Home for now

I’m getting used to being back in Connecticut more or less permanently. I’m sleeping in my own bed, cooking on my own stove, and driving my own car. Paul and I have taken up our morning walk again. All this is very nice indeed. On the other hand, I desperately miss sweet B, and have pathetically and fruitlessly been wandering around the place looking for a little lovey to hug and kiss and snuggle. The tug north is strong.

And I’m grumpy. The property here can be a pain. We have three rentals, known to us as The Garage, The Barn, and The Cottage. In good years, their income helps us pay the bills. In bad years, the balance runs—pours—cascades—floods—in the other direction. This last year has been one of those, and a lot of this I’ve had to try to handle from a distance.

The house itself, shown above in an 1898 photo (and looking a bit different now), was built in the 1770s, old for the States. (I was raised a couple of miles out in what was the country, in a house that is almost the same age, so I’m used to sticking doors, bulging walls, and eccentric plumbing and electrical runs…

…but I have lots of friends who just can’t get their heads around the concept of floor as inclined plane, let alone wave form.)

There are lots of old houses in this old town, but ours may be unique in having not a single fireplace. The owners in the 1830s modernized by removing the huge central chimney mass, which opened the house up and made it much brighter (and—probably the real impetus for the effort—more fashionable). They installed the bow window you can see in the photo, bigger windows all around, narrow floorboards and other up-t0-date features. They also installed stoves to replace the fireplaces, though we can find no evidence that they heated the upstairs at all. (We do have, tucked away in the back attic, the constituent parts of a very elegant marble fireplace surround.)

Like most New Englanders, we heat with fuel oil. We’ve gradually been working to make the creaky old place more energy efficient. A couple of years ago, we had the exterior walls and sub-roof areas insulated with iso-cyanurate foam, and that has been a big improvement. As I alluded to in an earlier post, we now have new roof shingles.We also have a more efficient (and convenient) back door in the kitchen. Those fashionable nineteenth-century windows, though, leak like crazy. Modern solutions—new double-panes, aluminum tracks, etc., aren’t allowed by our Historic District Commission, and we wouldn’t go for most of them, anyway. Old-fashioned, wooden, seasonal storm windows, though, are hard to install on a house like ours with heights to scale. Some universal solution in this area is next on our list. Handling this in a historically sensitive manner without going bankrupt before we realize the energy-savings payback is turning out to be a real issue, and all this is very much on our minds at the moment, though the coming of warm weather and the temporary reduction in oil prices to merely stunning levels has given us a little more breathing space.

No doubt we’ll get this squared away just about the time we decide we can’t stand being away from our babies anymore, and move to a nice weather-tight little condo in New Hampshire. With a fireplace.

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