The Carriage House was the location of the former veterinary office and kennels, with an apartment for a tenant upstairs. You'll have seen the posts on the restoration of the apartment, and there will be future posts on the transformation of the downstairs area into workshop/retreat space later, but there was more to do outside. We had promised our new tenant a new carport asap, as the old one was, well, past its prime. (I say that with my tongue in my cheek). Here are some "before" photos:
In the summer of 2019 we hired a carpenter to frame out a new carport. Again with the "as long as we are doing this" logic, we added an upper deck. Someday we might want to retire just to the apartment-who knows. Anyway, he was so amenable to our crazy idea that he would frame and we would finish. In all our spare time. And because there are never photos of me, because I may in fact be the only one who considers taking them, here are two for good measure. This was a LOT of decking, but good practice for the porches and deck on the house.
Here are photos once the roof was up and we did the railings. Gratuitous pic of Nate, there, hanging out on a ladder-not his favorite.
Winter beat us, though we did get risers and railings on the stairs, which, by the way, we are NEVER doing again. Way too much geometry, offset by funky quirks of landscape and construction. We had the electricians out to move the porch light and add a couple of outlets and a floodlight, but there is more to do this spring and summer, including finishing the tenant's entryway and recladding the siding-you can see some of that current ugliness above. The entryway is currently functional, but, er, aesthetically challenged, as you can see. There is also quite a bit of trim work I would like to do on the deck and posts, to dress it up a little.
Gratuitous distance shot, through a black walnut:
Updates as we do more...
Now, this is going to be a multi-part, multi-year post, my friends. Fair warning.
The Kitchen. Heart of the home. Hope of my heart. I've never had a kitchen that was everything I wanted it to be-yes, that is a first-world issue, and I am completely aware of it. That said, the opportunity is here to create something functional that I will also love. It needs to have (according to my very long wish list): plenty of light; an island; a glass cooktop; plenty of storage; a baking cabinet; [marble countertops--impossible with the coffee-hounds in my family because I do not intend to bleach and scrub every day and a half]; the ability for many people to be in it at the same time, because this is where people just end up, isn't it?
High expectations. And with our budget.... well, not so easy.
First, though, the "where we started." This is the kitchen and butler's pantry--two adjoining rooms. I give the former owner a lot of credit for raising a large family using this kitchen. Here are photos from our first walk through before we bought the house. Let me just say that the photo on the top left is the built-in butler's cupboard, and it literally is what made me fall in love with the house. The top middle photo is the rest of the butler's pantry, with its newer cabinets, the huge freezer, the washer and dryer which were on the opposite wall, and the realtor showing us the place. The top right photo is the sink/radiator wall, which adjoins a wall with door into a full bath (that has two doors! one of them with a glass window!). Bottom left, you've seen this in a previous post, and bottom middle and right continue the sweep around the room-the door next to the stove leads to the butler's pantry.
What the photos don't show: under that wall the sink is on is a half-wall foundation, and the issue was that this little wall was collapsing and this whole addition to the house was slowly sinking into the sunset. When it became clear that it would need to be rebuilt, not just shored up, we thought long and hard about what to do, and decided that if we were going to have to dig a new foundation, we might as well go big or give up. We decided to expand the kitchen to include a sunroom, and take out the wall between the kitchen and butler's pantry. Cha-ching.
It took more than a year, but here are the pics from that process. The digging was scary; what was scarier was the way the back of the house was suddenly suspended over...nothing. This is the stuff you never see afterwards, the stuff that takes all the money and sucks out all the enthusiasm before you ever get to fun things like cabinets and countertops. Some photos of the excavation and setting/pouring forms:
What I do not have are photos of the glee on the guys' faces as they were running big machines! Digging! Power tools!
Some more photos of the scary part. That white door is the door from the old kitchen into the bathroom-yes, the glass door somehow survived all this.
So, this isn't scary.... nothing to see here. Just the second floor hanging out...on a toothpick. For a few months. If you peer very carefully at the bottom right photo, you'll see the freezer hanging out exactly where it started in the butler's pantry...
Once this was set, we could start rebuilding the kitchen. The top photos are the addition, topless and roofed. Then a couple of "inside" shots. Yes, the windows are going to be six feet tall. They match the rest of the windows on the first floor of the house. This new corner of the kitchen points southeast; you can imagine the wonderful light in there, particularly in the wintertime.
