Monday, June 29, 2015

Another Dance for the Painted Lady

Everybody has a different notion of their dream home. For some people, old is better than new and they garner great satisfaction from refurbishing a derelict antique and reinstating the splendor of a former era. Given the current emphasis on conservation of resources, houses that may have (or should have) been demolished are being given second lives. A TV reality series attests to this phenomenon with “House Movers.”

Photos by author
D and I had driven by a large, colorful Victorian house on Orange Road in Canaan, New Hampshire, many times in our travels up the mountain to our home site. We saw early on its owners painting trim or fixing windows and roofs on weekend visits and judged their task a Herculean one. Then the house became empty and a bank repossession notice was tacked to the door. During that phase we explored the decrepit interior and imagined its prior grandness. We adopted the name given by one local, “The Painted Lady.”

We were surprised on one recent drive-by to see pickup trucks and human activity, followed soon by bulldozers and excavators. In conversations with the workers, D discovered that a Rhode Island man has visions of resurrection for the old house. Now a new foundation is being dug out under its frame, which has been raised several feet by a house moving company. The entire inside is being gutted. Not far from the former Canaan Fairgrounds Speedway, which also has been given new life, perhaps this house will turn into a trendy bed and breakfast. Don't know. What's next, a local fine dining experience? Reliable cell service? 

We will follow with interest the progress every time we pass it on way to our unabashedly new construction.

There is an old Yiddish saying that goes: “There is a lid for every pot.” And houses, like pots, come in many sizes and styles.

P.S. According to Zillow and public records, this 2,400 square-foot house on four acres, built in 1880, sold in late 2005 for $240,000. The more recent foreclosure transaction took place in March of this year for $164,500.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Excavation Part 1: Terra Mova, Terra Nova, Terra Firma

After spending a day at our home site with our excavator, Dave, we have gained even greater respect for the skill and vision each trades person brings to a construction project.

Photos by Author
Dave was the second person we met after we purchased the New Hampshire property. (The first was surveyor Scott, who provided us with a refined topographical map of a section where we thought we would build a house.) Multiple times in the past year, Dave has walked the property with us, scoping out where a driveway might go to lead to the house and give us a view of majestic Mount Cardigan. The white pines and maples (sugar and red) were too thick and tall to see but a patch of sky. We showed him a site 800 feet into the woods we thought would accommodate a house with a walkout basement. His expert eye found a spot 200 feet closer to the road that met our specifications. On paper we sketched a driveway with a slight right curve that hides the house from the road. We talked about the drive as if it was real—which it was in our heads. Only after the logger did his clearing and harvesting were we able to see the true lay of the land. The envisioned house site was all we had hoped for.

After a long wait for road postings to be removed (banning heavy machinery that might damage thawing roads), and after mud season had passed (which is interminably long), Dave brought in the “big boys” and the driveway began to take shape. Using an excavator, he plucked and piled tree stumps to clear a swath then bulldozed the earth, setting aside rocks to be used for retaining walls (and one possibly for a front step). Michael and Jason ferried material for the 18” base of the driveway—finely crushed stone and sand—in trucks carrying loads of 28 and 38.5 tons each. Dave dozered that into a compact and stable roadbed, then excavated more driveway, moving from one machine to another to keep the flow of material efficient.

At the end of the day, we walked down 255 feet of solid driveway, half of stage one. After months of waiting for weather and schedules to align, progress was made—and a new obstacle emerged. The slope of the land that nicely accommodates a walkout basement for the house works against pouring a simple slab foundation where we wanted “the barn.” We remain optimistic, however, and have our money on Dave and his bulldozer being able to further sculpt our patch of mountainside.  

P.S. We've posted a game cam to see what the bears, moose, and deer are up to when we are not there. Circumstantial evidence points to some partying going on. We want something firmer--photographic evidence.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

These Untied States

Any writer or editor worth his or her salt knows that Untied States sneaks through the spell checker like a black cat under a new moon. Neither of the words is misspelled but the combination is a misnomer. A prudent editor runs one last check of any document mentioning United States and searches for Untied. That got me thinking about how much our states are united and how much they are untied.

After living for decades in New Jersey, D and I are now officially New Hampshire residents. What a difference a day makes.

Photo by Author
So who knew that to register a car in New Hampshire you have to go to the office of your town clerk, who may have haphazard hours (9–12 five days a week, 1–4 three days a week, 6–8 Wednesdays, and possibly morning hours the first Saturday of the month; and yes, they close for lunch as does the post office). After producing a New Hampshire license a person is able to pay a yearly fee (hefty tax) on the vehicle (necessary in a state with no sales tax) in order to procure license plates. Then one goes to the friendly local garage where Dave, for $42, inspects the vehicle, deems it worthy to drive, and slaps a sticker on the windsheild.

Compare that to a trip to the infamously bureaucratic, infuriatingly time-wasting New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles where the one-stop shopping experience comes with multiple long lines and surly clerks.

I’ll take the arcane schedule and the gray-haired town clerk over the Garden State alternative. Shucks, at town hall you can even get a “transfer station” sticker for your car, which entitles you to the privilege of driving your garbage to the dump and sorting it into one of three tractor trailers.

I’m starting to feel a little untied after the move and days of unpacking. Got to rest, the excavator is on his way.