September 10, 2012

Woodstove, Part V, installation

Today was a huge day for the woodstove installation. It's not ready to use - it needs an inspection and the plumbing for the hot water jacket needs to be installed - but it's in the house now and the...

Posted by simon at 9:11 PM

September 7, 2012

Woodstove, Part IV, hearth

We took another big step toward the wood stove installation today with the laying of the hearth stone. This was complicated by the front door being right next to where is going, especially because we want to keep that door...

Posted by simon at 5:17 PM

September 1, 2012

Woodstove, Part III, water jacket

The last work actually done on the woodstove installation was back in June. What happened? Well, two things. We're still waiting to have the hearth installed, which is behind - but I hadn't been pressing them because we were missing...

Posted by simon at 4:25 PM

July 20, 2012

Donating our yellow jackets to science

Every now and then living near a major research university provides some immediate advantages. Angelika noticed a growing nest of yellow jackets under the eaves of our house. It's been a few years since we had lots of them, but...

Posted by simon at 2:31 PM

June 23, 2012

Straw improves the view, reduces erosion

I was happy with the work in our backyard, but all that exposed (if compacted) soil had the potential of rolling down the hill in a major rainstorm. Today I took care of that with four bales of straw. Straw...

Posted by simon at 7:27 PM

June 22, 2012

A bit of jealousy for friends with geothermal systems

While I'm upgrading heat sources and tearing up the back yard, I'm also cursing the heat. Friends of mine who tore up their yards and upgraded their heating systems to geothermal, instead of (or in addition to) a woodstove, are...

Posted by simon at 6:28 AM

Woodstove, Part II

The earlier work on my woodstove installation mostly involved creating a path to the chimney from the livingroom. The next round of work was more of an upgrade, adding a stainless steel liner to the chimney and installing a top...

Posted by simon at 5:53 AM

June 21, 2012

Major change in my back yard

We'd talked for years about installing a duck pond and building some sheds behind our house, as well as wished we could have a source of water at the top of the property. Over the past few weeks, we finally...

Posted by simon at 5:45 PM

June 5, 2012

Energy infrastructure takes time to shift

I had an exchange this morning on the Sustainable Tompkins mailing list that seems worth reprinting here. On 6/5/12 8:31 AM, George Frantz wrote: More importantly than the question of indigestion, in my opinion, is the question of will this...

Posted by simon at 12:24 PM

May 26, 2012

Wood stove, Part I

When I first looked at this house, there was a woodstove in the livingroom. It belonged to the tenants, and they were willing to sell it - but my ex-wife was allergic to wood smoke and really didn't want a...

Posted by simon at 7:25 AM

May 16, 2012

Local snake drops in

I'm trying to get back to what I call "Dawn Patrol Gardening", where I take advantage of the early sunrise and cool temperatures to get garden work done. (The dew is less pleasant.) I was carrying a bag of compost...

Posted by simon at 2:23 PM

April 27, 2012

Chainsaw symphony

After Monday's snow dropped one of our maples on Route 366, the Varna Volunteer Fire Company quickly cut away the pieces blocking the road. That left me, though, with a big chunk of maple on a steep hill that was...

Posted by simon at 12:49 PM

April 23, 2012

Sorry about that

If you were driving down Route 366 in this morning's heavy wet snow, you may have had an unpleasant surprise from my property - a red maple gave way under the weight, crashed through my fence, and landed on the...

Posted by simon at 7:35 AM

April 7, 2012

Keeping bears away from bees, and more

Last summer, I heard of a bear sighting at Turkey Hill and Mount Pleasant Roads, and immediately knew the bears were moving in. Those bears apparently moved on through the City of Ithaca, but my beehives were in danger. I...

Posted by simon at 11:15 AM

January 24, 2012

Lanterns pause for a while

With the higher temperatures, my count of ice lanterns plunged. I couldn't make new ones, and last night there were only five worth trying. I cleaned up the remains this morning - not much left! Ice lantern stubs. Sunday night...

Posted by simon at 12:59 PM

January 20, 2012

A good night for lanterns

The weather's been tricky since I first started making ice lanterns, but tonight's cold and low winds are about perfect. I've also gotten a little better at making them. The main problem I've had is that candles melt everything around...

Posted by simon at 8:45 PM

December 19, 2011

Making beauty out of cold

"And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." (John 1:5) In the darkest season of the year, the lights go up. Every year, Christmas lights go up on houses, trees, shrubs, and lately, all kinds of...