Once we got it closed up, we had windows installed and then hit a bit of a stall. Until the middle of the house is jacked up and stabilized, we can't put flooring or ceilings in to the kitchen without risking them getting knocked out of whack. So, we turned to some other work, including the clapboard project on the front of the house, as well as finishing the new carport/deck on the Carriage House (tenant's apartment). But here's some photos of the kitchen in its holding pattern over 2019. It was a fabulous place to set up worktables for painting clapboard and the beadboard for the future ceiling. Nate's Mom, Alice, is a trouper--she's game for painting anything, anytime, especially before her broken arm in September 2019. And clearly, as long as she can have coffee.
We have bought most of our appliances, and they are being stored in the Carriage House. We have purchased ready-to-assemble cabinets, which are currently in the living room. I am ready to GO, once the center of the house is stabilized. Getting that going is taking far longer than expected--I had planned to be installing a kitchen by now! Oh well.
More posts as more happens...!
I love trees.
Trees BY JOYCE KILMER
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
The farm has wonderful trees, loads and loads of trees. The whole driveway is lined with sugar maples; they were tapped for syrup for many years, and have the scars and leftover metal bits to prove it. There are a couple that even predate the house--one we estimate to be nearly 200 years old. Our friend the forester walked it through with us, and identified the age of many of them.
Unfortunately, trees are not permanent. Many of them were dead or dying, or had seriously weak spots through the middle. We knew there would be issues down the road.
Our first tree experience (July 2017) was with the tree directly in front of the house. It was clearly dead, and leaning entirely the wrong way.
As you can see, we enlisted our friend with the forestry knowledge to take it down. With his dad and some very serious looking chainsaws, he took it right down. It was sad, but necessary. Rotten through.
It is truly amazing how much wood is contained in a tall, skinny, dead tree.
In 2018, we had an issue with storm damage. Not only did our driveway wash out, but a tree split in half and brought down the power lines. Do NOT get me started on NYSEG and their utter unhelpfulness. Friends of friends took some of the wood away, and the rest remained in a brush pile alongside the driveway for the next year. (That's the pile they are removing in the first photo below)
Then in 2019, we finally had enough money available to hire a tree company to remove the dead trees. The estimate was astounding, but worse than the cost, was the fact that we were about to lose 12-14 trees, including the 200 year old monster by the house. Broke.my.heart, y'all. I knew the big one was going to have to go--it was dying more each year. But some of the others, including the one to the right in the picture just above, i wasn't prepared to lose. One foggy, cold day in September, the tree service showed up with some uber-serious equipment, including a crane, a bobcat, a flatbed, and things I don't even know the name of. There was one guy on the team whose job, it seems, was only to sharpen blades. These guys were amazing, even if they were breaking my heart.
But the heart-breaking-est moment was the dropping of the bicentennial tree. I couldn't watch. Nate and I went the next day to see. We left the stump tall because I really want to build something around it. She really was regal. That's me, next to her diameter.
While the guys were there, we had them prune the overgrown apple trees in hopes that we can restore their health and fruitfulness. You know, as long as we were hemorrhaging money... I'll show you pics when (that's hopeful) they bloom this spring.
In one week, they removed dying or dead trees, did a lot of trimming in the remaining trees, moved stumps and chips to a corner of the upper field, and ground the stumps for us. The house looks a bit naked now, and forlorn without her tree buddies.
We will plant a couple of new trees along the driveway to preserve some symmetry, but we won't replant them all--we'd like the trees to be able to spread. The remaining trees are a mix of ages, so we hope that this legacy lasts a couple of generations without having to make someone do this again.
It's been way too long since a house post. I know. Truly, I know.
It has felt like a glacial pace, but we have gotten some very good things done over these four years. A LOT happened this past summer, and I did not have the time to blog it. I don't really have the time now, but I am excited to share with you! I'll do a post for each project we started this summer, because otherwise it would be the longest post ever.
But I'm very excited about what we did this weekend, so I will start there. It's the front hall. We started with this:
I know you are coveting that gorgeous red carpet. The area I want you to focus on is on the right of the photo--the blank wall under the stairs.
I feel in my heart of hearts that this was open, once upon a time. Whether or not that was the case, it is part of the dream for the future of the house. We want to open that up so we can ultimately walk through the center of the house into the kitchen. It is also part of the next contractor job. The center of the house is sagging into the foundation and needs to be jacked up and stabilized. There was going to be demo of this area as part of it, and we wanted to save some time (and money) by doing it ourselves and seeing that our plans for the finished space would actually work.
