The wonder of it all

Blue Ridge Mountains, late afternoon

January, so far, has been one of those periods of time when it seems life runs its own course and we just have to sit back and wonder at it all.

Such was the case when, earlier this month, The Redhead’s father passed after a lengthy illness. No matter when it comes, the passing of a parent stirs emotions that cannot be expressed but is understood by everyone that has gone through it. During it all, our family and friends in Connecticut, Florida, here in Staunton and elsewhere, brought us much comfort, support and love.

Death, for those that believe in its finality, can be devastating. Yet, if death is understood more as a passing or moving from one reality to another, it can bring comfort and even joy. To experience contrition, forgiveness and love at any time is wonderful, but at the end it is beautiful. Truly, God’s Hand in all matters is a wondrous thing.

Before her dad passed, The Redhead had us facetime. We spoke about several things, one of them being the building of our house here in Staunton, VA and his happiness that his daughter would be living in such a beautiful home and area. He reminded me of our walks and talks along his beloved Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine and I told him that I would also remember his tips about planting a flower garden – “always add a pop of white, it brings out the other colors”! I’ll do my best, but Augusta County clay soil is a far cry from the soil found in coastal Maine. Thanks for the tips, Norman. And, thank you for The Redhead.

So, now things are starting to really come together at the house. The framing is nearly complete and the rooms, while still only 2×4’s, are now clearly defined. A few tweaks here and there remain: a repositioning of the vanity in the Master Bath, the addition of an entry hall closet and a little tweak in the dining room to accommodate a hutch – little things that will mean a lot to us now and later. Our Builders, Eric and Amy Argenbright, have been very understanding of what we are trying to accomplish: a beautiful home that will suit us now and for a long time to come. We appreciate their ideas and especially their attention to quality and craftsmanship.

Following are a few photos of the work that has taken place in just these past few weeks:

Building the front porch
Setting the Trusses
Eric Argenbright selecting the correct roof truss for the crane
Risky Business
Man and Machine
Getting There
Back view, it looks bigger than it is! The sun room is in center.
Our soon-to-be new home in Staunton, VA

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to our very special friends that are our family.

Everything is going to be o.k.

Every year ends the same: We are bombarded with lists of “Best Of” and “Worst Of” the previous year, reviews of what actually occurred from last year’s list of predictions and, of course, new lists of what will happen this coming year.

I’ve got this figured out now!

Sages and pundits will have a prediction for everything: what  the “hottest” colors and fashion trends will be, what will happen to the stock / housing market, what will happen with foreign friends and foes, etc., etc. I’ll bet there will even be a few soothsayers that will predict who the next president will be! Ya’ think?

Oy, Vey, what will happen??

I’m thinking, though, that like this past year, when events do unfold most of us will simply scratch our heads and think, “Well, ain’t that something”. Is this the result of apathy or disinterest? No, not at all. It’s more a belief in that everything is going to be o.k. and some of us have been “around the block” a few times. There are, believe it or not (to coin a phrase), people that actually make a living trying to scare the bejeepers out of us. Oh, yeah!

Are ya’ scared yet?

So, because everything is going to be o.k., here is what we plan to do this coming year:

Plan our “Housewarming Party” for this coming Spring.

Plan which trees and shrubs we’ll plant on our property because, despite an abundance of clay soil, it’s going to be o.k. – something will grow.

Plan on a layout for my new basement workshop because, yes, I’m getting back to work.

No more working in “The Dungeon”! No wonder I lost my hair!

Plan to find some porch rockers because, despite being new-comers here in Staunton, VA it will be o.k. Friends and new neighbors will come by and set awhile on our front porch. And, vice-versa!

Entertainin’, Gibby style!

But, mostly, I plan to be happy and thankful. Because everything is going to be o.k. Believe it!

Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, that have become or have remained such an important part of our lives. And, I am truly thankful to God, His Holy Mother and St. Joseph and St. Padre Pio for the gift of healing my beautiful Redhead this past year.

Below are some pics of an unexpected Christmas / New Year gift from our builders: our framing has started!

Front of house, library will be second window from left!
Some views!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.  Everything will be o.k.

Bill

Building a home (4), the Signature Board

View of Blue Ridge Mountains from what will be our front porch!

Late yesterday afternoon, to our great surprise, The Digger showed up at our Augusta County building site. And, that means one thing; the footers of the foundation of the house were being dug. It sounds unexciting, but without the footers, no foundation. No foundation…you guessed it, no house.

