How to become Window Queen.

30 March 2017

The thing about windows is that they are in fact designed to be looked through.

Post-repair windows in my delightful sunroom. I might add, they did NOT look this glamorous pre-makeover.

That’s all well and good (it really is, I like being able to see outside), but I’m not certain that the hours and hours of laborious love (and glue) I have poured into our windows will really be appreciated by anyone except me, since most people look OUT a window, not AT a window.

Windows are a big deal, ok.

A bedroom window in disrepair.

When the house arrived, it arrived with at least a dozen broken glass panes. Ok, you say, that’s fine, and perhaps to be expected after hauling an ancient house a few hundred kilometres in two pieces.

Sure, but it also arrived with rotten mullions (those are the upright pieces of wood that support the window – just one of the 500 things I’ve learned since we adopted this house). As in, the mullions were so rotten that they were completely loose. You could wiggle them around and shake them all about.

A wiggly mullion.

I don’t really want to relive the repairing of these windows (which is still in fact unfinished), however I know I may well forget the elbow grease involved in a few years or so. Therefore, in the interest of safeguarding my future sanity (by warning my future self from undertaking such windows again), here is the process.

How to Become Window Queen and Restore Rotten, Cracked 100 Year Old Windows.

1. Inspect the windows. Feel strange sense of purpose and meaning to life, eg. I am Window Queen, all windows who come to me will be saved.

Even these ones?

2. Take tungsten-steel scraper in hand. Become united with said scraper for approximately 1 hour per sash. Did I mention there are 72 sashes in our house?


3. Replace sandpaper strip on tiny sander (tiny sander is preferable because giant sander, while powerful, becomes very heavy when held above one’s head for long periods of time). Sand sills, mullions, sashes.

Sander in hand.

4. Decide to remove sashes (for the uninitiated, that’s the part of the window that opens). Now, this step is controversial. Papa did not agree with removing the sashes from the frames. But, I cry, the hinges are 100 years old! If you can even scrape away the 11 layers of paint on the hinges, you find they are completely rusted.

Nevertheless, seeing as I am Window Queen, the windows must be saved.

Therefore, scrape 11 layers of paint from hinge screws. Jam arm and push impact driver into screw head. 40% of the hinge screws come out cleanly. Celebrate each one like a lost lamb returning to the fold. Another 40% break off, leaving half the rusted screw in the frame (this delightful occurrence results in a headache later on). The other 20% strip and become stuck. Use brute force to pry whole hinge from frame.

Important note: This fourth step allows one to spend five times as long creating needlessly perfect sashes.

5. Resume sanding, this time by hand to get in the tricky spots.

6. Try many tactics including blowing, tweezing, and vacuuming, to remove debris from unwanted cracks (to be fair, when are cracks ever wanted?). Decide it doesn’t matter that much and leave some of it in there.

7. Mix up the most toxic-smelling epoxy glue every created using a water bottle from your passenger seat and an old icecream container.

A toxic enterprise.

8. Pour glue into cracks. Realise that it is running right out the bottom. Fill bottom crack with silicone to contain liquid glue. Pour again. Clamp mullions in place. Repeat 3 times.

Clamping a window. Hoping that this glue works.

9. Remove the 8 different types of curtain hooks that past generations cruelly inserted into the window.

10. Mix up epoxy filler with the clinginess of a toddler and the texture of cornflour and water. Wish that you didn’t have to try to clean it up every time. Fill gaping holes in sills where rot and decay once reigned supreme.

11. Sand again. Run your hand over the bizarrely flat surface of your new windowsill. Spend 10 minutes rapping your knuckles on the glue and listening to the glorious sound of hardness.

12. Wipe down window. Paint undercoat. Delight in the exquisite feeling of painting that beautiful first top coat, where all the sins of the window are washed away and are made as white as snow.

Putting the other minions to work (I’m Chief Minion).

13. Rush painting of second top coat.

14. Oops, almost forgot. Repeat all steps on the sashes you removed.

Painting sashes.

15. Reinsert sashes into frame, after chiselling new spots for the hinges where you broke off screws inside.

16. Force everyone who comes to your adopted house to stand and admire. Make sure to start your mornings with a brief admiration session in front of your gleaming window.

