Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Snow Outside, Toasty Inside

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Snowmageddon all the forecasters were warning us about seems to have fizzled out overnight, as this was all we had when we awoke this morning.  Just enough to cover up the solar panels.  It's still colder than a well digger's belt buckle, though.  I guess we're skipping fall here and going straight to winter.  Bah!

The unpleasant weather is the perfect excuse to stay inside, so we spent the day working on insulating the rim joist in our basement.  This was a to-do from the energy audit that we had done in the Spring.  Apparently, beyond beefing up your attic insulation, insulating the rim joist in your basement is the second best thing you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your house.  Even if you have a brand new house.  There's a huge amount of energy that is lost from holes around service wires coming into your house and the airflow between your foundation wall and the rim joist.  

It's fairly simple to fix with some insulation.  The pink fiberglass stuff does not work for this, though, as it's terrible at stopping air infiltration!  Instead, you can pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to come in and spray foam everything or you can do what we did and opt to use rigid foam.

Not our house - our foam is baby blue

Basically, you just need just a few things for this project:

  1. A sheet of 2" rigid foam that's available from any hardware store
  2. A sheet of 2.5" screws to secure the foam to the rim joist.  Don't go longer than that or you'll poke through the outside!
  3. Spray expanding foam (like "Great Stuff")
  4. A retractable utility knife
And here's how you do it:

  1. Measure the cavity between the joist.  (We measured them all and just wrote down the measurements so we could cut the foam outside.  It does make a mess.)
  2. Subtract 3/4" to 1" from the height and width measurement.  This will allow for the expanding foam later.  If you cut the foam too tight, it will be hard to get the foam in there.
  3. Use the utility knife to cut the foam to your measurements.  
  4. Center the foam in the space and then use a screw to secure it to the rim joist.  Then go around all 4 sides and fill the gaps between the rigid foam and the wood completely with expanding spray foam.  Voila!  No more drafts.
It's 22 degrees outside right now and, as we worked, we found areas where cold air was literally pouring in over the foundation wall.  The temperature in our basement immediately and palpably went up with each piece of foam that we installed.  While we were at it, we added some additional spray foam to the basement windows as well.  It took us about 4 hours to do half the basement, so this is a full day project.  The other half will have to wait until next weekend, as we're out of spray foam.  And energy.

Bring in the Professionals

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Yesterday, I gave you a look at the progress on the front of the house.  What a difference, huh?  Now to move on to the back of the house.

That big ol' tree on the right gives great shade to the park-like backyard, but it is WAY too close to the $1400 house and overshadowing the roof.  So it's got to go.  But it's also way out of our league so I had to bring in a professional tree service.  When we need help, I always call Eli's Tree Service, because they do good work.  In fact, I called them yesterday and they said they could do it today. 

It looks weird without the tree there now.  But now we can get a dumpster close to the house.
Not only did they take the big tree down, but they also finished our job on the front tree and took the rest of that down, use their bobcat to take out the rest of the fence posts, and chipped up all the brush that we cut down yesterday.  They really do a great job.  Look at the front now! 

But you can also now see the broken windows I need to fix!
 With winter not far off, something new that Eli's is doing this year is posting Craigslist ads for free wood pickup.  That allows people to get free firewood and it also help lower the amount of wood that Eli's has to pay to haul off and dump.  A win-win situation.  Either way, the wood gets recycled and that makes me happy.

I know this project may seem crazy to a lot of you, but this grand old house can be saved.  I'm sure of it!

Clearing a Path

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Before.  Can you spot the house?
Our helper, Charles, joined us today for the first real day of work on the $1400 house.  We need to get a new roof on the house and get a get a dumpster close to it so we can clean out all the trash and debris.  So today's objective was to take out the old fence in the backyard.
The grapple attachment on the Dingle made short work of the fence and made an easy job of taking out the huge posts.  J. made some serious headway on taking down a bunch of the trees, including part of that tree that's preventing you from even seeing the house from the street. 

After.  Wow, there is a house under all that!
A couple of the branches are growing up and over the front porch roof and we were worried they would either hit the neighbors house or bust the window, so we left them until we could get a ladder up there.
Charles is scrapping all the metal from the house, including all the old fencing, so it's nice to know it's not going into a dumpster. 
Things are looking better already!

It's Official: The $1400 House is Ours

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The day has finally come.  After weeks of waiting, J. and I headed to the County Courthouse at 9 a.m. to find out the fate of the $1400 house.  Would the owner be there?  We didn't think so, but that would be really awkward if he was.
Having never done this before, I didn't know what to expect.  The courtroom was teeny and people were packed in there like sardines.  We got there just in time to find seats in the very back.  Little did I know that you have to actually go up there in front of the judge so, when my time came, I had to crawl over a bunch of people to get out. 
There are three outcomes to the situation:  (1) they confirm the sale, which is what happens 99% of the time, (2) they ask you to pay more for the property if you paid less than 10% of the assessed value, or (3) the owner shows up with an attorney and they delay the judgment.  In our case, the owner didn't show.  However, the assessed value was $15K and some change and I paid only $1402.  The judge could have asked me to cough up another $100, but the county attorney asked that he go ahead and confirm the sale.  We were out of there by a little after 10 and then headed straight over to go inside and assess the state of the house.  No more worries that the cops might show up and arrest us for trespassing.
Here's a taste of what we found inside:

Lots of crap! 

In fact, it looks a little like some of those houses on "Hoarding: Buried Alive".  Granted, it's not filled to the ceiling like those, but more like every closet and storage space opened up and puked all the clothes and other contents onto the floor.  Mental note:  bring a scoop shovel!

That's an old piano on the left and stacked cardboard on the right.  The hot-cold cycles of an empty house have caused every piece of wallpaper to start flaking off.  That's a good thing because we'll be able to get the walls cleaned up quickly.

And then there's the original trim that is all there except for the stair railing and spindles and the fireplace mantels.

Yes, it's a mess.  And, yes, there's a hole in the roof around the chimney.  But the house has empty for more than 10 years and we were expecting much, MUCH worse.  The basement floor is concrete and the foundation is in great shape.
It's all ours!  Now the fun begins.  Nicole Curtis ain't got nothing on us.

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