What Lies Beneath

As with any old house, changes were made throughout the years, not all of which make much sense to modern eyes. For example, the bricked up fireplace on the second story.

By family decree, the second story is mostly going to be my territory, or really my birds’ territory. My two cockatiels, Rory and Pemberley, tend to do a lot of chewing…of everything. Walls, furniture, paper, hair, cloth, yarn, plants.

Do not be fooled by their adorableness. They are colorful harbingers of chaos. They acknowledge no boundaries and have no respect for the rule of law.

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See what I mean?

My other bird, a common mynah named Loki, is extremely territorial and falls into bouts of wanting to peck my mom’s eyes out to the point where she has to go around with a rake to scare him off during mating season.

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Seen here with backing vocals.

It’s understandable, therefore, for my mother to have banished the birds from her part of the house. It’s not easy to make dinner while holding a bird off with a rake and trying to keep the other two from dangling like trapeze artists from the light fixtures.

These winged demons that I love to perdition have never known birdcages and are fully flighted, which is why I fought so hard for the four ooms and hallway that is now officially my part of the house. Right now, this is one of the areas that need the most work.

There is substantial water damage on the ceilings and the floors need to be evened out in the rooms. Including the only one in the entire house that has a fireplace. The one that the previous owners had bricked up.

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This room will be my library. The stone floors will be reinstalled once the floor is evened out and there is no longer a dip in the middle. This room will hold my antique armchair and will do its best to channel 221B Baker Street’s sitting room. It’s rough now, so use your imagination, okay?

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That’s not a face in the fireplace, right? Right!?

We’ve even tested the flue and it doesn’t fill the room with smoke, so yay! Now, to get a sense of the way this room will look months (years?) from now, you need to picture all of that plaster off, even from the ceiling’s beams, and imagine the masonry below in every room.

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It’s a mixture of brick, stone, and wood, mismatched and uneven, and I love it. Downstairs, the plaster will remain, but up here, by god it’s going to look like the 1800s. And the bonus is that I won’t have to worry about the cockatiels eating the plaster right off the walls. Win-win.

Said that, we do have to remove some plaster downstairs, as well. There are patches of humidity that have made it buckle and crack. A lot of that humidity comes from the mill itself, parts of which are under the house and which have some broken windows. We’ve begun taking the worst of the wet plaster off in the kitchen.

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Which led us to this find, buried under bricks and plaster.

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First thought, fireplace, right? Yes,  the inside is black from use but it has no chimney or opening of any kind, which led to a frantic search through Google on my part to see what it was used for.

It’s a bread oven. Lit wood and coal is placed inside, the oven is closed up so that the fire can burn out on its own while still heating the bricks, and then, when there are only embers left, you can slide in bread dough, a pizza, or even a dutch-oven cake. We’ve not found whatever the first owners used to use to seal the oven up, which will mean having to craft one ourselves. It is not exactly a standard fit, though. Whoever made the oven did not heed such mundane things as measurements or symmetry, which will make it all a, uh, well, a challenge.

Another discovery my parents made while moving some of the last pieces of furniture from the room at the far end of the house was a rustic closet area.

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There were two rat skeletons inside it and a suitcase full of vintage clothes. Mostly stained, alas. These shelves were common in country homes in Victorian times because closets were just not in fashion. During this time period, homes were taxed by the room and any built structure in the home that had a door was considered a room, no matter how small. Crafty Victorians chose to create shelve spaces like this, usually hidden with a curtain, or they opted for wardrobes, all to be able to lower their taxes.

This house, however, DOES have an actual closet, upstairs, in my area of the house.

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A designated shoe closet. Yes, I have lots of shoes, and yes, they deserve their own closet. The rest of the bedrooms will have wardrobes and dressers, of which there are many that were left behind.

The one other discovery we made, the very first one on our very first visit to the house, was the cellar door in the kitchen. It was hidden under a kind of rubber mat, right against the far wall. A nudge up and…

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That door will remain in place, though it will be repaired so that there is no danger of anyone disappearing in a very cartoonish, very painful manner all of a sudden.

Which leaves only one mystery (that we know of) that the house is still clutching to its bricked breast: the attic door.

There is an attic. One of the men who will be working on fixing the leaking roof has been up there, but he had to climb up through the outside and slip in through one of the two windows it has.

He couldn’t find the door. We couldn’t find the door. But the door is there, somewhere on the second floor, hiding under plaster.

I might have to deploy the cockatiels, after all.

 

 

 

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