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Title: If You're Going to Live in the Country
Author: Ormsbee, Thomas H. (Thomas Hamilton), 1890-1969, Ormsbee, Renee Richmond Huntley, 1887-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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IF YOU'RE GOING
TO LIVE IN
THE COUNTRY

[Illustration: A RIVERSIDE HOME RECONSTRUCTED FROM THE RUINS OF AN OLD
MILL

_Photo by Samuel H. Gottscho_   _Robertson Ward, architect_]



IF YOU'RE GOING
TO LIVE IN
THE COUNTRY

BY THOMAS H. ORMSBEE
AND RICHMOND HUNTLEY

[Illustration]

DECORATIONS BY FRANK LIEBERMAN

[Illustration]

THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY
PUBLISHERS   NEW YORK



COPYRIGHT, 1937

BY THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any
    form except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review
    to be printed in a magazine or newspaper.

MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BY THE VAIL-BALLOU PRESS, INC., BINGHAMTON, N. Y.



To
CARROLL
and
THERESE
NICHOLS



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


No book that covers so many phases of human relationships could be
compiled without taking advice from those who are specialists. When we
have wanted to know facts, we have freely turned to others whose
detailed knowledge represented long experience. For this assistance we
are particularly indebted to: M. Shaler Allen, Bruce Millar, Mrs.
Herbert Q. Brown, and George S. Platts; also, to _House & Garden_, in
which parts of this book appeared serially; and to Miss Eleanor V.
Searing for many hours spent reading manuscript.

New Canaan, Conn.
   April 1937



CONTENTS


                                             PAGE

INTRODUCTION                                  xi

CHAPTER

   I. WHY LIVE IN THE COUNTRY                  3

  II. SELECTING THE LOCATION                  19

 III. SHOPPING FOR PROPERTY                   35

  IV. CALL IN AN ARCHITECT                    57

   V. BUILDING VERSUS REMODELING              73

  VI. LOOKING AN OLD HOUSE IN THE MOUTH       91

 VII. NEW SITES FOR OLD HOUSES               105

VIII. THE SMOKE GOES UP THE CHIMNEY          121

  IX. THE QUESTION OF WATER SUPPLY           139

   X. SEWAGE SAFETY                          153

  XI. DECORATIONS AND FURNISHINGS            165

 XII. THE FACTORY PART OF THE HOUSE          179

XIII. PETS AND LIVESTOCK                     191

 XIV. TIGHTENING FOR WINTER                  203

  XV. KEEPING HOME FIRES IN THEIR PLACE      215

 XVI. WHEN THINGS GO WRONG                   227

XVII. WORKING WITH NATURE                    243



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


A riverside home reconstructed from the ruins of an
  old mill                                              _Frontispiece_
_Robertson Ward, architect. Photo by Gottscho_

                                                          FACING PAGE

The Ogden house, Fairfield, Conn. Built before 1705,
it has been restored to preserve the original details          12
 _Miss Mary Allis_

An old farmhouse in the rough                                  36
 _Photo by John Runyon_

A really Early American interior. The great fireplace
of the Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Mass.                             60
 _Henry Ford_

Once half a house and a hen roost                              76
 _Photo by Whitney_

What can be done with a barn                                   76
 _Robertson Ward, architect. Photo by Gottscho_

As they built a chimney in the 18th Century                   118
 _Photo by John Runyon_

A place for summer and week-ends                              148
 _Robertson Ward, architect. Photo by La Roche_

True 18th Century simplicity. Now the authors' dining room    170
 _Photo by John Runyon_

Entirely new, but with all the charm of an old house          184
_Robertson Ward, architect. Photo by Gottscho_

Snow has dignity, but is the house snug and warm?             206
_Photo by Gottscho_

An imposing country home of classic dignity                   220
_Robertson Ward, architect. Photo by Gottscho_

Skillful planting of trees, shrubs, and flowers make the
setting                                                       244
_Robertson Ward, architect. Photo by Gottscho_

[Illustration]



INTRODUCTION


There is a beginning with everything. So far as this book is
concerned, annual driving trips through Central Vermont are
responsible. They were great events, planned months in advance. With a
three-seated carriage and a stocky span good for thirty miles a day
and only spirited if they met one of those new contraptions aglitter
with polished brass gadgets, that fed on gasoline instead of honest
cracked corn and oats, we took to the road. A newspaper man,
vacation-free from Broadway first nights and operas sung by Melba,
Sembrich, and the Brothers de Reszke, was showing his city-bred
children his native hills and introducing them to the beauties of a
world alien to asphalt pavements and brownstone fronts.

It was leisurely travel. When the road was unusually steep, to spare
the horses, we walked. If Mother's eagle eye spotted a four-leaf
clover, we stopped and picked it. If a bend in the road brought a
pleasing prospect into view, the horses could be certain of ten
minutes for cropping roadside grass. Most of all, no farmhouse
nestling beneath wide-spread maples or elms went without careful
consideration of Father's constant daydream, a home in the country.

These driving trips often included overnight stops with relatives
living in villages undisturbed by the screech and thunder of freight
and way trains, or with others living on picturesque old farms.
Afterward there was always lively conversation concerning the
possibilities of Cousin This or That's home as a country place. This
reached fever heat after visits to Great Aunt Laura who lived in a
roomy old house painted white with green blinds in a town bordering on
Lake Champlain. A pair of horse-chestnut trees flanked the walk to the
front door,--a portal unopened save for weddings, funerals, and the
minister's yearly call.

From here could be seen the sweep of the main range of the Green
Mountains. The kitchen doorway afforded a view of Mount Marcy and the
Adirondacks never to be forgotten. It was the ancestral home with all
the proper attributes, horse barn, woodshed, tool houses, and a large
hay barn. Father's dream for forty years was to recapture it and
settle down to the cultivation of rustic essays instead of its
unyielding clay soil. However, he was first and last a newspaper man
and his practical side told him that Shoreham was too far from
Broadway. So it remained a dream.

His city-born and bred son inherited the insidious idea. Four years in
a country college augmented it and, as time went on, the rumble of
trucks and blare of neighboring radios turned a formerly quiet street
on Brooklyn Heights into a bedlam and brought matters to a head. Great
Aunt Laura's place was still too far away but explorers returning from
ventures into the far reaches of Westchester County, and western
Connecticut, had brought back tales of pleasantly isolated farmhouses
with rolling acres well dotted with trees and stone fences. Here,
thanks to the automobile and commuting trains, was the solution. A
country place near enough to the city, so that the owner could have
his cake and eat it, too.

After some months of searching and several wild goose chases, a modest
little place was found. The original plan was to live there just a few
weeks in the summer, possibly from June into September, but the period
stretched a bit each year. Now it is the year around. We are but one
of many families that have traded the noise and congestion of city
life for the quiet and isolation of the open country. Nor do all such
cling to the commuting fringe of the larger cities. A good proportion
have their country homes some hours' distant, and the city is only
visited at infrequent intervals.

Wherever his country place is located, however, there are certain
problems confronting the city dweller who takes to rural life. They
are the more baffling because they are not problems at all to his
country-bred neighbors. The latter assume that any adult with a grain
of common sense must know all about such trifles as rotten sills, damp
cellars, hornets that nest in the attic, frozen pipes in winter, and
wells that fail in dry seasons.

Of course, no one treatise can hope to serve as a guide for every
problem that comes with life in the open country. This book is no
compendium. It concerns itself only with the most obvious pitfalls
that lie ahead of one inured to well-serviced city life.



WHY LIVE IN THE COUNTRY?

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER I_

WHY LIVE IN THE COUNTRY?


The urge to live in the country besets most of us sooner or later.
Spring with grass vividly green, buds bursting and every pond a bedlam
of the shrill, rhythmic whistle of frogs, is the most dangerous
season. Some take a walk in the park. Others write for Strout's farm
catalogues, read them hungrily and are well. But there are the
incurables. Their fever is fed for months and years by the discomforts
and amenities of city life. Eventually they escape and contentedly
become box numbers along rural postal routes.

Why do city-bred people betake themselves to the country? The surface
reasons are as many as why they are Republicans or Democrats, but the
basic one is escape from congestion and confusion. For themselves or
their children their goal is the open country beyond the suburban
fringe. Here the children, like young colts, can be turned out to run
and race, kick up their heels and enjoy life, free of warnings to be
quiet lest they annoy the elderly couple in the apartment below or the
nervous wreck the other side of that suburban privet hedge.

The day and night rattle and bang of the city may go unnoticed for
years but eventually it takes its toll. Then comes a great longing to
get away from it all. If family income is independent of salary earned
by a city job, there is nothing to the problem. Free from a desk in
some skyscraper that father must tend from nine to five, such a family
can select its country home hours away from the city. Ideal! But few
are so fortunate. Most of us consider ourselves lucky to have that
city job. It is to be treated with respect and for us the answer lies
in locating just beyond those indefinite boundaries that limit the
urban zone. With the larger cities, this may be as much as fifty miles
from the business center; with smaller ones the gap can be bridged
speedily by automobile.

Going to live in the country, viewed dispassionately as an
accountant's balance sheet, has attributes that can be recorded in
black ink as well as those that require a robust crimson. If you
really want a place where you need not be constantly rubbing elbows
with the rest of the world; where you can cultivate something more
ambitious than window boxes or an eight by ten pocket-handkerchief
garden; where subways and street clatter can be forgotten; your black
column will be far longer than the one in red. But if nothing feels so
good to your foot as smooth unyielding pavements; if the multicolored
electric sign of a moving picture palace is more entrancing than a
vivid sunset; you are at heart a city bird, intended by temperament to
nest behind walls of brick and steel. There is nothing you can do
about it either. In the country the nights are so black; the birds at
dawn too noisy; and Nature when she storms and scolds, is a fish-wife.
Possibly you can learn to endure it all but will the game be worth the
candle? Without true fondness for outdoors and an inner urge for a
measure of seclusion, life in the country is drear. Don't attempt it.

But for those who care for the cool damp of evening dew; the first
robin of spring hopping pertly across the grass; or a quiet winter
evening with a good book or a radio program of their own choosing
rather than that of the people living across the hall; country life is
worth every cent of its costs and these bear lightly.

Along Fifth avenue, New York, not far from the Metropolitan Museum, is
a typical town house. A man of means maintains it for social and
business reasons. But he does not live there. His intimates know that
only a few minutes after the last dinner guest has departed, his
chauffeur will drive him some twenty miles to a much simpler abode on
a secluded dirt road. Here, he really lives. Whistling tree toads
replace the constant whir of buses and taxicabs.

Most of us cannot be so extravagant. We are fortunate to have one
home, either in the city or the country. Renting or buying it entails
sacrifices, and maintaining it has its unexpected expenses that always
come at the wrong time. What do those who live beyond the limits of
cities and sophisticated villages gain by hanging their crane with the
rabbits and woodchucks?

First, country living is the answer to congestion. Even the most
modest country cottage is more spacious than the average city
apartment. Life in such a house may be simple but not cramped. There
is light and air on all sides. This may seem unimportant but did you
ever occupy an apartment where the windows opened on a court or were
but a few feet from the brick wall of another warren for humans? If
the sun reached your windows an hour or two a day, you were lucky. In
a country house there is sunlight somewhere on pleasant days from
morning to night. That difference can only be understood by those who
have known both ways of living.

In town, light and air cost money; along the rural postal routes it is
as much a part of the scheme of things as summer insects or winter
snows. And it may have a very definite bearing on the well being of
all members of the family. Some suffer more than they realize from
lack of sunlight. Frequently it is the children and, with many
families, decision to move countryward is on their account. In fact,
there be some, where father and mother, if they consulted their own
preferences, would stay in a city apartment convenient to theatres and
shops, with friends and acquaintances close at hand. But their small
children lack robustness. The parents try everything, careful diet,
adequate hours of sleep and all the other recommendations of
scientific child rearing. Still the little arms and legs continue to
be spindling. Tonics and cod liver oil fail to get rid of that pinched
look, the concomitant of too little sunlight and too many hours
indoors. In desperation such a family betakes itself to the country.
The children weather tan. They respond to the more placid life and
gradually gain the much sought after hardiness. Nature has been the
physician without monthly bills for house or office treatments.

The children are not the only ones who gain. Healthy adults renew
their energy and crave activity. Here opportunity lies close at hand.
It may be swinging a golf club or going fishing. It may be such
unorganized methods of stretching muscles and increasing breathing as
pushing a lawn mower, raking leaves or weeding the delphinium border.
All these sports and homely out-of-door duties and pleasures are
nearby, many of them just the other side of the front door. Those
classed as sports may require a country club membership but even this
is on a more modest scale.

In fact, all potent are the economies made possible by leaving city or
closely built suburb. House and land, either bought or rented, comes
cheaper and is more ample. Along with this basic saving there are a
number of others that help to leave something from the family income
at the end of the year. Clothes last longer in the country and
wardrobe requirements are simpler. Similarly, there is a distinct
decrease in the money spent for amusements. When the nearest moving
picture house is five miles away it is easy to stay at home. Going to
the movies is not a matter of just running around the corner and so
done automatically once or twice a week. Then there are such things as
doctor's bills. While sickness, like taxes, visits every family no
matter where it lives, we have found that we actually have less need
of medical care living in the sticks than we did in town. Also the
charges for competent care by both doctors and dentists are lower.

For the family inclined to delve in the soil, a definite saving can be
accomplished by tending a vegetable garden, raising small fruits and
berries, and even maintaining a hen roost. Some people (I would I
could honestly include myself) have a gift for making things grow and
getting crops that are worth the work that has gone into them.
Likewise there is such a thing as possessing a knack with that
unresponsive and perverse creature, the hen. Possibly good gardening
and an egg-producing hen-yard are the result of willingness to take
infinite pains but, out of my disappointments and half successes, I am
more inclined to hold that it is luck and predestination. So, I have
reduced agricultural activities sharply, but I do know families where
each fall finds cellar shelves groaning under cans of fruits and
vegetables, products of the garden, and foretelling distinct economies
in purchases of canned goods or fresh vegetables.

One of the largest single savings that country life makes possible is
elimination of private school tuition. Theoretically city public
schools are good enough for anybody's children. Actually most good
neighborhoods have an undesirable slum just around the corner and the
public school is for the children of both. So, many city-dwelling
families, not from snobbishness but because they do not want their
young hopefuls to acquire slum manners and traits, dig deep into their
bank accounts and send their children to private schools.

Seldom is this necessary in the country, especially if the educational
system is investigated beforehand. Instead, the children start in a
good consolidated graded school, proceed through the local high
school, and are prepared for college with all the cost of tuition
included in the tax bill that must be paid anyway. The children are
none the worse for this less guarded education. They are, in fact,
benefited for they have a democratic background that makes later life
easier.

Besides these creature comforts and financial gains, there are the
intangibles. Chief of these is that indescribable something, country
peace. All the family responds to it. It is impossible to maintain the
highly-keyed, nervous tension that characterizes city life when the
domestic scene is surrounded by open fields or an occasional bit of
woodland. The placid calm soothes frayed nerves and works wonders in
restoring balance and perspective toward family and business problems.
The harassed come to realize the inner truth of "God's in his heaven,
all's right with the world."

Along with this, the family transplanted from the city gradually comes
to know the genuine joys of much simpler pleasures. Separated from
the professional recreations that beckon so engagingly in cities and
the larger towns, adults and children alike develop resources within
themselves. They learn that they can be just as contented with homely
enjoyments as they ever were when they sat passively and were amused
by some one who made it his profession. A tramp through the woods in
the fall when there is a tang of frost in the air; the satisfaction of
a long-planned flower bed in full bloom; a winter evening with a log
fire blazing on the living-room hearth; are simple but as genuine as
any of the pleasures known to city folk. Better yet, they are not
exhausting. "Few people are strong enough to enjoy their pleasures," a
friend once wisely observed. In the main, however, those of the
country are less taxing and leave one refreshed which, after all, is
the true purpose of recreation.

Against these gains of country living the costs must also be reckoned.
These, as stated earlier, will hardly be felt if the individual really
likes the country in its smiling moods as well as its frowning ones.
One which the family recently separated from city ways may find
hardest to accept is a demand for self-reliance. If the furnace will
not burn, a water pipe springs a leak, a mid-winter blizzard deposits
a snowdrift that all but blocks the front door, father or some one
else must rise to the situation.

The country home has no janitor. The nearest plumber is two or five
miles away. No gang of snow shovelers knocks at the door with offers
to attack the mislocated snow at a price, albeit the highest they
think the traffic will bear. Pioneer-like, some or all of the family
must turn to and cope with such situations. Doing so, whether
temporary like closing a pipe valve to stop the cascading water until
the plumber arrives, or permanent like mastering the idiosyncrasies of
the furnace, has its reward. From oldest to youngest, after a year or
so there comes a sense of ability to cope with the unforeseen rather
than to stand meekly by waiting for George to do it.

Again, it is not always smiling June with gentle breezes. There are
also January, February and March, the months winter really settles to
his task and delivers, as he will, snow storms, or spells of
abnormally cold weather that make the house hard to heat and may
freeze pipes. There are also rainy spells of two or three days'
duration that come any time, spring, summer or fall. It is fun to be
in the country when the sun shines. There are so many things to do and
see out-of-doors. It is totally different when it rains and rains and
still keeps on until everything outside is dripping and sodden. Then
comes the testing time. Child or grown-up must accept such bad weather
and make light of its restrictions, or country living is hard indeed.
But did you ever put on boots and oilskins and go for a long walk in
the rain just for the pure joy of it? Try it some time. You will see
fields and bushes with different eyes and hear that most musical of
all country sounds, the rush of tiny brooks in full flood. Even the
birds have their rainy day manners and ways.

[Illustration: THE OGDEN HOUSE, FAIRFIELD, CONN. BUILT BEFORE 1705, IT
HAS BEEN RESTORED TO PRESERVE THE ORIGINAL DETAILS

_Miss Mary Allis_]

The most ardent country advocate, however, cannot deny that in some
respects such a life has certain expenses not entered in the budget of
families living in town. First and foremost, if father has his city
job there is the monthly commutation book as well as the occasional
railroad fares when other members of the family go to the city. There
is no argument about it. These are added expenses but they are more
than offset by reductions in the fixed charges. Also by selecting
where you will live, transportation costs can be controlled.

Expenditures incident to entertaining are another matter. One of the
pleasantest things about living out-of-town is the week-end. From
Friday night or Saturday noon until Monday morning the city is
forgotten. Of course, part of the time, you will want to share these
days with friends still cooped in apartments. Week-end guests vary the
picture and are worth both the effort and money entertaining them
involves. But don't think that will be all. No country-living family
is safe from either friends or casual acquaintances in these days of
motor cars. They will appear most unexpectedly and assume that you are
as delighted to see them as they are to have you as an objective for a
Sunday afternoon motor trip.

At first it is flattering to have people come so far just to see you.
Then the novelty of it wears a little thin and you begin to realize
that frequently Monday morning finds the refrigerator swept bare. In
time it will dawn on you that part of the up-keep of a country home
revolves around feeding your self-invited guests. It would not be so
bad if they would telephone ahead so that you could be prepared, but
that is not one of the rules of the game. Instead, it is taken for
granted that living in the country, you have a never-failing pantry.
The solution lies in preparedness. From early spring until about
Thanksgiving time, have in reserve some simple supplies for an
acceptable afternoon tea or Sunday night supper.

One household of my acquaintance always has large pitchers of milk, a
supply of crackers, two or three kinds of cheese, a platter of
sandwiches, home-made cake and a hot drink. As many as wish are
welcome to come at the last moment for this standard Sunday night
supper. Its simplicity has earned this repast a wide reputation and it
is considered a great lark to go there. Incidentally, this truly rural
supper is so inexpensive that it matters little how many are on hand
Sunday evenings. Also the chore of washing dishes after the last
guests have gone is reduced to lowest terms, likewise an item not to
be overlooked.

This trend toward country living, now so far flung as to be a
characteristic of American life, is not just a fad. It has been a slow
steady growth and has behind it a tradition of a century and more.
When our larger commercial centers first began to change from villages
to compact urban communities, there were those who found even these
miniature cities far too congested. It was incomprehensible to them
that a family should exist without land enough for such prime
requisites as a cow, a hen-yard, and a vegetable garden. No family
that really lived and properly enjoyed the pleasures of the table
could be without them. Besides, epidemics of yellow fever came with
summer as naturally as sleighing with winter.

So for health and good living they began to move far into the
country,--that is, three or four miles out of town,--and stage coach
routes were established to transport the heads of such families to and
from business either the year around or for the summer months. These
stages or the private carriages of the more ostentatious were, of
course, horse-drawn which limited the distance which could be
traveled.

The next step was the railroads. Hardly were they practical means of
transportation that could be relied on day in and day out, before
commutation tickets were offered for those hardy enough to endure
daily trips of a dozen miles or more between home and office.
Gradually the peaceful farming villages surrounding cities were
transformed into something new to the American scene, the suburban
town, but it remained impractical for most people to live farther from
the station than a convenient walk. When electric car lines were
added, the distance was extended materially and the farm lands just
outside these suburban towns took on new value. Near car lines, they
could be sold to those not primarily concerned with agriculture. The
interurban electric roads also made many so-called abandoned farms in
various parts of the country practical for families who wished to live
farther from commercial centers either throughout the year or for the
summer months, since they provided that great essential, a quick
means of getting to shopping towns. Still great sections of back
country, too far from railroads and electric car lines, remained
strictly rural.

Finally the automobile, made inexpensive enough for families of
average income and provided with that great innovation, the
self-starter, changed it all. This was not so very long ago.
Approximately with the World War came the moderate-priced car that
need not be cranked by hand. Driving it was no longer a sporting male
occupation too often marred by broken arms and sprained wrists, the
painful outcome of hand-cranking when the motor "back-fired." With the
self-starter car driving went feminine. Mother, as well as father,
could and did drive. It was now practical for automobile owning
families to live farther from railroad stations and villages.

Unnoticed at the time, a new sort of pioneering began. City-dwelling
people turned hungry eyes toward the cheap country farmhouses located
beyond limits of horse and carriage travel. By 1920, this trend was in
full swing and greatly expedited by the program of highway improvement
and rebuilding that spread across the country.

With a quick and easy means of travel, good roads, telephone and
electric service, farmhouses which but a few years before had been as
isolated as when Horace Greeley was thundering, "Go West, young man,
go West," were isolated no more. Prices rose but not beyond the
purchasing power of those who sought escape from city congestion or
the restrictions of fifty-foot suburban lots. The gasoline age had
done it. It had married rural peace to rapid transportation. If you
had to earn your living in the city, it was no longer required that
you and your family live in its midst. A tranquil country home was
yours if you would reach for it.



SELECTING THE LOCATION

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER II_

SELECTING THE LOCATION


It is to be questioned whether any city dwelling family suddenly
determines to move to the country. Such changes in one's way of life
are not decided as casually as trading in the old car for a model of
the current year. Usually the decision to pioneer backward is reached
so gradually that those who take the step can hardly tell in
retrospect just when the die was cast. A vacation or summer in the
country may have put it in mind. Then a period of vague indecision
follows when city and country appear about equally attractive.
Suddenly some chance happening turns the scale.

A week-end invitation for cider making in the Hoosatonic Valley in
early November would seem harmless enough, but from it dated our own
determination to cease to be city dwellers. It must be admitted that
the stage-setting was perfect. A twenty-mile ride on the evening of
our arrival through the sharp clear air with a full harvest moon
hanging high in the heavens, while along the way lights twinkled
hospitably from the farmhouses that dotted the countryside. A bright
crisp morning and a breakfast of sausages, griddle cakes and syrup.
This would have been viewed with lack-luster eye in our overheated
city apartment but was somehow just right in this fireplace heated
country room with a tang of chill in the far corners.

Later we were to find that plenty of November nights could be raw and
stormy; that fireplaces could sulk and give out such grudging heat as
to make the room wholly chill. But none of this appeared on that
memorable week-end. It waxed warm enough at midday for all of the
outdoor pleasures that the country affords. We were in congenial
company and evening found us with a sense of peace and well-being that
more than balanced the loss of a theatre or dinner party in town. We
were guilty of the usual platitudes about "God's country and the
normal way to live" and knew they were that but didn't care.

However, there was no rushing around to get a place right across the
way. A whole winter went by, pleasantly spent doing the usual things.
Then came spring, a season that not even the city can wholly
neutralize. There were a number of seemingly aimless Sunday trips
beyond the urban fringe. There was considerable casual comment on
various houses in attractive settings. One charming old place ideally
located on a back road proved to be part of a water-shed reservation.
Another equally charming plaster house was "too far out." As we
admitted that, we realized that we had joined that not inconsiderable
group who "want to have their cake and eat it too." That is, we really
wanted a place in the country but we wanted it near enough so that the
desk of the very necessary and important job could be reached without
too much effort. Also the idea of an occasional evening in town was
not to be dismissed lightly.

Such humdrum items as railroad time tables were consulted. Having
decided that the ideal location would be one in which the time
required for train trip and motoring from house to station would come
within an hour, we limited our search to that section just beyond the
suburban fringe in Connecticut and Westchester County, New York. We
had no clear idea of the type of house we wanted, save that it be old
and of good lines. We looked with and without the aid of real estate
dealers. We deluged our friends already living in the country with
queries.

We found a disheartening number of fine old houses, located just
wrong. There was a splendid, two-story brick house with hall running
through the middle. But it stood in the commercial section of a
village, its door steps flush with the sidewalk, and was hemmed in on
one side by a gas station. There was a neat little story-and-a-half
stone house with picket fence, old-fashioned rose bushes, and
beautiful shade trees. It had once been the parsonage of the
neighboring church. Unhappily the old churchyard lay between.

Now, we are not people who whistle determinedly when passing a marble
orchard at midnight nor do we see white luminous shapes flitting among
the tombstones. But daily gazing upon one's final resting place, we
felt might, in time, prove depressing. Besides, we were by no means
certain that our friends had developed the callous indifference of a
young couple we heard of years later. Curiously free of inhibitions,
these two people bought an attractive old farmhouse with a family
burying lot located a fair distance from the house. The little plot
with its eight or ten simple headstones was unobtrusive and rather
gave an air of family roots deep in the soil, a quality all too rare
in America. These young vandals could not let well enough alone. They
uprooted the headstones and laid them end to end for a walk to their
front door! They were considering the plot itself as a possible tennis
court when outraged public opinion forced them to put the stones back.
In fact, the general hostility was so marked that they finally
abandoned the place and it was later sold at a distinct loss.

But back to the little gray parsonage; its location and the fact that
train service in its vicinity was poor, were the two deciding votes
against it. Another attractive house in a good location was ruled out
because our car got stuck in a spring hole practically in sight of it.
A mile or so of dirt road to the station is no drawback, provided it
is passable at all times of the year. This one was obviously poor,
even in summer. Finally a real estate broker showed us a picture of a
modest 18th century farm cottage. We visited the place one dreary
sunless day in late March, investigated the neighborhood, determined
the time required to drive to the nearest railroad station, and bought
it, all in one week.

In general, we are not sure that such haste is advisable. There were
certain disadvantages that we did not observe; there were others where
we turned a blind eye because we were infatuated with the place and
determined to have it. Fortunately time has taken care of practically
all of these. In short, we have come to believe that a place in the
country is, like marriage, just what you make it. In both cases,
though, one's emotions should be under control, so here are a few
salient points for the searcher after a suitable location.

First and foremost, decide on the sort of life you wish to lead. Then
pick your location to fit it. If you are not chained to a city desk
five days a week but at best make only one or two weekly trips there,
a railroad journey of two or three hours is endurable especially when
a highly attractive place lies at the end. For such a person, the
radius in which to look for likely places is much extended and the
farther out, the more advantageous the prices. But for one individual
so fortunately situated, there are more than a hundred who must choose
a place near enough for daily trips to the city.

For the latter the ideal situation is, as stated before, an hour from
house to office. That is the ideal but, in all honesty, we must admit
that few attain it. The average country commuter is a born optimist
on this point and will unblushingly distort facts in a manner to put
the most ardent fisherman to shame. But figures don't lie. If the time
table, say between Stamford, Connecticut, and the Grand Central, New
York, gives its fastest running time as fifty minutes, it means
exactly that. You may plan to hurtle through the air at sixty miles an
hour to the station but traffic and road conditions will not always
let you. Besides, what is the hurry? Allow twenty or thirty minutes
instead of fifteen for a normal run of twelve miles and have peace of
mind. That gives you an hour and ten or fifteen minutes between your
house and the city. Add the time needed to get from the train to your
office and you know what is before you. We mention this station trip
of twelve miles as about the maximum for the hardy commuter although
there are a few who take more punishment than that. Of course if the
perfect place can be found only four to six miles from the station
that is all the better.

Transportation is an all important consideration both as regards time
and expense. There are beautiful countrysides fairly near large
centers that are so hampered by poor train service as to be almost out
of the question for the everyday commuter. Of course, there may be an
adequate service or it may be practical to drive to and from business.
The latter is not at all uncommon with the country areas near the
smaller industrial centers. Here the fortunate commuter is free from
exacting train schedules; a five or ten minutes' drive sees him
outside the city limits, and another twenty or thirty may find him
rolling into his own driveway. Smooth sailing between office and home
depend only on a reliable car and good roads.

One should make sure the latter are passable in the winter at all
times. For instance, are the Town Fathers liberal with the snow plow?
Can its cheery hum be heard even at midnight if a heavy fall of snow
makes it necessary? Does it come down the little dirt road where your
modest acres are located? These are questions all commuters should ask
whether their journey cityward is made entirely by automobile or
partly by train. Further, whatever means of transportation are used,
the monthly cost should be reckoned carefully. It is one of the
largest single items involved in this scheme of living in the country
and working in the city.

There is also the question of food and other household supplies.
Granted one no longer expects to run around the corner for a loaf of
bread or a dozen eggs that may have been left off the morning shopping
lists, just how far away is the nearest grocer? Is he at all receptive
to the idea of making an occasional delivery in the outlying
districts? How about the rubbish collector, if any; the milkman; the
purveyors of ice, coal and wood? Are there a lighting system in the
vicinity, telephone facilities, and so forth? These last need not be
deciding factors, all other things being equal. They are simply
matters to investigate. It is then for the family to decide whether to
do without any or all of them if necessary.

Besides in a wisely chosen location, these, though lacking at first,
are soon added as the demand grows. When we began our own experiment
in country living, it was with difficulty that we got even a telephone
installed. Instead of electricity, our evenings were lighted by
candles or kerosene lamps and our meals were cooked on an oil stove.
Grocers and other tradesmen didn't even know how to get to the little
area. Yet within three years enough other people like us had moved
into the vicinity to warrant extension of electric service through the
neighborhood, and a milk route, rubbish service, deliveries of
laundry, food, ice, and other household needs were soon added. The
Fuller brush man has for years known the way to our door and now even
our Sunday newspapers are delivered, although we are six miles from
the nearest news stand.

