Monumental Progress!

Look! No more bricks!

“It’s time we started worrying about demo’ing the brick wall on Cottage East,” I said to Dave yesterday. The task seemed monumental and, let’s face it, downright intimidating. We had to remove half of the west wall (the other half had already fallen off on its own) and then we had to somehow remove the buckling, yet solid brick on the east wall.

Piles of bricks to move

I was imagining us taking it brick by brick, on ladders, chisels in hand, and frankly, I was wondering how I would avoid being crushed by falling bricks.

This appears to be a second fireplace, right next to the first. If these walls could talk, they would tell me so many details!

Yesterday, when we took the refrigerator doors of the dumb fridge over to Cottage West and Dave put them back onto the fridge, I weeded the front yard of Cottage West. It looks better now. This mild summer with frequent rains has meant a crapload of weeds. Every time I turn around, our yard is overrun!

This used to be a side door off of the staircase going up to the second floor. I think it might have had a small porch and possibly some stairs. The window came off during the demo, so we need to board it up until the guys come out to replace it along with the roof and siding.

My pain levels are high, but I’ve been able to get plenty of weeding done in the past couple of days.

This had a side banister so rotted it lifted off of the brick and cement in one easy motion. Well, it needed to be replaced anyway!

The front raised bed at Cottage East, along with the side strip which had been filled with crabgrass. I still need to do about 1/3 of it.

I pulled at least half, if not 2/3 of the weeds on this side bed.

Either this weekend or the next, we have a small army of kids and adults coming in to move and stack brick. Once that is done, the house will be ready for the roof/windows/siding installation.

The newly weeded raised bed in front of Cottage East

We are about two to three weeks out from it and I can’t wait!

This little house is going to look awesome when it has brand-new siding, roof and windows.

That’s a lot of bricks!

I won’t hold my breath on the codes violations dropping off anytime soon. The violation for “inappropriate storage” was on the books for a year, (it was three large pieces of styrofoam that occupied a porch for three days before the porch was torn down and rebuilt).

As we worked away, we could hear our neighbors talking. The wife just kept on and on. Finally, we heard her husband say something to the extent of, “They are working on the property, they have the bricks down, what more do you expect from them?”

The west side of Cottage East

We just shook our heads and soldiered on. Some folks don’t have much of a life. I feel sorry for her. She seems like a fish out of water around here.

We can only do so much. Our bodies, mine especially, are failing us. We work our wage-earning jobs during the week and then try to fit in time around my dad and the kiddo in the evenings. And on the weekends we go until our backs scream for mercy and our knees say nasty, nasty things.

I’ve spent good money on custom insoles, foot braces, and more for my plantar fasciitis and out of whack back. Despite this, after a few hours of work, I am in so much pain I can barely walk.

So it is plenty frustrating. I want to get so much done!

And I know, I KNOW it will all happen.

We have had some hard hits this year, but we have also had a couple of solid boons. And by next spring we will finally have paid off the fixes to Cottage West and can start putting some serious money towards the other repairs needed to finish both the Airstream and the two Cottages.

Eventually, all of the little pieces and plans will unite into one solid plan, and the three properties will start producing income and our yard will look fantastic.

I’ve never been afraid of hard work. I’m just going to keep plugging away every weekend until we make it all happen, one piece at a time.

And one piece of upbeat news to share. After we managed to demo BOTH walls before noon – my friend and neighbor Michelle came by to whisk me away on a shopping trip. We checked out the Super Flea (not impressive) and then she took me to Weird Stuff over in the West Bottoms. I had never been and was so happy I went because I found that fountain I wanted for the brick wall in the backyard of the Cottage East!

Just $50 – instead of $199 or more brand new. We will mount it with a solar powered pump when we are closer to finishing the project. It will look awesome!

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Welcome to the Jungle

As I drove down to 12th Street today, I passed a familiar face, the codes inspection guy for our area. He was busy photographing a vacant house that keeps getting broken into. And I was both happy to see him and dreading where he would end up next.

After all, I had seen this on Parcel Viewer…

Summary: Property Violations
Description: Citizen is calling to report high grass and weeds at this location. It’s getting a little out of control and would like someone out to cut it.

Parcel Viewer allows you to look up any address in Kansas City, find out the owner, find tax information (how much an owner pays and when they paid it last) and more. It’s also where you can find a list of any codes violations – high grass, issues with property/building maintenance, etc.

And that property violation had shown up on 7/25.

In a few days I will receive that in writing from the city. And I plan to do the only logical thing – IGNORE IT.

Because here’s the deal. My husband works full time, Monday through Friday. I work two part-time jobs – cleaning houses, and caretaking for my dad. I also homeschool my kiddo (the new school year starts tomorrow!) and try to handle most of the interior runnings of the house (financials, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping).

My husband is exhausted after a long day of work and I’m pretty done in too. So that leaves the weekend for us to get a buttload of work done AND the mowing as well.

I looked at the finances and, right now, there is no way we can afford to hire it out. Next spring, though? After we have paid off several repairs on Cottage West we are nearly done paying for? I’ve already got it set in the budget. Until then, rain or shine, tall grass and weeds, holiday weekends or not – our priorities have to be project based, NOT the lawn.

We will probably tackle mowing this next weekend…maybe. But that will be AFTER we move the Airstream and AFTER we get a plan in motion for:

  • Installing two sliding gates on the privacy fence
  • Figuring out when we will be demo’ing the sides of the Cottage East in order for the roof, side windows and siding to be installed

When it comes down to it, I’m NOT trading or delaying my financial future and retirement plans in order to soothe some neighbor’s irritable bowels over how our grass looks. And I could give a good goddamn whether or not they think our yard looks like a jungle.