The Digger and Mr. Mike checking the footer depth

So, late into the night and throughout most of today the excavation crew dug and pushed and measured the earth around what will be our home until they got it just right: the proper length, width and depth. Transom levels ensured the accuracy, skill and pride ensured the job would get done right.

As I watched the work from the sidelines, one of the crew, Mike, approached me, figuring I was the soon to be owner. He said that he had heard that I had wanted each and every worker building our home “to sign a board”. I explained that we’d like for every worker constructing our house to sign a wood board that we planned to hang in our home. Each tradesman, craftsman and laborer would be a part of this house and we wanted their efforts to be remembered and recognized. Mike said he had never heard of something like this, no one had asked for this before. He liked the idea and signed it and then passed it to the other members of the crew. Was the board really going to be displayed, he asked. “Yep, probably in the front hallway”, I answered. “What if you run out of room on the board”? I’ll get another board! “You know”, said Mike, “I don’t often get to see the finished house. I just dig the foundations”. Well, a house without a good foundation wouldn’t be much of a house, would it, Mike. “No, sir, it wouldn’t”, he said.

Getting it right. Note the red clay soil

 We look forward to Mike and crew coming by to see the finished house – and their “board”.

The Augusta County, Virginia Inspector will check the footing trenches, hopefully tomorrow. Once approved, gravel will be put into the trench, followed by poured concrete. Then the block foundation can begin to be laid by another crew of skilled tradesmen.  Maybe, we will need an extra Signature Board”!

Comments, questions always appreciated. Click “Like” if you do and “Follow” if you’d like.

Bill

Building a Dream

It’s been one month since we signed contracts for the purchase of our property and the building of our new home here in Staunton, VA.  After nearly a year of searching for the right place to settle, we now find ourselves chomping at the bit for construction to begin on our house.

The first step was to choose the style and design of the home.  Luckily, there are so many designs to be found online that there are probably several home plans to suit just about anybody. The home plan we chose is a single level “craftsman” style having three bedrooms and three full baths. A few modifications were made to the original plan: the floor plan was reversed to accommodate the lot configuration; the living room in the front of the house will become a library; the family room width is expanded by a few feet and the rear facing screen porch will be made into a windowed sunporch. One of my favorite changes is the expanding of the covered front porch from the standard 6 foot width to 8 feet wide and running along most of the front of the house. Our builders are Eric and Amy Argenbright of EA Homes Construction here in Augusta County.

A couple of weeks ago we spent an afternoon with Amy choosing just some of the details of our home: the exterior finishes, types of windows, flooring and some interior alterations to the original plan. Since we had fairly recently gone through a huge remodeling project in our former home in Florida, making some of the decisions was not as difficult as it may have been. We knew what we really liked in our past homes and what we would like to be different in this, our “from the ground up” home. It’s been interesting in coming to decisions that satisfy both The Redhead and me. We both wanted a fireplace. Red wanted a gas fired unit, but I wanted “old school” wood burning. We decided on the gas style since it is cleaner and much easier for Red to have a fire anytime she wishes. In almost every other detail we both had the same ideas.

One feature of the house that I’m particularly looking forward to (besides the front porch) is the basement. Yes, the basement! For it is there that I plan to revive my vintage/antique restoration activity. It’s been over 5 years since my Redeux Vintage Furniture http://redeuxfurniture.blogspot.com/2012/ closed when we moved from Connecticut. For several reasons it never revived while we lived in Florida. But now…yes, indeedy!!  I plan to get going finding and reviving vintage American-made furniture as quickly possible.

The Redhead and I drive to our lot several times a week to look at where our house will sit. We listen to the wind, the just- turning- color leaves of “our trees” rustling in what seems to be a constant, steady breeze coming from the nearby Alleghany Mountains and a variety of birds. We’ve already met two of our soon-to-be neighbors and they just smile when we park at the side of our little road and just sit. They feel the same way about this little slice of heaven.

Eric from AE Homes clearing the way for our new home
Eric and Nick happy to start our home

This past week work was begun on clearing some ground for the house to be built. Just as many trees as necessary will be removed, the rest will stay. Some large pieces of rock will be utilized as part of our natural landscaping plan. Later this week the footprint of the house will be staked out and then construction will, hopefully, begin to progress at a steady pace. I hope you’ll follow along!

Bill

The Front Porch

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Is there anything more welcoming than a front porch?
For years I have lamented the near demise of the front porch. As a kid growing up in a city neighborhood, the front porch was part of everyday life. It was a playground on too hot or too rainy days, a fort, and the place to plan all the events that we could cram into our summer’s days. It was also, and probably most importantly, the place that neighbors visited when strolling by one another’s house.

