Where the wild things are

Gutting a 100+ year old house is fascinating because you find all kinds of crazy and wild things. Things that have been secretly cohabitating in the walls for an unknown period of time, things people have hid or lost and forgotten about, things that live outside but want to come in, lots and lots of things. Wild things live in the walls, and outside in the middle of nowhere.

Some things are more welcome than others. We are not overly selective about who shares our space. We Yrppies both have a BS in Biology and a love of nature. However, I am definitely more of a softie then the hubby is. I do not like to kill things (except flies; I hate flies; I am a drosophila-ist).¬† I don’t mind spiders; I feel they are crowd control. Beetles who are led astray in the night by the light; I gently collect them and put them back outside. Snakes-the more the merrier; they eat mice and other rodents. And mice…well mice are a contentious issue because they are so darn cute and squeaky, but they tend to multiply quickly and poop a lot. This why we got a cat (actually we got a second cat because our old and sleepy cat Sammy would literally sit and watch them eat out of her bowl in the office while I worked at the desk; it reminded me of one of my favorite books from when I was little, Pettifur, I found it endearing; the hubby found it infuriating).

Pettifur, A Story by Jay Williams, image from: http://www.pagebooks.net

The hubby solved the mouse problem in our Harrisburg house by bringing home Baby Kitty. Baby Kitty is “not that little” to quote the vet tech from a few weeks ago, but she has been a ruthless killer from kittenhood. Baby Kitty is an indoor kitty; however, there apparently is already a pride of barn cats that inhabit the yard of the Yrppie homestead. Baby Kitty better not have forgotten her ninja like mousin’ skillz since she drove all of the city mice out of Harrisburg house two years ago or she could be easily replaced. The pride is already buttering me up.

Baby Kitty watch out; there is competition waiting outside

Black kitty (who looks exactly like Baby Kitty) that mat message is not for you; don’t get any ideas

Of course if the pride sees this picture she may become the laughing stock of the valley:

Baby Kitty getting her antibiotics and loving it

Mommy holds and Maggie drops-teamwork

Apologies for the boob shot; when wrangling a cat with a towel (gently) and trying to keep her still so a 4-year old can drop a pill down her throat, you do not have time to make sure your milkshakes are still in the yard. And as far as the bicycle helmet-no idea. Her bike has been locked in the shed since the fall.

We also have a whole “knot” of toads hanging out in our scrap pile. I had to google what you call a group of toads because I did “knot” know; there are other fun names for animal groupings here.


Big toad!

Proof that I need a manicure and that I need to stop biting my thumb nails.

Inside our walls we found evidence of previous existing wild things. Our favorite, one we actually have not removed yet because it is so cool; is this really old, really big wasp nest. I think it is a paper wasp nest. Most people get totally freaked out by bees and wasps. I am not saying I like to get stung, but I am pretty tolerant and don’t freak out when bees or wasps are around (we are also fortunate that none of us get an severe allergic reaction when stung).

Large paper wasp nest-it is empty and has not been used in a long time

Really beautiful part of wasp nest

I did some research and found out that wasps do not have wax-producing glands like bees; instead they usually chew dead or old wood, and even man-made wood (HA!). They use a substance developed from wood pulp and wasp saliva to construct their nests. The different colored layers are the result of wood pulp from different sources. Apparently a structure this complicated is only used for one season. Thousands of wasps work together to create a living space, and then the nest is abandoned in the winter when majority of the colony die from the cold.

I probably counted 30+ wasps nest on the walls throughout the house. None were active. Here is one of my favorite shots:

Another wasp’s nest

Wasps are not the only nests we have found. Birds also took shelter within the walls.

A big bird’s nest

This was found in the wall of the spare room. We are not sure what kind of bird roosted here, but there were lots of seeds and downy feathers. We also have a resident kestrel who lives in our eaves. The hubby was pretty excited about this and wants to build a kestrel box when we replace the roof. The kestrel’s nest was too high to get any kind of picture, but here is a Wikipedia image that shows you what a kestrel looks like; they are small, predatory birds. You often see them perching on telephone poles.

American Kestrel-image taken from Wikipedia

Critters are not the only wild things lurking in the walls of the Yrppie homestead. We also unearthed these treasures:

Whoa…wild things from the 1970’s!

Someone did not want mom to find these wild things-they were hidden in the ceiling. The hubby and I could not stop laughing. We are not sure what format they are, but they are much bigger than a VHS. We also found pictures of people, snake skins, underwear, and other odds and ends. None were quite as amusing as the adult films.

Our new walls will be filled with spray-foam insulation, so that will significantly reduce the wall space for critters to live and kiddos to hide incriminating evidence. Gutting the house definitely gave new meaning to the phrase “if these walls could talk”. Have you ever gutted a space or replaced a wall and found wild or crazy things? Have you ever hidden anything wild or crazy (that you want to share) in wall, ceiling or floor? We were really hoping to find billions of dragons but that did not happened. Looks like we cannot quit our day jobs just yet.

