Thursday, December 1, 2016

On the Christmas Tour!

I can't believe I haven't posted since February! Let me get past this weekend, and I will update you on my progress. But, for those of you who are local, please feel free to check out the house in person this weekend! We will be on the Ball Ground Business Association Christmas Tour of Homes on Saturday, December 3, from 10-4. You can purchase your tickets ahead of time for $20 or $25 on Saturday. In addition to mine, there will be four others all decorated for the holidays!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Where did the money go?

It’s been quite some time since I’ve updated this blog so I apologize to those of you who have been asking for updates.  My neighbor, Genevieve caught me in the yard one day & reminded me that I have fans and they want to see photos. She knows how behind my blog is because she sees my house every day and knows that the construction crew is long gone. She also sees me carry in cans of paint and Home Depot bags every weekend too. So, my apologies for the delay, but here is the latest:

House before renovation

House after renovation with original porch restored (screen portion was added)
As I said earlier, the contractors are gone, so now it’s all up to me.  We had our final inspection for the loan in early December, so after that approval we converted our construction loan to a conventional mortgage that I will be paying for the next 30 years. But there is still much to be done. I know many of you are asking, “You spent 60k on your house, what could there be left to do?” And I would answer, “a lot.” I too, was a bit surprised when gathering the estimates and disappointed in finding out how far it would go. I was just fortunate that I didn’t have to upgrade the HVAC system, or install storm windows. But, those items were also reflected in the purchase price, so I think it evened out. So, where did the money go? Well about $12,000 was spent on upgrading the electrical system. Jody, Chris & Wesley did a great job and climbed in and out of places I would not want to go. Jody and Chris admitted that this job was one of the hardest they have had to do, mainly because of the upstairs room. This was added basically in the middle of the attic and toward the back, and the location makes perfect sense if you are going to carve a room out of the attic. But for an electrician, that room blocks everything below it and you have to find another way around to thread those new wires. So that added to the price. Converting the enclosed front room back into a porch & master bedroom was almost another $12,000. They closed in a wall, 2 doorways, purchased new shiplap siding to line the exterior walls, rebuilt 4 tapered columns, re-stained the concrete floor and built a screen porch. The new bath was 


 $6700; the cabinet alone was over $1000, plumbing lines had to be run, an oversized tub and surround added, and another doorway carved out. The plumbers also did some reworking of the laundry room pipes during all of this and I’m not sure which budget line that came from. The drain for the washing machine had emptied into a sink in the basement, but the guys were able to reroute it. $9000 to refinish the floors; that gave me pause until I priced new hardwood flooring and realized that was about par. $12,000 again for the kitchen – new cabinets, appliances & granite countertops. $5000 for the new fence, which I always thought was high, but Dustin has done enough of these jobs to know where to cushion costs he can control. He admitted that he made a decent amount of money on the fence, but he broke even on the kitchen & lost money on the extras I added. He did a good job of controlling costs; we went over budget when I added things like converting the electric stove to gas or removing the kitchen soffits. The contingency of $6800 was spent on a new hot water heater, running a new gas line to the fireplace, carpeting the upstairs, rebuilding the leaking chimneystack in the master bath, and replacing and painting the exterior siding of the rental trailer on the property. Honestly, we really didn’t encounter too many surprises, and that is amazing for a house this age. The only real unexpected repairs were the minimal flooring repairs, small structural repairs to the porch, the hot water heater and the bathroom chimney.  This allowed us to spend most of the contingency on my pet projects as noted above. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, there is still a good bit to do. We didn’t touch the original bathroom, and I desperately wanted to. It has been modified over the years to meet the needs of the family, but that has resulted in a door that bumps into the toilet and a shower that blocks half of the window.  I will get to this, but since I have a beautiful new bathroom to use, I can just shut this door and delay the project. The windows are another hurdle I have to overcome. I have a love/hate relationship with these windows. I love, love, love the fact that this house has 24 original windows on the main level and this is one of the main reasons I bought the house. These windows are true double hung sash windows, meaning they open both from the bottom and top using ropes and weights hidden in the sashes. And to my surprise, they’re operable! Many older homes have windows, especially the upper sashes painted shut with so many layers of paint that you have to disassemble the entire window to get them to work again. Mine, fortunately, only have one or two coats of paint, but unfortunately, some of the ropes have been cut so that they need help with a prop to stay open. The storm windows also need to be caulked, and some panes or screens replaced. Then they all need to be cleaned – 2 sides of each, the original window and the storms. This will be my summer project, along with the back concrete deck which needs to be cleaned & painted. The other undone project is the hallway, which is covered in the same stippling on the kitchen ceiling. I don’t relish this job and am not sure how long I will put it off. Then, there remains the painting to be done. The contractors painted the master bed & bath & patched the living room, but it’s up to me to paint the rest of the house. Then, I want to remove the paint on the front porch column supports to expose the marble, landscape the yard...and the list goes on. But that’s why I bought an old house, because I like doing these kinds of projects. Granted, this is a bigger project than I originally wanted, but I was fortunate that the Holcomb family was willing to sell this house when my original prospect fell through. And I am grateful and proud to live in such a beautiful house and I look forward to bringing her back to life. I’m also excited to be within walking distance to downtown Ball Ground and am pleased to see the changes there.

