In February of 2009, my husband and I bought our first home located on a few acres in Johnson, Vermont. We live here with our dog, Ollie, two cats: Elvis and Atticus, six Nigerian Dwarf goats: May, Chutney, Poppy, Juniper, Willow, and Jokers Wild, and about fifteen laying hens. And to top it all off we welcomed our daughter, Isabel, into the world on January 11th, 2011.

We're slowly updating our 1850's farmhouse while steadily working towards a healthy, meaningful, self-sufficient life together.

This blog details our endeavors along with our successes and failures- all in good fun. Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you again soon!


May and I enjoying some sunshine
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Not everything is as easy as you hope it will be.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, November 23, 2009

Well, we were bound to run into a little trouble with our house at some point.

We decided to tackle the last two windows this weekend.  We started out on Saturday with our go-getter attitude and the feeling that we'd have this all banged out in a few short hours.  It didn't take long for that idea to go out the window (pardon the pun).  As soon as the old window was removed we saw that the footer for the window was significantly more rotten than the ones we had seen on the previous two.  No big deal, we had replaced these before.  But looking a little closer we found a good deal more rot than we had anticipated.  The studs, the footer, everything was crumbling.  We dug and dug to try to find the end to the rotten wood and once we got there we realized we were getting into much more than a three-hour window project.

The studs would have to go.  One was a regular 2x4 but the other (pictured above) was a 4x4 - all rough-cut wood so those dimensions are solid.  We had no way to get those suckers out as they spanned all the way up to the roof line.  So we made a trip to the local hardware store.  We were going to need some wood to replace the rotten framing and a new toy; Kyle seemed really disappointed that we had to buy a reciprocating saw so we could get the studs out (read: this sentence seriously weighed with sarcasm).  All in all we only spent $150 on a decent Sawzall and the lumber so we were pretty pleased with that.  We got home and set straight to work.

I really didn't miss doing demolition; we had done plenty of it during the first few months that we lived here.  It could be worse, I mean, we did invest in a couple good ventilator masks (old houses can literally kill you with the dust in their walls).  We periodically stopped to pick up plaster, lath, and insulation so the room wasn't as much of a mess as it could have been.  We've learned that cleaning up smaller messes a bunch of times is much better than doing a huge clean-up at the end of the project, so we get to take our ventilators off from time to time when there isn't nasty, old blown-in insulation all over the room.

It didn't take too long to get the new studs and footer installed, it was more of a pain in the butt to get the raw opening just right.  Because we had already purchased our new windows we had to be sure that they would fit when we were finished.  But between the two of us, a few diagrams, and a whole lot of math we managed to get it right and the window went it with no problem.  After it was secured to the house I went crazy with the spray-foam insulation.  Word to the wise: with this project be sure to use the kind that is meant for windows and doors or else you'll run into some problems later.  Also, only fill the space about one third or else it will expand way past the point where you need insulation, and that is just waste and a whole lot of extra clean up later.  You can always go back after its all dried and add extra if you really need it.  Whatever is too small to fill with this spray foam insulation can be covered with some silicone caulk (which is needed around the outside of the window anyways).

So we got the window in, just in time to get to our 2nd Thanksgiving celebration over at my Mother-in-law's house.  This is what it looked like right as we were leaving.  You can see that Atticus was pretty happy to be allowed back in the room...thats his favorite window.

We woke up on Sunday and decided that we were going to just do things right this time.  When we renovated this room earlier this year, we just put sheetrock up over the plaster walls.  We were in too much of a rush to worry much about the lack of insulation in those walls.  It was time.  We ripped open the walls to get measurements between the studs to be sure we got the right size of insulation.  Then, we headed off to Lowe's (all the local hardware stores are closed on Sundays).

We came back with both spray-foam, foam-board, fiberglass insulation, sheet rock, and a lot of lumber.  The plan is to add a 2x4 onto each stud so we can put more insulation in the walls.  We filled all the gaps in the wood paneling (the stuff underneath the two layers of siding) with the spray-foam insulation, then started covering that with the foam-board insulation.  Once we get the additional framing set we'll cover the foam-board with the fiberglass insulation and then cover that with drywall.

We only got a few sheets of the foam-board installed before we decided to quit for the night.  But Kyle has the whole week off and I am only working Monday and Tuesday so hopefully we'll make some good headway before Thanksgiving.  This picture was taken before we removed the old insulation from above the window to the right- we also removed all the plaster/lath and insulation to the right of that window. 

Before we call this room done we are going to add more insulation to the other exterior wall, install the second new window, build some shelves underneath the knee-wall, and make a new door into the wierd hall closet- as this room has literally no storage.  Our plan, then, is to move into this room while we finish our master bedroom.

So, we started off with a practically finished room...with crap windows and spotty insulation.  We'll finish with a properly insulated room, that isn't being watered by the gable-vent (yeah, we discovered that up in the attic on Sunday- probably the cause of the rotten wood and the stains on the ceiling).  It really kind of sucked to destroy the room, but I'm looking forward to having it really finished this time.


  1. Donna Mae Says:
  2. Holy Cow...thats crazy! that must have been a bit discouraging! But yes your getting a warmer room/ house in the process. Yeah for Kyle getting his own sawsol! LOL they for sure are VERY helpful for times like that..( good thing you didn't have an opperating chainsaw at the house though..>LOL)
    I can't wait to see all your new "stuff" on Thursday!

  4. This is a great story you are compiling. Maybe there is a book in it for you at some later point. ??

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Where will you be celebrating it?

  5. Melissa Says:
  6. Hey Beth. Thank you so much! I have been thinking about writing a book for some time now, maybe someday. :)

    We'll be having Thanksgiving at our house- we should have worked on the dining room before tearing into the guest bedroom!! ;)

    Thanks, again, Beth. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving as well!

  7. Hello! I am an editor for SprayFoam Magazine, a trade journal that covers news and projects in the spray foam industry. Your blog showed up on my Google Alerts for "spray foam," and it looks like you're doing a really interesting project. I'd love to talk with you a little more about it for a potential story in the magazine--email me if you're interested: claire dot trageser at nace dot org.