A Bear at the Window

20140512-170108.jpg

Remember that black bear who went viral last week for chillaxin’ in a hammock? Well we had our own bear visitor recently…he just chose to make an appearance in our bedroom window over reclining in our backyard.

But first a bit of back-story.

We’ve had a few mysterious situations happen around The Hill House. Shattered bird feeders, strange foot prints, motion detectors lights randomly going off and our garbage cans knocked over. We didn’t think too much of it and just chalked it up to a big fat raccoon. Then our neighbor stopped over after the last garbage can incident and blew the raccoon theory to pieces.20140512-192916.jpg

She asked if I had seen “our visitor” and I said no. Then she said “Oh we have bears all the time.” My reaction was something akin to “Wait…what?” She let me know that the bear who was in our trash was about 300 lbs and that she had seen him on our property before. She even had pictures!

Well, we decided to start taking our garbage back to the city and figured that would do the trick. Plus we kinda liked the idea that we had a bear running around the ‘hood.

bear_feeder
Cut to one week later when I am in bed, alone in the house one late evening. Suddenly I hear a crash outside and know exactly what it is. So I grab a flashlight, throw the window open and get an eye full of what looks like a wall of black fur. Our 300 lb friend is standing over the toppled over garbage can, literally with egg on his face since I had tossed a small bag of eggshells into the can. He sniffed at me then bolted around the corner of the house. Needless to say I was sorta freaked out and didn’t sleep a wink that night.

The next morning I got to officially bear-proofing the property. Here is a list I came across of tips to keep Smoky in the woods where he belongs.

  • Take garbage out the morning of trash pick up
  • Don’t put up bird feeders – especially hummingbird feeders
  • Clean outdoor grills thoroughly and keep them tightly covered
  • Close windows while cooking indoors
  • Invest in an air horn to keep handy as a scare tactic

20140512-192934.jpg

To date there haven’t been any more disturbances. Part of me is till hoping for a daytime sighting, however, so I can post the perfect Instagram pic!

Let the Landscaping Begin!

20140506-201336.jpg

As we wait for spring to fully reveal exactly what’s growing around The Hill House, we’ve also begun filling in some of blanks around the yard. After countless trips to Lowe’s, I think we are finally getting somewhere!

Tackling “Low Light Landscaping”

One challenge is that much of the property is shrouded by trees and we’ve had to look into low light and shade friendly plants and shrubs. Hostas, Elephant Ears and ferns seem to do best and also get along well together.

20140511-104332.jpg

Eroding those Erosion Issues

After removing an ugly green wire fence that separated the yard from a rather steep hill leading to the woods, we had to come up with something that both provided a separation barrier as well a root network that would keep the hill, well, together. Creeping Jenny and English Ivy is what’s we went with. Let’s hope they stick. Literally.

20140511-102021.jpg

Oh Deer!

So we live in the woods – which means anything we plant basically will become a salad for deer and bunnies. After much research we discovered that nothing is truly deer “proof” but certain plants are resistant to a point. If they are hungry, they will eat anything.

We nixed cedar – which deer love and went with evergreen and spruces for the front of the house. Weeping spruces and dwarf mugi pines added some height and much needed texture to the front porch, and also sit in one of the only full-sun spots on the property.

20140511-101740.jpg

Azalea bushes provide a pop of color – and who knew they were actually evergreens? Euonymus and Blue Rug Juniper will also provide some year-round eye candy that will hopefully stay off of Bambi’s menu.

20140511-101623.jpg

When it came to an herb garden (below) we chose strong smelling and tasting herbs because they apparently aren’t favorites of deer and rabbits. Thyme, cilantro, rosemary, sage, mint, lavender and catnip are what we went with. We will have to see what survives the deer taste test and what doesn’t however.

20140507-090845.jpg

Stay tuned for updates. What worked, and what didn’t. As well as what the heck has yet to be identified – or even revealed – around the property.