We don’t live in Overland Park, Kansas. We don’t belong to an HOA. And our neighborhood and community have far bigger problems to deal with than a yard that goes unmowed for a week or two.

I’m going to focus on the pressing projects, because frankly, whatever neighbor is complaining, they are not the one who is going to be worried about my retirement, I am. And while I’m going to do my best to keep up on the yard work, I know my priorities are where they should be.

So, neighbor, the dear sweet neighbor who has nothing better to do than call codes about our grass?

Welcome to the jungle. Don’t let that cheetah bite you on the ass.

8/1/2017 Update. I heard back from codes. I had sent an email asking what in the world he was talking about when he listed on the codes violations OBJECT OBSTRUCTING THE SIDEWALK”

He wrote back, and sent pictures. Here is what he said:

“Thanks for your response and inquiry.

Can you please trim (photos attached) away from the sidewalk and the street in front of your home?

I realize most of your vegetation is allowable plant life. However, there still needs to be a clear path.

Also, my research after inspection shows you are the new owner of 3231?

Thanks for keeping the lot mowed. But we both know you have some serious brick work on the west side, window repairs, etc…

Warning Letters are on the way. Keep me informed of your plans so I can help you along the way.”

This is where we both park and I can guarantee you, the mint that is growing over the edge of the curb is not obstructing our comings and goings.

Damn you, mojito mint, you have escaped the confines of your planter!

[sigh]

Folks, I can only do so much. We both work full-time, I’ve just started homeschooling the kiddo for 5th grade, and the weekend’s work is already lined up. It includes spreading gravel, moving and situating the Airstream, finishing the privacy fence in back of our property, and making a plan for demo’ing the crumbling brick walls on Cottage East.

I sent him back an email letting him know that I’d get around to mowing the lawn in a week or two.

Maybe.

There is only so much time, energy and money in my little world. And I’m allocating it the best that I can.

This means that my yard is not going to look perfect. Not this fall. In the spring, after the last of the payments are made on the new roof, windows, and front porch of Cottage West, there will be enough in the budget for a lawn mowing service. But right now? Nope.

I feel like a dog chasing my tail. What needs to happen now? Who do we try to keep happy? The neighbors? The city? Ourselves?

Timing is everything, I guess. Opportunities rolled in, and I’m not sorry I took advantage of them. But that also means that at this moment, conflicting priorities are on the rise. In the end, I’ll make the best decision I can for ME and MINE. I will make a decision that means that someone is going to be unhappy.

You can’t please everyone. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to kill myself trying.

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Yet Another Step Closer

The universe has a way of working itself out. I had a cleaning this morning and my body is still recovering from the weekend’s work. My client rescheduled to Wednesday and I couldn’t be more relieved.

A day to recover is kind of perfect right now.

This weekend included a new freezerless refrigerator delivery and plenty of yard work and fence building. Check it out…

The Ultimate in Refrigeration

A friend of mine put this idea in my head. She bought a Frigidaire, refrigerator only recently and I was quite envious. Her model is actually one that can either be a refrigerator or freezer, depending on the setting. Mine is simply a freezerless refrigerator.

Next year I hope to find an upright freezer. For now, the chest freezer we have will do, but I definitely need to organize it better!

I will scout for some more bins to hold different items so things aren’t so cluttered. I like have a bin for cheeses/deli, for meats, vegetables and breads. Then I can open the fridge, grab a bin out and find what I need.

Nebraska Furniture Mart delivered it on Saturday and took away the magic fridge. POS magic fridge!

Now we just need to move the dumb refrigerator to Cottage West where it will wait for the rest of the renovations before being put into use.

This will go in Cottage West and live a nice long life

The new fence along with the opening for the driveway to the west. We ran into the foundation of an old driveway and garage which made it impossible to dig holes for the 4x4s, so we figured here was as good a place for a driveway. It may have a curved shape in the end, who knows?! Obviously, we will need to cut down this vegetation.

The Fence, the Fence!

All of the panels (with the exception of the 3-4 needed behind Cottage West) are now in. We have two wide openings that will be sliding gate areas for the planned driveways.

We will finish the gates in a similar pattern, the privacy pickets over metal frames on wheels and add locks. And of course, we will also continue the fence panels to include the back of Cottage West.

The panels, and possibly the gates, will have to wait until the brick walls on Cottage East have been deconstructed. They are next on our “screaming priorities” list.

Dave has worked very hard on this fence, as have I, and we love how it looks. It will provide the privacy we need and give the guests who stay in the Airstream a sense of isolation that can be rather lacking in the city.

One lone section before the yard behind the Cottage West devolves into a jungle of Japanese hops. We will close this section off…hopefully by late fall.

Eventually, we will install a four-foot high picket fence across the entire front of the property, but that is a challenge for next year (or the year after).

Brush Piles Begone! Well…Moved, That Is…

While Dave dealt with a particularly brick-filled hole and setting in a 4×4, I got to work on the multiple brush piles. We had two big ones, one in the middle of the future RV pad and one at the end of the alley, interfering with a full range of maneuvering that we would need when moving in gravel and the RV.

We also had three smaller piles. One near the old woodpile, and the other two in the RV pad area that had been potential mushroom growing plots. They had to go as well, unfortunately, since they were in the way.

Most of the brush was combined into a massive pile of brush in the backyard of Cottage East, over eight feet tall, at least ten feet wide and about six feet deep.