This brings us to the question of neighborhood, which is important.
Beware of a place too near a small factory settlement. The latter is
apt to grow and destroy the peace you have come so far to get.
Besides, your property value will decline in direct ratio. We once
knew a charming place set high on a hill with neat hedges, shrubs, and
arbors reminiscent of England, birthplace of the man who built and
developed it. The family that bought the property forgot to look down
at the foot of the hill. If they had, they would have seen a large and
efficient looking factory and could have read the signs accordingly.

The disadvantages of a country home located close to a hamlet
inhabited by old native stock families that have degenerated should be
weighed carefully. Such people resent what they consider unwarranted
intrusion by newcomers and have many underhanded ways of expressing
their antagonism. Of course, if these settlers are merely tenants and
the region shows distinct signs that a number of city pioneers are
about to buy property there, it may be a gamble worth taking, since
one can always buy property cheaper before a boom than after it has
set in. Also, these settlements are frequently located in the most
beautiful sections of the country. Some of the houses are quaint farm
cottages that only need a thorough cleaning and a little intelligent
restoration to make them attractive homes for any one.

Again, some of the most picturesque and desirable locations are off on
by-roads. They are much to be preferred to property directly on the
main highway since they are well away from the roar of traffic; and if
there are children or pets, one need not be constantly on the alert to
keep them from straying off the premises. However, half a mile off the
main highway answers the purpose as well as a longer distance and one
must be sure that half mile is passable at all times of the year.

We have in mind one young couple who bought a place in Vermont. It
stands well up on a hill and the view is worth going many miles to
see. A picturesque dirt road winds a crooked mile up to it. Very
attractive for summer but these two live there the year around. The
snow drifts deep in winter, and early spring and late fall find the
mud so deep that the average car bogs down hopelessly. Thus, they are
virtual prisoners during these seasons. Of course that is an extreme
case and even here the road can be made passable but only at heavy
expense which must be borne principally by the householder.

Lastly, in selecting the locality for your experiment in country
living, if there are children consideration of schools is essential.
The ratings and relative standings of graded and high schools in
various localities, may be easily obtained through state educational
authorities, college entrance boards, and similar organizations. But
even where the rating report is good, personal investigation is
advisable. Certain social elements enter in, despite the sound and
democratic principles underlying the American public school system.

For example, a would-be country dweller leased a house, with option to
buy, in a very good neighborhood. House, location, and surroundings
exactly pleased and it was a scant ten minutes from the station on a
good road. The school system was well rated but the graded school for
this section drew a majority of its pupils from a textile mill
settlement two or three miles away. The children of the English
spinners and weavers were decent, well-behaved youngsters but their
speech was distinctly along cockney lines. Within a few months the
three small sons of the new country dweller had developed habits of
speech native to the English textile towns. Stern correction at home
availed little and their parents abandoned the idea of buying in that
locality. Instead, another was selected after personal inspection of
the school to which the three boys would go. The new home is not, in
some respects, as attractive as the other nor is it as convenient for
commuting, but one cannot have everything. They are content and the
small boys are once more expressing themselves with a New England
accent.

In inspecting both the graded and high schools of a neighborhood that
pleases you, the obvious things are the buildings, school bus service,
play space, provisions for school lunches and so forth. These are
tangible and can be readily observed. Much more important are the
intangibles. These include the scholastic standing of the particular
school; the pedagogical ability and personality of the individual
teachers; and, finally, whether those who manage village, borough, or
town governments, provide adequate school appropriations.

Schools that really educate children can be operated on starvation
budgets but, more often than not, the quality of teaching suffers.
Likewise the schools of a town reflect the capacity and ability of
those in charge. To judge this, make it a point to meet the local
school superintendent. If there is a parent-teachers association, a
frank discussion with its leader is an excellent idea. From talks like
these you can sometimes gather cogent information that neither
superintendent nor member of the school association would or could put
in writing. If possible observe the school while it is in session. The
attitude of teachers and children should enable you to form an
estimate of it as a whole.

In determining the scholastic standing of a high school, its rating by
college entrance boards, the success in college of recent graduates,
and kindred data can be readily obtained and will tell a complete
story. However, under present conditions, there are some excellent
high schools which pay little or no attention to college preparation
because relatively few pupils intend to enter college. If this
condition prevails at the high school your children would normally
attend and your plans for them include college or technical school,
recognition of it is important. A year or two in a good private school
that makes a specialty of college preparation is probably the answer.
But don't wait until a son or daughter is nearly through the local
high school to discover this lack of specific preparation.

If, on the other hand, you do not intend to send your children to the
schools where tuition is included in the tax bill, be just as careful
in judging the private school. The term private means just what it
says, it is open to children whose parents make private or separate
payment for their education. This condition, however, is no guarantee
that the quality of teaching will excel or even equal that of the free
or public institution.

The private ventures are not under as rigid supervision as those
supported by tax revenues and we have known of instances where the
former were distinctly below standard. With a private day school
having relatively few pupils and a tuition revenue only slightly above
the cost of operation, it requires considerable strength of character
for its owner not to gloss over a pupil's shortcomings. If dealt with
impartially, these might mean that darling Willie would be withdrawn
and sent elsewhere. Loss of tuition is the nightmare of the head of
such a school. Hence, fear of financial loss, dread of disagreeable
interviews with parents, or misguided leniency can have a very bad
effect on the education and training of the pupils.

Yet there are small day schools and larger institutions with both day
and resident pupils that give superior training. It is largely a
matter of the attitude and capacity of the principal or head. If he or
she is a real teacher and has good assistants, the children will be
well taught, regardless of the physical plant. So, in choosing a
private school, make sure the education it affords is worth the
tuition father pays.

Putting the children in a private school necessitates one thing more.
That is transportation. Sometimes a private bus takes care of this
matter. If not, mother must be tied to a daily schedule of driving the
youngsters to and from school. This usually entails a second car.
Here, as with other matters, the initial cost is by no means all;
there is the up-keep. This should not be overlooked, for in the twelve
years between the first grade and the last high school year, it
becomes an increasing burden as school hours lengthen and athletic
activities become, to the children at least, supremely important.



SHOPPING FOR PROPERTY

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER III_

SHOPPING FOR PROPERTY


The early American pioneer pushed into the wilderness looking for a
likely spot to settle. When he had either found it or had traveled as
far as he could, he staked out land and built a rude shelter for his
family until such time as he could afford better. Today's pioneer
decides whether he will have a house and five or more acres in
commuting distance of the city, a farm several hours away from it, or
a sporting estate. Then, still seated in an easy chair, he reaches for
real estate advertising as found in newspaper, magazine or folder.

For the first, nothing is better than newspaper classified
advertising, particularly that found in the Sunday paper. If he would
have a farm far from the madding crowd, there are the farm catalogues
issued by a variety of real estate organizations. These can be most
helpful if intelligently read. And the prospective buyer of a fancy
farm or sporting estate will do best to turn to the advertising
columns of those magazines where the editorial scope deals with that
type of country life.

[Illustration: AN OLD FARMHOUSE IN THE ROUGH

_Photo by John Runyon_]

Consulting such advertising for whatever kind of country home is
wanted will give the prospective buyer some definite impressions. Of
course he won't know what any of the places actually look like, though
reading between the lines may give him some idea; but he will at least
have gleaned a little information as to prices in a given locality and
have the names of brokers with offerings that might be of interest. A
decade ago, if one really wanted a country place one began looking at
actual pieces of property at this point, either with or without a
broker. During the past two or three years, however, a novel source of
information regarding such property has come into being.

It is somewhat of a cross between a news reel moving picture theatre
and a real estate broker's office. There is a projection room, a small
moving picture machine, and an extensive file of films of various
properties that are on the market. Here the prospective buyer is shown
shorts of all those listed with that particular clearing house. After
the showing, if one or more places appeal sufficiently so that the
prospect wants to visit them, he is given the broker's name and
address. This saves much time and hours of travel for all concerned.

In an hour or two spent so shopping, you can get first impressions of
more places than you could possibly visit in a month of week-ends.
Thus you can limit your selection of places to be visited. The cost of
this novel method of showing property is met by an arrangement whereby
seller and broker reward the picture house if the sale is consummated.

When you actually begin to look at property, a few don'ts are in order
if you would steer a fair course to the country home you have in mind.

Don't expect any place to have all the requirements included in your
mental picture.

Don't buy a place that does not appeal to you. Each year you will like
it less.

Don't buy a bargain without finding out why it is below the prevailing
price. Only too often it proves extremely expensive.

Don't disparage a piece of property with the naive idea that by so
doing the price will be lowered. You only arouse resentment on the
part of the owner.

Don't make a pest of yourself by too frequent visits to a place that
attracts you.

Don't try to eliminate the real estate broker. If he really knows his
territory, his services are worth far more than his fee which is paid
by the seller anyway.

Don't lose your temper during the negotiations that must precede the
terms of sale. You may lose the place that just suits you.

Don't expect to buy property with wooden money. That custom went out
shortly after 1929.

If you can subscribe to these points, you are one of those who really
want a country home and will eventually find one. Those who only think
they do will stumble over some detail and then settle back with a
plaintive, "We would love to move to the country if we could only find
a place like yours." Castles in the air have everything, for
imagination builds them; but those planted four square upon the earth
always have certain "outs," even though you buy a perfect building
site and put the house you have dreamed of thereon.

Personally, we have always wanted a little gray house mellowed by the
summers and winters of at least a century. What we bought was a small
story-and-a-half farm cottage with outer walls of weathered shingles,
painted red. It is old. During the Revolution, a British soldier was
slain in the very doorway as he came out with loot from the upper
rooms. It would undoubtedly be a haunted house in England but here our
eyes are holden and we have never seen him, nor have any of our
guests.

We still admire gray stone houses of which there are plenty down in
the Pennsylvania Dutch country but we are honestly suited with what we
have. Its general outline is akin to the house we envisioned and the
mellow tone of its red-shingled exterior has a charm of its own. True,
the grounds are lacking in those little irregularities that enable one
to develop secluded spots and charming rock gardens. No brook runs
through them and there is no high point of land where one looks off to
a brilliant summer sunset or hills blue with haze. It is just a
pleasing peaceful spot and we like it.

In short, have all the preconceived notions you want but keep an open
mind as well as an open eye. We know of two or three families that are
absolutely satisfied with their country homes, yet are perfectly frank
in admitting that they are in no way the type of house or setting
indicated by their preliminary specifications. They saw them in the
course of their search and, despite the divergence, recognized that
they met their demands.

One of our friends had steadfastly insisted that his country house
must sit on a hilltop where he could have a view, see the sun rise and
set, and be cooled by a fine breeze on the most torrid day. He bought
an entire farm just to get an upland pasture with the required
hilltop. Luckily he called in an architect and was mercifully
prevented from getting what he wanted. His house was finally built on
a sightly but sheltered spot about halfway below the high point of his
land. He has since learned that during the winter months the
prevailing westerly winds so sweep that hilltop that heating a house
placed there would be expensive and difficult. Also, these same winds
would be apt to work havoc with his shrubbery and flower garden.

On the contrary, don't let yourself be stampeded into buying something
that definitely does not appeal, just because you are a little tired
of looking but are bound to live in the country anyway. Real estate
dealers and would-be helpful friends may have rallied around and,
after showing you a score or more parcels of land, begin hinting that
you are hard to please. Possibly, but just remember that your money
purchases the place and that you, not they, will have to live there.
Two people once spent years looking for a place within easy commuting
distance of Philadelphia. Friends and brokers became exhausted and
fell by the way. Word was passed around among the latter that these
people were "just lookers and there was no use bothering with them."
One day a broker, hoping to be rid of them, showed a piece of property
so unsightly and generally run down that he thought no one could
possibly want it. To his amazement, they liked it, saw its
possibilities and, after proper investigation, bought for cash with
never a quibble over the price. They showed rare intelligence in
restoring both house and grounds and are living contentedly there
today.

Most of us, though, who really want a country home are of no mind to
spend years looking for one. It may be that the lease on the city
apartment is due to expire in a few months and one must decide whether
it is to be renewed or not. There may be children in the family who
are in urgent need of the fresh air and outdoor life of the country.
Under such circumstances, it is often a real advantage to rent a place
for a year with option to buy. One learns both the good and bad
qualities of a house in that time at probably no greater cost than
continued rental for a city establishment. Further, if you decide to
buy it at the end of the year, the rental paid may apply on the
purchase price.

You can thus have plenty of time to look over other property in the
vicinity. Perhaps it may be impossible to find a house that really
pleases, but you do discover an ideal site. It may be a fine old
orchard. It may be a tree-shaded spot with an old cellar marking the
place where a house once stood. It may be an undeveloped hillside. In
such an event, you have the advantage of either building a house to
your liking, or finding an old one and moving it there.

Be very sceptical about "bargains" in your search. Relatively few
people underestimate the value of their possessions. Perhaps they are
really willing to sell at a sacrifice "because father can't stand the
cold winters any more" or "because we like to feel the place is in
good hands." But it would seem more reasonable that father's declining
years in Florida or California would be sweetened in direct ratio to
the amount realized on his property. So look well for the real reason.
The house may be unduly expensive to maintain. It may be so badly
built that bigger and better repairs become a constant drain on the
family purse. There may be something so wrong with the adjoining
property that one must either buy that, too, or give up any idea of
living on the spot with any comfort or pleasure.

Back in 1928, a man bought a comparatively new house and eight acres
of land for a sum far below the prevailing prices in the vicinity. The
grounds were attractive and the lawn well shaded with fine old maples.
He acquired this "bargain" in the late fall without benefit of real
estate dealer. In fact, he boasted of his acumen to a broker who had
originally shown him several other pieces of property in the section.

"I told you there were cheaper places," he chortled, "and the owner
gave me the advantage of the broker's commission, too. Come out next
spring and see what a bargain I found." In late May there came a wail
for help from the cocksure buyer. A few days of unseasonably warm
weather and a strong east wind had revealed the reason for the
bargain. Back of a wooded area to the rear of his holding, was a
combination hog farm and refuse dump. The owner of it got little or no
rental from the tenant farmer who carried on his noisome business but
he was well aware of its nuisance value to his new neighbor. Here
indeed was a situation requiring the services of that middle man, the
real estate broker. The latter was a good business man and by using
all his guile, he eventually acquired the hog farm for his client at a
fair price. But even at that, the man now had ten additional acres
that he didn't want and couldn't use. When the cost of the added land
and clearing it of refuse had been met, his place was not the bargain
it had seemed originally.

This does not mean that there are never any country places to be had
at real bargains. It is a case of being keen enough or lucky enough to
locate one. There can be a number of legitimate reasons why a piece of
property is on the market at a price below its general worth. There
may be urgent financial reasons why the owner must sell. In this
unhappy situation he cannot be too firm as to price and will usually
accept a sum actually below the market value in order to salvage a
fair proportion of what he may have invested.

Another type of bargain is that of property that has only recently
become available for country homes through the construction of a new
motor highway or some other major development. For example, the
electrification of the Pennsylvania Railroad and a concrete automobile
road from Trenton, New Jersey, into Bucks County, Pennsylvania, have
brought old farms in and around Doylestown, Pennsylvania, within an
hour and a half of New York City. This condition has not existed long
and Bucks County farms on an acreage basis may still be bought
distinctly cheaper than in practically any other section equi-distant
in travel time from New York.

Again, some particular place may be owned by an estate with a number
of heirs who want their money. None of them feels inclined to take
over the property and pay off the others. All are in a hurry to get
their share of what Uncle Henry left. Eventually the property goes at
a partition sale which is the bargain basement of real estate.
Partition sales and heirs hungry for ready money are keenly watched by
those who buy purely for investment and with the expectation of resale
to some one wanting a country home. Hence the ultimate consumer rarely
benefits. But occasionally the regular investor finds the matter of
resale neither as simple nor as rapid as he had expected.

For some years we watched a charming little place that a real estate
investor had acquired at such a partition sale. It was first offered
"in the rough." Then the abandoned household gear and accumulated
trash were removed. With growing nervousness the investor applied a
coat of paint to the house and hung neat painted shutters at the
windows. He tore down dilapidated outbuildings and converted the barn
into a garage. The place still hung unplucked on his commercial tree.
After three dismal years he parted with it at a price but little above
that paid at the partition sale.

It was a desirable property but the investor had been over greedy and
had put his original asking price far too high. By the time he was
chastened enough to listen to reasonable offers, most of the
prospective buyers had crossed that place off their list. The ultimate
purchaser acquired a real bargain by happening along at the
psychological moment when the investor was sick of his deal and ready
to part with it at little or no profit.

This was, of course, very much a matter of luck. It is also a matter
of luck when buyer and seller deal directly with each other to mutual
advantage. For that reason it is poor economy to try dispensing with
the services of a real estate broker. A reliable one is an invaluable
guide, mentor, and friend to the lamb fresh from the city. Let him
know what you want and what you are willing to pay and he will do his
best to find it. If a place interests you, look it over well but don't
insist on so many showings that you wear out the patience of its
occupants. Never, never belittle any property in the hearing of its
owner. There are all too many people, cocksure but ignorant of human
nature, who believe this helps to get a bargain. It works just the
opposite. One would not expect to please a man by telling him that his
son was wall-eyed and therefore no asset. The same man is no better
pleased at hearing that his house is ugly or that the interior is
something to shudder at. The prospective buyer who admits he covets
the house but cannot quite meet the purchase price is much more apt
to get the benefit of easier terms.

Real estate buying is still a dicker business. Get your own idea of
values and then make an offer--to the broker. It is part of his job to
negotiate this difference between asking and actual purchasing price.
Theoretically buyer and seller should be able to meet and discuss the
little matter of price in sensible and friendly fashion. Actually,
there is usually as much need of a diplomat here as between two
nations. One very successful broker recently admitted that he tries to
keep buyer and seller apart as much as possible when negotiating the
details of price, terms, concessions and the like. He stated that it
is amazing how ordinarily sensible people, in the heat of a dicker
over a piece of property, can get at a practical deadlock over the
disposal of a cord of wood or whether a cupboard, worth possibly five
dollars, is to be left with the house or removed.

So keep your temper, especially when it is a question of property you
really want. We have known people who were turned aside from an ideal
place for which they had hunted months, because the seller failed to
fall in with some totally unimportant detail or because they didn't
like something his lawyer said or the way he said it. Sellers may be
cantankerous and their lawyers exasperating, but remember, you do not
inherit them along with the property. Once the latter has been
acquired, which is your real objective, they pass out of the picture
along with your irritation at them.

In buying any property, however, make sure that the title is clear.
The author of the old hymn, "When I can read my title clear to
mansions in the skies," must have been familiar with the complications
attendant on acquiring earthly domiciles. In other words, if the place
on which you have set your heart is suffering from that obscure
complaint known as a "cloudy title," it is something to be let alone
unless the seller can clear it. By this term is meant that somewhere
in the chain of ownership from the original land grant, some seller
could not give a clear, warranted title.

There are many contributing causes for such a condition, particularly
with country property in the older sections where wills and deeds were
not always drawn with clarity and skill. Old second or third
mortgages, presumably paid, for which satisfactions were never
recorded; tax liens that have not been cleared; or possible interests
of minority heirs under a will dating back a generation or more; are
some of the most common causes for imperfect titles. But if one is
patient and the seller is willing to cooperate, such clouds can
usually be removed.

Sometimes one discovers a desirable piece of property with a cloudy
title due to a family feud or the stubbornness of the present owner.
Here it may be to the buyer's advantage to obtain an option on it and
engage a local lawyer experienced in real estate matters to perfect
the title. For example, two spinster sisters lived in their father's
old farmhouse. They were not at all averse to selling, but under the
terms of their father's will, a niece in a state institution for the
feeble minded held a life interest in the place. Her aunts grimly
refused to sell and hand over the sum representing her interest to
her guardian. "Alice has cost us plenty and never been anything but a
source of worry. Not a dollar more of our money goes to her as long as
we live. She is in an institution where she belongs. Besides, her
father was a rascal."

They were willing to sell at a price several thousand dollars less
than like places in the neighborhood were bringing. So a prospective
buyer negotiated an arrangement whereby he acquired an option to buy
the property at this low price, provided he could make a settlement
for the niece's contingent interest at his own expense. It took about
six months but at last a settlement was reached through the courts.
For about five hundred dollars paid to the guardian of the incompetent
woman and an equal amount in court and lawyer's fees, he obtained a
quit claim deed of her interest that satisfied the requirements of the
corporation that was to insure the validity of the title. The day
after the purchase was consummated, the new owner was offered a price
for the property that would have given him a substantial profit above
his investment and expenses, had he cared to sell.

Under such circumstances, however, the buyer should be sure the
property is a good enough investment to be worth so much time and
trouble and he should never embark on such an undertaking without the
best possible legal advice. Most important of all, his contract to buy
should be so drawn that ample time is allowed for the work of
perfecting the title. There should also be a provision allowing him to
withdraw from the contract and to regain his option money, if clearing
the title proves impossible or there is too great expense.

Another detail that should be taken into account, especially with land
once used for farming, is the possibility of old, half forgotten
rights of way. In the legal argot, a right of way is a permission to
cross property that has road frontage to reach fields, pasturage, wood
lots, or the like which are otherwise without means of access. To be
binding, of course, such agreements must have been recorded. Where
they date back half a century and have been forgotten and unused for
many years, lawyers are sometimes careless in their title search and
overlook them. This is a serious omission since they can suddenly be
revived to the discomfort of a totally innocent buyer.

Some years ago a man bought a simple farmhouse as a summer home. One
spring he discovered that a neighbor had acquired a cow and, night and
morning, was driving it across his lawn and flower garden. At his
indignant protests, the neighbor sarcastically pointed out an old
gateway in the stone wall dividing their property and cited an
agreement almost a century old that provided for a right of way for
cattle across what was now lawn and flower garden. Of course reviving
this right was a case of pure spite and eventually there was a law
suit. The man with the cow came to terms, his own of course, and for a
cash consideration relinquished his cow driving rights. Meanwhile the
owner of the property had been put to some expense and plenty of
annoyance.

With the final decision to buy a piece of property financial details
come to the fore. An "all cash basis" is not uncommon these days and
often brings a sizable reduction in the asking price. Where a mortgage
is desired, fifty per cent of the purchase price must be cash for
house and land, or the entire amount on unimproved land. With the
latter, the mortgage lender will expect you to provide at least half
of the total cost of the land and the proposed house. Gone are the
days when country homes could be bought with first and second
mortgages and very little cash. This type of financing was tried and
found wanting during the late depression, since it led many people to
commit themselves to payments they could not continue if reverses were
experienced.

There are various kinds of first mortgages now being used to assist in
financing the purchase of a country home. One of the oldest is the
purchase money type. This is given the seller as part of the total
price paid by the buyer. Formerly such mortgages were for a short
term, three or five years, and payable in full at the end of that
period. Now some of them are for longer periods and provide for
monthly amortization charges by which the mortgage is paid in full by
the end of the time specified.

The Federal Housing Administration mortgages, which are a recent New
Deal endeavor to make funds for home buying or building safe and
stable, are issued by local banks with the payment of interest and
principle guaranteed to the bank through the operation of this
government controlled agency. These mortgages are amortized over
periods of ten, fifteen, and twenty years and the borrower must make
specified monthly payments that include taxes, interest charges, and
amortization. They are not available in all sections because some
local banks hold that they conflict in details with other banking
regulations. So far as the borrower is concerned, these mortgages are
no different from any other similar method of financing. If payments
are not made regularly and promptly, foreclosure proceedings will be
started.

Large insurance companies or savings and loan associations also issue
fifteen to twenty year first mortgages, amortized over the period by
monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual payments. The interest rate varies
from five to five and a half per cent. If such a mortgage is arranged
for a new house, architect's plans and specifications must be
submitted with the application for loan. The site must be free and
clear of all mortgages or other obligations. Your own financial rating
is looked up by the lender and, if satisfactory, the company issues a
commitment that you can take to your local bank where definite amounts
are paid as the work progresses; so much when exterior walls are
complete; such a proportion when rough piping for plumbing has been
installed; another amount when all lath and plaster has been finished;
and so on until the final payment when the house is finished. Then the
formal mortgage is executed and recorded. There are brokers who
specialize in negotiating such mortgages. Their fee is about two per
cent.

So much for the usual channels of financing. In addition, the buyer
can still make his own mortgage arrangements with some investor who
has money to loan if he knows such a person. Further, although second
mortgages should be avoided if possible, they are sometimes issued
where a buyer is considered a good risk but lacks sufficient capital
to meet the fifty per cent cash requirement that prevails today. Such
loans are not usually made for over twenty per cent of the appraised
value and generally call for a higher rate of interest, six per cent.
They are also apt to be for a short term, two or three years, when
they must be paid in full.

With both first and second mortgages, the lenders will inquire
carefully into the financial responsibility of the would-be borrower.
They will want to know exactly how much of his own ready money he
plans to use in the transaction. This is to be sure that he has a
substantial equity in the property and will not be struggling under
too great a financial burden.

Having perfected the method for financing your purchase, now comes the
formal contract to buy. This is an agreement whereby you undertake to
consummate the purchase at a future date, generally thirty to sixty
days, at the agreed price. On executing such a contract, _which should
be reviewed by your lawyer before you, as buyer, sign it_, expect to
pay the seller through the broker ten per cent of the total purchase
price. This is done on signing the contract. The time between signing
this contract and the date set for the title closing is employed for
title search and insurance, land survey and similar details. If the
title proves imperfect so that you cannot complete the purchase, your
check is returned to you. As for the cost of title insurance, the
corporations issuing such policies have an established scale of
prices. These vary slightly in different parts of the country. Title
policies have generally replaced the old independent title search by
lawyers that had no elements of insurance. Where a company has already
searched and insured the title, reissue of the policy is made to you
at about half the original fee.

The cost of surveying property is based on the amount of work
involved. For surveying five acres of what was formerly farm land and
that has never had its borders so measured and defined, the average
charge today is from one hundred to one hundred and twenty-five
dollars. Special conditions may raise or lower this. An established
surveyor who knows the locality is, of course, the best person to
undertake such work. His previous surveys of other adjacent properties
can often enable him to locate and identify old boundary marks that
some one not conversant with the locality might find baffling. Much
country property is very vaguely described by old deeds. "Fifty acres
more or less bounded on the east by the highway, northerly by land
owned by Jones, westerly to that of or recently owned by Smith, and
southerly by that of Brown," illustrates roughly an old title
description. You may get forty-five or fifty-five acres, and it is up
to you to establish just what fences and so forth are your actual
boundaries.

A surveyor reduces all this to exact measurements and puts definite
markers at the corners and wherever else the party lines change
direction. When finished, he provides you with a certified copy of his
survey in map form, giving distances and indicating location of his
monuments. These are usually either iron stakes driven two or three
feet into the ground or concrete posts about two inches square set in
the ground and plainly visible. It is illegal to move such marks.

With title clear and the survey completed, everything is ready for the
title closing, as lawyers call the time when title to the property
passes from seller to buyer. The latter's lawyer should have
investigated and passed on all steps prior to this and adjusted any
minor details with the seller's lawyer. The buyer and his lawyer and
the seller and his lawyer should all be present at a title closing.
The paid tax bills for the current year are first presented and any
minor adjustments made. Then the buyer presents a certified check or
actual cash for the amount he has agreed to pay. He also has a small
amount of money on hand to meet any adjustments such as taxes,
insurance, and the like. Lastly, the deed, which has been carefully
reviewed by the buyer's lawyer, is signed by the seller and, for
better or worse, you have become a country property owner.



CALL IN AN ARCHITECT

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER IV_

CALL IN AN ARCHITECT


The prospective country dweller is now owner of a piece of property
and his ideas are probably fairly definite as to how his home is going
to look when his family is actually living there. But seldom is it a
simple matter of gathering the household goods into a moving van,
having them set down in the new place, and then going out on the
terrace to watch the sunset while deft workers within set things to
rights.

There may be no house at all on his new holding, much less a terrace.
At the time of purchase, an old mill, barn or other combination of
walls and roof may stand in place of his imaginary home. Even a house
in good condition usually needs a little renovation. During the
negotiations for purchase, his lawyer kept him from legal pitfalls.
Just as important now in bridging the gap between what he has and what
he wants is an architect.

If he has been consulted before purchase, so much the better. If not,
it is high time to seek him out unless one happens to be a genius like
Thomas Jefferson who could draft a Declaration of Independence with
one hand and design a serpentine wall with the other. Such a person
has no need of this book anyway and will long since have cast it
aside. Most of us are just average citizens with some ideas which we
want to put into concrete form but find difficult because we are
either inarticulate or untrained.

That is what various specialists are for, and it is a wise man who
realizes his own limitations. A sugar broker may have ideas about a
portrait but he won't try to paint it himself. He will commission a
portrait painter, in whom he has confidence, to make a likeness of his
wife or child as the case may be. Even more necessary are the services
of an architect when building or remodeling a house. Trying to be your
own architect is as foolish as drawing a sketch of little Jerry on
canvas and then calling in a house painter to smear on a daub of blue
for his coat, a bit of yellow for his hair, white for his collar, and
just anything for the background. At worst, though, this futuristic
result can be taken to the attic, turned face to the wall and
forgotten; but a botched house won't let you forget. You have to live
in it along with your mistakes, day after day and, possibly, year
after year. When and if you finally call in an architect and have them
remedied or obviated, the cost will be considerably in excess of what
his total fee would have been in the beginning.

So, find the best man practicing in the vicinity where your future
home is to be located and cast your burdens on his drafting board.
Give him ample information as to what suits your fancy and conforms to
your family needs. Then he can proceed with the preliminary sketches.
From these eventually will come the plan of action to be followed by
the various artisans who will do the work. But house plans, whether
for new construction, remodeling or renovating, do not spring from the
drafting board complete and final overnight. They are based on more
preliminary effort than most people without building experience
realize.

This is particularly true of the country home. In cities and suburbs,
building plots are more or less standardized units in a checker-board
with two controlling factors, so many feet of street frontage and such
and such depth. Local building ordinances sharply limit the type and
size of structure. The country offers much greater latitude. Such
matters as topography, location of existing trees, and points of the
compass with relation to the main rooms of the house play important
roles.

We well remember a dismal example of what can happen when these
controlling factors are ignored. The owner was an opinionated man with
a passion for economy. House building was to him no mystery. It was
just foundations, side walls, roof, stairways, interior partitions
and, of course, plumbing, heating and so forth. His house was "going
to cost just so much and people who paid architects' fees for plans
had more money than brains." Besides, he had seen a sketch and floor
plans of a house in a magazine that were good enough for him. He knew
a builder who could follow them and what more did one need?

[Illustration: A REALLY EARLY AMERICAN INTERIOR. THE GREAT FIREPLACE
OF THE WAYSIDE INN, SUDBURY, MASS.