Spring and Curb Appeal

All the snow has finally melted and I can finally see what the property actually looks like again! I closed on the house in October, so I’ve really barely seen the property when everything was green and blooming. Besides removing all the silk flowers that were shoved in the ground around the house, and removing all the plastic yard ornaments and tchotchkes, I’ve done absolutely nothing to improve the outside of the house.

This past weekend we finally got to start to clean up the yard and break out some new patio furniture. The astro-turf that was covering the front and back decks has been ripped out and the decking seems to be in pretty great shape. Picked up some of my favorite outdoor chairs from Ikea and a few large planters that will soon have something amazing and interesting in them to frame the porch. There’s now a few bushes in the front planters as well. Some Blue Junipers in the front for some low coverage and some Yellow Euonymus in the back for a bit of height and year round color. I wanted shrubs in the front so when it’s winter 6 months out of the year, the front of the house won’t look so barren and dead like it did this winter.

*Side-note the bottom step is not as fucked up as it looks in this picturefront20140425-172951.jpgI bought these house numbers before I even closed on the house. It only took me 5 1/2 months to put them up. At least now people will be able to find the house without driving past and circling back.

20140425-172701.jpg

This little door to the garage hadn’t been opened in about 30 years and was half buried and blocked by some sort of wild shrub. It’s far to cool to be non-functional, so I dug it out, removed the shrub and made this mini blue stone entranceway so it stays functional. 20140425-172627.jpg

 

With the yard clear of snow and leaves, you can actually see what’s growing. There’s a flower bed in the back by the porch that has a variety of little things popping up.20140425-172642.jpg

 

New fire pit in the backyard, just doin it’s thang.

20140425-172717.jpg

Tony planted a little herb garden off the back and edged it with stone from the yard. Let’s hope it doesn’t get eaten by deer and bunnies.20140425-172730.jpg

Hung the new hammock too. There are two trees in the backyard that are perfectly spaced for a hammock, it’s like they were asking for it. hammock deck

Even managed to squeeze a mini hike into the weekend. There’s miles and miles of empty forrest behind the house. I love that I can hike out of my back yard for hours and never see anyone.
20140425-173859.jpg

Hopefully within the next few weeks all the trees will have popped and everything will be green again. I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to get my feet in the creek without losing them to frostbite.  Spring is here goddammit even if it’s still 40 degrees out.

#klubkingston

So, I’ve realized I’m really shitty at blogging consistently. I’ve been meaning to make this post for about 2 months now and haven’t taken the 5 min it takes to actually sit down and write this. 

Here’s a little story:

Once upon a time, just over a year ago, in a crowded restaurant in Koreatown a group of friends was getting slightly drunk out of a watermelon and filling up on pork-stuffed-squid. While going around and everyone updating the group on what’s new in their lives, I showed the group a picture of a house (the first one from this post) I had gone to see the previous weekend. It was my 2nd trip into my house hunting and I was considering making my first offer on a house. As I showed everyone the pictures of the house, the property, the creek in the back yard, I was telling everyone how cheap real estate was upstate, and how for basically the cost of a parking space in the city, you can own your own mini-farm just 2 hours from the city. Apparently this, unknowingly got some gears turning. 

Jumping forward a year, everyone that was at that delicious korean dinner that night, now owns a house in Kingston.

Image

Derek & Lou were the first ones to actually buy and close on a house, and they got this handsome bastard (matching truck not included). It’s a gorgeous, restored historic house, in a great little neighborhood. They were the ones who first landed in Kingston, while I was still searching for a huge plot of land in Sullivan county. Plus, they were the ones who found our amazing real estate agent Darlene, who was like a god-send, and has sold every one of us a house… on our first time out with her… like some kind of Lifetime Movie Network miracle worker. 

