Iced Tea on the Back Porch

This is the third August that has come around and I haven’t had to think about school. Instead of thinking on lesson plans and books and remembering kids’ names, I’m thinking on canning and freezing the garden’s produce, and sitting on the back porch with a glass of mint iced tea and enjoying these soon-to-be-glorious days of September.

Last summer we worked on the porch ceiling because the wood needed to be fixed before we could even think of putting a roof on top of it. We worked on it; I just didn’t document it, because, well, I wanted to have some nice photos to post about our wonderful, rustic back porch, just right for summer and mint iced tea.

Yeah, pride is a terrible sin…

I’ve never shied away from posting horrible photos of the cottage. You, dear reader, have seen pictures of holes in the floor, ugly plaster, dead mice in the walls, ancient electric wires, and rotten insulation. I believe in truth-in-blog-posting.

Mostly.

I’ve never shown you a picture of the back of the cottage.

The truth is, from the back it looks like an Appalachian Mountain Shack. This fact was brought home to me when we had to take photographs of the cottage from every angle for our insurance company. They didn’t want any pictures of the inside. The Beautiful Rooms that we’ve finished? Nope. They wanted photos of the outside. back of cottageOkay, so you can tell this was taken in the early spring. Actually, early spring, Last Year. Since then we have replaced, scraped, and painted some of the clapboard siding and fixed up the other stuff a little, but yes it’s still ugly. Although it does give you an idea of the scope of our problems. The mismatched windows belong to the basement workshop — not a high priority for remodeling; and what will we ever do with the cave there under the steps? Right now it’s a good place for garden tools…

We started with Mr. H.C.’s hard and fast rule — work from the top down. Replace the rotted boards on the roof. Put up new plywood and new drip edge. Take out unnecessary boards. Get rid of the spiders and wasps. Paint. And oh yes, put a new roof on the whole cottage.

These views made us consider a skylight or two, but that was rejected in favor of expediency and cost. Paint is cheaper. The new color is Benjamin Moore’s Segovia Red.

My sanding workshop around the back corner of the porch was in use again, as a door-stripping workshop. Lovely old French patio doors will eventually replace this ugly old metal door. It will be a great day when that old door goes on the trash heap.

But the work stopped when we discovered lead paint on the patio doors.  I don’t need any more dead brain cells, you know?

Now what was I saying?

So the porch is painted, the roof is fixed, but that ugly storm door is still there. So are Sliding Glass Doors # 5. And so is the ugly thirty-year-old indoor-outdoor carpet. Sigh. And the back of the cottage remains shack-like, with the top story painted and re-roofed, and the bottom floor ugly. (But the front is looking pretty good….)

At least no one sees the back of the cottage but the deer and the groundhogs. And they don’t care. And despite the unappealing nature of the photo above, these are views looking out from that ugly porch:

The skies and the birds and the green more than make up for the shabby carpet and the old screen door. And so does iced tea on the back porch while other people are in school…

How Can Such a Little House Have Such Big Demands?

We’ve been doing lots of little things on the house of late, but none of them has been post-worthy on its own.

Earlier this spring, Mr. H.C. put bricks under the front windows to finish them.

We also cleaned the brick, took out the old yews, and put in some new landscaping.

IMG_7069

All landscaping plants are deer-resistant. Unfortunately, the sunflowers I planted weren’t rabbit proof…

We updated our outdoor seating — Mr. H.C. put new wood on the seats of these old chairs, and I painted them.

I painted away the last of the blue gray cedar shakes, and Mr. H.C. built an arbor for our grapes inside the garden gate to protect them from the local plant predators.

There’s a new planter for herbs and cherry tomatoes on the sunny side of the back porch; it looks like it has always been there.


We took down the hideous-looking gutter from the front porch and added a nice new face board.

Once that was done, we agreed that the ugly painted plywood ceiling above the porch just wouldn’t do (it was so ugly, I never even took a photo of it…)

…so we gutted the ceiling and replaced it with traditional porch beadboard. It was a great day when that plywood ceiling came down.

But the really exciting news is that last week two trucks from Home Depot delivered a new door, a new window, and roofing materials and shingles. Mr. H.C. was anxious to get started on the roof, so I was surprised one evening when he came in and said, “I really think we should put the door in first. I don’t want it sitting around getting scratched up.”

Replace Sliding Glass Door # 3?  I danced with glee. (There were originally FIVE sets of sliding glass doors in the cottage when we acquired it. Two are gone. Three are now gone! This was Mr. H.C’s project all the way. All I did was pick the doors, the color, help move them across the yard, and shout encouragement from the sidelines.