Our little KCFD-compliant firepit. I miss our gartantuan one. Now THAT was a FIREPIT!!

A Little Bit of Fire

I also started a small fire in our firepit to clear out the decayed and broken pallets and some of the small brush pieces that were too small to stack. Over the next seven hours, the flames ate up plenty of discarded wood pieces, and small brush. I even burned some of those dreadful Japanese hop vines.

Who knows, I might add a few more today if the coals are still active.

We took it from here and put it…

Cherry Tree Relocated

We had a sweet cherry tree that was right in the way of where the RV would sit. We went back and forth on it and finally decided it needed to go.

So we dug it up, trying desperately to not break too many of the roots. I bought this tree from Fedco Trees and they have provided us with some excellent fruiting trees over the years so I really hoped it would survive the move.

HERE!

It is now planted in our “crop garden” area, which was not planted at all this year.

It has the loose, sandy fill soil in it. A dream to dig in, believe me. After battling the thick clay soil for years, I felt rather spoiled.

Fingers crossed it survives.

A view of the future home of the Airstream. You can see the east driveway opening in the back there. Gravel should be laid down hopefully this Thursday afternoon.

Just Two More Steps

We are left with just two more steps, one before and one after.

I’ve asked Dave to schedule a gravel delivery on Thursday afternoon. We’ve calculated that we need a whopping 15 tons of gravel for the driveway and the RV bed area. Once that is in place, we are ready to move the Airstream and then it will be a push to get the sliding (and locking) gates in place.

This still leaves our front yard open, but the tall fence in the back will be a deterrent. We have another 3-4 panels to install in the back of Cottage West, but at this point, the scritchy scratchy Japanese hops dominates that backyard. Anyone who really wants to walk through it will have a heck of a time and won’t leave without a rash.

So, spread gravel, finish gates and fence.

I can’t wait to pick up the Airstream on Saturday!

One Last Thing, How Could I Forget?!

If all of the hard work involved in fence building, tree moving and more wasn’t enough – Dave spent about three hours putting together our new platform bed to go with our new king size mattress.

We still have to install the drawers, and eventually the original mattress (seen under the new mattress) will go to live in Cottage East’s front bedroom.

I also need to find two matching lamps for the top, and a couple of organizing solutions for the headboard storage, but it’s looking good!

My granddaughter (she’s Em’s cat) Sugar looking out over the yard

I think we have finally found a bed that works and I couldn’t be happier. Plus now I have extra storage!

Well, once the drawers are installed I will.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print, folks. Talk to you soon!

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Progress…Forward March!

Despite our descent into the dog days of summer, we are making progress on our plans for the yard and properties. Each weekend is full of work, sweat, and more sweat. Take a look…

We installed the last of the 4x4s and added cross-supports for the pickets on Saturday and early Sunday.

Building That Fence

With the Airstream that we purchased last week needing to be moved as soon as possible (after August 4th the PODS container will be out of the way and the former owners want it gone the next day), we realized that we needed to get as much of the privacy fence up as possible.

In the foreground is the dog fence, in the background the west edge of the fence. There will be a wide driveway paved with gravel for now, and concrete later on.

Originally we had intended to build an inexpensive fence, just 4x4s joined with 2x4s and metal cattle fencing. This was nixed in exchange for a nice, solid privacy fence. We want visitors to feel comfortable, isolated despite being in the city, and have a feeling of privacy. And nothing says that better than a tall wood fence.

On Saturday evening, after Dave had labored to finish cementing in the last of the 4×4’s we had a nasty storm. Over 60,000 people were out of power, but we were not one of them. Luckily, the Airstream was not in its future spot. A large limb from the mulberry tree would have given it a nasty dent and even a broken window!

It took us a few minutes to clean up the mess on Sunday morning before we resumed our work.

The east corner of the new fence in the background. We decided that it would be nice to put a fence between the two properties. The gravel will not cover those 5-8 feet where the fence juts out. A nice patch of greenery on the east side of the driveway will make it look even nicer. I plan to add hostas along with iris and daylilies to the strip of green.

And did I mention that the heat index was 112 degrees on Sunday? We just dripped and dripped and DRIPPED. We both guzzled the water, but for my husband it really took its toll. The next day he was dizzy and headachy, a sure sign that he was low on electrolytes and probably dehydrated.

A close up of the new fence.

We will be building a sliding gate across the opening to the driveway. This will probably be a chain link gate covered with the tall fence pickets and, if I can find it, a keypad lock. We are still working on those details.

I was quite proud of my work on this section of the fence. We still have a way to go, but good work takes time, right?!

The space between the dog fence (in the foreground of most of the pictures) and the new fence is around 20-25 feet. The Airstream will sit parallel between the two fences and have a deck on one side.

I’ve been busy finding cool vintage/retro tin signs to mount on the inside of the fence. I’m excited to glam it all out in true 50s fashion!

Bistro Table and Chairs

Happy days for me, I scored a particularly cool find the other day at a yard sale. Just $15!

This little bistro table and two chairs are looking worn right now, but there is a paint job in their future.

What do you think? Forest green? Black? A royal blue, perhaps?

I thought of putting them on the deck outside of the RV, but these really make me think of English cottage, so they will probably go into the Cottage East.

What do you think?

Measurements – Roof, Windows, Siding!!!!

Champion came by today and we walked through Cottage East getting measurements for nine windows (just the windows on the east and west sides) along with talking about the details for the roof and siding.

