Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Good Old Summertime

The last few days have been classic summer.  On Sunday we had a family reunion and then I took the kids on the local preservation society's annual garden tour.  I thought the kids' patience would last through maybe four or so gardens, but they wanted to see all eight.  I've got some great kids!  Then for supper last night I enjoyed a big plate of sauted zucchini, red onion and tomato with some lemon pepper seasoning.  Mmmmm!  And the zucchini came from my own little garden:

I'm putting all those salvaged bricks to good use!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Sunday Stroll

The heat of the day was starting to pass and it seemed like a lovely evening for a walk, so I told Charles the route I planned to take and I set off.  I'd walked most of my planned route before.  But then Charles had dropped the kids and I off on the creek road and we walked back home. Tonight I was by myself and I decided to make the route into a loop.  It only meant adding one last section of road at the end of the walk.  So...

A glance back at the house from the end of the drive.
0.2 miles - a brief stop to visit a few graves in the Primitive Baptist Cemetery, including Elder Lewis Seitz who married the Einsel House's first owners, Noah and Rebecca Rhinehart (he was also Rebecca's uncle)

0.4 miles - peeking out behind those pine trees is another 1840's stone house

0.8 miles - the setting sun shining through clouds

1.1 miles - crossing Silver Creek, site of the first mill in this township

1.3 miles - turning left onto a township road, this is the longest stretch ahead of me

1.8-2 miles - I enjoy a few black raspberries growing along the side of the road

2.2 miles - turn right onto the Creek Road (this is the best part of the walk!)

2.4 miles - passing a wheat field during harvest
2.8 miles - Honey Creek through the trees

3 miles - This brick house always makes me smile.  I think it's the little 'eyebrow' peaks on the porch roof that do it.

3 miles - Old bridge across the road from the brick house.  The lane across the bridge leads to a barn and a pasture with a flock of sheep.

3.2 miles - a second old bridge crossing the creek

3.4 miles - This is an early log cabin, the original log walls are exposed under the front porch

3.6 miles - another right turn, back onto our own road.  It's been a nice walk, but the Einsel House is straight ahead and I'm ready to relax and enjoy a glass of water.

3.7 miles - a largish, dark colored dog at the house that's about three telephone poles ahead of me starts to bark.  I say a silent prayer that the dog is tied.

3.71 miles - the large, aggressively barking dog leaves the house and begins coming toward the road.  Slowing my pace, I say a silent prayer that there is one of those invisible fence systems along the side of the road.

3.72 miles - the large, very intimidating dog walks right up to the white line at the edge of the road.  Damn.  Nobody puts an invisible fence on the other side of the road.

Still 3.72 miles - The dog and I are both holding our ground, still more than two telephone poles apart.  Regretting the decision not to bring my cell phone with me, I decide to pass the dog by making a wide circle through the soybean field beside me.

3.73 miles - The dog is still barking angrily.  I'm about twenty feet or so into the field when it finally decides to cross the road and heads toward me through the soybeans.  Damn, damn, damn.  I'm no longer worried about getting back home, I'm just worried about getting away from this dog.  Resisting the urge to run, I begin to speed walk through the field. At the moment I really don't care that I'm now heading farther away from home, just as long as I'm getting farther away from that dog.

After a few seconds I glance over my shoulder.  The dog has stopped about 10 feet into the field.  He's still watching me and barking angrily.  Breathing a sigh of relief (but not slowing my pace) I continue walking through the field.

about 4 miles - I reach the other side of the soybean field and come out back on the creek road.  Regretting again the decision not to bring along my cell phone (or even some bottled water), I resign myself to the walk ahead of me.

4.2 miles - back past the early log cabin

4.4 miles - back past the second iron bridge

4.6 miles - back past the first iron bridge

4.6 miles - The eyebrow porch watches me walk past again.

5.2 miles - Even when I'm tired and thirsty, I still have to admit that I love the smell of freshly harvested wheat

5.4 miles - A left turn back onto the township road, but I forget to document it with a picture. 

5.6-5.8 miles -  I'm initially hopeful as I pass the section of raspberries growing along the ditch, but realize quickly that I picked them pretty clean my first time by. 

6.2 miles - I'm almost back to our road.  A right turn and just over another mile and I'll be home.   I hear a car coming up behind me, so I step off the side of the road.

