Whatever it takes

You know, you would think that after years and years of living in an old house, that I would have learned by now that absolutely nothing ever goes the way that it should, and that everything is more complicated than it needs to be.  We can’t just replace kitchen cupboards, because the cupboards are attached to plaster and lathe walls that crumble when you take down the cupboards, which fall to the ground to reveal that the main support of your house partly gone, which you discover is because the sill plate has rotted out.  (AKA: How the cost of a reno quadruples in a nauseating week from hell in which a hole to the outside is made in your kitchen and must be defended so that raccoons do not gain entry – but I digress.)   I should have known.  We have never so much as hung a picture in this house without having to deal with some sort of unexpected outcome – part of which I blame on the fact that 125 years ago when my house was built there were no building codes.  Just what the guys whacking the place together could manage or thought would be good.  (Thanks, mystery guys from the past, for such wonders in my home as leaving the grounding wires off much of my electrical, and thinking closets were for sissies with too many clothes.  Awesome.

All of this should have braced me for the knowing that as awful as the furnace things was going- that it likely wasn’t the end of the upset, and that was certainly true last night when the other shoe dropped.  Turns out that the portion of our basement that is a soil crawlspace wasn’t deep enough to allow the furnace guys to crawl in and though they thought they could work with that they can’t and they called last night to essentially ask us how the digging we didn’t know we neeed to do was going.  Naturally, since we didn’t know we needed to do it, work had been proceeding rather slowly.

(Do not judge my little house in this picture. I told you, it’s very old. Old basments are complex places.)

It isn’t now. Joe called in the reserves (like Pato, what a good boy) and started to dig a trench through the top layer of the crawlspace, and hauled dirt onto the basement floor, then bagged it up, then it was carried by me and Ken (ok. Mostly Ken) to the backyard… where… where I’ll have to figure out how you make it go away.  Work can now proceed on the furnace on schedule tomorrow morning, and for a little while there, the tears had stopped. (Let’s not discuss the mud/dirt slurry in the basement.  I’ll figure that out later.)

At that point, we were pretty sure that things were as bad as they could get, and we were feeling pretty good about our ability to roll with the old house surprises, when Joe showed me some bricks he’d noticed.  (You can actually see them on the left of that picture.)  There had been cosmetic half wall build in front of the dirt years and years ago, and apparently that hadn’t let us see that bricks were mysteriously landing there on the floor. 

Joe: Look at this, it’s bricks.
Me: That’s weird, isn’t this a wooden house?
Joe: Yeah, it’s really weird. The only place that there’s bricks in this house is the…..

(Here, Joe pauses for so long that I wonder if he’s having a stroke, and then it hits me.)

Me: The foundation, right Joe? The foundation?  Those bricks are falling out of the @#$%^UI(*&^%$ing foundation, AREN’T THEY JOE?

Joe: Yes.
Me: That’s structural.
Joe: Yes.
Me: That’s four really expensive bricks.
Joe: Yes.

At that point we neatly piled the bricks, Joe got a beer and two codeine/tylenol for his back, and I bumped up my painkiller from cashmere to Bison. 

There’s nowhere to go but up.

356 thoughts on “Whatever it takes

  1. Sending waves of fibre love your way.
    It’s going to be fine, just fine.
    Drinking heavily is also recommended.

  2. At least you realize when to bump up the fibre level.
    I’d say it’s time for a really, really nice beer.
    P.S. This is my move from silently lurking reader to commenting reader.

  3. Drinking and knitting are sound advice. Also, hiding in stash for the winter will also work.
    It will end well, just knit on.

  4. You make me afraid to search any farther for the source of the mystery drip in the dining room (our house is 105 years old). Maybe you could find some lost gold under the bricks? Just keep knitting.

  5. I feel for you, my never-met knit friend. And I can’t wait to hear what you’re making with that BISON…!

  6. My sympathies. I have a similar problem…except it starts with poor drainage off an uphill parking lot and progresses through termites, structural damage, a hole in the floor, a leak in the roof and mold…everywhere…and my house is only half as old as yours!
    But, as for your spare soil…sounds like an awesome time to build some raised garden beds. A few 4x4s and some rebar, and all that soil is put to good use. They tell me that raised beds perform much better…thinking of trying next year, but I don’t want to pay for soil. I mean, it’s dirt. I usually pay for soap to get it off.

  7. My inlaws house was literally leaning a little more to the east every year, the furnace was actaully holding up the main floor. Finally they rebuilt, but it took a machine to actually take the house apart. So as bad as it looks…big breath…good luck.

  8. sending sympathetic hugs… not being a homeowner i just have to deal with the landlord mysteriously moving things around in my storage space and leaving them covered with dust and debris – of course that is nothing compared to the four months he spent gutting the other apt on the floor illegally and at all hours – i am still brushing dust off my clothes.
    not to compare to your current situation – just empathizing. you will come out on the other side .
    just think what you would be doing if you COULD NOT KNIT!!! shudder

  9. Well, CRAP. Ummmm, yeah. Do some book touring….sell more books & escape the insanity = double win? That’s all I’ve got.

  10. I suppose it doesn’t help at all to think that in less than a month you’ll be in Port Ludlow with a few handfuls of fiber fanatics, where your most difficult choice will be what beer to have with dinner?
    You could also take small comfort in the fact that you only found 4 bricks? I’m sure there are many more that are still in place doing what they should! *wince*
    At least there’s the bison?

  11. Better to find out NOW instead of AFTER your house falls over, right?
    I grew up in a house built in 1911. Voluntary or even semi-voluntary renovation is really just a convenient way to find out about all the stuff that really REALLY should have been fixed a long time ago but nobody knew was broken.
    When we bought our house we went through this long inspection process where professionals tried to look at everything they could to find problems. My husband and I are contemplating having them come in and do it every five or ten years just to prevent surprises. I was shocked at all the random stuff they found. :)
    I agree on the raised beds… mix some vegetable scraps and fall leaves into that dirt and put it in some raised beds… come spring you could have some nice soil for a garden.

  12. cashmere, bison, qiviut, merino. your new calming mantra.
    best of luck in the mini-reno, and i’ll think Wonder Woman thoughts for you!
    PS: chocolate and beer, or chocolate beer itself, might help…

  13. I don’t mean to rub salt in your wounds but do you have you tested for elevated raydon gas in that basement? I think exposed earth basements are a more likely danger for high levels.
    I’ll remember that luxury yarns are a stash necessity for surviving life’s rough spots. Seems like a good excuse, I mean reason, to me!

  14. OMG, I am feeling your pain. Oh Man, oh man, that’s bad. Just don’t look at it. Maybe it will go away. Maybe some of the dirt will lithify. Maybe you could press cable panels into it to give it more strength…. Oh man, I need a lie down.

  15. Oh my….Maybe they were just extra bricks that they left in the crawlspace….just maybe….
    Beautiful bison. I’m glad that you’ve got that first aid kit filled with beer, cashmere, and bison for serious injuries.

  16. OK, four bricks. ONLY four bricks. Old house means it has settled. They may have been extraneous bricks because then something would have been pressing down on them and making them impossible to just fall out. Right?
    Beer and knitting. Beer and knitting. Knowing the absolute panic a hole in a wall can give anyone (and my house is only 30 years old) I’m ready to send more yarn and good Oregon beer. You just say when. And I’ll include enough beer for Joe.

  17. We have an old house, too. We budget twice as much as they say it will cost, figure it will take at least twice as long, be very inconvenient and that, later, some previously unforeseen other problem will appear, such as six months after the new roof is put on we discover the edge wasn’t correctly sealed and water has been collecting between the two layers of siding (the old one of which had not been removed as it should have been) and about a half inch of mildew now resides there and you can, now, smell it inside the house, not to mention it is probably causing moisture to collect and … well, you can guess the rest. The whole end of the house will probably have to be redone. I wonder what that will do to the roof that started the whole mess to begin with? Hmmmm.
    When we retire, we’re moving to the condo in Florida where someone else has to deal with the outside (although we still have to pay for it) and the inside is just fine, thank you very much.
    I feel for you. Oh, yes, indeed, I feel for you.

  18. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time for a celebrity edition of Holmes on Homes?
    Drink up, and just keep knitting. You are right: there’s nowhere to go but up from here.

  19. Having done renovations on an old house, I feel your pain. There is no such thing as a simple operation and things usually proceed from bad to worse with astounding rapidity.
    Glad to hear you’re following EZ’s wonderful advice to knit on through all crises. Bison must surely be the best palliative.

  20. I feel for you. Been there. Had an 1928 house. Had to excavate tunnels to put in new heating/ac under the crawlspace–some of which was one foot high off the ground. My dad did it on his back, using a folding army trench shovel from the Army/Navy surplus store. With spiders and bugs and dust from the floorbeams in his face. I stuck holes in a very large kitty litter plastic tray, and wound some plastic-coated clothesline wire thru it, and I PERSONALLY pulled out several tons of dirt from under that house thru a little opening in the short brick foundation wall, dumped it in a wheelbarrow and wheeled 200 yrds into back of lot and redumped it, and back again. For two weeks. In the heat/humidity of August, in Georgia. Me only have two whole melanin cells in my entire skin, and having a slight heart arrhythmia besides.
    Good times.

  21. You are handling this remarkably well. If it were me, I’d have drank a box of wine and closet smoked a carton of cigarettes at this point.
    Sending good thoughts your way…

  22. Um, Steph you are planning on going to SOAR right?
    You might want to go to Oregon early.
    Even if you are not, why don’t you go ahead and head out to Bend anyway, you need it.

  23. Can you move? Yes, just plain move? It would be kind of the equivalent to frogging in knitting.

  24. Maybe when they built the foundation they left some extra bricks in the crawl space that fell out with all the digging. Maybe.
    We have a mystery house too. Extra bits where they don’t belong, nothing where it does. And they say they don’t build them like they used to.

  25. It might not be that awful. But.
    Please, please call what we in the States term a ‘general contractor’, since ‘builder’ might mean everything from a carpenter to a roofer. I wish my architect’s license meant something in Canada; I’d pop round and take a look. You need somebody who understands the whole interconnected system, and who is familiar with old building techniques in your particular area. I’m sure they’re around.

  26. Get some of that mink yarn and have it one reserve just in case they find another shoe to drop.
    My house is an old barn converted to loving quarters about 40 years ago. To say the renovation has been interesting, doesn’t begin to do it justice.

  27. Oh dear. Will be keeping you in our thoughts tonight! Perhaps it has only shifted a bit and no worries! I have found that the things I think are really big and terrible usually barely garner a shrug from a trained professional, and the things I think can be fixed in a second become renovation disasters. Hopefully this is the case, and there is nothing to worry about.

  28. I feel like a complete heel for this, but your account of the foundation bricks raining down cracked me up. Your renovation misadventures made my crazy in-law problems look sunny by comparison. Best of luck fighting off the raccoons. I hope the furnace misadventure is very near its happy conclusion.

  29. Oh, my dear, I feel your pain. We live in a house that behaves just like yours, and it’s only 40 years old. Rotten joists and floorboards; an unlined sumphole in the basement slowly but surely eroding the earth under the concrete floor; electrical supply wires, sans conduit, winding in and out around water pipes. The stuff of madness. Hang in there. If things get worse, there’s always qiviut.

  30. I was reading along with ever-tightening gut until I got to the last half of your last sentence, which made me laugh out loud. Relieved MY gut; probably doesn’t help yours much. I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix the whole thing, you know, as a reward for your wonderful sense of humor!

  31. Wow. I mean. . . just. . . wow. That bites. If it makes you feel any better, you’ve totally made me think I should quit whining about the non-structural repairs we need to make to sell our house.
    I think some chocolate, to go along with that bison, is in order right about now.

  32. Dear Steph,
    We have been undergoing a bathroom reno (in a newer house) that started in April, is still not complete and is making me crazy. Thank you for that post. My bathroom reno pales in comparison. I’m still knitting one of the Rocking Sock Club Socks (yours to be exact) and the Autumn Rose Pullover out of Simply Shetland 4 (by Eunny Jang). Clearly I have a way to go before I get to the bison (which I will go and find in case it becomes necessary to up my pain meds).