ImageSara and Mark had been looking at Kingston for a while, and between Derek and Lou buying a place in Kingston, Sara and Mark looking there and me losing out on 4 places in Sullivan County, I figured it was worth checking out the area. I ended up finding my place before Sara and Mark officially went out looking. They ended up with this photogenic place with a big corner lot in a neighborhood. The place has a few projects and a little remodeling to be done, which is exactly what they were looking for. 

Image

Then there’s my house (keep in mind this is a “before” pic) which is surrounded by woods with a creek in the backyard. It’s the smallest house of the 3 and was definitely a project. I didn’t get my huge piece of land, but found the perfect compromise where I have no neighbors and nothing but woods around me, even if I don’t technically own those woods. In the end, everyone got just what they were individually looking for.

So between the three house holds, we’ve founded #klubkingston which has turned into many boozy dinners and cocktail parties, antiques hunts and tool swapping. It’s crazy what a difference a year can make. And we’re hoping to continue to expand #klubkingston in the future.

 

 

8 Things You Didn’t Know About The Hill House

1. We have no idea when it was built. All papers say the 1960s but the home inspector said it was probably built in the 1940s. I guess a trip to the county clerk’s office is in order. 20140501-144905.jpg

2. It was originally a brick house. The house was sided with wood at some point. The garage on the other hand, is the opposite – a wooden structure that was covered in brick and made to look like a carriage house. Confused now?20140501-145148.jpg

3. It backs up to this creek. ‘Nuff said.20140501-145338.jpg

4. It once used to be part of St. Ann’s Church.  With the house serving as the rectory (we think). Dilapidated outbuildings dot the property, including an old chicken coop, and cellar built into the hill that used to hold the sacramental wine for the church. Super creepy.20140501-181249.jpg

5. The Master bedroom and kitchen are additions These two rooms were actually porches and turned into the rooms they were today probably around the same time the exterior brick was covered in wood (to match the additions). We think that the original kitchen was either in the small nook ( where there was once a wood stove) or in the area that now serves as the laundry room. Confused again?20140501-182108.jpg

6. It has these beautiful floors. I mean why on earth would someone cover these floors with deep pile baby blue wall to wall carpeting? That’s what we had to rip up. Which means we had to touch it. Yuck. 20140501-182310.jpg

7. The interior windows and doorways are trimmed in Red Oak. Can you say ka-ching?20140501-182120.jpg

8. There’s blue stone everywhere along the property.
The area surrounding the Sawkill Creek was known for its blue stone quarries back in the day. Looking forward to reclaiming as much of the stone as we can for outdoor borders, walkways and raised beds and maybe even a wall – or 6.20140501-182322.jpg

 

My Favorite Design Finds for The Hill House

This vintage cabinet was just $50 from the local Salvation Army in Kingston. Got it home somehow thanks to some borrowed ties (also from said Salvation Army) that we used to secure the trunk of the car with.

20140209-155626.jpg

I’ve come across some really cool weekend house appopriate art at local antique dealers as well as eBay. These wooden framed prints from Hudson, N.Y. were $35 each and are perfect for the kitchen/dining area.

20140209-155403.jpg

Having a bunch of artist friends doesn’t hurt either. Cost for these? Priceless, of course.

20140209-155341.jpg

Came across these amazing orange pots at Lowes – they were marked down to $2 on clearance. And they’re orange. Sold.
20140209-155420.jpg

Ikea has been our salvation – providing inexpensive and easy to incorporate pieces that work well with decor of The Hill House. This Nesna bedside table is just $14.95. And I may have bought 2-3 “just to have them.”
20140209-155446.jpg

Ah, Craigslist. This antique chest of drawers cost us $120 – and the guy we bought it from even wound up delivering it to us since the thing was too damn big to fit in a Camry. Tarva bed frame from Ikea was $129.
20140209-155459.jpg

This Vittsjo shelving unit from Ikea set us back $40. The units come in a variety of sizes.
20140209-155513.jpg