Posted by simon at 7:21 AM

November 6, 2011

Spring's Bench

When I lost my beautiful Spring dog in February, I knew right away that I wanted to do something permanent (as such things go) in her memory. Spring keeping an eye on the neighborhood. In May I bought a bench...

Posted by simon at 6:38 AM

June 17, 2011

Keep those old windows

Dryden is blessed with a lot of older houses. Many of them still have a feature that advertisement after advertisement demands we replace: double-hung windows with storm windows. When I did some major energy renovations a few years ago, I...

Posted by simon at 7:47 AM

May 23, 2011

And another critter

I posted some game cam pictures of skunks and raccoons earlier this month, but now we have another night visitor: a possum. Possum exploring Possum visits chicken coop. The possum came by a couple of nights, but doesn't appear to...

Posted by simon at 6:20 AM

May 6, 2011

Game camera catches skunks, raccoons, cats, kids

A few weeks ago I bought a game camera to try to figure out what's moving around in our woods - particularly deer and coyotes. Although pretty much everything I've seen suggested I was getting the right camera, they seem...

Posted by simon at 9:27 PM

April 29, 2011

Dragons move from Etna to here

I've always loved Etna potter Gary Rith's work, and when I saw this dragon, I couldn't resist. Angelika loves dragons, especially floppy-eared dragons, so I wrote Gary and asked if that was possible. He made two, and today I brought...

Posted by simon at 12:09 PM

March 6, 2011

Little things - coffee

A few months ago, David Makar made the mistake of venturing into my avalanche-prone office. Out of the many things available to complain about, he noticed my growing pile of unrecyclable coffee cups. I've been visting the XtraMart on the...

Posted by simon at 12:03 PM

January 29, 2011

Not quite natural plans for the new land

We bought 5.46 acres of land behind our house and neighbors' houses last month, and are starting to work out what to do with it. As I noted before, there are clauses preventing building houses on it and hydrofracking it...

Posted by simon at 2:00 PM

December 20, 2010

Living in (more of) Dryden

When I first moved into this house, eleven years ago, I really loved how it was set between the woods and the road. About a year later I realized that the same people who had sold me this house owned...

Posted by simon at 3:57 PM

December 1, 2010

Light flooding in Robertson's Corners

It's changed from rain to snow now, but it was a pretty exciting morning of waterfalls and mud. Waterfalls between my house and the neighbor. Culvert emptying across 366. Fortunately, the foundation and drainage work from last year seems to...

Posted by simon at 12:18 PM

November 19, 2010

Elderberry Corners complex built

Housing density increased substantially to the east of Varna over the last few months, without so much as a zoning change, stormwater management considerations, water and sewer infrastructure improvements, or even a building permit. Elderberry Corners duplex housing. Each unit...

Posted by simon at 11:12 PM

September 1, 2010

History of a Property

While cleaning out piles of paper that used to live in my office a few weeks ago, I found the abstract of title for my house. It's a history of transactions for the property, going back to 1900 with a...

Posted by simon at 12:53 PM

Bats in the bat house

I really hate mosquitos, and news that bats are in severe decline because of white-nose fungus worries me: populations of little brown myotis in the 115 hibernation locations the study covered were falling at rates ranging from 33 percent to...

Posted by simon at 8:12 AM

May 31, 2010

The hideous vanity of painting a garden shed

Sometimes I finish a project, marvel at the quality I managed to put into it, and wonder why I put so much time into doing something with so little use. Today was one of those days. A few years ago,...

Posted by simon at 9:20 PM

May 25, 2010

What a fence does

When we put in our fence, I was thinking mostly of creating the largest and safest defined play area for Sungiva that we could manage, while keeping things looking nice. Instead, I wound up with a great fence that's transformed...

Posted by simon at 12:13 PM

May 8, 2010

A sandbox for Sungiva and Konrad

Well, okay, Konrad's a little young for it still, but Sungiva's certainly happy and Konrad will grow into it. New sandbox. Sungiva tests out the sandbox. Family sandbox. I mostly built the sandbox out of parts salvaged from last year's...

Posted by simon at 4:20 PM

April 12, 2010

Fence Installation, Part III

Whitmore Fence thought it would take three to four days to install our fence, and I'm happy to report that it took a very reasonable three days of work. Josh installing westernmost spindles. It included about 176 feet of cedar...