  33. I felt a little dizzy, there, just reading about this new twist to your interesting reno. Continue to administer bison to needles until bad stuff goes away. And have a beer. And chocolate. All will be well. Eventually.
    Blessings to you all through the rest of this crisis.

  34. “There’s nowhere to go but up.”
    Don’t say that. Don’t say that. Haven’t you learned not to say that yet? I catch myself thinking that sort of thing sometimes but I think a string of expletives balances it back out; give it a try.
    I have to say that this is one post where I didn’t smile, except at your oozing sarcasm… if this had been my house, I think my sarcasm would be set at “fatal”. You’re amazing.

  35. I just have to say that, “@#$%^UI(*&^%$ing foundation” seems rather mild…
    I would have been much more explicit, I’m sure.
    All will be well, but it might take a while. And a lot of knitting and caffeine.

  36. My in-laws lived through a 6-something quake while staying in Montreal (not Toronto!) about 20 years ago. Just something to know: they don’t build with bricks in California anymore–bricks crumble in earthquakes.
    It can be fixed. And you found it before it got worse. Hang in there!

  37. Second what Sarah at 2:55p wrote, please have your house checked by someone who knows and works on houses of your house’s vintage. Here, in the Seattle area the Phinney Center has people who are very knowledgeable about older hoses in this area, and how to modernize them. Surely there are such folks in your area.
    Wishing you good luck.

  38. Having owned only old houses (the one I owned with my ex was a 2 flat that predated the Chicago Fire – it was standing in 1873 – don’t know how old it was then), I can sympathize with you. Our current house was built in 1913 which actually seems sorta new to me. But still – nothing is standard sized. It’s hard to find doors that fit the frames in our house. When we had our kitchen remodeled a few years ago, they took off the door to the basement so that they could more easily get appliances, cabinets, counter tops, etc in & out. Someone placed it on the enclosed back porch & one of the workmen said he thought it was being thrown out & so he put it out in the alley on trash day (we did not believe him for a minute – why on earth would we be throwing out the door to the basement – we think he stole it because it was solid hard wood & sold it to Restoration Hardware or a similar place for several hundred $ – not to mention that the Village charges to haul away large items like that.) They no longer make doors that size so the contractor had to get one from that kind of place the one he replaced it with is slightly warped & does not look anywhere near as nice as the original. He claimed he paid $300 for it. Don’t know if that is true but we think he got an imperfect one to save money. They rebuilt the door frame on th doorway between the kitchen & back porch so that a new door would fit it. Still we are lucky in that our house is one of the most structurally sound houses ever built (at least that is what the contractor said – all of the floors are absolutely leve which is almost unheard of in a house that old. A majority of the houses we looked at before we bought this one were held up by jacks. That is a solution you might want to think about for your foundation. I’ve been told that they are quite reliable & the least expensive way of deling with crumbling foundations.

  39. “There’s nowhere to go but up.”
    Having lived in an old house myself, it can always go much deeper.
    Good Luck
    ~Illisse

  40. I feel for you. I don’t know what else to say. I’ll be hoping that there is a very innocent explanation to the whole thing, like they were spare and got left down there, and the furnace men moved them to access some other part of the basement.

  41. And I thought the weight-supporting beam in my basement bathroom that had turned to dirt was bad. My heart goes out to you.

  42. [also un-lurking...]
    Wow. Hang in there. Masons are amazing people. Really. (I will refrain from relating how I know this, since I don’t think it will help, but I will say that my basement looks a bit like yours, though 40 years younger.)
    Try to imagine that when this is all over, and it’s sweltering next summer and you walk into your nice cool house, you will want to send a nice batch of cookies to those guys who installed all of that ductwork.
    That yarn is gorgeous by the way. From Rhinebeck perhaps?

  43. Oh dear lord, foundation troubles suck. All I have to offer is a hug. And next time I have some paypal money, I’m totally buying a cowl pattern!

  44. Oh dear Lord Stephanie!! I’m with you – when anything has to be done to my house – even just taking off the doors of the cabinet to get a new dryer in – I almost freak out. I have to leave until it is all done. I keep telling myself it will be over and things will be back to normal, but I still feel myself unable to breathe. So I can’t even imagine dealing with what you are dealing with. Hey, look on the bright side – maybe under those bricks and the foundation, you will find some yarn your forgot about!
    Linda in VA

  45. Bison… lots and lots of bison! Love the bison…. Focus on the bison… Yup, definitely time for a fiber fix.
    Good luck!

  46. I’m always suggesting to my husband that we “remodel something!” and he’s always looking at me with alarm and saying “but we don’t know what we might find!” I guess he has a point.

  47. I have to agree with ~Illisse. It can go much deeper. the good news is you and Joe have a strong foundation. That will survive the dripping bricks.

  48. Maybe while you’re knitting the bison you should watch “The Great Escape”, especially the part where they haul up the dirt from the tunnels and find inventive places to stash it.

  49. Oh dear. So sorry to hear about the old-house surprises. Maybe it’s not so bad – wasn’t your porch held up by the roof at one point? And just think how much better your house will be when this is all done. Right? (I’m trying to be cheery – it’s not really my strong spot.) Or you could just give up and drown the frustrations in hard alcohol and scrumptious fiber.
    In any event, good luck and I hope it goes better from here.

  50. Oh, my. My deepest sympathy. Here’s to hoping, indeed, that these were a few spare blocks that just got chucked into the crawlspace – and if it’s any consolation, the house I rented 15 years ago that had a similar circumstance arise (we could see daylight through the foundation in the crawlspace!) is still standing.

  51. Would it be possible to move to a house that didn’t need so much repair? I mean, I understand living in a house with historical value, but this is pretty extreme.

  52. When my husband and I lived in an 1890s house we had similar experiences: tiny issue morphed into gargantuan problem in no time flat. We took to calling the mystery men from the past who had built the home “Harry,” as in “some Harry with a hammer did this job.” Felt good to give him an identity and the voodoo dolls a name.

  53. Look up chocolate wine – yes, yes thats right – it does exist and sounds like you might need it right now! (I too live in an old house and have several unconventional coping mechanisms)

  54. I’m getting on the “maybe those are just leftover bricks from construction” bandwagon… May the yarn be with you!

  55. well, now look on the bright side. you know where you can put all that extra dirt, eh? Dirt has been holding up the house for 125 years now. Or you can make dirt bricks… and uh.. yeah.
    Good luck with that. If I were more of a stalker, I’d send more beer, and perhaps a snifter of Jameson’s Whiskey. Or two.

  56. Oh man!!! I will stop whining about our bathroom now. We went to put in a new toilet, and ended up having to gut the whole thing. Even the beams were rotted. But it doesn’t involve the foundation. Hang in there. This too will pass.
    Hmmm, maybe we could invent a new crisis rating system. My crisis is only a cashmere crisis. Yours is bison crisis.

  57. Our house is 150 years old, and fortunately (?) the stuff that gives us the most grief was done in the past 30-40 years, which makes it a little less painful to fix, I think.
    It’s at times that these that I want to punch anyone who says “Oh, I’d love to live in an old house – they have so much character.”
    Our entire house is brick and there are a few bricks missing in the foundation which make me terribly nervous, but our home inspector said it wasn’t a big deal. Here’s hoping yours aren’t either.

  58. While these contnual little reno finds might be annoying in the moment, think how much worse it would be if your wires *weren’t* currently (ahem, sorry abt that) grounded, or if you discovered foundation flaws in a more dynamic manner…and for a 125 year old house, it sounds like it is doing well. And when it is done, think how safe and warm you all will be!
    That bison doesn’t hurt either. Speaking of warm.

  59. Well… I am speechless. I am sending you yarnful hugs. This truly sounds like the horror story everyone dreads when they own an old house ( I do)and have to do any kind of replacement or repair. I am so glad that you got out your knitting and that you “bumped up” your painkiller of choice. I did that last week too. Are you keeping warm?

  60. God, I’ve been there. Our last big disaster (I mean project) happened when our old portable dryer broke and we needed a new one. 1884 house, built by one DIY guy who needed a place to live. We ended up with a lot of new wiring and a totally gutted, then re-done kitchen. Because of a dryer! It also caused us to find a rusted out ‘soil stack’ – you don’t want to think too much about what that means. Ick.
    It will get better. Keep your powder and your wool dry.

  61. ah, crap. Hearing the words “foundation” and “renovation” in the same sentence is bad. I think you need a little trip to take your mind off your worries. To, oh, I don’t know, maybe Aurora.
    (you are coming, aren’t you?)

  62. oh poor Harlot and Joe! I will promptly go and buy some more Harlot books to support the reno!

  63. Hang in there! I know how much hard work old houses can be. I grew up in a house that was built around 1870. You’ll get it sorted.
    Also, this might be my first comment. I started reading around the time the good Sir Washie had to leave, and went back to read all your archives. I really admire how you take the time to bring smiles to so many of us even when you’re stressed out.

  64. My house was built in 1920-something. I feel your pain, and my (rapidly dwindling) bank account is suffering right along with yours.
    Sometimes, all you can do is cry and knit. Because laughing about it to try not to cry turns into maniacal cackling and homicidal screeching which can lead to actions that land you in the pokey. Where they won’t let you have yarn and needles and chocolate and alcohol.

  65. Um….living in an older house as well, all I can say is Yikes! and it figures. NOTHING is ever easy in an old house. Can’t offer you any recommendations, I would have had a total breakdown/meltdown/freak attack by now. Hang in there though, it can’t possibly get worse…can it?

  66. Oh, do I understand about old houses! Mine is the same as yours — cobbled together by a guy who thought he was a builder — yeah, right. Someone who simply owns a hammer is NOT a builder. By any stretch of the imagination. The bathroom reno took twice as long as the estimate and was 50% more than estimate. The kitchen was twice as long as the estimate and twice the cost, owing to a rotted sill in the very spot I wanted my plant window. 7 feet of very expensive lumber later, I had my window, and a pretty new wall to go with it. I really do think you need to invest in some serious quiviut. If nothing else, think of it as insurance against the next reno.

  67. Dude. I’m really sorry. I have nothing to say but good luck. Maybe we should start another MSF drive to help you feel better. Would that?

  68. Perhaps #imaginaryrhinebeck should be extended a bit. I think you need that campfire and free cashmere booth. Would you like me to make you a s’more?

  69. Oh, dear, dear. My sympathies are with you (as someone who lives in an old, constantly being renovated house also). Years ago, a sturdy old woman in our church who had recently lost her husband, stood up in front of the congregation and said, “People ask me how I can go on – and I say, there’s always something to praise the Lord for. I wake up every morning and say to myself, ‘Well, there was no fire in the night! No flood this morning! So I can at least praise the Lord for that!’” You have to imagine this being said with a thick eastern European accent and a big smile. Ever since, when there’s a disaster in our family, we say to each other….”No fire! No flood!” and we feel just a little bit better.

  70. For a moment there, I thought you’d discover a body bricked up behind the wall in your basement. Dunno what’s worse, actually – walled up mummified body in the basement or bricks falling out of the foundation…
    (it’s possible I’ve watched too many episodes of Bones)

  71. Every time that I am in the middle of a home fix-it disaster, I think of my dad’s friend. Whose house is built around an early 1800′s log cabin. A log cabin that the termites really really loved to eat. So he had a house, collapsing from within. The nasty little bugs only ate the sillplate, joists and floor of my little breakfast nook so I had it easy…

  72. Eh, shove the bricks back in the hole in the foundation and squeeze some mortar in around them. Then figure out why the bricks fell – that’s the expensive part. Most likely some water from outside the house is seeping in through the bricks into the basement and eventually the bricks followed the water (I do not have the gift of story-telling you do, so that’s a good an explanation as I can come up with). That’s assuming the fallen bricks should have been holding back the earth outside the basement. If the falling bricks created a hole to the air, then you can blame lousy mortar and water, most likely rain falling off your roof, hitting the ground, and splashing back up on your foundation. Thus, it all comes back to water where it’s not supposed to be.
    But don’t believe me, I really know nothing (aside from being a knitter and therefore understanding instinctively how most things work and that anything really worth having, like a house or a handknit sweater or a marriage, is wicked expensive and time-consuming).

