All posts by Laurie Hardy

Spring Has Officially Arrived

groundhog dayHooray!!!  Morton Hall has decided that spring has sprung!  Kelly and I went out this past weekend to “open up the house” aka turn the water on and see if pipes explode or water starts
shooting out a chimney….neither of those events occurred, so Morton Hall apparently agrees with Punxsutawney Phil and has decided that it was a fairly warm winter and spring is now here.  Tom (also known as plumber extraordinaire) will NOT be getting the call from me this spring about broken pipes; at least not currently!

2015 was a satisfying year at Morton Hall.  We finished all the drywall, plaster, scraping and painting on the “verandah” (aka upper porch) – well, minus the shutters.  I am still working on scraping and WD-40ing them so that that all the little slats actually open and close again and then will repaint them and put them back up.  This is the slowest part of the entire project.

After several unsuccessful attempts to find a tenant for the rental/apartment, I switched gears and Kelly decorated and set up the back end so that we could list it on AirBnB.  I think that is the way to go—we had amazing guests over the eight weeks that it was open and I am looking forward to the new season.  Financially, if I booked two or three weekends or so each month from April to November, I would more than cover what I was charging for rent & utilities over the entire year!  Plus, no more issues with non-paying deadbeat tenants and I shut the house down for the winter (December to April), so I am not constantly worried about any pipes bursting and having to respond immediately because a tenant is living out there and needs water.

20151113_1649282014 was an expensive year because of the actual structural and rebuild work that had to be done to the double-decker porch, so 2015 was more of a “labor of love” year – heavy on the labor!  However, the one splurge we did do last summer was to open the doorway from the middle (brick) section to the patio to increase the “flow” of the house.  The door has always actually been there but was boarded up with several layers of windows and did not have stairs or a stoop of any sort.  In my head, especially after putting in the patio in 2013 (yes, Kelly still gives me the glare about the patio), that back door and the back door from the grand entry have always opened onto the patio area.  LOL…even Kelly agrees that, “it’s always been here!”  With the salvaged screen door and the doors open throughout the house (including the French doors onto the verandah….another improvement that looks as if it was always there, thanks to Denny…and one of my few changes to the structure/exterior) it is amazing how breezy the house is – of course, the house was designed to “chimney” back in the day, but with the windows being so fragile or difficult to open, vandals breaking in doors/windows, we’ve just never had the opportunity to work the natural properties of the house.  The airflow and traffic flow are now amazing!

So plans for this year (2016) are  to have Denny make a few maintenance repairs (shingles etc.), replace the majority of the windows with new, energy-efficient windows that will allow us to open, close and keep bugs and cold air out…woohoo; and hopefully, open up the other rear door onto the patio ( from the grand entry).

20151003_125339We also had yet another tree come down during a storm in 2015, so I will have the tree guys come out, remove all four dead trees and take out the Gingko (I feel terrible taking out such a huge tree, but it is a prolific female and Kelly and I are extremely allergic to the berries that it
drops.)  Am thinking that with the number of huge tree stumps that will be left on the property (stump grinding is separate from tree cutting and removal, apparently), that perhaps we should have our own Groundhog Exam each spring…..

groundhog testKelly and I plan to scrape, paint and stain the front porch; patch, plaster and paint the middle hallway (brick section), install a permanent pantry and possibly a small party bar in that hallway, clean out the front hallway and get it ready for patching and painting and hopefully finish scraping and painting the verandah shutters and reinstall them.  We also will work on moving our “supply closet” from the closet in the game room to the attic room, so that in 2017, we can have a powder room installed.
SAM_4532Last year, with the open door from the middle hallway, we took advantage of the patio.  Guests from the apartment would come out the screened in-porch, walk around to the patio and enter from that door.   Guests also enjoyed the sunsets and lovely breezes from that direction in the afternoons.  We managed to get some awesome patio furniture at one of our auctions and have ordered cushions, so this year, we will have an even more amazing patio space for friends and guests.

20151113_164919It’s funny, sometimes it seems like nothing gets done each year at the hall, but when I look back, I am constantly surprised how much we actually get done with each season and how much closer we are to completion of several long-term projects
and my original hopes and dreams for the property.  I realized when we shut the house last year, that I was actually sad; Morton Hall is such a pleasant place to be these days, that it was hard to walk away for a few months; however, closing of the house allows some welcome down time and time to travel, relax and dream dreams of future projects.
20150925_175247If you have time, please come visit this year and take a peek at the changes and upgrades.  Come sit on the verandah and sip a mint julep (lol….sheesh…take Kelly on one trip to New Orleans and the bourbon-hating girl is now a convert…I think she has purchased three or four muddlers as a subtle hint!) Now that the house is more “in order” there will be a couple of girls’ weekends and a party or two on the schedule.  Hope to you see you soon and happy spring!

How Many Elephants?