Porch with original beadboard ceiling

Side concrete porch - a summer project

Initials of Perry Holcomb & his dog Dobie (with pawprint) in sidewalk

Stanley level circa 1890
So, what kinds of cool things did we find around the house during the renovation? Some clues to the dates when things were added: the floor furnace as noted earlier was in 1943, the date carved in the concrete in the basement was 1946 and the date written on under the vinyl siding on the side porch was 1987. Perry Holcomb, one of the sons who grew up here also liked to leave his mark – his initials and his dog’s pawprint are in the front sidewalk. Chris found the most interesting stuff crawling under the house in the basement. And I do mean crawling, because you can only stand up in the back part of the basement where the concrete is; the front part is dirt. Apparently here is where Chris found the cool stuff – an old Stanley level from about 1890, a radio, old bottles and a more recent treasure – a gold coin pack of condoms. Stuff found in the walls was more mundane, reflecting everyday life, yard sticks engraved with the names of local funeral homes, a 45 record with a song to help with potty training, license plate..........
More completed photos to come soon!

Washing machine I asked family to leave behind so I could donate to Historical Society
things found in walls, cabinets, or basement including the full pack of "gold coin" condoms

From pea green to Navajo white

Friday, December 18, 2015

Because I needed to make it more complicated

I owe a huge apology to everyone for not updating this. So many of you are interested and asking me about the progress, and I just haven’t been doing what I promised. To be honest, the job is much farther along than is represented in these photos, but I want to do this justice, so I will make you wait a bit longer for the final photos.

My last post was Nov. 11, just after the hardwood floors were completed and the electrical update was ongoing. Next was the kitchen demo. All of the cabinets were being removed and the former owners were taking the stove and refrigerator but I was going to keep the dishwasher. We had discussed the layout of the kitchen at length and I polled everyone who came to the house.
existing kitchen cabinets

side wall with refrigerator and 12" deep cabinets. The refrigerator placement was moved to the wall on the left with the wallpaper
Ultimately we decided to move the refrigerator to the pantry wall and not replace a wall of small 12” cabinets, but keep the rest of the layout. I won’t tell you what the contractors found behind the cabinets, but suffice to say I’m glad they got rid of it, and the thing that ate it (partially). The crew took off the vinyl floors in the kitchen and laundry rooms, but left the plywood so they could place the new vinyl on top. I arrived home as they were taking off the final pieces of vinyl and just didn’t like leaving the plywood. The kitchen had had a funky smell, and I suspected that it was in the floor from the leaking refrigerator. I worried that if we left the plywood, the smell would remain. So, I asked Dustin about replacing it, and he told me it would (of course) cost more. Joe, the flooring contractor had been pretty sure that the wood floors did extend through the kitchen, so I took another notch out of the budget and insisted we take out the plywood and see what we had underneath. Lo’ & behold, more wood floors!  Unfortunately, refinishing them would require me to leave the house again since they have to dry overnight with two coats of polyurethane.