Now that the Catch 22 has been resolved, we have a green light to:

  • Pull off the brick (right after we finish building the privacy fence)
  • Have the roof, side windows and siding all installed
  • Run electrical to Cottage East so we can install a burglar alarm and keep it monitored and secure

The Catch 22, by the way, was a real pain in the patoot. Champion wouldn’t install the siding until we removed the bricks. The electrician wouldn’t install the electrical until the siding was in place. And there was a LIVE WIRE running into the house that threatened to electrocute anyone foolish enough to brush against it while demo’ing the brick walls, plus a tree limb that was right next to the electric pole off the alley that needed to be cut down.

My hero! This guy was so nice. Technically he didn’t have to do this, but he kindly offered and I was so appreciative!

I was lucky enough to find a really nice KCP&L worker to agree to cut the limb and also cut the power, thus allowing us to move forward on our project. He saved us nearly $500 in costs – the electrician was going to charge us that much just to remove a couple of scrawny limbs!

We are about 4-6 weeks out on the windows, roof and siding. More if we need time to finish the demo. And I’ve got a couple of folks lined up to help us cart and stack the brick once we get the bricks off of the house.

In other words? Progress. Forward…March!!!!

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Our Properties at Present

Cottage West – July 2017

I was looking up an old photo of how Cottage West looked back when we first bought it. To say that there have been a few changes since then is an understatement.

Cottage West – July 2014 You couldn’t even see the front! We had to tear out the old columns along with the porch and re-do it all.

It made me realize just how much we have done which puts into perspective the tasks remaining.

A new porch, new paint job, new windows and new roof go well with a landscaped yard full of flowers. We still have a few parts to paint, but it is looking sooo much better!

Along with that, I took a few more pictures.

This shot really conveys the amount of space between our house and Cottage West. Keep in mind, there were THREE houses in between back in the day. It is such a shame they didn’t have someone to love and care for them. If they had, they would still be standing and I wouldn’t have the massive yard that I do, but still…

Call it a July 2017 State of the Union portrayed in images.

As shocking as it might sound, I may need to just return this garden (outlined in white poles) to grass for a while. We have a LOT to do with renovations in the next two years. After that, I can consider having a food garden again. Albeit a smaller one!

It isn’t perfect.

That’s not an apple – that’s an Asian pear and they are coming in STRONG this year.

Not by a long shot.

The daylilies love this spot in the front.

Look close enough and you will find weeds.

I finally found enough hanging baskets at IKEA at a decent price to populate all the hooks around the entire porch.

GUARANTEED.

The front yard has become my breeding ground and “go to” spot for transplanting flowers out of into other parts of the yard.

But it looks, at least to me, a heck of a sight better than just plain grass. I’ll tame it eventually, I know I will.

The herb garden with horseradish along the front

Or else the gardeners I am eventually able to hire will tame it!

The rains sure helped resuscitate all of the transplants I put into the side yard of Cottage East.

Oh Cottage East, you are going to be so much work! But you are worth it!

 

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My Inner Writer Geek Has Been Unleashed!

Just look at this beauty!

A couple of weekends ago, I went to an estate sale. A former cleaning client is moving to California and selling an enormous amount of their belongings.

Among the cool collectibles?

A manual Underwood typewriter.

And I got it, of course, because it was a typewriter. Old. Heavier than hell.

And my inner writer geek had a look of starry-eyed wonder over this fascinating piece.

And of course, I can’t just stick it on a table as a conversation piece. Oh no. I had to get a new ribbon for it.

And then figure out how to replace said ribbon.

Which led to finding the information online (of course) because even old typewriter manuals are online.

I am ridiculously pleased with myself. My inner writer geek is practically salivating to write the Great American Novel while pecking away at worn keys.

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A Four-Day Weekend Means…

The stone and brick steps to the backyard BEFORE being stripped of vines and more.

Boy oh boy, have we been busy little bees!

These stairs are narrow, uneven and problematic with the chain link fence so close to them. Nonetheless, I cleared them and we are using them to access the backyard from the west side of the house.

Around here, the news that my husband would have four days off from work translated to “Amazing loads of sweat and backbreaking labor in both of our futures.”

The backyard “before” picture on Saturday morning. Believe it or not, this is AFTER the initial weed whacking from two weeks ago!

There is, after all, quite a lot to do. I had been tackling the side yard that borders my herb bed, planting hostas, daylilies and other perennials as I cleared the weeds. With Dave on board, however, we could tackle even more.

This photo can not properly convey the ovewhelming amount of vines, rubbish and yard waste we have to clear. It is filled with weeds, trash and will take us several weekends to clear completely. Along with the 40+ rusting paint cans around the corner. Aieee!

In the past three days we have managed to:

  • Clear almost the entire 4×20 bed of weeds and plant plenty of perennials
  • Mow the grass and weed whack the fence line along with the path along the west side of the house to the backyard.
  • Clear another planter directly in front of the porch along with a path of bricks I had no idea were even there!. They were covered with a thick layer of soil and weeds.
  • Remove and clear the thick layer of extra dirt the gas main guys had heaped along the base of the chain link fence.
  • Dug up the remains of one pole that could have hurt someone if they walked over it.
  • Swept the front porch
  • Cleared the inside of the house of most of the trash upstairs – filling three trash bags (trash amnesty day is right around the corner)
  • Determined where we need to go to rid ourselves of the 100+ paint cans that are filling the front room, the basement and a section of the backyard
  • Weed whacked and mowed more of the backyard and filled a trash bag full of trash.
  • Moved a heap of yard waste to the back alley (we will take it to Missouri Organics to be mulched next weekend)
  • Dug up a crap load of daylilies, moved and replanted them.
  • Cleared the stone and brick steps down to the backyard (no more vines and dirt!)
  • Mowed the rest of our properties

Now if that list doesn’t make you exhausted just reading it, then you are always welcome to join us. We could use a hand!