But the car keeps slowing down.

I turn around and see my husband with the passenger window rolled down - "It seemed like you were gone quite a while, so I thought I'd come check on you."

God bless you, honey!

Friday, June 15, 2012

In the Details

I have enjoyed poring over the details revealed in the 1906 picture of our house that we were recently given.  In many ways the picture confirms that thus far we've been historically accurate in our work on the house.  The joint finish of the mortar in the 1906 stone walls appears to match the joint finish our masons used when they repointed the house.  And I'm pretty confident that the tan paint color we used on the house is also accurate.  Although the 1906 picture is in black and white, it is obvious that the paint used on the house is slightly darker than the (white?) dress worn by the woman in the picture.  The one difference I see between the picture and our influence on the house is the front door.  But in spite of the obviously light colored 1906 front door, I have no plans to part with my Carriage House Red front door any time soon.  : )

Click on the picture for a larger view

The picture also provides details for future work we would like to do.  We knew the house originally had shutters (the hinges are still on the 2nd story window frames), but I've pondered what color to paint the shutters when we someday replace them.  Now I know to go dark - a deep forest green seems appropriate based on the picture.  We also now know that the original first story windows have always been six-over-six.  This detail did surprise me, as I suspected the originals would have been nine-over-six.  The picket fence was also an unexpected but wonderful detail in the picture.  Adding a picket fence in front of the kitchen has actually been among my plans for this summer, so I'm thrilled to now have something to model my fence after.

And peeking out behind the horses and tree on the left side of the picture is proof that the kitchen wing has been on the house since at least the early 1900s.  Having seen the intimate structural details of that wing I'm not surprised to see it in a picture from 1906. (Frankly, I'd expect to see the kitchen wing in an Einsel House picture from the 1880's.)

But of all the details in the 1906 picture, the one I've spent the most time studying is the front porch.  The Einsel House had a front porch when we bought it back in 2009, but it was obvious that porch was not original to the house.  It was also in poor condition.  So before having the front of the house repointed we removed the existing porch, planning all along to someday replace it with a more historically appropriate replacement.  Thanks to one of my mom's cousins, I even have some solid wood 19th century round porch pillars tucked in the loft of our barn. They were removed from said cousin's parents' house sometime in the 1960s and had been stored in his barn since then. When he tore the barn down earlier this year he offered the pillars to me and I eagerly accepted.  In my mind I could see them in an Einsel House porch - with simple corner pillars and an almost flat roof.   Something very similar to the porch on the house pictured below:

Compare the porch above to what the Einsel House looked like when we bought it in 2009:

 And then for fun, compare the 1906 porch to the porch we tore off the house in 2009.

(Note that the little girl is holding a doll)

The 1906 and 2009 porches had a lot more in common than I expected.  That said, they also had many dissimilarities.  The square pillars on the 1906 porch all appear to be the same size, while the corner pillars on the 2009 porch were larger than the other pillars.  Although it is difficult to see the details of the 1906 porch's roof, the picture seems to show the flat roof I expected and not the gabled appearance of the 2009 porch roof.  (Also note the black line on the stone in the 2009 picture - I suspect this marks where the original roof met the house.)  Finally, if you look very carefully at the 1906 picture you can just make out a porch rail between the two pillars on the left.   The rail appears to be very similar (or even identical) to the rail inside the house at the top of the stairs.    

While we are probably still years away from it, I'm so glad this picture came to us before we replaced the porch.  Because the porch in that 1906 picture is even better than any porch I would have envisioned on my own.   The inspiration for rebuilding the porch is now hanging in the dining room.  And every time I walk by I want to stop and study the picture for more details - you know, just in case I missed something the other 2,638 times I've looked at it.  : )

Monday, May 28, 2012

Be Still My Heart

Two cousins continued a tradition this Memorial Day.  One journeyed up from the south and the other down from the north.  They met each other in the middle, to visit together the graves of their ancestors.  But they added an extra stop this year, visiting the stone house that was in their family from 1901-1997.  

The cousins are on their respective ways back home right now. But they were kind enough to leave behind a memento of their family's years here.

That's the Einsel House, circa 1906.  The children are siblings, Carl and Norma Frankenfield.  The woman is probably their mother, Emma Frankenfield.

