Monday, January 25, 2016

Greetings From Blizzard Central

The Mid-Atlantic Blizzard of 2016.  It's been all over the national news for a week or more ... before, during, and (now) after the event.  We get measurable snow here regularly during an average winter, but this much snow, and a storm of this magnitude, is extremely rare for us.

Settle in and let me tell you all about it.

Friday ... We had a beautiful sunrise on Friday morning.  Made me think of the old rhyme:  "Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning."

In preparation, we stocked up on anything that we needed in case we were snowed in for a few days.  I made a quick stop at the grocery store on Friday morning, to grab the last couple of things that I had forgotten to buy earlier in the week.  The weather soothsayers were warning that we should EXPECT to lose power, so we were prepared for that, too.

The snow was predicted to begin at noontime, and it did ... gently, at first.  The first of my snow progress photos from the front porch was taken at 12:30 pm.  I took another photo every hour as long as we had daylight.  I also planted a yardstick in the front yard, to keep track of how much snow accumulated.

12:30 pm

1:30 pm

2:30 pm

3:30 pm

4:30 pm

5:15 pm

Friday evening and all through the night, the wind blew, the snow fell, and our power stayed ON.

Saturday morning.  The wind was howling and the snow was blowing ... total on the Snow Stick at 7:30 am was fourteen inches.  At 8:00 it was thirteen inches.  All the blowing and drifting meant that it was going to be impossible to get an accurate reading of total snowfall, no matter where I measured,  Oh, well.

7:30 am

11:30 am

3:30 pm ... blowing like crazy!

From time to time, on both Friday and Saturday, my husband or I would go out and shovel our porch and the front steps.

First, shovel ...

... then, sweep.

And the snow continued to fall.

Thank goodness for a very timely post that a friend shared last week on Facebook, with a genius idea to help with providing a place for Winnie to do her 'business' during the storm.  We secured a small tarp to the ground before it started snowing, in a spot convenient to the back door.  Whenever Winnie needed to go out, we shoveled and/or swept the snow off the tarp and peeled it back, exposing bare ground.

This tarp idea was a lifesaver!!

Sweep off any accumulated snow between turn outs,

fold back the tarp, and Winnie had bare ground so she could do her 'business'.

Ruby has never minded or had a problem with snow.  She found that the snow in the area near the fence is shallower, and she runs out, does her thing, and comes right back.  She's such a good girl.

At least twice during the day on Saturday, I saw our farmer neighbor from up the road ... out with his big John Deere, doing what he could to help keep our road passable.

Saturday afternoon, into Saturday evening, it kept snowing ... sometimes to the point where it was difficult to see to the road.

Despite the fury of the wind and snow outside, the humans and critters inside were warm and safe.  Late Saturday night, the snow and wind finally stopped.  It had snowed heavily and continuously for 35 hours (from 12:30 pm on Friday to 11:30 pm on Saturday.)  No power outage ... for that, I am thankful.

Sunday, we woke to bright blue sky and the promise of a beautiful Dig-Out Day.  The Snow Stick showed seventeen inches of snow, with drifts in places that looked to be twice that high.

View through the dining room window, with a sunbeam illuminating our barn.

The ridges and rolls in our flat front yard show just how much the snow blew and drifted during the storm.

We were a little bit ahead of the digging out, having kept our porch and steps shoveled and swept like we did during the storm itself.  My husband headed to the garage to get the snow-blower, and our daughter and I started with the front walk and our cars.

The dry, powdery snow sent up quite a plume with the snow blower!

Front walk and steps, all cleared!

Next, we shoveled a path to clear the cars.

The bright sunshine soon melted any remaining snow on surfaces that we cleared.

He's still blowing snow from the driveway.

All of this activity kept Dorothy and Alice quite entertained.

With the steps, front walk, and cars cleared, I turned my attention to freeing the dryer vent ... which was somewhere down a half-flight of steps to the moat in front of our house, and underneath a five-foot snow drift.  There's nothing like knowing that I can't do something (in this case, laundry) to make me obsess about wanting to do it.

The vent is down there somewhere, but the snow is so big and so deep and so tall!

Success!  (green arrow indicates the vent).

After a lot of blowing and shoveling, which took us until mid-afternoon, we were completely dug out ... just in time to spend the rest of the day watching football.

Look carefully and you'll see our daughter in the distance, touching up the last of the snow on that end of our circular driveway.

This morning (Monday) dawned much like it had on Friday ... with a beautiful, but more gentle, sunrise.  I put on my coat and walked to the street, taking in the unique atmosphere that comes with a clear morning and a thick coating of fresh snow.

Sunrise was mostly pink and purple this morning ...

... casting a rosy glow onto our house ...

... with beautiful, diffused light reflected by the fresh snow.

Hello, Moon.

We were very lucky during this storm, to have everything prepared ahead of time and no responsibilities outside besides the potty needs of our dogs.  Our neighbors with horses and other livestock have some hairy stories to tell about keeping their critters safe ... there were even a couple of horse rescues.  In the end, we all helped each other as best we could, and everyone (and every critter) were safe.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

War on Weeds

I worked in the Rose Field today ... trying to do what I can to get the weeds under control, for the umpteenth time.  My goals are modest.  Clear one bed at a time whenever the weather and soil conditions are favorable, an area that's eleven feet wide and twenty-eight feet long, and don't look too far ahead.  Be satisfied with whatever small victories I can manage ... like today.