_Henry Ford_]

The little matter of relating the structure to the site concerned him
not at all, nor did it enter his head that a house could face anywhere
except towards the road. As for the contractor, it was not for him to
reason why, but to build. So they went to work and a house entirely
made up of good things done in the wrong way was the result. An
outcropping of rock meant expensive blasting, so the magazine-pictured
house was set firmly down almost on the roots of a fine row of old
pine trees by the roadside. Through these the wind howled mournfully
at night and by day their shade made the main rooms of the ground
floor distinctly gloomy.

It was an ambitious house and the leaded glass windows of the living
room faced north. So keeping its temperature at a comfortable point in
winter was an added difficulty. The sunny southwestern exposure, being
at the back, was given over to kitchen and servants' quarters. Lastly,
the one pleasing prospect, a friendly little valley with a meandering
brook, could only be seen to advantage from the garage. The
architect's fee had been saved but when, a little later, the owner
wanted to sell, it took several years to find a buyer and then only at
a price of half the money invested. The new owner consulted an
architect with a gift for rearranging and so succeeded in mitigating
the worst features and in taking advantage of the cheerful aspects
inherent with the site. Like a good doctor or lawyer, an able
architect can usually get you out of trouble; but the ancient slogan,
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," fits admirably
here.

Do not, however, engage an architect as lightly as you would select a
cravat. To him you are intrusting the task of putting your chaotic and
half-expressed thoughts and desires into a set of plans that will
guide and control masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and
painters in their work. As your professional adviser, it will be his
job to bridge the gap between the date of purchase and the happy
occasion when your household goods are deposited in a home embodying
your ideas and wishes.

Obviously he must be in sympathy with those ideas. If you are building
a new house on old lines or remodeling an existing structure with a
century or more to its credit, don't select a man to advise you who
can see nothing but the newest and most modernistic types of
architecture. Don't be afraid to ask for evidences of past
performances. Since no architect discards his plans and renderings, he
will be glad to show you a few of them. Also in this initial
conference, names of clients for whom he has executed commissions
within the fairly recent past may be mentioned. It is sensible to
consult two or three of these. If he has pleased them, he is probably
fitted to undertake your problems. For solving them and knowing how to
get desired results, you will pay him a fee that ranges from six to
ten per cent of the total cost of the work undertaken. For special
cases that involve unusual work, it may be slightly higher. The
amount of the fee, as well as the dates at which portions of it become
payable, will be settled in your initial interview.

There are occasional men, however, calling themselves architects who
are not qualified. They have no degree from a recognized school;
cannot qualify for registration in states where architects, like
doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professional people, must have a
state license to practice. Like other charlatans, such men are glib
talkers but it takes real ability and thorough training to prepare
practical plans and specifications. Here is where the dabster betrays
himself. A little independent investigation may prevent you from
putting your building problems into the hands of such an incompetent
man.

The need of an architect where a new house is to be built or an old
one completely remodeled is obvious. We are convinced that the same
holds true where only minor changes, replacements and the introduction
of modern conveniences are the program. Our own little country home is
an example. The necessary alterations were so simple that it seemed
ridiculous to ask architectural advice. There was nothing to the job
but to install plumbing, move one partition, patch the plastering, and
close chimney and other pipe openings cut in the days when stoves,
rather than fireplaces, furnished heat.

We engaged a good local man who, with his crew of four or five
helpers, was accustomed to doing everything from carpentry to
plumbing. His labor charges were on a per diem basis and considerably
under the union scale that then prevailed. Nothing was left
indefinite. We understood exactly how the work was to be done and what
materials we were to supply. In due time it was finished and we moved
in. Two or three years later, we discovered some serious shortcomings.
For instance, the kitchen sink was hung in the wrong place and,
because it was easier, all of the water pipes were placed on outside
walls. This made no difference when the house was occupied only during
the summer months but during the first winter we became experts in
thawing pipes that "caught" whenever the temperature dropped to zero.

There was another economy that proved quite the opposite even before
the work was finished. We had agreed that wherever the old lath and
plaster were in bad condition, they were to be removed and replaced
with a paper wall board then being widely advertised as an inexpensive
substitute. But we had reckoned without the idiosyncrasies of an 18th
century house. When the old lath and plaster had been cleared away,
our handyman contractor discovered that the old beams and uprights
were spaced at eighteen-inch intervals, while our new wall board came
in widths conforming to the sixteen-inch spacing that has been
standard with American house construction for a century. It was too
late to return the wall board so new nailing strips, sixteen inches
apart, had to be installed. This took time and when the so-called
inexpensive substitute was finally in place, the total cost actually
exceeded that of the more satisfactory lath and plaster.

Further, because nobody was at hand to prevent it, we lost a good
partition of feather-edge boarding. It was between two of the
bedrooms, concealed beneath several layers of wallpaper. When
stripped, two or three cracks were found through which one could look
from one room to the other. These could have been filled with wooden
shims but the workmen did not stop to think of that. They ripped it
out and put in a tight and modest partition of that ultra-modern wall
board. It was well done mechanically and is still in place, but we
mourn that original paneling of native white wood and continually keep
an eye out for some like it.

Eventually, when all the mistakes of ignorance and lack of supervision
have been corrected, we will have spent several times the total of the
architect's fee. So we are out of pocket and, except for relocating
the water piping, we are still looking at and repenting most of the
results of our false economy.

Thus, an architect is all-important with a house problem whether it
involves a minor or major undertaking and it is logical to ask exactly
what he does for his fee. Consider, for instance, his functions and
services when a new house is to be built. As a beginning, owner and
architect meet, inspect the site, while the architect, like any good
diagnostician, asks questions. These deal with the type of house the
owner thinks he wants, the number of rooms, baths, and so forth and,
finally, the amount of money he is prepared to spend. He offers few
opinions of his own at this interview but rather tries to read his
client's mind so that preliminary sketches and plans will approximate
that mental picture.

A few days later, tentative sketches of a house designed to suit the
location are submitted. Out of them grow the revised ones. It is
highly improbable that his initial suggestions will suit you in every
detail. It takes time and interchange of ideas before this can be
accomplished. When they reach the stage where they represent the house
you want, the architect prepares a complete set of working drawings,
including floor plans and side wall elevations. These are drawn on a
scale of one quarter of an inch to the foot. As soon as the drawings
are finished, he drafts the specifications or bill of particulars as
to materials to be used in the construction of the house. These with
the plans form the basis on which contractors may submit bids for the
work.

First, however, owner and architect should go over this material
together. Making changes after the contracts are let and the work
begun is both expensive and foolish. If you find it difficult to
visualize an actual house from the drawings, a model made from wall
board or similar material is a wise precaution. Fashioned on the same
scale of one quarter of an inch to the foot, it is your proposed house
in the little, and on seeing it no doubts are left. Windows and doors
are all in their proper places. The exterior is painted to match the
color and simulate the material that is to be used. Finally, the model
can be taken apart so that you can study the interior of bedroom and
living room floors. Such models, of course, are not included in the
architect's fee but the cost of one for an average house is under
$100. If you can visualize your proposed home thoroughly by it, the
expense is well warranted.

The architect can be of great service in the matter of contractor's
bids. He knows the past performances of those operating in the
vicinity where you propose building and can suggest the men or firms
whose work is most satisfactory. From four to eight general
contractors, that is, individuals or firms competent to undertake the
complete building operation, ought to be invited to submit sealed
bids. Each is supplied with a complete set of plans and specifications
by the architect and given from ten days to two weeks in which to
submit their bids. In addition to the total price for the work, these
bids, by common custom, give the names of the chief sub-contractors
such as plumber, electrician and the like, with the amount of money
allocated for the work of each.

On a set day, usually a Saturday afternoon, owner and architect meet,
open the bids, and compare the offers made by the various contractors.
Most of them include alternate provisions on condition that they be
allowed to substitute materials or methods of construction not
according to the specifications. The contractor who submits the lowest
bid would logically be the one selected but here again the architect's
judgment is valuable. First, he can rapidly determine whether the
provisional saving suggested by substitution of unspecified materials
is a wise change. Second, he knows whether the bidder under
consideration is dependable or inclined to skimp in hidden but
essential points.

There is, also, the possible chance that none of the bids submitted
come within the sum the owner is prepared to spend. Then comes the
task of revising plans and specifications and eliminating
non-essentials to bring costs within the set figure. From practical
experience, however, architects have found that, if the proposed house
is just what the owner wants, he will somehow find the additional
money rather than have plans or details changed.

After a contractor whose bid and quality of work are satisfactory has
been selected, the architect, acting for the owner, lets the contract
to him. This includes provisions for partial payments at stated
periods as the work progresses; so much when the masonry is completed;
another amount when the exterior walls are finished; and so on,
including plumbing, heating, plastering and electrical wiring. With
each payment, fifteen per cent of the total is held back and does not
become due until the entire work has been finished. This is a standard
practice and is intended to insure completion of the contract to the
satisfaction of both owner and architect. Under this provision, the
architect certifies to the owner each month that certain work has been
done and that the contractor is entitled to so much money for it.

From the day that construction starts, the architect begins his work
of supervision. At least twice a week he goes to the site and observes
the progress of the work and how it is being done. Special conditions
may arise where the contractor or his foreman call hurriedly for the
architect, such as uncovering a large boulder at one corner of the
excavation for the cellar. There may be a fine point to be decided
regarding the location of piping or some detailed instruction
concerning the installation of the interior woodwork. On these
occasions it saves time for everybody if the architect or one of his
associates is readily available. Watching the cellar excavation for
unexpected subsurface water is also an item that no experienced
architect neglects. He sees to it that concrete for foundations is
mixed properly and has the specified percentage of cement. The
installation of piping for plumbing and heating is supervised
carefully, as is the work of plastering.

As the house nears completion, his supervision increases in direct
ratio. In fact, during the last two or three weeks, the architect is
not infrequently there most of the time. The last details of the
interior trim are being completed, decorating is under way, and
lighting fixtures are being installed. All of these require direct
supervision and the architect expects to be on hand. These final
details can make or mar the general effect more than is realized.

When your house is finished to the architect's satisfaction, he gives
his final approval and thirty days thereafter the final bill of the
contractor is payable. This period is to allow for minor adjustments,
such as windows that stick, doors that will not latch and the like,
the small things that always need to be done with any new house and
are generally attended to after the owner and his family have taken
possession.

Just as the general contractor is paid in installments, the
architect's fee is likewise liquidated. There is a standard schedule
which provides that one-fifth of the estimated fee shall be paid on
completion of satisfactory preliminary sketches; two-fifths when the
plans and specifications are finished or on letting the contract for
actual building. The balance is paid monthly in proportion to the
amounts paid the contractor.

When a house is to be remodeled, the architect proceeds in much the
same way. He presents suggested sketches of the ways in which the
desired changes can be accomplished. When these are satisfactory,
working drawings are prepared that show what is to be removed and what
new construction undertaken. The working drawings are, of course,
accompanied by a set of specifications, and contractors are invited to
submit bids for doing the work. On letting the contract, work proceeds
about as with that of building a new house. There are, however, more
opportunities for unforeseen contingencies and so the architect often
has to devote more of his time to supervision. Sometimes, if the
particular remodeling project is one requiring unusual care, the
percentage of his fee is a little higher by special arrangement.

Where a house requires minor changes that qualify merely as
renovation, the architect's work is, of course, much simpler.
Extensive preliminary sketches are unnecessary, and complete floor
and elevation plans not required. But architectural investigation,
planning and supervision, as stated before, are highly desirable if
not essential. His fee is usually the same ten per cent as applies for
new construction. There is less actual plan drafting but the amount of
supervision is so much in excess of that required for new construction
that such a charge is by no means unreasonable. Besides, the owner has
the assurance that all changes and new installations will be done
properly with no glaring errors of judgment to mock him as he settles
down to life in his country home.



BUILDING VERSUS REMODELING

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER V_

BUILDING VERSUS REMODELING


"Shall I build or remodel?" is a question with so many facets that it
would be foolhardy to try to answer it categorically. Circumstances
alter cases in all phases of life and particularly so when one is
endeavoring to decide whether the country home is to be a new
structure, or an old one remodeled to make the best use of its
desirable features and suit the requirements of its new owner.

One of our acquaintances was hung on the horns of this dilemma for
several months while he and his wife spent most of their waking hours
arguing it pro and con. They had selected the vicinity in which they
wanted to live, had the requisite cash in the bank to finance either
undertaking, and there were two properties that pleased them. The
latter constituted the snag. On the one hand, there was a sightly
piece of land with some nice old shade trees but no existing
structure; about a mile farther along the same road, lay another
holding of about the same size with a house in fair condition. The
price for this was naturally higher than for the undeveloped land, on
the theory that it would not cost half as much to remodel the house as
to build.

"I don't know what to do," this perplexed man remarked. "On one side I
hear and read that new building is much the best investment. That it
costs so much less to maintain a new house and if you want to sell,
you can find a purchaser quicker and at a better price. But no sooner
do I begin to believe that building is the only wise course, than I
run smack into an article on remodeling or meet some one I know whose
experience in remodeling shows by actual figures a big saving compared
with a new house of the same kind and size. In my own case, though,
the more I study what estimates I can get, the more I am convinced
that in the end I'll spend just about as much whether I build or
remodel."

These two people finally built a new house. There were good reasons
for their decision. First, they could buy the land for so much money,
and a general contractor of excellent reputation was ready to build
just the house they wanted for so much more. The two figures, plus the
architect's fee, added up to a definite amount. Having an accounting
mind, the knowledge that there would be no unforeseen contingencies
and that, ready for occupancy, the cost of the house would be so much,
was the deciding factor. In addition, he and his wife both inclined
towards something new. A house that had not been lived in by other
people, had no scars and marks of age and use, that embodied all the
newest materials and construction methods, was really what they
wanted. Had remodeling offered them an assured saving of several
thousand dollars, this couple would probably have suppressed their
subconscious leanings to be builders, proceeded to remodel, and been
only moderately pleased with the result.

The answer to the age-old question of whether to build or to remodel
is found in the preference of the individual. Some people are
temperamentally builders. They are happiest living in a home that was
constructed for them. In their eyes it possesses far greater charm
than anything that has been mellowed by years of use. There are others
to whom nothing is more satisfying than to take an existing structure
and alter it to their liking and needs. An elderly acquaintance, now a
widow and living in a sleepy New England village, is taking keen
pleasure in an old house of almost doll-like proportions. "All my
life," she said, "I've wanted to live in a really old house but until
now it has always been one new house or city apartment after another
and I never got my roots down."

Granted that building or remodeling, like cheese, is a matter of
personal preference, it is not improper at this point to set forth
some of the merits of both. With a fine old building, there is that
elusive something called charm. Time has mellowed it and the countless
feet that have crossed its threshold have worn its floors. The
blackened bricks or stones of its fireplaces bespeak the generations
that basked in the heat of the huge logs that once glowed there. All
these things have given it character.

[Illustration: ONCE HALF A HOUSE AND A HEN ROOST

_Photo by Whitney_]

[Illustration: WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH A BARN

_Photo by Samuel H. Gottscho_. _Robertson Ward, architect_]

Don't expect a new house, the day it is turned over to you by the
contractor, to look as if it had been a family home for several
generations. It can't. It has just been built. Everything is fresh and
shiny; edges are sharp and even the bricks of the fireplace are
untainted by flame and smoke. But if you have been even moderately
articulate, the architect has been able to interpret your wishes and
you have a house built as near as possible to your plans. You also
have the satisfaction of knowing that, in the building, the
workmanship has been honest and thorough, and that in materials used
every advantage has been taken of the newest developments.

For instance, behind the plaster is the modern metal lath so superior
to the old wooden variety. The exterior walls are as thoroughly
insulated against heat and cold as any one of several highly efficient
materials can make them; windows and doors are products of large
wood-fabricating factories noted for superior work. All these are
points of advantage with tangible merit, but time and your own efforts
are the only means by which your new home can acquire personality and
charm. This new structure is yours, made to your desires; and what you
make of it is your own problem.

The house that you buy and remodel starts with certain attributes
given by age, as already stated. Here we must offer one caution. It
concerns houses built during the last quarter of the 19th century. The
majority were badly designed and the quality of workmanship was none
too good. Such houses are apt to be perched on high foundations, have
exterior walls that offer the minimum resistance to winter winds,
while architecturally, lines and proportions reflect an age when taste
was either bad or lacking. We know of several attempts to remodel
country homes of such vintage and are convinced that better results
could have been achieved for less money if the operation had started
with wrecking the structure and building anew.

On the contrary, except where decayed beyond salvage, we have yet to
see a country home of the 18th or first half of the 19th century that
did not respond admirably to remodeling. But it is well to be
practical and compare its cost with that of a new building. Among
architects, it is generally recognized that, save for a house with
unusually expensive details or added equipment, definite figures per
cubic foot of size may be computed that will cover the entire cost of
construction. To get the cubical contents of a house, the architect
takes the area in square feet of the ground floor and multiplies it by
the height from the cellar floor to the eaves, plus half the distance
from that point to the ridge of the roof.

For example, if the proposed house is thirty feet wide by twenty feet
deep, its floor plan area is 600 square feet. Then, if the elevation
dimensions are seven feet from cellar floor to living room floor;
eight feet from living room floor to that of the bedroom floor; and
seven feet from bedroom floor to the level of the eaves, which in
turn measure eight feet below the ridge of the roof; the cubical
contents would result from multiplying 600 square feet by the sum of
seven, eight, seven, and four, or 15,600 cubic feet. With this figure
established, it is simple to approximate costs as follows:

    Wooden construction                 $0.45 per cubic foot
    Brick veneer construction            0.55  "    "    "
    Solid brick construction             0.65  "    "    "
    Field stone construction             0.60  "    "    "
    Cut stone construction      $0.75 to 1.50  "    "    "

This tabulation, an average for the United States as a whole, is as
accurate as any generalization can be and a safe one for forming a
preliminary estimate, but local conditions may increase or decrease
costs. The architect can readily determine which. This table, of
course, does not include cost of land, construction of driveway,
landscaping, or expenses incident to bringing electric service or
telephone wires to the house.

From these calculations, it is an easy matter to take the outside
dimensions of a house you are considering remodeling and compute its
cubical content. Then you can ask your architect whether it can be
remodeled as you wish for a price competitive with building a new
house of like design and equal size. In order for this to mean
anything, you should determine what proportion of the price paid for
the property represents land value and what reflects the existence of
the structure itself. As a simple example, we will concede that land
in the neighborhood is held at $500 an acre and you can buy a
five-acre tract with a house on it for $3,750. Here $2,500 represents
land value, and $1,250 house value. The question resolves itself into
comparing remodeling costs plus house value with those for a new house
of like size and kind.

If so much must be replaced or rearranged that the figures for house
and remodeling are in excess of those for a new structure, the wise
course would be to abandon the idea and build instead. But the old
house may have certain details that make you willing to bear the added
expense. If so, you at least know the comparative costs and have
definite standards by which to shape your course.

From personal observation, we believe that there are many instances
where the total cost of house and rejuvenation is considerably below
that of a new structure. Since confession stories are just as
fascinating in home building as in the lurid fiction of the woodpulp
magazines, we cite the experience of a family that bought a home
nearly two years ago within the New York commuting zone. They were a
larger family than the average and the house, of desired size, had
once been a stagecoach halfway tavern. It contained twenty-two rooms
and was in better than average condition. The exterior had been given
two coats of white paint less than six months before.

The price for this old place, including twenty-two acres of land and a
barn usable for garage and chicken house, was $8,200. According to
actual record, only $2,798 was spent on remodeling. There were almost
no structural changes required. Two minor partitions were removed and
five new windows cut. Otherwise, this expenditure was largely devoted
to the introduction of plumbing, heating, and lighting. By type of
work, the costs for this remodeling were as follows:

    Two bathrooms, each complete with shower;
    a kitchen sink and laundry tub                        $590.00

    Heating system, including steam boiler, piping
    and 25 radiators, totaling 630 feet of radiation       889.00

    Water system, cleaning well, installing pump
    and 500 gallon storage tank                            218.00

    Electric wiring entirely of armored cable and
    lighting fixtures                                      306.00

    Sewage system complete with septic tank and
    disposal fields                                        230.00

    All carpentry, including necessary work for
    plumber, electrician, etc.                             160.00

    Masonry, including repairs to fireplaces and
    chimneys                                               105.00

    Decorations, paint, and paper for twelve rooms         150.00

    Architectural supervision, plans where needed
    and preliminary inspection of several houses           150.00

    Total                                               $2,798.00

These are the actual figures for a livable and attractive country
home. There are, of course, some things that await a future time for
their accomplishment, but what place would be really enjoyable if
there were not certain corrections and additions over which the owners
could daydream and plan. We admit the figures just quoted are so low
as to seem hardly credible, but they demonstrate what could be
accomplished within fifty miles of New York during the summer of 1935.
The contributing causes for this happy result were that these people
knew what they wanted, hunted in a section that had not been too
thoroughly combed by others like themselves and, lastly, happened to
be ready to buy at just the right moment when the man who owned the
property was anxious to sell.

But old country residences, including structures built as taverns,
private schools and the like, are not the only type of buildings that
may be remodeled into acceptable homes. We have seen old barns or
stables, disused sawmills, general stores, old stone buildings that
once housed small industrial enterprises, and even a church of the
Neo-Classic period remodeled with distinct success.

Again, in Massachusetts there is a former textile hamlet. The mill
itself is now a community club and the workmen's cottages, built about
1815-20, are homes for a dozen or more families where, daily, the head
of the house motors to his office in an industrial city about a
half-hour away. These story-and-a-half cottages, executed along simple
Federal lines, are owned by the families who occupy them. They look
out on a street lined with fine old elms and at the end is the stone
mill with its belfry where still hangs the bell that once ruled the
lives of spinners and weavers with its clanking iron tongue, morning,
noon and night.

For picturesqueness, if the unconventional has a greater appeal than
the more standardized type of home, remodeling an old barn into a
country home has its advantages. This is particularly so if one can
find either a capacious one of roughly laid ledge stone, once popular
in parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and more rarely built in other
sections, or a large hay barn with hand-hewn framework and side walls
of weathered boarding. It takes only a little imagination to visualize
such a building remodeled into a country home with a generous stone
chimney and fireplace occupying one of the end walls of a former
haymow. Invariably such remodeling includes construction of one or
more wings to house dining room, kitchen, and servants' quarters as
well as additional bedrooms and baths. The actual barn structure
seldom lends itself to more than a living room and possibly two
bedrooms.

In summer this type of country home has much to offer. It is light,
airy, and spacious; but when fall begins to indicate its arrival,
unless the structure has been made nearer weather tight than is the
nature of barns, life in the haymow is chill and sour. For use the
year around, the old barn must be completely rebuilt with a cellar
beneath for a heating plant and side walls and undersides of roof well
covered with insulating material to prevent cold from entering or heat
escaping. One of the most successful methods of treating the front,
where once the old barn doors swung wide to admit a fully loaded
haywagon, is to substitute a many-paned window of almost cathedral
proportions. This lets in adequate light for what might otherwise be a
dark interior. In summer it can be screened to keep out flies and
mosquitoes. Through it on fair winter days, especially if it faces
south or west, pours that most valuable attribute of country living,
bright sunlight.

An old water-power sawmill makes an unusually attractive country home.
We know of at least one so adapted. Here the space once given over to
sawing logs into boards has been completely enclosed and is now the
living room. On one side is a noble fireplace flanked by large
casement windows that look out on the old mill pond. Bedrooms and
service quarters are located in the end sections where lumber used to
be seasoned and other special work done. This unique bit of
remodeling, combined with the pond as a main feature of landscape
development, is both rare and enviable. Yet there are a surprising
number of old commercial structures that lend themselves to remodeling
into present day homes and by their very unconventionality take on
added charm.

In New England there is a substantial stone building of no
architectural pretensions except that width, depth, and height are
distinctly related to each other. It is now a country home but it
began as a small textile mill in the early days of the 19th century
when the industrial revolution was just getting under way. Later, when
the factory era became thoroughly established, this lone little mill
was left high and dry by the tide that swept toward the larger
centers and it stood untenanted for years. Finally it was retrieved by
some one with vision enough to see that, with proper partitions, both
ground and second floors could be divided into satisfactory rooms.
Here the new owner, or his architect, had the discretion to preserve
as much as possible of the past. The old mill owner's counting room,
on the lower floor, is now the library and, in almost untouched
condition, is complete even to the cast-iron stove that once warmed
it.

Converting buildings originally designed for other uses may take a
still different course. A house, too small in itself for present day
use, can form the nucleus of a country home. A most attractive place
in Maine was so assembled. There were two or three other buildings on
the property which were shifted from their original locations by jacks
and rollers and skillfully joined to the little house to form wings.
By clever rearrangement of rooms and shifting or removal of
partitions, the assembled group became large enough for the new
owner's uses.

Even a modern structure, designed originally for some branch of
agriculture, can be converted into an excellent house if an architect
is inclined to undertake the necessary contriving of plans and
builders can be found who will follow his directions. Several years
ago, a man was bitten with the urge to raise chickens according to the
latest scientific methods of artificial lighting and forced feeding.
For this he built a substantial structure with steam heat, electric
lights, and other elaborate provisions. Being nurse maid to thousands
of chicks ranging from a week old to the proper size for broiling was
a strenuous job. Further, the creatures developed all sorts of
maladies not provided for in the book and the mortality was so high
that the project was finally abandoned.

The building stood vacant for some months until it came to the notice
of a resourceful young architect. He measured, sketched, and drew
plans. Now, what was once a factory for the raw material of broiled
chicken is an attractive and compact Cape Cod cottage. Because of site
and accessibility, the original building had to be dismembered and
moved about two hundred feet. When re-erected according to the plans
provided, the result bore little resemblance to the original box-like
structure except that the floor space was the same.

Some country homes begin as week-end retreats. Then the habit of being
in the country two or three days grows on the family until they see no
reason for living in the city except for an occasional overnight
ordeal with a stuffy hotel room. To make the average week-end shack a
permanent home calls for material expansion. Double-deck bunks have
been installed to provide adequate sleeping quarters; and for a
limited time they find it fun to cook, eat, and live in one large
room. But, when the house is used seven days a week, such condensation
is anything but practical. So the establishment must be enlarged. This
can be done with ease, especially if the original plans were drawn
with such a change in mind. That is, the original structure now
becomes the living room, while new wings and additions provide the
much needed space for service quarters and conventional bedrooms and
baths.

But the week-end place is not always built particularly for the
purpose. Many times it is a very small farmhouse acquired cheaply and
made usable at a minimum of time and money. When the decision is
reached to convert it into a home of larger proportions, whether one
realizes it or not, the plan of campaign follows the plan of no less a
person than George Washington. Mount Vernon was not always a mansion
but was the result of consistent enlargement. When Washington inherited
it from his half-brother, Lawrence, it was a story-and-a-half hunting
lodge of eight rooms. Then he married Martha Custis, richest widow in
the Virginia colony; and, to have a home suitable for her, he had the
roof raised and the house made full two stories.

Shortly before the outbreak of the American Revolution, he planned two
wings. The first was that at the south end with library on the ground
floor and master bedroom for Colonel and Mrs. Washington on the
second. As the revolt against the British crown progressed, the
construction of the north wing lagged somewhat but was worked on
intermittently. This, the banquet hall, when finished became one of
the noblest private residence rooms in America.

Washington, however, did not leave these steps in the enlargement and
renovation of his erstwhile hunting lodge entirely to professionals.
Whether away fighting in the French and Indian Wars or directing the
course of action of the Continental Army, he never forgot what was
happening at his country seat. His correspondence is full of minute
directions regarding the finishing of certain rooms or of such
injunctions as, "I beg of you to hasten Lamphire about the addition to
the north end of the house; otherwise you will have it open, I fear,
in the cold and wet weather." When the Revolution was fought and won,
the Washingtons returned, not to a Mount Vernon that was a stranger to
them, but to the country home they had so carefully planned. This
specific planning by the owner, now as then, has definite bearing on
whether the house will be yours or just a beautiful structure, perfect
in all its appointments but totally lacking the impress of the owner
or his family.

Several years ago, a man and his wife acquired one of the early Dutch
farmhouses of the New Jersey back country. They had long wanted just
such a place and having taken possession, they summoned an architect,
an interior decorator, and a landscape architect. A few days were
spent with them inspecting house and grounds. Then the new owners left
on a winter cruise around the world. Their final injunctions were to
the effect that next May they would return and would expect everything
done. They did and everything was complete. The old house was perfect.
Its furnishings were all genuine antiques of the period. The grounds
had been graded, trimmed, and polished. Gardens, shrubbery, and hedges
were just right, but the final effect was as impersonal as a
demonstration model.

In a year or two, this property was sold to a golf club and its former
owner bought another place and moved right in. Nearly two years were
spent consulting and working with an architect and workmen,
supervising a garden or two, and in buying antiques, a piece at a
time. His second attempt at country living was not as sophisticated
nor did it approach the museum standards of the former; but, when
completed, it had that prime essential of any home, it reflected the
character and personality of its owners.



LOOKING AN OLD HOUSE IN THE MOUTH

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER VI_

LOOKING AN OLD HOUSE IN THE MOUTH


Buying an old house is a good deal like selecting a horse. Having
found an animal of the desired type and breed, the question arises,
"Is it sound of wind and limb?" Houses nearing or past the century
mark also have their spavins and these should be recognized by the
prospective buyer. He can thus form some estimate of how extensive
replacements are needed, even on first inspection. This is of prime
importance since it has direct bearing on the worth of the house.

Whether built of stone, brick, or wood, such structures may have
rafters, sills, and main beams so decayed that new ones must be added.
The foundation may need rebuilding and door and window frames may be
so weathered that they also must be replaced. Beware of a house where
floors slope and side walls are out of plumb. This means extensive
shoring which is slow and expensive.

For a truly pessimistic report on the health of an old place turn to a
trusted carpenter or contractor. He congenitally dislikes old
buildings and will point out all defects with ominous head shakings
and subtle suggestions for new building. In this way the prospective
buyer will know the worst, painted at its blackest. Somewhere between
it and the rosy view of the real estate agent will lie the truth.
Therefore, it is well to do some inspecting independently. Knowledge
of what are the weak spots in old houses and where to look for them
will save much time and effort in the initial stages of house hunting.

The skeleton of an old house is akin to that of a modern steel
structure. Hand-hewn timbers, morticed and pinned together, take the
place of riveted steel beams. Since a timber frame is subject to rot,
either dry or damp, one of the first places to look for unsoundness is
the sills (the beams which rest on the foundation and into which are
set floor joists, corner posts, and other main uprights). It is a
simple matter to give them the jack-knife test at intervals of two or
three feet. Stick the blade in as far as possible. Then try to turn it
around. With a sound beam this cannot be done. If there is dry rot,
the beam will often crumble under a slight pressure of the fingers.

Go over the sills on the north side of the building first. Here there
is less sunlight and snow remains longer. Consequently decay from
excessive moisture is not unusual. Roof rafters and plate beams (the
long timbers on which the lower ends of the rafters rest) should also
be knife-tested since long neglected leaking roofs eventually result
in their decay. Unsound corner posts and other uprights connecting
sills and plate beams are harder to detect since they are concealed
between the outside boarding and interior plaster. Note the walls
themselves and the corner boards extending vertically from foundation
to eaves. If a corner of the house is enough out of plumb to be
visible to the eye, or if the corner boards are loose, examine further
as it may indicate decay beneath.

