Archive for July, 2010

progress   18 comments

The house as it looked during light rain on July 10, 2010

My mom has been asking to see a photo of the front of the house now that the trees have leafed out, the flowers in the new garden are beginning to bloom, and a bit more of the siding has been repaired and painted. I took this photo yesterday from about halfway to the road that passes by – which is where the “dog gate” is located (the section of fence and gates which I built to keep the dogs away from the road). Click on this and all photos for larger views,

This is probably a good time to recap what’s been happening since my arrival here at the old house. If you can’t remember how the house looked shortly after our arrival, here’s a photo from an earlier post. What you couldn’t really see in that shot was the bad conditon of the siding, and the crooked cornice mouldings, etc… This shot shows it a little better. As of the moment, the siding is repaired up to the part of the house that is painted with white primer. The sides of the house are coming along to about the same height – they aren’t nearly as high as the front, so those sections are progressing well. I’m hoping to have all of the siding repaired, primed, and painted by the time I finish up for the season. There’s one really bad section on the back section of the east side, beyond the little gable. The wall has taken a lot of water damage there and the siding is in quite a mess. I’m hoping to be able to use the same style of siding (shiplap) there, or if worse comes to worse, I’ll do it in clapboard as it’s not a part of the house that you can easily see. The cornice mouldings were also in rough condition, but I repaired them with wood fillers and such, put flashings over them, and straightened up the one over the front door as it was wildly askew. I worked on it this week and was able to get it quite level and straight, but the door below is off kilter. Whenever I replace the door, I’ll try to fix that problem. I can’t do too much with the cornices over the two windows in the flat section of wall as that’s more of a structural problem that I think I’ll have to live with. Fortunately, I’m not too bothered.

I’ve still got most of the lower story windows out – I mean, the original wooden windows. I’ve left the aluminum windows that were put up some time in the 1970s. Once the wooden windows are finished, I will probably remove and replace the aluminum windows as storm windows for winter. Most of the wooden windows on this house are in pretty rough shape. What I’ve been doing is removing them from the sashes, taking them apart, scraping and repairing the wood, cleaning up the glass, and then reassembling them. I should be ready to put the window into the open sash by the door sometime soon. I had hoped to replace the front door with something more appropriate this summer, but I’ll just have to see how things go.

The garden is coming along – just small and really the last thing I should be concerned about. It’s more than what was here when we arrived, although there are a couple of nice stands of rugosa roses on the property, as well as some 20+ foot tall white lilacs, and several other ornamental shrubs. I planted 3 rhododendrons this spring and they are doing quite well – growing new leaves since flowering. I also planted several David Austin rose bushes and they are in flower.

There has been some progress indoors as well, but I’m not ready to shoot and post photos just yet. My belongings are still in boxes all over the place, so the scene is really too chaotic to share. However, I did get all of the plaster repaired in the downstairs and on the staircase walls and ceilings, and in the little tower room. I’ve painted most of the downstairs – 3 coats of paint on the walls and 2 on the ceilings. Last week, I began plastering the final room in the downstairs – the Room of the Scary Athletic Wallpaper. I had to knock all of the original plaster off the lath as it was a crumbling mess not worth preserving. I’m about 1/4 done the room and hope to have it finished up in another week or two. We’ll see. There have been other repairs around the place, but they’re small and too numerous to mention.

Sometimes I’m asked if I have someone helping me with the place. No, I work alone. For most jobs, I can manage on my own and have the skills I need, or take the time to learn them. I try to put in a few hours a day on at least one or two jobs – just gradually forging ahead. I try not to rush myself or feel that I’m working to a deadline. There really isn’t any need to do so. The only person I have to please is myself. For the most part, I feel okay with the rate of progress. I do wish I could put away more of my belongings, but until I finish up a couple of more rooms, there’s not a lot I can do. My mom is coming out for a visit quite soon — as soon as I get the plastering and painting of the final downstairs room finished. She’s a good organizer, so she’ll probably be able to help me get stuff put away. Anyhow, I’ll try to get some interior shots up on my blog sometime soon.

a Luna Moth (Actias luna), photographed on July 8, 2010

In other news, I haven’t counted for awhile, but am pretty sure I’m up to about 150 species of moths here at Round Hill. I continue to add photos to this gallery as I have time. On July 8th, I had my first Luna moth at this location, fly to the lamp at around 11:15 p.m. It was quite a beauty – it looked very fresh with no visible damage to the wings, and of very vivid green.

