Friday, June 23, 2006

Welcome to appraisals 101

We finally made the call to a local auction house with the intention of getting a whole-house appraisal. The last appraisal of any of these goods was in 1982, and most items were not even appraised--none of the toys, dolls, ephemera, china, or costume jewelry. Obviously, it might not be worth the cost to appraise it, but how will we know unless we do it?

The auction house is very well-known, and they were super helpful. They charge an hourly rate, which we can shave down by doing some of the legwork ourselves, like setting up the spreadsheet. It's time-consuming but doesn't require specialized skill. Yep, that fits our potential level of involvement--not that we have loads of time, but we certainly don't have specialized skill! The last appraisal they did on a house about the size of ours took 4 full days. The cost for that would prove quite prohibitive for us, so we're looking for any way at all we can keep those dollars from adding up too much!

So, in the not-so-distant future, V and I will slowly, painstakingly, laboriously go room by room through all 2200 square feet of the house and enter items piece by piece onto a spreadsheet. Then, we'll call in the big guns. Eventually, we'll probably put some things up for auction, but it'll be difficult to figure out what. Now, if we find out that the whozitwhazzit that has been tucked away, forgotten, in a closet for 100 years is worth tens of thousands of dollars, our job will become a whole lot easier!

G'on, EGG me on. It'll be EGG-cellent!

In case you did not guess from my rapier-sharp witticisms above, one of The Ladies has graced us with an EGG! A lovely, large, deep olive-green egg. I took pictures (because that's just who I am) but have not downloaded them yet. We don't know which gal took it upon herself to finally give up the goods--just that it had to be one of the three Ameracaunas because of the color. Our Golden Comets will lay brown eggs only. Just as tasty, but not decorative.

I had been beginning to despair that an egg would ever see the light of day at Swans Acres. Now I am optimistic that the others will try to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, and that we'll be scrambling, frying, boiling, poaching, and baking to our hearts' content.

Of course, because I'm such a big daggoned GEEK, I could not bring myself to cook it right away. I held it, turning it over again and again in my hands, stared at it, stared at it some more, stared at it a little longer, and finally tucked it into the fridge.

Knowledgeable persons had told V and me that The Ladies' first eggs were likely to be oddly shaped, small, or weird-shelled (apparently some first eggs are laid without shells at all!), but whoever laid this one was a real trooper. It's perfect, just perfect.

Now, to make this house-related, I probably should post something about the house. I ran into the house, egg in hand, upon the discovery of said egg. How's that? :)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Meet the wood float, my new BFF!

For Greg, who responded to my last post about using the wood float. I was a real nonbeliever at first. I mean, who seriously would think that going back to the plaster (the plaster you labored so hard at to just get to stay on the danged wall) and ripping back over it with a piece of wood could somehow magically make it smooth and crack-free? But somehow it does work. My old-timey plastering guide notes that scouring with the wood float is a necessary step on the process because it "gets the fat back." While I'm not hip to my 1920s-era plastering terminology, I think what it boils down to is this. The skim coat is made of lime putty and sand. Steel finishing trowels have a tendency to (I don't know how or why) separate the two and cause a less-than-strong finished product. The source I have says to go over it once with the steel trowel, just to get it to a modicum of smoothness, then leave it alone. I had a verrrrry difficult time trusting in this logic. After all, wasn't I striving for that beautiful, smooth, clean plaster wall? But by gosh, it actually worked. I put up the skim coat, troweled it over once, and left it.

"Getting the fat back" refers to the wood float's magical ability to push the lime and sand back together and compress the whole shebang into a lovely skim coat. Before I used the float, my walls looked....well, kind of sandy/plastery, not like smooth plaster should look. But the areas in which I used the float, my walls looked super smooth after I was finished. One note of warning: scouring with the wood float is a killer on the wrists! You have to try to maintain an even pressure, all the while scrubbing in circles, but also trying to not create any suction between the float and the plaster (I believe this was my downfall in the lost plaster fiasco....however, I don't want to try it again in order to prove it).

Apparently people who have oodles more experience than me with plaster can actually "polish" a wall to practically a mirror finish using a float. I don't envision that being in my repertoire anytime soon, although I'd sure like to try my hand at it. Virginia Limeworks has a finish that they use in bathroom environments that actually looks almost like a perfect white piece of marble, minus the graining and feathering. It's that smooth and shiny. In person, it's absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. When I had the good fortune to spend a day with Jimmy Price and the VL gang last summer (part of Travis McDonald's Poplar Forest program, which totally rocked!), I practically had to be dragged from their demonstration rooms. I kept stroking this lovely, shiny, smooth, polished surface. It was amazing. Incidentally, if you're ever in the Lynchburg area and are into lime, plaster, and/or museum-quality restoration work, I highly, highly, highly recommend visiting Poplar Forest and giving the guys at VA Limeworks a call. Both experiences are fantabulous. :)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Well whaddaya know--the encyclopedia was right!

The recipe I used for plaster came from an old encyclopedia, which also mentioned the after-care of plaster. This included misting (did that) and scouring with a wood float. When I first tried to scour the plaster, it was not quite cured enough, and some of it stuck to the wood float and came off. This, obviously, was not the intended result, so I stopped. But I did mist. Scouts' honor!

Now my beloved skim coat that took so long is cracking here and there, despite the misting. I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to scour it with the wood float since it has cured for a couple of days now. With more than a little trepidation, I took said float in hand, wet it down, and began scrubbing my sweet, innocent plaster wall in a circular motion. Hard. Holy moley! Everything kind of evened out, the cracks disappeared (with a few exceptions . . . feel my pain below), and my wobbly uneven skim coat began to look like REAL plaster that had been done by someone who knew what he/she was doing. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!

