Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Return to Light and Life

"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those words have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."
- Henry James

Dear friends and readers... where to begin? How is it possible that SEVEN months have passed since I last updated you all on our farmhouse progress? I could say that our new jobs have been keeping us busy (they have) or that the farmhouse in general has been keeping us busy (it has) but truth be told, the updates you would have been receiving would have been, well... boring!

Do you know what's exciting about running electrical? Not much. Nor are photos of electrical wires being hung in wall bays particularly thrilling to behold. After our November updates, the Endless Winter of 2015 swept in, hunkering down and taking hold of Jamaica, Vermont until late April. Our exciting visual storytelling was reserved for interior household shots only, as all of our lovely trees and shrubs shed their color in anticipation of the long slog ahead. As the cold set in, Tony and I were faced with a familiar yet difficult decision: hook up the heat before all electrical and drywall was finished, which would then require draining and moving all radiators this summer in order to get our electrician's approval and then drywall behind each radiator before putting it back in place, or... that more reasonable of options - wait.

As you can imagine after owning this house for four winters, the prospect of choosing not to turn on the heat when it was finally within reach was not a welcome one. Yet, after having moved 14 radiators to every far flung corner of this home, the idea of having to move them twice to accommodate for drywall seemed unthinkable. In the end the choice actually wasn't so difficult - a loss for winter heating was a win for my back and joint health. So, to sum things up, our winter months looked a little something like this:

Imagine running unruly electrical wires while wearing two pairs of gloves and a scowl frozen on your face, and you've accurately updated yourself on our progress from January to May ;) We of course took photos and attempted to make them as exciting as possible... cool angles? Different color wires?... so brace yourself as we head into our first update.


Walls and wires, wires and walls :)

When we made the decision to forego turning on the heat for the winter, one point was glaringly clear. There was no way John, our very kind and very sane electrician, was going to opt to work for days upon days in an icebox fronting as a house. Instead, we asked John to show us the ropes, and with his guidance and a handy how-to electrical book for backup Tony and I managed to run wiring for every room in this rambling home. Two-way switches vs three-way switches, receptacles, and wire gauges are now part of our vernacular. Need to hook up seven kitchen pendants to two light switches? What about three dimmable sconces? Look no further, the Dynamic Dallaryan Duo is here to help!

Don't let that sticker fool you, it definitely wasn't a balmy 72 in this home

We can't believe just how much we've learned in running the electrical for the whole house. For one, I've learned that my upper body strength is decent but pales in comparison to that of the electrician who has to spend the day drilling holes in ceiling beams and wall studs. Right-angle drill, you have humbled me. I've also learned that smaller gauge wiring is the devil, and that the gauge-to-width labeling system is counterintuitive. 14 is my best friend, but I fear what 8 will do to my arms when we run it for the kitchen. If there is a 4 I never want to meet it.

Thanks to my ever-talented father, we're learning a thing or two about running sound speaker wires as well. That is an entirely different ballgame, and I've volunteered to take the bench on this one so far. Tony and my dad have finished wiring up the majority of the first floor speaker system, and we'll be moving up to the second floor over the coming 4th of July weekend! Maybe I'll take a break from painting to see what I can do to help my husband out on this last electrical task ;)

Music speakers are the last to be wired up

Once the speakers are done, we'll basically be done with all electrical work! The only room to remain unfinished is the kitchen, which we plan on wiring once we get final specs on where the stove, refrigerator, etc will sit. All of those kitchen appliances need to be on their own breakers anyway, so all wiring will be run up directly from the basement. It won't hold anything else up by waiting on that room. We hope to bring John in for final approval by the end of July, and with that done we can move on to running any additional insulation where needed and drywalling behind every radiator.

Lighting rehab!

To keep myself out of trouble, I've also been working on restoring our antique lighting fixtures during the more inclement months. Between our friends at Twitchell House Antiques and the wonderful world of eBay, we've been able to collect period-appropriate fixtures for every room. Also added to my random list of acquired DIY skills: the ability to disassemble, convert and wire former gas lamp fixtures. I should have quite the future ahead of me should I ever start an online antique lighting business.

And with electrical updates done, Bailey and I bid farewell to those winter days cooped up indoors and move on to more visually appealing updates.

Winter weather was cramping our style

Now, onto my favorite (and always ongoing) topic... 


Interior color of the bay window panes

When we last left off, I had retired my handy Wooster paint brushes for the winter and sent all of our paint cans off to vacation in a warmer climate. Well, the gang is back together and we're outside working with the sunshine and these perfect VT summer temperatures. Thankfully, after hauling arse for three years, the majority of the exterior paint job is done! A few 'problem spots' remain along the roofline where Tony has to do some carpentry fixes, but otherwise things are looking pretty good from the outside! The back of the house is all that remains, but before I finish off that side I am attempting to finish all of our windows for good this summer. What does that entail?

