Thursday, October 29, 2009

the house

it is done! they closed on the house today; we've got the deed!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

a tidbit of house history

we've gotten some confirmation from the realtor: tomorrow (Thursday) should indeed be the final closing date!! Hooray!!
meanwhile, we've gotten some historical documents from the State of Maine, it's the official paperwork regarding the Limington Historic District, of which our house is a part. We read through and found the description of our house!

Moulton Family House, c. 1880-C,
Route 11
This two-story three-bay frame house is comprised of what appears to be an earlier side gable building to which have been added a pair of Queen Anne style corner towers and a wraparound porch. Presently, the dwelling is clad in asbestos siding. The original house has corner pilasters with round arched panels and gable end returns, whereas the alterations feature three-sided towers with two-over-one windows and turned porch posts with sawn brackets. A one-and-a-half-story ell extends to a small, much altered barn. To the northwest is a larger, free-standing barn.

According to local tradition, this house was erected in the 1870's or early 1880's by the Moulton family. Its materials are said to have come from two houses that had been dismantled in Hiram.

this is interesting - my parents had thought the house was older, I wonder if we'll ever find more historical info about this! I know that my parents' house in Gorham included several structures - including an original house and an ell, which had been taken from a location a few miles away and dragged off its foundation by oxen, in its entirety, and transported across the fields using rollers made from giant logs, a team of oxen pulling the whole structure to its current location, where it was just tacked on to the side of the original structure. So I wonder if our house was also transported from Hiram in the same manner? or was it dismantled and re-assembled on the current location? Anyway, it would also be fun to find old photos of the house someday...

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

more house news

OK, we're totally obsessed with this house and absolutely overflowing with excitement and anxiety to find out whether the whole deal is going to go through! Today we got some positive news, our offer has formally been accepted by the bank, on paper. Looks like it's a go!!!!! Thursday is supposed to be our official closing date. So, we'll be able to really say it's our house by the end of the week, hopefully! My mom went in to the town office and did a bit of research, and learned that this property & house were last assessed in 2003, at that time they were valued at around 400% the price we're going to pay! WOW. Perhaps that was before the barn collapsed and before the ell roof fell apart.

house in limington

Meanwhile, we've been doing lots of research about the place. Because the house has a historic plaque on the porch, Mike started researching the history and has been corresponding with the Limington Historical Society, he's found some colorful stories about the history of the town but hasn't found anything specific about our house yet.

historical plaque - the house in Limington

We read all about the Francis Small nature preserve, hiking on Sawyer Mountain, and swimming at Pequawket Beach on Horne Pond, just down the road from our house! (Of course there's also the Limington Rips, where I remember splashing around as a kid.)

Anyway, I've got some more pictures of the place! Here is the exterior:

complicated roofline
complicated roofline (front side of the house)

In back of the house is the ell, which is in terrible condition:

side view of house
side view of the house and ell

side door
side door

ell and junk
trashy looking junk and ell

ell junk
the ell is filled with junk

in-law apartment
there is also an "in-law apartment" in the ell, but it's badly damaged by water from the leaky roof so it'll have to be all torn out and... who knows.

Here's the back yard:

back yard
i'm pretty sure that's one of three apple trees growing in our back yard!

too bad about the barn
too bad about the barn

squash growing in the back yardsquash growing in the back yard

basketball hoopbasketball hoop behind the barn

richard and backyardrichard and backyard

backside of barnbackside of barn

backside of housebackside of house - seen from back yard

inside the house!

nice wood floors and windows. first floor, front room
(this is inside one of the front turrets)



kitchen windows
windows over the sink in the kitchen

front entrance, nice bannister

missing plaster
missing plaster next to the stairs

one of the upstairs bedrooms

turret bedroom upstairs

more missing plaster
more missing plaster, upstairs bedroom

basement: granite slab & boulder foundation

front porch & front yard:

the front porch
the front porch

view to road from front porch
view to road from front porch

barn view from porch
barn view from porch

retaining wall
retaining wall, street view from downhill

retaining wall
retaining wall, cute house next door

hydrangea bush

pampas grass
decorative pampas grasses

hitching post
here's the hitching post where visitors used to tie up their horses

it looks like there are lots of other pretty old houses in the neighborhood! here's a video of my sister and brother-in-law driving around getting lost in the neighborhood:

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Monday, October 19, 2009

a house in maine

i thought i'd try to wait on this but I'M SO EXCITED I CAN'T KEEP IT UNDER MY HAT! we are suddenly, kinda out-of-the blue, (hopefully) about to start work on repairing and renovating OUR NEW HOUSE! Probably. the whole deal hasn't gone through 100% yet but it seems like everything's set to go and by October 29th it should be finalized IF all goes well!

the house in Limington

Both Mike and I always said we'd love to get a house someday, we'd love to renovate an old place and learn all about carpentry and plumbing and have a garden and live in the country and all that good stuff, and we're starting to save money, but we don't have enough savings to seriously look at buying a house yet. So it was like a "someday down the road" kind of idea. Still, Mike sometimes likes to browse through craigslist and look at houses for sale, just for kicks. Just window-shopping. He came across this place a few months ago, thought it looked interesting and sent me the listing. I thought it looked cool too, and it's nice because the location is right between my parents' house in Gorham and our beloved summer cabin in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

It's a five-bedroom farmhouse with a wrap-around porch on the front and side, an ell in the back and two acres of land, with a collapsed barn off to one side. It has Victorian-style turrets in the front, which were probably added in the late 1800's, but the rest of the structure probably dates back to the early 1800's.

the property in Limington

The price had already been reduced a lot, and the place obviously needs lots of repairs - which made it even more intriguing. We got a little infatuated with this place and our fantasy about living in it and restoring it.

So every few weeks we would go back and look at the website, scroll through the pictures and think "gee, that would be fun... if only..." So, when the price dropped again, we sent the listing to my parents and asked if they might want to swing by the place and look at it, next time they were driving past, just for kicks. We just wanted to hear what it looked like in real life. Since it's right on their way over to New Hampshire. They did stop by and were also intrigued! Eventually they decided to call up the realtor, just out of curiosity, and make an appointment, just to get a peek inside. When they spoke to the realtor she mentioned that the price had just been dropped again, to ONE THIRD of the original price!

the house in Limington

So they went on over and scoped it out in great detail. The property is now held by a property liquidation company, and they are in a big hurry to get rid of it before the winter freeze comes on and the pipes all freeze and winter storms cause even more damage to the section of the house that has a broken roof. The house is so badly damaged and the bank is in such a hurry to get rid of it, the whole property is now being sold for the price of the land. So basically you buy the land, you get this hulking wreck of a house for free! The house looks pretty decent from the street but inside it's all messed up. The furnace is broken, the plumbing is all crazy, the electricity is so faulty that most of the house has been disconnected. Up until two months ago, there were 11 people!!!!! living in this house, and not doing any maintenance whatsoever. In the main house, the interior walls have spots of missing plaster, where the original lath shows through. There is a rotted sill above the foundation, under the kitchen. The interior looks like a total disaster. In the back, there is an additional structure (the ell, for those who are familiar with traditional farmhouses) with an "in-law apartment" and garage space, but the roof over the ell is badly damaged, there are blue plastic tarps covering it but there's extensive water damage in the interior of the ell, where the roof is missing. That area is badly rotted and strewn with debris. So overall, it's all in really bad shape.

But the original structure of the house dates from the early 1800's, the foundation is made of boulders and granite and is still completely sound. Most of the main structure is solid and the main roof is new-ish, with only one small leaky spot. The house comes with two acres of land, which really can't depreciate in value - regardless of what happens to the house. My parents had bought a house in similar condition back in 1973, and they nursed it back to health and still live in it happily today. So they're pretty knowledgeable about restoring old damaged farmhouses, and they felt that despite the extensive problems, it was still a great bargain, and basically they felt that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a result of the crazy economy and messed-up real estate market. Of course we could find other cheap houses to restore, but we'd never find another one this cheap.

So they offered us... if we were interested... to BUY the place and we could throw ourselves into restoring it and pay them back.