A finished window. When Nana saw my handiwork, she said… “that glass is very dirty isn’t it”. Thanks Nana.

That, my friends, is how you become Window Queen.

If there is anyone still reading this besides me as I type it, I’m quite astonished. Well done you.

Signing out, Her Highness, Queen of Windows.

Curved bay window? Check.

The tale of our hovering house

27 February 2017

Turns out the local council (which has to sign off on the foundation plans in order for our house to be founded on something) isn’t very swift.

I mean, we knew this already. Delightfully, we have been gifted with fresh insight into the ponderous speed of the council.

That is, I really really hope they are pondering, and not just having cups of tea. Because we have a slight issue, which is that the house has arrived, but we are not allowed to ‘found’ it on foundations.

Rather than being on foundations, the house is hovering.

It also turns out that the moving guys, while they did prop up the house enough to hover it a most convenient 5 feet off the ground, did not prop up the house well enough to create any semblance of a mildly flat floor.

On the plus side, walking around in the house is like taking a gentle mountain hike, which has to count for something towards our collective fitness levels.

It’s hard to convey in a photo just how mountainous the floor has become.

Mama and papa and I may have had a brief moment (or day) of despair when we walked around our newly adopted house and realised that much of the work (like replacing entire rotten walls and other minor tasks) cannot be undertaken until such time as the house is in fact close to level.

This does make sense to me. Walls, however well-built and straight they may be relative to the current extremely warped position, will of course move and quite possibly create some interesting Picasso-esque lines once the house is ironed out onto some foundations.

However, even though it makes sense, it does trouble me somewhat that I have a limited amount of time to renovate this here orphan house (I haven’t yet mentioned it, but I am leaving on a jet plane on June the 14th, hence the countdown timer), and that we have our hands tied when it comes to doing really helpful things like fixing the roof and replacing those rotten walls and floors.


The laundry floor. Lovely.

Still, papa was not to be dissuaded. He led mama and I on a death-defying mission to LEVERAGE AND PROP OUR HOUSE UP in the saggy bits, using an overgrown crow bar and suspicious looking pieces of scrap timber.

It’s quite disconcerting to have an entire house creaking in pain above your head as you wrestle timber into upright positions under the joists.

As there’s nothing we can do to hasten the pondering of the council, we have reconciled ourselves to undertaking the very simple and easy tasks like scraping sanding glueing filling and painting the 44 window sashes.

Meanwhile, our house will hover.

Mama cleans guttering while the house hovers.

Moving Day (Take 2)

26 February 2017

Houston, the house has landed.

I mean, it truly is here this time.

After the most distressing/confusing night before, my insomnia/dream/house-expectancy exhaustion thankfully gave way to a deep sleep.

Papa knocked on my door at 5am. My bed propelled me up and out, as if I’d pushed some previously masterfully-camouflaged eject button (which has since vanished, unfortunately).

I nearly tripped on my way out into the wet darkness, such was my urgency.

We drove too quickly down the driveway (sorry, neighbours), desperate not to miss the main event: the house coming across the tiny one way bridge and lumbering across papa’s gravel-filled ditch to our house spot.

Bumping down our gravel driveway at an unreasonable speed.

Of course, our response time to the moving guy’s text was so record-breaking that we waited at the end of our driveway for an eternity half hour. Waiting in the dark car, every passing engine was a cruel false alarm. Finally, we heard what was unmistakeably two trucks laden down with a whole lot of aged wood and glass masquerading as a house.

Then we saw lights.

First light! Ah.

Mama and I clung to each other in the cold and uttered small shrieks as we watched the truck lift and tilt OUR HOUSE up and over the sides of the tiny one way bridge.

The big chunk of house makes it over the tiny bridge.

Papa went to his carefully gravel-clogged ditch and ‘guided’ the moving guys across. What he’d filled was not nearly wide enough, but those house-hauling trucks are not easily deterred. They went right through the ditch.

Papa guides the house relocation trucks
Papa guides the house relocation trucks.

Once the house had landed, we had a brief interlude, during which we went back to the main house.

I cooked all our eggs and papa cooked bacon and we fed all the moving guys, while outside, a thick mist descended.

