In a way, its a REALLY good thing we removed the upper and lower back porch enclosures, because we found two problems (of which we were not aware) that - if not addressed - could have caused copious weeping, much arm flailing, and serious injury. So yeah, we're happy with the demo. Exhibit one:
What? What's that you say? THOSE ARE CARPENTER ANTS. We found two carpenter ant nests during demo. Two. Carpenter ant nests.
Also? Exhibit Two:
That would be a completely rotten porch footing. There was actually sunlight coming in from the other side. You could see THROUGH the footing. So Mr. Man secured it temporarily with some 2x4s. And you thought I was just being dramatic when I said 'serious injury'. To quote Mr. Man? "I'm not sure what was holding up the porch."
I FINALLY finished caulking the freaking upstairs bathroom floor in preparation for painting it. I'd take a picture, but it is VERY BORING.
To celebrate? Mr. Man and I ripped out the hideous fence around the tiny front yard. I don't know why this fence bothered me so much. It's just your standard, ordinary grey metal fence. But it seemed so ridiculous to have a three-foot fence around such a small space (picture below is from late last summer.)
In addition to making weeding and planting next to impossible, the fence felt so....I don't know....... Conservative? Unfriendly? Go away-ish? So - two muscle relaxants needed after - out it came! Now I have the enviable task of figuring out what to plant there. Such a rough life.
Here's an after:
Here are my current thoughts about planting this bed:
- Existing plants=Eh. There are some boring pale pink sedum, and a few wimpy variegated hosta that might flesh out with the application of composted cow manure. I left them for now because I'm not opposed to keeping existing plants, they just don't excite me.
- I want four season interest as much as possible. That lovely rhododendron (which I cut back after buds set last fall) definitely helps, but more winter interest would be great.
-The look should be lush but not busy, with a color scheme that utilizes the color and shape of the foliage as much as the color and shape of flowers. I want the color scheme to accent the orange brick.
- I don't want anything that spreads like crazy. So don't even think of suggesting beebaum or mint.
- LOW maintenance please.
- It gets full sun. Except under the rhododendron.
So, what do you think I should plant? Any local landscapers want to help me in exchange for a few grateful shout outs and free ad space?
When we bought our historic row house, the back porches, upstairs and down, were completely enclosed.
Even after the spaces were cleared out, they still weren't inviting or usable.
The space just screamed "GO AWAY! I NEED TO BE ALONE WITH MY GREY FLOORY-NESS. " So needless to say, we didn't go out there very often.
We're going to open up the entire back porch, up and down, with the goal of making it cool usable space that helps us integrate the row house with the (someday usable and cool) backyard. So let the demo begin!
We've been asked when our row house was built, and honestly? We have no idea. Turn of the Century? Early 1900's? 1920s? Enter the Sanborn Insurance Company.
Sanborn maps were created by the Sanborn company for fire insurance purposes. For over one hundred years, Sanborn mapped 12,000 American cities, and Holyoke was one of the 12,000. The thought was: we could use Sanborn maps to see when our house was built.
The Holyoke History Room has photocopies of the Holyoke Sanborn Map from 1897. Our house is not pictured on that map, though the duplex that once stood on the lot next door is pictured. The Holyoke History Room also had a 1911 LJ Richards Map, on which our house IS pictured. So, our house was built sometime between 1897 and 1911.
But I wanted to narrow it down even further. The Richards Map above includes the property owner's name! That meant we could use old city directories to 'follow' our home's first owner.
Wistariahurst Museum has Holyoke city directories going back to the 1880s. Our city historian and Wistariahurst Curator pulled the directories from 1911 to 1898 in reverse order. In 1911, Mr. Hyland lived in our house. In 1910 he lived in our house. In 1909, he lived in our house, and...okay, I'll spare you the suspense - the first year he lived in the house was 1899. We can deduce - therefore - that our house was built between 1898-1899! To confirm this, I need to look at a Sanborn Map directory from 1898 and 1899. Digital Sanborn maps are available from academic libraries who subscribe to the online database. In our case, UMass/Amherst is the closest library to carry the subscription.
I belong to a CSA - which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. As they say, membership has its privileges. Every week from May to November, I pick up a 1/2 share of fresh, delicious, organic, and locally grown produce.
I got a message earlier this week that - AMAZINGLY- farm shares are still available at my CSA, Mountain View. What are you waiting for?! Get on the horn!
For my birthday? I was given two heavenly days in the Berkshires. We stayed at Porches in North Adams: Hot tub. Sauna. Homemade cookies. And a sunny breakfast room with very strong coffee. What more could a lucky girl ask for? Oh wait, before you answer? I was also treated to the 'blissed out' package, which included two spa treatments. Like I said: lucky.
Porches is across the street from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. MassMoca (as it is known) was a sprawling, vast complex of 19th-century factory buildings that, through adaptive reuse, has been turned into a modern art museum. This was our second visit to this inspiring free-wheeling space.
We were looking forward to the Sol Lewitt exhibit. I'll tell you about it in my next post.