Friday, December 17, 2010

Peering into the Cold

At some point in the building's history, the basement was extended, an interior staircase was added, and a sort of bathroom was installed. The view shown here is from the basement door, looking along the southeast side of the church and toward the front.

Our plan is to enlarge and replace the windows to capitalize on the southern sun exposure. Between the windows we hope to plant a salad garden, using cold frames to extend our growing and harvesting seasons. But unless we can figure out how to prepare and serve cactus, we'll have to figure out the best way to dig it out of the ground; somewhere in there lurks yet another cactus patch.
Posted by Picasa

Building the Bathroom

The new walls are framed in, the door has been rehung, and old chipboard has been temporarily nailed in place to give users some privacy.

The recessed lighting cans and exhaust fan are installed, and the insulation has been replaced. It's so wonderful to have all this light! And it's not quite as cold as it used to be!

Now Paul is pounding away at the concrete floor to open up a trench for the new drain line. My own John Henry aches all over, but he doesn't plan to die with a hammer in his hand.

I'll admit: this whole process is taking longer than we'd hoped. My husband is highly skilled, but highly skilled in completely different areas. He can accomplish projects on an amazingly tight deadline, but building a bathroom isn't exactly radio production.

What's unnerving is that at some point he'll have to disconnect the toilet, and at the rate we're going, it's anybody's guess how long it will take before the new toilet is available for use. We do intend to hire a plumber, but Paul also hopes to set the stage by doing as much of the prep work himself.

Well, Christmas is coming, and that means holiday travel for family celebrations as well as freelance work to fill in for vacationing broadcasters. Whatever Paul can get done tonight and tomorrow is what will welcome us when we return in the new year, and it is what we will be thankful for. Our God provides, and we are grateful.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 13, 2010


We looked at the property twice before closing, once in the high heat of summer and once in its waning days. Both times Paul and I alternately fought our way through the chaos of vegetation and tiptoed our way around "dog mines" on our quest to see the fruit trees and berry patches in the backyard.

It wasn't until the ground was frozen that I decided it was safe to explore the grounds on my own, so I can't exactly wonder that I hadn't seen this espalier before the day Robin and I guarded the burn pile.

It's a curious location for this Golden Delicious apple tree, but the fascination of finding an espalier prompted me to discover the benefits of training fruit trees along a fence or against a wall. After a little reading, I'm eager to find other locations around the yard and give it a try.

One obvious benefit is that it's easy to reach the fruit on an espalier, but it also seems that it will produce more fruit as an espalier; instead of the tree spending its energy on branch growth, it concentrates more on fruit production.

An espalier takes up less room in a garden, so more of them may be planted, and even in small spaces and corners a person can reap a bounty of fruit.

Any fruit tree may be trained in an espalier, but stone fruits such as peaches and cherries are better suited for a more natural, informal pruning into a 2-dimensional shape.

It takes a few years for a fruit tree to get established, and we would have to prune off any fruit that it puts out during that time, but harvesting and putting up the fruit would be well worth the wait.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Keeping Warm

I didn't want to at first, but Paul thought we really should stretch plastic across the windows. There are storms on the outside, but the various cracks and holes in the stained glass pieces weren't doing us any favors. So on Wednesday, while Paul was working to put insulation back up in the bathroom ceiling, I climbed up the extension ladder countless times with the rolls of double sided tape and sheets of shrinkable plastic and managed to seal off four of the six windows.

I'm pretty satisfied with how they look. Time will tell whether or not this will help us keep our 40-year-old furnace heating costs down.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Beauty in Consensus

Many factors, most of them plumbing related, went into creating this bathroom floor plan, but just as many factors went into determining the flooring itself.

After sorting through the options, we decided that linoleum is the right choice for us: it's very inexpensive, it's not quite as cold on the feet as ceramic tile, it's easy to clean, and it lends a certain vintage charm to the space. The question I needed to work through was how we should use the linoleum tiles.

There are a lot of color and layout options to consider. I'd seen a picture online of a really nice border laid in a contrasting color, and I thought maybe something like that would work here. However, the layout of the room doesn't lend itself well to that approach. Besides, laying a border would also add a lot of work to my poor hubby's burden, so the border is out.

The size of the tile was an issue initially. My preference is not for the 12-inch square tiles; for laying an interesting pattern in contrasting colors, the scale seems a bit too large for the room. Additionally, they're much larger than the 9-inch vintage tiles. However, cutting them down would be wasteful, and not just wasting materials: even if each tiles were cut down into four 6-inch tiles, much of Paul's precious time would be wasted, because, as he said, he would have to lay four times the number of tiles than if we used the whole 12-inch tiles. So for Paul's sake I needed to work with the big tiles as they were.

To avoid ending up with a tile pattern that seems too large for the space, then, we'll be choosing two, low-contrast shades of the same color, probably light yellow, and lay them in a checkerboard pattern. I'm hoping that this will give the impression of design without overpowering the space with busyness, especially since I'd like the hooked rugs I intend to make to have a simple canvas as their backdrop.

Even with the subtle design in the tile layout, I still felt like a diagonal layout was almost necessary to visually unify the two parts of the room, to lead the eye from the vanity to the tub. So I was able to secure Paul's blessing to lay the tile on the diagonal. It will require some extra work, but nothing like the other ideas I bounced past him.

So I'm happy, and Paul's happy. It's a beautiful thing. Hopefully the bathroom will be, too.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Northwest Windows

From left to right: The sheaf of wheat symbolizes the bread of the New Covenant, the open Bible exhorts us to make God's Word central to our lives, and the dove with the olive branch speaks of peace and happiness such as Noah would have experienced following the worldwide flood.