With brick or stone houses, the walls themselves carry the weight of
the roof and so have no vertical timbers. If the walls are out of
plumb it means that the foundations are either gone or are in need of
major repair. Whether a house is of brick, stone or wood, there is one
further place for knife testing--the ground floor joists. Cellar
dampness may have taken its toll.

The fact that a sill, joist or other timber is unsound does not mean
that the house is beyond repair. Many old houses with all their sills
gone and some other principal beams no longer serviceable have been
restored, but the necessity of such steps ought to be realized in
advance and the cost taken into consideration. It is far from pleasant
to discover that one has unwittingly bought the bill of expense this
type of replacement means. "Let the buyer beware" generally rules in
the selling of old places, and the purchase of a knife and an hour or
two of poking its point into the principal timbers may save time and
money later.

"The next time I buy an old house to put a new frame into, you'll know
it," was the heartfelt declaration of a man who left his knife at home
when he went house hunting. "The owner and the agent knew the sills
and beams were rotten but didn't think it necessary to mention the
fact. What I didn't see wouldn't hurt me until after I had bought the
place and begun repairs. Then I learned plenty about decayed timbers
and the cost of replacing them."

After the timber frame, consider the exterior. The foundation will
probably need some "pointing-up," that is, replacement of mortar in
the joints or cracks. The question is, how much? Will it have to be a
complete job? Has frost worked such havoc that some sections must be
re-laid?

If the cellar indicates standing water during heavy rains, drainage
must be provided. Notice whether any cellar windows have been closed.
Countrymen are prone to do this as a cheap and easy method when the
framework gets beyond repair. Replacing stoned-up windows is not
expensive or difficult but just one more thing which must be done.
Notice the extent of the cellar. Old builders sometimes did only a
partial job of excavation because of economy. Such a cellar was ample
for storing root crops, preserves, and hard cider in the days before
furnaces. It may be wise to complete the work of excavating. Do not
expect to find cellars under wings and sheds. It was never the
practice. If they are to be converted to uses for which excavation is
desirable, this is another item for the adding machine.

With the foundation and its needed repairs noted, begin appraising the
condition of the walls and roof. Sometimes a shingle roof will be
found in good order or at most have one or two minor leaks which can
be repaired. More often an entire new roof is needed and, in extreme
cases, new boarding beneath. As with sills, roofs sloping to the north
and east are more apt to be out of repair and for the same reasons.

If door and window frames are so loose that they can be lifted out of
the side walls, the situation is serious. Putty and paint are of no
avail. Rebuilding them is essential. It is extravagant business trying
to heat a house with wind whistling in around doors and windows.

If the fabric of the side walls is of shingle, clapboard, or other
types of wood, is the material sound enough to warrant repainting or
must it be renewed? The object of paint is to close the small cracks
and preserve the wood. An old house that has gone many years without
painting will absorb much more than a new one, but it is surprising
what can be accomplished with two or three coats of paint on siding so
weathered as to seem worthless. Besides, a new exterior robs an old
house of some of its charm, so preserve the old if possible,
architects, carpenters, and contractors to the contrary.

Where walls are of stone or brick, the mortar of the joints has
probably so disintegrated under wind and rain that repointing is
indicated. Also, frosts may have heaved individual stones or
disintegrated bricks so they must be reset. Expect this in places
where down-spouts have leaked for years. If the walls have settled
badly, lintels or sills of doors and window openings may be cracked
and need renewing. Sometimes an old house has exterior walls of
plaster. These are both picturesque and rare. Patch cracks and spots
where it has come loose from the lath. Old plaster has a texture and
patina that modern stucco cannot simulate, so preserve it if possible.

Indoors, there are many things to be observed and appraised but
fireplaces come first. A country home without facilities for open
fires is as uninviting as one without trees and flowers. Expect to
find the fireplaces disused and closed with fireboards or bricks.
Sometimes the mantels have been removed and new flooring laid over the
hearthstones. Some detective work around the logical locations will
tell whether fireplaces have been torn out or just concealed. If
mantels are missing, look for them in the attic or on the rafters of a
shed. More than one fine old mantel has been rescued from such a
hiding place. We know of one fireplace complete with crane and iron
cooking utensils that reposed for fifty years or more behind an
unsuspected opening covered with lath and plaster.

Where original fireplaces have been torn out and chimneys intended
only to serve stoves put in place, two courses are open. The more
costly is rebuilding chimney and fireplaces according to indications
of original dimensions. The alternative is a Franklin stove, a
combination of stove and fireplace, which can be installed and
connected to the existing chimney at a very moderate expense.

Incidentally, the chimneys of an old house should be examined
carefully. Built in the days before separate flues and flue tiles,
their mortar may have lost its binding strength and so a smoke test is
advisable. Close all fireplaces except one and start a lively fire in
it. When it is well under way, toss on some scraps of roofing paper.
Then cover the top of the chimney. If there are any fissures in the
chimney, your eyes and nose will leave you in no doubt. You cannot
mistake the pungent odor of burning tar and its bluish smoke is easy
to see. Trace these to the points where they leak from the chimney and
mark the spots. Complete examination will tell whether repointing will
suffice or whether rebuilding is necessary.

The condition of the plaster on walls and ceilings of rooms can be
easily appraised. It is reasonable to expect cracks and that some of
it will be so loose as to need replacing. Removing it all and starting
afresh, however, is only advisable where a house has reached about the
last stages of disrepair.

Partitions of even the simplest feather-board paneling should be
preserved as well as interior trim, doors, and flooring. The same
applies to old hardware, as a house with all original wrought-iron
hinges, latches, and locks is both rare and valuable. Notice whether
the floors are of old wide boards laid random width and held in place
by wrought-iron nails. In houses antedating 1800, the floors in
certain localities were of hardwood. Sometimes several varieties were
used indiscriminately. With all their irregularities, they become a
very pleasing feature when well scrubbed and oiled or waxed. Like
fireplaces, they are sometimes concealed but it is an easy matter to
remove the new flooring.

The soundness and safety of stairways can only be determined by direct
inspection. If treads move beneath the feet, additional nailing is
needed and possibly new supports. Step easily on those leading to the
cellar. They are often somewhat rotten and may collapse.

If window glass is of the old, wavy, off-color sort, full of the
bubbles, sand pits, and creases that characterized its production in
early days, make sure that such panes are not discarded. Workmen view
them with complete scorn and will cast them aside if not put under
stern injunctions. "I never found that it kept out the cold any better
than a good new piece," snorted one disgustedly when we suggested that
he putty a fine "bull's eye" pane with a slight crack.

Sometimes part of the interior trim will have been replaced by modern
substitutes, but a good carpenter working under an architect can match
that still remaining. Likewise, later additions not in keeping with
the original, such as porches, sheds, wings, and illogical partitions,
can be readily removed with little damage to the house itself.

As one goes about an old house it is well to be on the look out for
signs of vermin, both animal and insect. With the former, traps and
prepared bait will suffice. The latter require the services of an
exterminator or some one skilled in the use of hydrocyanic acid gas.
Such insects go deep into the cracks of woodwork and beams. Ordinary
fumigating will not eradicate them. A single session with this deadly
gas, however, will rid the house both of these pests and their eggs.

The things that may be the matter with an old house, as enumerated
here, may sound very forbidding but circumstances alter cases. It is
doubtful if any one structure will be afflicted with all these ills of
decay and neglect. In our own house hunting we saw many that were
sound enough so that, with the addition of modern conveniences and a
good cleaning, they were livable. In fact, there is nothing equal to
getting thoroughly acquainted with a house before radical changes are
made. Live in the place six months or a year and then you will know
better just what alterations or additions are wise.

In northern New England there is a delightful country home that has
been renovated with great skill and charm. The reason behind it is
that the owners went for many years with as few repairs as possible.
Then came a large and unexpected inheritance. There was money enough
to rebuild completely but relatively few major changes were made.

"Most of the expenditure was for restorations," the owner stated.
"Once we day-dreamed of all kinds of changes but when the time came we
knew most of them were impractical and would add neither to our
comfort nor our convenience."

The most important thing about any house is, does it please you
architecturally and is its general plan suited to your needs? If it
seems to be well enough preserved so that renovation appears to be
practical, turn to an architect with the understanding that, if you
buy, he will be retained. He will then be willing to give the house an
expert inspection and even submit tentative sketches of advantageous
changes. His report, if the venture is to be financially good, should
indicate that structurally the house is about one-half sound and
usable.

Of course if you have found a house dating from the 17th or 18th
century, you have something fairly rare and it is worth reclaiming
even though very extensive replacements are needed. In Fairfield,
Connecticut, for example, there is the Ogden House, built before 1710.
Its present owner paid $4,000 for it in what seemed to be ruinous
condition. Its renovation cost fully $12,000; but finished, this old
salt box house is so unusual that more than one buyer is ready and
waiting to pay double the amount spent.

Arrangement of the rooms of an old house, and how they will fit the
requirements of the prospective purchaser, should be given more than
passing thought. Most people when they begin looking at places have
large ideas about moving partitions, cutting new windows, and changing
the location of doorways. These can be done but they are relatively
expensive and if carried to excess rob the place of all character.
Even the simplest of old houses has definite balance in its design
and arrangement of rooms. So think well before tearing out partitions
indiscriminately or moving doorways and cutting windows.

In fact, if some old house seems to you to call for drastic
reconstruction, you would do better to let it alone and look for one
that more nearly fits your mental picture. Buying a house you do not
really like is as foolish as marrying with the same reservation. Some
hardy people go through life so mated but more get a divorce. So it
will be with the house. After a season of dislike, divorce by sale
will be the end. If it pleases you from the start, however, you and it
will develop a mutual affection as the years go by and it will become
the old home in more ways than one.



NEW SITES FOR OLD HOUSES

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER VII_

NEW SITES FOR OLD HOUSES


Substantial houses built by old craftsmen who knew how to achieve
beauty by restraint lined the straggling single street of a forgotten
farming town. Despite weatherbeaten clapboards and sagging roofs, the
fine ornamental detail of doorways and window frames assured similar
niceties within.

"What good are they," snorted practical grandfather. "If they were
where people had adequate incomes it would be different. But here!
Once this was a prosperous town. Men made money breeding merino sheep.
Now the town's dead and its houses falling apart. Better tear them
down to save taxes."

Twenty-five years ago many substantial old houses were doomed to die
with their towns. Today, people who want an old house but cannot find
it where they wish to live have learned that it is practical,
financially and otherwise, to transplant an old structure to a new
location. Once this was the sport of eccentric millionaires or of
amply endowed museums. Now it is done for people of average incomes.
The expense will about equal that of building a new house of the same
cubical content and architectural detail. Sometimes it can be
accomplished at a slight saving. But whether the cost is equal, a
little higher, or somewhat less, the great advantages of a
transplanted house are a certain mellowness of age and that charm of
individuality which only old structures possess.

For those who want an old house on a site of their own choosing, there
are now men who deal in old buildings ready for removal. Just as
pickers comb the back-country for antiques, a related group search for
untenanted old houses. These men are a cross between practical
builders and antique dealers. They know Early American domestic
architecture and experience has taught them the point beyond which
salvage is impossible. Also they are experts in dismembering such
houses so they can be re-erected.

Tearing down an old house is easy enough, but to do it so that it can
be rebuilt is a trade in itself. From removing paneling and interior
trim to taking apart the hewn timber frame requires care and
understanding. Too much brute strength will split boards that should
be saved. Similarly, it is disastrous if mortice and tenon joints are
sawed apart. Such are the short cuts of ignorance to be expected of
ordinary carpenters and handy men. And when the old house is on the
ground they will display exasperating unconcern regarding what goes
where and how to put the structure back together. The most complicated
jig-saw puzzle is simplicity itself compared with an Early American
house taken apart without predetermined marking and numbering.

Having learned this by bitter experience, these experts have evolved
marking systems that prevent confusion and follow them rigidly.
Likewise, since old house lumber when taken apart and stored warps and
splits so badly that it can only be used again with difficulty, they
leave their houses standing wherever possible until sold. They are far
from impressive in this state and it takes both imagination and
enthusiasm to inspect the assortment offered. Usually the roof and
possibly one or two of the sides will be covered with prosaic roofing
paper. The doors and windows will be securely boarded with coarse
lumber.

The depredations of nature lovers who uproot shrubbery and rend such
flowering trees as dogwood are as nothing when an amateur antiquarian
finds an early 18th century house unoccupied. Such enthusiasts steal
and wreck like Huns. Nothing is safe from them. Door knockers, H and L
hinges, fireplace cranes, wavy old window glass, whole sections of
paneling and even hearthstones are wrenched from place with
light-hearted abandon. What they don't make away with, they generally
ruin. One visit from such a relic hunter may leave an old house a
shambles. How otherwise upright people with a modicum of interest in
antiques will glory in looting old houses is truly remarkable. We knew
one whose pride was a collection of fireplace cranes so filched.

Knowing this, the old house dealer, immediately he has bought a
structure, makes it as weather-tight and marauder-proof as possible.
Sagging floors and weak stairways are braced, as are fireplaces
injured by dampness and frosts. Paneled partitions are stripped of
layers of disguising wall paper. Any efforts to modernize that hide
original conditions are torn out and the house cleared of the rubbish
left by its last tenant. Even then such a house is not overly
attractive to particular housekeepers.

To offset this, the old house dealer first shows one or more albums of
pictures of the houses he has for sale. These contain complete
snap-shots inside and out, together with plans and dimensions. If he
is wise, he also has simple typed statements, giving all the data he
has been able to gather concerning each house, approximately when it
was built, its connection with local historical events, and, if
possible, the names of prominent personages who dwelt in it or were
guests there. Knowing that buyers are much impressed by such facts, he
often makes a careful search of recorded deeds and books of local
history for those few interesting facts that he may use
advantageously. For instance, to be able to say that Lafayette, on his
extensive old-age visit to the United States, was entertained in a
house may be just the right romantic touch that will close the deal.

With such an old house, the dealer generally quotes a price for it
dismembered and ready to be moved to its new site. Since the cost of
transportation varies with the distance, the trucking charge is
customarily given as a separate item. In general, the dealer will
undertake delivery at a lower figure than any one else. Also, such a
dealer or an associated contractor will set a sum at which he will
re-erect the structure on the new site. Since he is accustomed to
working with old materials and knows just what problems he faces, his
price will be lower than the combination of the cost of the old house
and the price set for its rebuilding by a contractor unfamiliar with
such work. The latter, to protect himself from unforeseen
contingencies, must naturally add a proportionately large sum to his
estimated cost.

The exact cost of an old house re-erected on a new site cannot be
given offhand. There are too many elements to be considered. How
extensive are the changes, how many baths, what type of heating
system, are only a few. All are important factors that must be
determined before the final figure can be set. So, the prospective
buyer must have patience and understanding. Also, he should have his
architect prepare plans for the work with just as much thoroughness as
if it were a new building. To the layman it may all seem very
complicated but to an architect who knows his old houses, it is no
more difficult than new work. He begins by making a careful set of
measured drawings of the old house as it stands. He examines the
fabric to determine what sills, beams and other parts are unsound and
must be replaced. He takes as many photographs of details of the
construction, both inside and out, as seem expedient and labels the
prints explicitly so that they relate directly to his plans. Later,
when rebuilding is under way these snap-shots will refresh his memory
and make it easier to explain some special feature or unique
construction to workmen who never saw the house before.

Dismembering houses for re-erection is accomplished by two methods.
The more common is taking them apart board by board and timber by
timber, marking each piece by a system of numbers and colors so that
it can be returned to its proper place. The other is called "flaking."
Here roof, side walls, and partitions are cut into large panels and
numbered and marked in colors. At the new site they are put in place
much as a portable bungalow is assembled.

With either method, plans prepared by the architect are of prime
importance. One set of his blue prints is thoroughly annotated with
numbers and colored marks. This becomes the working key, the solution
to the rebuilding puzzle. Also, the plans serve as the basis for
rearrangement of rooms, shifting of partitions, and the introduction
of plumbing, heating, and electricity. Invariably an old house has one
or more tucked-up rooms that under present-day conditions can wisely
be eliminated and the space added to adjoining ones.

A favorite arrangement with old New England farmhouses was the parlor
bedroom, located, as the name indicates, on the ground floor and
connected by a doorway with that room of ceremony and funerals.
Although it was often little larger than a double bed, it was the
master bedroom of the period. Our ideas have changed and such a room
can wisely be eliminated. Again, there is the problem of space for
baths and closets. The former were, of course, unknown and the latter
woefully few when the house was young. Thus, with the bedroom floor,
architect and owner have before them a problem demanding skillful
contriving to devise locations for these two essentials.

When dismembering starts, the man doing it and the building
contractor, unless by a happy circumstance he is one and the same
person, must work together closely. The first thing is to remove
doors, window sash, and as much of the interior trim as possible,
along with all the hardware. Numbered and marked, these are stored in
some dry shed or barn. If feasible, they can best be left at the old
site until the reconstruction has progressed far enough so that they
may be put in place when delivered. All fireplaces are now examined
carefully to determine the exact angles of sides and backs. The
individual stones must also be numbered and keyed. Paint is applied,
that will not rub off as the stones are removed.

Now everything is ready for the dramatic tearing apart. With flaking,
the roof and walls are marked off in great squares related to the
timber framework beneath. Then it is only a matter of sharp saws,
muscle, and patience before the house has been reduced to panels,
loaded on trucks, and started toward the new location.

The task is not as simple with dismembering but it, too, starts at the
ridge pole and gradually works to the foundation. While one crew is
clearing away the roofing, another is taking off the exterior siding.
If this happens to be the original wide clapboards, great care is
exercised so they may be used again. This may or may not be true of
the boarding underneath. Even old builders were wont to use
second-hand lumber where it wouldn't show. On the other hand, where
the exterior is shingled the side walls underneath are often of wide
soft wood plank which take the place of both weather boarding and
supporting studs. They are, of course, numbered and removed to be used
again. Shingles, whether roof or side wall, cannot be saved as they
are invariably too weatherbeaten. Lath and plaster are likewise
destroyed in the dismembering but they are small loss as they are
usually in bad order.

If the studding is in good condition, it is used again but if it is
badly warped or of oak, it is left behind. Century-old oak is as hard
as concrete and must actually be drilled for nails. When the studding
is taken out, all window frames and doorways are removed and stored.

Now comes removal of stairways, feather-board partitioning, flooring
and paneling in the order mentioned. Offhand one would schedule the
latter as one of the first things to be taken out but the building
ways of the old workmen dictate otherwise. As a means of stopping
drafts, they put all paneling in from joist to joist, that is, from
below the upper surface of the flooring to above the lower surface of
the ceiling. After floors and ceilings are out, it is a simple matter
to loosen all paneling and remove it in large units. Wherever possible
whole room-ends go intact. The stairway is also taken out as a unit,
especially the more elaborate one in the front hall. Prying loose the
old wide flooring is a difficult operation. The original hand-wrought
nails have rusted fast and if too much leverage is used, the boards
split. Men used to such work salvage the old flooring with little
damage, however.

At the same time that the paneling makes its exit, the large
hearthstones are pried from position and moved to a waiting truck. All
that now remain are the chimney and timber frame. By this time each
joint of the latter has been numbered and given its color code. With a
simple derrick and ropes and pulleys, dismembering the frame
commences. The pins that make the joints tight are removed by driving
or boring. Roof rafters and purlins come first; then the yard arms
that brace plate and summer beams, followed by these timbers
themselves. Second floor joists come after them, followed by the
corner posts. Each must be removed with caution and ingenuity. There
must be no sawing apart or proper re-erection will be impossible.
Since first floor rafters and sills are usually badly decayed, the
general practice is to use new material. So the old ones are left
behind.

While this is in progress, two men pry lintels, cheeks, and other
large stones from the fireplaces, as well as stones at the openings of
brick ovens. As many old bricks from the chimney are salvaged as
possible. Large stone door steps are also removed but generally no
attempt is made to take along the dressed stone of the foundations.
The cost of hauling to the new site is out of proportion to the
advantage gained. Native stones uncovered in digging the new cellar
are made reasonably square and used instead. Old houses antedating
1800 are not usually over twelve or sixteen inches above the level of
the ground and so little new stone is needed.

The chimney of the reconstructed house must outwardly resemble the
original. Where it comes through the roof it is of ample proportions
and built of old brick, but except for old fireplaces and ovens, it is
otherwise modern. With flue tile, cement, mortar and hard brick,
safety of construction is accomplished in much less space. What is
saved frequently becomes closets or the well for plumbing pipes.

Finding space for baths is a nice game of ingenuity. Perhaps there is
a small bedroom that can be divided and provide baths for two main
bedrooms. Again, shifting a partition a few feet may do it. In one old
house, once a tavern, the dance hall on the second floor was reduced
nearly ten feet and the space became a combination bath and dressing
room. Thus, the rural ball room was translated into a large master
bedroom with all present-day appurtenances. In another house a storage
space six by eight feet became an excellent bath by having a window
cut in the exterior wall.

In the all-important question of kitchen and servants' quarters be
modern from start to finish. The old farmhouse kitchen was both living
room and workroom. It was large and cheerful. Accordingly the
reconstructed house continues it as a living room. The new kitchen can
best be located in an extension either original or new but designed to
be in keeping. Here the noises and odors of cooking will not permeate
the main structure and with mouse-proof new partitions, kitchen,
pantry, and servants' quarters can be arranged so they will be logical
and convenient. Wherever possible the garage ought to be a part of the
service wing for ease of access and heating in winter.

Because of the individuality of old houses, returning doors and
windows to the original location is not entirely mandatory. One here
and there can be moved a little without destroying resemblance to the
original. With the plans for re-erection complete, everything is ready
for a second raising of the frame. New sills cut to the same
dimensions as the old are put in place. Then corner posts, summer and
plate beams, and other principal timbers are hoisted to their proper
places. By virtue of numbering and marking with colors--red for the
ground floor, blue for the second, and black for the attic is one
reconstructor's code--each mortice and tenon joint is put back just as
it was originally and the whole frame made plumb. Now hardwood pins
driven home at its joints make the skeleton firm and solid. Then comes
the new roof of whatever type of shingles selected. Along with it
starts the work of enclosing the side walls. These steps, of course,
apply to a structure taken apart piecemeal. With a "flaked" house,
roofs and walls are returned to position as panels. Making saw-cut
cracks tight is the only remaining step.

If possible, the old studding and weather boarding are used, although,
as neither will show, new material can be substituted if desired.
Similarly a rough flooring of cheap lumber is laid as a foundation for
the old. Such features as the main stairway and paneling, cleaned and
repaired, are now brought in through large openings in the side walls
and put in place before enclosing the frame is completed.

There are two points of view about using old window frames. One favors
using them despite lack of mechanical means for raising or lowering
the sash. The other, reasoning that many of the frames are bound to be
badly weathered and not too sound, recommends new ones complete with
weights and cords. With the latter, the old effect is preserved by
reproducing the exterior molding exactly and by using the original
interior trim.

After enclosing is completed and the interior partitions are in place,
the house is ready for lath and plaster. Wood or metal lath or any one
of the various plaster boards can be used as foundation. Now comes a
fine point. Present-day plasterers produce a much finer finish than
was the rule a century ago, but if they understand the effect desired
they will restrain themselves and possibly omit the final skim coat.

The next details are the window sash, interior trim, and the final
exterior siding. The latter can be either the original clapboards, new
ones of the same width, or the long riven shingles. Whatever is used,
for protection against winter winds, the boarding ought to be sheathed
either with building paper or a quilting. Likewise, the tops of all
door and window frames must be properly flashed. This prevents rain
leaks which are bound to stain the plaster.

Before the original flooring is re-laid it should be thoroughly
scrubbed with a mild lye solution to rid it of old paint, stains, and
dirt; as many of the old nails removed as possible, and injured
sections discarded. Since there is bound to be an appreciable loss,
the attic flooring can be used to take the place of that discarded or
an additional amount bought from some wrecker specializing in
materials salvaged from old structures. Along with cleaning the old
flooring, it is frequently wise to have the edges re-planed so they
will be straight and true. It obviates wide cracks that gather dust
and lint.

In taking the old house apart, a bit of siding may give a clue to the
original color outside. Under the various coats of paint and paper of
the interior the owner may get glimpses of the scheme of decoration
used when the house was young. We may not realize it but Colonial
Americans were partial to color in the home and used a number of very
effective off-shades now largely forgotten. If these can be discovered
and samples preserved for matching, the results will be authentic and
at the same time give the house an individuality and atmosphere that
will not be met with elsewhere.

[Illustration: AS THEY BUILT A CHIMNEY IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

_Photo by John Runyon_]

A house that can be purchased for removal will not often be completely
equipped with its original wrought-iron hinges, door latches and
locks. But the chances are that enough will remain to indicate what
they were and replacements that match and fit can be bought from an
antique dealer specializing in old hardware.

Since electricity is entirely a modern convenience, selecting fixtures
must depend entirely on the owner's taste. One of the most
satisfactory restored houses we have seen has very few fixtures and
many portable lamps chiefly made from old jugs and converted astral
oil lamps. In bathrooms, kitchen, cellar and garage, no attempt was
made to affect the antique. Being strictly utilitarian rooms, simple
fixtures that would provide the maximum of light were employed.

So "if only" has become an actuality. The old house is now comfortably
settled on its new site and like most transplanted things will thrive
better if some faint flavor of its old surroundings is present, such
as an apple orchard or one or two fine old trees that look as if they
and the house had grown old together.



THE SMOKE GOES UP THE CHIMNEY

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER VIII_

THE SMOKE GOES UP THE CHIMNEY


"Remember that the new chimneys are not to smoke," wrote General
Washington from New York in 1776 to his kinsman and overseer, Lund
Washington, regarding the remodeling of Mount Vernon. That admonition
is just as necessary today as then. A chimney is still an essential
part of a house. Also, despite the newest and most effective heating
systems, family life, in the country at least, still centers around
the hearth. Old, new, or merely middle-aged, no country home is
considered properly equipped without at least one fireplace.

There is no use in pretending that they are needed for heat, but the
leaping flames and brisk crackling of burning twigs are a cheery sight
and sound. "Harriet _will_ have her fireplace fire even though she
has to open all the doors and windows," chuckled one householder. This
ceases to be a pleasantry if doors and windows have to be thrown wide
to let out smoke instead of excess heat. Then this center of family
cheer becomes as exasperating as any other inanimate thing that
doesn't work.

If, by purchase of an existing structure, a householder has become
heir to such a problem, simple things, like fireplace hoods, capping
the chimney, or increasing its height, can be tried. If these fail,
architectural counsel is the next step. Such trouble is more frequent
in houses dating after the stove era than before. The old masons built
fireplaces for practical use rather than for occasional indulgence.
They had never heard of aerodynamics but they knew how to construct
fireplaces that would give out real heat as well as chimneys that
carried the smoke where it belonged, up and out.

Of course some unwise features are to be found in the old work but,
for the most part, design and proportions cannot be improved. The
angles of sides and back, size of opening and throat, location of
smoke shelf, size and proportions of smoke chamber, all were
determined through years of rule of thumb experiment where only the
best results survived. Therefore, the owner of an antique country home
with chimney and fireplaces intact should think twice before he gives
orders to demolish them. Similarly, he who is building a new house
can well plan to reproduce the old fireplaces in size and shape.

Building proper chimneys and hearths was slowly evolved through the
centuries. In the late 18th century, an American codified this masonic
lore and established the scientific basis for a proper fireplace so
cogently that even today his principles form the backbone of fireplace
building. He was born Benjamin Thompson, March 26, 1753, at Woburn,
Massachusetts, but is better known as Count von Rumford of the Holy
Roman Empire.

"The plague of a smoking fireplace is proverbial," began Rumford in
his treatise on the subject, written during his years in the service
of the Elector of Bavaria. Stripped of the involved terminology
characteristic of the natural philosopher of that day, his
specifications for a smokeless, heat-radiating fireplace are very
simple and depend on three fundamentals. First, the size of flue must
be in proportion to the fireplace opening. Second, the angles of back
and jambs must be such that they will reflect heat into the room.
Third, throat and smoke chamber of proper size and shape are essential
because the former improves the draft while the latter prevents smoke
from being blown out into the room by a down draft within the chimney
flue.

From this it is clear that the New England-reared count of the Holy
Roman Empire was really describing the type and design of fireplace in
general use at home in his boyhood and explaining the scientific
reasons for its superiority over European rectangular ones, built
throatless and without a smoke chamber. As stated before, technical
men today generally go back to Rumford's work and the American
tradition behind it, but in one particular they make a wise departure.
Instead of a single common flue, they advocate separate ones for each
fireplace.

These modern specifications, based on several centuries of good
practice, are as follows: The fireplace should be at least 18 inches
deep and have a hearth 20 inches wide. The size of opening must of
course be in proportion to the dimensions of the room, but one with
lintel less that 26 inches above the hearth is not practical because
of difficulty in tending the fire. A good maximum height is 42 inches.
The width should be in accord and exceed it so that the opening is a
well-proportioned rectangle with its greater dimension horizontal.

In our country home, built about 1765, there are three fireplaces,
each of different size and proportions. The largest, where the cooking
was done, is 50 inches wide by 37 inches high and 18 inches deep. The
one in the old parlor has a width of 38-1/2 inches, a height of 28-1/2
inches, and a depth of 13-1/2 inches. The smallest has an opening just
off the square which is 27 inches wide by 25-1/2 inches high with a
depth of only 11 inches. All three are non-smokers under all
conditions of wind and weather. With proper size of wood they are easy
to tend and good sources of warmth except in real winter weather. Each
is individualistic in hearth dimensions, the largest of course being
that of the old kitchen with a hearthstone over seven feet long by two
feet wide.

Whether heat radiates into the room, or goes up the chimney along with
the smoke, depends on the angles of fireplace sides and back. The
former should be set at an angle of about 60 degrees so that they
flare outward from the back wall. There are two schools of thought
regarding the back. One would have the forward pitch begin one third
of the distance from floor to lintel; the other favors the slope
starting at the bottom and continuing upward in an unbroken plane. In
the former, the pitch should be about 23 degrees from the vertical;
with the latter, 18 degrees will suffice.

From this point the consideration of dimensions goes up the chimney.
In its standard ordinance for chimney construction, the National Board
of Fire Underwriters calls for fireplace flues with a draft area of
one-twelfth of that of the fireplace opening and determines this area
as a circle or ellipse that will fit within the tile used to line the
flue. As it is difficult to obtain flue linings of exactly the desired
area, it is better to select a size slightly larger, rather than one
smaller, and so make sure of sufficient capacity under all weather
conditions.

