Hatton House Diaries

One day, we decided to buy a 125 year old Victorian House in Des Moines, Iowa…….

Chicken Coop Moving Day! April 30, 2012

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 4:42 am

imageWe found a chicken coop on Facebook for the low low price of “you have to move it out of our yard.” When I first went to see it, it didn’t seem like that big a deal, but as we measured and planned, the coop seemed to grow. It’s 4×8′ and wouldn’t fit on my friend’s trailer, which meant that we had to rent a trailer and have several friends help with loading it. You could write a joke about the engineer, the architect, and the contractor trying to figure out how to get this coop out of our benefactor’s back yard without hitting their house, garage, or trees. I deeply regret not getting this exchange on video, but at least I have this photo, with Gregory Barnum (the contractor) getting out of the van, having just moved the coop, while Steve Wilke-Shapiro and my husband, Doug Jotzke (the architect and engineer respectively) were still discussing various clearances and angles. It was pretty classic.

We never would have gotten this thing moved (or have been so entertained) without the help of Steve, who is an architect with Silent Rivers, Gregory Barnum of ConcretEquity, and Mike Hildbrand, who is the President of the River Bend Neighborhood association (although he was helping in unofficial capacity!) You won’t find nicer people to work with/neighbors anywhere!


The Chicks: One Week Later April 29, 2012

Filed under: Keep It Local,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 4:29 am
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imageMiraculously, the chicks have survived their first week with us! And they are growing like crazy. Sometimes, I will walk by them an hour later and I swear they’re bigger. They’re super cute, and pretty funny interacting with the kids and trying to hide from the cats. Luckily, the chicken coop is moving here soon, and we will no longer have predators and prey living together!

PS I suppose I should say, we got all Buff Orpingtons, for you chicken geeks out there!


Chicks Have Arrived! April 22, 2012

Filed under: Keep It Local,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 4:19 am
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ImageSomewhere along the way, I decided that raising chickens would be fun. We get our eggs from local farms, and they taste so much better, so why not get them right out of the backyard? I have a few chicken raising friends, and I found the Iowa Urban Chicken Farmers Facebook Page, so what could go wrong?

I decided to get 6 chickens, but then we got to the farm supply store and they were so cute, I thought “8 would be good.” I said 8, and my 4 year old son exclaimed “No! TEN!” So now we have 10 chickens, in a little box, and I feel like I-just-brought-my-first-kid-home awkward. What the heck am I doing? I’m a city dweller from New Jersey. How the heck did I end up raising chickens in Iowa? Too late now…the adventure begins!


Local Business Find: Southpaw Furniture Refinishing and Restoration April 20, 2012

imageThe good news is the Hatton House came with it’s own architectural salvage in the attic: a huge pile of historic trim, bullseyes, plinth blocks and more. The bad news is that most of our salvage was in very rough shape. I started out pulling pieces that I could scrub down and clean up myself, but I quickly ran out of “quality” pieces and wasn’t too excited about stripping paint out of the detailed carving of the trim we needed to add three new doors as part of adding the first floor bathroom. Fortunately, I found Southpaw Furniture Refinishing in Valley Junction. For $1 per foot, Kevin will soak boards in a stripping bath that pulls most of the paint off even the boards that are paint on bare wood.




The Bathroom is Finished! April 19, 2012

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 8:04 am
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Some Women Bring Knitting to Soccer Practice, I Bring Wood to Scrape Paint April 16, 2012

Filed under: Family Stuff,Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 11:13 pm



Lilac Syrup Martinis FTW! April 14, 2012

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 7:42 am

We made our Lilac Syrup, and for Thirsty Thursday, we made martinis! 1 part syrup, 2 parts vodka, shake with ice, DONE! Our first attempt made a martini that tasted like delicious frosting. It was so good, but SO rich and very strong. Next up, experiments with something to cut the sweetness a little. Maybe lime juice? Or lemon? Post your ideas, or stop by for some vodka frosting sometime!


Lilac Syrup for Lilac Martinis! April 13, 2012

Filed under: In the Kitchen — hattonhousedsm @ 1:55 am
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imageWe have a great garden here at the Hatton House, but I’ve never really had the time to experiment with the randomness that is our garden. Then someone mentioned to me that you could make simple syrup from lilacs, and make cocktails from it! What what?! So for the weekly Thirsty Thursday that we hosted, I got all excited for syrup! A quick Google search led my to Punk Domestics’ (love them) syrup page, which led me to Dabblings and Whimsey’s Lilac Martini page! (And for the record, I’m bummed I didn’t find Local Kitchen’s Forsythia Syrup until after that season.) I did, however, cook up this batch of Lilac Syrup….drinks to follow!!


Dirty Girl April 9, 2012

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 8:41 am

Tanya, after tearing down a 100 year old kitchen ceiling

After working on the ceiling in my friend’s house, I was pretty dirty. So dirty, that my husband saw me walking home pre -shower, but got home after I was clean…the first thing he said: “Please tell me you took pictures before you cleaned up.” I did, but I assure you, it looked so much worse in person….the photo really doesn’t capture the magnitude of it.


Guest Working at a River Bend Neighborhood House – Ceiling Demo

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 7:37 am
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Kitchen Ceiling Before

I had been pestering one of the contractors in the neighborhood to let me help in one of his houses in exchange for advising and helping me with the Hatton House. I figured that I may not really know what I’m doing in remodeling, but I am good at following directions, and if someone could tell me what to do, I’d be able to do it pretty easily. So I could just do some unskilled job somewhere else in exchange for some skilled advice here. After several pestering him several time, he said “Well, I have to tear down a kitchen ceiling, you want to do that?”

I realize this was a trick question. Apparently no one WANTS to tear down a ceiling. But for me, this was the best news ever! I can’t possibly screw up destroying something! No leveling, measuring, detailing….just tear it down! Can do! I wish I had a photo of how I showed up: open toed shoes, safety glasses (but not goggles), no gloves, short sleeves, no breathing mask, I was an accident waiting to happen. I got my hair covered and a white mask and went to town.

Let’s be clear: “plaster” in old homes is a lot closer to concrete than the plaster I’ve used in craft projects. It comes down in huge, unpredictable chunks, and you had better not be in the way when they fall. It took me a while to figure it out, but soon (after going home for work gloves) I was prying down strips of lath, grabbing it with one hand while the other hand tapped a hammer against it to knock out all the concrete-like chunks down that strip. Sometimes, whole chunks of ceiling would crash down, sometimes it was just dust. Sometimes there would be black dust in the ceiling, sometimes 1930s newspapers that were shredded with age. One particularly unfortunate strip pulled down heaps of sawdust.

The whole ceiling came down in an afternoon. As you can see, it was one of the dirtiest jobs I’ve ever done, but the satisfaction was pretty intense. I’m really glad that demolition work isn’t my full time job, but every once in a while, it’s nice to tear something apart! If you want to see what I looked like after this job, you’ll find a photo here. 

Kitchen Ceiling After