Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Spring in our Step!

Spring has returned to Jamaica, Vermont! Well, technically, it's more like Mud Season, as it is aptly called up there, but at least the snow is gone! Rising temperatures and a consistent string of rainy days have helped melt the big white beast, and we no longer need to shovel for a half hour before we can pull up to the house. Mud season, we're so happy to see you.

This past weekend, Tony, my parents and I returned to the farmhouse to find the lawn now accessible and temperatures hovering at a balmy 42 degrees. The main goals for these weekend warriors: insulate inside, clean up outside. Since first coming to the house in November, my motivated father has been itching to get to work on the lawn. While the previous owners mowed part of the lawn, a large portion of it was left to mother nature. This meant that years and years of dead leaves were forming into a dense, grass-killing blob on the side of the house, trees were starting to spring up too close to the structure, and the area where the barn once stood had been transformed into a thicket of tall thorns. As we stood in the backyard taking it all in, I realized the property needs practically as much work as the inside of the house. An overwhelming thought, indeed. To get the yard in order, we have the following laundry list. Brace yourself:

  • Rake up all leaves and mulch them
  • Clean debris out of the stream in the backyard
  • Fill in multiple holes on the property with mulch
  • Cut up and till a 400 sq ft thorn patch by hand
  • Remove large boulders from lawn... somehow...
  • Rent a Bobcat and level out a large raised piece of land, which was built to support a trailer on the property at some point
  • Dig up 5 trees that have sprung up too close to the house and replant them along the property line to provide some privacy from our neighbor
  • Hire a tree service to take down a few poorly placed trees, including a dead one dangerously close to our electric lines
  • Trim down the handful of well and septic system pipes that are jutting up throughout the property
  • Sort through and remove all junk piles
And that's all I can think of off the top of my head. Sounds good, right? But, as with all things concerning this house, we must take it one step at a time. For now, we are happy with the progress we made this weekend. Tony and my dad were able to rake up a huge portion of leaves which have been collecting along the left side of the house for eons and run them through the mulcher. It already looks 100% better along that side. 6 inches of compacted dead leaves really do take away from the look of a place. My dad, the unstoppable landscaper, also trimmed down some thorn bushes growing on a mound of dirt and rock, which will someday need to be leveled out with a rented backhoe, and mulched a large amount of dead tree limbs. He also organized all of the backyard debris by type, and used a leaf blower to get the leaves into more manageable piles to be mulched next time around. All in all, this side of the lawn already looks significantly better, but the work is far from over.

 The leaves are gone and it's looking fine!

Our most challenging lawn task will be the right side of the house. The ground where the barn once stood has now turned into an enormous thicket of thorn bushes. The snow has flattened out the thorn bushes for now, making the expansive size of this thicket all too visible. The area is easily 20 x 15 ft, if not more. To make things better, this area is also littered with a variety of rocks, ranging in size from boulder to watermelon. As we slowly clear the ground around these boulders, they will have to be moved (how, we have no idea) to another part of the lawn. Not to mention that moving the boulders could uncover any number of critters that have made a home in these mini rock quarries. This should make landscaping even more interesting. Once all of the thorns have been cut down, we will mulch everything and then rent a motorized till, so we can dig up the ground and put down grass seed. I can already see our summer months: a vision of digging, dirt and motorized lawn equipment.

Are the thorns no match for us, or are we no match for the thorns?

Meanwhile, good ole Susie Q and I got busy inside by demoing and prepping the 'library' for insulation. I began the familiar process of knocking down plaster, shoveling up plaster, lugging it outside via buckets, knocking down lathe, piling up lathe in other room, and sweeping down walls. Not to mention the time consuming task of digging out by hand all of the plaster and wood chips that have fallen in the small space between the baseboard trim and the outside wall during demo. Once these steps are completed, we are ready to cover up the windows with plastic and begin the spray foam insulation process. Sues strapped on a dust mask and jumped into the fray, helping me clean up fallen plaster and sweep down the walls. Through the course of the weekend, we were able to insulate the upstairs bathroom entirely, which Tony demo'd last year, and the majority of the library room. Unfortunately, we ran out of insulation a mere three panels away from completion, but that's ok by us. Once we demo the other front room downstairs and area around the front door, we will be able to insulate all 3 rooms at once and the insulation process for the entire first floor will be done!

We are now aiming to return to the house in 3 weeks time. To make more room downstairs, we have moved all of the furniture left in the house which we plan on keeping up into the attic. Everything else will be cleaned and marked for a garage sale to be held the same weekend. How nice it will be to clean out our space a little and make some cash doing it! Once the room is cleared, on with the demo and insulating.

With the snow now gone and warm weather approaching, I feel confident saying things are looking up! Progress will move much faster in the warmer weather, both outside and inside. The backyard will see some serious TLC, and once the entire downstairs is insulated, our electrician can run wiring for the whole floor and the plumbers can run pipes for heating. By next winter, we WILL have heat in that house. To take a page from Scarlett O'Hara, we'll never be cold again!

And you thought Scarlett was dedicated...

We've survived our first Vermont winter. Now, give us spring!
-  Melissa

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