Framed up and ready to go!

The hubby and the contractors have been working steadily to get the house ready for the electricity to be run this weekend. We went up this past Sunday to check it out, and it is pretty amazing to see the layout. All the rooms have framed up, including closets and widened doorways. I got to help the hubby put dry wall blocks up, which involved the use of power tools. This was not nearly as much fun as I thought it would, but that could have a lot to do with the sweltering temperatures and the adult beverages I indulged in the night before.

What does the yrppie homestead look like all framed up and ready to go? Here is a reminder of what the dining area looked like before:

Dining area BEFORE taken from the shanty door

Really bad picture of dining room door (on the right) from kitchen area and living room door (on the left)

Here is what it looks like after:

Closed up shanty door in the dining area

View of dining area from kitchen (shanty door is by the ladder, all covered up now)

The first floor is exactly what I wanted with this space. I do not think the hubby thought it would look right opened up, but it is perfect! Here is what the kitchen looked like before and after:

Kitchen space before demolition and “the bump”

Covered porch attached to the kitchen-this now “the bump”

Door opened that leads to the shanty from the bump

View of kitchen area with hot dogs (bunless)

Next I will share the living room with you. I apologize that the pics do not match perfectly. As I was putting this post together I was cursing myself for not taking pics from the exact same spots for the before and after series. Rookie mistakes.

Living area space before:

Front door in living room taken from stairs

Dining area picture taken from living area

Oak stairs in living room heading to the 2nd floor

And the after pics:

Shot of living areas taken from the kitchen area

View of living room with new sub-flooring

Basically we opened up the whole first floor, but on the second floor we left the rooms intact and widened the doorways and framed out closets. Starting with the soon-to-be office space, here is what it used to look like:

Stairs leading to the creepy attic-before

Creepy attic stairs after

Another after shot of the creepy attic stairs

And here you can see what it looks like with the wall removed. We decided to open up the staircase leading to the attic in the office. The downside is there will be no way to close the attic off from the office, but we figured when it is eventually turned into a guest room the office door can always be closed.

Side view of the stairs leading to the creepy attic

So there is your really detailed look at the creepy attic stairs. Moving onto the rest of the floor. Here is the master bedroom before and after:

Master bedroom closet-before

Master bedroom

Master bedroom closet

View of hallway and doorways taken from the office area-master bedroom doorway on right

And here are the before and after of the other two rooms, and new closet space created by splitting the sewing space into two closets:

Maggie’s bedroom before

Spare bedroom before

View of the master bedroom to the left and the doorway to the hallway from the guest room

View of spare room closet and Maggie’s room behind the closet

At this point the we are ready for the electrical work which will take place this weekend. My brother is going to come up for the weekend to do all of the wiring with the hubby’s assistance. (He is an electrician by trade.) The only thing we have left to do before the wiring can take place is to finish the kitchen plans. (Yes, I did post about finishing them a few weeks ago; we work to deadlines.) Before we left the house this weekend we did one final check on measurements so that the plans are precise. We are going to finalize the kitchen plans tonight (for real this time), and then are planning an Ikea trip tomorrow. Hopefully, it will not end in a divorce. We have been known to have a lively debate or two in the middle of the bathroom aisle. That being said, Ikea is one my favorite places to window shop. I love all the mini-rooms they have set up and the kid’s mac and cheese. The hubby loves the meatballs. Have you ever been to an Ikea? What was your favorite part?

Daddy’s little helper

Measure twice; cut once

Maggie micromanaging daddy

The “before” of the second floor

In the last post I shared the “before” pictures of the outside and the first floor. I am working with the hubby on creating a postable image of the floor-plan so it will be easier to visualize the lay-out of the house. Originally “we” had some pretty grandiose¬†proposals (there may be a little bit more of “me” in that “we” than the hubby), but we have settled on staying pretty close to the original layout with two small additions and an attic renovation. The goal is to try to complete the projects in stages so we are not incurring a huge amount of debt (“huge” is a relative term-I have not figured out what it is relative to yet…). The first stage was supposed to be a complete renovation of the first floor before we moved to the second floor; however, that has already changed and currently both floors are completely gutted.

In the pictures below you can see that the second floor consisted of a little hallway at the top of stairs. There were four bedrooms, one very small bathroom and a closet area (this used to be the hubby’s mem’s sewing room). The plan at this moment is to renovate the bathroom first so we can move in sooner than later (I can deal relying on a microwave and grill for cooking but this yrppie is not popping a squat in the woods). Eventually we will be adding a master bath onto the master bedroom when we renovate and add an addition onto the shanty. Somehow, in this series we missed taken pictures of the second floor bathroom; I am sure I have them somewhere and will post when I find them. They are worth a look.