American System-Built Home, cleaning, history, setting up home

Looking Back: 5 Things We Learned Over the Weekend


Looking Back: 5 Things We Learned Over the Weekend

We spent most of our weekend doing two things: cleaning up the yard and exploring the contents of the garage. In doing so, we not only learned what it takes to maintain our big yard, we also turned up some new discoveries for the house. I’ve gathered up five things we learned this weekend: two are practical tips that came up when we were raking leaves and the other three are fun finds related to the house and its history.

Our Honda Element prepped for collecting leaves

1. You can fit a lot of leaves in the back of a Honda Element. When all of the snow finally melted a couple of weeks ago, we discovered just how many leaves those big trees in our yard produce. The house sat empty from early summer until we closed on it in late fall so the yard has been completely neglected. By the time we moved in in November the yard was already covered in a layer of snow. And then it snowed and snowed and snowed some more, essentially putting the yard out of sight and out of mind. Now that we can see the yard, we’ve started taking on the monumental task of cleaning up all the leaves. Up until this weekend, our method had been to collect big piles of leaves, scoop them onto a giant tarp, drag said tarp to the driveway and smoosh it into the back of our Element so that we can take them to the town’s compost heap. It wasn’t until my fifth effort collecting leaves (yes, there are that many leaves in our yard!) that I discovered an even easier method. With the back seats removed, I spread a tarp out in the back of the Element and then filled it with leaves. It was not only easier to load the leaves into the vehicle, it was easier to unload when I got to the compost heap.

IKEA bags are perfecting for collecting yard waste

2. IKEA bags are perfect for collecting yard waste. Every time I go to IKEA, I forgot to take along the big blue bags that they sell at the check out lane. Over the past few visits to the Swedish retailer, I’ve collected a half a dozen bags, which I keep spread out in closets and the trunks of our cars. I’m happy to report that I finally made use of every single one of those blue bags! It turns out that they’re absolutely ideal of collecting leaves and other yard waste. The bags are basically made out of the same material as our tarps and they’re quite roomy so they fit big loads of leaves. I stuffed the bags full of leaves and other yard waste and then carried them to the driveway and dumped the contents into the tarp-lined back of the Element. Hooray for making use of all those bags!

Attic space above the garage in our American System-Built home

3. There’s an attic above our garage! Standing in the garage after a long day of raking leaves, The Mister pointed up to a big opening in the ceiling of the garage and said, “What do you think is up there?” Neither of us had noticed this opening before. We didn’t even know there was an attic in the garage! We brought a ladder up from the basement and climbed up to investigate. There’s mostly just some lumber and roofing materials in this attic but we also found a few drawers (probably from a built-in that was ripped out at some point) and a few window screens. I’ll have more to report on those window screens later.

small swinging doors for the dining room of our American System-Built home

4. There are swinging doors for our dining room. The garage held another surprise for us this weekend. Stashed above the rafters and covered in dust and bird nests are a few old doors. We spied these two glass paneled swinging doors on our first walk through of the house but this was our first chance to finally pull them down for closer inspection. It was a challenge to get the heavy doors down from the rafters but it was totally worth it. After a thorough cleaning we were delighted to find that they’re in great shape. The hardware is intact and the wood and glass and in great condition. Hopefully I’ll have a post about installing the doors soon!

the original kitchen cabinets for our Frank Lloyd Wright designed American System-Built home

5. Some of the original kitchen cabinetry is sitting in the garage. Tucked away on one side of the garage sits the original kitchen cabinets from our house. As you can see, they’re in pretty bad shape but I think they can be revived. It will mean rebuilding the drawers and refinishing the doors and frames, but if we can get these cabinets re-installed in the kitchen, we would be tickled pink! I’ll have more on our plan for these cabinets and how we’ll need to reconfigure the kitchen to make them fit in a later post. For now, I just wanted to share this exciting news. For a historic house with few remaining built-in features, these cabinets feel like a gift from the past.

— J. Blandings

Images: Mr. and Mr. Blandings

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