  73. Been there, doing that…in another language. We bought this old house a year ago loving its spacious ground floor, not realizing that the previous owner had removed seriously structurally important supports. Thought we’d be moved in by the end of January. Ha. Just keep drinking wine and knitting. Works.

  74. Last time I wrote to you in indicated that it would all be over soon. I soooo take that back. I am now short of breath after reading your latest “discovery” and agree, drinking is required. Also, high-end yarns are very helpful. I imagine it isn’t all that helpful but you must know that there are so many of us out there pulling for you guys.
    One of our favorite lines here is “how bad can it be”? Now you know…..
    Take care of yourself.

  75. I’m finishing a pair of socks now and immediately returning to an alpaca lace shawl…. there’s so much work to be done in my house, I live without a “Joe,” and the date on the cornerstone is 1760.
    I need more wool.
    Hang in there. You are my inspiration.

  76. Alas…My house is as old and was built by a “drunk carpenter” LOL!
    Take two skeins of bison and call me in the morning!

  77. You are forming coherent sentences.
    I am in awe.
    I am also seven hours away, and glad of it.
    It’s waited a while. — surely it can wait a little longer while the tanks fill back up?

  78. oh good lord. is bison strong enough that you could just knit a big ol’ foundation jock strap of sorts?? keep it all where it belongs, so to speak?
    i’d skip the beer and go straight for the Kentucky Bourbon…lots of it. with chocolate. and keep your dpn’s far away from those builders lest you ‘slip’ and someone loses an eye. it’s all fun til that happens, y’know.
    keep well, and come visit ohio any ol’ time you please. we’ve got lots of old houses, but they’re not yours. :)

  79. Did you know they can lift a house, put in a new foundation and set the house back down? Not that you want to do that, but it is possible. Wish we lived closer so my husband (who can fix anything) could “fix” your pain. Okay, he would just tell you what’s up with your foundation, and how to cure its’ ills. Good luck, I agree with whomever said a few bricks were just loose. Put them back!

  80. Remember a week or two ago when you kindly put up the cowl pattern for all of us who wanted it? I suggest you put up a few more patterns for sale. No, I am not joking. Want the plain jane sock without having to remember which book it is in? But it here. Want this or that pattern? Find them here? Put up one every week or two. Then add a lnk in the sidebar so people can buy them when they want them and not have to search to find them.
    You may not really love this idea, but your pocketbook will.

  81. oh goodness.
    To get rid of the dirt, try posting on Craigslist or Freecycle – shouldn’t be hard to find people who need to fill in low places in their yards.

  82. Bison – wow. Hope it helps. I think sitting on the floor crying with single malt whiskey would also be appropriate. :)
    In the “misery loves company” department, my m-in-law wanted a new kitchen faucet in her old house. She ended up paying to replace everything from the faucet to the main water hook-up in the street. Most expensive faucet ever! On the plus side, her (then) little kids didn’t get lead poisoning from the old pipes she didn’t even know were lead until she had to replace them!

  83. We are sisters under the yarn! Have the 122 year old house with the dirt floor and the original builders cousin did the wiring, a nightmare! We put on a family room addition a few years ago and the foundation was discovered to just be field rocks laid one on top of the other, like a farm fence, you could not tell because some one had skim coated it with cement at one time. As of now the reno is still not finished due to lack of funds, taken by the shoring up of the old foundation, it was quite an undertaking. Good luck and I will add you to my nitely prayers.

  84. I’m not sure whether this will help you feel better or not…but your post has helped me a lot. I’ve realized that I should quit feeling sorry that we can’t do any renovation of our 1830′s house because my husband is unemployed. I’m now determined that any such renovation would be more than I could handle, and I’d rather use the money to buy yarn and travel to far-off places with good yarn shops!

  85. That looks just like our basement/crawlspace(including the cheap labor!)Just stay focused on the bright side-heat in the entire house in January and February!

  86. Oh Steph. My heart is breaking for you. Our cottage was built in 1922 (or thereabouts) and there was no code then either. I am amazed that the cottage was able to stand. We’ve redone lots, but there’s still lots to go. I’m hoping that the foundation stuff isn’t totally major. And the beer, tylenol, and bison helps.

  87. I TOLD you it would take more than a pint. As a fellow old house lover I can feel your pain – my wallet has been there and done that. I keep telling myself that they are sooooo worth the aggravation, but on days like you are having it’s a hard sell.

  88. Oh, dear. I can commiserate. Our barn was built in 1867, and I’m sure the house predates that. We have a mysterious leak around our front door that is rotting out the interior floorboards. There’s a chunk of marble at the entrance. This section of the house only has a cat size crawlspace, so we can’t check from the inside. My brain keeps saying, “Sill..sill… .” I’ve had calls in to carpenters for months. Apparently they aren’t suffering too much with the economic downturn, as they haven’t responded. Have a drink for me, as I can’t anymore, and I’ll join you in the knitting. I’ve spun 8 oz. of fiber today and am about to ply.

  89. You may have upped your painkiller to bison, but fortunately you still have other, stronger painkillers. I just really, really hope you don’t end up making it all the way to vicuña. If you do, you may want to consider buying a new house….

  90. From time to time I entertain the idea that I need to do some renovations on my older home. Thank you, thank you, thank you for saving me from myself. If I can’t see it everything must be okay. Right?! ;-)

  91. Good luck with all this.
    By the way, I clearly think about you way too much, as last night I dreamt you came to my house and wanted coffee!

  92. Happy to see you have the proper cures lined up….knitting will cure all the ills.
    Empathy to you….my sister has a big old Victorian in Waterloo, Ont and it is constantly revealing its weaknesses.
    Hoping that the 4 bricks are the end of the issue.

  93. My sympathies. I know all about living in an old house and the things you find. Our new kitchen is off-center because of the old-cabinets-nailed-to-old-wall-planks issue. We’ve found stuff in our walls like old report cards and a 1950′s era sandwich. Maybe, just maybe, the bricks were leftovers from when they put the foundation in? Here’s hoping, and wishing you peaceful knitting.

  94. Oh . . .discouraging. I grew up in a home under constant renovation/repair. My parents bought it as newlyweds and now my Dad is 80 and they still live there. Most of its issues are under control at this point (thanks to my Dad’s talent and continuous efforts). We all go home and help with anything that pops up. It is a wonderful place to go and every corner holds a memory for all of us. My Dad planted some new saplings last spring and I think planting trees shows alot of hope when you’re 80. So maybe this can be a light at the end of the “replace the furnace” tunnel–that things can get better. Good luck!

  95. Oh, my. Heavens to Betsy. (Substitute suitable profanity–I can’t come up with anything sufficiently expressive.) Makes me almost glad that I’m a renter rather than a homeowner now.
    One of the houses in my past was one my then-spouse and I bought from a professor of civil engineering at the local university. Unfortunately, the man had designed the house and served as his own general contractor. He had the delusion that being an academic with an engineering degree qualified him to build a house. It passed inspection, but for years, whenever we had to call a contractor, he would look at the current problem and bend over double laughing, before trying to improvise a solution or else just replace the item (furnace, water heater, plumbing, etc.) outright.
    Some years ago my sister took a new job. She put her Wisconsin farmhouse on the market and moved to the new city. The real estate agent promised to turn off the water before the cold set in, but she forgot and my sister didn’t have that promise in writing. Therefore she had to pay for the repairs when the pipes froze and damaged the ceilings and walls, and still had to accept a reduced sale price. My sister was livid, and had trouble getting over it. Finally a friend said to her, “No one died, and no one got hurt. It’s just money.”
    I try to remind myself to keep things in perspective when material disasters happen. If it’s just money or things, and my family is safe, anything can be fixed. But that initial shock and the disruption of daily life is really hard to take. Knit on, dear Harlot, and know that all will be well.

  96. Take the bison, the cashmere, the laptop and the beer to that little cabin in the woods and write another book.
    Return only when Joe says the heat is on.

  97. Well that’s one expensive shop to drop. I can solve one of your problems, though (I’m magic, you see).
    Head over to craigslist or freecycle. Post “Offer: Clean Fill, already bagged. Bring your pickup, minivan, station wagon or rickshaw. First responder who can pick up before tomorrow at noon gets it.”
    It’ll be gone before you know it.

  98. I am rushing over to Ravelry to purchase the cowl pattern in hopes it will provide you with another consoling brew.

  99. Without my glasses that brick looks untouched by mortar. Could they be left over bricks? I’m going with that because the alternative is awful. As for the dirt, just dig a hole in the backyard and bury it :). I wish you the very best of luck with this. It could be worse, but I don’t know how and I don’t want to know.

  100. Oy. I’m so sorry. I’m sitting here in Winnipeg waiting for our heat to be fixed. (*hot water boiler radiators house built in 1914 pump went out oh no* rep between **) I’m worried for you. I’m worried for us. Old home repair is one thing after another but I love my “new” old house and I’ve loved the last 3, too. Good luck! I hope it comes out ok.

  101. The biggest problem with renovating is at some time during the process it occurs to you that it would have been better to knock the place down and start over…oh sorry Stephanie, I thought you were talking about this house…
    I just finished putting a 2nd coat of drywall mud on the ceiling in my office..we gutted it last week. Half of the new drywall is up and we have paint mixed and flooring picked out. In the meantime I am scrambling around furniture trying to get to the computer in the spare room, digging through things to get to yarn, and having a beer. In fact if you like Stephanie, I could have another for you?
    To console myself I have 2X 215 yard skeins of 80% alpaca and 20% linen…not sure if its enough for a man’s scarf or not, but if I knit really fast and its too short they have some left.
    Hang in there with the furnace…imagine how bad it would have been to do it in January.
    Also to get rid of the dirt, you can spread it out over a lawn. I know there is probably a lot, but maybe over a few neighbor’s yards, or next to the sidewalk on the roadside if you have a sidewalk? If you need a wheelbarrow give me a call..LOL I am good at this sort of thing.

  102. just keep knitting…just keep knitting…
    Our house has been a similar money pit, and I spend my time wondering why I wanted to own a home, what’s wrong with an apartment? Think how much more $$ I could have spent on yarn over the years. And raised beds, btw, are only as good as the soil you put in them. I used up ‘leftover’ soil for mine and had to amend and amend before I could get anything to grow.

  103. These painful memories will fade eventually. The beautiful knitting they are necessitating? It will bring you joy long after this horror has receded into the distance.

  104. I am so sorry, Stephanie. Try to remember that everything happens for a reason. It would have been worse (much, MUCH worse) if your house had collapsed, say, in the middle of the night. The furnace failure was a warning siren. It worked, right? :)

  105. I’m starting to have sympathy pangs….but they are real. I think we are next for the big mess. A week or so ago the electric company painted a big red circle on our front lawn and stuck a stake in it that is marked FAULT. Today they planted lots of little flags and painted lots more spots with various colors. I have a feeling the backhoe will be here in the near future. Seems there is a 30,000 (yes, that many zeros) watt line buried across our front lawn. Wouldn’t you know it, its right where we have a beautiful 20 year old red maple. Maybe I should go start another Pretty Thing.

  106. First rule of home ownership: You always learn to hate the guy who built your house – no matter how long ago that was.

  107. I’m having visions of The Great Escape when the prisoners put the dirt they were digging out of the tunnel into their pants and walked around the yard slowly letting it drop out so the guards wouldn’t notice. Yes, that’s how you can get rid of the dirt.