 For now this picture only graces the blog, but it's going to be framed and hanging on the dining room's west wall just as soon as I can get it enlarged and find an appropriate frame.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

For You, Mom

You've been asking for another post here for a few weeks now and since you're on the opposite side of the country right now and any other gift will have to wait until you're home, here's an Einsel House post for you today.  Happy Mother's Day! : )

The basement windows at this house have been an issue as long as we have owned the place.  Previous owners raised the level of the yard in front of the house by about a foot, basically covering the basement windows on the west and north sides of the house.  When we bought the house the west facing basement windows (front of the house) had been removed and the holes filled with concrete.  The concrete is immediately obvious from inside the basement, but when outside the only evidence of the former windows still visible are the original window lintels, which are now right at the soil line.

The west facing basement window had not been removed, but it was in a sorry state when we bought the house.  Poor drainage coupled with a poorly sloped yard meant that whenever it rained water funneled to this window, pouring through into the basement below.  By the time we bought the house the sill for the window was completely gone and the two sides of the window frame were half rotted away.   The window itself was still in place, but we removed it in 2009 to stop it from further deterioration.  Then, because we had other more pressing issues during those late days of 2009, we temporarily "fixed" the resulting opening in the side of the house with a piece of foam board secured in place with liberal amounts of expanding foam.  (Classy, I know.) Outside, we covered the atrocity with a straw bale.

And so remained until this spring.  On one of our nice March days I pulled back the straw bale and dug out the long abused window.  Charles helped to break loose the foam board, and then we stood back and looked at the result:

Not very inspiring results for an afternoon of hard and dirty work.  But it was at least a starting point. 

(On a side note - I was surprised to uncover the poured concrete window well that is visible in the pictures.  It gives a good idea of the original level of the yard prior to it being raised by previous owners.) 

The nice weather in March gave way to a cold and wet April, so the straw bale (partnered with some plywood this time) went back over the gap in the house.  Meanwhile, I cleaned up the original three light window.  What had been the bottom exterior side was partially rotted, so I removed what was too far gone and treated what remained with a rotted wood stabilizer.  I also decided that when reinstalled I would rotate the window, so that the former exterior bottom (most exposure to water/weather) would become the interior top (least exposure to water/weather).  With the window primed and under one coat of paint I got to try my hand at glazing - and found I rather enjoyed it.  Luckily we had enough correctly sized panes of old glass to put two panes in each of the window's lights.  Another coat of paint, and the window was ready to go.  The frame was another story.

After taking the pictures above, I pried out what remained of the two sides of the frame.  They were too far rotted to try to save.  Each piece was a true 2" thick and 11" wide.  I called the local specialty lumber shop, but the owner said he could manage either 2" thick OR 11" wide, but in order to do both he would need to glue pieces together.  That didn't sound like a good idea for wood that was going to be used in a basement window frame below grade.  At my mom's suggestion (Hi, Mom!) she and I went back up to the old Second Empire house we salvaged bricks from last year.  This time we salvaged wood.  While we didn't find any 2x11 boards, we did bring home a 2 x 9 1/2 that we thought we could make work.

With mom's help, we cut pieces for the new window frame.  Under the gray weathered surface of that old wood was beautiful quarter sawn oak.  I commented to mom that you'd never find 2 inch thick quarter sawn oak used to frame a house today.

Back at the Einsel House, I decided to dry fit the pieces we had cut for the new frame before painting them.  That turned out to be a good idea.  At some point during that long afternoon I decided that it was definitely easier for the Einsel House's builders to build the stone walls around the already constructed window frame than it was for me to try to fit a new frame into the already constructed stone walls. When I finally got everything to fit together nicely, I pulled everything back out.  Since this wood will all be below grade I wanted to prime and paint all sides of each piece before installing them for good.

The remaining steps took almost another two weeks, but I can type them out much more quickly:

-seal, prime and paint (2 coats) the new sill and frame
-assemble frame in wall
-fill remaining gaps in top board with epoxy filler, sand, prime and paint (2 coats)
-install repaired window
-tuck point gap between the stone walls and new frame (I called our mason who gave me the correct mortar recipe for this step)
- build a stone retaining wall to bring the window well up to the current level of the yard

And, as of late yesterday afternoon, here is the "new" window:

I'm very pleased with this.  
So pleased I may even take my lunch outside today and eat it while admiring my work.  : )