What the area looked like before I started today.

Soon, most of the weeds are gone and I can see the ground-cloth paths again.

At the end of the day, this bed is mostly clear and raked ... a good day's work!

I have learned a lot about gardening here in this old farm soil since I designed and built this garden in 2008.  I have never seen anything like the way this place can grow weeds.  Fortunately, it also can grow really nice roses.  (In case you're wondering, the roses in this part of the Rose Field were dug and moved in July 2014, the first time that we cleared this area ... process detailed, at that time, in THIS post.)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Snapshot: An Indoor Winter Scene

When it's cold outside, our cats can often be found napping on radiators.  Dorothy is the only one who will sleep on a naked radiator, like you see below.  I usually keep a small oriental rug on each of the radiators, to make their 'sauna' more comfortable.  

Dorothy was perfectly comfortable ... I don't see how.  I guess it's a cat thing.

Off topic:  This is the radiator in the living room, the room where we removed the plaster ceiling over Christmas.  The paint samples show my attempts to choose a paint color.  The final choice (as of now) is the small darker one ... Greyhound, by Benjamin Moore.  Bluish, greenish grey, and I think it's perfect!

Sunday Snapshots are posts devoted to moments in time that represent glimpses into everyday life in Hartwood, or wherever else I happen to be at the time. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Deconstructing the Living Room Ceiling

My husband wanted a project to work on (and hopefully finish) while he was off work for two weeks over Christmas.  He decided that this would be the perfect time for him to deconstruct our living room ceiling.

We decided a long time ago that it would be better to remove the ceiling in our living room, instead of trying to repair it.  It had extensive water damage, and large portions of the plaster had separated from the lath.  When our plasterer remedied a similar situation in our guest bedroom, he used screws and plaster washers to resecure the detached plaster, then he taped and skimmed over his repair and made it disappear.  The living room ceiling had an additional complication which made it less of a candidate for the plaster washer repair.  Over the years, debris had collected in the space between the large sections of loose plaster and the lath where it was formerly attached, which prevented us from reestablishing a good connection using the screws.  

It took a long time for me to get comfortable with this.  Throughout our renovation of this house, I have done whatever I can to preserve original elements.  I respect the history here, and I want to keep as much of it as possible.  In order to move forward with the work in the living room, I had to grit my teeth and admit that this ceiling, though largely original, had to go.

First, we had to remove everything from the room ... and we stashed stuff wherever we could throughout the house. 

Rug, console, and a pile of trunks in our foyer.

Sofa, Maggie's favorite wing chair, and disassembled recliner in the dining room.

Once the room was empty, we laid paper to protect the floor.

This paper was previously used during ceiling repairs upstairs ... reuse and recycle!

Plaster removal itself was done carefully ... using a 5-in-one tool and a hammer to chip off manageable pieces, which were dropped into buckets.  I'm no fan of sledgehammer demolition, because it creates a huge mess, causes unnecessary destruction, and would most certainly damage the floor as the heavy debris falls.

See the bit of brown horsehair in the one chunk of plaster?

Slow, steady progress.  

The strip of something that you see on the wall below the ceiling is a wallpaper border that had been hidden behind crown molding.  The crown molding also hid a strip of wallpaper on the ceiling.  The wallpaper is not an 1840s original, but it does look old.  This room has been updated a number of times, most notably in the 1930s, and the wallpaper may have been installed during that remodel.

The ceiling paper has a slight sheen.

From a distance, it looks vaguely like an all-over floral ...

... though I can't make out a true pattern to it.

Plaster removal took 2-1/2 days.  Plaster is heavy, and working overhead like this is very tiring.

There was an insane amount of sand and brick dust in the ceiling above the fireplace.

Plaster ... all gone.

Originally, we planned to leave the lath in place and drywall over it.  With the plaster gone, we could see that the lath wasn't even enough for us to do this ... and there was a LOT of stuff in some of the joist spaces above it.  Just like with the plaster, the lath had to come down ... carefully.

It was really exciting to reveal the original ceiling joists.  The ones that appear to be short are extensions of the the joists of the adjacent foyer.

Once the lath was down, we sifted through the debris on the floor as we swept it up, to make sure that there weren't any hidden treasures.  What did we find?

A vintage rat nest ...

... which contained lots of fabric scraps ... none of which was modern, thank goodness.

Two rat mummies.

Walnuts, a corn cob, mud dauber nests, and some leaves from the Post Oak tree beside the house.

Pieces of glass, some newspaper shards, and a few old nails.

Three of the pieces of glass fit together, and they appear to be part of a pressed glass footed compote.

We pulled the nails out of each piece of lath, sorted them by size, and bundled them for easier storage.  I hope to give it to someone who has a need for 19th century sawn lath.

I am always in awe of the craftsmanship of the framework of this house!

There are cross beams beside the chimney, which support fireplaces on the upper floor.

The cross beams are connected to the floor joists with pegged mortise-and-tenon joints.

With the plaster and lath removed, and the mess cleaned up, this part of the living room renovation is finished. 

It will be a while till we work in this room anymore.  We have to rerun the wires for the recessed lights, add new wire and a switch for a chandelier, decide what to do with the bookcase space, etc., etc., etc.  In true old-house tunnel-vision fashion, we put the furniture back into the room and we will use it as is ... till we get the energy, motivation, and inspiration to keep working to make it beautiful again.

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