Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Old Hobbies Die Hard

This past Saturday it snowed. Hard. All day. In the end we had over 18 inches on the ground. Now, I know that is nothing compared to what Boston has, but around here, that's a pretty good snow. When it snows like that, I always want to do something I enjoy, like reading, sewing, baking, or what my aunts call "handwork." The women in my family have always liked to make pretty things with needle and thread, and this handwork takes many forms: quilting, embroidery, crotchet, knitting, and in my case, counted cross stitch.

I can't remember what my first counted cross stitch project was. Over the years I've made several. Some of them were for gifts, and others I have hanging in my home.

It's been a long time since I've done any counted cross stitch. The dates on these two pieces are 1992 and 1996! I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure I haven't done any since the turn of the century - 15 years, or more.

When the snow started piling up on Saturday, I found myself itching to work with my hands, so I dug out a project I started way back when and didn't finish. It's an old-fashioned Santa whose arms are loaded with toys.

It can be tedious, but I really enjoy watching a lovely picture unfold as I stitch. I'm a perfectionist at heart, and although none of my creations are perfect, the process satisfies that need deep inside to strive for a flawless finished product.

I've made good progress in the last three days. I've noticed, however, that I can't see as well as when I started this jolly fellow, and so a magnifying glass is now among my tools. And after I've stitched for hours (it's hard to find a good stopping place) my neck and shoulder have a crick that didn't used to be there.

The magnifying glass is especially handy for taking out mistakes, as I found out on Sunday afternoon after I discovered I had done the outline stitching around Santa's face and beard with the wrong color.

I'm notorious for taking forever to finish such a project. However, since it is only February, I just might have this one finished in time to enjoy during the Christmas holidays.

But, even if I don't, it's so nice to be stitching again. It feels good and comfortable and right, despite tired eyes and a sore neck. It's one of the many things that make this life of mine a sweet one.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Sweetest Time of the Year

For most folks, the sweetest time of the year probably comes around a holiday, or perhaps a favorite season. For some, it might be a birthday or anniversary. For us, the sweetest time of the year comes, quite literally, in February. That's because it's sugaring time!

My sweet hubby has been busy this week, with the culmination of what is, in some ways, a year-round event. From cutting wood in the fall to cleanup in late March, maple syrup is on his mind. But the fun part comes now, when the sugar water is flowing, and the sugar house is warm with wood fires

and a lot of steam.

This year's first run produced about nine gallons of beautiful, clear syrup. Making syrup that is pretty, just the right thickness, and delicious is an art, learned through many years of practice. Robin learned from his Uncle Lohr:

From the time he was big enough to carry a bucket of sugar water, Robin helped with the entire process, from tree to table. When we moved to Davis Run, Robin lent his sugar-making labor and skill to our wonderful neighbors for several years before venturing off on his own. Now, sugarin' off on Davis Run is an annual event enjoyed by neighbors, friends, family, and anyone else who happens by. In the end, when all the folks have gone and there's time to really look, a good run of syrup is really a work of art.

The trees have stopped running now, since the above-freezing daytime temperatures needed have been nonexistent these past three days. Once this cold snap is over, the sugar water should start to flow again, and Robin will be busy gathering and boiling. After all there are still two weeks of February left, and that means our sweetest time of year will last a little while longer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Three Inches at a Time

Work on the Guest House continues. Grandfather's room is the focus at the moment. Since my last post, it's gone from this:

to this.

Insulation was added (yes!) and wiring was overhauled. Now the bead board wainscoting is going up. It used to be flat, horizontal boards...

but, I didn't care for that look. So, we're replacing it with vertical bead board. Much better!

That's Mark on the left and Cody on the right. When I checked on them this morning, I exclaimed, "Progress!" To which Mark answered, "Yep, three inches at a time." That's how wide the bead board is. It's a long way around the room, three inches at a time.

Upstairs, in the little back room that Robin calls "Aunt Helen's room," the insulating is almost complete, along with the wiring, taking the room from this:

to this,

and this

to this.

You can see that the once empty room is now almost filled with building materials. There's just no way to do all this work and keep things neat and tidy. But, it's all indicative of progress, and when it comes to finishing the Guest House, I'll take it any way I can get it.
Even if it is just three sweet inches at a time.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Demolition Derby

Photo by MirrorSlap Photography
At our small county fair, one of the most popular events is the Demolition Derby. I don't care for it: too much noise and destruction for me. But when it comes to the farmhouse, demolition is a very good thing!

The contractor's crew has been hard at work all week, and things are looking much different already. Remember Grandfather's room?

The plaster and wainscoting came down,

and now it looks like this:

And remember that nice little closet?


it turned out to be a prime example of the wood shaving method of insulation!

We've all been wondering about the poor soul whose job it was to make all those shavings. Evidently the entire house was insulated this way when it was built in 1885. At the time, it was probably as good as anything available. No doubt the shavings have settled a lot over the last hundred years or so, but it must have been quite a job to pack them in there.

They're not in there anymore.

We met with the electrician this morning. He's not the same one who started the re-wiring process four years ago, so we went over what had been done and what still needs to be completed while the walls are open and easily accessible for pulling wires. He'll get busy next week.

In the meantime, there's lots of cleanup to do.

So, next week it's wiring and insulation. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Here We Go Again!

It's been almost two years since we did any major work on the farmhouse. During that time, Vance's Country Guest House has gotten off to a great start with our cozy suite for two. 2013, our first year, brought six rentals, and last year, only our second, we rented the house 19 times! We're eager to finish more of the house to share with guests and thus expand our little business. Finally, phase II of renovations began today!

I took a few photos of the rooms we'll be working on in all their pre-renovation glory. Don't be shocked: they're pretty bad!

Downstairs, we're tackling "Grandfather's Room." One of two rooms on the front of the house, it is closest to the rooms we've already finished and will allow the Guest House to sleep more than two. It's called Grandfather's Room because Robin's great-grandfather claimed it, especially during his old age.This is what it looked like a couple of years ago:

Since then we used it to store kitchen cabinets, scrap lumber, and various and sundry other things. It was chuck full, with barely a path to walk through. Many thanks to our helpful neighbor, the late Hume Taylor, who helped us out a great deal by emptying the room and hauling all that stuff to the barn.

This room has a closet! Yeah! It's long and narrow and awkward, but still a closet. Closets of any kind are in high demand in old farmhouses, you know.

The original plaster and wall paper will be covered with dry wall. Yep, this is the original wall paper! Throughout the entire house, there is only one layer of wall paper.

Doors and all the other woodwork will get painted a nice bright white.

The original wood floor has hooved up in places. That will get fixed and the entire floor refinished. Then, the fun part begins: decorating the room with furniture, rugs, window treatments, and more.

Upstairs, Robin's Aunt Helen occupied the two rooms at the back of the house, over the kitchen and dining room. We're starting with the very back room, over the kitchen. The goal for this room for now is to get it finished so that we will have a clean place for storage. As you can see, we have a long way to go!

I moved all those chairs out last weekend, in anticipation of the contractor's arrival today. Here, we're removing the wide boards on the walls, installing much-needed insulation, and putting the boards back on. Then the walls and ceiling will be painted and the wood floor scrubbed. Once it's all clean, it can be used to store furniture, lamps, clocks, boxed household goods, and more until we can use them in the rest of the house.

Todd and Cody arrived bright and early this morning and got to work. By late afternoon, they had made a lot of progress pulling off boards and removing all the original wood shaving insulation.

So, we're off and running on this second phase of renovation. Although there's a lot of work between now and then, I'm really looking forward to the day, hopefully in a couple of months, when I can transform these two rooms into comfortable places once more.