30 November 2011

Out with the new, in with the Old

As soon as we closed on our new old place out in the country, we began a feverish attempt to renovate as much as possible and still move in within a 10 day period. One of the first things to go was the cheap 1960s era paneling that adorned the walls of the dining room. Under it we found....wallpaper......not less than four layers of wallpaper.

But that wasn't the problem. We assumed we would find layers of wallpaper attached to plaster walls....the condition of the plaster we assumed would be so-so. The problem is that there was no plaster. Instead it was plywood. Plywood? That made be re-think how old the walls were in the dining room. We knew that it had been the original summer kitchen with a porch off to its south side. We knew that another summer kitchen was added c. 1890 on the east end. We knew that when the bathroom was created in the old summer kitchen, they enclosed the porch. And these are the walls that had plywood....probably from the 1930s. The top and bottom pictures are the way we found the dining room.

So, we got an estimate to remove all the plywood, install drywall and finish it. And not that the cost was too high, but I stopped and thought.....gee, what I'd really like to do is cover the walls in wood planks.

The former owner, whose family had owned the farm since 1865, told us that there was wood stored in the barn from when the house was first built. She believed that since her great x3 grandfather operated a sawmill that it had come from the property. I climbed up into the rafters and found more than 50 oak planks, between 8-10' long, an inch thick, and anywhere from 12-18" wide. It was gorgeous old growth wood, probably not less than 100 years old when they were felled almost 150 years ago. The top picture is what we lived with for almost 2 years, the bottom picture is the oak in process.

So the new plan was to use the boards to cover the dining room walls....not only did I think it would look cool, but it also would keep the boards which had a history with the farm, with the farm. I pulled the boards down, picked out the very best, and off they went to an Amish mill to be planed and squared.

An then back they came. Our carpenter used all but about 6 of the 45 boards we sent to the mill. He created a plate shelf at the top of the boards, which reach to the tops of the doorways. We used the boards on the south entry hall wall as well. Then to give it a look like they've always been here, I applied a light base stain and did my best Karate Kid impression of furniture wax on, wax off. The result is fantastic....makes me feel like I'm in a lodge most of the day. We have the crown molding to install in the dining room, and some minor trim yet in the entry hall, but after almost 2 years of a whole lot of ugly.....my wife couldn't be happier. We plan to use the other boards for a new top for the dining room table, and we're having an "innaugural dinner" tonight with the carpenter's family. The bottom and top pics are prior to stain and wax.

23 November 2011

When a hymn becomes a prayer

We gather together
I think we too often forget the power and joy in simply gathering together, as family and friends, to share our lives, the joy, memories....just the company can renew our spirits

to ask the Lord’s blessing;
Please God, though we don't deserve to ask for any more blessing than we already have in this great nation....bless us with compassion, wisdom, and peace

He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
Because you are God, You know our hearts and You know our thoughts....and You do guide us and correct us to carry out Your purpose for us....and we pray others will see that in us

The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
We have no guarantee in this life that bad people won't take advantage of us or hurt us, in fact Your word says to expect these things if we are Yours

Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
So God, grant us peace in knowing that we are Yours

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Continue to walk with us, direct our paths, let us look to You in the decisions we make

Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
Your will is above our own....the plans you have for us are for Your glory alone

So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
It may not look like victory now, but we trust that our fight is Your fight and justice is Yours

Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
So thank you God, for walking with us.....this is Your life, not mine, all glory is Yours

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
How great and awesome are You God

And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;
So please, continue to sheild us from those who mean us harm

Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
For we are Yours and though things may not be easy, provide us a path through the storm

Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
For You are God, and the freedom we enjoy is because of you.....please place within us a heart to see those around us free from oppression, strife, and poverty.

Be more than thankful this year......be prayerful.

09 November 2011

Occupy Wall Mart?

I've been watching the Occupy Wall Street movement as a curious bystander, wondering about the object of the demonstration as well as the source of the utter disdain some have for the protesters. To be honest, I'm not sure I get either. I think at the heart of the protest movement is just a simple outpouring of frustration in general that ranges from the lack of employment, corporate corruption and loss of ethics, to a broad underlying concern that it appears things are about to get worse given the political outlook. Sure, it has its crazies and detractors, but then who doesn't?