Week 3: SAM_1893 So as we are waiting for delivery of the gravel, sand and pavers over the holiday weekend, I was chatting with my friend, Michelle. I was mentally worrying the logistics of deliveries (oh please, let the gravel come first; nope, here comes the first of two paver deliveries and the timbers) when she asked how much gravel was being delivered and I absently responded 26 tons of gravel, 13 tons of sand, etc. Her response which actually got through my crowded brain was “Wow….so 26 elephants worth of gravel!” So when the gravel finally arrived and was dumped in the area….I kept looking at it and thinking, “That doesn’t look like 26 elephants worth of gravel…hmmmm.

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And when the 13 tons of sand was delivered and the 11 tons of pavers, again I thought, “That doesn’t look like that many…..”

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five elephants Throughout last weekend, we all got a kick out of using elephants of measurement and all agreed that although there were huge heaping piles of materials, it didn’t look like that many elephants! A little research after the fact found that the average weight of an adult elephant is between 2-7 tons. Taking the average, let’s say 5. So 5 elephants worth of gravel, 2 elephants worth of sand and 2 elephants worth of pavers.Throughout the last two weekends, while actually raking and spreading gravel and sand, lifting and maneuvering the gas-powered tamper machine, digging the trenches for the timbers and setting the pavers etc., I am now much more inclined to go with the original elephant math!
SAM_1935 Friday, May 23: Delivery of materials and initial spreading of gravel (girls only: Bobby, Kelly & Laurie)
SAM_1942 Saturday: Continuation of gravel spreading, cutting of half pavers, tamping and laying down of yet more ground cloth (Ray, Bobby, Kelly, Laurie and hired helpers: Daniel, Ted and Victor).
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Girls enjoying the fun power tools!
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Stupid tree root from the poison ivy tree which took up at least 2 hours of time trying to dig it out.
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SAM_1976 Sunday: Raking, spreading, tamping and leveling of sand. First few rows of pavers laid (Ray, Bobby, Kelly, Laurie, Tammy and Daniel).
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SAM_2007 Monday: Continued setting of pavers (Ray, Bobby, Kelly & Laurie)
SAM_2011 Week 4:Saturday: Gungho and sure we can finish this. Hard pushing and by 3 p.m. on Sunday, we are 70 pavers short. Almost finished. Sand in the pavers makes it look amazing!!!
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SAM_2021 Week 5:So this weekend, we have the last 70 pavers to put down and there is sand to sweep in and we need to trim up a few pavers and finish backfilling with gravel. Then, Kelly will begin with the magic pixie dust and turn this space into an awesome retreat for morning coffee and sunset cocktails!
tired elephant Overblown project almost finished? Check! I am one tired, happy elephant.


Just a Few Stepping Stones….

“Hey, Ray…..Think you’d be up to putting down a few stepping stones when you are out at the hall in May?”

That is the exact text that I sent to poor Ray (and by extension, his wife, Bobby). He says he is going to frame that text. I think I’m going to have it put on a plaque and dedicate the entire patio to them. And yes, it is ALL MY FAULT. I own it and I will say it again and put it in writing. IT. IS. ALL. MY. FAULT. There, Kelly, feel better?

Start of patio

Kelly had been eyeing the side yard up for the past couple years. She wanted to fence it or put up a large dog run so that we could just open the back door and let the dogs out into a safe enclosure without having to constantly walk them around the property. I kept resisting (fencing costs too much; a dog run might blow over; it would be unattractive etc.) Then this year, we purchased these really cool topiary dividers from an auction (what else is new, right?) and started daydreaming about where to put them. We both eventually came around to “wouldn’t it be cool to use them to make a small secluded outdoor area for us and guests to enjoy the serenity of the sunsets?” Then we considerately thought of Charles, the lawn guy and thought that it would make his job more difficult to get around these things, so maybe if we had a more permanent area such as a small deck or patio and use these as privacy or shade, that would work. Pricing out lumber vs. pavers vs. stepping stones, we determined that a patio was the more cost effective way to go. Just a small patio outside the back door for a couple chairs and maybe a table (about 100 sq. feet). Then I realized that well, that will look silly and so small; we should expand it to the other back door so that we can eventually open both doors and really increase the flow of the house; let’s do this patio not as a square, but more of a rectangle. What’s a little more sand, gravel and a few more stepping stones? (about 250 sq. feet). Then, I think….well, might as well expand it back to a square and cover the entire area from the back of the house to the apartment area. A nice, easy square (800 sq. feet). Ok. That’s good. Let’s stop there.

Patio expansion

But wait, there’s more…..look at that great flow we have from the house, but the porches are being rebuilt this year and wouldn’t it be great if our guests could walk down a couple steps from the front porch right onto the patio and have a little walkway around? That’s just another 220 sq. feet and it makes so much sense! Hmmm….you know, if we just pull that out a little more and expand the entire patio another 6 feet out or so, then it makes so much more sense; for a party, we could use the porches, guests could walk down from the porch or the back front hall door or out the back side door onto the patio and we could have an awesome area for chairs, tables, events etc. So then that extra 6 foot pull out? That added an extra 300 sq. feet which brought us to….yes class? Anyone been following my girl math here? That brings us to 1300 sq. feet, give or take. And that, my friends, is how a little patio turned into, as one FB friend noted, a patio larger than some people’s houses.

Stage 3 of patio start