So, this leads me to my next tangent. As my friends will attest, I am a homing beacon for stray animals. If you recall, I had been living at my friend’s house for a month before I closed on this house. My 2 dogs and 3 cats came along too. I can’t tell you how great my friend was. The dogs, as we discussed stayed in a pen outside, but the cats went on his small sleeping porch. So, you see what’s coming, right? Just a week into my stay, I found a kitten. I was walking the dogs by the Ball Ground library and heard a meow in the bushes. It was raining and this poor thing kept crying, but wouldn’t come to me. It took about 2 hours of coaxing but I finally got her out. She was only about 5 weeks old, but fortunately weaned. Of course the last thing I needed during all of this was another cat. But she got to me, so she joined the other 3 on the sleeping porch.  

New kitten Sophie the night she was found
Anyway, the real reason for this tangent is to explain that I really didn’t want to leave my house again to refinish more floors. It was a huge imposition on my friend, not to mention dragging the dog beds, litter boxes, etc. back & forth. Since we had closed off the doorway from my bedroom to the living room, the only way to get from the front of the house to the bedroom & bathroom, was through the kitchen. So, resourceful Dustin rigged up a ladder from the outside to my bedroom window.  I can’t imagine what my neighbors thought seeing me climb in & out of the window in my pajamas to go let the dogs out. But, I only had to do this for 3 nights and it was better than displacing us all again.

Living room with old doorways framed off.

Right about this time we were examining the budget trying to see if we could find some room to replace the carpet upstairs. I think the Holcomb family added this room during their residence for their sons. It’s lined with nice thick wood paneling, not the flimsy stuff you see now. They added the stairway in what (I think) was the original hallway & added a closet under the stairs. The carpet was old, and red, and now that we’d opened up the doorway, we agreed it had to go. 

new filled in stairway. We used the extra tongue & groove flooring to fill in the old doorway so it matched the boards in what was the original hallway.

Upstairs room
Unfortunately, when they arrived with the new carpet, they were short because they forgot to measure the closets outside the bedroom. It’s not entirely their fault, because the electricians hadn’t gotten around to adding a light up there yet and it was really, really, dark, so they just didn’t see the closets. So, it’s one Friday evening and they are installing the carpet and then notified me about 7:00pm that they didn’t have enough material and were going to have to leave it unfinished. Again, this is where the pets come in. The cats had been staying in the upstairs room during construction because it was the only place I could lock them out of the way and keep them from the dogs.  My dogs get along fine with my adult cats, but they just wanted to eat the kitten. She was small & furry and very much resembled their chew toys. So, when I first moved in I had to find a room to lock in the cats. Except, none of the doors would close and we were missing a few. The house had settled, or the doors became loose, and they simply would not latch. That certainly added to my stress the first week as I tried to block them with boxes (which didn’t really work).  But, finally, I had rigged up the upstairs bedroom for them, and now the contractors were saying that I couldn’t use it because there were tacking strips on the stairs and they didn’t reinstall the upstairs doors because they no longer fit with the thicker carpeting. So now the only room that I could close off that the contractors weren’t working in, was the back bedroom where I was sleeping. I love my cats, but I’m not sleeping with them.  Honestly, I don’t remember what I did that weekend, but I do remember stomping around the house and saying not very nice things to the poor workers. I’m not sure how much English they understood, so maybe I didn’t hurt their feelings too badly.

A closely-monitored Jake eyeing his new chew toy

The kitchen demo was moving along and Dustin had to balance everyone’s schedules to do the floors and install the appliances. The dishwasher had been moved outside while the floors were done, so the morning the plumber is scheduled to reinstall it, they noticed that it was damaged. Apparently the critter that had been found behind the cabinets had been feasting on the dishwasher too. So after a flurry of phone calls, we located an appropriate dishwasher from Lowe’s (apparently Home Depot doesn’t keep any stainless ones in stock) and the plumber picked it up on his way to the house. 

new cabinets (but before floors refinished) with stubborn wallpaper on the soffits
After the new cabinets were installed, I started work on removing the wallpaper from the soffits above them. Again, mainly due to cost, we had decided to keep the soffits because it was cheaper to leave them and have Dustin’s crew patch in the stippling (a plaster finish like popcorn) on the ceiling.  There were two layers of wallpaper up there, and even though it all had come off on the walls earlier, the earlier blue layer just would not cooperate. I would have to sand it off. This would take hours, and so I justified that I would rather spend those hours taking down the stippling and it would make me happier to have the soffits come out. So, Dustin gracefully accepted the change, and took the soffits out. Now, had I known how much work it would be to take down the stippling, I might have made a different decision. I spent about an hour on the ladder working before I decided it was a better job for my handyman, Ovidio. He worked hard, but after a day’s work it still wasn’t finished. And the mess, OMG. We put down plastic tarps but the dust got everywhere and tracked through the house. After we cleaned up that day, and I vacuumed the floors & carpets, I started dinner. Unfortunately, we forgot to clean on top of the appliances & cabinets. So for the next week, every time I opened up my freezer or cabinets, plaster dust rained down. Just when I thought (again) that I had things cleaned up, I turned on the microwave vent one evening and a volcano of debris came flying out of the top.
The job still isn’t finished, even though the contractors are now gone.
Ovidio taking his turn on the ladder

