Thursday, January 22, 2015

A neighborly wedding

Weekend before last we attended the wedding of our neighbor friends, Megan and Tyler, at Aria downtown. We had a great time and knew some other neighbors, but also talked to a lot of new people who were interesting and from far-flung places. Megan and Tyler moved into the neighborhood about a year ago and, despite our 10+ year age difference, we have a lot in common with them, namely – gardening, urban farming, craft beer drinking, the list goes on. They were the ones that we gave our hops to back in the fall and also make their own wine. We have really enjoyed getting to know them, plus it is easy to hang out since they live so close and they can come over to our house since we are stuck at home most nights.

We had never been to Aria since it changed over from the now defunct Jeune Lune Theatre and it was a beautiful location for a wedding, very rustic, but also modern.  In conclusion, a fun night had by all and we felt honored to be invited.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What I've been doing for three months since we discovered we had critters in the house

This post is a long time coming. I'll try to keep this as concise as possible. Back at the end of October, just before Halloween, we noticed mice had made their way into the basement. Specifically they had found their way into bags of chips and cereal we had on shelving in the laundry room. I set some traps just as I had in the past when we saw any signs of critters. I've grown used to mice getting in our house that was built in 1900. Add the fact our winters are cold, we have chicken, bees, fountains, and a large garden and I've actually come to expect it.

These are mouse tracks in and out of our house near the back deck. The snow helped us locate an entry point. The snap traps left outside caught a pair in a week or so, but we still heard noises and something nibbled a hole in a hose in the washing machine (soaking the laundry room floor).

Then I found some holes in the walls behind the shelving where we had stored some food (in the little nook to the left of these stairs). So I started ripping apart the plaster and lathe walls.

Once through, I found an 'L' shaped crawl space. It's void under the landing and stairways in the basement. It was a dirt floor strewn with rocks, chips, frosted mini-wheats, and random debris including several Hamm's bottles and cans.

Under the landing, the 115 year old wood showed signs of rot, water damage, insect damage.

Here is a photo to give you a better idea of where the crawl space is. It's below the landing (that is also the entrance to the basement slide) and stairway that leads to the laundry room (to the left) and basement. It is under the slide where we had a futon piled high with stuffed animals.

The day I took this photo I happened to go get Eloise one of those stuffed animals and happened upon a crime scene of sorts. I could tell a critter was sleeping under the stuffed animals. It had left droppings and decapitated a few smaller stuffed animals and pulled out their stuffing. The size of the droppings were a bit alarming to say the least.

Meanwhile, Christina and I were moonlighting as appliance repair specialists

Despite already fixing the washing machine prior, we had more flooding and hose chewing.

I spent an evening at an Uptown laundromat watching the Latin Grammy awards and I finally relented my stance and gave into Christina's pleas to hire a professional pest control service. In the meantime though, Christina's dad kindly did our laundry for close to a month.

Prior to their arrival (as they were booked out several weeks) I cleaned out the crawl space and dug out about 4" of rock and dirt. Above you can see one of several holes I found leading under the basement concrete slab.
So I did some research and purchased 1,000 pounds of quikrete.

...and I spent an entire day mixing, then pouring a new floor .

SM ♥ CM 2014

With the floor done, I began reframing the crawlspace with new pressure treated lumber.

Eloise and Harriet seemed to enjoy the increased visits to Home Depot and Menards. Around this time, I decided I could either A) leave the crawl space empty and rebuild the walls, B) leave it open and use it for storage (albeit awkward to access), or C) rebuild the walls and close it off from the laundry room, but cut an access point from the other side, under the slide.

I decided on C and begin work on what has become known as the kids' hideout. I started out by grinding off any exposed nails and cutting off wood that served no purpose and anything that might be dangerous.
Then I sanded down the entire inside. On the foundation wall (opposite this photo) I installed rigid foam insulation between the framing and by request of Harriet devised a plan to install a rainbow wall.

Spray painting was a bit problematic in the zero degree weather at the end of 2014. So I prepped a little painting area on the porch.

Then I moved the pine planking indoors to dry just before the paint had a chance to freeze.