The newly weed whacked west side of Cottage East (looking from back to front)

All of this, while my body is aching and uncooperative.

The front porch planter cleared and the old brick path revealed. Ta da!

We met with two potential contractors today as well. One, a siding company, seemed to be unprepared for the reality that we are facing and told us they couldn’t help us. That was rather surprising.

I weeded this planter area as well, uncovered the old brick path, and planted daylilies in it.

The other guy, who owned a foundation company, assessed all three of our homes and gave us quotes on two of them.

The Cottage East (our newest acquisition) will need around $4,000 – $8,000 worth of foundation work. And the Cottage West needs around $5,000. The good news is that the Cottage West is not urgent and can be put off for a while. But the Cottage East will need work sooner rather than later.

I’m laying some of those side wall bricks directly on the broken concrete sidewalk. I’ll edge with bricks set on their edges, level anything too uneven, and then brush sand on top to close up any gaps.

On Wednesday I have two more siding companies coming out to give bids. Both do siding, windows, exterior doors and roofs, so I’m hoping we can wrap it all up in a nice bundle and “get ‘er done.”

Basement window well BEFORE

That will be a heck of a financial hit, but we can finance it until more money is freed up in April 2018 and then knock the balance out of the way.

Basement window well AFTER

A dear friend came over yesterday and looked it over. She had some great advice on the design of the kitchen as well as positioning of the dining room and more.

That hard working man of mine leveling the edges and hauling away the extra.

As I turn the areas over in my mind, I can see that Cottage East will be a whole house Airbnb, not parted up into separate rooms and co-cohabitation like I had originally thought. It will be great for families who are traveling and want room for kids and more.

As we drove through the neighborhood today I saw this stone lion face fountain. This is exactly what I want for the backyard!

Imagine spending $200 per night to stay in a house, with a full kitchen and laundry facilities available to you and your family.

It will be a couple of years out, but we are on our way.

The back porch – I would like to see this rebuilt to twice the depth and be able to hold an outside table and chairs.

I will admit, it is a staggering amount of work and money. I want to do it RIGHT, and I also see it as an investment in our future.

The white house our neighbors bought. I can’t wait to see what they do with it!

My paternal grandmother did very well for herself developing and selling off the tracts of land that she and her husband, a well-loved dentist in Liberty acquired over the years.

The backyard brick wall before it was cleared of vines.

As we drove back from Minsky’s Pizza today, I said to my husband, “How I wish I had known, in the darkest moments of my life, that this future was waiting for me. Just a hint, just a small reminder that the best was yet to come.”

It isn’t a walk in the park. It isn’t easy. A week ago today I was reeling from inordinate amounts of stress and very little sleep. I have a very tall mountain of work in front of me. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be stress-free.

But it is worth it. And I have to say, I am grateful for the life I live and the home and family that I have. I have so much to smile about each day.

We learned on Saturday that our neighbors (the ones who rehabbed and sold us the house we live in) had bought the white house directly to the east of Cottage East. They approached us about removing the chain link fence which borders the vacant lot and Cottage East.

The latest schematic for Cottage East – 3 bedrooms upstairs, a dining room with a roomy storage closet, an upstairs bathroom with dressing room/lounge area, and more!

I was reticent at first, “If we remove the fence and the brush, we will have a rather clear view of the decrepit white house,” I objected.

He smiled, “Don’t worry, it won’t look like that for long.”

And with that, I was over the moon. We are really looking forward to working with them in a few months to remove the brush and chain link and see what they do with that great old house. It is in desperate need of a facelift, but it is well worth the effort.

As Dave said, “Babe, in a few years, this block is going to look absolutely amazing!”

And I for one could not be happier. I’m excited to be saving so many houses from continuing disrepair and neglect. We are making this block something to be proud of!

Beneath a thick layer of paint in the back bedroom, we found this floral wallpaper. I would love to reproduce this, perhaps using stencils. It’s so delicate and feminine!

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Ah…Acrimony…How I Have NOT Missed You

The front yard of Cottage West – I will add more plants now that I have a clean palette to work with.

I deal with others plainly – up front, honest – and I expect the same.

It doesn’t always happen, my approach is not always responded to in kind and I have long said, “That’s their problem, not mine.”

As I was trying to answer some questions for the Northeast Kansas City Historical Society this morning (Cottage West will be listed in their 2nd book), I clicked on Parcel Viewer. And as is a habit for me, I clicked on the 311 cases. For those of you who are not aware, this is where maintenance and property repair complaints show up.

I check these often. I do this so that I can keep abreast of any developing situations. There is usually a delay between a call coming in and the inspection. If I can get in there and fix what needs fixing, I avoid months of a complaint hanging out there on 311, long after it has been resolved.

In any case, I noticed the following:

Case Notes
Date: 06/28/2017
Summary: 311 update
Description:Citizen is complaining that this owner has covered the yard in mulch in an effort to not have to mow the property.

Date: 06/06/2017
Summary: 311 Update
Description:Citizen is reporting that the yard is not being mowed. There is overgrown grass on this property.

So, on the 6th I’m guessing that our friendly neighbor Dale wanted us to mow. But on the 28th someone was complaining about the mulch we had landscaped the yard with.

So in other words, mow it, but how dare you lay down mulch? Thank goodness I don’t live in an HOA!