So, on Saturday, armed with dust masks, breaker bars and a reciprocating saw, we went at it. Because my dear hubs is a go-getter when demo is involved, I do not have a photo of the first, big act. I only have this:
Once the big wall was down, and Nate was instructed not to let big things happen without a camera nearby, we moved forward. That wiring is pretty interesting--wire up through the floor to the left, over the drywall ceiling, down into the bulb fixture, with wires out from there down to the switch on the wall.
Next was the far wall, once we got the shelf cut out of there. A hole was poked through. No, that is not a pair of glasses I'm wearing. It's light shining through from my kitchen. (And, by the way, this particular shirt is huge on me--and evidently very unflattering in profile! yikes!) Note the husband had the camera! Also note the wistful gaze as I dream of kitchens to come!
To my left, you can see the depths of the closet. The bit within the 2x4s you see will be the back end of a future powder room. To the left of the 2x4s is the future coat closet. You have no idea, y'all.
Under my feet is original wide-plank wood floors, also immensely thrilling.
Next, more demo. Note the cute guy with the tools.
We left the uprights (it's a little odd to call them studs, as they are just...boards. Yup, boards, holding up the stairs. Nothing to see here...
When we looked at the house, this wall was a wall of closets in the old kitchen. With lots of wonderful family handprints taped on!
The radiator was removed from the old kitchen; it is not currently connected. It will be in the southeast corner of the new kitchen, under the big windows, which you can't see here. No, I am not a single bit ashamed of the fact that I happen to be creating a heavenly spot for my cats, at the same time as we are creating heat for us.
That big space beyond the opening. THAT IS THE KITCHEN! Once the "studs" come out, there will be true awesomeness. If you look verrrrrry carefully in this photo, you'll see the (cloth) wire for the light fixture climbing the 2x4 next to the opening.
More to come. Lots more to come. We're going to forget chronology for a while, and the posts will jump around. Just an advance warning for you. Stay tuned.
So, I do really wish I had the funds to buy mature lavender plants to put in at the farm, but I most certainly do not. So, the next best thing would be taking and rooting cuttings from established plants, but the plants we have in the ground here are not yet big enough to ask them to sacrifice bits of themselves yet.
So, the next, next best thing? Plant seeds!
Lavender seeds need light and heat to germinate, so one needs to be prepared. Fortunately Handy Nate put together some plant growing racks for me in previous years (vegetables! flowers! all from seed!) It looks like this:
The first home for Little baby lavender plants. Over 500, this time, actually.
I am not reporting this in real time, by the way. They started out months ago as a little sparkle in my eye. and tiny, tiny little seeds in an envelope. I did all this in January. As you may have noticed, I am a slow website poster.
This is how I start lavender plants. Bear in mind that I do not always get it right. Last year's "crop" was a failure. Barely a quarter of the seeds started. I do NOT know why, though I suspect I used the wrong soil in the hurry I was in to get them started. But it was incredibly depressing. So very sad that I didn't post about it. It set us back a year, at least. Here's the beginning--figure out how many you need. I need, um, lots. So 72 cells per flat, I figured I could manage 8 flats this year, as I have only one growing rack currently set up, with one shelf taken up already with overwintered lavender seedlings, and one taken up with veggie starts a couple of months after this. The slide show below will show you all the steps.
If you have bad vision, go ahead and get yourself a pair of drugstore reading glasses. I promise, you will thank me. These seeds are viciously tiny-bear in mind that my hand is not a good measure of comparison...I have tiny hands.
By the time you plant the seeds, your seed starting medium should have soaked up the water you filled the bottom tray with prior to putting the filled seed trays in them. I use a spray bottle to mist the surface of the soil before I drop the seeds on top of it. This is how you break the surface tension of the soil particles enough to accept the water it's soaking up from the bottom. I plant two seeds per cell, but you can assign your own arbitrary number. I should do three or four, but I really hate ripping them out after they've grown, and 4 plants cannot share one cell. They'll argue. However many you plant, just do it, barely pressing them in. Don't bury them--you'll smother the poor dears.
Then, put them under the lights--we have ours on timers to be on 12 hours, off 12. We use full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs in ordinary shop lights, which does well enough. I've blocked the window, so nobody outside can peer in to the basement and suspect we are growing illegal things. I'll be investigating full-spectrum LED as it becomes available, and cheap.
