Saturday, May 18, 2024

Sleeping Dogs

The dogs are sleeping.  

It's 7:30 and I accept that I'm not going to accomplish anything else today.  Which has left me time to read back through blog posts of yore.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Because of hip dysplasia, Little Man no longer always feels like tackling the stairs to the backyard, and so I am taking him out on the leash.  This week it has been a good excuse to walk around the house to check in with the roofers who are lining my new wooden gutter with copper.

The gutter seem to be doing its job.  I can tell, because it's currently raining.

I would like to say that in the five years since my last post I have discovered that I have an aptitude for DIY and home management and the house has been transformed into a thing of wonderous historic beauty.  But I respect you too much to lie to you, Reader.  I am the least qualified old house owner on the planet.

In fact, my current "project" is to perform a full inventory of all the care and investments that the house needs so I can rank each item by urgency and cost and see what I can reasonably afford to pay other more qualified people to do over the next five to ten years.  This is a disheartening project.  The scope of my ignorance and the sheer quantity of peeling paint and water stains overwhelms me.  

"Nevertheless, she persisted."

The first inventory task is windows.  A full review of each window, its current condition and the relative urgency of repairs.

At this point, anyone who knows me in real life will be saying..... "Wait, what?  Still?  With the windows?"

Yes, dear Reader.  Still, with the windows.  There are, after all, about 65 of them, in various states of disrepair.  And several of them have been disassembled and then abandoned by repair men and the sashes are now just laying uselessly about the house (like the dogs).   

So I have resolved to tackle the windows myself.

For the next 6 weeks, except for hours spent working, eating, sleeping, walking the dogs and generally procrastinating, the next 6 weeks of my life are dedicated to window restoration and general planning.

What can I accomplish, now that I have set my mind to it?

Oh look.  It's time for bed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Little Man, the most recent addition to the Highlands Bangor household does NOT like the rain, does NOT like the waterfall descending from the gutterless roof, does NOT like to step in the puddles where the bricks are missing from the back path.  But since he is pacing around the house, picking up household objects and double-dog-daring me to do something about it, I put a leash on him and drag him outside, through the waterfall and onto the path, and then I stand there in the rain cackling and blocking his flight back to the house until he has done what his misbehavior told me he needed to do.

At least I am laughing.

The house is quieter since Zaphod, Trillian and the little people have moved south.  Not only are there fewer footsteps and voices, but there is less banging.  Not so much whirring of power tools.

Maybe the silence is what made me think a greyhound puppy was a good idea.  Unlike Butterface, he's a howler, and he's taught her to sing with him.  He's also a barker: often at inconvenient times in the morning; always when he wants to go out and IT'S RAINING.

The rain has been something of a theme of my last year.  A wet fall.  A wet winter.  A wet spring.  A wet summer.  My general outlook may have made it seem like there was more rain than there really was, but there was enough that it found its way between and around and through and into the house.  What I had hoped were old stains have found new life.

And every time I called my father - "Have you found anyone to fix the roof yet?"

Unlike painting or tiling or refinishing floors, roofing is one of those jobs that does not lend itself to evening and weekend DIY.  Neither does gutter repair when the gutters in question are integral to the roofline of the house and lined with metal which must be bent to the correct shape and then welded.

"Have you found anyone to fix the roof?"

One roofer passed away.  The next was too busy and had health problems.  The third came recommended by a friend, but he clearly didn't want the work and inflated his price.  I think he was disappointed when I didn't hang up on him.

I called a real estate agent.  She came and looked around, at the wires hanging out of walls and ceilings, at the water stains, at the missing dining room ceiling.  She asked for my minimum selling price and then shook her head.  "Stop the water.  Cover the old damage.  Call me again next year, if you want to."

I spent more time in the dark yard with Little Man on his leash as the summer rain came down.

"The house has been here for almost 200 years.  It's not going to fall down this winter." I told my father.  He threatened to climb onto the roof with a tarp.  I went to Facebook for advice.

The man who eventually responded to calls and came to see me is surprisingly young and seems in good health.  He claims he is excited to take the job and that he can do it this fall.  If it doesn't rain.

I debate whether the cost is worth it; whether I can make it another season; whether copper snowguards and gutter lining are investments or vanity.  But I remember lining a window sill with mugs.  And I remember the ceiling that came down on Trillian's Christmas tree.  And I remember the snow crashing off the roof to melt and re-freeze on the driveway.

And I remember when I loved the sound of rain and when I thought this house was beautiful.  Is it possible to buy those back?

Little Man doesn't care about any of these things.  He knows he does not like the rain.  It was too wet today for a walk or a trip to the dog park.  But the house is dry and I am home and so he works off his extra energy, zooming with enthusiasm through the kitchen and family room - back and forth - while I curl up on a couch with Butterface to keep both of us out of his way.

