her front room. Our first "discovery".

And the discovery became even more interesting when we learned that the owner is a painter, and a good one, who is involved with the plein air event held each year in North Bennington. Pat's ear's perked up at that news.

The top photo is of one of our windows. Notice the pyramid in the corners and the beveled pieces surrounding the window.  The lower one shows detail of the corner. This looks exactly like the molding in the house in North Bennington. 

Ha! We found the tracks of old Hiram for sure!

For those of you following our progress, I finished the write-up of the changes to our Dining Room. (Click here)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Shining Up the Tarnished Lady

Since we got to Bennington, our most frequent outings have been to Home Depot and Greenberg's Hardware. We have been trying to tame the dark kitchen and wildly wallpapered dining room and living room. See photos at the House Journal page.

By the time Amy Ness arrived driving our Volvo filled with paintings and dishes, we were ready to hang the paintings and fill the china cupboard with the Hadley pottery.

Pat has been working assiduously between rainstorms to improve the gardens around the house, rehoming plants we brought with us from White Wagon and adding sticker-shocking shrubs we've purchased from local nurseries.

We still need to do patching and painting to the exterior, replace the front porch and do something for the backporch area. We just don't know what, yet.

Along the way, we've learned a lot about the builder of the house (Hiram Waters) thanks to Tracy's exploring old diaries and deeds, and the extent of Hiram's skill thanks to Jane Griswold Radocchia, an architect with extensive knowledge of early Bennington. (see Jane's website: )

Hiram Waters (1797 - 1890) in 1888. Take a look at those hands!

The more we look at other period houses, the more we learn about the architectural features of our old lady. And the more we learn about Hiram and his family, the more excited we are about having the opportunity to tend his legacy.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Leaving April, Arriving in March

After ten days of concerted packing of boxes, suitcases, the Pod, we were ready to depart full Spring in Little Rock and journey back in time to the early Spring of Bennington, Vermont.

But first, we had to take care of some business. Our realtor arrived early on departure day, bagels and offer in hand. We signed the acceptance for the sale of one of our river-view lots, gathered up the dogs and their paraphernalia, put in that last pair of shoes, and took to the Interstate System. Do we thank Eisenhower for this opportunity, or curse him?

I-40 to Memphis was not the lowest level of hell. The road construction only slowed us to about 50 mph. At about Jackson, TN, it started raining. And it didn't really stop for two days.

Our first night in Cookeville, TN, contained only a little sleep between crashing thunder and torrential rain. The drive through the last several thousand miles of Tennessee (or maybe it was only 200) was foggy, wet, knuckle-whitening. We cheered when we finally hit the Virginia line, but most of the normally lovely drive between the ranges of the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge, up the truck-heavy I-81, matched the horror of Tennessee.

Finally, weary and rattled from tense driving, we skipped across a few miles of West Virgina and lighted in Hagerstown, MD, where it rained. But Pat's niece, Tiana, was waiting for us at our hotel bearing gifts of coffee, tea, cookies, wine, etc. Dinner with her was a much-needed interlude.

Down to the home-stretch, we stayed on I-81 through Harrisburg, PA, then drove on I-78 east on the pot-hole pocked Pennsylvania stretch until we reached the relative Nirvana of smooth New Jersey roadway. There we swung North on I-787 until the New York Throughway (I-87) carried us to Albany, NY.

A right turn onto NY 7, led us to the Vermont line and VT 9. One more sprint, and we crossed Monument Ave just above our house. Whew! We made it!

During the trip we noticed that we moved in and out of Spring. Here in Bennington, the trees are just beginning to unfurl their leaves and the perennials are just pushing up their heads. We got here just in time!

Pat and Lacy arrive at our house.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

First Photos

The house is bigger than it looks from the front. All together, it is about 4000 square feet

From left to right, 2 car garage, main house with 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths, then the "shop" (now rental unit) with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths.

Probably the rental unit is older than the main house, since much of the original main house burned in the 1830s. The rental unit was the carpentry and joinery shop of Hiram Waters. He apparently used it to display some of his talents since the architectural details are much fancier than those on his house.

Below is a closer look at the details of the shop. You can't see it through the storm door, but the old door is split in half. A "Dutch door" some call it, with beautiful early 19th century hardware.

A New Love

It started with an online search site. I know. I have done my share of making fun of all the dating and matchmaking sites. But this was different. As soon as Tracy found the photos, I started to get interested.

I googled and searched for more information then spent hours looking at pictures and dreaming. It was a crazy, heady feeling. And even crazier, Pat felt it, too. Both of us, falling for a house we'd never seen in a town we barely knew.

But that was the beginning of our new adventure with the Hiram Waters House in Bennington, Vermont.

Check out the House Journal tab above for more pictures and information about our new venture.