  108. This too will pass. Keep thinking about how warm your family will be this winter.
    You are making me twitch remembering the nightmare renovations of my old (moneypit) house. Mid-constructions changes because we couldn’t move a beam, removal of an oil-fired (converted from coal) gravity furnace complete with the oil tank full of 20 year old oil, and the winch holding the 3rd floor together when we realized that the west wall was falling away from the house because of inadequate floor joists. Oh yes, and living with the in-laws for 6 (was supposed to be 3) months while we had no bedrooms.

  109. Sometimes don’t you just want to take a walk… and then just keep going? Yeah, I’ve been there. Get an ice cold beer and play with the bison. It’ll be okay… especially if you play with the bison.

  110. been there done that….i dont wanna scare the B-geebers outta ya but our home was built the same year as yours and we are up to the sagging ceilings with NO apparent support to any other part of the house,(the house which mind you has never had nor will ever have a square edge or corner anywhere in it)….WH was nice enough to move his hobbies to the garage so i could install a wine cupboard….lol! the good news is the higher you go the quicker it goes….not necessarily cheaper but quicker or maybe that was the wine…hmm….i will have to get back to you on that one. cheers!!!

  111. My house isn’t one-fifth as old as yours and we had building codes and such. Still, painting turned into a bit more (about $1500 more) than we expected. You start taking out things that need replacing and then oh, there’s more.

  112. Start thinking about the lovely handknit gifts you will be making for the young men doing manual labor for you.
    As for what to do with the soil, what friends of yours, reasonably close by, garden and want raised beds? Or, do you want to start some raised bed gardens of your own? THAT is where the soil goes.

  113. OK, that seals it. I’m not putting a furnace in. I’ll let the next owners figure it out.
    My husband (who wants to sell our house each time something falls off of it) was following your tweets last night, saying, “See. We need to move.”
    He sends his best to Joe, by the way.

  114. You are not alone. I live in a character home from 1913, and last year we spent so much money on renos. We had a warped wall that was supposed to only cost $900 to fix – it ended up being $12 000! Old houses are money pits. However, someone once said to me “You are investing in your biggest investment”, which seemed to help me quite a bit. Good luck and it will be all over very soon hopefully….

  115. oh, Steph. Ouch. I’ll hope they were extra bricks. Yep, extra.
    And, is it bad that when I saw “there’s nowhere to go but up” I thought you were referring to the price of the renovations?

  116. I’m thinking that it is SUCH a good thing that I bought your book yesterday to take with me on my flight. altho to really do you any good I probably should have bought a case of them.

  117. Sonofab*!%$!!!! There’s not much to say that will help with this…
    Hang in there.
    Laura

  118. I agree with many of the comments above that you need to contact someone who knows lots about old houses in Toronto. You should do this before you put the furnace in. New foundations are a very boring way to spend a lot of money. You don’t get anything nice and/or shiny out of the deal, but foundations make the house a lot safer. Of course, I live within spitting distance of the Hayward Fault in California. Therefore, brick foundations and houses that aren’t tied down to their foundations are big problems. Drinks, codeine and knitting are a good way to deal with the stress of all this (grin).

  119. Having an old house myself I can totally sympathize. We have a hand dug basement but ours is stone not brick. It took them three hours to drill two tiny holes in it to run the pipes for our geothermal. Sending fibery good thoughts your way. I hope your foundation is still fine.

  120. We used to live in an old house (1861, I think, so not all that old, but still) with a dirt-floor cellar that had been partitioned into many tiny spaces for no apparent reason. We had many fine adventures discovering that this or that was not built to code, including the time the gas guy put a lock on our dryer, turning a deaf ear to my protests that I had a baby, dangit, and I couldn’t survive without one more than a couple of hours. There was also a somewhat similar episode with a heater. Each time I sighed and shelled out to get the boondoggle du jour fixed and thanked heaven that it wasn’t worse. I always wondered if that last part wasn’t just pure foolishness on my part, but now I know I was right. I treasure these moments of validation, so rare as they are.
    Meanwhile, keep telling yourself: it could be worse, it’s only money.

  121. Just tell me where to ship the Screech and the qiviut (not that I have the latter but I could quickly get the former).

  122. Ugh. I could cry for you. The stuff your post is made of are some of my worst fears (and who knows maybe a reality with my house built in 1890).
    GOOD LUCK. I hope things turn around and you get a break somewhere!

  123. You know, we had a basement (well, they called it a ‘basement’, but they were being generous – it was a dirt cellar) that looked nearly identical to that – up to and including the bricks and sneaky ‘renovations’ done by previous owners. Our house (it is now my sister-in-law’s house) was built in 1890. They could be twins! Or at least close siblings. However, despite the random bricks, the house was actually sound, and hadn’t moved that much in all those years. So take heart!

  124. So I guess I won’t tell you that the leaky radiator we have had for the last year just needed to be tightened. For once, an easy fix.
    Chin up and keep diving into the stash.

  125. My heart goes out to you, truly.
    When you need BISON for painkillers, things have gone to hell. Probably in a hand basket.
    By the way, I’m going to hell for laughing at: Those bricks are falling out of the @#$%^UI(*&^%$ing foundation, AREN’T THEY JOE?
    Dammit

  126. Oh dear. Oh bad. Let’s go with Medievalneedle’s theory. Although I liked Lene thinking of the body. I was concerned about Joe w/beer and codeine but he’s a big guy…keep us posted. Bison?! Must check @ my LYS. Note to self: old houses are only romantic in movies. Oh, and watch the movie MONEY PIT, I think it was called.

  127. We moved out of our 100+ year old house 13 years ago – luckily, before we had any major issues. Try to keep it in perspective – at least you can address any foundation problems before you have walls falling down or some calamity that even beer and knitting cannot fix. Although it is small comfort, you have your (slightly reduced) stash to spin and knit if the reno sucks up every cent of your available cash for the forseeable future.
    I consider my stash my Fiber Retirement Account (on days when I think I’ll have a job long enough to be able to retire) or my Supplemental Unemployment Compensation (on days when I’m pretty sure my job will get merged out of existence again.)

  128. Maybe post on Craigslist (do they have that in Canada?) or whatever for someone needing fill dirt? I’m sure there is someone in the middle of their own reno nightmare that needs dirt. I’m sorry…I didn’t mean nightmare…I meant learning opportunity.
    My husband and I love old houses. We have moved up though from one that was built in 1925 to one built in 1950. The surprise in this one was electrical that was done by Mazes-R-Us and walls that are not only drywalled, but plastered over the drywall and lovely, lovely asbestos insulation. All of which we found while gutting the kitchen. Still…what doesn’t kill you um…gives you an excuse to knit and drink beer.

  129. Well, on the bright side you now have a whole lotta topsoil kicking around and you know what that means? Raised beds. Im always trying to do raised beds but I keep being turned off by the cost of filling them. And you know what does amazingly well in raised beds in harsh climates? LAVENDER. A lavender bed is the most rewarding gardening experience ever in terms of bang for your buck. Its like learning to cable.
    And heres a good old house horror story- I live in a 300 year old farmhouse that was originally built by the town to be the town “asylum”. (Some small towns in New England used to have a town-owned farm as a sort of social welfare program. Those who couldnt make it on their own, for whatever reason, or those convicted of small crimes or in crippling debt were sent to work at the town asylum, as a sort of community service thing.) So my house is 300 year old municipal construction. One day when it was raining my brother came downstairs and said “Hey mom, theres water coming down the wall in the stairwell…” We discovered that the entire load bearing wall (around which the house is essentially built) had been soaked every time it rained and had completely rotted. And then there was the time the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom self destructed and the plaster ceiling in the dining room came down on the mahogany dining table and soaked the oriental rugs with plaster goo.
    OOh, and the best one- my cousins live on a private island (long story) and they obviously have to get heating oil delivered by boat right? Well after the Patriot Act was passed that became illegal. So they have to haul their heating oil out to the island in jerry cans every weekend. Lets just say…. they keep the heat pretty low and burn a lot of wood.

  130. Oh, Steph. I’m so sorry.
    And I’m so glad I don’t live in a Victorian any more. That charm comes at an enormous price in cash, discomfort, and inconvenience.

  131. After all that, it’s a miracle that you can type coherent sentences. However, it’s giving you lots of material for a new book which may help fund the rapidly escalating renovations. I suppose that makes me an optimist since I equate disasters with book fodder. I’ll skip the red wine tonight and go straight to the Laphroaig in your honour. Slainte!! Hazel.

  132. It looks not unlike our 300-year-old basement. Except we have big rocks for foundation. And a snake hibernaculum somewhere down amongst them (which doesn’t, as far as I can tell, open up into the basement proper). Fortunately, we have no giant octopus of a furnace to replace, but I do hope someday to have a masonry heater, which will require considerable renovation in its own right.

  133. Does this mean you’ll win the furnace war? because,technically, it’s not giving you any heat…

  134. You poor thing. We used to long to live in an old house. Until we bought a 140yo one. After 2yrs and 5 days (two years for tax reasons) we sold the cute, dollhouse looking, stained glass sporting, money pit and moved to a newer house. You have my sympathy. (((HUGS)))

  135. I thought it would be cheaper to paint 9 year old’s room than to wallpaper. Everything he was picking for wallpaper he would have outgrown in a couple years and it was beyond time to take the cutesy little animals off his walls.
    So we ripped off the wallpaper to find this cardboard type wall. Umm… whole room needs plastering. Plaster wont stick to cardboardy walls, so a coat of durabond first. Not cheaper than wallpaper.

  136. That Pato is a keeper. If your daughter isn’t wise enough to marry him someday, you’ll need to adopt him, or both. Sorry about your bricks. There are some rude sayings about bricks that sort of fit your situation, but…

  137. A friend of mine had a huge old house. He said he rebuilt it from the inside out. You are not alone.
    Don’t forget Vicuna if you need something stronger.

  138. OMG (((((((Steph and family))))))) i am sorry. I too live in a house that is of the same vintage. It has been a 23 year “remodel” with it’s share of suprises too. I share your pain. Quivet?

  139. So, OK, Steph, this is not going to make you feel better. Our house, circ 2005, which we had built. We told the builder we wanted a water heater next to the kitchen in the pantry. (Tankless mind you.) We wanted instant hot water in the kitchen. So what does he do? Plumbs the lines all the way around the house, so that the last place for hot water is the kitchen! AND, when we turn on the water in the shower, we have to wait for hot, then cold, then warm water. If you get in too early, your hair stands on edge. California, and wasting water is a mortal sin!
    Everything is an expense. At least you have your knitting. I’ve blown out my back, so sitting is really dicey. Standing and knitting is just SO not really knitting – at least happily.
    Hope your bricks find their home soon. Who knows what you might find down there. How exciting!

  140. Dearest Harlot,
    Some of us are beginning to feel concerned that the ending of “Furnace Fury” might be a little close to “Christmas Knitting Mania”…….

  141. Remember that great essay you wrote years back comparing the unexpected pitfalls and triumphs of parenthood to the similarly unexpected pitfalls and triumphs of knitting a sweater? Maybe fixing up an old house falls in neatly into the same metaphor. Your foundation bricks are the equivalent of working the neckband when you notice a wrongly-twisted cable all the way down at the belly button.

  142. In defense of the “mystery guys of the past” who did your electrical wiring, they likely did that wiring before such a thing as a grounding wire had been invented. I also have a 100+ year old house, and I have every kind of wire (barring knob and tube), including ungrounded, then grounded with a 16 gauge wire, then up-to-code grounding wires.

  143. I feel your pain. Our house was built in 1856. We’ve spent more of our 15 years here in renovations than otherwise. We needed new wiring, plumbing, and a roof. We also removed past cosmetic renovations from the 1950′s. Nothing is ever square or the current “standard” in an old house. Still, that’s what gives these houses their character. :-) From the pictures you’ve posted in the past, I think your house looks lovely.

  144. Well you could always move….
    Hope the concern about the foundation didn’t hit you like a ton of bricks… Sorry couldn’t help it.
    We had a 1913 house once. None of the electrical was grounded except for a newer bathroom that had been added. While we didn’t have such dramatic problems as you the house got beastly expensive for us, so we moved to a house built in 1977.