Judy, of course, was completely infatuated with the place too, and overflowing with ideas and excitement! Richard was cautious and warned that we had better understand what a huge project we'd be getting into.

When we originally showed them the pictures and asked them if they wanted to stop by and visit the house, we had expected that they would visit the place and say "Oh, gosh, it's so sad but that house is a total disaster and there's no way it could be saved." I really didn't expect anything to come from their visit - I just figured it would be an interesting learning experience for everyone. And of course I never would've imagined that they would offer to buy it themselves! So we were REALLY surprised to hear their offer! We spent the whole weekend talking it over, alternating between giddy excitement and thinking "this is such a crazy idea, we can't even seriously consider it." We talked a lot with my parents about the unbelievably huge amount of back-breaking work, endless time, blood sweat and tears, and money that it would cost to get the house up to basic living standards. We talked about the fact that buying this house would mean we wouldn't have time or money to travel again for five or ten years, we might never get to Thailand or Japan, we'd be basically camping out in this shell of a house for the first few months (or years?) and we'd be isolated and completely swamped with work for at least five or ten years.

But we also talked about how we'd always dreamed of this, we talked about growing a big garden and making jams and pickles at the end of the summer, having goats and chickens one day, having a giant yard for our dogs to run free. We looked at prices for those underground dog fences and we looked at prices for used cars and new furnaces. We talked about all the amazing things we could do with so much space. How we hoped friends would come visit us in the summer and keep us company!

Yesterday everyone was headed over to Intervale so they stopped by the house again and Amy was kind enough to bring her video camera and tape some footage of the neighborhood and walking around the house, both inside and out. It's been amazing to watch her videos, it's the closest thing to being there. The whole place feels like one of those places that I'd drive past and think "wow, how can that place be so abandoned? what's the story there?" I always used to notice places like this and want to stop and explore, poke around, try the door and go inside. I love to sneak in to abandoned places and imagine the history of the place, imagine myself camping out in there, cleaning it up and making it my own. I'm pretty sure that no house is as compelling and enticing to me as an interesting abandoned place.

Thanks to Google Maps, we've studied pictures of the house from the street and aerial photos of the property from above, as well as street-views of the entire neighborhood and some aerial perspective on where it's located in the state.

The State of Maine

The location is in southern Maine, near the border with New Hampshire. About 30 minutes from my parents' house in Gorham; one hour from Portland; 45 minutes from the ocean at Old Orchard beach; 1 hour from our family cabin in the white mountains; 2.5 hours from Boston; 6 hours from New York (probably more with traffic).

the road to Limington

So... of course, after heavy deliberations we decided to go for it! Mike was completely convinced pretty early on, but it took me a whole weekend of heavy thinking before I decided we should go for it! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? We had to act fast because we knew that at the super-cheap price, there were lots of other interested buyers scoping the place out. I can't believe we just made such a huge decision. It was kind of the same when we moved to Argentina - very sudden! But this feels even bigger, and even more sudden. The craziest thing is that I CAN'T GO SEE THE HOUSE! I won't be able to see it for another 4 months! Judy and Richard will be looking after the place over the winter, draining the pipes, stretching new tarps over the broken roof, and getting an electrician in to get some basic wiring set up. They honestly sound really excited about this, just as excited as we are! We won't be able to see the place until March. We're thinking if all goes ahead as planned, we'll move in with Judy and Richard at first and stay with them while looking for work and going over to Limington to work on the house whenever we can. By the beginning of June we're hoping to have at least a few rooms habitable so we can move in. We'll hope to get a furnace installed over the summer so we'll be ready when the fall comes. We'll plan to close off a few core rooms on the first floor and live in just those few rooms for the first winter, so we don't have to heat the whole house. It's so unbelievable that now we're not just moving back to Maine, we're moving back to our new house and this crazy epic construction project. What a lot of changes. I can't believe this is all going on - I can't sleep at night, I'm lying awake imagining our new house! And imagining all the work this is going to take, yikes. And wondering if it will even go through - these things often seem to go awry at the very last minute. So... we'll see!