I’m sometimes asked about my mothing set-up, so I shot a photo of the lamps a couple of nights ago (see below). This is how it looks when I’m mothing late in the evening. In the foreground, there is a plastic adirondack chair with an old bug zapper with a low watt UV fluorescent bulb. The whole chair is wrapped in a sheet. On a good night, the sheet is covered with moths, beetles, fishflies, stoneflies, spiders, flies, ichneumon wasps, and sometimes even caterpillars. In the background is a newer arrangement. It’s an 18W compact fluorescent bulb – the kind enclosed in a plastic case meant to be used as a barn light – in a trouble light casing, hanging from a small step ladder. A large sheet is fastened to the wall of the house so that it goes out and over the step ladder. Of the two lamps, I still get far more moths at the UV set-up. I did try setting up a mercury vapor lamp for several nights, but didn’t get nearly the assortment of moths that come to the UV lamp on the chair.

That’s about all of the news from here at the moment. Basically, the dogs and I are doing okay. Life is still very spartan – more like camping as the mosquitoes come and go through window openings. Laundry is still washed in a big tub using a canoe paddle. I’m fine with all of this. It’s a quiet, meditative way of life and that’s pretty much what I was hoping for when I came here to work on this place. For the most part, all is good.

Written by bev on July 11th, 2010

moth magic   16 comments

moth attempting to follow instructions on a folding ladder

For a number of years, I have enjoyed going out late in the evening to photograph moths. While still at our farm near Ottawa, many would come to a simple porch lamp on the front steps. Here at the house at Round Hill, I set an old bug zapper unit on a plastic adirondack chair, wrap the whole works in a plain white sheet, then turn the UV lamp on for a little while each evening. The air temperature is usually comfortable, the human-created background noise much reduced, and the night is filled with life as moths, caddisflies, stoneflies, beetles, and other flying and crawling insects gather around the lamp for the short while that it is lit. Here at Round Hill, it is usual to see at least four or five new species among the regulars, although some nights can be much better.

The atmosphere has always seemed restful to me as I study and photograph whatever comes to the light. Regardless of what stressful events are taking place in my life, time spent with the moths always seemed peaceful and meditative. After I’m finished shooting a batch of photos, I switch off the lamp and within minutes, most of the moths and other creatures have dispersed into the darkness of the night. Over the next day or two, I edit the photos, attempt to ID them, and put them up online in a gallery for that purpose. It has really been the moths that have helped me to regain some of the interest in insect photography that was lost when Don became ill and died. People often comment that I will eventually “get over” losing Don, but that’s not the reality of how things work when you lose the person you spent two-thirds of your life with. The most you can ever hope to do is to carry on, trying to find anything that interests you enough to keep going. As the saying goes, If you’re going through Hell, don’t stop! (which probably owes its origin to the Winston Churchill quote, “If you are going through hell, keep going”). That’s how life is for those who have lost someone they care about very much. You never get over it, you just learn to keep going in an attempt to keep the pain and sadness from dragging you down. It’s a struggle that is never far from your thoughts, especially for the first few years.

Anyhow, for me, the moths are like a form of magic medicine that keeps me marching onwards through Hell. So is working on this old house. Some might think that the house would be a form of stress — the way that one job turns into another and another – rather like opening chinese boxes. However, I find the challenge of trying to restore or repair parts of the house very helpful. Each day, I discover a new challenge, but also very often see the completion of something tangible that I’ve been working on. The same goes for seeing, photographing, and identifying a new moth species for this location. Perhaps all of this seems meaningless to others, but that’s of no concern to me. Besides, the moths are incredibly beautiful. The intricacy of their shapes and patterns is almost beyond the imagination. Last night, I had a first sighting at this location for the Lettered Habrosyne moth (Habrosyne scripta – Hodges #6235) – see below. Such a wonderfully marked moth with fine lines that can only be appreciated through magnification. Is it really any wonder that I enjoy studying moths?

Written by bev on July 6th, 2010