March 26, 2017

Of Mice and Men: The Other Residents in Our Old House

The Enos Kellogg House has mice.  I think it is pretty safe to say that it always has.  With a steady supply of food, sources of heat, and a (usually) sound roof, the house has always had a lot to offer to people and critters alike.

Our vermin aren't nearly as cute as these from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
And there is ample evidence that our predecessors in the house experienced the not-so-enjoyable company of various varmints over the centuries.  It is the rare opening of a wall or ceiling that doesn't uncover a mouse nest of one size or another.  Unfortunately, the restoration process has also revealed more than a few desiccated mouse bodies, as well.  I keep hoping to find gold, valuable artifacts, or at least a good-luck shoe tucked away, but all that ever surfaces are miniature mice mummies.

In scraping layers and layers of paint from original baseboards in the house, I also uncovered a few good old fashioned mouse holes.  Most of these had had pieces of tin (including old can lids) tacked over them to close them up.  Once the tin was removed, they looked surprising like the kind of mouse holes that you see in cartoons.  We patched and repainted the baseboards, and, happily, no new portals to the mouse world have appeared under our administration.

So, it's pretty clear that humans and mice have coexisted in our house since probably the 1780s.  Now for a little disturbing math.  Based on the age of our house and the life cycle of the mouse, I estimate that there have been over 1,200 generations of vermin in our house.  Scary.  Assuming, as Darwin hypothesized, that species evolve over time, who is to say that some sort of weird creature hasn't emerged in the semi-closed system that is the Enos Kellogg House.  Maybe that would explain the sometimes disturbing noises that we hear behind the walls on some nights.

At the risk of upsetting the delicate environmental balance of our home's ecosystem, we have taken what is probably a more aggressive position on mice than was practiced by our forefathers.  We have had cats throughout our years in the house, and a few of them have been fairly active mousers.  Taking things up a notch, we also employ a pest control service that installed and monitors bait stations around the yard and house.  This has made a noticeable difference in our mouse population.  And while we are still visited by the occasional trespasser, we are now much more likely to find them hunkered down out back in our firewood stack than in our living room.  While I tend to be a purist when it comes to our house, authenticity can only be taken so far, and mice rank right up there with outdoor bathrooms when it comes to elements of 18th century living that I am happy to forgo.

March 17, 2017


Nice to come home from a few days of vacation to find the house in fine shape despite a messy March snowstorm,  I won't mention the ice damns (not a typo), as I am trying to block them from my mind.

March 03, 2017

Restoration Before and After Photos

Earlier this year, I submitted a nomination for the Enos Kellogg Homestead for a restoration award being sponsored by the Society for Historic American Homes (check them out - their mission approaches preservation in a pragmatic, hands-on way that I really like).  Anyway, one of the requirements of the nomination was that I submit photos illustrating our restoration of the property.  

While I have periodically trotted out "before and after" pictures of the property, they have tended to span a much longer time period, like how the house has changed over the course of 125 years.  

For this project, I needed photos that focused just on what we had done to the house.  So, down the electronic rabbit hole I went.

As it turns out, combing through our badly-organized digital photo archive can be a somewhat unsettling experience.  Even over just fifteen years, the accretion of large and small changes somehow adds up to way more than one might expect. Either that, or I just have a really terrible memory.  I used to have hair? The kids used to be that small?  WTF?

What I discovered with regard to the Enos Kellogg Homestead was no different. While we frequently tell people what a dump compelling restoration opportunity our house was when we bought it, I have repressed many of the more sordid visual details of the state of our home way back in 2001.  The leaky roof, peeling paint, crumbling plaster and collapsing barn are little more than fuzzy memories. 

So, as someone who tends to obsess about every ding in our walls or flake of paint peeling off of a window sill, it was both startling and gratifying to look back at what we have accomplished over fifteen years.

With the caveat that the "after" photos very dishonestly have been purged of the the wayward toys, laundry baskets, and sundry junk that typically wanders around our house on any given day, herewith are excerpts from the restoration of the Enos Kellogg Homestead:

The Facade - Restored 2010

Pre-restoration (2001)

After Restoration (2014)

Interior - Restored 2001 and Counting

Original Kitchen

Original Kitchen in 2001

Wall between Kitchen and Milk Room during restoration

Restored wall between Kitchen and Milk Room

Hand scraping original beaded vertical paneling

Restored Kitchen facing south

Restored Kitchen facing north

Original cooking hearth (photo credit: The Hour)

South Parlor 

South Parlor during restoration

South Parlor during restoration

South Parlor fireplace being re-pointed
Restored South Parlor fireplace

Restored South Parlor looking into original Kitchen

Restored South Parlor looking towards front door

North Parlor

Firebox and paneling before restoration

Restored firebox and paneled surround

Restored North Parlor (photo credit: The Hour)

Dining Room

Dining room - no restoration beyond paint (photo credit: The Hour)

South Chamber


Wait, I have no photos of the South Chamber after restoration?!  I'll need to take one and update.

North Chamber


Restored North Chamber fireplace surround

Second Floor Hallway


During restoration

Restored Hallway looking south

Restored Hallway looking north

Second Floor Bathroom

Second floor, before restoration


Restored second floor bathroom

Restored second floor bathroom (photo credit: The Hour)

Master Bathroom

Nasty old Master Bathroom

Note the tile floor caving in to left

It was super-satisfying to demo this room

New Mater Bathroom (photo credit: The Hour)

Bathroom addition

Completed bathroom addition

Half Bath

A shower stall previously took up almost this entire room


18th century interior door being restored

Original Dutch front door after restoration

Original staircase during restoration

Looking down restored staircase (photo credit: The Hour)

Chimney Relining

Formers in the chimney

Original Kitchen firebox

South Parlor firepace all fired up

                                 The Barn - Restored 2013

Exterior Pre-restoration (2013)

Interior Pre-restoration (2013)

                                                      After Restoration (2013)

Of course, while I pat ourselves on the back for the progress that we have made on our house, I don't mean to imply that the restoration is completely done, or will ever totally end (please don't tell Jenny that).  You may have noticed, for example, that I have never mentioned or posted a picture of our kitchen.  This is simply because we haven't done anything other than paint it since we bought the house.  And this is a kitchen with a peeling faux-brick linoleum floor, outdated cabinets, counters and appliances, and serious climate control issues.  Not to mention the appalling back splash tiled with illustrations of baby woodland animals that we were absolutely, definitely, 100% going to rip out as soon as we moved in. Fifteen years ago.  Happily, just as I forget so many details from the past, my mind barely even registers the mocking presence of these cartoonish baby rabbits, squirrels, and skunks these days.

The good news is that we are (finally) in the nascent stages of planning for a full kitchen renovation. Not only will that mean the end of the insipid animal tiles, but it also might mean that I actually have some semi-regular posts on the blog over the next year or so.  We shall see.