new kitchen with soffits removed, but ceiling & painting not finished 

But other than that, things were moving along smoothly and I started enjoying a number of firsts. The first time I had an outside light to greet me when I came home after dark, the first time I could really cook in the kitchen, the first time I could use the new bathroom, and the first time I could lock my front door. When we removed the family room that was now the porch, we removed the outside doors that the Holcombs had used. They didn’t use the original front door, which could only be locked using a skeleton key (same with the back door). In fact, all of the interior doors are original and have this locking mechanism, along with original glass doorknobs. As a historian, I find skeleton keys kind of charming, and will use them on the interior doors. But I don’t think they are the best solution for the exterior, so I was happy when Dustin’s crew installed deadbolts! 
I promise I won't let too much time lapse before I post again! Happy Holidays everyone!
The original front door in use again (although more paint scraping to be done) and a glimpse of one of the "after" photos coming soon...


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Original Hardwood Floors

View of closet floor showing laminate installed over original hardwood
One of the first things I wanted to do when I moved in was remove the carpet. I suspected that there were hardwood floors beneath the coverings, but I couldn’t do any demo to find out before I purchased the property. The former owners did pry up a corner of the carpet in the living & dining rooms before closing and confirmed that there was hardwood there. The kitchen had vinyl, there was laminate in the hallway and middle bedroom (new master bath), and carpet in the back bedroom & new master. After I moved in and started exploring, I found that they had probably installed the laminate over hardwood. I could see the hardwood (in good shape) in both of the hall closets. When they started the demo in the new bath, we could see that yes, the hardwood was intact. Dustin was concerned about the shape it was in, as was I. It didn’t make sense to me that you would choose to install wood laminate over hardwood, but again, maybe it was for convenience.  I talked him into taking up the laminate in the new bath, promising we could be put in vinyl or tile if it was not salvageable. If it was good though, we agreed to move forward and take out the laminate in the hallway too. When Joe, the flooring contractor came, we did some more demo in the carpeted rooms and tried to get through the many layers of material, but really couldn’t get a definitive answer. Since the carpet wasn’t staying anyway, we agreed to get it all up and see what we could find underneath.
The rest of the furnace in the basement.
 It was disconnected when newer units installed
Joe discovering the floor furnace
Back in the dining room, we got a surprise. Right before the entrance to the kitchen in the floor, there was a newer (about 2’x3’) patched-in piece. Not sure what we’d find underneath, we pried it up and found the old furnace! I had seen this apparatus from the basement, but honestly had not given any thought to how the heat was piped into the house. Turns out it was a gravity floor furnace, manufactured by the Empire Stove Company in 1946. It used natural gas and we could see the burners on the bottom of the unit. Since it wasn’t in use, I took lots of photos to document it and we started thinking about how we were going to patch the floor. My floors are the same material as the walls – 1” thick, tongue and groove heart pine, not to be found at Home Depot. Fortunately, Dustin had an uncle who collected such things, and he was able to get enough to fill in this spot, and the place in the new bathroom where the closet wall had been.  
label showing the company and serial number for the furnace