Pop the grow tops on to keep heat in, and water the trays from the bottom, between the cell tray and the water tray. Don't think you can save time by filling the bottom tray to its rim with water, and then leave these things alone for weeks at a time. They can't sit in that much water for that long; they want to dry out a little bit (ONLY a little) between waterings after they sprout.
Then be amazed! As they sprout!! And they will!! Take the grow tops off when the plants start bumping in to them.
More later on such fun things as "hardening off" and light requirements and planting instructions...
Well, it's been far too long since I've updated you on the happenings at the Farm. For that, I am sorry. Due to illness and some other issues, our workshop plans for 2017 had to be released. It was a difficult decision, but in many ways, it was probably for the best. If you were disappointed, I am so sorry, and I promise that there will be future opportunities!
We've spent this last year or so beginning some big things...but not finishing them. I suppose that's the way of it. We began work on a substantial foundation project in the summer of 2017, which (as usually happens) took longer and cost far more than expected. The foundation on the east side of the kitchen addition had been built as a knee wall; in the process, the main foundation was undermined. Since we wanted to rebuild that east wall of the addition, we dug it out and created a proper foundation and basement under what will eventually be the kitchen. The addition is built, but not finished. Now, to fertilize the money tree...
Each task, of course, has led to more, and the doing of them has taken all the weekend hours we have had. There is clapboard to install, and plumbing to install and wiring to run, and a kitchen to finish. Until the money tree starts producing fruit, we're doing it all ourselves, in small batches. Well, they say good things take time. Also underway, quite a bit of demo in preparation for reconfiguring the carriage house as a workshop and gathering space. That's a huge project, but will allow us to host retreats, workshops, and teas, and whatever small events we can dream up.
Needless to say, this has altered the plans quite a lot. We are now essentially a couple of years behind our intended timeline. Some days that feels ok, and some days it just makes me sad.
So, the tasks for 2019 are many, with a much slower timeline, but we are working on it! Stay tuned... there will be posts with pictures!
It sounds like an odd thing to say: rewriting life. In some sense, that's what the farm is all about. It's about taking the time to identify the things that make the heart sing...and the things that don't. It's about taking passions and backing them with purpose, making priorities out of dreams, and finding ways to give them life.
Much of my life has been spent going where others have told me to go. I was a child of the military, with father and grandfathers serving in the US Army and Air Force. Once I began college, I thought the moving was over, at least until I found my somewhere to settle down. After college, I married and moved once more across the country. One child and several years later, I became a pastor in the United Methodist Church--I went from a settled life to an itinerant life once again. I actually have never lived in a house I chose for myself! In my half-century life, I've moved dozens of times, and assembled and broken down hundreds of cardboard boxes. I've cleared out for moving and organized new spaces more times than I can count. I've planted gardens and had to leave them behind--that, my dears, is heartbreaking.
The farm is a rewrite.
The farm is my love of gardening, it is my love of creating beautiful places, it is my passion for creating wellness and wholeness and helping others find it for themselves. It is a place I can use my creativity and experiment with my imagination. It is a place to breathe deeply and reconnect with the earth and its elements.
Right now, it's a part-time vision, living alongside my full-time life. But I am learning to give voice to my vision and create my own future, and while it makes for long and busy days, it is turning into an amazing adventure! I'm meeting wonderful people, and designing all sorts of fun things with fun people. I'm plotting gardens and planning restorations and dreaming all sorts of wonderful new dreams.
Rewriting a life isn't about erasing what has gone before. Sure, there are chapters I would rather forget. There are mistakes made, mishaps survived, wrong paths considered and sometimes taken. I haven't been all I could have been, nor all I have wanted to be. But, all these things add up to who and where I am now. Rewriting my life means taking the lessons I've learned and applying them to the chapters still to be written.
The farm gets to be a lead character in these next few chapters. The gardens are unfolding in my head, with all the knowledge gleaned from gardens past. I know what I can plant and reasonably hope to survive. I know what plants I am a complete failure with, and I know all the things I am dying to try. The house, this lovely house, has all sorts of wonderful potential for us, for our children, for our (we hope) future grandchildren, for our friends, and for all the guests we hope will come our way. I can't wait to create the kitchen and restore the rooms--and to share it all with you along the way.
We are also working hard to create wonderful experiences to share with others who want to do some life-rewriting too--creating workshops and day-away opportunities for refreshing mind, body, and spirit. We are hoping to present three of these in 2017, not at the farm, but next door in a building currently better-suited for hosting groups-the former Presbyterian Mission Center. I can't wait to offer you this time and space away to focus on refining your dreams and creating the next chapters in your life.