  145. Do you have enough room in your yard to make raised garden beds out of the dirt from the basement?
    That’s my one real constructive comment, aside from drink beer and knit with luxurious yarn, which it appears you have covered.
    I’m rootin’ for you.

  146. re: getting rid of dirt. Check out how they did it in The Great Escape. Involves secret pockets in your pants and casually walking over pre-existing dirt.

  147. 1st – I had NO IDEA there was any fiber above cashmere – and Colorado is lousy with bison. I feel a serious fall may be coming my way!
    2nd – raised beds produce many fine organic veggies. Could be a small bright spot? I’m just sayin’….

  148. Oh s**t, I thought we were having a tough go at things lately. Looks like some foundation work will be next? I am so sorry. I hope things get better. I am going to go have a glass of wine for you. :)

  149. As the owner of a 125 year old house, I feel for you. I had an energy audit done by a group of mechanical engineering students for one of their class projects. They were FLOORED that no two windows are the same size and that there’s anywhere from 14 inches to 26 inches between the rafters in the attic… of course they were also astonished by the 18″ x 15′ x 3″ rough cut oak sub floor in the living room (and the efficiency of the asbestos wrap on the pipes in the basement.) Gotta love old houses.

  150. Steph I’m so sorry…I hope that tomorrow you wake up and things are better and that bison makes it better and those are extra bricks or the answer comes with a “five minutes and $10 price tag” easy repair.

  151. I’m really hoping that all of our purchases of “Pretty Thing” is helping cover the cost of Mr. Furnace, The New Stack, and Sir Washie.
    ((((((( Steph )))))))) ~~~ ~~ ~
    Sending waves of love from the Shore

  152. My husband and I own a cottage which was built in 1875 or so and renovated over the years,(somewhat badly) and we just spent a couple of thousand bucks getting the nightmarish wiring re-done. We also found that rain was seeping into the basement and rotting the main beam, so we did some remodelling to divert rainwater away from the foundation of the building. I sympathise fully with your situation, as one of the first things we had to do was replace the furnace, which was standing in a foot of water in the dirt basement. Joe, go easy on the beer and codeine combo. Steph, keep knitting, and remember, it was only four bricks. Four bricks is only a little hole in the foundation. That’s not so bad. You didn’t find any more, did you?

  153. I admire your choice in painkillers. I’m still on wool after I let verbal rage loose on a boy who completely disregarded a 3 week long assignment. I will give myself a couple more minutes here in blogland with my wool before I cook dinner.

  154. It’s mountain time here, 5:35pm.
    Your house is in the best of hands, the ones who love it and care for its well being. That must count.

  155. Beer got me through the home improvements that seemed to be run entirely by Murphy (as in “Murphy’s Law). Your home improvements seem to be worse. I suggest whiskey and maybe a one-way ticket to Bora Bora.

  156. Dear, Dear Steph — Is that blue the Bison, or the Bison-colored scarf below the blue? It looks like there is nothing left to knit on the scarf. Four bricks is four bricks, and cement is cheap. Your home reminds me of a description from Betty MacDonald (your authorial soul-mate) of a house she was shown by a realtor, “Designed by Grandpa, built by the cat.” You do know that the Blog would pay outrageously inflated prices for any yarn previously owned by the Harlot??? You could then brag that you were living in the House That Yarn Built.

  157. Awww, HUNNY!!! I’m so sorry. It’s stories like these that make me glad I never matured to the point of Adulthood and becoming a Homeowner {{shudder}} Uhm… Your bison is GORGEOUS, if that’s any consolation (I don’t have any of that, either). And I second Joe’s decision of codeine (MY FRIEND!) and beer. Many, many hugs.

  158. I like your painkiller. I also bought a copy of the pretty thing because well it’s pretty. Now I am glad in hopes it will help support the cause.

  159. I agree with the previous poster. Put some of your yarn (I know it’s hard) or *gasp* even a couple of needles up on auction. I bet you’ll get a new foundation all round, and maybe even an enclosed hot tub. I personally would stand in line for a set of straights with your mojo!
    Much sympathy and wishing you the best of luck, plus much coffee change to get the heck out of there as needed.

  160. Very “Great Escape – Charles Bronson in the tunnel”. Maybe you should get rid of the dirt that way: hide it special sleeves down your pant legs and release it as you walk through the neighbourhood.

  161. I don’t know if anyone has had a smooth renovation. If someone thinks theirs was faultless, I’d say they just haven’t found out the worst yet. My neice began a “2 month conversion of her master bath and bedroom into a master bath, master bedroom and new nursery. She was three months pregnant when it started, and she endured dirt and dust that she probably shouldn’t have been breathing, heat (air conditioning disabled throughout the summer). She and her husband and 2-year-old son have been surviving in two bedrooms on the first floor.
    Well, she had the baby Sunday and is due home today. The contractor says they should be done in a couple of weeks.

  162. oh my. Or, as my 88-year-old father-in-law would say, “Good Night!!!”
    I like the craigslist idea for getting rid of all the extra dirt. Stuffing the bricks back…nah, not a good idea. Sadly, I think you want to know the truth on this one.
    Knit on!

  163. Ah! The joys of home ownership! Eek! I really hope they’re just random bricks leftover from the building of the house or something and not really really important bricks.

  164. Forget the beer. I would recommend garter stich, because you need to split a gallon of whiskey with your husband. And one can only knit garter stich fairly well while intoxicated… But it is better than stabbing the workmen with you knitting needles because when you asked them to fix something, they pointed out more problems.

  165. I suppose you & Joe are too honest to sell the house “as is” and move to a house taht isn’t falling down around you ? ! That notion being rejected the only solution is to go for the fix – whatever it takes – and savor the results of a well insulated, well heated, well built home.

  166. OMG! Hang in there Stephanie and Joe,what else can you do…so glad you can at least write about it all, not sure I would have the stamina after hauling all that dirt.
    Yes to raised beds,beer,coedine,the random brick theory,tequila and bison fiber. I will think positve thoughts for your immediate release from old house hell.

  167. maybe….just maybe….the furnace guys tossed those 4 previously unnoticed bricks over there because they were used to support some portion of the furnace?!?

  168. Something is holding your house up in spite of the loose bricks – hopefully, it isn’t the furnace! Before you have heart failure, make sure the bricks aren’t spares that were ‘stored’ there or left behind. Then make raised beds – love that idea – with the excess dirt. You could make a dirt bike trail but you may not have enough space for that . . . Someone mentioned taking beer & knitting to the cabin until the furnace is turned on. Sounds good to me!! Meanwhile, I’m still trying to dry out my office after the latest flood over the weekend when another of my landlord’s crumbling pipes soaked the cement floors under my carpet & tile before a plumber could be found . . . . I should send you some of my home-made beer!

  169. Dear ghu. I feel your pain. Our old house (built in 1898) had a rubblestone foundation and a floor that was half bedrock and half packed dirt. It was, however, of reasonable height.
    And yes, if you’ve got the space, raised beds are the way to go.

  170. So, darling Stephanie, I read this out loud to my husband, and we both laughed, knowing that sometimes wool really is the best pain killer available to me. However, we both agree that it might be time to think about buying a new house. I know, I know, memories and investments and all that. But seriously, you might be investing more into this place than you’re going to get return, kwim?
    Good luck.

  171. As the owner of a 109 year old house, I feel your pain. I’m always wondering when something is going to die and have to be replaced for an astronomical amount of money that I don’t have. I’ve also wondered about candle light and wood stoves and no washer/dryer…..

  172. Oh God! All good thoughts sent your way, and I’ll send some bison to Port Ludlow for you. I spun it, and you need it more than I do.
    Love and hugs

  173. And I thought dealing with my two-week-old baby was tough. Your week sounds much more challenging, to say the least. I’m glad you have Joe and bison to get you through it!

  174. We lived (5 years) in a house in Maine, built in 1859. We thought we bought the house, but the house merely employed us as it’s caretakers! It did teach teamsmanship as every project took a year and we all worked it. It taught history as we peeled layers of the house to restore and it taught foundations are important, but not always clearly built. Our basement was built against a rock ledge, the floor was dirt, and tree limbs held the ceiling up! We LOVED that house. We now live in southern California where the climate is always sunny, houses cost waaaay too much (even now) and our newish (15 year old) house daily falls apart!!!!
    Life is the ability to laugh and have faith that tomorrow will be great –even tho today is the pits! Life is who we value not what.
    Life is fantastic — right?
    Jo-Ann

  175. 1) dirt spread over a yard mysteriously disappears (or at least anything we paid for seems to), so spread it around, or raised beds are a good option too.
    2) I feel your pain with the reno. When I decided to take off the (bazillion?) layers of wallpaper in my kitchen I discovered a different type of wallboard – that had the same profile as a washboard (actually was lath apparently glued to what looked like heavy cardboard. which had warped in the heat & humidity of the kitchen). When we pulled that off we discovered that, for some reason, the studs in the (non-load bearing -whew!) wall were turned sideways – meaning they were too shallow for standard outlet boxes. Oh, and that wall was built in the space between floor joists. We fixed those things, but the floor still tilts to the far corner. (we live with that. some things were just meant to be.)

  176. I feel your pain sister! We are about to embark on another renovation to this old house and the only thing I can hope for is a straw in the vodka bottle. I have my projects lined up and ready to roll in another part of the house. May the force be with you.

  177. Oh, Stephanie–
    I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. For many years we lived in a house built in 1904 as a beach house–crawl space, defunct cistern, no closets, rotting sills, no insulation, and so on and so on. The 1880 house we live in now was built to a suburban standard and is structurally sounder, but even so every time we try to do something we hear the echoing ka-ching, ka-ching as “things” are revealed.
    Please accept my greatest sympathies.
    Kathleen

  178. Now I know what my husband meant when he said we couldn’t uproot the old-fashioned curtain rods to make way for modern window treatments. We have lathe and plaster too. It will get better. Honest.

  179. *sigh* I’m so sorry. Home renovating is always worse than it seems up front. More beer, more fiber.

  180. There’s always something with an old house. Our first house is now approximately 160 years old and is still standing. Surprisingly enough, considering the interim owner. Our old neighbor bought it to use as rental property and DH is doing the reno work. All I can say is that I’m thankful that I do not have to live in it this time around!

  181. Oh, the joys of owning a house. When I woke this AM, I was greeted by a water spot about the size of a football on the ceiling of my room. Now, we have had about 6 days of rain, but not downpours, just a light, soaking kind. The guys that cleaned my gutters a few months ago said my roof was just fine. I DON’T NEED THIS!!! I feel your pain.

  182. Hang in there girl!! Maybe you and your house could go on HGTV! They make it look so simple. Then, Divine Design could come in and give everything a new look. Wish I could make it easier for you and Joe.

  183. Just maybe, and a maybe is a maybe, the bricks have been sitting there for 125 years. Work people tend to leave things around while they are working. For instance, when we blew insulation into the attic floor of our 100+ year old house, we found several empty bottles of whiskey. We were relieved that it was at the top of the house (thinking they had refrained from drinking while working on the lower floors). Our house doesn’t have too many surprises thanks to the previous owners. I know we are lucky.

  184. This comment will be entirely unhelpful, but… maybe you should move.
    Sell it as a “fixer-upper.” Seems like your house is a big fat money drain.
    Knitting hugs to you. I hate people touching my stuff, I totally would lose it too.
    As to how non-knitters cope – drugs, prescription and otherwise. too much sleep. “therapy.” spending too much money. sex. alcohol. food. people who are unhappy and stressed tend to get very fat, i’ve noticed.
    Good luck lady. I’m sure you’ve been through worse. It just sucks now.

  185. Living with your house on jackposts can be more fun that you think. I took the opportunity to pretend that I was living in some sort of stilt house in a tropical locale. I did however refrain from leaving or entering the house in any sort of altered state, due to the five foot drop directly into the earth and the plywood plank separating me from it.