Of course during all of this demo, I have been living in the house. At first it was like camping, and I didn’t mind using a flashlight when I was in the living room or upstairs. Then, as they were working on the electric system, I would never know what outlets or lights would be working when I got home. I charged my laptop and digital camera in the kitchen, because those were the only outlets with 3 prongs. Ditto on the vacuum cleaner, with a very long extension cord. Not that I cleaned too often, there were just too many people coming and going to keep up with it. There were times when I dried my hair in the laundry room, got dressed in the dark, or arrived home to find the water to the toilet shut off because the plumber didn’t want a shower if someone flushed while he was working in the basement. The worst was when I came home one night after going out for drinks with my friend, Meghan. They had worked on the floors that day, and left the grate off of the a/c return vent. I’m not fond of this vent. It’s a regular size return, about 2’x3’, but it’s just outside my bedroom door, so you have to step on it, or jump over it to enter the room. It’s also loud, and dirty with years of dust. So I came home, maneuvered my way through the dark house until I got to the hallway, where the light has always worked. This night it didn’t. I’m standing in the dark house and then noticed that the return grate was missing. In my margarita haze, all I could think of was that I was going to step out of my bedroom in the middle of the night to use the restroom, and fall into the yawning, nasty hole in the hallway.  I had to apologize to both Jody and Dustin the next morning for my panicked phone calls the night before, demanding the location of the grate and that the hallway light be reconnected. It was not my finest moment, but I blamed it on the tequila and tried to keep my after-hours phone calls to a minimum. Didn’t quite feel that way about texting, so Dustin continued to be bombarded as thoughts came to mind during very inconvenient hours.

But, back to the floors…I got lucky. Not only were the same hardwood floors in both bedrooms, but
Back bedroom, scraping off old
carpet & glue
also in the hallway too. They had to go through some pretty old material to get to them, but they turned out beautifully. As Joe said, “these floors are freakishly beautiful.” He also noted that he’s never seen old floors turn out this well; the joints were tight and there was very little damage. The only piece that needed replacing was right in front of the fireplace – it had some termite damage. Although Joe indicated that there was probably hardwood in the kitchen & laundry room too, Dustin and I held back about pulling up these floors, mainly because of the budget and knowing that there had been some water leaks so they might not be in as good of shape. We decided to stick to our plan of replacing the vinyl in those rooms.

sanding the master bedroom
living & dining rooms after sanding
finished hallway
(with wallpaper yet to be removed)
finished master bathroom

dining room after polyurethane

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

We have a porch!

master bedroom with closed wall to outside
After the electrical panel was installed, things started happening! They started the demo on the new bathroom and original porch. My new master bedroom will be a former space that we think was an office for Dr. Schofield, a doctor who lived and practiced in the house during the 1940s. When we began the project, it opened up to what was the original side porch, so the crew framed in that wall and I could get a sense of what the new bedroom would be like.
former porch with new closed wall

new bathroom looking into bedroom
The guys also tore out the two closets in the middle bedroom that will become my master bath. We had decided early on to expose the brick chimney stack between the two closets in this room that was probably originally used for a heater or wood burning stove. When they tore out the closets we got our first surprise – a roof leak. The leak is probably because the flashing around the chimney wasn’t done correctly, but it’s not a bad one. We briefly discuss taking down the chimney stack, but find out that the new furnace is vented through here, so it stays. They cut a new doorway from the bath to the bedroom, and we continue talking about the bathroom layout. We have spent hours discussing how to best fit in a master closet – should it go into the new bathroom space, or should it be a bump-out in the bedroom? I hate bump-outs so I’m rooting for the bath option, but we just can’t find a way to get a closet big enough & still have plenty of room for the bath. We finally agree to cut into the hall closet from the bedroom side, preserving all of the space for the new bath.

During this time they are also working on the porch; this is the part of the project I’m most excited about. I love porches, and it’s important for me to have outdoor space. I know how it will look, because my good friends Kathy and Marshall Day supplied a photo of when Marshall briefly lived here as a boy.
original clapboard siding exposed
When the vinyl siding and ceiling come down we get another surprise – but a good one! The original bead board ceiling is still there, as is the original clapboard siding – in good condition. People often think that vinyl siding was added to many of these older homes because the original siding was damaged, or in poor condition. In many cases, it was done for convenience and alleviated the need to repaint the house. Everyone is surprised at how good the clapboards look and we discuss taking the vinyl siding off the entire house. I would love to, but as Dustin, the contractor, points out, you never know what you’re going to find when you remove a layer. To be honest, it’s just not in the budget to remove it all and paint the whole house, so we compromise and decide just to do the front of the house and paint it to match the siding. 

enclosed porch before renovation

beadboard ceiling & windows removed

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Renovation begins...