Keep watching our events page!
A wedding at the Farm!
On September 17, 2016 Alex Mackey married Justin Babcock, after seven years as sweethearts. Her parents are dear friends, and we've known Alex for years. It worked out that they got engaged just after we bought the farm and began working on it. Alex asked if they could be married here, we were thrilled to say yes, and with the offer of some help working on the barn, they settled on the date.
It was so exciting!
We spent maaaany weekends all summer long sprucing up the barn, with Justin and Alex's help. Do not ask what kind of mess is involved in powerwashing out old stalls. Lots of dirt and cobwebs later, it looked much better. We rebuilt the stairs so they could make their grand entrance in the upstairs window, and made sure it was clean enough to set up food tables.
The day came with lots of sunshine, the tent went up, the food came in, and the bride and groom were married by her father under an arbor framing a beautiful view. So sweet!
My photos don't do it justice, but Erin Lane, their photographer, was fantastic; she gave me permission to link to their post on her blog. So here it is:
We have a sign!
You have no idea how big a thing this is for me. I've had the sign lurking in my brain for almost a year now, and it's just fallen to the bottom of the to-do list more times than I can count. Funny how that happens. That's why this sign project deserves its own blog entry. It was that long and that complicated.
Here's what we started with:
Pretty, right? I had to put the address out there somehow, so that was the temporary solution. Don't you love how the signpost is leaning back? So cute. What you can't see is that the post is bent at the bottom. also a cute bonus feature. There were several different possible solutions we devised. I had great visions in my head about my lovely roadside sign. All this was compounded by the growing sense of urgency I had regarding getting this whole thing done before we hosted a wedding out at the barn.
Yup, we know what happens when you make plans. Here's our progression.
Plan A: cut off the arm and twisted bracket, build a wooden sleeve around the post, and use an amazing bracket I found at the Bouckville Antiques Week to hold the sign. Great plan, except for the bend in the bottom of the post, which precluded doing that. I really liked Plan A. I even bought the wood and painted it in preparation. I'll use it somewhere else. Move on to Plan B.
Plan B: Pull the post and install a 6x6 wooden post, to which I can affix the aforementioned bracket. But, as it turns out, this post is very deep in the ground, and apparently filled with concrete, at least at the bottom. It was more than Nate and I could manage to pull it out. So we didn't. Move on to Plan C.
Plan C (you see where I'm going with this, right?): Cut the twisted bracket off the arm (thanks to our wonderful contractor, who had a battery-operated saws-all, which he provided so graciously--the driveway is longer than all our extension cords connected together), reset and paint the post, add hooks, and install my sign, eventually adding something as a post cap after the wedding. Plan C was enacted the week of the wedding, with us quickly finishing and hanging the sign the very morning of the wedding. Still not my favorite plan, but here's how it turned out, sign and all.
I am pretty proud of the sign itself, actually. Taking a drawing done by my talented daughter, I followed the format of our business cards and had the design printed twice on an outdoor vinyl banner. I cut it in half and mounted it on a board we put together with our new Kreg, and then we framed it with trim. Up it went, mere hours before the wedding.
It'll do for now. I still dream of the big wooden post with my lovely bracket...
It's time to install the Labyrinth.
Because we hope for the Farm to become a place of restoration and re-creation, where we can host retreats and workshops, one of our first goals was to create the space for a labyrinth, the medieval pilgrimage path of reflection that mirrors the spiritual journey within. With grass paths and lavender walls, we know that at maturity, it will be beautiful. Imagine walking the labyrinth as a meditation or prayer with the scent of lavender surrounding you. We can.
The Labyrinth is in the Chartres pattern, modeled after the one in the French cathedral of that city. There will be seven circuits ringing the center, which will eventually feature benches for resting.
The installation will take place on June 24, 25 and 26 in the field behind the house and carriage house. You can participate if you like by responding to the invitation on our Facebook page. We'd be happy to have you join us!
We have 850 plants to install in the 80-foot structure, and that's going to take a while, which is why we are planning for three days.
I'll be posting photos (of course!) and letting you know how it goes.
Wish us luck with the weather, and send good thoughts our way if you can't be there in person...
Welcome! I'm Michelle, a gardener, a soul-tender, a wife, a mother and a pastor.