  186. This latest installment in “How to drive Stephanie totally bat-shit insane” has made me wonder. How would a non-crafter handle all this? Seriously. And would a defense attorney be required at the end of it all?
    Not sure of the price of bison yarn, but I bet it’s a WHOLE lot less than a good lawyer. Just sayin’.
    PS…at least your daughter picked a good boyfriend. (Yeah, Kathy, way to look on the bright side.)

  187. My sympathies. My house is only 35 years old, but here in the interior of Alaska there are still no building codes, and many houses are owner-built, like mine (not by me). Every time I do something, there is a problem. Of course, the contractor-built new houses around here are rather shoddy, so I feel lucky most of the time. And my house has character, as well as lots of wool.

  188. This is a note from my mother (Who knows what she’s talking about)
    My daughter has been reading me your tales of remodeling woe. I have been there when we remodeled our own small home, and spent one year sleeping in sleeping bags under furniture as a family of five. Believe me, when it’s over, it will be worth it, whatever the project. Also, I am a very avid gardener, and have many times run into the problem of piles of dirt with nowhere to go. Here’s my solution.
    You can take that dirt and just sprinkle it around your yard, the lawn, the flower best, everywhere as if you were puting sugar on a bowl of cereal. You can just keep sprinkling away as long as you can still see the lawn poking up through the sprinkled dirt. Rain, worms, and gravity will snuggle it right on down. And it will disappear, joining it’s fellow dirt molecules on Mother Earth, never to be seen again. Remarkably large amounts of dirt can disappear this way, no matter how much. Believe me, I have much experience with this technique.
    I hope this is helpful, and hang in there. It will be over soon.
    As her daughter, I can personally tell you that she knows what she’s doing. I occasionally go out into the yard, and make the choice just not to ask what the heck she’s doing this time, but it always works out in the end. :-D
    Jess

  189. I love my house. I don’t know why I ever thought we should move, but I finally came to my senses, and we will not move. This is a fabulous house, built ca. 1890, on a hill, overlooking a river and lighthouses, no leaks so far, lovely Helen put on vinyl siding before she died, and while we would never, ever put up vinyl, we will also never, ever take it down. We have beautiful, no-rocks, garden soil, here in rocky New England, and most of the neighbors don’t deal drugs out of the front door. Or any other.
    Best wishes, Steppie.

  190. Chocolate and wine seem inadequate to deal with all that- I’m needing a sip or three myself after reading of your homes misadventures. Good luck.

  191. We’ve also had a horrible year house-wise, and our house is only 20 years old. At least your house has an excuse :-). Doesn’t make it any easier for you and Joe, and I can really empathize with the misery you are experiencing. I’m very, very sorry.

  192. Oh my, my sympathies are with you. This too shall pass, and you will chuckle when you are toasty warm with your new furnace on the coldest days. Maybe it is time to write a few more books to pay for all this!

  193. I’m sorry your furnace thing isn’t going as it ought, in a nice straight line from 1. remove old furnace; 2. install new furnace; and I hope the bison and Tylenol 3 hold out.
    PS: I think you ARE rolling with the punches pretty damn well.
    PPS: this explains why I still have the original kitchen in my house, and will keep as long as humanly possible.

  194. I think they made a movie about a house like this called “The Money Pit”. I hear you – two appliances, the laptop and the car have broken lately. The car broke in 4 places at once. The oven is still acting weird.

  195. oh my dear, I really feel for you. All appendages are crossed that you find a clever and not expensive way out of this!

  196. Here’s a thought: Maybe the bricks weren’t from the foundation, just some extra bricks? Do keep us posted.

  197. Raised garden beds After your back is gone from hauling dirt you’ll really appreciate them. Let’s not talk foundations my TO house is aprox 100 and two guys built it and the house next door on the same theory as the folks that built yours. I’m missing a lot of grounding and my foundation is poured concrete that has too much stone in it then some fool painted it with silver something that flakes and falls off and it would appear that I have a crack in the east side but I can’t tell from the inside as Drywall has been put up but something is going on as I think damp crap falling off the wall is piling up at the bottom as I have moisture problems showing on the bottom of the drywall. My mother spent her life sweeping up that stuff and I was fool enough to buy the house (better the devil you know)
    I feel your pain
    PS used to have a coal furnace that had been converted to oil in the basement and when I think about it it too must have been a gravity feed as yours was. That furnace scared the pants off me when I was a kid but there was no avoiding it as the only bathroom in the house was in the basement beside it. Yes sports fans the house had Le Shack Out Back so when it came time to install indoor plumbing the basement was the only place. Thank God my inlaws put in a half bath on the 1st floor but if you want to bathe it’s off to the basement. The one pony in all of this is the original cast iron clawfoot tub, handsdown the best tub for having a soak and a read

  198. If you have a brick foundation and the mortar holding it together is rotten and thus no longer functioning, then you probably need a new foundation. (That would entail jacking up the entire house to take out the old foundation. Probably not a just-before-winter sort of endeavor.) So you should talk to someone with a structural engineering background and/or an architect asap–not just a contractor as they’ll just try to sell you their services. Best of luck!!

  199. Ouch.
    The whole time that I lived in an old house, I was convinced, utterly convinced, that it was trying to destroy us. When the roof collapsed immediately after we’d decided to put it on the market, I knew I was right.
    And then of course the staircase started doing the same.

  200. Oh, I so feel your pain. We live in an old house, too. Don’t look inside the walls. We had a little fire when a wire for an outside light gave up the ghost. We didn’t know there was an outside light, because a previous owner had just cut it off and stuffed it back in the wall…
    Fire fighters. My heroes!

  201. Unlurking to say sorry about all the problems and stay strong! I’d have to agree with all those saying to get someone qualified to look into the foundation issue. My parents started getting a crack in their tile floor… which spread all the way across the room, and then up into the window. Turned out the foundation by the (big, very heavy) stone chimney was sinking. Had to pay to get people out there to jack the foundation up and get it supported properly. Good Luck to you, and hopefully the loose bricks are nothing to worry about!

  202. I am raising my beer here in sympathy of your current house dilemma. Old houses have their charm but they have a dark side as well. Hang in there, there will be great stories to tell, when you come out the other side…Glad you have your special yarn to help you ‘deal’ with this.

  203. The visions I had of you and Ken carrying dirt out from the basement had me whistling the music from “The Great Escape…”
    Hang in there!

  204. Man, I feel for you!
    I made some really good Mulberry Port that is perfect for just such occasions…not sure if I can send it to Canada though — maybe float it across the lake?

  205. Our house is in its infancy compared to yours, having been built in 1899, but the crumbling plaster and lathe, lack of closets, frightening wiring, damp dirt crawlspace in the (also, sadly, damp) basement, and other quirks (see how restrained I’m being tonight?) of living in an old house ring all too familiar to me. Our current renovations involve the plumbing, and while I’m looking forward to having the downstairs bathroom fixed up enough to not be a source of shame when we have visitors, I’m terrified of what new disaster is undoubtedly brewing as we see this project nearing completion.
    I’m happy for you that you’ll have forced heat soon, though. We lack that, and in the dead of winter, the upstairs bedrooms get awfully darn chilly, to the point of seeing your breath at times. Luckily, I have Jeff, who puts out a great deal of heat, and my son has a fat cat who likes to burrow under the blankets, and we do have hot water bottles. The only truly unpleasant part is having to stumble down the hall to the friggin’ upstairs bathroom to pee in the middle of the night, risking frostbite on my arse. Damned middle aged bladder!

  206. My best friend, and fellow fiberholic, had a small tile fall off her bathroom wall and decided to redo the tiles.
    Well after pulling off the layer closest to the tub she notice rot and they had a friend take a look.
    Then taking the advice of the friend pulled the tub out to find out that the wood under the tub had rotted away and that the tub had been at risk for falling the four feet down to the cement foundation.
    She now has a new floor and a standing shower in its place.

  207. OH, MY!!!! Medicinal Bison, Beer and whatever it takes, just hang in there and knit like a mad woman ( no, you are not!) You will both get through this. Knit ON!

  208. We have an old house, too. Front of it is about 1904, was built with a cistern for rainwater collection, a wood stove for cooking *and* heating, and an outhouse. This, 30 blocks from the capitol building of Michigan.
    The “new” part is about 1923. Our basement is not a lot different than yours but we don’t have dirt floors. Looking up is about the same.
    Luckily, someone decided to make a bathroom out of one of the “new” bedrooms in the late ’20′s. A big bath with clawfooted tub is a luxury which I do enjoy. Much better than an outhouse, I assure you.
    We still have a coal bin in the basement but it has no coal in it (walls still have black marks). I am guessing the coal furnace came after the wood stove.
    There are two furnaces down there… one nonfunctional one from after the coal but before the gas one we had until last year. Somehow that one didn’t get taken out when they replaced it with another (in the same spot).
    The non-functional one is now a large deco sculpture down there, but the stairs are so tiny we don’t know how we’d get it back up and out for proper disposal. Right now it’s just cute in the corner where the cistern once was.
    The most recently replaced furnace did go out with the guys who installed the current one. I miss how hot the blown air was before, but Brian is liking the bills from a more efficient model.
    I think that means this house has had at least 5 different gizmos for heating in about 100 years. I think your place did better.

  209. It’s very late so I haven’t read all the comments, and perhaps this has already been suggested, but here goes…
    …maybe the bricks fell down onto the crawl space a long time ago and the house has been structurally fine all this time since then, so it will be a non-issue.
    After all, the house has been standing all right for 125 years… :)

  210. Making the 215 Pretty Thing projects on Ravely 216.
    You keep claiming that you’re not a designer, but….
    Surely, if there was ever an impetus to put your talent to use….

  211. I just had to laugh in commiseration when I read your post. My house is well over 150 years old and there’s nothing square or level in the entire place. We have 2 closets, no storage space, 1 bathroom and a kitchen that definitely slopes to the south. We don’t even have bricks in our foundation, we have stacked field stone. When it rains the water runs into our basement and then politely runs out…….uh………well……. at least most of the time LOL! We also have a dirt crawl space. Maybe the guys who built your house are the children of the guys that built my house. I really love my drafty old house though. It definitely has character!
    I agree with another commenter who said that those bricks could be leftovers from when your house was built. Personally, I try to only worry about one expensive house project at a time. I figure that you can always worry about the new disaster/house improvement project at a later date when you won’t be so distracted by the current project, and then you’ll be able to give the new crisis the full attention it deserves. Sounds like you need to design some more beautiful patterns to sell. It would be the perfect win/win solution. You get more money for your house repairs and we get great patterns! Good luck on the rest of the furnace installation. You have my sincerest sympathy and home renovation support. My furnace needs to be replaced too and I’m sure that when I finally have the money to do it, it will be as expensive and as much of a pain in the butt as your furnace is. Sigh! Thank goodness you have cashmere and beer!

  212. Nothing to say except that if you love your house, you’ll have to forgive it…
    Our house was built in 1763. It’s made out of Burgundy rock, which is supposed to be the best possible building material. Maybe this was right 250 years ago. But I can tell you it’s not true today: the walls look like biscotti now! Good thing is that we made friends with the squirrels who decided that my cupboards were theirs…
    All my best to you and Joe!

  213. Well. It’s better that you find out now than the house fall down, yup? But it’s your house and you love it, so you’ll get through this. In the meanwhile, can I send you some North Ronaldsay fibre to calm your nerves?

  214. Oh Steph, I feel for you, really I do!! Huge hugs from North Wales, and you can come and hide in the library if you need to…….xxxxx

  215. I am a little concerned by the optimism expressed in your last sentence. It can get worse, but we’re all hoping that it doesn’t!
    My last house was Georgian. Walls mainly consisting of horse hair. One low point was meeting our next door neighbours when our bathroom wall gave way into their closet.