I had dinner with a good friend I would consider on the far right. He essentially mocked the movement because they don't have a clear message.....that in fact, it was a variety of concerns he heard as a reporter interviewed one after another protesters. I tend to be more sympathetic. However, I don't believe the Occupy movement, or at least it doesn't appear the movement has a deeper understanding of this unraveling of the American dream. Further, I don't believe they understand (generally) that they are the ones who have contributed to our economic condition.

Corporate greed is fed by willing spenders. We want our stuff cheap. Well, to do that retailers (assume big box since cheap automatically disqualifies mom & pop) have to outsource the manufacture of that cheap crap to someplace with a workforce willing to work for a third what we do. Hey, buddy, that's why you can't find work! Oh yeah, and we want cheap gas to drive our cars to buy our cheap crap.....which is on the other side of town now......so, guess what? The demand for drilling in your back yard and running a pipe line goes up, as does our imperative for an expensive military presence on the other side of the world. Unfortunately that is costing more than endangered wildlife their habitat, it has cost us dearly in dead and broken humanity.

No, I don't decry the protest like many others on the right. I just don't think the American public understand that we have created this mess ourselves, if we did, we would Occupy Walmart. We are too lazy to think about the collateral damage in making a living from gambling (did I say gambling, I meant to say day-trading to clean it up), supporting a "global economy" or much less the benefit to promoting a local economy. The outcry against the protests I believe is coming from those who have not yet become affected by the corrosive nature of this new American economic model, or from those who benefit from it. But it is apparent that as a nation we have begun this race to the bottom where things, including ethics, will only be weighed by their economic value. It is a new formula that dismisses faith, humanity, and stewardship for future generations.....and the last is what concerns me the most.

04 November 2011

le' coupe re doux

By the end of this post you should be able to identify an extreme preservationist.

When we were closing on the purchase of Sycamore Hill the former owner asked what we planned to do with the chicken coop...but quickly followed that up with "oh you'll probably tear it down, it is in rough shape." My eyes opened wide and I said, heck no, that's part of the charm of the place. Last year we bit off interior renovations and restoring the WPA outhouse. This year we renovated the porch, put in landscaping, and are finishing interior renovations (coming soon!); but we (I?) also made a commitment to restore the coop this year.

The coop was built in about 1930 and based on the material that was used, it looks like most of the structural members came from a few walls that were removed inside the house. Since the coop sits between the house and the barn, at the base of the hill, the roof is a dominant feature of the 21' x 16' building....and I didn't want to lose the "look" of the rustic old corrugated metal roof....but it was leaking and had caused some structural problems. So I removed and catalogued the metal roof panels, fixed the wood roof and structural problems and replaced the fascia (that was a tough decision, but new won out), put down a drip edge, and covered the roof with ice and water shield-not a cheap product. In the end the roof looked........exactly like it did before I spent $500.

Then I had to patch in wood siding that had deteriorated or was missing. There was very little of that fortunately, and since the coop was constructed with scrap and leftovers, I had enough scrap and leftovers on the farm that matched the two types of siding that the repairs are virtually seamless. Then to give my dad something to do, he painted the entire building with a sprayer.

The coop has three windows (one on each side, except for the back) and one door. It looks like the windows and door came off another building on the farm. The south window and the door were fine. The west window (though covered with layers) was still there; the east window (also covered by layers and missing its mullions and bottom rail) was also "there". So I had the sashes restored and glass put in. We've wanted to paint our exterior doors on the house a feature color, which would be carried over to the coop. We decided on deep red, which ties in the red barn and the red trim inside the house. And it looks great on the little coop.

I kept a perfect record of the costs associated with this little project, as well as documenting it with photos just in case there is ever an insurance issue. From my office window I stare at the coop and outhouse all day long. I have to say I'm pretty pleased with the results. So the question is now, do we put chickens in it? I think that it's too nice for that....I may move my office into it. Next year we work on the '20s garage and start the big project...the barn.

Too often these little farm buildings disappear, until ultimately the barn is gone and the farmhouse sits there, looking like a fish out of water. I don't know how many structures have been removed here at Sycamore Hill. The corn crib foundation sits between the coop and the barn, but I don't see putting that back. The buildings work together to give this place the charm that I fell in love with almost exactly two years ago today. They represent a history that our generation is so far removed from, and I want to be able to have some vestige of that past that my grandparents and those before them knew, saved for future generations.