Posted by simon at 8:40 PM

April 10, 2010

Fence Installation, Part II

The new fence is starting to look less like the palisade or noise barrier I'd written about Thursday. John and Josh from Whitmore Fence spent yesterday installing all of the crossbeams and some of the spindles, and in some places...

Posted by simon at 8:23 AM

April 8, 2010

Fence Installation, Part I

Folks passing by my house today might well wonder if I'm putting up a palisade. "First he writes about Upstate secession, and then he goes survivalist." Or maybe I've decided the answer to Route 366 traffic noise is a massive...

Posted by simon at 5:49 PM

October 19, 2009

Foundation Repair, Part V: Finishing Up

Once the sill beam was repaired, it was time to fix all the trim and to replace the door whose failing started the whole foundation repair conversation. Once again, Sunny Brook Builders' carpenter Dan was in charge. The first step...

Posted by simon at 8:19 PM

October 13, 2009

Foundation Repair, Part IV: Sill Beam Replacement

Once the crumbling concrete was repaired, it was time to move on to replacing the rotted sill beam. While the masons had been able to work in small sections, relying on what remained of the beam to hold things up,...

Posted by simon at 7:24 AM

October 5, 2009

Foundation Repair, Part III: Masonry

With the drainage fixed, it was now time to repair the damage that water had done to the foundation. My southern basement wall had scars across its upper face where concrete had turned to dust and fallen away, and my...

Posted by simon at 10:52 PM

September 30, 2009

Foundation Repair, Part II: Drainage

The underlying problem with my foundation was water. I can't imagine trading life in Dryden for life in the desert, but it's a little hard on buildings. Whoever built my house eighty years ago (maybe Lloyd Bell?) doesn't seem to...

Posted by simon at 7:16 AM

September 29, 2009

Foundation Repair, Part I: Deck demolition

September was a month of major chaos at our house, as we finally got to addressing foundation issues I probably should have dealt with, oh, about when I bought the house. A serious lack of drainage led to crumbling concrete...

Posted by simon at 5:21 PM

September 23, 2009

Never chase black ducks at twilight

Through an orchard full of black caps and other pointy plants. Our Cayuga ducks are great, but get more and more invisible as it gets darker. Every now and then we need to move them from place to place, which...

Posted by simon at 7:53 PM

July 9, 2009

Mystery basement photos

Because we're having a foundation wall replaced next month, and because it's just been way way way too long, I've been cleaning out the basement. One of the things I found again was a rotting frame with these photos in...

Posted by simon at 12:26 AM

May 9, 2008

Yesterday in photos

I'm way behind on everything, but hopefully these photos will give you some idea of the past few days. Well, all of them are from yesterday, except for the obligatory (and fun) Sungiva photo. Sungiva stretches out. Peace march banner....

Posted by simon at 5:12 PM

April 21, 2008

Life and death on the kitchen window

Spider hunts fly Spider eats fly...

Posted by simon at 6:49 PM

March 24, 2008

Farewell, old ride

This morning was sad. I drove my 1996 Saturn SL2, which flunked inspection back in December, to Varna Auto Service for junking. I'd bought it new, with ten miles on it, in May 1996. It had done well, climbing a...

Posted by simon at 5:51 PM

October 13, 2007


My house had a questionable roof when I bought it in 1999. It didn't seem to leak, but it didn't look likely to last, either. The old roof, looking less than perfect. I've thought about replacing it for years, and...

Posted by simon at 7:51 PM

October 7, 2007

A Year Worth of Flowers

We have nice neighbors. Last year I had invited a lot of people to my birthday party, more than cars would fit into our driveway, So when the birthday came, Simon went over to our neighbors across the street, The...

Posted by angelika at 8:16 AM

September 24, 2007

Building a chicken coop

I'd been planning since July to take a week off and build a coop for our chickens, but that week never arrived, and it's getting cold now. I finally broke down and bought a Chick-N-Barn kit. The kit was easy...

Posted by simon at 5:50 PM

August 23, 2007

Stone walkways

One of the more problematic features of my house has been the approaches. The front entrance has steep wooden stairs that lead mostly nowhere, though at one point there must have been a brick sidewalk. The back entrance has tilted...

Posted by simon at 12:22 PM

February 16, 2007

Dog in snow with lamp

I like deep snow. Spring (my dog) is a little less certain. Dog in snow with lamp. Yes, that's the barbecue grill, turned into strange white pyramid with a handle....