The city apparently visited on the 8th and declined to write us up. Perhaps they have bigger fish to fry. I doubt they will object to landscaping either. In fact, they will probably wonder why more folks aren’t doing it. Anyone can have grass. It isn’t that hard. But a tasteful display of blooming perennials nestled in clean mulch? That’s some beauty there, folks.

So I figured I should check through ALL of the properties. I quickly found this listed for the front of our house:

Case History
Case ID: 2017066624
Date Submitted: 06/06/2017
Status: RESOL
Summary: Property Violations
Description: Citizen is reporting that this property has not been mowed. There are herbs growing in the ROW and the area is unkempt.

Oh no! Not that dreadful mint again!

This was probably also Dale. But maybe not. Not everyone likes flowers and plants. The city looked at it and declined to open a case, so I’d hazard a guess that improving the neighborhood and feeding the neighbors (our Vietnamese neighbor loves using our mint in her cooking) was fine with the city. Nevertheless, I plan on moving it. It will take several years because mint is notoriously hard to get rid of, but eventually, it will border ALL of my properties.

Perennials in front of Cottage West

Mint is great for keeping out vermin. Ants, mice, rats, they all hate the smell and avoid it. I have been threatening to plant a moat of it around my home for years and now I think it is well overdue. Plus it smells awesome when you keep it in line with the mower and everyone can have mint tea!

I moved on in my perusal of 311 case notes and found this one for the red house, now known as Cottage East, our newest addition:

Case Notes
Date: 06/28/2017
Summary: 311 update
Description:

Citizen who lives across the street wants the brush growning [sic] along the fence line to be cut down/removed.

Oh boy. Would this be the same neighbor who wanted the house? The same one who had calf-high grass on Saturday but just spent the last 2-3 days obsessing over every inch of the corner property with mower and weed whacker in hand? The timing between that and this complaint lodged yesterday is…interesting.

I can’t say this conclusively, and in the end, they have the right to complain about the properties around them however they wish, but it is a little disheartening and petty.

If their purpose is to improve the neighborhood, it is more than understandable, and I do hope that is what it is.

We are a little more concerned with making sure the house itself is shored up – the walls repaired, the roof and windows replaced. We don’t want meth heads breaking in and doing whatever they do there, but hey, if I need to spend a chunk of my weekend making sure every inch of our properties are in pristine condition, we can do that too.

Several companies are coming out to give us quotes on the issues at hand. I don’t want to slap a band-aid on it, because that never works. I want it done right and expect it to last a LONG time.

The newly mowed vacant lot on the left is one our neighbors are buying. We will be cleaning this easement up this weekend.

I can only hope that others would do what I would do in a situation like the one we were faced with in the aftermath of the property sale dispute. Take a moment to grieve, be angry, upset, or whatever about not getting their way – and then move on. It isn’t worth fighting over. It isn’t worth the feeling in your gut or heart to be resentful.

I’ll admit, my stress went zipping up again when I saw those reports. Just like I do when my renter calls me with an issue, I want to fix it RIGHT AWAY. But I also realize that killing myself to satisfy others is not in anyone’s best interest.

Well, maybe someone’s, but not MINE!

The properties will be repaired.

The landscaping will be done.

And eventually, I hope that my neighbors will stand down and recognize that I am not their enemy.

I can hope for it at least. None of us needs that kind of stress in our lives.

The east wall of the property. It may look intact from this angle, but this brick facade is also buckling and threatening to collapse. We will need to pull down the bricks and install Tyvek and siding ASAP.

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20 Minutes a Day

Em says that gardening is my way of making my mark on the world around me.

I tend to see the big picture – and plan big as well. But then the little things trip me up.

My shady herb garden

Recently that has been lots of land and LOTS of weeds sprouting up. Kind of…everywhere.

Bad weed, full of needles when it blooms!

Combine that with my plantar fasciitis flaring up and it can be tough. I WANT to clear up the weeds and move the plants, but I HURT, and who wants to be on their feet when it hurts that much?

As you can see, I still have a bit of work ahead of me. I have cleared a swath and immediately populated it with lilies and hostas.

A few weeks ago I came up with an idea. I would pick a spot in my yard and spend 20 minutes clearing it. I had no idea if it would work or if I would soon find myself with a machete, hearing the cry of the baboon as I hacked through weeds the size of houses.

The front yard of Cottage West

But I had to do something, and spending several hours working on it, followed by a week of bed rest and hobbling about did not seem to be cutting it.

I began working over on this incline behind Cottage West. It was filled with weeds, creeping charlie, and more. I transplanted around ten daylilies, iris and more and pulled weeds until the section looked good. This took several days of 20-minute sessions to complete.

A close up of the transplanted plants

I then moved on to the front of Cottage West, hoping to get the weeds out from the edges. The center of the tiny yard was then covered with landscaping fabric and mulch was placed on top.

Goodbye weeds! Hello landscaped, low-care front yard!

This little incline still needs a good ground cover, but it looks so much better than it did!

After that, I moved to the herb bed on the east side of our lots, right next to Cottage East’s front yard. There are some nasty weeds in the herb bed. Last year and the year before they “flowered” and produced thousands of these needle sized pokers that stuck to your clothes and of course spread themselves everywhere. I’m determined to not let them this year, so I am picking every one of the shallow rooted little crappers I find.

And now that Cottage East is ours, I want to address the front of the yard immediately. If a pretty, well-tended yard softens the blow to my neighbor at all, then I am ready for the task.

Look at this gorgeous tiger lily I found!