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Those old cement and wooden porches were the foundations of the neighborhood. We could play with Buster Madison all day long but he became even more popular when his parents came out onto their porch in the evenings after supper. It was then that Mr. Madison would treat every kid to a piece of butterscotch candy. Mr. Madison would tell us that what he was sharing with us urchins was a piece of Callard & Bowser Butterscotch –“the finest in the world”.  He may have been right, we just knew it was a special treat. To this day butterscotch of any type conjures up images of sitting on the Madison’s front porch with our little piece of England. At the other end of the block was Mrs. O’Leary. Her son was a policeman so we always settled down a bit as we passed her house. Ya’ never could tell when being extra nice would come in handy! Anyway, Mrs. O’Leary had some fine honeysuckle bushes in her yard. When she would sit on her front porch, we’d ask if we could pick a few (a few dozen, it always turned out) to get the honey. We could – if we didn’t trample her roses. Not being complete fools, those roses were treated with lots of respect for sure.
And, now, neighborhoods are mostly absent the front porch. We won’t even discuss gated “communities”. Our neighborhood, like so many others, has replaced the front porch with rear decks or sun rooms. Although, many of our neighbors have taken to setting up folding chairs by their front doors and garages to mimic the old porches. It works, kinda’. There’s even a sort of code: one chair, wave as you pass. Two or more chairs, you’d better stop and sit a spell. Our friends, Maria and Tom, usually have at least 4 and can somehow produce several others in the blink of an eye. Like true copy cats, we have assembled our hodge-podge assortment of “front porch” chairs, too. It’s great.
So, imagine my surprise and curiosity when it was announced that Jacksonville was holding this weekend its Second Annual Front PorchFest in the Springfield section of town (PorchFest) . Since The Redhead was up North visiting friends and family and my list of things that needed to be done had dwindled, I figured it was a good chance to explore another area of town and to see some front porches – I hoped.
Sure enough, Springfield is about 25 minutes from here, a hop, skip and jump from the downtown and Riverside areas. Tricky folks over there – hiding in plain sight. Arriving a bit early, 12:00 noon and the music was set for a 1:00 P.M. start time, I had time to walk around. It’s a mixed area, with Main Street being the closest thoroughfare. The neighborhood is filled with large, early 1900 era homes sitting side by side with bungalows and craftsman-style houses.IMG_3283 (799x1024)Some have been converted to professional office spaces but most are home-sweet homes. Mixed in is an ample dose of abandoned and run down houses and buildings. I’m told these are being bought and renovated on a rather steady basis. None the less, home is where the heart is and this place, it turns out, has plenty of heart!
For a bit over three hours the hands of time had turned back. Front porches everywhere! People were walking around on the sidewalks and in the road. Food trucks, set up on the periphery, sold everything from fresh ground beef hot dogs (yep!) to fish sandwiches to organic fruit “hand pies”. The Redhead will be happy to learn I was very sensible and stuck with the fish. I did get the address for the local bakery making those hand pies, just in case.
But, the music was reason most everyone was there. The Methodist Bell Ringers set up on the park green, A Soul Group was singing to heaven and us up on Silver Street. IMG_3296 (1024x768)Blue Grass was around the corner. IMG_3301 (980x1024)A folksy gal was on third and the popular Firewater Tent Revival was just up the block. Note the Drum Kit(note the drum kit)

Too much? No way! All of this was within a short stroll and a few hours. Evening would bring out larger musical groups, some of which I had had the pleasure of hearing at the Riverside Art Mart or my beloved Lillie’s. For me, previous and much looked forward to engagements (plus some unseasonable heat) kept my time at the PorchFest too short. So, I hoped to find that one special group or singer that would be “better than good”.

I was not disappointed. Complicated Animals is a duo now in Jacksonville, but singer, Monica da Silva, originally hails from Brazil. They call their style of music, Indie Nova. Their arrangement of, “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”, was an intriguing blend of Lou Reed meets Suzanne Vega meets Astrud Gilberto, without a hint of pretension. Wonderful stuff. Complicated Animals http://www.complicatedanimals.com/ can be found at several venues right here in the Jacksonville area when they are not touring. This Saturday they sung, just for me I think, from the front porch of a charming old colonial. Complicated Animals (1024x768)
How wonderful front porches are!

Hope to hear from you. Better yet, stop by. The front porch is all set!