Between the lintel of the fireplace and the point where the flue
commences come the three structural features so stressed by Count
Rumford. They are the throat, smoke shelf, and smoke chamber. As its
name implies, the throat is the opening through which smoke, hot
gases, and some flames pass on their way upward. Experts hold that
its correct construction contributes more to the efficiency of a
fireplace than any other feature, save proper flue design. The area of
the throat opening should not be less than that of the flue and its
length must be equal to the width of the fireplace. It should be
located eight inches above the lintel. Under present practice, a
cast-iron throat with a damper which can be opened and closed to
regulate the up-chimney flow is standard. Also, when the fireplace is
not in use, this damper can be closed and so prevent loss of other
heat.

The smoke shelf comes immediately above the throat and is formed by
recessing the brickwork of the back the full width of the chimney for
at least four inches. With very large fireplaces, it may be as much as
twelve inches. The object of this feature is to stop any accidental
draft within the flue from going farther and blowing smoke out into
the room. The area in between this and the flue itself is called the
smoke chamber. Here the walls are drawn in with a gradual upward taper
to the point where the flue lining begins. The chamber so formed can
and does hold accumulated smoke temporarily when a gust of wind across
the chimney top cuts off the draft for a moment.

In building chimneys, the old masons varied their structural ways and
materials according to the part of the country in which they worked.
New England workmen were partial to a central chimney, the core around
which the house was built, and their usual material was stone.
Occasionally brick was used but this material was more in favor with
old houses of the middle states and the South. Here, instead of the
central stack, a chimney was built in each of the two end walls. The
climate was milder and the style of architecture, with central hall
and stairway, made such practice desirable.

The mark of an old chimney is its massive construction. In those of
the central type, it is not uncommon to find a foundation pier of ten
by twelve feet in the cellar. This was laid dry and just below the
level of the first floor, large transverse beams were put in place to
support the hearthstones of the fireplaces above. Here dry work
stopped and, from there to the chimney top, all stones were laid in a
mortar made of lime and sand. At a point above the smoke chambers of
the various fireplaces and the brick-oven flue (always a part of the
kitchen fireplace) all came together in a common flue. Here the
chimney gradually tapered to the top and was usually about three or
four feet square where it came through the roof. Originally such
chimneys were entirely of stone. Comparatively few are found in
original condition today. Time and weather usually made repair or
repointing of the portion above the roof line necessary and, in the
course of it, brick was often used instead of stone.

By ample proportions the old masons achieved fire safety. This can now
be accomplished with a distinct saving in space if one is building a
new chimney. There are certain fundamental provisions as stated in the
standard chimney ordinance cited above. These are tedious and
complicated reading for the layman, but to architects, builders and
masons, they simply mean standard workmanship and materials that have
been used for years to insure correctly functioning chimneys. Possibly
a brief resumé of these fundamentals is not out of place in order that
the prospective country house owner may not demand the impossible in
his schemes for convenient closets, cupboards, or even a stairway.

The chimney may be built of brick, stone, reinforced concrete,
concrete blocks, or hollow tile of clay or concrete.

All chimneys should rest on an adequate foundation located below the
frost line and both chimney and flues should adhere strictly to the
perpendicular.

If an angle is necessary, it ought not to be greater than 45 degrees.

No offset should be over three-eighths of the total width of the
chimney.

In laying brick or other material, care should be taken that all
joints are tight and completely filled with mortar.

Unlined chimneys are not prohibited but the best arrangement is one in
which all flues are lined with fire clay tile, joints well set in
mortar, and each flue separated by a partition of brick. Only sound,
uncracked tile should be put in place.

Fireplace walls must be of ample proportions to support the chimney
and at least eight inches thick. It is further suggested that they be
lined with fire brick.

The woodwork around fireplaces must not be closer than four inches to
the back wall of a chimney and floor beams must be two inches away
from a chimney wall. The space between should be filled with loose
crushed cinders or other porous incombustible material to form a fire
stop.

Plaster for exterior walls of a chimney should be applied direct or on
metal lath. No wood furring or lath.

The hearth, which may be of brick, stone, tile, or concrete, must be
supported by a masonry trimmer arch or similar fire-resisting
construction. Both hearth and arch should be at least twenty inches
wide and not less than two feet longer than the width of the fireplace
opening.

If the mantel is of wood, it must not be placed within eight inches of
the jambs, or twelve of the lintel.

The minimum height of chimneys above the roof line is two feet for
hip, gable, or mansard roofs, and three for flat ones.

Chimney caps must not reduce the effective draft area of flues.

In connecting the smoke pipe of a heating plant, incinerator, or water
heater to its flue in the chimney, the opening must be built with a
fire clay tile collar and the smoke pipe should not protrude into the
flue beyond the collar. Otherwise, the efficiency of the draft is
materially impaired.

In addition, home owners may have other features installed that will
do much to increase heat production of fireplaces and convenience in
the use of them. One is the steel fireplace form, built into the
chimney. This takes the place of jambs, back, throat, smoke shelf,
and smoke chamber and is so designed that behind sides and back there
is an air space opening into the room through intake and outlet vents
on either side of the fireplace. The cold air of the room is drawn
into this space, heated by radiation and returned. It acts on the
order of a hot air furnace and can be used to advantage in new
fireplaces or in old ones too much out of repair to be used without
rebuilding.

There is also the sheet-steel smoke chamber which comes complete with
throat damper and smoke shelf and is put in place above the lintel
where it extends to the point where the flue commences. A common
device for easy disposal of the ashes is the ash dump, a small
cast-iron vault located in the fireplace floor and connected with an
ash vault built in the chimney foundation. The vault is equipped with
an iron door so that the ashes may be removed once or twice a year.

So much for chimneys and fireplaces. For actual and even heating of
all parts of the house, some type of heating plant is necessary both
for comfort and economy. It is true that our forefathers lived, many
of them to a ripe old age, with only fireplaces to heat their drafty
homes and with no heat at all in their public buildings. They did,
however, fortify themselves well with a daily draft of rum and they
wore a quantity of clothing that would be intolerable today. Further,
plenty of wood for fuel grew at their very door; it was part of the
normal farm work to cut it down and prepare it for the cavernous
fireplaces.

But then, as now, a fireplace could only heat a comparatively small
area. Further, under modern conditions, it is the most expensive heat
that can be generated. Even though your holding includes a good sized
wood-lot, the cost of labor for getting fuel cut, drawn, and piled in
your cellar may run to more than the same amount purchased from the
local coal yard.

If you have purchased an old house with no heating plant or are
building a new house, the type of heating used will largely depend on
what your architect considers practical and what you can pay for. The
chief systems, viewed in descending order of expense, are hot water,
steam, piped hot air, and the pipeless furnace. All of these can be
fitted to burn either coal or oil.

Provided one can meet the initial expense of purchase and
installation, the ideal system is probably the oil burning,
electrically run, hot water heating system. Barring the final
perfection of the robot, it is as near to a mechanical servant as one
is likely to get even in this age of invention. There is no shoveling
or sifting of ashes. There is no furnace shaking or stoking, no
puzzling over dampers. Periodically and for a price, a man comes and
fills the oil tank. A thermostat regulates the heat. You have only to
set it for the desired temperature and forget it.

There is just one flaw with this perfect system. It is dependent on
electricity. Let that fail and there is trouble. The fine copper
radiators, so efficient when all goes well, spring leaks if the water
in them freezes. A few years ago an unusually severe blizzard in the
North Atlantic states worked havoc with all of the modern devices.
Roads were blocked, telephone and electric service lines were down,
and even train service was impaired. One of our neighbors had built a
new house two or three years before and equipped it with practically
every appliance known to modern comfort, including an oil burner.

In a few short hours this blizzard had set him back more than a
century. Electricity, of course, failed and the heat in his fine
furnace dwindled and died. It grew colder and colder, ultimately
reaching twenty degrees below zero. Added to the discomfort of the
family was the disquieting knowledge that the freezing point would
mean cracked radiators. Luckily he had three fireplaces that really
worked. He had plenty of wood. So for three days and nights, he and
two other members of his family worked in relays to keep roaring fires
going in all three fireplaces. In this way they maintained a
temperature of at least 40 degrees and so saved pipes and radiators.

One may argue that, if water freezing in radiators and pipes is all,
why not drain them in such an emergency. This is a job for a plumber,
as it must be done with a thoroughness that leaves no moisture behind.
The average layman has neither the skill nor the tools for it.
Therefore, if there comes a winter when snow, ice, high winds, and low
temperatures cause you to wonder if living in the country the year
around is quite sound and you decide that a few weeks in a nice city
apartment would be a good idea, close your house, if it seems more
expedient than leaving a caretaker behind, but don't try to save the
plumber's fee. Remember pipes, radiators, and valves cannot be mended.
They have to be replaced and that is expensive.

However, blizzards that seriously interrupt electric service are so
rare that one need not forego the decided comfort that an oil burner
gives, just because some such chance may arise. Also, if the question
of expense must be considered, steam can be used instead of hot water
and will cost from one-quarter to one-third less.

The initial expenditure for both hot water and steam heating is
considerably less, too, if coal rather than oil is to be the fuel.
This calls for quite a little more supervision on the part of the
householder. He can cut down some of the drudgery of stoking by
installing a gravity feed type of boiler. This is equipped with a
hopper and needs filling only once a day. Or he can use the old
fashioned hand-fired type, with or without the services of a man of
all work. There will be dust and dirt as well as the morning and
evening rituals of stoking, adjusting dampers, shaking, and cleaning
out the ash pit. There will be the periodic chore of sifting ashes and
carrying them out for either carting away or for filling in hollow
places in the driveway. But his fire will burn, no matter what happens
to the current of the local light and power company.

However, as already stated, electricity is a faithful servant most of
the time and there are devices that not only take away some of the
drudgery of furnace tending but, in the long run, actually save money
in coal bills. One of these is the mechanical stoker which is
electrically driven and burns the finest size of coal. Another way of
reducing the coal bill is to install an electric blower. This, as its
name implies, is a forced draft controlled by a thermostat, and with
it the cheaper grades of coal can be used. Incidentally, any
coal-burning furnace that gets to sulking can be made to respond by
placing an ordinary electric fan before the open ash pit. We have done
this with a pipeless furnace and have been able to burn the cheaper
buckwheat coal almost entirely as a result.

There appears to be no mechanical device for removing the ashes out of
the cellar. So, if the householder puts in a coal burning steam or hot
water plant as a matter of economy, and then in a few years covets an
oil burner, it is perfectly practical and possible to have one
installed in his furnace. Whatever the fuel, make sure enough
radiation is provided with steam or hot water plants to heat the house
evenly and adequately in the coldest weather according to your ideas
rather than the plumber's. He is usually a hardy individual who
considers 68 degrees warm enough for any one. Theoretically it may be.
Actually most people are more comfortable at a room temperature of
from two to four degrees higher.

Cheapest of all to install and operate is the pipeless furnace. This
is hardly more than a large stove set in the cellar. An ample register
in the floor directly above it is connected to a galvanized iron
casing that surrounds the fire pot. It is divided so that cool air
from the house itself is drawn downward, heated, and then forced
upward again. This system will not work well in a house equipped with
wings or additions so placed that the air from the central register
cannot penetrate. It is particularly effective in a house with a
central hall.

In the 18th century compact house with central chimney, the pipeless
furnace register can be set in the small front entrance and another
register cut in the ceiling directly above it. This carries part of
the heat to the second floor and so makes for better distribution of
the warm air. As already stated, such a furnace is quite inexpensive
and so easy to install that the average handy man will not find it too
complicated. We put one in our country home some eight years ago
merely as a means of keeping the house warm during the early spring
and late fall. We have since found that it can and does heat the
entire house even at sub-zero temperatures.

In all honesty, however, one must admit that it has certain
disadvantages. First, it is like the old-fashioned stove in that an
even heat is hard to maintain. Second, with coal or wood as the usual
fuel, there is a discouraging amount of dust generated. Third, the
doors to all rooms must be left open so that the currents of hot air
can circulate. One chooses between frosty seclusion and balmy
gregariousness. Yet, in spite of these very definite "outs," it is far
better than no furnace at all. It is, in fact, an excellent stop gap
for the country house owner who is not prepared to invest in the more
expensive heating plants at the moment. The more effete system can
always be added later and the faithful old pipeless junked, moved to
some other building, or left in place for an emergency, such as a
public-utility-crippling blizzard or flood.



THE QUESTION OF WATER SUPPLY

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER IX_

THE QUESTION OF WATER SUPPLY


Whether one lives in the country or the city, geology and geography
govern the source of the water that flows from the tap. Cities go
miles for an adequate, pure water supply and have been doing so since
the days of the Caesars. Such systems involve thousands of acres and
millions of dollars for water sheds, reservoirs, dams, pipe lines, and
purifying plants.

The country place is a miniature municipality with its own water
system. The latter need not be elaborate or expensive but it must be
adequate. Nothing disrupts a family so quickly and completely as water
shortage. Personally, we would far rather see our family hungry and in
rags than again curtail its baths and showers. "We can be careful and
only use what is necessary," sounds easy but before long everybody is
against father. He is mean and unreasonable. Save the water, indeed!
It is all his fault. He should have known the supply would fail when
he bought the place. A moron could see it was not large enough. A six
weeks' drought? Well, what of it!

Meanwhile water diviners, well diggers and drillers add gall and
wormwood to the situation. "Oh yes, that well always did go dry about
this time of year. Saving the water wouldn't make any difference.
Better not bother with it but dig or drill a new one." Expense? Why
quibble about that when the peace of one's family is at stake. There
is, of course, only one outcome. A broken and chastened man soon makes
the best terms he can with one of his tormentors. If he is wise it
will be with the advocate of the driven well. That solves for all time
any question of water supply.

Before deciding on a source, however, consider what the daily needs
will be. From long observation, it has been found that the average
country place requires fifty gallons of water a day for each member of
the family, servants included. Then allow for two extra people so that
the occasional guest, whose knowledge of water systems begins and ends
with the turning of a faucet, will not unduly deplete the supply. For
example, a family of seven should have a daily water supply of from
400 to 500 gallons depending on how much entertaining is done and how
extensive are the outdoor uses. This allowance will be ample for
toilets, baths, kitchen and laundry, as well as for moderate watering
of the garden and lawn. Of course, if cars are to be washed regularly,
fifty gallons should be added to the daily demand. If there is a
swimming pool, its capacity should be figured by cubical content
multiplied by seven and one-half (the number of gallons to the cubic
foot) and allowance made for from fifteen to twenty-five per cent
fresh water daily.

The daily production of a spring or drilled well can be easily gauged.
A flow of one gallon a minute produces 1,440 gallons in twenty-four
hours. In other words, a flow of ten gallons a minute means 14,400
gallons a day which, at fifteen gallons a bath or shower, is enough
water to wash a regiment from the colonel to the newest recruit.

Estimating the daily production of a shallow, dug well is more
difficult. The number of gallons standing in it can be obtained by
using the mathematical formula for the contents of a cylinder, but
only observation will tell how quickly the well replenishes itself
when pumped dry. By long experience, however, country plumbers have
found that if such a well contains five feet of water in extremely dry
weather, it can be relied upon for the needed fifty gallons a day each
for a family of seven with enough over for safety.

In fact, with all water sources except an artesian or driven well, the
question always is, will it last during an abnormally rainless season?
Never-failing springs and wells that never go dry are institutions in
any countryside. So consult some of the oldest inhabitants. They know
and if they give your well or spring a good character, the chances are
that even the most exacting of families will find such a water supply
adequate. Whether it is pure or not is another matter but one that can
easily be determined by sending a sample to your state health
department or a bacteriological laboratory. That this should be done
before such water is used for drinking purposes goes without saying.

The driven or artesian well has two points that makes it worth the
cost. There is no question of purity or of quantity. It taps
subterranean water which is unaffected by local causes of
contamination or by drought.

The kind of water system, like the supply, is governed by geography
and geology. If there happens to be a spring on a nearby hillside
somewhat higher than the house, nature has provided the cheapest and
simplest system. A pipe line and storage tank are all that are needed.
Gravity does the rest. On the other hand, if the spring is on the same
level or lower than the house, a pump must be added to the equipment
to force the water into the pressure tank and out of the faucets. If
the spring has a large flow and adequate drainage, a water ram is
advisable. With this hydraulic machine, three-quarters of the water
that flows into it is used to force the balance into the storage tank.
The expense of operation is nothing and as water rams and pumps cost
about the same, such an installation has much to recommend it.

When the search for water goes below ground, one must reckon with
geology. What lies below the turf is the deciding factor. If it is
sand and gravel with a high water table (the level of subterranean
water), an excellent well can be had cheaply. The practice is either
to bore through to the water table with a man-operated auger and then
insert the pipe, or to drive the latter down with a heavy sledge
hammer. In either case, water is but a few feet below ground and a
shallow-well pump, which can raise water twenty-two feet by suction,
will be adequate.

There are two types of well to be considered with less favorable
subsoil formations--the shallow and the artesian. With the former
(known to country people as a dug well) a shaft from six to ten feet
across is dug with pick and shovel until adequate water is reached.
Then the shaft is lined with stone laid without cement or mortar up to
a few feet from the top. This allows water from the surrounding area
to seep into the well where it is retained until it is drawn upward by
the pump. It is obvious that a well of this type cannot be built
through ledge or solid rock. In fact, unusually large boulders
sometimes force diggers to abandon a shaft and start afresh. An old
house with two or three of these shallow wells on the premises serves
notice on the prospective buyer that repeated and probably
unsuccessful attempts have been made to find a well that does not go
dry.

Dug wells are seldom deeper than fifty feet; the majority are but
little beyond twenty-two feet, the suction limit for a shallow-well
pump. As is obvious from their construction, they depend on the water
in the upper layers of the subsoil and so are more readily affected
by dry weather. Although not drought-proof like the artesian, a dug
well, which costs much less, can be an excellent water source and
supply amazingly large quantities of water.

We have lived for ten years in a house served by a shallow well
credited with being never failing and it has faithfully lived up to
its reputation, even through the driest of seasons. Once, however, it
made real trouble. Over it stood a picturesque latticed well house. On
one of the beams a pair of robins nested annually. In the middle of
the third summer the water developed a queer flavor. It steadily grew
stronger until one night the steam arising from a hot bath caused the
pajama-clad head of the house to seize a flashlight and move hastily
to the well house. One beam of light disclosed the horrid truth.
Floating in the water far below were two very dead fledglings.

The next day a well cleaner collected twenty-five dollars for removing
the birds and pumping out the well. He also gave some excellent advice
which was followed promptly. The well house, picturesque though it
was, gave way to a substantial masonry curbing equipped with a stout
wire cover. The peace of mind so gained has more than offset the
trifling expense. No longer need one peer fearfully down a twenty-five
foot shaft when a pet cat fails to show up for a meal, or shoo away
from the spot the over-inquisitive offspring of visiting friends.

The drilled well, against which there is no possible argument save
that of cost, is made by boring a hole in the ground with a powerful
apparatus until sufficient subterranean water is reached. There are
two methods, the chop and the core drill. With the former, a cutting
tool exactly like the drill used to drive holes in rocks for blasting,
only larger, cuts a circular hole downward. The boom of the drilling
rig as it raises and drops the drill provides the necessary impact.
With the core method, as its name implies, a hollow boring drill cuts
its way aided by steel shot and a flow of water forced through the
pipe that rotates the cutting tool.

With either method the results are the same. Sooner or later the drill
will reach an underground water course of sufficient size to give an
ample flow. As such drilling is done on a charge of three to five
dollars a foot, the owner, of course, hopes for sooner. Except where
there is an underlying stratum of sand or gravel beneath hard pan, the
drill has to go through rock. How far depends on the kind. Sandstone
is the best water producer; limestone yields very hard water. Again,
drilling through till (a heterogeneous mixture of clay, gravel, and
boulders) may or may not locate water readily depending on how densely
it is packed. The rocks known as gneiss and schist are readily bored
and are considered fair water bearers.

Granite is bad news. It means slow work and a deep and expensive well.
It is one of the hardest rocks with little water content. The only
hope is that the drill will strike a vein flowing through a fissure.
Whether it will be at fifty or 500 feet is a pure matter of luck. A
dry well at 100 feet may become a gusher at 105 delivering twenty
gallons to the minute, or it may stay dry for another two to five
hundred feet.

Tales of well drilling are many and varied. Good pure water has been
found at fifteen feet. In New Hampshire there is a well 900 feet deep
that gushes so powerfully that it is capped and still flows at forty
pounds pressure. It supplies an elaborate country place and a large
stock farm. It is performances like these that indicate the water is
there if one will just keep on drilling and paying until it is
reached.

Where to locate a well is very much a matter of guess. Even in the
Sahara Desert there is water. How far down is the question. For
generations much faith was placed in diviners. They were supposedly
endowed with some occult talent that enabled them to pick a sure spot
for water. They were known for miles around and were summoned when a
new homestead was under consideration. With a forked hazel wand held
in both hands, such an one would pace solemnly around until the stick
gave a convulsive twist downward. This indicated that water was
directly beneath. The spot would be reverently marked; the diviner
would depart and the well diggers who had followed his performance
with proper awe would begin work. As the ceremony failed to stipulate
just how far down the precious liquid was, a successful well was
presumably the result. The prowess of the well diviner is acclaimed
even today by some people, although scientific investigation has
proved that his services are worth just about as much as those of a
witch doctor.

After the country home owner has attended to the little matter of a
well, be it old or new, dug or drilled, the next step is installing a
pump. If the water level is less than twenty feet below ground, a
shallow-well pump will be perfectly adequate and as it is much less
expensive than the more elaborate deep-well pump, we recommend its use
if possible. Most plumbers invariably advise the deep-well pump,
especially for driven wells. They do this in all honesty and with no
ulterior motive. There is always a bare chance that the water level
may drop below the suction limit of the shallow pump under abnormal
pressure. If it does, an irate customer can descend on the luckless
installer of the less expensive pump and cause general unpleasantness
if not loss of custom.

The difference between these two kinds of pump, aside from price, is
that with a shallow-well one, suction is produced in the cylinder of
the pump itself, while the deep-well pump has its plunger and cylinder
at the bottom of the well. Water is forced up the pipe by the up and
down movement of the plunger within the cylinder. This plunger is
connected to a geared wheel by the well-rod that extends downward from
well-head to cylinder in the center of the same pipe through which the
water is forced upward. Because of its design, a deep-well pump must
always be located directly above the well itself. With a suction pump,
on the other hand, the pipe from well to pump may bend and turn to
suit conditions. These should be as few as possible since each
right-angle bend of the pipe reduces the pump's suction power one
foot.

[Illustration: A PLACE FOR SUMMER AND WEEK-ENDS

_Robertson Ward, architect_. _Photo by La Roche_]

As for motive power, electricity has distinct advantages over all
other means. The switch operated by pressure starts the pump when the
supply of water in the storage tank drops below a certain level, and
also stops it when the proper volume has been reached. (Ten pounds to
start the pump and forty or fifty to stop it are the usual
adjustments.) A nice little refinement here is the installation of a
third faucet at either kitchen or pantry sink, piped direct to the
pump. Turn this and fresh water flows from the well itself, thus
consoling any sentimentalist with visions of a dripping moss-covered
bucket. Also water so drawn seldom needs to be iced. In summer if
there are signs of a thunder storm it is wise to open this same
faucet. It starts the pump and that automatically continues until the
storage tank is full. Then, if electric service is cut off by the
storm, the household will have ample water until the damage has been
repaired.

If the country home owner happens to live beyond reach of an electric
light system, he can put in his own plant, use a gasoline engine for
motive power or even a hand pump. A gasoline engine should, of course,
be located in an outbuilding and the exhaust pipe must extend into
open air because of the deadly fumes of carbon monoxide gas. The hand
pump is, of course, the simplest and there are several excellent ones
to be had. They are not as practical as they sound, however.

When we first bought our own country place we installed a very good
one as there was then no electricity in the locality. It worked
excellently--when any one could be found to man it. Handy men hired
for odd jobs around the grounds took it on for a set sum per time. The
labor turnover was unprecedented. One by one they either resigned
within a week or somehow managed to "forget all about that pumping
job." Members of the family pressed into service straightway became
ardent water savers, and guests who volunteered gallantly somehow
never, never came again. Yet it was not an exhausting or complicated
task. It was simply so monotonous that it wore down the most
phlegmatic nature. So the rural householder will do well to remember
that, after all, this is a machine age and govern himself accordingly.

As for the storage tank, the modern practice is to place it under
ground or in the cellar. The old custom of putting it in the attic had
distinct disadvantages when an overflow or a leak occurred and either
stained the ceilings or sent them crashing down on furniture and
possibly occupants of the rooms below.

The best water system, however, cannot cope with faucets thoughtlessly
left running. Even the largest tank will eventually become empty and
then there will be water for no one until the pump has replenished the
supply. "Waste not, want not" is an excellent motto for dwellers in
the country, especially where water is concerned.



SEWAGE SAFETY

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER X_

SEWAGE SAFETY


Among the problems which his miniature municipality brings to the
country house owner is the unromantic but necessary one of sewage
disposal. In a suburban area it is merely a matter of connecting the
house to the street main and paying higher taxes. With the country
house, each owner must cope with the question for himself. He cannot
leave it to chance or delude himself that any old system will serve.
Some hot August day when his house is filled with guests, the
makeshift disposal system will suddenly cease to function and an
otherwise tactful guest will ask whether that queer smell is just part
of the regular country air or what.

Of course, nobody thinks of disposing of household waste by piping it
to a brook or letting it flow down a sandy side hill some distance
from the house. Those were the methods of the ignorant and
unscientific past. The means of disposal recommended by sanitary
experts are those in which the wastes undergo a bacterial fermentation
which finally renders the sewage odorless and harmless. It can be
accomplished by a septic tank or a tight cesspool. The latter with its
two chambers is really a variety of the septic tank itself. The first
vault is built of stone or brick laid in mortar and covered with a
coat of waterproof cement. With both supply and overflow pipes below
the normal level of the liquids, beneficial fermentation takes place
in this compartment before the liquids pass over into the second
chamber from which they gradually seep into the ground. Such an
installation calls for more excavation and construction than a septic
tank and, since it accomplishes nothing that cannot be done with the
latter, is only used where there is not enough ground area for the
disposal fields of a septic tank.

The latter is an air-tight cylindrical or oblong container placed
below ground, in which raw sewage purifies itself by the inherent
bacteria. The first stage takes place within the tank and the second
in the porous pipes that constitute the disposal fields. From the
moment household wastes enter the tank, fermentation begins its work
of reducing them from noisome sewage to harmless water. Both intake
and outlet pipes extend below the level of the contents, with a baffle
plate across the center which prevents direct outward flow. The heavy
solids sink to the bottom and anaerobic bacteria, which develop only
where there is no oxygen, breed rapidly and break these up so that
they rise to the top and provide the ever present scum which excludes
all air and stimulates fermentation of the entire content. Meanwhile,
liquid from the tank is flowing into the disposal fields, which are
porous land tile laid in shallow trenches and covered with earth and
sod. Here some air is present and aerobic bacteria (those which thrive
where there is oxygen) develop and complete the process of
transforming the wastes into clear water.

Installing such a system is neither expensive nor complicated. The
tank itself should be large enough to hold the sewage of a household
for twenty-four hours. It can be bought ready to install, or built of
brick or concrete. Ready-made tanks are to be had of steel, concrete,
or vitrified tile. We installed one of steel (which is the cheapest)
some ten years ago and have found it most satisfactory. When it was
delivered, two husky truck-men placed it at the edge of the pit
prepared for it by the waiting plumber. They exhibited some curiosity
and the plumber explained briefly about the bacteria and its action.

"You mean one of these here bugs is into it already?" asked one of
them as he applied an awe-struck eye to the aperture in the top. He
apparently expected to find an insect akin to a full-size cockroach
running around inside, and either decided the light was poor or that
the plumber was a first-class liar, for he went off shaking his head
doubtfully.

The size of tank and length of disposal field is entirely a matter of
size of household. On an average, the daily volume can be reckoned on
the basis of fifty gallons per person and, for every fifty gallons of
tank capacity, there should be thirty feet of disposal field. Thus,
for a family of eight, a tank of five hundred gallons' capacity
connected with a disposal field of three hundred feet will be ample,
allowing for guests as well.

In installing this system, the tank itself can be as near the house as
ten or fifteen feet but the piping connecting it with the soil line of
the plumbing should be water tight. The best way is to use four-inch
cast iron pipe, calking all joints with oakum and lead. At a
convenient point between house and tank, this line of pipe should have
a "clean-out" fitting so that rags, solidified grease, or other
substances that might block it can be removed. Sometimes vitrified
tile with cemented joints is used instead of cast-iron pipe; but it
has the distinct disadvantage that, if the rootlets of trees or large
shrubs, attracted by the water, find so much as a pin hole in the
cement, they will grow through and finally clog the pipe.

From the tank to the disposal field, the first three or four lengths
of pipe should be glazed tile with tight cement joints. From these on,
three or four inch porous land tile laid in shallow trenches is used.
For proper action, the trenches of the field should be not over
eighteen inches deep so that the warmth and evaporation of the sun may
be effective. Also in digging these trenches, there should be a slight
grade away from the outlet of the tank. An inch to every ten feet is
adequate.

The bottom of the trenches is covered with a two-inch layer of
medium-sized crushed stone or clean gravel. On this rest the land
tile, and the joints are covered with roofing paper to prevent bits of
stone or gravel from lodging within the pipe. The latter is covered
two inches deep with more stone or gravel and over all go lengths of
roofing paper cut slightly wider than the trench so that, when in
place, the paper arches and fits tightly to the sides. The purpose of
the stone or gravel is to facilitate water seepage from tile to ground
while the roofing paper cover prevents silt from reducing the seepage.

At the terminus of each trench is a leaching pool, built by digging a
hole about three feet across and five feet deep. It is filled with
crushed stone or small rocks to the level of the trench piping. Over
it, before replacing the dirt, goes another piece of roofing paper.
Into these pools drain what water has not seeped away in flowing from
the tank.

As can be seen from the foregoing description, the fermentation and
bacterial action that takes place in a properly built septic tank
system is automatic and needs no attention, although every second or
third year it is advisable to remove the mud-like sediment from the
tank. Otherwise, the latter's capacity gradually diminishes.

The steps involved in building such a system are so simple that, while
the services of a plumber are advisable, it is possible for an
intelligent handy man to do the work. Be sure, however, that he
realizes that each step is important and necessary. We knew of one
otherwise capable workman who calmly omitted the crushed stone and
gravel in the tile trenches. The system worked well for about four
years. Then, one warm and sticky day in July, it ceased to function. A
plumber demonstrated that the tiles were clogged with silt because the
bed of crushed stone had been forgotten. For a week the house was
sewerless while the careless short cut was remedied. The household had
but two alternatives, take a vacation or go primitive.

