Tuesday 24 December 2013

Yank's house - Christmas not @yankshouse this year

@ArchieluvsAnnie tweets -I bet xmas at #yankshouse is lovely! :o)

Thanks for the fleeting image this tweet has inspired but I can only dream ArchieluvsAnnie... Will I ever see the Yank's house lit up for Christmas? Ever fire lit, a big Christmas tree in the parlour window and the smell of Christmas baking coming from the basement kitchen. The truth is that the Yank's house sits in the dark and cold yet again this year. 

Ireland is such a different place now compared to when we started this project. There was so much hope back then. Everyone could aspire to having something. I guess the Yank's  house was our something. Ireland was prosperous and we all felt for the first time in our history that we were all entitled to share in this good fortune. But we were wrong. 

Over night it seemed everything changed. For those of us lucky enough to keep our jobs, pay-cuts hit hard. The value of our assets halved while our depth became a burden to pay from shrinking resources. Yank's house was no exception. 

But we have been the lucky ones - we are both still working and still able to meet the repayment on the Yank's house and so not worried it will have to be sold. But that little financial cushion we had during the boom is gone. And while we are so very close to finishing the house we will have to wait till the tide turns in our favour for that final push to completion. 

We had hoped to sell our current home which would have freed up some of our assets to finish the job but after sitting on the market for two years and only achieving three viewings we decided to take it off the market for the time being. These are just the times we have in Ireland at the moment. We will try again in a few years time. 

So for now Christmas in the Yank's house is on hold. But the dream remains and one day it will happen. For now - Christmas goes on. We have nine this year for dinner. Today is Christmas Eve. My favourite day of the year. So I have to end my rambling on and get to work if I am to be ready for tomorrow. Thank you all for following our story over the last few years. We wish you a very happy and holy Christmas and every good wish for 2014

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Yank's House - Doer-upper Part 2

Back in my posting on 3rd August ‘Is it time for a doer-upper", I promised you a follow-up when I would feature some of my favourite urban properties for you to consider. If I ever had to move from the countryside into a town or city my first choice would be the town of Trim in Co Meath. It is such a beautiful spot with the river Boyne snaking it’s way from one historical building to another.

So I am delighted to be able to tell you all about a great doer-upper in my favourite town. Maybe if I win the lottery Pat will let me invest in this one! If the property market weren’t so flat at the moment I would sell everything, including the Yank’s house for a shot at doing this house up. I just love it. Priced at €280,000, I don’t think this house will hang around on the market for too long.

It would be imposable to do a feature on urban doer-uppers without looking at a property in Dublin city. Since the ending of the ‘boom years’ property in the city has become so much more affordable. This offers great opportunities for anyone prepared to take on a project.   I could have picked any number of great houses to highlight but decided to tell you about no 1 Dalymount on North Circular Road.

Good friends of ours live further up this row of houses and their home is so welcoming and has such a great atmosphere that I imagine no 1 has the potential to be a similarly spectacular home.   Also what I love about no 1 is that all the original features are intact, waiting to be restored to their former glory. Beautiful plaster work, fireplaces and original doors, shutters, windows and floors all await the love of a new custodian.


Something very different is St. Bernard’s, Church Roard, Tramore, Co Waterford. 

I love the style of this house and in particular I love the yellow bathroom and this great pink fireplace.

The sad thing about this lovely jem is that I am sure it will be moderenised beond recognition. I cannot imagine that either of these features will survive a revamp and the romantic in me is sad. Priced at €425,000 this house is not cheap but lets hope whoever the new owners will be that they will see and keep many of it’s hidden tresures.  

Monday 2 September 2013

Yank's House - My Patchwork Quilt

This summer I took delivery of a beautiful quilt for the Yank’s House - commissioned from and made by a friend. The house isn’t ready for soft furnishings but when it is this quilt will look right at home.  Therese – the quilter, worked with us in the office for a few months. This gave me an opportunity to see some of her handy work and I was so impressed I asked if she would be interested in making me a quilt. I told Therese I would like it made in reds and blues and in a random pattern so it would resemble a quilt made over time by the woman of the house. Only problem is the woman of the (Yank’s) house cannot stitch to save her life.

