Thursday, December 31, 2009

Before and After - Part 2

In this, the second installment of before and after photos, I'll begin with the barn. The south end of the barn had steel siding installed when I purchased the farm but it had no door. Sadly, the north end had no door either and this had the potential for disastrous results considering the high winds which frequent the area. After all, I didn't name it Windswept Farm for nothing. This is the south end of the barn as I purchased it and after Rick built a new, heavy duty sliding barn door:

The north end of the barn had no steel siding. I couldn't afford to fix that, but I could have Rick build another sliding barn door. What a difference!:

The master bedroom occupies the entire south end of the second floor of the house. It was originally purple in color, with doors which didn't quite work and closet walls with holes that let in the cold winds. Rick fixed the plaster, the wiring, the lighting, the doors and the painting. Now it's a comfortable, attractive room:

And the other end of the master bedroom which has two large walk-in closets, now with operational doors:

The second floor bathroom was completely nonfunctional and was, in fact, so bad that the water to it had been completely shut off. Furthermore, the plaster was so bad that the cold winds blew right through the walls. Rick gutted it, insulated it, plastered it and installed a new sink and toilet. He kept the old bathtub but put up ceramic tile to make it both attractive and functional:

My least favorite part of the house was what I called "The Railing Of Death." This railing at the top of the stairs was about 24" high, just right to fall over to one's death at the bottom of the stairwell. The back wall (to the left of the before photo) had holes big enough for a hedgehog to walk through. Those flimsy plywood shelves you see at the top of the before photo were so huge they almost pushed one over the railing when trying to walk past them. Rick suggested repairing the railing because it was historic, but I insisted it be removed. They were a danger. Rick also disassembled the flimsy shelves and plastered the walls. He found live wires which led to nowhere behind some walls and rewired everything. He shimmed and leveled the wide old floor boards and painted everything. The results were stunning:

Well, that's a two day tour of the before and after photos. The farm house is now rented to a nice, clean couple who pay the rent (early, in cash), the fuel oil and electricity. I can drive up there whenever the spirit moves and stay in my apartment. The barn is almost ready for cattle. Now I'm going to rest a bit.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Before and After - Part 1

I've had several requests for before and after photos of the improvements to the farm. Alas, I didn't take any photos of the worst places in the house because, I think, I only wanted people to have a good impression of my purchase. But I dug through my old photos and managed to find these which will give you an idea of some of the improvements. I'll divide them into two posts.

Let's start with the upstairs of the farm house, though no one had used it in decades. The bathroom was totally nonfunctional and the widow who owned the place simply put her bed in the living room and stayed downstairs.

There are three bedrooms upstairs and this is the northeast room. It had walls of crumbling plaster covered with peeling wallpaper. There was a tiny wooden closet built in one corner. It had a ceiling light of the old pull-chain variety. Then Rick began working on it. Now it has smooth plaster walls, wall switches, no closet interfering with the door and a light/ceiling fan. He also squared up the window frames and modernized the wiring:

The other small bedroom in the northwest corner, was in even worse shape. Today it is bright and cheery. The ratty old carpeting was removed and the wide old planks leveled, anchored, stabilized and painted. As in the previous room, the wiring, lighting, plaster and window frame were modernized:

If you've followed this blog for a while, you already know about the rough addition on the rear of the farm house. When I bought it, it had only the basic framing, missing windows and no access to the south side of the house where the driveway is located. Today, the main house is rented to the best tenants in the world and the the addition on the back of the house is an apartment where I can stay whenever I drive up for a visit:

The farm house kitchen was a rather pleasant place from the beginning, though it was deteriorating in many ways. Though we repainted it, we kept the basic color scheme. In this first photo, the cabinets and door have already been rebuilt and repainted but you can see the old island, floor and sink. Rick installed a new sink, new floor tiles, and a ceramic tile counter top:

When I purchased the place, the kitchen wall was a confusing array of dysfunctional cupboards and a window looking into the addition on the back. Rick moved the stove, rebuilt the cabinets, rewired the electrical outlets and put in more lighting:

The house already had a new steel roof and insulated windows when I bought it. But the old shingled exterior was in very poor shape and had broken and missing tiles in places. I found a local man who installed vinyl siding and he included many extras in the job like repainting trim and boxing in the eaves in the rear. The big maple in front of the house and also two of them to the left of the house have now been removed as they would have been a distinct threat in the event of an ice or wind storm:

I didn't think I'd be able to do anything much to the old barn, but Rick rebuilt all 32 of the windows, more than half of them from scratch. He also reattached the giant old beam in the hayloft, which stabilized the structure:

I'll post more before and after photos tomorrow.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Railroad Town In Winter

On a recent frigid but snowless day I headed out to do my weekly shopping. But this time I had a camera with me. I often say that I live in Albany, but I actually live in Rensselaer, directly across the Hudson River from downtown Albany. Rensselaer is an old and historic city as well as the home of the Albany area Amtrak station.

So as I headed toward Wal-Mart, I stopped to snap this photo of the Rensselaer rail yard, where repairs are made. It's right on the shore of the Hudson River and in this shot you can see downtown Albany across the river:

The Albany skyline is visible from many places in Rensselaer but not often elsewhere because both cities lie so low in the river valley. Here's another view across the tracks and across the river to downtown Albany:

On the bridge crossing the railroad tracks (and from several other places in the area), one gets a good view of the Blackheads, three magnificent peaks in the Catskills. If you've followed this blog for a while, you've seen these mountains up close and personal when I hiked in the Catskills:

The new Rensselaer Amtrak Station. Albany residents come here to travel to New York City:

The towers of Albany rise up over the river as I drive through Rensselaer:

A flock of crows search for food just south of the Amtrak Station:

A closer view of the train station which also houses the Rensselaer Post Office:

An Amtrak maintenance building with the Albany skyline in the background:

I drive this route on my way home from work every day. As I go down this hill, the Hudson River and the Albany skyline are directly ahead of me:

Almost to the bottom of the hill, the river is now clearly visible:

And I drive right down to the river, say hello to a Canada Goose and view the city of Albany:

Across the river north of downtown Albany is this building with a giant dog on its roof. It's Nipper, the RCA dog, and a beloved Albany monument:

Here's a closer view of Nipper which I took another time:

And this old stone house is reputed to be one of the oldest in Rensselaer, formerly known as Bath-On-Hudson. Both the city and this house in particular are rumored to once have been busy stops on the Underground Railroad:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ah, My Little Porkopotamus

This is the story of Wren, my little sweet potato (so called for both her color and general shape). Here she is snoozing on my floor near Fergus and Seamus:

A real pair of personality-pooches. Winky is the little crab and Wren is sweet yet so fat she can't maneuver the stairs:

My little dog, Wren, is a rescue from my days volunteering at our local animal shelter. I'd taken in many foster dogs and was especially fond of the small and the old ones. One day a friend told me I should go over to the intake building right away to take a look at a chubby little Chihuahua mix which had come in. Before I got there, however, the Shelter vet (we secretly called him "Dr. Death") arrived with little Wren on a leash. She was tubby and her owner had died. They feared she might have Cushings Disease though her tests had proved inconclusive. So they were bringing her in to put her down right away. I met little Wren on the way to her death and rescued her on the spot.

She's been both healthy and happy, a delightful little pooch and is living a good life. I've had her for perhaps 4 years now. But she is fat and needs help going both up and down stairs - a LOT of help. She stays with Winky in my bedroom for most of the day and the two of them have become buddies.

My friend Rick saw me helping her down the stairs one day and called her my little "porkopotamus." It was the perfect appellation and so it stuck. In this photo, both Wren and Winky are poised at the top of the stairs:

When Wren goes up the stairs, I cradle her butt in one hand and act as a chair lift. Her little legs move, but I am largely moving her up the stairs. When she descends the stairs, I support her torso and once again, her legs move but I am essentially responsible for keeping her from rolling down the stairs like a potato. In this photo, she's stopped midway for a break:

Wren has gone hiking a few times with the other dogs but it became too difficult for her. And she's aging rapidly. But her life is happy and I thought it was time for me to post a tribute to my beloved little porkopotamus. Here she is descending the stairs. I'd normally have both hands on her, but had to use one to hold the camera:

So here's to all the sweet, loving and lovable dogs and cats who are looking for homes and to the people who work so hard to rescue them. Ah, my little porkopotamus:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

And Yet Another Christmas Concert

In addition to the Holiday Cabaret about which I've posted for the last several days, I participated in the Albany Gay Men's Chorus first Christmas concert. It's a relatively new group and more formal than my other chorus. Taking concert photos is always tricky as the low light level requires a slow shutter speed which means that any movement by the chorus or photographer results in a blurry result. But here's the best pictures of the lot. The first is the whole chorus (still small as it's new) with the director/pianist and violinist:

And for certain songs, we were accompanied by pipe organ:

Some of the lower voices:

And some of the higher voices:

The performance was at the College Of St. Rose:

Our violinist moving so fast as to blur the photo:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Music - Part 3

This is Christmas day and I wish you a wonderful and happy experience of it, whatever your beliefs and life circumstances. As for me, I'll be traveling up to the farm as I haven't seen it since Thanksgiving weekend.

But for today, some more holiday music from our Holiday Cabaret. The first song is Joel, Derek and me singing "Santa Daddy," a comedy song with lyrics which are just a bit racy. We came out dressed in bath robes and left a glass of milk and plate of cookies for Santa. Then we began singing:

And of course "My Favorite Things" by Robin and friends was a comedy hit:

And last but certainly not least, our own "Freida Munchon" sings "Blue Christmas:"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Music - Part 2

Since it's Christmas Eve and I have some more concert videos, I'll post a few of them. The first is of Suzi and me singing "Please Come Home For Christmas." We had some amplification problems, but you can get the idea - and hey, it's of me so I need to post it:

The second is of the chorus singing "Variations on Fa La La." I bet you can guess what the lyrics are about:

And finally, Joy sings "Yedid Nefesh" in Hebrew preceded by a translation of the lyrics. The first time I heard this song I got all choked up:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Music - Part 1

Yesterday's post showed some still photos from the Holiday Cabaret of Capital Pride Singers but I've managed to get my hands on a few videos from our performances. Here's three holiday songs for you:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Holiday Cabaret

I performed with one of my choruses, Capital Pride Singers, in two performances of a holiday cabaret. We sang at RPI in Troy on Saturday night and at a church in Saratoga on Sunday night. There were only 5 full chorus numbers and the rest of the cabaret consisted on small ensembles which people had prepared. Oh, the creativity which goes into these performances!

In case you weren't able to be there, I'll post a few scenes from Sunday's cabaret. Here, Freida Munchon belts out a stellar performance of "Blue Christmas:"

And the whole chorus joining voices:

Suzi and I sing a jazzy version of "Please Come Home For Christmas:"

Donny and Mike. Such talent, such talent:

Having left out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa, Joel, Derek and I sing a trio called "Santa Daddy." It was a bit racy:

And included this strip-down by Derek which brought thunderous applause:

Kelley croons a serious ballad:

And Steve struts his stuff, belting a Broadway holiday tune:

Lori is fantastic at singing jazz numbers:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Going Home, Traveling Through The Keane Valley

The dogs and I were driving home from our trip to the farm. We'd stopped at a snowy Lake Placid cemetery and shot some pictures of the high peaks from the road which leads to the high peaks camp. It was time to finish the journey and get home. So I took one last photo of the town of Lake Placid with its Olympic Ski Jump towering above it, got back into my car and headed southward:

But I only got as far as the Keane Valley when the sun began to emerge over the snowy mountaintops and I just had to stop to take another photo. There was no snow on the ground down in the valley but the more northerly mountains were white and still shrouded in clouds:

These peaks in the distance are ornamented with both snow cover and newly emerging morning sunlight:

And facing toward the south, I saw this magnificent scene:

This was in late November and the smaller, more southerly mountains were not yet snow covered:

But the higher peaks just a few miles to the north were already experiencing winter. This was my last photo. It was time to get back into my car and finish the journey home: