Building a Home 7 and Back to the Future!

Looking East from what will be our kitchen

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.

Floor deck with wall frames
Basement walls

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.

Our Friend Mary Ellen picking out her new suite!
The Redhead on site

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!

To see some of my old work and some pictures of the old Redeux Vintage Furniture shop just click here: http://redeuxfurniture.blogspot.com/2010/05/uncovered-beauty.html

The Redhead and I wish all of you a very happy Christmas season and a wonderful New Year!

As always, comments, questions and “Likes” always appreciated and welcome.

Bill

Building our Home, 6. The Boys are Back in Town!

A view we’ll never grow tired of…the Blue Ridge Mountains!

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.

Buck workin’ the Digger

Mike, the Mason, never took a break this past week or so and as a result our block foundation is mostly complete.

Concrete is loaded into a hopper and then pumped into the foundation
Mr. Mike, right, directing the proper flow of concrete into the block walls.

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.

Tony showing how it’s done!

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.

Bill

Shenandoah Festivals

Dayton, VA Autumn Celebration 2019

These past several weeks have been filled with lots of activity, some with just adventuring throughout our area of the Shenandoah and quite a bit spent with house-building matters. For the sake of writing somewhat coherent posts, I’ve decided to write future posts separated into one of three categories: Exploring our corner of the Shenandoah Valley between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountains and its surrounding areas; our house building adventures and finally random thoughts that pop into focus. Last night’s post was an example of that.

Gottfried playing German scheitholt , an early dulcimer

There were two festivals in the area which we recently attended. The first was the Dayton Days Autumn Festival held the first Saturday of October. Dayton is a small town situated a few miles Southwest of Harrisonburg, VA. About 2,000 people live in Dayton. It is mostly agricultural but also has a lovely downtown and a scattering of family owned shops and business throughout the town. Many of the residents are Mennonites. On that beautiful, sunny Saturday the town was filled with almost 40,000 visitors. The downtown streets were closed to vehicles and were filled with craftspeople, artists and food vendors. Most of the vendors were fairly local but a number of them had traveled from West Virginia and other parts of Virginia. The Redhead and I spotted two interesting pieces by quilters Cathie and Bettie Pharr of West Virginia that we will be adding to our new home. As we walked along the narrow streets of Dayton we came upon Gottfried, an Immigrant Pioneer Re-enactor, playing a scheitholt, an early German version of what would become the mountain dulcimer.  We also noted the many historical buildings throughout town. It’s an interesting anecdote of the Civil War that Dayton was spared being burned to the ground after Union soldiers pleaded with General Sheridan to spare the town because its inhabitants were mostly Mennonites and known to be pacifists. The beautiful peacefulness of Dayton continues to this day.

Quilt by Bettie Pharr, West Virginia

Our next festival adventure was held right here in Waynesboro on October 12. Downtown was filled with booths and tents of artisans, craftspeople and fine artists. In addition, Blue Grass music was performed during the day by several groups. It was in one of the booths that we met icon artists Maria Cezintseva and her mother. Using traditional Russian bead work, Maria and her mom created beautiful religious icons. Two of Maria’s works (her first for sale), an icon of Christ and another of the Blessed Mother and the Infant Jesus, will be proudly displayed in our new home. They are two special ladies that we look forward to meeting again.

Icon Artists, Maria Cezintseva and mom

There are more festivals coming to the area and The Redhead and I look forward to sharing them with you all. We are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful part of this country.

As always, comments are welcome!

Bill

Plain Living

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Old Order Mennonite buggy, Dayton VA

So, here we are at home on a really lazy Sunday, partly because the weather forecasts warned of an impending ice storm. So far, nothing but sunshine and a moderate breeze, albeit a bit nippy!

Last night, expecting this morning to be like an ice age, we drove into Staunton to attend Mass at our high-on-a-hill church, St. Francis of Assisi.  Despite the rain and fog, the church was more than usually filled. It happened that three busloads of young adults and their chaperones, enroute back home to Alabama after attending the March for Life in DC, stopped at St. Francis to attend the evening vigil Mass. No banners, No shouted slogans. Just a quiet reverence and knowledge that what they were doing was…right.  Every generation, it seems, has a contingent, sometimes small, of those that stir our conscience.

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Route 42 looking north toward Harrisonburg

Since moving to the Shenandoah Valley, we are often struck by the peacefulness and beauty of the land and people. Here, it is different. Perhaps, it is because so many of the people are, in some way, tied to the land. Perhaps, it is because Staunton and many of its neighboring towns are small towns. The Mennonites, of which there are many here in the Valley, refer to themselves as, Plain People. ( for an excellent article on the Shenandoah Mennonite communities read this article by Guy Schum click here . And that may be it in a nutshell: it is, in the very best sense, plain here. If you are sick of the antics in D.C. or NYC or any other cosmopolitan, trend-setting megalopolis, come here for a spell.  It may be just what the doctor ordered.