If you want to read how Therese got on making my quilt – visit her blog at http://thestitchingkitten.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/yanks-house-quilt/

If you are interested in a short history of quilting this web site might interest you http://members.optusnet.com.au/~kakeand2/page2.html

On this web site the author tells us the tradition of quilt making in Ireland was passed down for the lady in the big house to local women working in service. http://www.antiquequiltdating.com/Early_Irish_Patchwork_Quilts_and_Traditions.html

I am unsure how strong the tradition of quilting was in rural Ireland, back in the day when the Yank built his house. Some of you may know more about this than I do. As children, our father’s old coats were often used in cold weather to give extra warmth. We didn’t have any beautiful handmade quilts on our beds. However quilting has been traced back to ancient Egypt and examples found in tombs of Pharohs.

So it is reasonable to assume the Yank would have had a quilt on his bed – either way this lovely quilt will look amazing.

Thank you so much Therese for making it for me. You are a truly gifted young woman

Saturday 10 August 2013

The Yank's House - Upcycling old furiture

If recycling is taking our rubbish and smashing it up to make something new from it  then upcycling is taking our rubbish and updating it to give it a new lease of life. This is becoming a fashionable thing to do with many great web sites to inspire us. One of my favourites has to be http://www.upside.ie/

I guess I have always been a bit of an upcycler – after all, where possible Pat and I have always done our best to reuse anything we found around the Yank’s House.  We have also been very open to collecting other peoples rubbish e.g. our kitchen cupboards being a prime example  http://ckrestoration.blogspot.ie/2012/11/the-yanks-house-kitchen.html and reworking them to fit our needs.

So as the Yank’s House approaches completion the issue of filling it with home comforts comes to the fore. How best can we furnish the house on a very low budget? This question got me researching the idea of upcycling old furniture.

I decided my first project should be a modest affair. I have had this old chair for many years and even in its broken state I have been reluctant to throw it away. 

With a bit of help from Pat we stripped back this little chair to it bare bones. Then Pat repaired one leg that had become detached over the years.  

I purchased a trial pot size of Autentico, Pure and natural paint in Summer Sky. This set me back 7.50. The instructions say you can use this paint over any other paint or varnish finish without sanding.  So it is very hassle free. I gave my chair a few coats to get a good cover.

I picked up a remnant of fabric in the sales for 3 to cover the seat. I had some foam rescued from a broken armchair for the cushion – upcycling at its best and Pat found a piece of timber in the shed we were able to use. Once this new seat was screwed down onto my  painted chair we were finished.
I will let you judge for yourselves but I am very happy with my newly upcycled bedroom chair and am itching now for a bigger project. 

My chair has cost me a total of 10.50 to update. 

So now is a good time to sort out all the rubbish and see what you have. I also keep an eye on what my friends are throwing away.  You never know what you might find. There are also web sites where people advertise items they no longer what and many will let you just take these items away. 

I am on the lookout now for a dressing table. Maybe I will get one for free somewhere.

You can seal the paintwork with a water based sealer if the item is going to get a lot of use e.g. tables and dressers etc. So why not have a go yourself and let us know at Yank's house how you got on.

Saturday 3 August 2013

Yank's House - Is it time for a doer-upper

Has there ever been a better time to take on a doer-upper I ask? I think not. You have all been following our story now – some of you for almost a year but have you ever considered taking on a similar challenge yourself? Well if you have now might be the time to take the leap.

With this in mind I browsed the Irish property market this week to seek out some of the more interesting prospects for your attention. The choice is so wide – from thatched cottages to old gate lodges, from farm houses to old mills. What every you fancy can be found somewhere around the country as people off load old ruined properties in an attempt to raise a bit of capital in the current slump. 

So could you be the person to turn this disaster into your dream project? Let see what you think of my choices. There is so much to choose that I have concentrated on County Monaghan for this week’s report but if you find this interesting I might follow up with some more areas over the next few weeks. Please let me know what you think. Any way – here are my choices and all for a price of €100,000 or less. That is half what the Yank’s house cost during the boom.

For the very brave among you I have chosen Barton’s Mill in Co Monaghan. If I wasn’t already up to my neck in debt I would be very tempted by this place. The property description tells us the mill is steeped in tradition and is a unique selection of hand cut stone buildings including a private dwelling in need of upgrading all sitting on one acre of land. Unlike the Yank’s house it already boasts oil fires central heating, a fitted kitchen, a bathroom and running water. But it is the pictures that win me over.