Mama stands in the mist, looking ethereal.

After breakfast and sunrise, I was relieved to find that no passers-by had made off with our house. Papa and I (ok, mostly papa) did the final eyeing up of the house site, and the trucks creaked the house into position.

Papa does the final measure. Slightly nerve-wracking.

Over the next two days, the moving guys swarmed over the house like ants, putting the roof back on (the roof was too tall to fit under powerlines), propping up the house on A-frames and stacks of wood, while I watched from my power-seat, the tractor wheel.

Every time we drove down the driveway, shock! There was a house.

Oh-so-much work to be done.

So, that’s it.

The birthing process is officially over, and now it’s time to raise this little orphan house (hmm problematic metaphors…) to be an upstanding, model 100-year old house citizen.

Now the real fun begins.

Appletree Cottage is home at last.


Moving Day (Take 1)

22 February 2017

The house-delivery night was like one of those strange dreams that you have when you’re going someplace the next day that’s filled with music and marshmallows and waterfalls and puppies and the other Top 6 Creations Ever Created.

Everything’s going well until suddenly your legs get trapped in invisible quicksand and you miss your flight by 5.2 seconds.

Or, you wake up in your dream, all ready to go on your most bestest adventure ever and everyone you’re meant to be going with has vanished – the house is empty. You suddenly realise that A: they have been abducted by the previously perfectly innocent but now mutinous sheep in your paddock; or B: they left without you.

Just like in my real life version of the dream.

Tuesday night. I finally went to sleep, and napped fitfully all night until 5, when my alarm went. I had given mama the absolute strictest instructions to wake me under any circumstances – I did not want to miss the house arriving.

That would be like watching a classic makeover/tranformation scene in the movies, and then somehow gluing your eyelids together just as the person turns around.

Actually, that analogy doesn’t seem dire enough… how about travelling to Siberia to see the annual tiger migration (because there is one, ok), when your dog sled mysteriously breaks down, and everyone else races past with their dog sleds and crouches all hushed on a mountain and watches a river of white tigers (your favourite animal, obviously) while you cry icicles onto your face down in the valley. Does that convey the importance of not missing this moment? I hope so.

So when I *woke* (poor choice of word – it implies that I slept prior) at 5am, and I thought to myself, I had better not go downstairs until I hear my parentals up and about, they need their sleep, and so I kept lying there while the clock kept throwing time away and then it was 5:30am and I text mama to ask if the house was arriving and had she heard anything and then it was 6am, and then the sun rose, and I knew that A: the house had arrived without me being there (the trucks aren’t allowed to drive after 6am) or B: the house had fallen off the truck and spontaneously exploded and was now a wispy pile of ash beside State Highway 1.

I got up, and grabbed my bike and pedalled down the endless driveway while I rehearsed my finest-ever angry speech for my parents who had clearly failed their only duty and arrived at the house spot and saw this.

No house.

Just so it’s crystal clear: there was no house.

I swear mama and papa have never taken longer to get up than they did that morning. I can’t remember what I did to fill the time, but when they finally got up, as always happens after a dream, you realise things aren’t quite so drastic as all that, and actually the house will probably be fine.

First, the house trucks had hit roadworks (not ACTUALLY hit them!) and then one of the engines had trouble, so the guys had fixed it, then there was traffic, and then it was 5:30am and there were too many cars on the road (the height of rudeness! Didn’t the people of the world know not to drive at that ungodly hour?), so the guys parked the trucks in a tiny town on SH1 and said they were going to drive the rest of the way the next night.

Meanwhile, all my indignant anger at mama and papa evaporated instantly when I heard they had barely slept either, decided to get up at 4:30am and wait at the entrance of the driveway to listen for the sound of the engines. They waited for an hour and a half.

Mama, being the very embodiment of an optimistic romantic, said that it had actually been deliciously peaceful and they had seen shooting stars.

Nevertheless, at that point I was glad they hadn’t woken me.

And that is how the house did not arrive.

This post is already ridiculously long, probably because it’s late at night and I haven’t written in a while so I’m just vomiting the strangeness of my mind onto the keyboard. I’m going to have to sleep now and write the honest-to-goodness house arrival story (in a much briefer fashion) in another post.

THE BIG DAY ARRIVES (aka, the house arrives)

21 February 2017

It’s 10:47pm, and right now, the house movers will be loading (how? I’m not sure how one lifts a house…) the cut pieces of our orphan house onto the Arnold Schwarzenegger of trucks.

At an unpredictable yet definitely ungodly hour tomorrow morning, Mama will get a text saying that the house is nearly here. She’s under strict instructions to wake me up.

Tonight, Mama and I folded up the tarps that have been lazing about overtop of the big scar in the earth. Papa drove home tonight and drove straight back down the drive on the big blue tractor to push a bit more dirt around. He says he’ll sleep better now, but I’m not convinced any of us will sleep at all.

What a very caesarean-section-type-of-way to get a new house.

Will the surgery go well?

Tomorrow will tell. (ooh rhyming, love it).

Getting ugly: Excavation

4 February 2017

This is when things get ugly.

Today, the house spot started out coated in grass (albeit dead). Tonight, it is scarred the colour of rust.

I haven’t seen it yet – I’m away in the plentiful bay down the right side of the country. But mama and papa have been there all day with our friend Caleb and his digger.

UPDATE: I’ve seen it now. It is quite remarkable how much of a makeover this house spot has had since the beginning of this little record. Once again, photos do best.

Morning of: AKA before the onslaught began.
Onslaught complete.

In other news, our lovely friends who were the original parents of this land came to visit. It turns out that Mr Leigh planted our house’s namesakes: the six apple trees. He said the plum trees just sprang up, which made me feel oddly better about having beheaded them to make way for the orphan house.

Also, I ate the first apple of the season. Slightly sour. Ok, so I might have been a little impatient.

Not a pretty sight. Obviously, the people are lovely. But everything else: yikes.


Being squirrels: Hundred year old bricks

31 January 2017

This weekend, it became clear that I was born into a family of squirrels. But instead of collecting nuts, they fossick for ‘treasures’: old windows; brass door knobs; 1920s light switches that switch with the most satisfying *clunk*.

Squirrels do come in handy sometimes.

On Saturday, I ran down the drive to catch mama and papa as they drove down to Auckland: where our newly adopted orphan house lives (only for another few weeks!). The car was packed with tools. The trailer bumped along behind us.

We were going on a salvage mission.

We stopped off and bought five old bungalow doors in Mt Eden, and we debated whether they were quite tall enough to fill our doorframes.

Tall enough? We’ll see. Meanwhile, my hands are bracing themselves for blistery hours of glorious paint-scraping.

Once we arrived at our Manukau orphan, I got out the measuring tape. They’ll fit… only just. We might have to add a little strip of wood to a couple of doors. Funny how salvaged doors and door frames never seem to match…

We spent the rest of the afternoon prying nails from railings and a roof and stacking the timber in the house. But my most significant effort was bricks. About 300 of them.

Every time I found a W. HUNT AUCKLAND brick, I got 10 points. Shame no one else was playing.

The old chimney in the house is coming out. Both for the move, and for good; we’re taking that whole wall out of the house. So, there were two small mountains of bricks, one under the house and one on the lawn.

Some of the mortar came off with a quick flick of my scraper-bearing hand, some had to be beaten off with a hammer and huge chisel.

I came out of that dusty endeavour looking like a scarecrow.

The next day we hauled that trailer load of bricks back up SH1. We stopped off to see my aunt and uncle and cousin.

Now, full disclosure; quirky doesn’t begin to describe some twigs (ok branches) of my family tree.

Squirrels, hoarders, collectors of fine items. I’m certain all these terms have been used before.

However, they do know time-weathered beauty when they see it. As we talked about the house, uncle said ‘I have a spare window under the house, do you want to take a look?’. And then cousin got out her drawers of doorknobs, and a tall slim window with waterglass – perfect for the new walk-in wardrobe we’re building.

I even acquired that monogrammed leather briefcase.

When we got home, mama papa and I corralled the younger brothers and sister to help us stack the hundred year old bricks by the cowshed.

They are going to make one lovely patio.

The minions. Muahaha.
A wee pile of delightfully aged bricks.