Of all the kinds of stained glass windows that could have been here, I consider myself blessed that these windows feature simple, flowing lines and symbolic representations rather than ornate motives and figurative depictions. They're beautiful, and for the most part, I wouldn't change a thing.
Posted by Picasa

Southeast Windows

These are the stained glass windows on the southeast side. Clicking on a picture will enlarge it for looking at the detail.

The window on the left, closest to the front of the nave, features a bunch of grapes to communicate the wine of the New Covenant. The central window portrays a crown and a cross to remind us of Christ our King. The window on the right features an anchor, an ancient symbol of hope.

The windows were installed in 1910, and the glass itself is Tiffany-style glass, composed of many layers of color within each piece. Elliot commented that the glass in the main part of the outer windows looks like mother-of-pearl, and indeed, it does.

I'm sure there's quite a bit more to say about the glass and the style and period of the design, but I'd need to do more research first. When we are able to turn our attention to restoring them, we'll write more about what we learn.

Next: the windows on the northwest side.
Posted by Picasa

Not Worn Out Its Welcome

On our way out to The Nest last Tuesday we stopped to pick up this entrance door, shown resting upside down, that we found posted on Craigslist.

The door, while perhaps in need of a refinishing, is solid wood, and it came with a sturdy Anderson storm door and two sidelights for just $125.

I will miss the beautiful beveled glass window in the poor, decrepit door that struggles to keep out the cold, but I'm hoping the replacement side lights will allow in more light than the current ones do.

And I like how the paneled crown top is reminiscent of the detail in the lower portion of the stained glass windows. It's not something that most people would notice, but the unifying detail helps the door seem like it belongs.

Posted by Picasa

Prepared for Snow

We've braced ourselves to brave the snow this trip. Paul particularly wanted to beat the snow so he could stretch a tarp over the dumpster and keep the snow from weighing it down when the truck hauls it away.
Posted by Picasa

Name That Bush

One thing we learned after we bought our house in Chicago: don't yank anything out of the ground until you see the flowers! Thinking that dozens of plants with coarse leaves were just weeds, we pulled as many of them out as we could. Happily, we missed some; in early summer we discovered some unexpected, pretty blooms gracing a coarse-leaved plant which turned out to be a generously hearty campanula.

I don't know what these bushes are, but I do know that they have nothing to fear.
Posted by Picasa

Where There's Smoke...

The wind calm, Robin and I took charge of the burn pile. Mounds of leaves and bits of other burnable junk all waited their turn, and to make a fire strong enough to withstand their frosty moisture, I dragged over a couple of the leave-behind beams, once salvaged from a collapsing homestead somewhere, now rotting in rows in the side yard, and added them to the pyre.

We knocked a pretty big chunk out of the collection of yard junk and even used some of the outdoor time to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate together. We would have done more, perhaps, but we've been sternly cautioned about the noxious nature of sumac, so we left it alone. For now.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Along the Sides

More (fuzzy) pictures of the nave. Elliot stayed in the shot to give an idea of the scale, but Aelsa joked that with how quickly he's been growing lately, perhaps there were better people for the job. She wasn't volunteering, however.

Regarding the scale of the windows and the space they fill, it's worth mentioning that the window trim is 10" wide. From the floor to the top of the window trim is 12.5'.

Stained glass window detail coming later.
Posted by Picasa

Setting the Stage for a Repeat Performance

We may sleep here now, but later our musical instruments will fill this space.
Posted by Picasa

View from the Back

It's hard to get the room to fit into one picture, but here's my attempt to capture it from the back. Notice how the stage is set for the sleeping show. And the stairs to the basement are on the right.

That's it! The space in its entirety is about 28 feet wide by 38 feet long, and we have big plans for it. More on that later.
Posted by Picasa

View from the Front

So far I've posted several close-up pictures of isolated elements of The Swallow's Nest. But now here's the beginning of a tour of the grounds to give you a better idea of the space we're adapting.

This is the view from the platform in the front of the nave. The doors in the back lead to the front entry. Yes, the front door is in the back of the room. We hope this won't lead to much confusion. =)

You see the carpeting and the linoleum floor have been removed. The guys finished that up last week. It's interesting to see where the pews sat; marks on the floor reveal where they were bolted to the floor, and stripes of varying colors betray the toll that years of foot traffic took on its once-protective finish.

Our plans are to sand the floor and finish it in a dark brown stain, but that won't be until the bathroom is functional and we have bedrooms designated downstairs: the platform is currently where we stage our airbeds, sleeping bags, and pillows. It's quite a show, but it's been known to put everyone to sleep.
Posted by Picasa

Winter Has Come

Winter arrived with snow today after several days of cold, windy weather. And today, after two overnights in our country estate, we make our exit.

If, when he calls in to the Cook County courthouse on Thursday, Paul learns that he doesn't need to report for his jury duty summons on Friday, then we'll drive back out Friday morning.

The plan for this weekend, then, is to frame the bathroom walls, but we still need to lift some of the stubborn linoleum tiles from the concrete floor. I think a heat gun will help loosen it up, and we'll bring one out with us when we come back, but perhaps someone else has a better suggestion... ?
Posted by Picasa

Faith: a Work in Progress

Faith is looking at a mess like this and believing that it will one day be beautiful. No wonder faith and hope are so closely linked.
Posted by Picasa