Hungry mice are jerky mice

With the exception of the occasional window pane that provided a winter meal to our never-ending mice population, most windows have been glazed, sanded, and primed for paint. Also, all of the windows on the first floor were painted with the exterior black color before winter, but still required the interior color to be finished before they can be put back securely in place in time for heat this winter. Enter: me.

Behr's Powdered Snow 

We had already chosen a warm white by Behr for all of the interior windows and upstairs trim, which had been painted white when the house was built. All that was left to do (haha) was take out 72 windows, paint the interior color, clean and scrape the glass on both sides, and reinstall the windows the proper way, with locks and siding in place. Piece of cake. It's definitely going to take me a few months to complete this task, but the two rooms finished thus far are looking pretty incredible. Also, I've realized that Windex is a miracle product, and I want to hug the person who invented it. A properly cleaned farmhouse window free of blue painters tape is one of the most beautiful sights on this planet.

The bay window room will actually be enjoying some special, colonial-style paint thanks to the plainness of the trim in that room. Oddly enough, the parlor room trimwork has the least adornment out of every room in the house. I was incredibly inspired by the photo below, and so we're going with Valspar's "La Fonda Villa Fountain" from their National Trust Historic Colors collection to bring a little refinement and life to this trim. 

Calming, comfortable & classic

My mother and I will be taking a mini-vacation next week up at the farmhouse, and plan on plowing through all of the downstairs windows in 5 days time. If all of the first floor windows can be painted and securely in place by the first week in July, we're well on our way to finishing all of these darn things by the end of the summer season. Call me crazy, but I think I'll be finished with windows and moving onto painting the back of the farmhouse by September! At least a girl can dream.

The Yard and Odds & Ends

Reaching for the sun

Even though "downtime" is a nonexistent concept at the farmhouse, I do occasionally set aside some time to get some new shrubs in place in the side gardens, and try to maintain things when possible! Miraculously, most of our fruit trees survived the winter, but a few took a hit with the late season frosts. Also, I discovered that deer had been helping themselves to the lowest branches of the trees, but a little organic (and incredibly stinky) deer repellant spray seems to have helped control that situation. Thanks to the changing winds out in the meadow, I am pretty sure deer will be avoiding Bailey and I for some months to come as well. 

Watching these plants spring back to life with the warming temperatures and May rains is nothing short of extraordinary. These simple pleasures of gardening continue to bring me endless joy, day after day. I'm looking forward to the day that I can change out my paint brushes for pruning shears without feeling quite so guilty.

Last-minute strategy for transporting a few heavenly lilacs to Brooklyn

Finally, our good friend and all around powerhouse Steve came up and helped us take on some massive landscaping challenges over Memorial Day weekend. Together, Steve and I mulched the entire pile of lathe that had been sitting on the side of the house for two years (although we recently realized we may have needed the majority of that for drywall) and a bunch of fallen trees. 

Man and machine in action

Steve also brought me epic amounts of joy by finally addressing one of the biggest thorns in my side - the large pile of sand and rocks to the left of the house that used to support the former owner's trailer. Though Tony had leveled the area two summers ago, the large rocks he tried to push around have continued to sit on top of the ground, making it impossible to mow. By July that area usually looks like a no man's land of weeds and Jurassic-sized thorny plants. After finishing two straight days of mulching, Steve went through and further evened out the area, digging up rock after rock along the way to make the area passable for the mower.

So fresh and so clean clean!

Thanks to a bunch of last year's leaves which have since broken down, we now have a layer of soil laying over most of this area. Steve, along with our other dear friend Meredith, spread out the remaining mulch pile from that side of the house and gave the entire area a good mow. We'll be laying down grass seed soon, so there's a good chance to this area will be looking like a proper yard by this time next year :)

If you still have a hankering for more photos, check out our slideshows of electrical, the thawing of winter, the return of warm weather, and my journey into window painting

Well, dear friends, it seems as though this update has reached its end! We'll be up at the farmhouse every other weekend this summer, so you know tons of photos and stories are to come. Here's hoping I don't kick another can of paint down the roof this 4th of July weekend!

Wishing you sunny, happy, and healthy summer days, and thank you for reading! Please check back soon!
- Melissa


  1. Yay! Glad you are back. Can't wait for more updates.

  2. Gustavo Woltmann thinks this is a fantastic blog!!- Gustavo Woltmann

  3. Hope you will be back with updates soon! Can't wait to see what you do with your beautiful farmhouse.