First up, clearing the weeds from the sides of the walkway AND laying a brick sidewalk down. So that’s on my “daily 20 minutes” until it is all done. I have several hostas transplanted already.

Perennials are the bomb. Plant them once, forget them until its time to divide them, or move them somewhere else. Right now my front yard is a breeding ground for perennials that I can now move elsewhere. I love it!

By next year, the yard will be blooming with hostas, columbine, hollyhock, and so much more. Keep watching, I guarantee you will like it!

Hostas in bloom

Just 20-30 minutes at least five days per week has really made a difference. It seems so small, but it has such a big effect.

I put in this gravel and brick path to the water spout on the side of our house a few weeks ago. It made reaching the water spout SO much easier!

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Land Rush in the ‘Hood

Our herb garden (such as it is) is in the foreground

I am very excited to announce that we have purchased yet another contiguous property here in our little corner of the ‘hood. A 1,300 square foot three bedroom, one bath house built circa 1895 to the east of us.

Is that a missing section of brick wall? Why yes, yes it is.

In fact, I have been so excited, that I wrote this post way back at the beginning of June after reaching a verbal agreement with the seller.

BEFORE adding the red brick house to the repertoire (see it there to the right?)

We even got to work on the overgrown back yard in June. There are small trees sprouting, rampant weeds, and even a couple of daylilies that are thriving but need to be moved.

So…much…work!

Now you are going to either laugh, cry or shake your head at me. And honestly, I can understand why. The Cottage (herein renamed Cottage West) is not finished and now I have bought yet another crumbling ruin.

I will NOT be purchasing the last lot on the right after all. More on this later.

Stick with me here, because I promise you, it will be worth it.

I Have a Dream…

It might not be as life-changing as MLK’s speech or vision of the future, but here is mine. The property at 3231 E. 10th is falling apart. It absolutely is. But I believe it can be fixed and I have a plan on how to do it.

This side is in worse shape than the other, but both sides of brick facade will need to be removed. We will replace it with a Tyvek wrap and vinyl siding.

What if I were to say to you that by the summer of 2018, Cottage West will be finished and open for business as an AirBnB? And what if I were to say to you that Cottage East will be ready 12-18 months after that?

Moving from left to right: Cottage West, purchased in July 2014, the last lot we didn’t own, two more empty lots, our house, another lot of ours, and finally Cottage East!

I’ve been crunching the numbers hard here and I have a plan for getting it all done. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of money, but it can be done. Let me say that again, IT CAN BE DONE.

View of bathroom through right-hand window and weird “walk in closet” on the left. I may very well make these into two bathrooms back to back, create a “master suite” out of the front bedroom, and this closet turned bathroom and then let the other two bedrooms share the already established bathroom.

I can’t help but imagine, and dream of, a time in the near future when both Cottage West and Cottage East will see a brisk Air BnB business and help bring visitors into our city and neighborhood. I’m really excited, folks!

A view of the back. Rotting fascia will need to be replaced and I would like to double the depth of the back porch. The floorboards seem to be in good shape, so I might try to save them to use on a ground level porch below. You can’t see it but there is a door access to the basement and a window. Possibly room for a small walkout apartment? We will see!

The Timing Was Less Than Optimal

Last year, when I originally approached Alec about selling, he was asking for $2,000. At that point, I had everything tied up in Cottage West, but I asked the contractor I had working for me to take a look at it. After she gave me a brief review of what was needed, Alec told me that he had someone willing to pay $4,000 for it.

See those crumbling bricks there? We watched a squirrel go inside the house. It seems that we have some rodent control in our future.

“If someone is willing to give you that much,” I said, “Take it, and run like hell.”

What is this odd little square here? It’s too high up for a coal bin.

But the deal fell through, and for some reason, Alec did not come back right away.

Entry hall

It wasn’t until the first weekend in June when he stopped by, saw my husband mowing the front yard of the house (yes, my husband not only mows our own property, but also tries to take care of the ones around us that are being neglected or are unoccupied) and stopped to talk to him.

Front parlor or living room

He thanked Dave, something the owner of that last lot we purchased never did – and we mowed that piece of land for THREE YEARS before the owner finally sold it to us!

Back bedroom

I saw them talking and came over to say hello. And as I came out, he mentioned that he really needed to sell the house.

This partial wall hides the entrance to the basement. Unfortunately, this has given ne’er do wells plenty of privacy and opportunity to take their time breaking into the property. We will remove the wall, reinforce the door and window, and assess the possible uses for the basement.

The city was breathing down his neck, the taxes were overdue, and he didn’t have the money to fix the issues.

The back door. I can’t wait to find some nice hardware, hang curtains, and more. This enters into the kitchen/eating area.

Now buying it now puts it squarely in our laps – and that means we need to fix the wall immediately. I can’t just pull down the brick and slap Tyvek over it, that won’t keep the critters out, nor the two-legged meth head variety either.

Possible future main floor master suite

So we will need to possibly consider installing vinyl siding this year, just to stabilize the structure long enough to get the other project done, earning money, and then move back to this one.

It’s hard to see but there is a brick retaining wall back there. Clear out the brush, put in a cute pathway through the yard and install a fountain and pool on that wall. It would look…FABULOUS!

Cottage West is well on its way, and we just have to:

  • Finish the last of the wiring
  • Run new Pex pipe for the plumbing
  • Install HVAC, gas water heater, and appliances
  • Stairs leading up to the bedrooms. That window with the blue curtain used to be a door!

