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.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

All Clean for Christmas

Cheyenne got her Christmas bath today. We tried to take a nice photo, but even with all the shots I took, we still didn't end up with what I had in mind. Oh, well, She's clean, shiny, and so soft. And she smells good, too!

Are we done yet??

Now, if only my house was as clean as my dog! How are your holiday preparations coming along? 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas At The Guest House

This is only the second winter we've had the Guest House open, and this year I'm delighted that we have guests coming during the Christmas season! Last year I put electric candles in the four downstairs windows and some greenery with a red bow on the driveway gate, but since we had no guests, I didn't do any decorating inside. But this year we have guests! Although there's not much room to add a lot of things, I had fun "decking the Guest House" with a little holiday cheer.

During the summer and fall, there are pots of pink geraniums on the porch.

For Christmas, I found an old coal bucket and filled it with holly and pine and added a plaid bow.

Since we are using the dining room as the bedroom for now, there's not really any room for a full-size Christmas tree.

I found a miniature one, though, that fits perfectly on top of the pie safe.

It's decorated with tiny gingerbread men, little Santas, shiny orbs, and red bows, all topped with a beautiful red cardinal. Underneath are miniature presents that I wrapped years ago for the little tree I always had in the school library. And most important of all, the Holy Family is there, too.

There are two stockings hanging from the mantle, where the Wise Men are resting while on their long journey to see the Christ Child.

The kitchen window sill is filled with tiny treasures, too.

All in all, it's not much when it comes to the lavish holiday decorations found in most lodging establishments. I often imagine what the house will look like someday, when it's all finished and filled with gentle lights, greenery, ribbons, and pretty Christmas things. And I'm wondering where the perfect spot for a real, live Christmas tree will be. Instead of candles in only a few windows...

I'm looking forward to one day having a light in every window to let our little corner of the world know that Vance's Country Guest House is welcoming the Christ Child.

After all, He's what Christmas is all about, you know.

May the blessings of a Christ-filled Christmas be yours this season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Keep The Home Lights Burning

Last Sunday, I went back to my hometown for the first time since my dad's estate auction, which was in early October. Although my sisters and I ended up with lots of heirlooms and treasures, it was a bittersweet weekend as we watched the rest of our family's things sold to the highest bidder. And then, two days later, we signed closing papers to sell the house our parents built in 1948. No one else had ever lived there; just us Martins. Even though we are thankful the house didn't sit on the market for months or years, it all happened very fast, making it difficult to accept the reality that the house now belongs to another family. In my mind, it's all still there - the house filled with Mom and Dad's things - just like it always was.

But alas, life's certainties not only include death and taxes, but change as well. Us three Martin girls are trying our best to accept the inevitability of losing our parents and the realization that we're now officially middle-aged! Both of these circumstances have brought a boatload of changes and challenges into our lives.

Thus, I was delighted to find one thing that hadn't changed when I made it back to Union last Sunday evening. The Christmas lights were still there!

They are the most magical lights anywhere, I'm convinced. I've not traveled much during the holidays, but even in movies and such, I don't remember seeing lights like these anywhere else. The concept is simple: just strings of regular-size colored light bulbs, hung in a zigzag design over the entire length of Main Street.

Capturing the effect of this colorful display with my camera has been quite a challenge. Someday I hope I can do them justice, but hopefully you can get the idea.

When I saw them, the childhood Christmas memories came flooding back, and it felt good, very good indeed, to be home at Christmas time.

Update: Well, apparently this style of Christmas lights was very common back in the day! I've heard from several people who also remember these same lights from their childhood. I'm so glad my hometown of Union, West Virginia hasn't abandoned them for more modern decorations.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Quiet Thanksgivng

This is the first year in a long time that Robin and I have been at home for Thanksgiving, with just the two of us to enjoy a nice dinner. Although I missed being together with family, I have to admit it was nice not to be traveling or stressing over a dirty house and a huge meal for a houseful of guests.

I enjoyed a laid-back day, setting the table with my mother's pretty china and cooking without being in a hurry.

We had the usual Thanksgiving fare: turkey,


mashed potatoes,

and green beans.

There were a also a couple of family favorites: Corn Pudding

and Cranberry Relish.

I tried a new recipe for dessert: Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie. It was... let's see... interesting! And pretty, a real pretty pie.

There was plenty of room in my day for counting blessings, and I did a lot of that. I could make a list, but suffice it to say that, despite all the change and challenge that's come my way in 2014, my life is sweet, very sweet indeed. And I'm mighty thankful to the One who's blessed me so. I hope you can say the same.