I woke up on day two feeling much better, eating the muffins that my new neighbor, Genevieve brought over, and enjoying the views outside my now unclad windows. The windows are one of the main reasons I bought the house. In addition to the 3 French doors in the living room, there are 29 windows throughout the 1800 sq. foot house. Luckily there are storm windows on most of the historic ones, so that will help with energy efficiency.

I will admit that as I’m writing this, I have been in the house for about a month but haven’t been diligent in documenting my journey.  However, I have been taking photos, so I hope that will help to jog my memory so you can follow along as I will try to catch up over the next week or so.

When I moved in, I only brought a few pieces of furniture, knowing that everything else would be in the way, so it all went into storage. Unfortunately, I also found out when I moved in that I only brought summer clothes and shoes. Apparently, when I was packing at the end of August, I didn’t think ahead to the fact that the closing and renovation would take this long. So, it’s now November and I’m still walking around with flip flops and my summer purse. 

But for my first days in early October, it wasn’t too bad. Since I didn’t have power, I didn’t have A/C, but luckily I had all of those windows! Since my closing had been delayed, I had to wait a bit for my contractors schedules to clear. While I was waiting on them, one of the projects I could do was to clean up the yard. Since the house had been empty for a few years, many of the plants in the yard were overgrown. I have a great person who helps me with yard projects, and he got busy with the chain saw & clippers and I could see a pattern emerge. However, one of the projects that will take a lot of time is my kudzu forest. If you live in the south, you know how prolific it can be. My


property is about an acre & ½, and I would say ¼ of that is wooded. At the edge of the woods the kudzu had taken hold and covered the trees. Or, I assumed they were trees; the kudzu grew in mounds and bumps so I knew something was under there. As he got further and further into the “forest,” it turned out most of the mounds & bumps were just more kudzu. Apparently, the vines would just wrap around themselves and form trees. Other than that, so far he has uncovered a huge satellite dish, a burn barrel and other yard debris. But, now that the tree leaves have changed colors, it’s easy to see where the trees are compared to the kudzu. There’s also an old tractor-trailer parked in the woods, but the former owners are going to have that removed in the next few months.

Luckily, I do have some beautiful dogwoods along the front, and I think native cherry trees on the side where my fence was being installed.   

Obviously, the most important thing to begin the renovation with was the new electrical panel. I was very anxious because I couldn’t get a new hot water heater until we did. I was also living without power in the front part of the house, because that’s where the hot wire had been. I was super excited when Chris showed up to put in the new panel. He and his partner, Wesley, were very precise when cutting into the walls and I have to admit I didn’t realize it was going to take as long as it did. Most of my interior walls are 1” thick tongue & groove heart pine boards, so it wasn’t easy for them to cut through the walls. Once they were done setting the panel, it took about four days for the inspection, then a week or so to get the new meter set and outside power line buried. Then the plumber could install the new hot water tank. Luckily, I have a very generous friend who let me come over and borrow their shower.   
During this time the fence was going up in the side yard. I have two dogs, named Toby & Jake, who had a very large yard at our old house, but had spent the past month in my friend’s 4’ square concrete pen during the day. However, it wasn’t really for their comfort that I made the request to put this in first, it was for my own & because I was tired of walking them 5x a day. And this included my coming home during lunch every workday. My thought was that once the fence was up I could leave them at home while the renovation was going on. For obvious reasons, this didn’t work. For one, Jake is a great watchdog and doesn’t like anyone on the property and it didn’t take long for him to feel at home. Two, Toby barks at everyone and I would soon have had very annoyed subcontractors. And three, when Toby gets out, he doesn’t come back. This happened the first day the fence was up and I was meeting a guy from the power company. We started to go into the fenced yard, but changed our mind, and I didn’t fully latch the gate. Toby was off like a shot, with me yelling behind him. Admittedly, one of my many faults is that, at times, I curse like a sailor. And that day my mother would not have been pleased at the words coming out of my mouth. I also met a new neighbor that day, apparently drawn by my yelling and cursing. He helped me lure Toby into the car, since the only way to catch Toby is to make him think that he’s going on another journey. The new neighbor soon left, Toby was back in the fence, and power company rep still stunned by the turn of events. With an escape artist like Toby, the dogs were safer in the pen during the renovation. But they do enjoy the new fence and their yard in the evenings, and I like the fact that I can just let them out in the morning and go enjoy my coffee.