Posted by simon at 6:08 PM

January 25, 2007

Coyotes around?

For the past few days, I've heard occasional crazy howling that I've always taken to be coyotes. I heard it last winter too, though usually the rest of the year is quiet. It's eerie, but otherwise fine - except that...

Posted by simon at 8:43 AM

December 9, 2006


While the sudden burst of plant growth in my backyard was a change, especially since so much less of it was grass, the permanent work we did this summer was mostly digging. Some of that was digging to plant trees...

Posted by simon at 12:45 PM

October 31, 2006

Spring and Sprocket's Halloween greetings

It's been a bit too serious around here, but Spring and Sprocket would like to change that. Spring as a witch. Sprocket as a devil....

Posted by simon at 5:11 PM

June 14, 2006

Plowing the back yard

Although we've done some very large things to my yard and gardens this year, there was still a large area in the back yard that was basically just lawn. After turning a smaller area in the front yard by hand,...

Posted by simon at 6:09 PM

June 6, 2006

Mushrooms etc.

While the garden has seen a lot of work this year, it's also been hosting a rather large number of unexpected visitors. Some of this is because of the large piles of decaying mulch around, and some of it is...

Posted by simon at 12:11 PM

June 2, 2006

What dead trees are good for

There's been a dead poplar standing on the far edge of my back yard since we bought the house. It's been decaying slowly, but today it put on a real show - or at least a visitor to it did....

Posted by simon at 5:07 PM

May 27, 2006

Adding potatoes and an herb spiral

The garden work has slowed down a little as planting season comes to an end. We planted lots of trees, including plum, hazelnut, birch, poplar, maple, and chestnut, but work on major changes to the overall landscape has slowed down...

Posted by simon at 9:52 AM

April 29, 2006


I wrote earlier about the beds and paths we built outside my back door on Monday, and on Thursday and Friday we continued that project. Behind my house there is a deck, was a yard, and is then a series...

Posted by simon at 7:39 AM

April 24, 2006

Swales, raised berms, and paths

Joshua Dolan and his partner Grace came by my house today to work on contour mapping and also some construction. I'll cover the contour mapping more when there is a complete map, but the work we did to the small...

Posted by simon at 9:32 PM

April 20, 2006

Planting an apple orchard

The main reason I had trees cut down last week was to increase the amount of sunlight my yard received to make it easier to grow things. This past weekend and Tuesday evening my girlfriend Angelika and I put ten...

Posted by simon at 9:55 PM

Yep, it's spring

It's been bright and sunny, but every time I've gone into downtown Ithaca I've noticed that it seems to be a week ahead of us for flowers. Today looks pretty nice, though! Tulips and daffodils bursting onto the scene This...

Posted by simon at 12:42 PM

April 19, 2006

Mapping land to get ready to grow

I mentioned earlier that I was working on permaculture design for my house and its surrounding area. A key part of that is planning, and I've hired Joshua Dolan to help with that and more. To get started, he and...

Posted by simon at 10:49 PM

April 18, 2006

Losing trees in preparation

I'm starting a multi-year project this spring, changing the current mix of shade trees and ornamental plants on my property and increasing the number of edible or otherwise useful plants. I'm planning to use techniques from permaculture, developing a system...

Posted by simon at 10:33 PM

March 25, 2006


I haven't seen a huge number of deer this year - though I did hit one at slow speed on Hanshaw Road a few weeks ago - so I was surprised to look out my window on this scene: Deer...

Posted by simon at 11:09 AM

March 7, 2006

Energy-efficient water heating

Yesterday I made what I hope will be the last necessary major energy-efficiency improvement to my house for a while. A few years ago, I had the furnace replaced and the house insulated, but since the water heater still worked,...

Posted by simon at 7:58 AM

March 2, 2006

Shoveling conversations

This winter, I've been trying to shovel my driveway rather than use my snowblower. The snowblower is small, loud, doesn't turn off until it runs out of gas, doesn't do a great job anyway, and is buried further in my...

Posted by simon at 4:47 PM

November 13, 2005

Oh well - no solar

My water heater's been less and less happy over the past few years, and I'd been thinking about solar energy anyway, so I called Performance Systems Contracting to take a look at possible solar water or power here. (They'd done...