Another Salvation Army treasure (although it has been deemed as a questionable purchase in an earlier post) – this rocking chair cost us $25. We’ve been lucky to get there on days where furniture is slashed 50% off and hasn’t been totally picked through. Oh,  for all of you Upstaters –  the Kingston location rules!
20140209-155526.jpg

This Noguchi coffee table knockoff was tucked away in a corner of an antiques store in Saugerties, N.Y. Of course I snagged it. And a major deal at just $50. Grabbed the rug (also $50) from a local discount store in Kingston called Ollie’s.
20140209-155646.jpg

This antler-adorned cuckoo clock made its way from Dan’s Brooklyn apartment to Kingston. It’s perfect for above the fire place and I think it cost something like $10 from Urban Outfitters. 20140209-155808.jpg

Anything from Restoration Ware’s Luxe faux fur collection. It’s everywhere at The Hill House – couch pillows, slippers and a super warm (maybe too warm) bedspread. Annnnd, super excited that this will soon be joining our Lux collection!20140209-155942.jpg

Progress and Questionable Decisions

Lots of progress happening at The Hill House. Few project’s are “done” but lots are started and it feels good that the house is getting there. I feel like there will always be 100,000 projects, but chipping away at things feels good and feel like small victories. Basically the way I’m looking at home repair is that anything is better than what was there before. Baby steps.

I replaced the light outside the back door, which is the door we use most often. The new one isn’t exactly what I had in mind for the house, but it was $14 at Wal-Mart and it’s a hug improvement over the light that was there before. This one has a dusk-to-dawn sensor as well, so no more stumbling with a flashlight when I get to the house late on friday nights. The woods are fucking DARK at night. 20131219-211352.jpgThe horrible blue, metallic, floral wall paper is gone in the kitchen. The cabinets were all custom built red oak, which was a bit of a shame to paint over, but with such low ceilings and dark wood, the already tiny kitchen felt like you were cooking in the back of a closet. The upper cabinets will be “Swiss Coffee” by Behr, the same color the walls will be. Having the cabinets and walls above them the same color all the way to the ceiling should help make space feel taller. Lots of other work will be done in the kitchen, I’ll do a full post on that later.
20131219-211241.jpg

This is the other side of the kitchen, where the table will go. Bigger and brighter already.20131219-211309.jpg

You can’t tell, but there’s a toilet under there. This is the small half bath. I thought this would be a good “test drive” for renovating the main bathroom. Last weekend I stripped the wallpaper. It came off easily and in full sheets, but left a rough glue all over the walls. I scrubbed them with hot water and they’re perfect and ready to be painted now.
20131219-211327.jpg

Part 2 of this post is about some of the questionable purchases that have made their way into the house. Some were impulse buys, some were meant to serve an immediate function, but they’ve all left me unsure of if I love these things, or hate them with all my guts.  The first one is this weird old lady rocking chair. I sort of hated it at first, but I think this one is growing on me. It’s the perfect size for the space, and the orange fabric goes well with the living room. Plus it was cheap!

20131219-211641.jpg

I got this painting in the basement of a bookstore in Kingston. It’s huge (36×48) and it was $12, so I figured I’m not losing much if it ends up in the trash. It’s very kitschy, but I’m not sure if it’s in a good way, or a horrible way. The frame is awful, I think I’m going to spray paint it gloss black and see if that takes this painting from something that would be in the lobby of a library to something kitschy-cool. This might end up in the trash, or at least the garage sooner rather than later.
20131219-211657.jpg

This side table is from Ikea. It was supposed to be a plant stand, but for $6, I couldn’t pass them up. I got two of them before I even had the house, knowing I’d need stuff to fill the space. I originally thought it was really cool and medical looking. Now I think I hate it and it looks like something an old person would put by their bed to poop in. For now, at least one of the tables is serving the purpose as a night stand, but I now can’t wait to replace it. I’m sure it’ll stick around and be useful as an actual plant stand, or something. But I’m pretty sure that I think it’s fucking ugly. 20131219-211709.jpg