However, if a properly installed system fails to work, the cause lies
in what it has to digest. Too much grease or too strong antiseptic
solutions will reduce or prevent proper fermentation. Waste grease
should therefore go into the garbage can. Also, strong doses of
germ-killing solutions poured daily down sink-drains and toilets can
put the hardiest septic tank out of action. The remedy for such
misguided sanitary efforts is simple. Turn on all the faucets in the
house and so flush the tank thoroughly. Then pour down a toilet one or
two pails of warm water in which a dozen cakes of yeast have been
thoroughly dissolved. The bacteria of the yeast will re-establish
fermentation in the tank and all will be well if no further doses of
disinfectants come along to interfere.

When one stops to consider, the septic tank is a remarkably simple and
effective means of being rid of household wastes odorlessly and
without contamination. Of course, such a system should be placed as
far as possible from a water source and the disposal fields should
not be located in a low, damp ground. The drier the soil, the better.
Incidentally, a lawn which turns brown during the dry weather of
summer can frequently be kept green if watered by such a method. The
lines of the disposal pipes can be laid in practically any pattern
desired. Fan-shaped or with parallel laterals is a favorite one. Here
the branches should be so spaced that they are six feet apart. This
will give plenty of surrounding earth to absorb the moisture.

In using this system, there are two things to bear in mind. The action
that goes on within a septic tank will only dissolve paper of tissue
grade. Therefore, old bandages, pieces of absorbent cotton, and the
like should go into the incinerator. Otherwise, they will clog the
system and a thorough cleaning will be imperative. Secondly, the
leaders which care for the water from the eaves cannot be connected to
it, as entirely too much water would flow into the tank during storms.

However, there are several ways of taking care of the water shed by
roofs during heavy or protracted rains. In some localities where the
supply of water is excessively hard or is so meager that it is not
sufficient for all household purposes, pipes from the eaves are
connected with an underground cistern, thus conserving the prized rain
water. Otherwise, the common practice is simply to equip leaders or
down-spouts with "quarter-bend" sections at the lower ends to keep
water away from the foundation. This is a cheap and easy way; but if
the land does not slope away from the house enough so that this water
drains rapidly, pools and mud puddles are the result. Worse still,
water may filter through foundation walls and leave a small lake in
the cellar after every heavy rain. The disadvantages of the latter are
obvious.

The remedy is a dry well for each down-spout. They are simple and
inexpensive, being small pits dug six to ten feet away from foundation
walls and reaching below the frost line. They are filled to a depth of
about two feet with broken stone, fragments of brick, or like material
and connected with the down-spouts by glazed tile pipes. A cover of
roofing paper is added and the earth then replaced. The rain water is
thus absorbed below ground, instead of being left to wear small
gullies into an otherwise well-kept lawn.

Sometimes the contour of land about the house is such that it
resembles a relief map of the Finger Lake country after each heavy
rain or spring freshet. Subsurface drainage is the answer. In other
words, a line of land tile like the fields of the septic tank. Through
it this mislocated water may drain into a dry well, open ditch, or the
gutter along the highway.

Several years ago, highway improvement presented us with such a
problem. The road gang put in a culvert through which flowed the
drainage from a hill on the opposite side of the road. There was no
redress from the Town Fathers. Technically ours was farm land and the
established custom was that highway water could wander as it would and
drain as natural slope dictated. It was be flooded or do something. A
subsurface drain, some fifty feet long and connected with the gutter
of an intersecting road, took care of the lawn. For the rest of the
water to which we were made heir by the same fit of highway
betterment, two local odd-job specialists dug an open trench across a
little-used field. It terminated at an old subsurface drainage line
constructed years ago when some one, who had the gift, brought forth
fine crops of corn, potatoes, and beans there.

There is another drainage problem that concerns mosquitoes, most
exasperating of all summer pests. These insects fly but short
distances. Marshy land and stagnant pools are their breeding places.
If the latter cannot be drained, oil spraying is the alternative and
that is work for a professional. Again an old rubbish heap, replete
with tin cans and other discards that will hold water, offers more
encouragement to mosquitoes than is generally realized. Cart all such
rubbish away or bury it; then you can drink your after-dinner coffee
in peace on terrace or lawn, or enjoy the coolness of evening dew
after a blistering hot day in the city.



DECORATIONS AND FURNISHINGS

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER XI_

DECORATIONS AND FURNISHINGS


The decorations and furnishings of a house depend largely on its style
of architecture and the owner's taste. Further, if in any doubt, it is
better to do too little than too much. Under such circumstances, too,
an interior decorator is helpful; but don't dump your problem in her
lap and take a trip somewhere. When you return, a beautifully
decorated and furnished house, correct in every detail, may greet you.
There may even be a few pieces of the furniture you brought from the
city home scattered about, but it won't be your house because you will
have done nothing except foot the bill.

Homes evolve. They are not pulled, rabbit-like, out of a hat. When you
build a house, the architect makes it yours by getting a word picture
of your ideas and pulling them down to earth in a series of
business-like blueprints. If your ideas regarding decoration are
nebulous, a good interior decorator can help to make them concrete. Do
not depend on her completely, however, because you are anxious that
this country home should be just right and you are afraid of making
mistakes. There is nothing final about them and it is better to make a
few and have a place that seems like your own home, rather than attain
perfection and find your family wandering around the rooms with that
impersonal, slightly bored look worn by the average visitor to a
"perfect home" display in a department store.

The early American was not afraid of color in his home. His fondness
for it is evidenced by 17th and 18th century rooms on display in
various museums throughout the country and in the growing number of
house museums that have been restored to original condition. Looking
at a few of these will help to crystallize your own ideas. You will
notice that their furnishings are by no means limited to the year in
which they were built or even the century. A good example of this is
to be found in a late 17th century house museum, known as Marlpit
Hall, located on Kings Highway, Middletown, New Jersey. Here two
nationalities actually mingle, since the exterior with its details of
roof and gable windows and two-part doors show the Dutch influence,
while the woodwork within is English in feeling. It is not a very
large house but every room has a different color scheme. The restorers
discovered the original colors and reproduced them; now the old
blue-green, light pink, apple green, yellow, tones of red, and the
like form a perfect background for the furnishings which date from
late in the 17th century until well into the 18th.

For instance, in the dining room a gate-leg table of the Puritan years
has settled down comfortably with a set of Windsor chairs that are
probably a hundred years younger. Other rooms are furnished with
William and Mary and Queen Anne pieces so arranged as to appear to be
waiting for the owners of Marlpit Hall, in its heyday, to come back.
Upstairs are bedrooms with four-post beds of varying ages mingled with
other furnishings that are in harmony, though not necessarily of the
same period.

This is a very fair example of an Early American home where two or
more generations were born, lived, and died. In those days the average
citizen did not discard his home furnishings just because they went
out of style. He moved them to less important rooms and bought as he
could afford of new pieces made "in the neatest and latest fashion."

The home owner today can well plan to use what he has, making a few
additions as he and his house become better acquainted. If he has a
number of Oriental rugs and some member of his family has a fixed idea
that those of the hooked variety are the only kind suitable for a
country home, let him buy one or two good hooked rugs, in the
interests of peace, and lay them down with his Orientals. Both will be
found in harmony because both have the same basic idea, skillful
weaving of colors into a distinct but variegated pattern. Besides, the
American colonists, industrious as they were, did not depend solely on
the work of their hands for floor coverings and other accessories.
Oriental rugs or Turkey carpets, as they were then called, were used
here in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. They were popular in
England, also, as is shown by Hogarth's drawings.

In fact, most house furnishings are surprisingly adaptable. As with
people, it is largely a matter of bringing out their pleasing traits
and subduing their unattractive aspects. A quaint piece of bric-a-brac
that was a misfit in the city apartment may look just right on the
corner of the living room mantel in your country home. The old spode
platter that reposed almost forgotten on the top shelf of a closet may
come into its own on the Welsh dresser of your dining room. The same
holds with pictures, mirrors, and clocks.

As for furniture, don't discard a comfortable piece that you like just
because it doesn't seem to fit into the scheme of decoration. A chair
or a sofa that appears to quarrel violently with all other pieces in a
room can often be made to conform by a change in upholstery, or in
cases of extreme ugliness, with a slip cover of heavy chintz, denim,
or rep.

"You see that chair," said one country house owner, a few months after
settling in his new home. "Sallie has thrown out every stick of
furniture we had when we first went to housekeeping except that. She
keeps moving it around from one spot to another but so far has kept
it because I like a comfortable chair to drop down in when I come home
at night. If I find it gone some day I shall know it is time for me to
move on also."

[Illustration: TRUE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY SIMPLICITY. NOW THE AUTHOR'S
DINING ROOM

_Photo by John Runyon_]

The piece was an average example of the overstuffed,
leather-upholstered era. It is still part of the family furnishings
but it has merged quietly and inoffensively with its better born
companions. Plain muslin has taken the place of the leather and over
it has been fitted a heavy slip cover of sage green rep. No one
exclaims over its beauty but everybody sits in it, even the most
ardent admirer of the delicate Hepplewhite side chair standing nearby.

This brings us to the question of whether the additions in furniture
should be antiques, reproductions, or modern pieces. Again, this
depends on the type of house and the taste of those who occupy it. The
person who buys or builds the salt box or similar type of cottage will
naturally want the furnishings in keeping. Consciously or
unconsciously, he will lean towards antiques. Further, those that look
best in the 18th or early 19th century farm cottage are not
necessarily expensive. Simple pine pieces, made by the village
cabinet-maker or, sometimes, by an ingenious farmer in his leisure
hours; Windsor and slat-back chairs; low four-post beds; trestle or
tuckaway tables; even an occasional Victorian piece; all, if on simple
lines, fit into such a house as though made for it.

One of the many advantages of furnishing with antiques is that there
is nothing final about them. If you buy a piece at a proper price and
after due time do not like it or it fails to fit into your decorative
scheme, you can sell for as much as you paid for it and often a little
more. On the other hand, new furniture or reproductions become merely
second-hand pieces as soon as you have bought and put them to use.
Only at distinct financial loss can you change them in six months or a
year for others. That is a good commercial reason for the growing
tendency to furnish with antiques. We believe, however, that the real
reason is the effect of individuality gained by the use of pieces made
by old craftsmen a century or more ago when things were built to last
and mass production and obsolescence were unknown terms.

Several years ago, a family bought a house of the type prevalent in
the region of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, "as a summer shack for three or
four months in the year." The floors with their wide boards were
simply scrubbed, waxed, and left in the natural tone taken on by old
wood in the course of a hundred and fifty years. All trim and paneling
were painted a soft apple green, and walls and ceilings throughout
were calcimined a deep cream color. Curtains of unbleached muslin were
hung at the small, many-paned windows. The furnishings came out of the
attic of their Boston home where the contents of a great-grandfather's
New Hampshire farmhouse had been stored.

These were the average accumulation of family possessions from the
turn of the 19th century down through the Civil War period. There was
a pine tavern table, 17th century in feeling but made nearly two
hundred years later. It had been used in the summer kitchen and bore
the scars of harsh treatment. A skillful cabinet-maker restored it to
a condition suitable for a dining table. At this point, the
antiquarian of the family spoke wistfully of "some nice little
rod-back Windsors that Cousin Julie made off with" when the old
homestead was broken up some twenty years and how they would be "just
right for dining room chairs here."

But all were agreed that the attic contents were to furnish forth the
Cape Cod cottage with no unnecessary additions. Here were eight
cane-seated chairs of the late Empire years. Four had been painted a
dirty brown to simulate black walnut; four represented the white
enamel blight which, in turn, had chipped enough to display the
"grained" painting of the golden oak years beneath. A scraper applied
to a leg revealed the mellow tone of honey-colored maple. Patience and
paint remover did the rest. Brought up in the natural finish, they
blended beautifully with the old pine table and have been much
admired. Yet they were only near-antiques, made by early factory
methods about 1850.

So it went. Old pine bureaus, an under-eaves bed, one or two
four-posters, late but with simple urn-shaped finials and still
covered with the old New England red filler, two or three cherry light
stands, and several slat-back chairs went far towards furnishing the
bedrooms. The living room, in spite of two or three good tables and
ladder-back and Windsor armchairs, appeared to be threatened with a
warring element in the shape of a red plush Victorian sofa and
matching armchair. Both were ugly but comfortable. Chintz slip covers
changed them from blatant monstrosities to background blending items
of hominess.

Skillful grouping, plenty of color, and simplicity produced a highly
pleasing whole that caused more than one guest to exclaim, "These
things look as though they grew in the house." Yet there was not a
piece of museum quality in the lot. Many of them could not even be
classed as antiques. They were simply the kind of things that the
original owner of the house and his descendants would have been apt to
accumulate and use through the years. But it is those plus the
associations, real or imaginary, that make the difference between a
home and a house. The original owner could, of course, have owned
finer pieces such as a butterfly table, a maple or cherry highboy, a
high-post bed with hangings of crewel-work, a small curly maple and
mahogany sideboard, various chests of drawers and light stands made of
cherry and neatly ornamented with inlay. Country cabinet-makers were
as fine artists as those who catered to the urban taste but their
public was satisfied with simple pieces and they wrought accordingly.

Calcimined walls and near-antique furnishings are, naturally, not the
only means of producing a homey effect. Their chief merit lies in the
fact that they are effective, inexpensive, and easily changed. No
matter how pleasing the tone, plain calcimined walls will probably
pall after a while, but by that time the home owner will know whether
paper or paint is the better treatment. With an old house, either is
historically correct. The earliest were, of course, primitive affairs
with walls of rough plaster or feather-board paneling in natural wood
color. By the 18th century, paint was already being used for
decorating both. Here the wall treatment was not limited to a plain
color but was varied by stencil designs. A geometric pattern was
usual. Then came wall papers of geometric or scenic design.

Thus, it is for the householder to decide just what manner of
decoration he wishes to live with. For instance, a paneled room may be
finished in the natural wood or painted. The latter was customary in
colonial days as life became easier and money more plentiful.
Personally we consider painted paneling, trim, and other woodwork
pleasanter and less monotonous to live with day in and day out but
that is a matter of individual taste. In the last analysis it is not
what his neighbor likes, it is what the home owner himself wants to
live with that really matters.

In choosing wall paper, one is limited by the type and size of room to
be so decorated. You may have a weakness for the old French scenic
papers depicting, in large squares, historic or sporting events. These
are most effective in the large central halls of the more formal
country home but produce a distinctly odd appearance in the tiny,
low-ceilinged rooms of the story-and-a-half farmhouse. Here small
patterns and designs that tend to make the rooms look larger must
rule.

Over-fussy curtains and draperies at the windows should also be
avoided. We well remember an otherwise charming little place where the
use of color and type of furnishings was most skillful. One
experienced a curious sense of gloom and stuffiness, though, even at
midday. A glance at the windows explained it. They were of the 18th
century farmhouse type and into their 42 by 28 inch dimensions had
been crowded the modern roller shade, fussy ruffled dimity curtains
and heavily lined chintz draperies surmounted by a six-inch valance!
With all these, the aperture left for light and air was limited
indeed.

An able interior decorator could have controlled the over-zealous
drapery buyer or she could have found out for herself by a little
independent study of proper window treatment for a house of that type.
In other words, whatever the kind of house, remember that windows are
intended to let in light and air. Both constitute excellent reasons
for living in the country. Proper curtains and draperies lend a
softening and pleasing effect but, as in a stage setting, they are
only props and must not be allowed to dominate the scene.

Further, in furnishing or decorating any house it is an excellent idea
to try and visualize the type of furnishings two or three generations
living there would normally have accumulated. We have already alluded
at some length to the farm cottage type because, like the common
people, they are more numerous. But in the old country neighborhoods
there was nearly always the man of affairs who knew how to make money
and was prone to build a house "as handsome as his purse could
afford." He was the squire of his vicinity and his house surpassed all
others in size and ornamental detail. If you have acquired such a
house, its furnishings must be in accord. Handsome antiques and
ambitious reproductions go well in such a setting. Or it may be that
your fancy runs to an ultra modern structure with interior decorations
and furnishings in keeping. Your house is then its own ancestor and
only time will determine whether such a scheme wears well.

Whatever you choose, take the furnishings best suited, arrange them as
pleases you, and proceed to live with them. If you like the general
effect and are one of those people who like things to stay put,
probably one can enter your living room fifteen years hence and find
the wing chair from the Maritime Provinces still standing in the
northeast corner with a small tavern table on the right; the hooked
rug with geometric center still in front of the fireplace; the
Sheraton table with mirror over it at its accustomed place between the
two south windows; and so forth.

On the other hand, if you are of the restless type, instead of
throwing everything out and beginning over again, you will have
periodic attacks of rearranging, realigning certain accessories,
adding something new, or discarding some item bought in an emergency
for something more in keeping with your changing ideas or manner of
living. We confess that this is one of our pleasantest pastimes. It
takes very little to start us off. An old Pennsylvania Dutch cupboard,
stripped down to the original blue and inducted into an apple-green
dining room, obviously calls for a fine orgy with paint and whitewash;
a gilded Sheraton mirror or another oil painting involves general
commotion and often complete rearrangement of the living room. All
this is very painful for those who don't like change; but, for us, it
helps to answer the question so often propounded by innocent city
visitors, "What do you do with yourselves in such a quiet spot?"



THE FACTORY PART OF THE HOUSE

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER XII_

THE FACTORY PART OF THE HOUSE


The Early American kitchen was the most important room in the house.
Here the family spent most of its waking hours. Here the food was
cooked, served, and eaten; the spinning and weaving done; the candles
for lighting the house poured into molds. It was the warmest room in
winter and around its hearth the family gathered both for work and
recreation.

Cheerful and pleasant it undoubtedly was, but there was little idea of
making work easy or saving steps. Today we may furnish our living
rooms in the 18th century manner, put 17th century dressers in our
dining rooms, and hang Betty lamps and other quaint devices around the
fireplace; but when it comes to the kitchen, we step forward into the
20th century and are well content. We have heard of enthusiasts who
occasionally cook an entire meal in a fireplace and insist that it is
far superior to any done by modern methods; but even these devotees of
old ways pale at the thought of three meals a day, three hundred and
sixty-five days in the year, so prepared.

Today's kitchen, stripped of accessories and talking points, is
essentially a laboratory where semi-prepared food stuffs are processed
for consumption. The automobile industry has demonstrated to the
nation what remarkable things can be done by having labor conditions
and proper tools on a logical train of production. With no waste of
human effort, no running back and forth, work starts at one end of the
assembly chain, and off the other, in about two hours, comes a new
car. In the same way, a properly planned kitchen eliminates waste
steps and, with plenty of light and air, becomes a pleasant place to
work.

In this domestic laboratory, one expects, of course, to find a cook
stove of some sort, a sink, a refrigerator, a kitchen cabinet or
compounding bench, a table, and plenty of storage space. With the
assembly idea in mind, have these so planned that the work of cooking
three meals a day progresses logically from the service or delivery
entrance to the doorway of the dining room. Be sure, too, that added
working space is available in the event of dinner parties or larger
forms of entertainment. The saving on tempers, fine china, and glass
will be well worth it. In other words, have this most important
working room compact but not too small.

As an example we cite another of our own errors in judgment. Having
been brought up in a house with a large old-fashioned kitchen where
the luckless cook walked miles in performing her culinary duties, we
went to the other extreme. The room originally designed for the
kitchen with its large old fireplace and sunny southern exposure was
immediately chosen for the dining room. Directly back of it was the
old pantry which, without benefit of architectural advice, we decided
to fit up as a kitchen. It was a good idea except for the fact that
the room was really too small, especially for the type of hospitality
that rules in the country. To be sure, by moving a partition a little
and by remodeling a small lean-to that adjoined it, sufficient storage
and working space was added to make conditions tolerable; but it is at
best a makeshift and the answer is, eventually, a properly designed
service wing, architecturally in keeping with the 18th century but
mechanically modern. Even under these makeshift conditions, however,
the assembly idea has been followed and this somewhat mitigates the
drawback of contracted space.

The most important tool in a kitchen is obviously the cooking range.
Here the country dweller has a choice of bottled gas, electricity, or
oil as fuels. What he decides to use may depend on personal
preference, availability, or cost of installing and operating. Where
service is dependable and a reasonable cooking rate prevails, there
is no better method of cooking than by electricity. Clean, odorless
and easily regulated, its advantages are obvious. But no electric
light and power company can afford to run its cables underground in
the country. The service lines are on poles and extend over a large
area. Nature has no regard for the convenience of either the company
or its patrons. A thunderbolt may knock out a transformer, or a tree
may be blown down and carry nearby electric lines with it. Repair men
are continually on the job with a well-run company and work speedily
and faithfully but they cannot be everywhere at once. Service may be
interrupted for ten minutes or for several hours. In such emergencies,
it is well to have a stop gap, such as an inexpensive two-burner oil
stove. It may not be used more than twice a year but it is there when
needed.

The devotees of the tank gas method of cooking are many. It works the
same as gas from city mains except that your supply is piped in from
an individual tank which is installed outside the house and
replenished monthly by the company supplying such fuel. The initial
cost plus installation and operation about equals that of electricity
but no cataclysm of nature will cause it to fail.

Cheapest of all is the kerosene oil stove. These range all the way
from the modest two-burner table stove to the pretentious six-burner
type with insulated oven and porcelain finish. Gasoline burning ranges
are also to be had on this order. The initial cost of even the most
elaborate oil or gasoline stove is considerably less than for one
designed for either electricity or bottled gas and the expense of
operation is also less. But they have certain disadvantages. With the
best of management there is a slight odor. If out of adjustment they
smoke or go out and they are unpleasant to clean. Further, although we
struggled with one for seven years, we never found any satisfactory
means of broiling meat with oil as a fuel.

No family relishes the idea of having porterhouse or sirloin steaks
taken right out of their lives, so some other device is necessary,
such as a charcoal broiler or the old-fashioned, long-handled broiler
held over the fireplace coals or, in winter, those of the furnace. One
may argue brightly that meat cooked by these primitive methods has a
superior flavor, but it is definitely veering away from the assembly
idea and most certainly does not make for harmony in the kitchen. If a
charcoal broiler is employed, somehow it never reaches the proper
state of incandescence at the right time. If the fireplace is the
scene of operation, it is invariably a roaring inferno at the time the
steak should be cooked. One waits for the desired bed of coals, of
course, while ominous head shakings and rumblings from the kitchen
proclaim that the rest of the dinner is done, is dried up, is ruined.

Twenty years ago coal or wood burning stoves were usual in country
homes. They were disagreeable to tend and in summer made an
uncomfortably hot kitchen. But that same heat was most acceptable in
winter weather. For a kitchen not too well heated by the main house
system, there are ranges that combine coal and electricity. Thus, in
winter they serve the double purpose of a cooking tool and heat
producing unit and also help reduce the electric light bill at the
season of the year when it tends to be heaviest.

[Illustration: ENTIRELY NEW, BUT WITH ALL THE CHARM OF AN OLD HOUSE

_Robertson Ward, architect_. _Photo by Samuel H. Gottscho_]

Where electricity is available, the problem of refrigeration is
simple. Of course, the initial cost of a good electric refrigerator
may easily be more than double that of the ordinary icebox, but the
cost of operation is very small and food losses are materially cut
down. The old method of refrigeration calls for only a moderate outlay
for a box, but delivering ice three or four times a week to the
average country home involves heavy overhead for the local ice dealer
and he must therefore charge accordingly. If one must depend on ice,
however, there is an improved box now on the market so constructed
that it needs to be filled but once a week. It operates on much the
same principle as the mechanical box as far as keeping an even
temperature is concerned.

With the various storage cupboards, closets, and cabinets that make up
the furnishings of this culinary assembly plant, there are sundry
built-in units, widely pictured, written about, and advertised. What
type you will have is a matter of personal taste. The main thing is to
be sure they are well built and conveniently located. The kitchen sink
may also be of any type you prefer but let there be light where it is
hung. A window directly over it will make for cleaner dishes as well
as less breakage. Another ounce of prevention for the latter is
considered by many to be the sink lined with monel metal. It is fairly
soft and yielding so that a cup or plate is not readily shattered if
accidentally dropped in it. With porcelain sinks, one may use a
rubber mat designed for the purpose or one can be careful.

If the service wing plans do not include a laundry, a set tub with
cover forming one of the drain boards is practical for the occasional
small pieces washed at home. Along with the sink may be installed an
electric dishwasher, depending, of course, on whether the family
considers its benefits equal to the expense involved. If mother is to
do the work, it may be warranted; but where her efforts are limited to
one or two sketchy meals on Thursdays and Sunday evenings, one might
well interview the person who is monitor of the service wing the bulk
of the time. Dishwashers, cake mixers, complicated fruit juice
extractors, and similar gadgets are all excellent but they are not
essential. Many servants do not even want them.

A few years ago we tried to introduce an orange squeezer designed to
hang on the wall and operate somewhat on the principle of a pencil
sharpener. We showed it to our houseman who regarded it glumly. "I'll
try to use it if you insist," he finally said, "but I can work faster
with that glass one from the ten cent store." These little playthings
are all right but you can seldom get the help to use them. A kitchen
should be well equipped with standard implements and cooking utensils,
but before putting in expensive labor-saving devices one should be
sure that they really save work and that the proposed operator will
appreciate them enough to make their purchase advisable.

The essentials of a kitchen are plenty of light and air; enough space
for working under all conditions; well arranged and adequate
equipment; pleasing, easily cleaned wall surfaces and floor; and
plenty of hot water. There are several methods of obtaining an
adequate supply of the latter. It is automatically taken care of where
the house is heated by an oil burning system. With a coal burning
steam or hot water plant, there is now a cylinder that can be attached
to the boiler below the water level. In it there is a coil of copper
pipe through which circulates the domestic hot water supply. This
works admirably. There is always a sufficient supply but it is never
so overheated as to scald the heedless person who plunges a hand under
a boiling stream of water.

During the warm months, however, a supplementary means of heating
water must be at hand. Electric water heating, again, involves the
least supervision and is to be recommended if one can get a low enough
rate. The initial expense is a sizable item, though; and if operated
at the usual rate per kilowatt hour, the monthly charge can easily be
double that of other fuels. But many companies make a special rate for
such devices and under such circumstances the operating costs compare
favorably with those of coal and oil.

Another excellent device is the little coal stove built especially for
the purpose. It requires only a small amount of fuel daily but, of
course, must be faithfully tended. This type of stove may also be
adapted for burning range oil. Here the drudgery of shoveling in coal
and taking out ashes is replaced by that of daily filling the
two-gallon oil tank that feeds it, periodic cleaning of wicks and
burners, and consistent adjusting of burner and draft to meet changing
weather conditions.

There are also the kerosene oil heaters having a copper coil through
which the water circulates in heating. These may or may not be
equipped with an automatic attachment. They likewise require daily
filling and occasional cleaning of both wick and copper coil. They are
easier to adjust than the other variety but the action of the blue
flame on the copper coil causes a slight disintegration which over a
long period of time may cause a leak. When that happens no mending is
possible, not even of a temporary nature. The family goes without hot
water until a new coil is put in or a complete new heater substituted.
Obsolescence is a term high in favor with American industry; and only
too often when one goes seeking a new part for a machine with a decade
of good service to its credit, one is met with, "Oh, we don't make
that model any more. We might be able to locate a stray coil but it
would take about two or three weeks." The disgusted home owner
naturally goes out and buys another kind of heater, one without a
copper coil.

Whether or not a laundry is part of the service wing depends, of
course, on how much of that type of work is to be done at home. There
are two points of view here. Some households prefer to scoop the
family linen into a bag, make a list, and hand it over to a commercial
laundry. Others find a dependable laundress nearby or provide
facilities for doing the work at home. The clear air of the country
and easy drying conditions influence many towards the latter course.

Like the kitchen, the room set aside for this purpose should have good
light and air as well as easily cleaned wall and floor surfaces. There
should be at least two tubs as well as a washing machine and a small
ironing machine. There should also be space provided for indoor drying
of clothes since, even in the country, a week of stormy weather is not
unheard of. Some kind of a stove is also necessary for any needed
boiling of clothes, making starch, or the like.

Servants' quarters should be cheerful, light, airy in summer and
comfortably warm in winter. They may be part of the service wing; they
may be on a separate floor of the main section of the house; or, if
the garage is part of the house, located over that. For best results
they should not be in too close proximity to the rest of the family.
In the country, servants are more confined to the scene of their
labors than in the city. Consequently they need and like a certain
amount of privacy as well as a place to relax and see their friends.
In addition to bedrooms and bath, a sitting room of some kind is most
practical. It need not be large or expensively furnished. A few
comfortable chairs, a table or two, possibly a desk and a good reading
lamp will suffice. A small radio also adds to the general contentment.
In summer if the service wing boasts a screened porch so much the
better. If not, some shady nook or arbor nearby where they may rest or
read during their spare time may mark the difference between sullen
service, frequent change of personnel, and the perfect servant who
remains year after year.



PETS AND LIVESTOCK

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER XIII_

PETS AND LIVESTOCK


Few country households are content with a bowl of goldfish. Something
a little more responsive is demanded where the peace and quiet of
nature press so close. A cat to drowse on the hearth or catch an
occasional mouse; a dog to accompany one on walks and greet the head
of the house ecstatically each evening; these, of course, are the most
obvious and popular pets. Both can be and are kept in city apartments
and suburban homes but their natural habitat is the open country.

Whether one or both become part of your household is, of course, a
matter of personal inclination. There are those who have an intense
aversion for cats. There are fanatical bird lovers who argue that
because they once knew a cat which killed a bird, the entire feline
family should be wiped out. However, from the number of sleek
specimens seen dozing on porch or terrace through the countryside, it
is safe to assume that the average household harbors at least one cat.
There is no room here for a treatise on why people keep cats. Besides,
we do not know. We only know that cats were always about the place
when we were young and that some sixteen years ago we rescued a half
starved Maltese kitten from a city pavement and kept her until she
died of old age about a year ago. She had beautiful green eyes and a
very short temper. She also upset several preconceived theories. One
is that a cat is attached to a place rather than people and that it is
difficult if not impossible to take it along when moving to an old
place. Our cat was approaching middle age when we acquired our country
home. Yet after a few inquiring meows and a minute inspection of the
new place, she settled down contentedly. Further, during the years
that followed, she made at least two trips a year to the city for
sojourns of varying lengths. Inquiry among other cat owners has
revealed that this is not at all extraordinary. In fact, this type of
animal can become just as attached to its owner as the more flattering
and responsive dog.

Nor do all cats kill birds. The average house cat is too indolent to
hunt anything. Our own imperfect but individualistic animal was a
mighty hunter of field mice but showed little or no interest in the
birds flying about above her. They have built their nests for years in
arbor and summer house unmolested. But a real killer of birds is hard
to dissuade. One can of course remove the bird from its jaws and
administer a sound whipping but it is by no means certain that
anything much is accomplished by so doing. One cannot argue with a
cat. He is the one animal man has not been able to subdue. Possibly
therein lies his fascination. Also, barring a few bad habits, he is
little trouble and is a distinct ornament.

The dog can be a faithful companion or the worst pest on earth. Which
he is, depends on his environment and training. He may be had in many
breeds and sizes from the most expensive and delicate specimens down
to the mongrel with a League of Nations ancestry. Incidentally, the
most benign and intelligent of dogs is often some middle-aged hound of
doubtful lineage who can tell your blue ribbon winner how to get about
in the canine circles of the countryside.

Pick the breed you prefer but have it in scale with your place. You
may have had a secret longing for a St. Bernard or a Great Dane but if
you have settled your family in a little saltbox house, it is going to
be a little crowded when something only slightly smaller than a
Shetland pony starts padding restlessly up and down stairs or flings
his weary length down in the middle of the living room rug where you
must walk around or over him to turn on the radio or answer the
telephone.

One member of our family has always wanted a cheetah or hunting
leopard. This desire is likely to go unfulfilled. These beasts are
easily domesticated and are gentle and affectionate. They appear to
have the best characteristics of both cat and dog. They are no more
expensive than many a thoroughbred dog. Yet we shall not have one.
Not only is the climate of Westchester County, New York, too unlike
that of their native India for them to thrive, but consider the task
of soothing terrified tradesmen and casual visitors. One may explain
that although appearances are against him he is not really a leopard
but just an overgrown cat. They will not believe it. They will not
even hear because they will be a mile down the road.

Other people must be considered even in the country. So pick your dog
and train him up in the way he should go. You may prefer one of the
terrier breeds. They are bright and lively and make good pets but must
be taught not to dig holes in the carefully groomed lawn. It is as
natural for them to delve for underground animals as for a setter or
spaniel to flush birds. Retrievers are usually gentle, well disposed
animals and not only make good pets but are excellent in a family
where hunting is a diversion. Very popular just now in this class are
the spaniels, especially the cockers. They have beauty, an
affectionate disposition, are most intelligent and are excellent watch
dogs. They fit into nearly any household large or small.

With the larger dogs there is, of course, the collie as well as his
ancestor the old-fashioned shepherd. Here we would say a good word for
a much-maligned dog, the police or German shepherd. Only recently
since the Seeing Eye has demonstrated their keen intelligence and
sense of responsibility in guiding their blind owners, have they begun
to come into their own again. Even now there is an impression abroad
in the land that they, like the timber wolf they so much resemble but
are _not_ descended from, are sly treacherous brutes with a particular
delight in taking a piece out of the unwary stranger. It is true that
when first brought to this country they had no little trouble in
adapting themselves to conditions here. In their native Germany they
were what their name implies and as working dogs covered miles daily.
They ate coarse food and slept in the open either on the ground itself
or a small heap of straw. Obviously such a dog cannot be shut up in
cramped quarters and given almost no exercise without his disposition
being somewhat affected. They are highly intelligent animals and for
the country dweller with two or more acres, make affectionate and
satisfactory pets. They have a keen sense of guardianship, are fine
watch dogs and show but little tendency to roam.

The latter is an excellent trait for if you wish to remain on
moderately pleasant terms with your neighbors, train your dog or dogs
to stay home. Worrying the cat of the man who lives just at the bend
in the road to the south, or killing the chickens of the neighbor to
the north, will not aid in establishing friendly relations. Barking at
passing cars is not commendable nor is the tipping over of a
neighbor's garbage can and scattering the contents about. These are
bad habits and should be corrected if your pet is to be any real
comfort to you. Patient and intelligent training will mark the
difference between a friendly well-mannered dog and a spoiled brute
that even your most humane friends yearn to cuff.

When it comes to the matter of other livestock in this venture of
farming-in-the-little, the new owner is either treading unknown or
forgotten ground. Dogs and cats, even canaries and white rats, were
familiar enough in the city. He has read books on their care and
training. He has consulted veterinarians and fanciers but until now
the sources of his daily bottle of milk or his carton of graded eggs
have been matters of indifference. The venture with livestock may
begin with chickens and end with saddle horses, but it is nothing for
the uninitiate to enter into lightly or unadvisedly. Personally, we
prefer to let the farmer down at the end of the lane wrestle with the
recalcitrant hen and temperamental cow. He has summered and wintered
with them for years and knows the best and the worst of them. If there
is a way to make them worth their keep, he knows it. If his cow
generously gives twelve quarts of milk and we can use but two, it is
no concern of ours what becomes of the other ten.

For the country dweller, who feels that life is not complete without
livestock of some sort and follows that by acquiring a barnyard
menagerie, we would recommend that he enter upon his course
cautiously. This is assuming that he knows little or nothing of
farming either by theory or practice. If, on the other hand, he has
been reared on a farm, he understands perfectly how to care for the
various animals and the labor entailed in doing so. He is in no need
of any admonition from us, and who are we to offer it? But for the
average person who is just beginning his experiment in country living,
a few chickens are suggested for the initial attempt. There are two
ways to embark on this. With either, it is well to subscribe to a good
farm journal. Consult that or the farmer down the road as to breed. As
rank outsiders we suggest a well established and hardy kind.

Then, the easiest way for the novice would probably be to buy
full-grown chickens that are just beginning to lay. They are old
enough to know their way about and any dry, well ventilated shelter
that is proof against thieving skunks, weasels and similar wild life,
will be adequate for them along with a chicken run with a high enough
fence to keep them within bounds. For this type of fowl is no
respecter of property. Not only does it take delight in working havoc
with its owner's flower beds and borders but those of his neighbor as
well.

They also eat incessantly. The optimistic friend who has never kept
chickens, but thinks it a marvelous idea, will tell you that scraps
from the table will take care of all that and even save you the
garbage collector's fee. Such a person is still living back in the
1890's when food was cheap and seven course dinners and hearty suppers
were the rule. Today's orange skins and banana peels are no diet even
for a chicken. So, one must buy feed for them. This should be offset
in a measure by the eggs normally laid by well-fed and tended pullets.
Also as time goes on and setting hens hatch chickens, which in turn
become eventually broilers or fresh producers of eggs, according to
results you will decide whether or not you want to continue in the
chicken business.

Another method widely advocated is to buy week-old chicks from a mail
order house or other firm dealing in such stock and bring them up
without aid of a mother hen to gather them under her wings. Here a
brooder is necessary since the chicks are of tender age and must be
kept warm. These brooders are of varying sizes and prices and may be
had from the same mail order houses that are glad to sell the chicks
as well. This is more complicated than the other old-fashioned method
but a little guidance from some one understanding the procedure along
with consistent care on your part will probably bring a majority of
your brood to broiler size.

Taking on a cow to support is a much more serious thing. Not only does
a well-bred, tuberculin-tested animal cost a fair sum to acquire, but
she must be comfortably housed in a clean, comfortable cow barn.
Bulletins from the Department of Agriculture will give the
requirements not only for her shelter but for her proper care. She
needs at least two acres of pasturage and this can't be all stones and
bushes. She must be milked morning and evening without fail and at
regular hours by some one who knows how. She must be groomed. Her
stable must be cleaned regularly. When the yearly calf is born one
must sit up nights with her. All this, if she is to remain in good
condition. In gratitude for it she will give milk, three or four times
as much as a small household can consume. Possibly a market can be
found for this excess or one can turn to butter making and add a pig
to the barnyard family. Even this accommodating scavenger cannot live
by skim milk alone but must have it augmented by corn or prepared
feed. He must also have proper shelter and a run. Thus does one thing
lead to another, once one gets beyond the chicken stage of farming. It
is obviously nothing for the daily commuter to attempt unless he is
prepared to pay for the services of a competent hired man.

Farming even on the smallest scale is a full-time job in itself. The
tired business man will find it a toil or a pleasure. The daily chores
involved are relentless and unending. A business appointment in town
is no excuse for their non-fulfillment. They must be done at a regular
time, if not by you by some one else. Of course, with a family where
there are three or more small children, keeping a cow can be both
practical and economical. With the normal table and cooking uses the
milk given can be consumed without difficulty. Further, the expense of
maintaining would probably fall much below the monthly milk bill under
such circumstances. For this purpose, select one of the Jersey or
Guernsey breed which gives rich milk rather than quantity.

For the family that can afford and enjoy saddle horses, it is pleasant
to have them, but with their advent the country home becomes still
more complicated. There must be a stable with somebody to tend and
groom the horses. They must be exercised too, which means systematic
riding rather than an occasional canter on just the ideal day. Also
with even one horse, if a need for economy arises it is not always
easy to dispense with him. He is flesh and blood and, humanely, you
cannot just sell him to the first buyer who presents himself. You must
be assured that your mount will be well-treated and not abused. We
have known of several instances where a number of excellent saddle
horses were given away by owners, who felt that they could no longer
afford to buy their oats and hay, but wanted to be sure the animals
would be well cared for.

So, before acquiring horses, contemplate the up-keep and make sure you
are prepared to maintain them whether business is good, bad, or
indifferent. For the first year or two a much wiser course is to turn
to the neighborhood riding stable and rent. These have become standard
institutions in many vicinities and they frequently afford not only
excellent mounts but sound teaching for those who know little or
nothing about the finer points of riding.



TIGHTENING FOR WINTER

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER XIV_

TIGHTENING FOR WINTER


The wolf of winter was the arresting phrase originated several years
ago by no less a practitioner of the art of advertising than Bruce
Barton, to drive home the merits of adequate domestic heating. But no
matter how efficient your heating system may be, unless the country
home has been made ready for the cold months, insufficient heat and
excessive fuel bills result.

Against this, there are a number of simple things the home owner may
do himself or have done. Nobody begrudges money spent for fuel that
keeps the house at a comfortable, even temperature. In the days when
six dollars bought a ton of the best anthracite coal and the pea and
buckwheat sizes were sold as waste products, it may have been a
matter of small importance that certain spots in a house leaked heat
and let in cold. Besides, in an era when windows closed tightly with
the first cold blasts of fall and remained so until spring, such
ventilation was probably a life saver. But at the present high prices
for either coal or fuel oil, these points about the house where heat
is lost and winter cold crashes the gate should be taken seriously.

With a new house, of course, everything possible in the nature of
built-in metal weatherstripping and thoroughly insulated exterior
walls were included by the architect when he prepared plans and
specifications. But even he may have ignored one of the most practical
means of conserving warmth. This is a set of storm windows and doors
carefully fitted so they open and shut at will, yet are snug enough so
that little cold penetrates. These are remarkable conservers of heat.
Measured scientifically, the amount that escapes by radiation through
ordinary window glass is amazing. The storm window reduces this to a
minor percentage because the dead-air space between the two
thicknesses of glass acts as an efficient means of insulation.

Storm doors and windows are now made in stock dimensions that fit
practically any frame. Quantity production has made their price so
moderate that the saving on fuel for a single winter can exceed their
initial cost and the labor of fitting and putting them in place. Such
windows and doors should be properly marked, like the screens that
replace them in summer, with numbering tacks so that, each fall, they
may be put in proper place without confusion. The system is simplicity
itself. A duplicate tack bears the same number on the sill of each
window and on the upright of each door. This is a real saver of time,
for so small a variation as half an inch in width or height can make
the difference between doors and windows that really fit and those
that leak air. Such proportions vary even with a new house.

The only requisite for such a complement of double doors and windows
is a proper place to store them during the summer months. Being
largely of glass, if they are not put away carefully, the breakage can
be both annoying and needlessly expensive. So it is well to provide a
special compartment, located in the garage or other convenient place,
where these may be placed when not in use. Similarly, the same section
may be used in the winter for door and window screens as well as
garden furniture.

Except for the new country house or one that has been completely
remodeled or renovated, each succeeding fall brings minor repairs.
These ought to be undertaken during those cool crisp days of fall that
precede freezing weather and penetrating winter winds. They will vary
with age and state of repair but they begin with the cellar and
progress upward to the attic. Unless your house is unusually ailing,
probably not all of these will be necessary but at least there should
be a careful examination and diagnosis. Here is the list.

[Illustration: SNOW HAS DIGNITY, BUT IS THE HOUSE SNUG AND WARM?

_Photo by Samuel H. Gottscho_]

Repoint the foundations, inside and out, with a rich cement mortar to
seal any cracks through which the wind might penetrate. A late October
or early November day when there is a high wind is ideal for this
work. As one goes over the inside of the foundation, the searching
cold blasts will reveal the crevices that need attention. Mark each
one with a wooden splinter as fast as they are found. When all four
walls have been thoroughly inspected, the work of closing these cracks
can be done as a single operation. Except for a solid brick or stone
house, inspect the point at which the sills rest on the foundation
walls. The fillet of mortar may have come loose or cracked in places.
Any such breaks should be repaired.

Before leaving the cellar notice the windows. Does cold air leak
through joints of sash and frame? If so, make them tight with batten
strips or, if very loose, calk them with oakum. The window through
which coal is delivered, of course, cannot be sealed so thoroughly as
it may have to be opened now and then for additional fuel.
Weatherstripping it as well as the hatchway door is advisable.

Some houses built on side-hill sites have at least one cellar wall
more exposed than the rest. Where this condition exists, it is a real
economy to cover the inside of it with insulating material. Either
special plastering or fiber-insulating board can be used, as
individual conditions warrant. At the same time any water pipe that is
close to an outside wall should either be re-located or insulated,
lest it freeze some day when it is abnormally cold or a high wind is
blowing. Freezing cold air blowing through a fine crack in an
exterior wall acts about as does the flame of a welder's torch, only
in the reverse. The flame cuts by melting; the cold air solidifies the
water in a pipe and sometimes does it so thoroughly that a cracked
pipe is the result.

From the cellar one now goes to the attic. Are windows in place here
and weather tight? How about end walls and the under sides of roof? If
not insulated, your house can lose a quantity of heat at these points.
Remember, heat rises and, after a storm, if the snow on the roof of
your house melts quicker than on those of your neighbors, it is a
clear demonstration that you are wasting heat by letting it ooze
through certain minute apertures. Another way to combat this upward
radiation is to pour a loose, featherlike insulating material into the
space between the attic flooring and the plaster of the bedroom
ceilings. As it comes in bags prepared especially for this purpose and
is very light, sometimes it is only necessary to raise a small
proportion of the attic floor boards and the insulating material can
be spread evenly through these openings.

There remains still a major escape for heat, the fireplaces. If each
is equipped, as is customary with all built during the last half
century, with a cast-iron damper that closes the throat when not in
use, make sure it is in working order. Sometimes such dampers get
clogged with soot and fail to close tightly. For older fireplaces the
problem varies. Some can have a throat damper installed; others are of
such size or shape that it is not practical. With the latter, if the
throat is not too large, it is possible to stuff it with tightly
packed newspaper, first crumpling the sheets to make them bulky. The
large fireplace, once the scene of all family cooking, generally has
an opening into the chimney so large that there seems to be but one
practical way to treat it. This is the use of the time-tried fire
board which fits tightly into the opening of mantel and shuts off the
fireplace completely. This causes much lamentation each winter in our
own household, as the picturesque effect of the fine old fireplace
with swinging crane is blotted out by a none too ornamental expanse of
board. But it is so fitted that it can be readily removed any time a
fireplace fire is desired. When not in use such a cavernous avenue for
escaping heat must, of course, be closed. No heating system can
compete with it. Stand beside such a fireplace for a moment and the
cold breeze swirling out from it will convince you.

Nothing is more uncomfortable in winter than cold and drafty floors.
Much of this can easily be corrected by closing the cracks, usually
found in older houses, between flooring and walls at the baseboards.
Generally quarter-round molding, carefully fitted and securely nailed
is sufficient but occasionally wide, uneven cracks have to be closed
with oakum, putty, or crack filler before the molding is put in place.
Again, if the cellar has no plaster ceiling, a drafty floor can be
remedied by lining the under side of the flooring with felt paper or
like material.

Lastly, inspect the heating plant. Has it been cleaned and put in
order since last season? If not, it should be done without fail, for
no soot-clogged furnace or encrusted boiler can work properly. You are
simply wasting fuel and effort if you neglect them.

Out of doors, there are several minor things that can make or mar a
winter in the country. Be sure the faucets used for the garden hose
are disconnected and drained. There is probably a drain valve in the
cellar for this. If your water supply is a shallow well, notice the
location of the supply pipe. If it extends to within four or five feet
of the top, some sort of covering must be placed over the latter to
prevent cold winter winds searching it out. A cover of wall board with
a small opening for ventilation is easily fitted to it and will avert
later trouble.

It is far from amusing to awake some zero morning and find the house
without water because the well pipe has frozen. It can be thawed with
a blow pipe but that means calling a plumber or a handy man who
happens to have a tool of this sort. One such experience will keep you
from forgetting or neglecting to provide a well cover. Similarly, if
you are in doubt whether the pipes from water source to house are
below the frost line, a carpet of leaves about two inches thick on top
of the ground along the course of the water pipe, will obviate any
such unhappy event. Thawing a frozen pipe plainly visible in the well
is child's play compared to the task of arguing with any underground.
Once, such pipes had to wait for nature. Today, they can be thawed
very skillfully with special electrical equipment, but not cheaply.
The standard charge ranges from $20 up, mostly the latter.

The family living in the country will also find that cold weather puts
a great strain on the automobile. A car that has worked perfectly all
summer simply refuses to start, and the storage battery that operates
the self-starter is exhausted and powerless. The sensible course is to
have the car put in condition for winter before the first cold snap
congeals the crank-case oil. Replace the latter with one of lighter
grade; have the radiator filled with a good anti-freeze in sufficient
quantity so that you will be safe on the coldest days against the
hazard of a frozen radiator; have the ignition system thoroughly
overhauled and new spark points put in the distributor. Most important
of all, get a new storage battery if the one you have is more than a
few months old.

This course of action saves annoyance, is better for the automobile,
and less expensive than calling for garage help some abnormally cold
morning when many others are also in trouble and you must wait your
turn. Don't take just anybody's advice when changing to lighter and
more freely flowing motor oil. Go to the service station handling the
make of car you drive and have it done there. They will know which is
the right grade. We once almost ruined a car by following a layman's
advice. With our own hands we refilled the crank case with oil that
was rated as S.A.E. 10 and was perfect for the light car of our
well-intentioned adviser. Unhappily the lightest suitable for our make
and model was S.A.E. 20, practically twice as heavy. Fortunately we
burned no bearings before our error was discovered and so learned a
valuable lesson more cheaply than we deserved.

Keeping the radiator protected against freezing is not complicated.
Nearly any filling station has the necessary hydrometer. To be sure
the anti-freeze liquid has not evaporated unduly, have the radiator
contents tested about once in two weeks, particularly after several
days of abnormally warm weather. For real safety, it is wise to have
any automobile radiator filled with enough of the compound so that its
freezing point is fully ten degrees colder than the lowest temperature
expected. There are two reasons for this margin. It allows for a
slight percentage of evaporation and for a certain peculiarity of
country highways. There are sometimes points on the road where, for
some reason, the actual temperature is a full five degrees colder than
elsewhere. We have seen many cars steaming and boiling in such places.
We have once or twice been in the same unhappy situation and know that
thawing a radiator so frozen is slow work, requiring blankets and
plenty of patience.

A word as to the clothing especially designed for the cold of the
country. Wool-lined mittens may seem to hark back to sleighbells and
buffalo robes, but driving a spirited span hitched to a cutter was a
summer occupation compared to steering an unheated automobile ten
miles on a below zero morning with ordinary gloves. Mittens are not
graceful but in them the fingers are not confined and therefore do not
chill as quickly.

Further, do not scorn the good old-fashioned arctics. Get the high
four-buckle kind. They afford real protection against cold and snow
and a pair lasts for several years, particularly in the sections of
the country where snow and abnormally cold weather are intermittent.
Sweaters and woolen mufflers should also be part of the added
equipment, for nothing makes for such misery as getting thoroughly
chilled for lack of adequate outside clothing. A walk or a drive
becomes then just an endurance test.

We have one last warning. The mitten and overshoe theory may seem to
you but a sad sign of approaching age and debility--and so none of
them for you. Granted they are not needed except for abnormal weather,
some bitter cold evening you may arrive home with fingers, or ears, or
toes frostbitten. Don't under such circumstances go into a warm room
before you have thawed them with snow and vigorous massage. When you
do go into the warm atmosphere continue to treat the bite with cloths
wrung out in ice water. Otherwise, this simple winter casualty may be
as serious and painful as a bad burn.



KEEPING HOME FIRES IN THEIR PLACE

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER XV_

KEEPING HOME FIRES IN THEIR PLACE


In the good old days before the United States had a record of one fire
every minute of the twenty-four hours, grandfather and his father
before him considered that a good citizen paid his poll tax, served on
juries, and patrolled his home for fire. Going to bed without banking
fires in stoves and fireplaces was unthinkable. The rest of the
household also had a proper respect for lighted candles and other
possible fire breeders. Of course, under this simpler mode of living,
light and heat were generated within view and what is seen cannot be
readily ignored.

Then came the development of modern household conveniences. Furnaces
and steam plants took heating below stairs; electricity replaced
candles, lamps, and gas fixtures; and the old cook stove gave way to
modern ranges of various sorts. The safer and easier the devices, the
more human vigilance relaxed. Today, of our half billion dollar fire
loss annually, one-fifth of it occurs in the country, and over sixty
per cent of residential fires start in the cellar.

Of course, every home has certain fire hazards but they can be reduced
to the minimum by a few elemental improvements and precautions. Some
call for slight additions to the house equipment; others are simply
the old-fashioned art of self-fire policing. This program of little
things starts in the cellar and ends in the attic. Here is the list.

Don't let piles of rubbish and papers accumulate in cellar, attic,
closets, and like places.

Provide a metal container with hinged cover for storing inflammable
polishes, cleaning fluids, chemically treated dust cloths, mops, oily
cloths, and the like. Make sure they are put there when not in use,
instead of being tossed into some convenient "glory hole." Use metal
containers also for hot ashes and the daily accumulation of papers and
trash.

Be certain that electric wiring fuses are in good order. Pennies
behind burned-out fuses are a misuse of good money in more ways than
one.

Inspect the cords of all electrical appliances and portable lamps. If
they are frayed or broken, replace them. Speaking of appliances, the
simple flat-iron in the hands of a careless or absent-minded person
probably causes more fires than all the other more complicated
work-savers combined. For stage-struck Seventeen, then, moodily
pressing her pink organdy while mentally sweeping a triumphant course
through a crowded ballroom in a sophisticated black model from Paris;
or for dark-hued Martha who thumps out on a luckless shirt the damage
she plans to inflict on a certain Pullman porter when he shows up at
her back door again, provide an iron that cannot over-heat. With a
thermostat that turns current on and off, it and the ironing board can
remain forgotten for hours. The electric light company may benefit but
no fire will result.

Equip fireplaces with screens that fit. If the hearth has begun to
disintegrate from many fires, it is time to renew it as well as loose
mortar.

Mount stoves or Franklin fireplaces on metal-covered, asbestos-lined
bases.

Don't put a rug over the register of the pipeless furnace. It will
cause dangerous over-heating and the effect will be disastrous rather
than decorative.

Be sure no draperies are near open flames such as candles and portable
heaters.

If you have gas or keep any quantity of kerosene or gasoline, don't
examine containers by match or candlelight. Use an electric flashlight
and turn it on _before_ going near such explosives. These dangers may
seem obvious but it is astonishing how many times that faulty
mechanism known as the genus homo has been guilty of just such
follies.

If rubbish is burned on the grounds, use an incinerator. It keeps
loose papers from blowing around and starting an incipient blaze in
some cherished shrubbery or in the grass itself. I once lost a fine
row of small pine trees in such a manner. They would have provided an
ample screen from the main highway, had I exercised a little care with
my miniature bonfire.

Install portable fire extinguishers. They are inexpensive. One to each
floor with an extra one for kitchen and cellar is good fire insurance.
Be sure every member of the family knows how to use them. Nearly all
fires start in a small way and a shot or two of liquid from one of
these machines usually extinguishes any but the most stubborn blaze.

Sometimes, however, outside help is needed. So post the number of the
nearest fire department prominently near the telephone. Make sure
every one knows where to call, what to say, and how to give clear and
distinct road directions.

These are little things. Yet houses have gone up in smoke for want of
their application. I know of one instance where a competent but
city-bred house man was sent to open a country house for the summer.
In the course of the day an oil stove in the kitchen was lighted. The
man went to get some drinking water. He returned less than five
minutes later to find a corner of the room was in flames. There was no
extinguisher at hand and his bucket of water was as nothing. There was
a telephone in the house and a fire department equipped with a
high-powered chemical machine was less than six miles away. Unhappily
the man neither knew of its existence nor how to direct it to the
place. By the time he had found help and the department had finally
been summoned, it was too late. Neighbors and firemen alike could only
look on at a magnificent bonfire, piously lamenting the loss, of
course, but getting a vicarious pleasure out of the spectacle.

As an example of foolhardiness on the part of the owner it is perhaps
beyond comment. Against it I know of another family that goes to the
other extreme. In addition to taking the fire precautions suggested
here, they have tacked a small typewritten notice on the back of the
front door. It reads:

                "STOP
    Is the furnace checked
    Is the water heater out
    Is the range turned off
    Is the oil heater upstairs out"

This little evidence of fire-policing has amused many of their guests,
but their house is still standing and the fire insurance inspector
performs his annual duties in a perfunctory manner after reading it.

Unless there are glaring defects in chimney construction, electric
wiring, or furnace flues, these simple details and a reasonable amount
of old-fashioned caution will practically keep home fires in their
place. For those who wish to cut the fire hazard still further there
are more elaborate precautions that involve some rebuilding and
renovation. Whether any or all of them are advisable is a matter for
the owner and his architect to decide.

[Illustration: AN IMPOSING COUNTRY HOME OF CLASSIC DIGNITY

_Robertson Ward, architect_. _Photo by Samuel H. Gottscho_]

If a fireproof cellar is wanted, cover the ceiling with metal lath and
a good cement plaster. This should extend up the stairway, and the
cellar door should be of fire resisting construction.

Firestopping all exterior walls and interior partitions not only cuts
down fire risk but adds greatly to insulation from both heat and cold.
Fires that originate in the cellar frequently travel upward in the
dead-air spaces behind lath plaster. For houses already built, the
best means is to pack the walls with pulverized asbestos. There are
contractors who specialize in this work and have equipment for doing
the job quickly with minimum cutting and inconvenience.

An electric fire detector in the cellar acts much like a burglar
alarm. There are several now on the market. The principle on which
they work is thermostatic. Sensitive to increased heat, an alarm bell
sounds the moment fire develops. The White House has one of the most
elaborate systems of this sort, which was installed shortly after the
executive office fire of a few years ago.

Checking chimneys comes next after leaving the cellar. All chimneys
should rest on a solid foundation in the ground. Those carried on
wooden beams are never safe. The normal settling will produce
dangerous cracks in the joints of the brickwork. Likewise, unused
stove-pipe holes should be closed with bricks and mortar cement.
Chimneys connected with open fireplaces ought to be equipped with
spark arresters. These are simply bronze or brass wire of sufficiently
fine mesh to catch any sparks. Placed at the top, they also serve to
discourage chimney swallows from nesting in the throat of an
old-fashioned chimney, to the doubtful pleasure of the occupants of
the house.

For the roof there are slate and non-burnable shingles as well as a
system by which weather boarding under wooden shingles can be replaced
with panels of fireproof plaster sheathing.

If there is any doubt regarding the condition of electric wiring it
will be real economy to have a licensed electrician inspect it and
replace any which is obsolete or not in accord with insurance
regulations. Also, if steam or hot water pipes go through flooring or
are close to the wooden trim, there should be at least three-quarters
of an inch clearance. Otherwise, the heat dries and carbonizes the
wood. Then slight additional heat may produce spontaneous combustion.

Then there are more elaborate rebuilding projects such as installing a
fire sprinkler system in the cellar.

A built-in incinerator located in the cellar with chute opening in the
kitchen is excellent for the immediate disposal of trash and rubbish.

Two stairways connecting living and bedroom floors are always better
than one. Either stairway should be accessible to any bedroom. An
emergency doorway will make this possible.

If the garage is attached to the house it should be lined with a fire
resisting material. Metal lath and plaster or a good grade of plaster
wall board is preferred. The door between house and garage should, of
course, be fire resisting and self closing.

There is one other refinement which the country house owner may take
into consideration, especially if he happens to own an historic old
house. That is the installation of a system of perforated pipes in the
dead air spaces behind all walls connected with storage tanks of
carbon dioxide under pressure. If a fire breaks out, turning on this
system will flood the house with a gas that will smother all flame.
Mount Vernon is a notable example of a house so equipped.

So much for the more or less man-produced fire hazards. There is,
however, the occasional fire that comes down from heaven. The National
Board of Fire Underwriters has proved by careful investigation that a
properly installed and maintained system of lightning rods will give a
house ninety-eight per cent protection. It does not prevent the
building from being struck, but it does provide an easy and direct
path to earth for the lightning discharge, thus preventing damage and
destruction. This has nothing to do with the old school of lightning
rod salesmen trained in medicine show methods. Proper equipment and
competent men working under inspection by the Underwriters
Laboratories are now available. Incidentally, radio antennae should be
properly grounded and have an approved lightning arrester.

There is one more possibility of disaster from lightning. Ordinary
wire fencing mounted on wooden posts can become so highly charged with
electricity during a thunder storm that no living thing is safe within
thirty feet of it. Proper grounding is again the remedy and is
relatively simple. At every fifth post an iron stake should be driven
deep enough to reach permanent moisture. Connect this to the fencing
by a wire tightly wrapped around the stake and each strand of the
fencing. This causes the electricity generated during a storm to
escape harmlessly into the ground, just as it does through the cables
of a properly installed set of lightning rods.



WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER XVI_

WHEN THINGS GO WRONG


With life in the country, there are times when the innate perverseness
of the inanimate asserts itself. For one accustomed to city conditions
this is almost a paralyzing experience. There is no apartment house
superintendent to call on, no repairman just around the corner. In
itself it may be very simple; but what to do, how to do it and with
what tools, unless you have gone through the mill, is soul-searing.
So, almost as soon as you have established your sources of food and
fuel, address yourself to the problem of discovering the neighborhood
handy man.

Not all men of the usual mechanical trades can qualify. Such a jewel
must have native ingenuity, really enjoy coping with sudden
emergencies and, like the old-fashioned country doctor, be possessed
of a temperament that accepts sudden calls for help as part of the
day's work. He may have planned to take his family to the village
moving picture show; but if your plumbing has sprung a leak, your pump
has suddenly ceased to function, or any one of a dozen other
contingencies has arisen, nothing is so comforting as his assurance
that "he'll be right over." You know that within a reasonable time
this physician to things mechanical will arrive in his somewhat
battered automobile with an assortment of tools and supplies adequate
for the majority of minor domestic crises.