What amazing Buildings. Priced at €98,000 I feel you would need deep pockets for this one but wouldn’t it be worth it?

Still in County Monaghan I came across this little gem – a gate lodge sitting on 0.5 acre site. How charming is this?

The property description tells us it sits opposite Rossmore Forest Park. Priced at €100,000 this might be a more manageable project for some. Overall floor area 45.1 Sq Metres or 485 Sq feet.

If you are looking for a farm house this offering might be closer to what we have in the Yank’s House. Again priced at €100,000 it comes with 11 acres of land but the house is a full restoration job.

My last offering this week is a detached stone built house with a very interesting lofted out house. The house requires a total refurbishment/restoration but isn’t that outhouse amazing -maybe even more interesting than the house? Also in the description the agent tells us there is no access to the public road and this would have to be installed. So for anyone looking for seclusion this might be the answer.  

So this is what can be found in County Monaghan on a budget of €100,000. Let me know what you think of these offerings. Next week I might look at urban properties in our towns and cities for those who don’t want to live in the middle of nowhere. As always – feedback welcome.

Monday 29 July 2013

The Yank's House - Where to next

Where to from here? The current property market in Ireland would suggest we are throwing good money after bad spending it on the Yank’s House. After all it is unlikely that the house will ever be worth what we have already spent on it – not counting all the free labour. So should we cut our losses and stop? NO! I hear you all cry but come on friend – how much longer can we afford to pump money and time into this project? And what is the future for the Irish property market and the Yank's House? 

The media sends out such mixed message – Dan O’Brien wrote an article in the Irish Times in June titled ‘Irish property market has hit bottom – probably’ http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/ireland/irish-property-market-has-hit-bottom-probably-1.1427997

Ah come on Dan! Talk about not wanting to commit one way or another. He ends his article property prices have probably bottomed out. I am no economist – but I could make a statement like this. After all either way I cannot be wrong. 

But then I look at the Yank’s House and I say to myself – this was never about  money. Pat and I never saw it as an investment. We wanted to save this old house for the future. Now several years on maybe we were not the right people to have taken on this project. After all we have limited means and are not getting any younger. So the question remains – where to next?

It is a pity that these old houses, often a faded memory on our landscapes are not valued more. And by this I don’t mean their economic value. These old buildings are part of our heritage and our local history. What sort of place will this land be if we let them all fall and we forget the people who built them? See even still I am an old romantic.

For now the Yank’s house will have to sit and wait. Maybe next year will see Pat and I rejuvenated with a new rush of energy. Maybe we will win the Lotto and have lots of money to throw at the house or maybe we will find a new custodian to take over from us. For now the Yank's House is safe and the work we have completed insures it survives into the future. 

Maybe the answer is to find a job for the Yank's House - so it can contribute to it's own survival. Pat and I are open to suggestions.  Whatever happens  -  I will keep you posted.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Yank's House - Stone picking

Bending to pick up a stone and dropping it in the wheelbarrow brings back a flood of childhood memories. Growing up on a small farm in Co Meath we often had to help out with chores. I hated any job that required a stooped back. So dropping potato seed on beds of cow dung or wading through the muck picking freshly dug potatoes were not my favourite jobs. I wasn’t very fond of weeding the vegetable patch either or picking sticks for the fire. Funny that, cause now I like to bring back an arm-full of stick from a country walk – my mother’s daughter!

So when I decided to start tidying up the many stones around the Yank’s house I was reminded of my stone picking days as a child. My father would till a patch of ground to grow barley to feed the animals, potatoes to feed his children and turnips for both of us - does anyone mangle turnips any more I wonder. The crop would be rotated for a few years then the land was put back into grass and a new place was selected for tilling.

Once the new grass grew it was important to remove any stones that the tilling had raised to the surface. If left behind these might break the mowing machine at a later stage. Armed with a bucket we would walk in straight lines over and back across the field filling our buckets with stones. I hated it. And yet now I find myself at the Yank’s house picking much bigger stones.

If there is one thing we are not short of at the yank’s house it is stones. They are everywhere. Whether they have fallen off old walls or we dug them up as part of the work.

One of my far off dreams for the Yank’s house is to use these stones to repair some of the old walls.  To create outdoor rooms, with gravel floors and places to sit. This will preserve the footprint of the yard - it’s history and the story of how it evolved to be as it is today. But in the meantime I have a lot of stone picking to do.