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:
Thanks for reading and a special thanks to our very special friends that are our family.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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!
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!
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year. Everything will be o.k.
Winter has come upon us here in the Shenandoah Valley, although the Spring-like temperatures of the past several days has everyone and everything simultaneously confused and grateful.
Work on our Staunton, VA home has progressed a bit since the last posting. But, a week or so of rain and the arrival of Christmas has slowed things down a bit. The foundation walls are finished, the sanitary system has been plumbed and inspected and much of the floor deck and joists have been installed. Some of the exterior walls have been assembled, but not yet erected or put into place. More materials have been delivered to the lot: roofing trusses, some lumber and the exterior decorative stone that will go onto the foundation walls and porch columns. Most likely, just after the first of the New Year, work will resume at full pace and the exterior walls will be built and the crane will arrive to lift the huge roof trusses into place.
Building a home is an interesting adventure. On one hand, because this will be your home, you want the house finished quickly. On the other, you want things done “just so”. What may look great on paper may require a bit of tweaking on-site. And, what seems incomprehensible to a layman begins to make sense once the builders go about their work. Patience, skill, diligence and trust are all required. For us, this is just not another house being built, this will be our home.
One feature of our new home that is a bit surprising is the size of the basement. Yes, it is not quite finished and the heating and other systems have not yet been installed, but, this is going to be one big basement!
Over the past five years or so I have truly missed being able to work restoring and “preserving” antique and vintage American furniture. What was born of a need became an engrossing hobby that became a passion. From beginning in a garage to actually having a store and workshop, finding, researching and working on vintage and antique furniture became one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. Not being able to work on furniture during our “sojourn” in Florida was a disappointment. But, I fully expect to be able to again get back to my brushes, waxes, glues, etc. in my new basement work-space. Once I have the space up and running, you’ll be able to follow along on my “discovery” trips, finding interesting pieces to restore and the process of doing so. I, for one, can’t wait!
Thanksgiving is over and what seems to be the most popular season here in the Shenandoah Valley has at least taken a pause – yes, I’m talking about Hunting Season. And, with this pause, the Sons of Mother Nature have returned to their Day Jobs! Not being a hunter, it was, at first, a bit perplexing learning that Huntin’ Season is somewhat like a National Holiday here. Then I figured, Well, it’s just like St. Patrick’s Day back in Connecticut…but on steroids. Now, the boys are back in town and work on our house here in Staunton, Virginia has resumed at full pace.
Mike, the Mason, never took a break this past week or so and as a result our block foundation is mostly complete.
This afternoon concrete was delivered and pumped into the foundation’s walls. Only the basement floor now remains to be filled with concrete and then framing can begin shortly afterwards. Our Builders, Eric and Amy Argenbright have scheduled the lumber and other materials to start being delivered later this week.
It’s been interesting watching the construction taking place. Each step has a purpose and a particular sequence. Grading done just so and then trenching footers for the concrete blocks to have a solid base. Row after row of block has been set, checked and rechecked before moving to the next. Then the outside wall of the foundation is stuccoed and layered with tar so as to be watertight. Soon, the day will come that I have my wood refinishing area in the basement. It’s been awhile and for sure, being “retired” does not suit me. So, when I’m again back staining and shellacking American Vintage treasures, all of the work that went into this home – and the workers – will be remembered.
There is one more thing that needs to be done after the foundation is finished, but before the carpentry begins: The Blessing. Hopefully, this coming week, Father Joseph Wamala, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi church in Staunton, will give the completed foundation a blessing, asking God to protect and bless all and everyone that will be supported by the foundation. Once the house is complete, he will then bless our completed home.
Thanks for reading and following our adventure. Comments always welcome.
As a real-world antidote to the Alice in Wonderland, mind numbing nonsense, passing as news, I decided to spend a bit more time watching the workmen build our new home here in Staunton, Virginia. A worksite is definitely a “No Spin Zone”; everything is real… and verifiable.
This week, the foundation is being constructed. Despite this week’s often cold, damp days, tons of concrete blocks were being meticulously set, one upon another, by hand. The only machines on site are a motor driven mixer for the sand and cement being turned into mortar and a forklift to move pallets laden with concrete blocks to the scaffolding once the walls have reached an above-head height. The rest is all hand labor, just as it has been done for centuries. It takes heart, strength and determination to keep going for hours on end. A skilled brick tradesman can spend years learning his craft: how to properly use and read a level, to wield a trowel so that the right amount of mortar is applied to each block and to know the right formula for the mortar, based upon a number of factors, including weather and specific strength needed. In a bow to modernity, Michael, the bricklayer, also utilizes a laser tool to precisely determine the correct height needed for each section of wall.
Michael had an interesting story as to why and how he chose to become a bricklayer / mason. His father is a farmer, so it would have been natural for Michael to continue working the family farm. “But”, says Michael, “there was a slight problem. I’m allergic to hay”! So, after watching a bricklayer do some work on the family farm, Michael became this man’s apprentice and later went out on his own, starting his own business. Michael said farming and bricklaying are both hard work. “But, at least I’m not sneezing”!
What fascinated me the most, I think, was the hand – motor skills needed to apply the correct amount of mortar to the bottoms, sides and joints of each block. Having done some very small plaster repair jobs in previous homes, I can attest that using a trowel efficiently is no small feat. My efforts more resembled the art work of “Ivan the Gorilla” than anything that Michael and his assistant would tolerate on any of their jobs.
We’re thinking and hoping the block work will be completed within the next week or so. At that time, Father Joseph Wamala, of St. Francis of Assisi church in Staunton, will bless the foundation and building site, asking for God’s protection for all those that will build, live and enter our home. A further blessing will take place when the house is completed and we move in.
The following pictures will show some of the activity taking place this week at our home site.
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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.
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
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.
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”!
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To plant anew, the earth must first be plowed. So, too, with
building a house.
Our new home site here in Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia has seen quite a bit of activity this past week or so. The last few trees that might have threatened the house were removed from the site. Better now than later, for sure. Nothing quite ruins your day like a tree crashing into your living room! Trees falling into our house, whether from Connecticut snows or Florida hurricanes have made us just a tad wary, you might say. So, a clean slate of the lot was made, with a promise to Nature that we would later replant our lot with trees and shrubs in a safe location.
Nothing of the removed trees was wasted. What could become
lumber was separated from wood suitable only for firewood. The leftover limbs
were stacked and burned. The ash will be scattered throughout the lot, adding
valuable nutrients to the heavy clay soil.
Following this, machinery was brought in to dig the area of what will be the basement and also to do a rough grading of the land. A steep incline was tapered a bit where the driveway will eventually run from the street to the side garage. For those of you that have built a house or had one built for them, this may seem pretty mundane stuff. But, when this work is being done on what will become your home, well, it takes on a whole different aspect. The Redhead and I will live here. Friends and family will visit and walk and sit in our backyard. Our front porch will have views of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains. This will be our HOME! Our builders, Amy and Eric Argenbright, understand this and smile when they see us parked in front of the lot – our lot – at all hours. They know how much this means to us.
For our exterior colors we have chosen earth tones, browns accented by honey colored shingle trim. The Redhead is planning for – you guessed it – a red front door. We’re not sure yet of the interior colors, but there will be natural hardwood floors.
Did you know that you can Talk to your refrigerator and / or stove? Seriously. Since we’ve had to research which appliances will be chosen, the craziest things have been learned. Like, refrigerators that have Wi-Fi and cameras and play movies via the internet. And, stoves that are voice activated. This is all a little too much, I think. What happens if you’re passing by the stove and mutter, “I’m dying for a cup of tea”. Does it start boiling or shootin’? Finding appliances that are somewhat simple and reliable continues to be quite a project. But, I don’t see an ice box with a camera in our future!
This coming week or so, we’re hoping that the foundation will be started. In the meantime, The Redhead and I will continue to park in front of “our yard” and plan and dream.And thank God for our Blessings!
Thanks for reading and being a part of our adventure. Comments always appreciated. Click “Follow” for auto-updates and “Like” if you do.
This evening we received the word from our builder: Work on our house will begin this coming Monday! That’s when the basement will begin to be excavated. Also, all permits for construction to begin are now reported to be o.k.’d. Finally!!!
It was earlier this afternoon that I took my nearly daily ride up to our building lot to see if anything was going on. As I pulled off the “Beltway”, RT 262, that rings Staunton, the view was especially stunning. After the past few rainy days, the sky today was a nearly cloudless, deep sapphire blue – providing the perfect background for the Allegheny mountains to the West. That this gift from God is in our “backyard” is incredible.
So, here are a few photos that I took today. Also, I’ve included an approximate rendering of what our house will look like. Amy & Eric Argenbright, our builders, will be making some modifications to this Craftsman style house to make this truly “our home”.
Looking forward to sharing with you our home building adventures! As always, Comments and “Likes” welcomed and appreciated. Bill
So, this past month or so The Redhead and I have been going full steam ahead with scouting the area for where we’ll call our new home. How did it happen that we’re doing this on our own? Well, you asked…
First, we’ve been jilted. Yep, jilted by our realtor.
Having met her in July and been treated wonderfully- three days of area tours, explanations of where to shop, dine, etc. we were in love. With Staunton and her. Our return trip in September reinforced that we had made the right decision – to move here and to work with her. But, our radar should have gone up when it took a full month of living here to see her again. Lots of apologies: I’ve been really busy, my dog’s been sick, etc.( I kid you not). Oh, well. But, we didn’t exactly pine away waiting for her to show up, either. Nope, we drove around these mountains and the surrounding towns discovering more and more natural beauty and many very nice people. Actually, everyone we’ve met has been very nice, helpful and kind. Except LBF. And, more of that in a bit.
To make a long, well four-month long, story, shorter let’s just say in four months we’ve seen “our realtor” twice. And one of those times was to have her here for lunch. Still, we like her. Really. We just wish we knew what caused her to drop out of sight. Personal issues? Maybe, and if that is the case we hope she is o.k. But, we can’t and won’t chase someone that doesn’t seem to have the time we need to find our new home. Besides, LBF is pushing us hard.
Yes, LBF- Little Big Foot lives above us. He romps and stomps and jumps and bangs 10 to 13 hours a day, every day. He’s a forty pound four year old that might be described as, “an active child”. When our walls start shaking at 7:00 a.m. he earns other names, but, LBF will do for now. Live below him and you’re ready to buy ANYTHING!! Maybe he’s a realtor’s secret weapon. Every realtor except ours, it appears.
Recently, we tried the help of another agent. It seemed everything we were shown was in the area we specifically said we were not interested in. Our second and last day together was a real doozy. Among the highlights: New construction community nestled right up to the regional insane asylum (hmmm). Another newly built home with lovely views of a pasture. The problem was that in order to keep meandering cattle out of the homes’ yard an electric fence surrounded the property. Grandbaby would love playing there!!Talk about a shocking development! Lastly, the Piece de resistance, so to speak, was a building lot not near but IN a cemetery!! When I blurted out, “What the hell, you’re bringing me to a boneyard?”, my helpful home advisor realized the tour was over. Ya’ think!
So, while not exactly as we had planned, our home search continues but on our own for now. The search has taken us into the town of Staunton and out into the county where we’d probably have more scenic views. We’re still considering building, but finding an existing home that is just right is becoming more likely. We just don’t know. Both scenarios have their pluses. In-town means very easy access to shopping, dining and some new friends and our church. Out in the county, we have limited our search radius to no more than 11 miles, about 17-20 minutes, from our church in Staunton, St. Francis of Assisi. Back in November that trip might have taken us 2 hours or more. Think Columbus searching for a route to India: Don’t turn right when a left turn is needed. Knowing our way around a “bit more” opens up several options for finding a home. Hint: don’t rely on only your GPS to explore a new area. Use a good fold-out map and then use the GPS to get where you want. The Redhead is getting quite a kick out hearing me exclaim, Well, I’ll be a Monkey’s Uncle, when I discover a way to go somewhere that actually makes sense.
In addition to driving and exploring we’ve written up a short letter to leave with folks we meet while in neighborhoods we are especially drawn to. It explains that we are looking to buy a house and are drawn to their home and/or neighborhood. So far, we’ve gotten several responses but the houses turned out not to be “just right”. One, in particular, had extraordinary views of the mountains and came with 13 acres of land. But, with 5 bedrooms and 4 baths it was “just a tad” more than required – unless we open up “Boys Town East”! Keeping our trust in God and our noses to the grindstone, the right home will be made known to us.
In the meantime, especially with The Redhead off “gallivantin’”this past week, our meandering has turned up some beautiful and interesting sights. The hamlet of Spring Hill and the towns of Bridgewater and Dayton were explored this past weekend by yours truly. Organic farms, building lots nestled up close to grazing cattle, abandoned, yet starkly beautiful old buildings, country churches, 19th century architecture and a country deli turned an ordinary day into a real adventure. Hope you enjoy these photos of our little slice of heaven; you were already along for the trip.
Christmas. It is both the beginning and the end. The Alpha and Omega. The fulfillment and the promise. It is what we let it be.
We are blessed, The Redhead and I. We have our health, our family of heart and blood, a new beginning and hopeful expectation. We have one another. And we have our Faith. None of it has come easily and for that we are all the more grateful for having what we do.
For us, this Christmas is a new beginning in many ways. Our move from Florida to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia has opened up possibilities and opportunities. We have no idea of where we will call home or what we will be doing in the future but we are filled with a sense of peace. We are, we are sure, where we are supposed to be at this time. There is an expression that I have used over the past number of years, “Before you can know what you have, you first have to lose everything”. We know what we now have.
Our parish church here in Staunton, St. Francis of Assisi, has been a source of comfort, strength and inspiration to us. We decided to attend Mass at the Christmas vigil this year. Before Mass there was a “concert” presented by the Schola of classical musicians and singers. It was a mix of both traditional and religious songs and hymns. No, “Santa Baby”, was not one of them! One of the traditional songs was a Charles Floyd/Yo-Y o Ma arrangement of “The Wexford Carol”. Here it is performed together by Alison Krause and Yo-Yo Ma (click here.) The rendition sung in church was very close to what was sung by Krause, thanks to soprano, Nancy Hanna. The video’s bagpipe drone section of the music was substituted by the church organ. It was very stirring and served as an excellent example of how contemporary music can be sacred. This Vigil Mass was one of the most reverent we have attended in many years and Father Wamala’s Christmas message was simple: Love God, love one another and find your way to serve.
Christmas Day was something different for us: a little baby will do that! Baby Jonah kept his parents hopping, yet Grammy (The Redhead) found a way to lull him to peaceful sleep.
Some Christmas music was played during the morning. The organic farm just up the road provided us with a fresh turkey for a special Christmas dinner (I’ll write more about that farm at some later point). It was truly a peace-filled day.
And now, New Year is upon us. No silly resolutions…at least for me. Yes, I’d like to take advantage of the more temperate (for me) weather and get outdoors more. But, dreams of six-pack abs have been diminished by the reality of a half-keg belly! Our goals are more straightforward: 1) Find a new home (are ya’ listenin’, Becky!), 2) Find a place to resume my furniture restoration interests, 3) Learn how to use my new Nikon 5300 camera that was a gift from the Redhead and 4) Develop a social circle of friends in our new hometown while keeping our family of the heart ever close to us. Doable? Yes, I believe it is.
In closing, here are some more pics from our continuing explorations of the Shenandoah Valley.
Peace be with you.Thank you for reading. Happy New Year to all!