  216. We are living in some weird parallel universe…
    crawl space expansion – check
    hole in wall to outside – check (in my case, the problem was to keep kittens in not keep raccoons out)
    I’ve got a hole in the roof and working heat (but I’m much further south than you and I wouldn’t have it on but, its been raining, and the guys fixing stuff want the house to dry.)
    I had to order yarn. Mine is safely stashed away and hidden from dust … and rain. Which is a good thing. I think. Mostly.
    Shoot … I wonder if the STR people will wind into a ball for me.

  217. I need to do the same thing with my basement, and I’m hoping there won’t be any similar nasty surprises. On the bright side, it looks like you had some nice relatively easy dirt to dig through. Think about what I’m going to have to deal with digging out under a house in downtown St. John’s!

  218. Oh, and I though a little cashemeere can heal anything… But seems there are some things that need even better… (Umm once I got just enough quivit to spin like 3 meters of 2 ply yarn… ever since I want…but can’t afford)
    Reading your story makes my living in a russian/east german type of prefabricated building (that is undergoing renovation -insulation, heating system, etc) not so bad.
    Hang on there :-)

  219. I’m sorry, but I just had to laugh. Nostalgia trip! My last house was built in 1810. I saw your photo and it looked like home ( I’m still nostalgic for that house – I now live 4000 miles away and built a brand new one – block, which is the only building material here. It comes with it’s own set of problems, including ants who can chew through mortar and deposit it neatly in the kitchen and pantry.In anther 50 or so years they’ll have proably eaten all the mortar away and a single push…) The only difference was the winter we had a neighbor on his back fixing 26 frozen pipes in 16 inches of space, he was looking at entire cedar tree trunks that had been used to create the underpiniings of the house. – I won’t even describe what were, and presumably still are, holding up the roof.
    Really, chocolate helps, a lot!

  220. Oh dear – this sounds awfully familiar. I’ve been living in a construction zone for the past 5 years with no end in sight. It all started with us wanting new tiles in the bathroom.
    After five years with NO BATHROOM – yes, that’s right, we have a powder room with a functioning toilet & sink but NO BATH and NO SHOWER – for FIVE YEARS – there is still no end in sight. Last week, some very nice men put a gigantic steel beam into our basement which I understand to have been the last bit of structural work that needs to be done.
    In the meantime, we’ve got all new wires in the house, a new main sewer line, basement waterproofing, a new door, a few new windows, a new patio, a new garage, a trashed basement, a half-trashed kitchen with the refrigerator sitting where the table should go because of the beam thing, the siding ripped off the house all around the kitchen where there is no insulation so just a plaster wall and some plastic stuff between us and the cold – and honestly I don’t know what all else. All of this was because you open one thing up, and some new horror is revealed that requires you to open up 20 more things. And so on.
    My aunt who died two years ago lived a large part of her adult life in a house like this. All I can say is, she was the best damn knitter I ever met, and one of the calmest people on the planet. I try to channel her when things get too bad.
    Hang in there.

  221. Having bought a circa 1900 Queen Anne Victorian that was originally a one-family house, was then gutted and turned into a boarding house for *years*, then sat vacant in foreclosure for ten years, then re-renovated back into a single-family house with goodness only knows how many original walls etc., I can appreciate your pain. There are all sorts of cracks appearing in our walls, and we don’t know why…sending mental chocolate your way.

  222. I don’t think picturing the cheaper energy bills in a few months is going to do that much to get you through this. Try thinking about healthy daughters and loving husband – that is my last stand solace when life hands me the equivalent of 4 bricks. And I am crossing my fingers for you.

  223. i’m hoping when you and your family are toasty warm in the middle of a dark january afternoon with the snow blowing all around, this will start to be a funny story. for now, good luck!!

  224. patience, my dear, patience. That is what you really invest in an old house. We bought a fixer upper, an old small two family that should NEVER have been a two family, with the goal of converting it to a single family…work that basically meant gut the whole thing to the shell and start over. The original structure was a carriage house (read:barn) but it was made into a house, like yours, before codes. Thankfully I married a contractor…flip side? he’s always busy with other people’s houses when we have the money and when he has the time, we don’t have the money! The plight of the self-employed. Anyway…we’re at nine years now…eight with a temporary kitchen. I feel your pain! Breathe! and Knit!

  225. Oh. My. Word.
    Okay, so if you need to get away – really away – I think my (finished) basement has more room than your whole house. Just come move in. And there are lots of closets for your wool. Just sayin’.

  226. ugh! I feel for you, sounds like you are handling it well though. Mark is an electrician & hates giving that kind of info to customers, sometimes they don’t handle it well & it isn’t nice to be in the way of that train

  227. Hugs, Stephanie. I live in a house that was built around 1750 so I know all too well the nasty and expensive surprises that old houses come up with. It’s new roof time here and that is bound to produce complications. I’ll follow your lead and order some qiviut now, I feel a Pretty Thing cowl coming on.

  228. Having any kind of building work done in your house is a bit like having a baby – by the time you realise how much work, mess and expense there is involved in the process it’s waaaay too late to change your mind. There’s also the same blessed amnesia – you know – the reason we’re not all only children! (mother of 4, 3 major building projects)
    It has to get worse before it starts getting better – although there is worse and there is catastrophe like collapsing ceilings, ruptured watermains, gas leaks all of which I have survived and can now laugh about particularly halfway down the second bottle of Sauvignon blanc.
    Courage, ma brave! It’ll be fine!

  229. As i sit in my 1847 home, dodging the fall spider invasion, and cursing the “new” kitchen (1920) with the oak cabinets that you can’t screw a cup hook into without a drill…waiting for the gas well inspector to show up…and the washing machine part…and contemplating the fact that we will no longer have free heat and this house has no insulation and it’s october in ohio ….i am furiously knitting fingerless gloves and praying the gas hookup to the grid goes smoothly!!!!
    I have a basement that looks like that….add in an external cellar walkout door that’s not mortared and pours the fall rains down into the cellar like a waterfall….
    lots of coffee. I threw drinking chocolate in mine this morning. And I have all my projects ready to go, spread out on a table to knit till i finish, one after another, after another…
    I feel your old house pain.

  230. I hear ya sister! My week is going in a similar direction with car problems, our stars must be out of alignment!
    Hang in there and try to remember that knitting needles are not a weapon.

  231. My husband completed a reno in April for a client where he had to re-build the 2nd floor structure of the north-east corner of the house where the master bathrom was. The prior owners cut away all the floor joists (right to the outside wall holding up that little thing called Roof) to run plumbing where THEY wanted to put the bathtub and didn’t replace them. The wife just freaked when she was told that the drip over her dining room table wasn’t JUST water, but whatever was coming out of her toilet. And then there was the sealed-up air pipe that allows methane to escape the house… the screws through the 3 types of wiring that had actually started mini-fires in the attic… the chandelier over the jet tub (supported on one joist) that wasn’t mounted to anything resembling wood in the ceiling… Ain’t home ownerhsip fun?

  232. Is it sad that my first reaction, right before feeling sad for you, was “Ooh, they make *bison* yarn? Something more tasty than cashmere?!”
    That said, I wish I could give you a hug.

  233. Holy chit. Do they have home warranties in Canada? A little late for this now, but we had our heating and air system replaced last year and the home warranty paid for it all. If they can’t fix whatever the problem is in a certain number of visits, they have to replace it. A service call for a qualified issue is about $60 US. Just a thought. Be strong but cry when you need to.

  234. I so sympathize with you about this all. I, also, live in a older house which had “improvements” made by previous owners. We can never do any kind of work on our house without running into a surprise or two. Hang in there. Knit, have a drink (or two).

  235. You can always use the dirt for traction in the upcoming winter months. Perhaps the city will pay you for street maintenance!

  236. The electrical and closet issues are NOT due to the original builders :) Would you house even have electricity 125 years ago? Maybe. But I don’t think there were any ground wires then–they used lightening rods. Had the knob and tube been replaced before you moved in? That’s when you should have gotten ground wires, but depending on when that was done, they still might not be needed.
    And, I’ve never seen an old house with built in closets. You’d think with those big pouffy dresses they would need them!
    A little bit of bison can ease so much!

  237. Good God Woman. At least you still have your sense of humour – - – right? Keep knitting — thank goodness for knitting.

  238. i seem to remember you’ve dealt with large piles of dirt in your back yard before. girl, you got this!
    how’s working with the bison? that looks like another pretty thing.
    >insert girlish yet still manly knitterly sqee here<

  239. Wow. That is pretty harsh. I’m afraid that I will soon get to join you in your pain, as we recently bought an old house and have mysterious leaking (which we are sure is from the tub) into the kitchen. Not ideal at all.

  240. Hey – I have a basement that looks like that! Minus the bricks, and may I add, living in New England allows us the pleasure of having nothing but rocks in our dirt – should we ever have to dig the rest of it out (we did dig some, and found a coal stove in there).
    Only two reasonable solutions – drink heavily or put up a FOR SALE sign.

  241. As I’ve mentioned before (but certainly don’t expect you to remember) DH and I are building our own house, from scratch. It started with ledge in the wrong place, resulting in 22 10-wheeler (think REALLY BIG) dump trucks of fill and stone that had to be put into place. By hand. And there are 2 cracks in our very engineered basement that we Don’t Talk About.
    This project has been going on for 5 years now, and everytime we pick a move-in date we blow right by – Last fall, this spring, October, now Thanksgiving (although the drywall mudder isn’t available until mid-Nov, so that’s probably shot. Christmas?) However, I’ve learned a lot about construction, and try to think of DH’s unemployment as a bonus (more time to work on the house!) And remember: other than the foundation, some of the plumbing (turns out I’m a decent plumber), some of the electrical, and the roof, we’ve done. It. All.
    Seriously — if we can get through this, so can you. Knitting and red wine help a LOT. As does carbs (skip the chocolate, go directly to homemade heavy cream mac-n-cheese or other high-calorie comfort food). No trouble or project is too much when met by strong-willed people. You can do this!!

  242. Beer and Bison are definitely the ticket!! I’m working on fingerless mitts with Buffalo Gold #3 and it’s AMAZING!!

  243. having a 105 year old house myself, i feeeeel your pain. we,too, are looking at either digging out half the basement by hand to fix the foundation or actually lifting the house (wow) and getting a little machine to do it…either way, i get nauseated thinking about it…i’m with you …

  244. Oh dear…… add my hugs to the line up….
    Wow…sooo much history in that house of yours !!!
    Any ghosts ? Maybe that’s where your circular needle went that time..?
    Hang in there… as my Mum would have said…
    “this too shall pass…”

  245. I see two options: (1) Hands in ears, head in sand — what bricks? I don’t see no stinkin’ bricks. After all, if we hadn’t been digging down there, we never would have known, let’s just go away and pretend we don’t know. (2) Oh, thank goodness we saw these bricks before the foundation crumbled (more) and the house collapsed, and it cost us an arm and a leg and ANOTHER arm and leg to get it fixed. If I were you, I’d find each option equally tempting, but neither particularly good. Hang in there.

  246. Dear Steph,
    Have you considered calling Mike Holmes? I love that man’s attitude. “Make it right!” Watched a repeat of an early episode where he had to jack up and re-level every floor. Would love to be able to watch your reno on TV.
    Hope the beer and bison help as much as the Tylenol! Sending hugs and good vibes for a speedy finish. Carol

  247. Oh, I feel your pain. I have an old house too, and every time I try to do anything it takes ten times longer than it ought.
    I need a new furnace as well. Hopefully there won’t be any issues with the foundation falling out or anything.
    I don’t even have any bison!
    Here’s hoping they’re just extra bricks that some lazy foundation builders sort of left lying around!

  248. o Stephanie… I don’t know what to say… except I feel deeply for your pain. Bison is the bomb.