  • Install insulation and drywall
  • Finish the bathroom floor in that penny floor design I’ve been talking about
  • Install a new exterior door
  • Finish the last of the exterior painting
  • Paint inside, decorate and furnish

Cottage West (formerly “The Old Lady House” or “The Cottage”) in its current state.

Jeez, when I say it that way it sounds like a lot!

Front bedroom – possible upstairs master suite?

But that is why it will take us another 6-8 months of work starting in April of next year.

I would love to rebuild this back porch at twice the current depth, allowing for a table and chairs as well as backyard access to the house and the ability for visitors to park on a gravel or concrete driveway (picture to follow).

After it is complete, we are looking at the works for Cottage East:

  • Demo interior walls to make room for all new up-to-code electrical and plumbing
  • New roof and guttering
  • Vinyl siding to replace the crumbling brick facade (look lots of BRICKS for PATHWAYS!!!!!)
  • New windows

Bathroom upstairs

Behind our house, the alley dead-ends. I would love to put a paved parking spot back here so that we could advertise it as off-street parking. (To the left is the backyard of Cottage East)

  • New Electrical (from box on through the rest of the house)
  • New Plumbing (PEX throughout)
  • HVAC, Water Heater (possibly on demand)
  • Drywall, paint
  • Potentially two full bathrooms upstairs and one downstairs
  • And a ton of other pocketbook draining activities

Cottage East has this fascinating brick retaining wall in the back. Visions of ponds and fountains fill my eyes.

Or this close up…

And since the alley dead-ends behind our house and right next to Cottage East, we could offer off-street parking and access through the backyard for our AirB’nB clients.

Some cool details remain

It is a stunning amount of work, time and money. But in the end, we will have a beautiful little gem of a house. It is our way of making our mark on our street, our neighborhood, and our community at large.

The east wall of the property. It may look intact from this angle, but this brick facade is also buckling and threatening to collapse. We will need to pull down the bricks and install Tyvek and siding ASAP.

It is a worthwhile effort – Historic Northeast has captured our hearts and we are so very happy we live here and share it with so many awesome folks!

Meanwhile down in the kitchen we have a solid wall of cabinetry. They need cleaning, repair, and new drawer pulls, but here is one thing I won’t have to fix!

Timeline:

  • February 2013 – we purchased our house and three lots to the west
  • August 2013 – we purchased the side lot to the east of our house (which borders our newest purchase)
  • July 2014 – we purchased Cottage West a.k.a. Old Lady House a.k.a. The Cottage for $25 from Land Bank
  • November 2016 – we purchased the last lot between our 3 western lots and Cottage West for $500
  • June 2017 – we purchased Cottage East for $2,000

From front bedroom looking down hall to back bedroom. On the right is the bathroom, on the left is the middle bedroom. See the bulls-eye crown moulding on the door? I LOVE that!

It Nearly Went South

This past Saturday, we returned from errands with lunch and noticed that the current owner was there and had it open. We said hello to him, asked if we could take some photos of the inside, and he nodded.

When I came back outside, the neighbors who had sold us the house we live in were standing there, purchase paperwork in hand, ready to make an offer.

Here is a schematic of the main floor

To say that this past weekend was a roller coaster of emotions does not begin to cover it.

I choose to see the good in everyone, so I will sum it up like this:

  • Our neighbors wanted the property and were rather determined to get it.
  • The owner wanted to sell it and preferred to get as much money as possible.
  • I had made an agreement with him back on June 3rd to buy it and was caught in the middle.

It took all of the negotiating skills that I had, along with several impassioned pleas for us to please work this out without courts and lawyers becoming involved. I asked the seller to do the right thing and honor the agreement he had made to sell the property to me.

In the end, I agreed to pay $2,000, double what we had originally agreed on. However, this was half of the price my neighbors had counter-offered. The seller apologized to me for the situation and we signed on the dotted line today.

East side of front porch (our house is in the distance). See why I wanted line of sight? I can really keep an eye on these two properties and that makes all the difference in the world for me.

We have all experienced a great deal of stress and consternation over the past few days and I hope that, despite the acrimony that arose, we can all move past it. In the end, my neighbor and I are very alike, we want to love these old homes, save them for future generations to enjoy, and make our neighborhood a better place to live.

That we were at odds over this property was incredibly distressing for me personally, and I am sure for her as well.

Crawl space off of the front bedroom

With the doubled cost of the house, I was in no position to purchase the last contiguous lot to the east of it. I will leave it to our neighbors to take it on if they so choose at the tax sale in August.

Further Thoughts

I’ve mentioned that the walls are all brick facade. I had originally thought of making pathways with the brick, but after looking at the little backyard over several days, I’ve decided I would like to see it mainly paved throughout with urns full of plants, a fountain/pond along the wall as I described earlier, and little maintenance needed.

This room opposite the kitchen can be turned into a breakfast room and half bath.

I had considered using flagstone pavers for the back yard, but for a 30×20 foot space, the price was rather steep.

Looking from front parlor/living room into the dining room and stairs up. The doorway on right leads to the kitchen.

Instead, I’ll use all of those bricks from the wall facade to create the “floor” of our backyard!

Sort of like this…

Close your eyes and imagine it. Shaded, cool, with water running through a lion’s head mounted on the wall. Plants and seating, even a patio and chairs and a barbecue. Who wouldn’t want to stay with us?!

The floor between the kitchen and what will be the breakfast room and half bath

In the end, we hope to have a romantic English country cottage to offer as an Airbnb. I know it will take plenty of work but we can do it. One step at a time.

Posted in AirBnB, Community, DIY, Goals/Dreams, Historic Northeast, Projects | Leave a comment