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

going home

so... yes, we are finally making plans to move back home! and by home, i don't just mean the united states; we're going back to stay at my childhood home in Maine, with my parents, and look for work and our own apartment in the Portland area... hooray!

we'll be flying out of Buenos Aires on March 3rd. Arriving in Boston on March 4th.
but first mike's going to quit his job and we're planning to travel around south america for a month or two! of course I'm sad to leave argentina - but very excited for all that is to come.

this is our tentative plan:

December 11th: Mike's last day at work
then we'll have two weeks to pack and sell everything we own!
December 29th: Andrew & Vickie coming to visit
then we'll go travel somewhere with A&V - we're thinking maybe go to the beach near Valparaiso, Chile, or maybe head north towards Tucuman or Salta (in the North of Argentina). We'll definitely find somewhere beautiful and interesting to spend some quality time with them, we're totally excited for the visit! Then maybe we'll continue northward towards Bolivia, after they head back home. So we'll spend January and maybe part of February exploring Bolivia and Peru by bus. We want to try and do lots of hiking. We're thinking we might end up avoiding Machu Picchu because it's SO touristy and expensive - there are lots of other amazing Incan ruins and beautiful hiking around the same area - this article about Choquequirao really piqued our interest!
At this point our trip plans are totally up in the air, we've done a ton of research but haven't managed to figure out exactly what we want to do. We are totally open to suggestions if anybody has ideas about great stuff to do (on a small budget) in Peru and Bolivia!!! I think to some extent we will enjoy the freedom of having more time and just figuring stuff out as we go along, depending on weather or what we feel like doing or what we hear from fellow travelers we meet along the way. Our biggest concern is that January and February are rainy season in Peru and Bolivia, so that would make the going a bit harder. Supposedly there can be serious problems with muddy, impassable roads and even mudslides in Bolivia, but there's also the chance that it will be totally fine, so we'll see... Otherwise, there's just a TON of stuff we really want to do and not enough time or money to do all of it. But I'm sure it will be awesome and exciting, no matter where we end up...
we're hopefully going to have some friends staying at our house in Buenos Aires while we're gone, taking care of the dogs and keeping an eye on the place for us.
then... sometime in the beginning or middle of February we should get back to Buenos Aires to pick up our dogs and suitcases and say goodbye. And then...
March 3: fly back to the USA! we'll arrive in Boston in the morning on March 4th.

I can't believe we're really doing this - when Mike first mentioned that he wanted to go back, I thought it might be a passing whim... but a few weeks later it seems to be a real plan, and now we've bought our tickets so it's definitely on. I'm sad about leaving behind Argentina and all our friends here, and there are tons of things that I'm sorry we haven't had time to do... but we're also totally excited about starting the next chapter in Maine, it's always irresistibly exciting to think about what the future might bring. We really have no idea. But for sure the move to Maine will mean spending lots more time with my family, and getting to do lots more outdoorsy and nature stuff, hiking and beaches and all that good stuff. Dogs running free in the fields instead of cooped up in an apartment.

So for now, I'm trying to focus on making the most of the time we've got left here- spending time with friends, spending some good hours making stuff in my studio, going out to see all the museums and places that we've always wanted to check out but somehow never got around to visiting.

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man, I have been totally crazy these past few weeks, working on this and that and the other. Teaching, freelance work, endless errands, chores, etc. It all kind of blurs together. Except for one awesome thing that I did the other weekend: I joined my friends Tyler and Flavia of Nomad Ink for a trip to Mar del Plata, Argentina to attend the 8th annual Trimarchi design conference (TMDG for short).

It was awesome, Tyler and Flavia really took me under their wing and made me feel like part of the family. I got to help out with the Cross-Cultural Design Workshop that they presented, and they introduced me to about a million exciting and talented designers. They're based out of Curitiba, Brazil - and they introduced me to lots of other interesting Brazilian designers, such as their friends from Colletivo, who were one of the major presenters at the conference. Colletivo's presentation was really impressive and they were all totally nice and fun in person.

The whole trip was totally fun and a bit of sensory overload with so many interesting things to do and see and learn about.
A million thanks to Tyler and Flavia for really making it an awesome weekend!

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