  249. I know others have been recounting their renovation disasters but I need to add mine.
    When we were expecting our first child we bought our first house. The city was having everyone get rid of their septic systems and hook up to a city sewer. Our neighbor wanted to do a common trench between our houses so we decided to do it at the same time. While the excavators were digging to find the outfall pipe for our septic tank, they dug under our chimmney. They were not deterred by the bricks falling on their heads and found the outfall pipe at dusk. With promises to return in the morning, they left. When I got home from work, my DH was making himself a large drink. The chimmney had fallen off the side of the house, and took part of the foundation with it! Many calls to the excavators went unanswered, too bad for them since my DH worked for a TV station at the time. The TV station came out with a camera crew and filmed when the excavators arrived. Although they promised that all would be fixed by the time baby arrived (due in 2 months) I spent my first days home with my new baby, learning to breasfeed with a dozen strange men traipsing through my house building a chimmney. Did I mention it was February? Granted February in Portland OR isn’t as bad a February in Toronto, but still.

  250. Oh Dear, my thoughts re with you. You know if you put a call-out to Toronto area knitters I’m sure we would all come out and re-build your foundation.

  251. I hope everyone who reads this blog bought a copy of Pretty Thing so there will be a bunch of extra $$ to help Stephanie with soothing, healing yarn acquisition$ to offset the furnace nightmare/heebiejeebie$.
    And I hope that by your being soothed Stephanie, Joe will be too, by osmosis. (it could too happen!)
    [[[hugs]]]

  252. A friend’s house has a car jack balanced on a cement block and some wood that holds up the flooring under his tub. I’m fairly sure that’s not up to code.

  253. Back around 1980 my sister Jodie and her husband had to sell everything from their small farm and start over. They moved to an old farmhouse on top of a hill. It had plaster-and-lathe walls, a wood-burning furnace and no electrical wiring on the second floor. They made do the best they could (their two children were in middle school at the time). My older brother helped them to wire the 2nd floor; I helped to repaint everything. They made a renovation plan around 1990 and then saved money for each stage of work, and a lot of the work they did for themselves, including digging out the basement (it was only a dirt cellar), putting up the drywall after demolishing the plaster-and-lathe walls, and lots more painting and finishing work. After about 15 years they were done. My sister has her own sewing room upstairs (with skylights and enviable storage), a second bathroom, and a full basement where she teaches music classes. They also have about four bedrooms upstairs for when family comes to visit (they have four grandchildren now). It was a mess, it was a pain, and it was all worth it. Hang in there, honey. You’ll get through this as have many before you.

  254. I do sympathise. The house I grew up in was built in 1835, by, my mother joked (maybe in fits of desperation), two drunken Irishmen who couldn’t make a 90 deg angle if they tried. It had a dirt cellar, a crawl space under the circa 1900 addition and in the whole time I lived there, never had a kitchen sink.
    I have since never lived in a house built after 1920 and do certainly appreciate their odd quirks (as frustrating as those can sometimes be).
    However, friends of mine, living on the other side of the Don from you, found out a couple of years ago that their wartime house (onto which someone had built a second story later on)had basement walls they could stick their fists through. The concrete had rotted. When all was said and done, they tore it down and built a new place, with much agonizing and frustration and lived avec minimal stuff, in 2 different places during the time the house was being built, with a newborn child.
    I guess my point is that not all old houses have such issues, and in no way are all new houses better built. I hope the loose bricks are just that, loose and extra.

  255. Though I love old architecture I’ve always bought new houses for the very reason that I can’t deal with the repairs. I’m guessing your neighborhood is a great location or something? Obviously new houses don’t come in old charming neighborhoods. My new Victorian-style home is 22 miles from my job. I love the house but commuting is a real slog. Thank goodness for mass transit.

  256. I’ll offer a historical note in the midst of your angst. Your house doesn’t have closets because when it was built, average people didn’t have more than two or at most three sets of clothing. They would have kept them in a dresser, or maybe just a trunk. Only the very wealthy would have had lots of clothes, and they would have had lots of trunks or dressers to keep them in, servants to clean them, etc.

  257. of our house. We had no idea water was still hooked up back there. when we tried to shut it off by the valve, we learned the plumbing is fed in a loop. so we had to shut off the whole house. The plumbing in our basement looks like a pipes screen saver. seriously.

  258. Next stop, quiviut (sp?)…..an entire sweater’s worth. Empathetic pangs are headed your way.

  259. Can you say “different house”? Doesn’t have to be NEW new but “new to you”….just sayin’.

  260. Tell us more about knitting with bison and that beautiful color of the yarn. Never thought about bison “wool.” Who, how, where??

  261. Did I mention my house is 109 year old?? And I replaced 1/2 of my foundation in Feb. which in IL is not as cold as where you are…they broke the water line while I was in the shower, head full of shampoo…cost was $500 over what I paid for the house 3+ years prior. I bought it cheap, knowing I would be repairing and paying for repairs for years to come…but I can still afford to buy yarns and eat…
    Hope this gets done soon, and yes, the knitting will help you cope, that and Joe’s ability to find a way to get done what needs done…

  262. I am thinking maybe they were leftovers… you know the ones that they didn’t need or use and they just left them there? yah that it.. they are just leftovers! Think good thoughts!
    love your blog!!

  263. Oh dear. The house we used to live in was built in 1909. We had one of those energy audits done, where you get a score out of 100, with 100 being the most efficient. I knew that we wouldn’t be perfect, but I was hoping at least for a B rating. Our score was…12. 12!!! There is really no coming back from that. A tent would be more energy efficient.
    We have since moved to a more modern house – built in 1911.

  264. Watching ‘The Great Escape’ will enlighten you on how to get rid of the dirt from the basement.

  265. I had bricks falling out of my foundation when I moved into my house. I let them sit quietly until the following summer and then had it fixed. It was not as expensive or as big of a job as I thought it would be. I hope the same for yours!

  266. I was about to get all supercilious and start talking about “Electrical?” “Closets?” and how to overcome having neither…
    But crumbly bricks; ook. Sorry.

  267. Maybe those four bricks were just leftovers that they left lying there 125 years ago- construction debris never removed. Crossing my fingers that that is the case. Hang in there – this too shall pass.

  268. It can always be worse. They could discover really interesting and important indigenous people’s artifacts down there and then someone could evict you forever with a small consideration for the loss of your home.
    But you could probably keep your yarn, so there’s an up side to even that worst case scenario.
    FP

  269. Ooh. Finding things you didn’t expect in an older house usually isn’t good. We frequently would run into things like that with our previous house. The owner before us was into doing everything on the cheap and usually doing it wrong. We spent a lot of time and money fixing his mistakes.
    Do you have Freecycle in Canada? If so, I’m sure there’s someone on there who will want your extra dirt.

  270. Thank you for reminding me that having to sell my beloved, built-in-1739, dream house in the course of my divorce was actually a good thing for me. We had replaced the knob-and-tube wiring and crazy furnace when we bought it, though I’m sure we would have found more hair-raising adventures in the same vein, what with eight fireplaces, two chimneys, and windows in need of historically accurate replacement that would keep me up at night counting them. I’m happier with my NYC rental every minute, but I still miss that house. Good luck!

  271. By all the powers of good, I hope something wonderful comes your way soon. You should get SOME sort of grand reward for all your efforts!
    Beer and tylenol/codeine, though, are a BAD combination. One OR the other, please, Joe! Bison wouldn’t work as a sedative for him, would it?

  272. OMG. In NJ I lived in a house built in 1902 where some bright light ran a “plumbing improvement” through the main supporting beam (6 6x6s tagged together, a common method) and by drilling that %$!@@ hole made the main supporting beam 6 3x6s. We had to install 4 jackposts.
    Here in VT I live in a house where half the basement is crawl space like yours. I can’t get some plumbing pipes replaced because the digging is next to impossible thanks to vast quantities of “ledge” (aka monster pieces of granite) under the surface.
    Your photo shows some supporting lumber under a pipe, and a large piece of supporting lumber under what is perhaps a floor joist. If these were put up by the work crew it may have adjusted the house’s attitude on its foundation somewhat. Yeah, you might have to worry but maybe not about the house falling down on you. There are ways to use concrete to fix brick foundations.
    It might get worse, but it might not. And you can’t turn back. Keep breathing, keep knitting. And (as you were advised before) see if one of your many knitting friends knows an architect.

  273. Thanks for the laugh! Not a mean laugh, but a “I know your pain laugh” I have so been there. With old houses and now an old cottage, which was never, ever meant to be lived in for more than a few hours at a time… certainly never meant to have it’s bare wire and ceramic insulator wiring rudely ripped out and replaced with state of the art modern wiring (well it was in 1968), it’s strange windows that hinged away from the window to hook on the ceiling or wall to reveal a funny screen that wouldn’t keep anything but the largest fly out and wooden shutters that actually did hook shut once upon a time before dry rot replaced with nice wood Pella double paned windows with lovely screens that pull down when needed and roll up when not and crank out with the slightest turn of the hand……well they did….before…. the foundation started crumbling in one! corner!! Now, most of the doors stick shut and the windows don’t open, or if the do, they never shut again completely!
    At least you have some strong capable fellows to help you out, even though they really, really don’t want to.
    Good luck with your old house!! At least nobody plastered mine!!
    Have you ever read the Home Repair is ….. mystery series, set in “down east Maine”? Most of them are on tape or cd and can be listened to while you are happily knitting away. :-)

  274. Someone up there in the comments suggested that the bricks may have been under the old furnace. Ask the guys about that.
    Writing from a 1934 house:
    To the people with “mystery drips” underneath tubs: steel tubs from the 1940s are two-layered, and when they rust a little hole into the bottom-most layer (that you can’t see or get at), the water that goes down the overflow drips out the bottom of the tub instead of down the pipe. If the accessible pipes are all tightly sealed and dry, consider the age of the tub. A caulked overflow cover that blocks shower spray saved me the cost of a new tub.

  275. Thank you, Stephanie. Thank you very much. I have always yearned to live in a quaint old house, but thanks to you, I do longer do. I am very happy with the problems (slight, compared with yours!) that come with a 25-year-old house. Very content.

  276. Steph,
    What is the wonderful lace pattern under the circular knitting? I love that lace and was wondering if it is a scarf.

  277. A rather late suggestion but — if you don’t use all that dirt to redo the basement, you can always build raised beds in the backyard for vegetables! That’s what some co-workers did when they expanded their half-basement (ie the space under the first floor where small animals crawled and denned up) to a full basement for children to play in (when you have five kids, you take space where you can make it, according to them).
    They used the dirt and some wood planks to build their tiny backyard upward, and now grow all kinds of fresh vegies. The raised beds increase the space available for planting — I don’t think they’ve bought peas, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, beets or onions since then.

  278. Taking courage from the Airborn Knitters, I took my sock to the Lyle Lovett concert! I had to open my purse for inspection at the door and the woman didn’t even blink when she saw 5 dps and a small ball of yarn. She only wanted to know if I had a camera. Once seated, I knit until the concert started. Great fun all around!

  279. Been there, done that…what else can I say. Our first home was (we found out too late), infested with FLEAS!! We ripped out carpeting, sprayed, and vacuumed again and again. Husband out of town on business, and I’m on our bed changing juniors diadie. I find a flippin flea in his pants, and totally freak! I’m ready to pack a diaper bag, some strained peas and head out to join the homeless on the corner, but an angel of mercy came to attend in the form of a caring neighbor/friend who CRAWLED under our house with a garden hose and sprayed the needed chemical – which in the end gave those nasty fleas the final flip. Thank You angel of mercy – may the Lord bless you as you have blessed me. Same house, the heater needed replacing. Repairman kept muttering to himself,…”MAN this thing is OLD”. I just smiled and told him that Abraham had given it to us as a wedding present. It’s always something…and it’s always expensive. I’ve had people tell me, “oh, don’t rent – because then you’re just throwing your money away.” HAH!…and again I say HAH!!
    The third house that owned us was the most expensive. Lived there only 6 years, but ended up with a growing list of major repairs and replacements, and a shrinking bank account. But what can you do?? It’s home, and it needs TLC just like we do. That’s where the cocktails come in handy….that, and a few angels of mercy – friends and family that make a house a home. Keep up the good work…you’re not alone.

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