At least I am laughing.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Two Year Anniversary of Highlands Bangor, a Segue

Dear Reader,

The last year has seen substantial changes at Highlands Bangor, and because I (Fenchurch) am reluctant to abandon this blog, I think something needs to be said as a segue between previous posts and future posts.

Two years ago, when I took possession of the keys for this old house, there were 6 people and a dog who had a mutually beneficial plan to live here, restore the house's beauty and prepare it for modern living.  We achieved some of that, but it also became clear that not everyone was mutually benefiting from the arrangement.  And so at the end of July, the family of Zaphod, Trillian, Frogstar, Frankie and Benji moved out for a new town and their own space.

This leaves your's truly as the sole resident and therefore primary caregiver of Highlands Bangor.  It is not a situation I would have willingly chosen two years ago, and it is not a situation I have much more enthusiasm for today.  The house is too big.  There is too much yard, too many floors and windows and not enough money.  And the Maine winter has arrived and clearly has no intention of leaving until April or May.

I frequently remind myself that I could be walking north through Mexico right now, but instead I have a good job, two cuddly dogs and a house that has survived 180 previous winters.  Also, the modern world has invented meal delivery services - so I can now have vegetables Fed-Ex-ed to my door while I ignore the weather, try to keep a greyhound puppy from chewing on the window trim, and adjust to the idea of living long term in Bangor.

At the end of a difficult season, the best plan I can formulate is to hibernate for the winter and hope for something better to grow in the spring.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Fenchurch Remembers Year One

One year ago I drove into downtown Bangor and signed a lot of papers in exchange for a set of keys to the oldest house on Thomas Hill.  I had a few moments of quiet at the house before the plumbers arrived to jack hammer a decayed cast iron waste pipe out of the basement floor.  It seems like there's been banging and cutting and a great deal of crashing around ever since. (Some of it, but not all of it, intentional.)

I think I can safely say that I am still on the steep part of the home renovation learning curve. And the safe use of power tools learning curve.  Also the how to be a good business partner and how to peacefully coexist with others curves.

I spend a lot of time just being tired.

But a lot has been accomplished in this year, due mostly to Zaphod's hard work (and perseverance in the face of suffering).

  • Rotten cast iron waste pipe replaced.
  • Laundry / half bath upgraded.
  • New wood stove and back chimney lined.
  • Structural repairs have progressed.
  • Front chimney has been rebuilt and relined.
  • Rotten exterior stairs removed, damaged roof repaired, new balcony added.
  • Electrical service upgraded.
  • Corner of foundation dug out and mortared inside and out with drainage added.
  • Family room demoed.  Bathroom demoed.
  • Lightbulbs replaced.
  • Leaves raked and wood cut.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed though encouragement, cleaning, scraping paint, swinging a hammer, pulling the trigger on a power tool, or bringing us vodka. (It's a muscle relaxant, Fenchurch-Mom!) 

We are grateful for your support as we make plans for another busy year.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Zaphod's Best Weekend (Ever!!)

It is a well known fact at Highlands Bangor, that Zaphod loves to dig.  His love for digging is second only to his love for moving things.  So this was pretty much the best weekend that Zaphod can imagine.  (If anyone knows a good libel lawyer, Zaphod is taking names....)

On Saturday, while Trillian kept the little people occupied, in an attempt to prevent the entry of water into the basement, Zaphod and Fenchurch dug their trench a little deeper and then started throwing mortar at the wall, literally.  Fenchurch found that her instinct to "color inside the lines" did not really lend itself to throwing mortar at a wall, so Zaphod threw and Fenchurch mixed...because mixing mortar is kind of like mixing "just add water" cake mix.  Except you wouldn't want to eat it.  And it's a looooooooot heavier.

Four bags of mortar later and Zaphod and Fenchurch were both done for the day.  And only about 1/4 of the way around the wall.  Thank goodness next weekend should be sunny...

On Sunday, to rest from throwing mortar, Zaphod and Fenchurch moved things around.  There seems to be an unwritten rule at Highlands Bangor - if you're going to move something, the place you put it must be as inconvenient as possible for whatever job needs to be done next, thus forcing you to move the thing again.  The heavier the thing, the truer this is.

But rules are meant to be broken - so Zaphod and Fenchurch moved slate (for the keep-water-out-of-the-attic project) and wood (for the let's-not-freeze-to-death-over-the-winter project) to places which should hopefully be relatively permanent until the slate goes on the roof and the wood goes in the fire.

And Zaphod is looking forward to doing it all again next weekend!