Now, the problem. There are a few small areas of the wall on which the scouring did not work. In fact, on these areas, large chunks of skim coat began to fall off the wall as I scoured. Not cool. Not cool at all. And I have no idea what made the difference from one area to the next. What the heck?


Soooo, it looks like I have a bit of patching to do. I'm not looking forward to that, especially after all the mini anxiety attacks this danged wall has already given me. Looks like I've got a lot more experimenting to do as well. Thank goodness the bathroom walls are nearly always covered with a shower curtain and are only visible to V, me, and, once I post pictures, all my friends in cyberland!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Ode to plaster and those who love it

I will never win a prize
But future owners may think me wise
For my use of plaster.

Three coat stuff is what I mean
The hairy, skim, and in between
Putty, sand, and hair of horse
The subject of my discourse
Is plaster.

The scratch coat wore down my strength
Coat #2 had a long curing length
The skim coat, though, really takes the cake
For attempting to smooth it made my poor heart ache!
Oy! Plaster.

So to all of you in love with lime
Pray, make sure you take the time
To stop, and have a glass (or two, three, four) of wine
Before you inspect
Your plaster.

You might have guessed that I skim-coated the bathroom this weekend. It was a busy weekend indeed! Between V and me, the bathroom got skim-coated, two huge shade beds got laid out, edged, and partially lasagnaed (i.e., sheet composted--Never again will I dig and till a bed until my arms ache. Oh no, not me! Henceforth, my aching arms will be due only to plastering, drilling, carrying, and the other myriad "ing"s that come with owning an old house).

And I'm really proud of the plastering job. As long as no one holds a raking light across my walls, that is.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Too barn exciting

V and I are looking into having a barn built. It'll have at least two stalls for horses, space for a tackroom/feedroom, space for a little workshop, and probably two open bays that we'll use as a garage. So far, the frontrunning company is which has kits they sell and ship. Their barns are timber framed, mortise-tenon joinery, which I thought would be ridiculously and prohibitively expensive. But it turns out they're not all that much more expensive than we'd pay to have a barn framed out and built. Plus if we buy a kit we can "invite" (read: force to come) all our friends and family over for a barn raising. We'll feed them, and feed them well, but they'll have to work—hard—for it!

We're still wrestling with where exactly to put it, but more and more we're leaning toward putting it on the west end of the property, near where the sad existing garage is now. That way we can extend the driveway/parking pad to run up to the new garage/barn, and there's definitely room to create a little runout pen for the future ponees. For real turnout days we'll have to walk them down to the pasture, but at least with a runout they won't be stuck in their stalls all day long, plus we'll be able to regulate their grazing. Good for their health (especially with that lush spring foundering, please!!) and good for the pasture, because it won't get overgrazed quickly.

Let's get plastered, part deux

Today I ordered a 5oo-plus-page book on plastering from Does it bespeak some sort of obsession or sickness that I am already eagerly anticipating it, to the point of imagining what kinds of illustrations it might have?

I also ordered a book on basic wiring. We've got so many fixtures to rewire, and you never know when you'll need extra outlets and don't want to pay an electrician a gazillion dollars to come do it. Hopefully we won't end up spending a hospital a gazillion dollars to mend us after we do some homespun wiring work...

But back to the plastering book. I currently have a test wall set up, with at least three different mixes on it to check consistency, crackage, curing time, and all that good stuff. But it seems my thirst to learn all things plaster is insatiable. And I'm a ridiculous overachieving studier, so anything I have an interest in, I read and read and read and read and read about. To me, it's fun, and hopefully it'll keep me from making a big fat mistake on a very important wall in our home. I managed to find a couple of UK-based (and since they're total light years ahead of us when it comes to plaster knowledge, appreciation, and care, I give their reviews extra credence) reviews of this book and it seems to be a pretty good one. I feel like a kid at Christmas. :)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Chicken run!

Well, it was bound to happen, and on Saturday, it happened. The Ladies got LOOSE! V and I were moving the coop and run, like we do every 3-4 weeks (the Ladies like fresh grass to scratch and eat). To do so we have to herd the Ladies into their big run, then move the coop setup in three sections. It's a lot easier to move the coop when the doors are open, and this time we apparently forgot to slide them shut when we were finished. I was refilling food, water, etc. when I looked down to my right and noticed a chicken standing beside me. As I processed this ("well, hello, little hen....wait a minute....aren't you supposed to be inside?"), I looked around and saw all five Ladies be-bopping around the yard.

Twenty frenzied minutes later, the Ladies were all back inside their coop safe and sound. I'm sure it was quite a sight, though. Two adults scurrying around while chickens flap and cluck and run. Aaaaah, country life! I wouldn't change it for the world, though. V and I were just talking about how we'd rather be outside working — we're talking hard, manual labor here — than doing almost anything else.

I so want to be off the grid.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Still looking for that buried coffee can of gold...

Our eyes are definitely bigger than our tummies when it comes to working on the house. Seems like everything we come up with is going to cost major dollars. Major. It would be so much more fun to do cosmetic work (who wants to come help us pull down the duck wallpaper and fake paneling wallpaper in the den?), but we've got bigger fish to fry. Like the somewhat frightening slope in our kitchen and laundry room floors. Or the much-peeling paint on our windows. Or pulling down the cruddy aluminum siding to peek at what's underneath.

Instead, we're now talking about what to do with the outside. Where to put the eventual barn, what kind of barn to eventually put up, where to put the rose and herb garden, where to move the chicken coop, all that good stuff. Classic avoidance. We're textbook!