The project would have gone faster, but like all old cottage projects, one must expect the unexpected. Or, at least, not be surprised. The sill under the sliding glass doors looked like this when we took it out:

IMG_7079 So extra work was involved rebuilding the sill, adding concrete and raising the new doors a bit to make a lovely (and solid) new concrete sill. These doors enter into what is lovingly called the garage bedroom. It used to be the garage. When the inside is finished, it will be the office, a guest bedroom, and the tv room — it’s a small room to be a threefer…

And one more before-and-after shot:

Painting of Apple Hill Cottage, ca.1973

The original cottage in the fifties

applehillfall3.jpg

The remodeled cottage of the seventies

July, 2016

July, 2016, with still plenty of projects to complete

Excuse the green-tarped package in the center of the yard. That’s the next old-cottage project.

On to the roof…

roofing in the dark to beat tomorrow's rain

Yup, we work 24/7 around here…

 

145. The Harvest Kitchen

It’s been a busy harvest season; yet still I don’t have any canned peaches or pears. We had only about a dozen peaches on our little second-year peach tree and about a dozen pears on the Bosc pear tree. The other pear tree — a Bartlett — is taller and more beautiful and has never had a single pear so far. But the apples are beginning to ripen…

harvest kitchen

And how has my beautiful new kitchen held up under the rigors of harvest season? Well, I can tell you that it hasn’t looked beautiful and pristine lately.

I’ve learned a few tips for all you would-be kitchen designers out there…

kitchen triangle

During harvest season the kitchen triangle is most important — but this triangle is sink, stove, chopping block.  Under my butcher block island are big wide drawers for all manner of utensils. It’s a must to have all those necessary kitchen tools close at hand for chopping, tasting, stirring, filling, straining, and hot jar-lifting.

IMG_6392Also filling a huge need is the deep farmhouse sink. I’ve always loved it, but never more than this canning season. I have asked Mr. H.C. to put his carpenter brain and hands to work to fashion a chopping block that I can put (temporarily) on one side of the sink. That way, I can just  chop tomatoes or peel apples and not worry about the juices dripping on the floor.

IMG_6451 A big, wide windowsill helps too, for ripening green tomatoes, keeping paper towels handy, and putting aside certain fruits or veggies to deal with later.

Clean Kitchen floor!

Clean Kitchen floor!

A comfortable floor to stand on is a necessity — and it has to clean up easily. My VCT (vinyl composition tile) kitchen floor is both of those. It’s cool to stand on in summer bare feet, and mopping up the VCT is fairly easy too. It’s been down now for two years, and I am just now thinking that I should probably strip it and re-wax. After canning season is done. (And I didn’t mention that it is probably the most inexpensive flooring you can buy…)

The soapstone counter that I can put hot pans on with no worries is a must in a canning kitchen. Hot jars, pans of boiling water, a pot of hot tomato sauce — all can go right on the countertop. No, it doesn’t look beautiful and waxed and shiny right now; that’s for after canning season is over.

That lovely little glass “filling cup” came to me from Clara, Mr. H.C.’s mom. It’s been a workhorse this season.

The high faucet and deep sink is fantastic for filling the canner. And I’m not sure if it’s the finish (brushed stainless) or the expensiveness of it, but it never seems to get dirty. For that I’m grateful…

deep sink and high faucet

The biggest drawback I’ve found with the kitchen design is not enough room on the left side of the stove. I’m not sure if that is a permanent state of affairs or not, because that’s the one unfinished area of the kitchen. missing the backsplashThe subway tile back splash will continue around the corner, and there’s a planned shelf above the backsplash where the appliances will sit. Before canning season, I was hedging about this, thinking they were fine right where they were. But now I’m not sure. Storage is limited in this smallish kitchen, so the shelf will be built, but what goes on the shelf is TBD — hopefully before next canning season.

And that brings us to the last necessity for a harvest kitchen — space for one’s jars of Beautiful Canned Goods. I thought the old-and-lovely built-in cupboard would be big enough, but it isn’t.  I’ve purchased five dozen canning jars so far this season; that’s sixty extra jars in a cupboard that was already sort-of full.

Aunt Mary stored her canned goods on the shelves that are four-steps-down from the kitchen in what was probably built as a storage cellar. The shelves are perfectly sized for canning jars, but they are currently filled with the tools of Mr. H.C.’s trade — painting, plumbing, and electrical supplies — and I don’t think they will be cleaned off anytime soon, so here’s the inside of my over-crowded kitchen cupboard:

the fruits of canning season

the fruits of canning season

How I spent August and September… and the apples are just starting. Anyone have an easy recipe for apple butter that doesn’t include burnt pans or exploding pressure cookers?