Sometimes he can repair the damage permanently then and there.
Sometimes his service is of a temporary nature to tide your household
over until the proper correction can be accomplished either by him or
some other artisan whose specialty it is. At the moment this makes
little difference. Several summers ago, our water supply failed most
inconsiderately just at dinner time. There was plenty of water in the
well and the electric pump was functioning but the storage tank was
bone dry. What was wrong was beyond our understanding. Worst of all,
our village plumber could not be reached even by a fairly resourceful
country telephone central. We called our handy man and were greeted by
a cheery if long suffering, "What's the matter _now_?" We told him and
most assuringly he replied, "Sounds like foot valve trouble. I'll be
right over soon as I finish supper."

And he was as good as his word. Half an hour later he was listening to
a pump that could not lure water from well to tank. Then he went down
the well and, without aid, came up with the supply pipe. "Here's your
trouble. Leather of the foot valve's gone. I'll just cut another." He
dived into the rear seat of his car and returned with a square of sole
leather. Using the old leather as a pattern he cut a new one with a
sharp jack knife and before dark the supply pipe was back in place and
the artificial drought was broken. Thanks to the skill and willingness
of this all-essential neighborhood personage, there was once more
water for dishwashing and family needs.

This is but one instance of how he has come to our rescue and through
the years taught us many things that we can now do for ourselves.
Although not over-skillful with tools and things mechanical, we have
learned that doing them is sometimes the quickest and easiest way out
of our difficulties. Some, of course, were beyond the limits of our
simple abilities but we hereby enumerate some twenty of the more
common difficulties that may arise inopportunely with country living,
and what to do about them.

A sudden break in electric service leaves your house dark. The answer
to this is a supply of candles and one or two kerosene lamps filled
and ready for use, as well as at least one electric flashlight, in
working order and hung in its appointed place. Often before the
various lamps are assembled and lighted, electricity will again be
available; but if service is interrupted for several hours, as
occasionally happens with a serious break in the line or real trouble
at the power house, you will have cause to bless the auxiliary
lighting. Having it to depend on just once will well repay the trouble
of making it available. Be sure, also, that you have at least one
complete set of extra fuses to repair the damage of a short circuit
caused by defective appliances or lamp cords. Never, never put a penny
into a fuse socket.

Next to light, the most important creature comfort is water and plenty
of it. The most common causes of failure lie with the pump itself. If
one of the deep well type gets out of adjustment, repairing it is a
professional job and unless you are unusually expert, don't attempt
it. Telephone for a plumber or handy man. But with the shallow well
pump, you can, in a pinch, replace the leathers that make the valves
exert the proper suction. In any case, it is good sense to have an
extra set of the leathers always on hand. Near our own pump there is a
glass preserving jar half full of neat's-foot oil and, pickling in it,
a spare set of pump leathers just waiting for something to happen. We
also have a box of assorted faucet washers. It is over a year since we
have had to replace one; but when a faucet suddenly refuses to close,
we know where the proper valve is located so that we can shut off the
water long enough to replace the troublesome washer, usually the work
of a few minutes.

Then there is the heating system. Here the most common demonstration
of temperament is sulkiness on a heavy damp day. In any event,
provided the fire is free from clinkers, we have a standard remedy. An
average-sized electric fan is placed before the open ash pit door. Set
in motion, its breeze provides a forced draft and, in from fifteen
minutes to half an hour, our furnace fire is once more glowing and
throwing out heat.

Also, the country house owner, who discovers that furnace or fireplace
flues which have heretofore functioned properly are smoking, should
investigate the circumstances without delay. The troublesome flue may
only need cleaning, or a dislodged brick or other obstacle may have
blocked it. Whatever the cause, the chimney should have immediate
attention, for excess soot is the common cause of chimney fires. If an
excess odor of coal gas indicates that the fumes are filling the
cellar instead of going up the chimney, open the hatchway and as many
windows as possible. Then check the furnace completely. Investigate
the cause of the trouble and you will find that the smoke pipe
connecting the furnace and chimney is out of place. Don't try to
replace the dislocated pipe until the cellar is thoroughly aired, for
furnace fumes can be almost as deadly as those exhausted by an
automobile, for the same reason, the presence of carbon monoxide gas.
So when working on the pipe be careful to retreat out of doors on the
slightest feeling of faintness or other disturbing symptom. The safest
way is not to attempt to replace the smoke pipe until the furnace fire
is out.

There are one or two other things down cellar that can go awry when
least expected. One of the most common is flooding caused by
abnormally heavy rains and leaks in foundation walls. Look first for
these where the pipes from the eaves, known as down-spouts, reach the
ground. Provide dry wells, troughs, or other means to carry this rain
water away from the foundation. After your cellar flood has either
evaporated or been pumped out and the foundation walls are dry inside
and out, repair the cracks through which this water trickled, as well
as others that might have contributed to the trouble. Use a rich
cement to which has been added the proper amount of water-proofing
chemical.

One cannot be over-zealous in this, for a flooded or even damp cellar
is always a hazard. Under no circumstances attempt to turn on electric
lights if you are standing where it is wet or damp. Ninety-nine times
out of a hundred all that can happen is a mild electric shock but
there is always the one chance in thousands that by so doing you may
be your own electrocutioner. It is safest to have all cellar lights
controlled by one or more switches at the head of the cellar stairs;
but if there is a light that must be turned on in the cellar itself,
leave it alone under conditions of standing water and be sure the
fault is rectified before the next heavy rain can cause a repetition.

Just as storms can make trouble below stairs, roof and eaves may
develop faults. Where the roof is of wooden shingles, one of the usual
causes of leaks is a cracked shingle. When this chances to be directly
above a slight space left in laying the roof for expansion between the
shingles of the next course, rain, instead of flowing off the roof,
runs through this crack and wet plaster results. This does not mean
that the roof must be re-laid if otherwise tight and sound. Get a
sheet of roofing tin or copper, locate the troublesome crack, and
gently insert a piece of the sheet metal, trimmed to the right size,
beneath the cracked shingle. Properly done, you should not find it
necessary to nail the piece of sheet metal because the shingles
themselves will hold it in place. While making this repair, be careful
not to walk on the roof more than is absolutely necessary. Your weight
and the pressure of your feet may crack other shingles. It is better
to work from a ladder. This should have a large iron hook that will
catch on the ridgeboard and keep it from slipping. It also distributes
the weight of the man making the repair.

Sometimes eaves, instead of providing drainage and conducting rain
from the roof to ground, work in the reverse. The dampened plaster of
the interior side walls soon betrays this. When these spots appear it
is probable that the opening where the down-spout joins the
eaves-trough is clogged with leaves and small twigs. Remove this plug
that has gradually accumulated round the strainer and once more rain
water will flow merrily and noisily down the spout. Also, in winters
of unusually heavy snowfalls and cold weather, if the eaves-troughs
are hung too close to the edge of the roof or have not sufficient
slope for rapid drainage, the snow on the roof melts, drips to the
eaves-trough, and freezes before it can flow away. Eventually some of
this moisture creeps beneath the shingles and makes ugly damp patches
on the plaster beneath. Immediate relief can be had by mounting a
ladder, clearing the trough of the ice, and thawing the frozen
down-spout with salt and kettles of hot water. Later, the permanent
remedy is to have a practical roofer rehang and adjust the
eaves-troughs.

Because of the very nature of winter weather, there are other
distressing things that may happen to make life in the country just a
little bit less enjoyable. The first of these is the possibility of an
old-fashioned blizzard that may block roads and cut off the country
dweller from the usual source of supplies. Before the days of the
automobile, one could travel roads several feet deep in snow with
horse and sleigh. An automobile has its limits and is more or less
impotent in more than two feet of snow on a road unbroken by a
powerful plow. So, if the oldest inhabitants can remember the winter
of 18-- "when we had snow to the top of the fence posts," it is a wise
precaution to have an emergency supply of canned foods on hand. In
February, 1934, we were snowbound for three days but lived in comfort,
thanks to a minimum reserve supply and, by a happy coincidence,
liberal marketing done the morning the storm began. Several neighbors
took to snowshoes and skis and so made their way to the nearest store
to replenish essentials like milk, meat, eggs and the like. Winter
sports are a great institution, but trudging two miles for a quart of
milk across a countryside waist deep in newly fallen snow is too great
a mixture of business and pleasure.

Similarly, a medicine cabinet stocked with the primary remedies, and a
physician whom you know sufficiently so that you consult him by
telephone, are wise precautions against sudden crises of weather or
health. Of course, if a member of your family is seriously ill, your
doctor will come with all haste when summoned. But he is a busy man
who often works from before breakfast until nearly midnight covering
unbelievable distances in his automobile. So, if you can report
illness clearly, give exact symptoms, and have a stock of the simple
medicines that you can administer as he directs, both the sick person
and the physician gain. Present-day country doctors show their
appreciation for such cooperation by the speed with which they reach
patients whose symptoms indicate more than a minor ailment.

But all the emergencies of country life are not serious even though
they call for action. There are scores of little things that the house
owner can do for himself. Take rats and mice. They will get into the
most carefully built and best run house. When this happens it is a
matter of either traps or the new scientific poison baits that
domestic pets will not eat. There is also the old farm method of
mixing equal parts of plaster of Paris and corn meal, an entree
harmless in itself but with fatal results for the invading rodent. In
summer there is the possibility of a plague of ants. For this there is
now a cheap and scientific liquid bait that works rapidly.

In summer, also, come those occasional nights of abnormal heat when no
breeze stirs. Bedrooms stay hot and sleep is difficult. For this, set
an electric fan on the floor of each room, pointed toward the ceiling,
with a chair before it to serve as a barricade. The current of air so
produced dislodges the hot air in the room that is above the level of
the window openings and also provides a mild breeze that does not blow
directly on a sleeper. By actual tests with an accurate thermometer,
the temperature of a bedroom can be lowered a full five degrees. It is
this difference between 80 and 85 degrees that can make an otherwise
stifling night bearable enough for refreshing sleep.

Also at the time you want it most, usually with the house full of
week-end guests, the hot water supply turns tepid. The means of
heating the water is functioning properly but the storage tank is
cold. When this happens, unless all water piping is of copper or
brass, the chances are better than even that your tank is clogged with
rusty sediment. This does not mean a new tank. It is just a matter of
draining and flushing until most, if not all, of the sediment is
washed out. Turn off the pipe that supplies heater and tank. Then with
garden hose attached to the faucet at the base of the tank, drain out
all the water that will come. For a thorough job unscrew this faucet
and the piece of pipe connecting it to the tank. Then turn on the
water supply quickly for two or three minutes at a time so that a
sudden flow of clean water disturbs the sediment. At first it may be
almost as thick as a heavy soup but gradually the water will become
clearer. When it is normal you can replace pipe and faucet, relight
the water heater, and forget your hot water supply for at least a
year. Of course, it is better to undertake this chore when you are
without company, but one must have hot water and, at that, the
operation should not take over an hour. Perhaps some of the guests
will be big hearted and offer to help.

A plaster ceiling appears to fall without warning. Actually, if you
are observant, weak spots can be detected before they reach the
falling stage. A slight bulge that gives if you press it upward gently
with the fingers is an unfailing indication that the plaster has begun
to loosen and that possibly the laths beneath are also loose. The best
method of correcting this is, of course, to engage a plasterer. He
will remove what is loose and probably much more. Then, having
replaced the defective or old lath, he will re-plaster and a properly
finished job will result.

There is, however, another course of action. It is neither permanent
nor as good but it will bridge a gap when the family exchequer can ill
afford the luxury of a plasterer and his helper. This is an old farm
method of economical stop-gap repair. Take some new coarse muslin.
Make a strong solution of glue sizing; wash the calcimine or whitewash
from the ceiling where it is weak; paint with a coat of the size; and
when it is almost dry, spread the muslin on like ceiling paper having
first dipped it in the size. When the cloth is dry, re-calcimine the
ceiling. Such work is not according to the best standards of
journeyman work but we have known a ceiling so strengthened to remain
in place for some years. This unorthodox trick was taught us by the
neighborhood handy man whose praises we sang earlier. Another was the
practice of binding a water pipe, that had developed a tiny pin-hole
leak, with the black sticky fabric known as friction tape used by
electricians. It held for half a year until it was more convenient,
financially and otherwise, to have our plumber replace the leaking
pipe.

Incidentally, knowing how to thaw a water pipe that has, as countrymen
say, "just caught," on some abnormally cold night is also an
accomplishment of ingenuity. Too much heat applied too rapidly can
crack a pipe. So such work should be done in moderation. Be sure the
faucet of the stopped pipe is open. Then, locate the spot by sense of
feel. It will be much colder than the rest of the pipe. First try
wrapping it in cloths wrung out in hot water. If this does not produce
results, gently pour steaming but not boiling water on the pipe from a
teakettle. Stop after a minute or two to let the applied heat become
effective. If necessary, repeat several times. For stubborn cases, an
electric heater directed at the frozen spot can be used effectively.

When hunting for the seat of trouble look at the spot where the pipe
comes through the floor. A crack between flooring and baseboard may be
the air leak that has caused the trouble. Next examine the pipe along
an exterior wall or in the direct range of a window. Frozen pipes
concealed in partition walls, unless they are accessible through a
panel of removable woodwork, are not for the amateur. They are for a
plumber who will know how to reach the trouble without doing other
damage.

Many are the expedients that life in the country and friendly chats
with your own handy man can teach you. Some of them you will discover
for yourself, for necessity, the mother of invention and country
living, often presents minor emergencies that the house owner must
meet and conquer for himself. That is part of the fun of living in the
country. You have escaped the stereotyped city where such things are
the concern of apartment house superintendents. In the country it is
each man for himself.



WORKING WITH NATURE

[Illustration]



_CHAPTER XVII_

WORKING WITH NATURE


In the home owner's dream of country life, green lawns, rose gardens,
and shady terraces have loomed large; but in the actual fulfillment,
his house has of necessity come first. Beyond a sketchy clearing up of
the most obvious debris, he may well come to the end of his first
summer with practically nothing done to the grounds themselves. This
is not entirely a disadvantage. It has been shown how too much may be
done to a house in the first fervor of remodeling or restoration. It
is the same with the land surrounding it.

The old adage, "Begin as you can hold out," is an excellent rule to
follow. One of the advantages gained by living in an area just beyond
the suburban fringe is that one's two, five, or ten acres may be
developed as much or as little as one desires or can pay for. This
holds whether you have built a new house in the middle of a former
pasture or have restored an old one with grounds well developed but
long neglected.

[Illustration: SKILLFUL PLANTING OF TREES, SHRUBS, AND FLOWERS MAKE
THE SETTING

_Photo by Samuel H. Gottscho_. _Robertson Ward, architect_]

Of course, you will not lack for advice from friends and
acquaintances, most of the people who have never grown anything more
extensive than a window box. They will tell you that the old lawn that
has withstood the tread of feet for more than a century is uneven and
must be plowed under, re-graded, and a special kind of lawn-grass
sown. The driveway is all wrong, too. Turn it back into lawn and build
a new one winding through the field to the left where the family cow
was once pastured. They are also kind enough to suggest that a
plowing, grading, and seeding of this additional acre or so will give
you a piece of greensward worth having. A lily pool and sun dial
garden would go nicely over there to the east, and how about that
hollow place over in the south corner for a swimming pool? All this
and much more can be suggested but it is surprising how little of it
is practical.

Even long neglected grounds seldom require as thorough a job of face
lifting. A lawn free of hollows is difficult to achieve and almost
impossible to maintain. Nature does not do things that way, so work
with her rather than against her. It is surprising how old and
seemingly worn-out grounds respond to kind treatment. Study them first
before doing anything. Take stock of existing trees, shrubs and the
like. Notice the contour of the land. Then make a simple landscaping
plan. This, well thought out, will give direction to the eventual
development of the plot of ground you have in mind. Work gradually. If
you are reclaiming an old place, remember the original owner did not
achieve everything in a week or a year. Nature cannot be hurried. It
is true that, if one desires shade trees and cannot wait for them to
grow, experts can bring full-grown ones from their nurseries and plant
them in the positions you designate. Such practices run into money,
however, and would hardly come within the average family budget.

Let us suppose that the home owner finds himself in possession of a
house of uncertain age and between ten and twenty acres of land.
Unless he is prepared to maintain a miniature conservation corps, he
will not attempt to keep over two acres in active cultivation. Even
with those he will not push back the wilderness in one season. The
first step is a careful inspection of the grounds around the house. If
they have been neglected for years, he may find practically anything
except grass growing. If the average tenant farmer has lived there any
length of time, the area at the back lying at easy tossing distance
from the back door may contain a wealth of tin cans, bottles, broken
dishes, and other debris. These, of course, must all be picked up and
either carried away by the rubbish collector or otherwise disposed of.
We have read of clever people who managed to persuade members of their
family and any visiting friends that such an undertaking could be made
into a sort of treasure hunt and one's grounds cleaned painlessly and
without added expense. It did not work with our family. A cache of
twenty-five fine rusty cans nestling under the lilacs elicited nothing
beyond a mild query as to the likelihood of lily of the valley
thriving in the spot.

So we hired the man whose family had spent ten long years accumulating
the debris, to clean the half acre surrounding the house and he made a
very neat workmanlike job of it. Afterward he commented on the
improved appearance, especially of the back yard. "Yes, it looks
considerable better," he said, "but of course I couldn't keep it that
way. I'm a poor man and my time is worth sixty cents an hour. I can't
afford to spend any of it picking up after myself."

His philosophy is apparently not uncommon and one may expect to find
anything on the land from rusty scythe blades to broken down farm
wagons and automobiles. After these have been removed the place will
look decidedly improved even though a mossy growth under the maples
denotes sour soil, and burdocks and milkweed in the back indicate good
soil gone wrong. Along with ridding the grounds of rubbish comes the
question of what to do with the various outbuildings. Those that can
be put to practical use should be repaired and their foundations
pointed up. Any others should be torn down as a dilapidated structure
of any sort is not only unsightly but a breeding place for rats.

As this ordinary cleaning and furbishing progresses, the new owner
begins to get really acquainted with his place and discover what
exists in the line of shrubs, trees, and vines. There may even be a
few flowers that have survived years of neglect. If he is wise, he
will prune and preserve all these as a nucleus. Around them he can
build his general landscaping plan.

Preserve old trees wherever possible. Even those that appear so
stricken by age and neglect as to be ready for firewood often take on
a new lease of life after a good tree surgeon has ministered to them.
A long neglected lawn, or even a field that has been allowed to run to
tall grass, can be reclaimed quite simply. Go over it early in the
spring with a heavy roller to get rid of minor hollows and general
unevenness. Thin, worn spots, where it is obvious that no grass has
grown for years, should be fortified with a load or two of good top
soil, rolled and planted to grass seed. Other spots, usually under
shade trees where there is the mossy growth of sour soil, should be
sprinkled liberally with lime. Repeated treatments will soon correct
this condition and grass can again be made to grow there. As soon as
the grass is of proper length begin to cut it with the lawn mower.
Also, continued applications of the weighted iron roller throughout
the spring will gradually improve the general contour and make for
smoothness and ease in lawn mowing.

This is strenuous work both for the lawn mower and the person
operating it. The former will probably be nearly worn out by the end
of the summer, so in choosing this tool get a good but not too
elaborate one. Later, when the grounds are in good condition will be
time enough to indulge in the better grades of hand or even power
driven lawn mowers. Likewise, we do not recommend the task of either
rolling or breaking in a lawn to a man who has led a sedentary life
for years. It will be cheaper in the long run to engage a muscular
individual in the locality who understands and is accustomed to such
work. Whether such an one is engaged by the hour, day, week or year,
we would add a word of warning based on our own blundering
experiences. Beyond being sober, honest, and willing, make sure he is
strong enough for such heavy work, that he is reasonably intelligent
and, most important of all, that he is not "working to accommodate."
The latter is frequently voiced by members of decadent native families
who resent the curse of Adam and like to assume that any gesture
toward the hated thing, called work, is purely voluntary rather than
necessary. If these words fall from the lips of a man you are
considering for odd jobs and tilling of the soil, leave him severely
alone and look for a good energetic individual who knows he was made
to work and is glad of it. Otherwise, the "accommodating" one will
condescendingly show up for work an hour late, regard you with a
pitying smile as you outline the job, and then allow that of course
you are the boss but you are going at it all wrong. When, after
lengthy discussion of how an intelligent country-born person would
arrange matters, he senses that the evil moment of going to work can
no longer be put off, he directs his lagging steps to the spot where
the tools are waiting. These he regards with blackest pessimism. His
attitude is that only a city moron would provide such poor things but,
of course, he will do the best he can with them. In the course of the
day he gets a little work done but in such sketchy fashion that most
of it must be done over.

Nor does he improve as the days go by. When you decide to part with
him, probably soon after your first inspection of his work, you will
get a fresh shock at the size of his bill. Such people have an
exaggerated idea of the value of their services. It is difficult to
get them to name a price at the beginning; and in the rare cases where
a set sum is agreed upon, the final reckoning will invariably include
certain extras or a plaint that "the job was different than you
claimed and I don't do heavy work like that for nobody without I get
extra pay and I was just working to accommodate--" and so forth.
Usually you end by paying him and charging it off to experience.

This does not mean that there is no good local labor. It is just a
matter of determining which man is actually "a good worker" and which
would rather lean on a hoe and tell how the country ought to be run.
You can avoid much labor turnover and unsatisfactory work if you first
ask a few questions of substantial members of the countryside who are
in the habit of employing such men and therefore know their good and
bad points. One man may be strong and willing but so stupid and clumsy
that he destroys more than he earns; another may be deft, ingenious,
have an uncanny way with flowers and vegetables, but yet have such an
utter lack of responsibility that one cannot depend on him for any
length of time.

Assuming then that a good, dependable man has been found who
understands and has a liking for the soil, the task of helping nature
to bring out the best in your grounds progresses to those parts
afflicted by such rank weeds as burdocks, thistles, milkweed, poison
ivy and the like. Weeds with the long tap root like burdock and yellow
dock can be eliminated best with a mattock. With one sharp blow, cut
the root two or three inches below the surface. Then pull up the top
and toss it aside where it will wither in the sun. What is left in the
ground also dies and will not sprout. A Canadian thistle is really a
handsome sight especially in full bloom but it is a thoroughly
unpleasant weed and must be eradicated. Dig up each plant with a
spading fork or sharp shovel and leave it to wither in the July sun,
its roots shaken free of earth. Milkweed is persistent but will
finally yield if the stalks are consistently pulled up as soon as they
are three or four inches tall.

For poison ivy there is one preliminary. Be sure you are not one of
the people readily susceptible to its poison. If you are, leave this
luxuriant parasite alone and let some one else struggle with it. Its
poison is most virulent in the spring when the leaves are just
unfolding. Later in the summer it is not so treacherous. Tearing it up
by the roots, burning over old stone fences infected with it, keep it
from overrunning a place; but the most satisfactory method of
eradicating is to sprinkle the vines with sodium arsenite. This, by
tests at various agricultural stations, has lately been found a sure
means of killing this most unpleasant of all vegetable pests that
infect the countryside.

Along with getting a reasonable expanse of green grass, the simple
landscaping plan already referred to should be kept in mind. If you
have but a vague idea concerning this and, as time goes on, tend to
become more confused and undecided as to what kind of flowers, shrubs,
and vines would be most suitable or how they should be arranged,
consult the best nurseryman in your vicinity, if he has not already
visited you. All of the larger nurseries now have on their staffs
experienced landscape architects. Many of them are recent graduates of
the recognized schools in this field and, for the asking, you can have
a simple landscape plan for your grounds. Such nurseries do this, of
course, in expectation that if the plan is accepted the needed small
trees, shrubs, and hardy perennials will be bought of them.

In fact, when the plan is submitted, it will probably be accompanied
by a tentative list of the needed plants. These you can buy either
delivered ready for planting, or a somewhat higher price will include
this service by men from the nursery. In the latter case, the nursery
usually guarantees that everything supplied will live for a year or be
replaced without charge. Personally, we have found that the nearer
home we bought nursery stock, the better were its chances of living
and thriving. There is no adjustment to different climatic conditions
and such plants and shrubs are only a very short time out of the soil
before they are planted in your grounds either by you or the man sent
from the nursery. Nearly always they put their roots down and continue
growing with little or no interruption.

The matters of gardens, flower beds, and borders again depend on the
contour of the land and how it can best be related to the house.
Further, unless you are well versed in gardening, it is best to get
advice as to the flowers and plants that thrive best in a given spot.
It is discouraging to lay out a rose garden or a modest border of
hardy climbers and find you have picked just the wrong place for them
to thrive. It is the same with certain perennials.

Rock gardens are most picturesque and lend themselves to a large
variety of hardy and interesting plants. The most successful are those
where nature supplies the framework. One of the loveliest we ever saw
had originally been a pigsty. Halfway up a hillside two large boulders
jutted out and below them a rocky formation descended in shelf-like
steps to a level surface. Ingenious planting and patient care
transformed this into a mass of color and bloom that has been admired
for miles. Its owner has gradually expanded it and has even added
rocks dug from a neighboring field. The farmer who supplied them shook
his head resignedly. "Well, I've lived in these parts a long time and
seen plenty of queer things. I can understand paying a man to dig out
rocks but this is the first time I was ever asked to dump them on good
land."

The formal garden is usually part of the development of the very
ambitious country estate. Such grounds are the result of plans
prepared by a practicing landscape architect, engaged on a fee basis
as with other architects. According to the arrangements he will
prepare the plans or he will also supervise their execution. While
there are some remarkable formal gardens in America, beautifully
designed and kept in perfect condition by skillful gardeners engaged
by the year, most homes do not have such sophisticated settings.

Popular indeed is an area of well-kept lawn surrounded by naturalistic
plantings of trees, shrubs, and hedges that give privacy and frame the
whole. Add to this borders of flowering plants, annuals and
perennials, and from spring to late fall such a spot becomes an
outdoor living room. Here the family spends most of its time. Real
enthusiasts eat many of their meals here.

As for the vegetable garden, keep it small. The new country dweller's
first garden is usually three times the size needed or that he can
take care of. Vegetables have a way of either producing nothing or
bearing in such abundance that the average family is swamped in
plenty. Whether or not the excess is canned, depends on the time and
energy of the housewife or her cook. With green vegetables now
available the year around, there are two schools of thought as to the
real economy of home canning. There is even plenty of controversy over
the question of a family vegetable garden. Some hold that after the
normal charges for fertilizer, seeds and labor are met, any vegetables
that may result actually cost far more than if bought in the retail
market. To this the pro-gardenites retort that the charges for seeds
and fertilizer are small and that a certain amount of struggle with
spade and hoe is good for a man who has spent all day in a stuffy
office. Let him do his own spading, cultivating, and planting. A half
hour or so every evening will keep the garden free of weeds and, in
due time, vegetables fresh from the garden will result. They will be
superior in flavor and will actually have cost less than even the
largest chain stores can afford to sell them for.

Out of ten years' experience, we can only state that both are right in
a measure. Whether or not a vegetable garden pays, breaks even, or
goes into the red, depends to a large degree on the owner himself. If
he has a flair for making things grow and has a definite amount of
time to devote to them, his garden will not only thrive but pay
dividends. But if a business trip is imperative just at the time the
garden should be planted, or some pressing engagement causes him to
defer transplanting his cabbages and his tomato plants beyond the
proper time, he must either get some one to take care of his garden or
do without one. There is a lure, however, to having your own
vegetables, so most of us close our eyes to any distressing figures on
the household ledger and go ahead and have a garden anyway.

One busy man compromises by having his garden prepared for planting by
a local man of all work who also keeps his grass cut and his borders
trimmed. Then he plants a few easily grown and tended vegetables, such
as lettuce, parsley, string beans, carrots, spinach, crookneck squash,
tomatoes, and corn. Around these, like a border, he plants showy
annuals like zinnias, cosmos, calendula, marigolds and so forth. His
garden is a colorful, attractive spot. He has vegetables for the table
and plenty of flowers for cutting. The latter preclude any argument
over whether his garden pays since, oddly enough, the subject of a
flower garden never seems to take a mercenary turn.

Distinct additions to the kitchen garden are an herb bed, a few
rhubarb plants, and an asparagus bed. The latter, because it takes
time to become established, seems difficult but laying out a proper
bed is not so hard. Also, in two to three years the plants will have
reached the stage where the larger stalks may be cut for consumption.
At first this should be done judiciously in order not to kill the
plants but after another year or two the bed will yield consistently.
After it is well established, it provides the first home-grown
vegetables of spring and bears for about six weeks. Afterwards all it
requires is an occasional weeding and fall mulching with fertilizer
and leaves.

As for the tools that keep gardens and grounds in condition, a special
shed is advisable. Don't try to keep them in a tool house or section
given over to saws, planes, chisels and bits. They get in a hopeless
jumble. Nothing is more discouraging than to go out to what should be
a tidy little spot to do a bit of mending or minor job of carpentry
and find earth encrusted garden trowels, weeders, and such gear
scattered all over the work bench. The grit so adhering is fatal to
sharp-edged tools, while sprays, dusting powders, and fertilizers give
off fumes that rust them.

We would also add a few kind words for the various berries and small
fruits. Except for strawberries, which must be kept weeded and
replanted periodically, berries are our ideal of easily cared for
fruits. Raspberries, for instance, never become really cheap in the
market because of their perishable nature. Yet with the very minimum
of care, cutting out old canes after the bearing season is over and
keeping weeds down with a mulch of hay, a comparatively small patch of
red raspberries, within three years of planting, will produce all the
fruit an average family can eat or be willing to pick. The other
variety, known as "black caps," are no more trouble and equally
prolific. These are at their best in pie and, for the pleasures of a
succession of fresh black raspberry pies each summer, we heartily
recommend planting a dozen canes at the same time that the red
raspberry patch is started.

Blackberry canes grow so rankly and bear such brutal thorns that the
annual crop seems hardly worth the torn clothing and bad scratches
that gathering them entails, especially as they are to be had at such
reasonable prices in the average market. Blueberries are another
matter. Three or four good bushes of the kind offered by most
nurseries will keep the family in blueberry pie with little effort on
the part of the person who gathers them. Currants and gooseberries are
easily grown but have one serious fault. These bushes harbor plant
pests that work havoc with evergreens and a number of the ornamental
shrubs. For that reason we long ago eradicated any growing on our
place.

Then there are the various fruit trees, cherry, peach, pear, and
apple. All of these, for a successful yield, require consistent care
and pruning. They must be sprayed at certain seasons for scale and
pest or the crop will be meager and poor. With dwarf trees now grown
by all nurseries, proper care can be given with simple equipment and
there is no doubt that home-grown fruits that are tree-ripened are
sweeter and of fuller flavor than those that come from the market. So
a few of these trees may well be an addition to your country place,
but plant them knowing the care required.

A grape arbor is a most attractive feature and since pruning can be
done any pleasant winter day, the work of tending a few vines is so
small as to be hardly worth considering. In September it is a real
pleasure to stray past the arbor and pluck a bunch of Niagara,
Catawba, or Concord grapes and eat them on the spot. So for decoration
and fruit borne, a few grape vines are more than worth the slight
attention they require.

By working thus intelligently with Nature, you will enjoy her
bounties--and this, after all, is the supreme reward offered by a
country home.

[Illustration]





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