This past week we rode out, once again, to Dayton. It is a lovely ride. Along the way I tried using my new camera, a Christmas gift from The Redhead.  I’ve included a few more photos below, as well as a “quick pic” of the former Western State Lunatic Asylum, now partly a hotel / apartment complex. Much of the former hospital had been designed by Thomas Jefferson’s apprentice, Thomas Blackburn, who was among those early pioneers of compassionate care for the mentally ill. Locals claim that the buildings are haunted, mostly as a result of the “care” that was provided starting in the early 1900’s. Nonetheless, the architecture is beautiful.

As always, comments, Likes and questions are most welcome.

Bill

Churchville VA farm Alleghany Mountains in rear

Dayton VA Farm looking East
Route 42 looking east from Dayton

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Former Western State Lunatic Asylum, Staunton

Taking Inventory

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The tree has been taken down, the decorations put away and another Christmas has come – but is not quite gone.

This year was different for many reasons. We are living in a new state, literally and figuratively. Virginia has been good to and for us. People just met are becoming acquaintances and acquaintances are now becoming friends. Our church has been especially welcoming; its members seem to embrace the command to “love one another”. Even folks we just meet are gracious and helpful in ways we don’t expect.

This past week The Redhead and I were driving throughout the north-west section of Staunton, exploring, once again, the very attractive neighborhoods of Baldwin Acres and Blue Ridge.  This time, we carried with us letters we had printed and planned to leave at especially appealing homes, asking if the owners might be considering selling their homes within the next six months or so.  Well, as luck or Providence would have it, as we drove past a particular house, a woman was spotted standing in her front garden. We stopped and Red approached her and told her what we were doing. After a few minutes of conversation the woman invited both of us to sit with her in the garden. Two hours later, we left knowing we would hear from her again. That evening, she called and said she actually had a few leads for us and would fill us in when we would meet for lunch later in the week (tomorrow).

And, so, this is pretty much how it has been for us since arriving in Staunton. Things are happening easily, naturally. There is a general peacefulness that reinforces our sense that coming here was the right decision.

Over the past two months we have thought and re-thought what type of house and neighborhood we wanted and would best suit us. We love the country with the rolling hills and nearby mountains. Red wants to pet every cow she sees – and there is no shortage of them here in the valley.  But, the charm and convenience of in-town living has its draw, too, and may be more practical.

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Gypsy Hill Park, Staunton, VA

After much thought, prayer and late night conversations we realize that the best location for us is just outside of town center, the neighborhoods mentioned earlier, Baldwin Acres and Blue Ridge. Both offer views (some better than others), are within a few minutes of shopping and amenities, our friends at Paradise Donuts (to paraphrase Robert Duval, “I love the smell of donuts in the morning”) and our church. Also, living in an established neighborhood offers us the best chance to make friends and become part of the community.

It is this taking inventory of what your real priorities are that I think is very important for people moving and choosing to settle into a new area, especially when there is no built-in safety net of family or work.

Below are some photos of our adventures. Some were taken during our recent afternoon in Gypsy Hill Park that is close to both town center and the neighborhoods we’re exploring and some were taken in the town of Dayton which is about a leisurely 30 minute drive from downtown Staunton. Dayton is a largely agricultural community and has many Mennonite farms and shops. It will be one of our must-see areas for our friends.

Thanks for reading! As always, I’d love to get your Comments, Likes or questions.

Bill

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Co-op Bakery Dayton, VA

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Quilts, Dayton, VA co-op shops

The Beauty of Now

Like snow falling on a quiet Sunday afternoon, our life here in the Shenandoah Valley is building slowly, softly and surely.

Deserted Farmhouse – Verona, VA

Areas are being explored and re-explored. Acquaintances are being made. We recognize and are recognized by some folks at the grocery stores and the owners of at least two downtown Staunton shops.

Swoope,VA

Kathy, of Kathy’s Restaurant, is also getting used to seeing us. Travis and Shauna, husband and wife owners of Paradise Donuts (https://www.facebook.com/StauntonParadiseDonuts/) welcomed us as we tried them for the first time this past week. As somewhat of a donut aficionado, I can attest that the shop is aptly named: Paradise! As newcomers to the area, we were treated to a sampling of their cinnamon twists.The Redhead kept saying, “I can’t believe I ate two donuts in one sitting”. I was thinking, “I can’t believe I stopped at two”! It turns out that Shauna and Travis are fellow parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi Church –just across the street. How convenient!

As this is being written, snow continues to steadily fall outside our windows and today’s sermon at church keeps coming to mind: See God in everything before us. In the gifts, the challenges, the beauty and opportunities that are presented to us every day. Live in the Now, it will never come again.

Farmers, Armstrong’s , Verona,VA (Note: no one watches the tv!)

Turn off the noise and seeing beauty and goodness is much easier. We haven’t had tv since arriving here. We do have internet and can play movies, but the lack of broadcast noise and news – fake or otherwise – has allowed more information to come to us. Conversations with neighbors and people met on the street or in going about everyday routines are so much easier without labels. Red, Blue, Con, Lib, Anti, Pro…I don’t know what the labels mean anymore, nor does it matter. All of us are struggling with something. To quote George Elliot, “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other”? To paraphrase Msgr. Cassin, “See God and Love in the Now”.

Snow continues to fall and with it comes the silence.

Hold Your Fire!

We’re three days in our new home here in the Shenandoah Valley Virginia town of Waynesboro. Moving cartons are everywhere – open, full and some empty. Our third bedroom has been turned into a storeroom with furniture piled on top of each other and boxes not yet to be opened crammed into whatever available space there is. But, as I write this, our bedroom, the guest bedroom, living room and kitchen have finally been put into order.

It has been an exhausting few months. The idea of selling our home, marketing it and having a wonderful buyer come forth immediately was emotional but not too stressful. It was the packing and tag sales that started to ebb our energy. As I’ve written before, no one wants to help you pack and fewer than none want to help unpack. You’re on your own, baby!

So, imagine if you can sleeping soundly in your bed after two days of heavy lifting and sorting. The cool mountain air, drifting in through the slightly open window, has given you some of the most restful sleep you’ve had in several years. And then it happens.

A female voice, young sounding, comes from just outside your window. At first it seems like only a jumble of words, loud words, but not quite making sense. It’s still dark. What the heck!

The word jumble takes form and the young woman seems to be speaking  shouting to someone on her cell phone. This can’t be happening. But it is!

The conversation gets louder. This gal must live upstairs and is having a conversation while walking outside, I’m thinking. Now her words are coming together.

“You know”, she says, “I’ve always been a sort of worrier; maybe even depressed. No, not depressed, just kinda’ into my feelings, you know”.

Lady, I’m thinking, if you knew what I’m feeling you’d tone it down a notch. And further away, too!

But, she continues. “So, like, my parents knew I couldn’t open up to many people so they bought me Snowball. And, I’d like talk to Snowball all the time, ya’ know. I’d tell him everything. And, I mean EVERYTHING!

Oh, please have mercy, I’m thinking. Please, please be quiet!

Now, The Redhead is awake. Her eyes are closed, but I know she’s awake.

“So, like sometimes I didn’t even have to talk to Snowball. He just knew what I was thinking. My parents sensed how much I loved him and could talk to him so they bought me Snowflake. She was a girl, ya’ know. So, I’d talk to them and then one day my aunt and uncle bought me a baby seal and I named her Snow Crystal. Yep, another girl. So, I had one boy and two girls that I could talk to about EVERYTHING!

This can not happening.  But, now I hear laughing. This woman is outside my window on speaker phone! In the dark!

So, one year my parents took me on winter break vacation to the Bahamas, she continues. It was fab, ya’ know. But, I wouldn’t go unless Snowball, Snowflake and Snow Crystal could go ,too. My parents thought it was cute so they bought an oversize suitcase to put them into.

Wait a minute! These snow things are dolls, stuffed animals!!?? Oh, Lady, you’ve got to be kidding me!

“And, so”, she continues, “as I got older I still talked to Snowball and Snowflake and Snow Crystal all the time. About EVERYTHING! About how I felt when the other girls started to develop and I didn’t, ya’ know.

More laughter from the other end of the phone.

And then, louder if possible, “So, my mom knew I was feeling bad and how I could talk to Snowball and Snowflake and Snow Crystal about EVERYTHING (more speaker phone laughter) so she said I should talk to them about wearing a training…

Wait a minute! This is altogether too much! I’m putting an end to this conversation right now. So, I throw off the covers and realize that since our bed is now on a padded carpet it’s a bit higher. My feet can’t reach the floor! So, I hop off, slightly twisting an ankle already sore from all the bending and lifting of the past few days. Dang it!

I hobble over to the window to tell The Conversationalist that her conversation is over and to pipe down and move on!

And then…wait a minute! She’s inside our room! What??

I turn to her voice. What the heck is happening? Son of a … It’s the clock radio tuned into a public radio station and broadcasting a “repeat performance” of Storyteller something or other. No one’s outside my window. Hold your fire, Gibby!

The still closed eye Redhead says, “What’s wrong with you”?

“Nothing, My Sweet”. I hop back up in bed and laugh The Redhead fully awake and  myself back into deep slumber.

Good Night!

P.S. Note the change of photo at the top of the blog. It was taken back in September not far from where we now are.