Posted by simon at 3:21 PM

July 11, 2005

A supposedly simple project

Repairing all of my windows is going to be a big project, one that will take some time, though I hope I'll get better at it over time. I'm also trying to do some smaller projects, though I'm finding again...

Posted by simon at 7:09 PM

July 7, 2005

July flowers

Posted by simon at 6:30 PM

June 25, 2005

Exterior painting completed

Our house-painting saga has reached its happy conclusion. After power scraping in January, Bob and the crew from Perfect Painters returned two weeks ago to finish the job. They spent their first few days prepping, scraping, and priming, and they've...

Posted by simon at 9:13 AM

June 15, 2005

My house is turning white

I'd never planned to live in a white house, and the final coats of paint definitely won't be white, but my house has now changed from this brown: 1259 Dryden Road to this: My house in white primer. As usual,...

Posted by simon at 12:05 AM

June 5, 2005

Window work

When we first bought our house, it was obvious that it needed a lot of work. We immediately stripped and refinished the floors throughout most of the house (and eventually added a layer to the livingroom floor). We had much...

Posted by simon at 1:11 PM

April 14, 2005

Signs of Spring

This week's weather has been wonderful, and signs of spring are appearing all over. These are just a few pieces of a developing story. Crocuses bursting with color. Flowers amid the sticks. Sprocket, our small brown dog, sunning herself in...

Posted by simon at 12:09 PM

April 13, 2005

Furry neighbors across the street

While I don't love having Route 366 in front of my house, it's been nice to know that the forested property on the other side of 366 is Cornell Plantations nature preserve. Between that and the massive amounts of fill...

Posted by simon at 8:45 AM

February 23, 2005

Interior trim installed

The last step in the professional work we're having done to our livingroom is complete: carpenters came yesterday from Perfect Painters/Heritage Builders and installed crown and shoe molding. Will and Luke transformed the look of the room in less than...

Posted by simon at 12:19 PM

January 13, 2005

Interior painting completed

Today's the first day in a while that the house isn't busy with painters working on the walls. The exterior's been quiet since last week, as the rest of the stripping and painting won't start for a few months, but...

Posted by simon at 12:40 PM

January 8, 2005

"What happened to your house?"

There isn't a lot of traffic on 366 today, but I suspect a few people may notice the strange appearance of my house over the next few months. 1259 Dryden Road, missing most of its paint. You can see the...

Posted by simon at 12:32 PM

June 21, 2004

Another visitor

Back in April I posted some pictures of a visiting cardinal. The cardinal still enjoys banging into our windows, but now I have a new visitor: Bird, looking in I'm not sure what to make of this one, since it...

Posted by simon at 6:43 PM

April 30, 2004

Flowers, truck

I took some pictures of blossoms on a tree in front of my house. The first picture here is pretty typical flower stuff, but the second has an extra feature you don't normally see in flower pictures, a passing truck....

Posted by simon at 2:27 PM

March 1, 2004

Assessments and taxes

The Ithaca Journal's editorial today examines the annual assessment process. This process has come under fire lately, largely because taxes and assessments have risen at the same time. I think the Journal is right that annual assessment and a central...

Posted by simon at 3:52 PM

January 28, 2004

Auditing the results of my energy audit

I wrote earlier about how we'd had an energy audit followed by major energy improvements to our house last year. Monday night, I got a call from the Energy Star folks saying that they wanted to take a look at...

Posted by simon at 3:21 PM

January 25, 2004

Energy efficiency saves lots of cash

I reported a few weeks ago on the energy efficiency improvements we made to the house last summer, and that our gas meter at that point looked very promising. A new bill has arrived, and the results are in: we...

Posted by simon at 7:01 PM

January 4, 2004

Energy efficiency in our old house

Thanks in part to New York State, my 74-year-old house finally has substantial insulation and a new furnace. When we bought the house, it had been a rental property for years. The owners had lived in it briefly at some...

Posted by simon at 10:37 AM

November 7, 2003

People drive by - 1259 Dryden Road

I live on a rural highway, New York State Route 366. It's a 45mph zone, largely used by commuters going to and from Cornell University and downtown Ithaca, with lots of gravel and concrete trucks going by during the day....

Posted by simon at 10:34 AM

Where I'm at

I live at 1259 Dryden Road, Ithaca, NY 14850. Does that address say Ithaca, when this blog is about Dryden? It sure does. The house is in the Town of Dryden, but is just barely in the Ithaca zip code,...

Posted by simon at 8:19 AM