Here is the wall after installation of the electric (outlet, switch and two light fixtures) and planking.

I added shelving before closing it off from the laundry room.

I got a 1/2" carpet pad and used remnants from the existing basement carpet to cover the concrete. Then I added molding and trim around the entry, parts of the flooring and walls. Turned out pretty great!

For Hannukah we got Harriet a set of glow-in-the-dark stars. She was an enthusiastic helper when it came time to put them on the ceiling. We've also added clips so she can hang her artwork.

It's difficult to get a good sense of the room in one photo. It fits our family and could probably accommodate 5 small kids.


Oh, but we're not done. A couple weeks before the completion of the hideout, and just after scheduling the pest control appointment, I decided that we needed access to the crawl spaces under the first floor bathroom and back entry area to ensure that this company actually took care of the issue. They told me when I called to schedule that they couldn't guarantee their work if there were places they couldn't inspect.
The piping on the top left goes from the laundry room via a crawl space to the bathroom upstairs. I put down some tarps and protected what I could and started to chisel away the foundation. I wasn't getting very far.
So I hired a guy to jackhammer through the 20" foundation. A few hours of work left a larger hole and a half ton of concrete on my floor.

The crawl space. So exciting, isn't it!? To the right was another foundation.

So of course a second access point had to be made. When the pest control folks finally arrived, they were complimentary of the measures I had taken. After inspecting the foundation from the outside, they confirmed we had several spots mice and rat(s) [YES! they confirmed we had at least one rat sleeping on our basement futon and gnawing through our washing machine] could have gained access. They filled all those spots with what appeared to be a giant roll of steel wool. They also set traps and bait stations outside and inside the crawl spaces.

A couple weeks later I hired the same insulation company that insulated the crawl space under the family room to come install closed cell spray foam in both of the crawl spaces. They again could not reach the entire crawl space due to the plumbing under the bathroom. Above is post-spray foam in the larger crawl space.
Nevertheless, the smaller of the two crawl spaces (above) was super cold prior to the insulation and this should help keep things warmer in the basement and kitchen area.

Now to cover the holes in the laundry room wall.  I added framing and placed rigid foam to further insulate.
Then I put more pine planking in. We're still deciding if we'll paint it all white, but at least we no longer have to look at the giant holes.

Writing all this has reminded me just how exhausting this has all been. On the bright side, we haven't had any evidence of any critters in a month and the girls have a sweet new hideout.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

December recap

Last month was quite busy for us. Here is some of what we have been up to:
We went to Rudolph at the Stages theatre with Harriet's best buddy Lauren. The girls absolutely loved the play. It was basically the tv special on stage.

This year I decided to forgo the regular ornaments since we have such a destructive baby on our hands at this age and decided to go with a natural Scandinavian-style decorations. We made the cranberry strings and also the orange ornaments, which I just sliced up and put in the oven for 3 hours at 200 degrees.  I loved the look. I had the straw ornaments, but had never used them before.

 Little helpers.
 The star.
Harriet and I made a lot of presents this year. We gave people candles that we made at this beewax candle making class at the Wood lake nature center. She just loved making them and we really enjoyed taking the class together.

It was our first year attending La Posada, aka Mexican Christmas at a Lyndale neighborhood assoc. event. Here she is with her preschool friend Byrdie.

I feel like I didn't get the full explanation of this, but it was awesome. There were about 20 or so of these people who were constantly spinning to music. It was quite the sight. This was a lovely cultural event and we will definitely go back next year for the delicious food and lively atmosphere. It was nice to connect with a part of our community that we don't get a chance to interact with on a daily basis.
 Christmas eve at Grandma's playing the piano with Jonny.

Believe it or not, this was the best of the bunch. So much for an adorable christmas photo under the tree....

 My dad's side of the family over at our house for Christmas day.

Steve got my mom, harriet and me tickets to the Sound of Music sing-a-long at the Riverview theatre. It was quite silly since people dressed up and were yelling things at the screen. We loved it.

 The hills are alive....
 The Grinch musical with Grandma.

 New Years eve with the Zimmermans.