Detectoring

It will be a year next month that the Redhead gave me the key to discovering where I’m now at. Until this past week, I have not had the courage to see what it would unlock.

Perhaps, it is age more than mere curiosity that makes me now wonder how I came to be here in this particular place at this particular time. I am a city boy through and through, feeling more at ease surrounded by concrete, asphalt and steel than deep woods. Red says I’m a baby by refusing to take a hike in a forest. No, I say, I’ve just been “Deliverenced”. Darn Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, that movie would have dissuaded even Thoreau from spending the briefest of afternoons at Walden! Squeal, Baby!

Deliverance (1972)
The movie that kept me in the city

So, City Boy I was born and stayed…until now. Don’t get me wrong, Staunton, Virginia is not the Wilderness – at least not for the past 300 years or so. But, to put it into perspective, it is about 1/5 the size of our former hometown in Connecticut or about the population of ½ square mile of Manhattan! Yet, The Redhead and I still chose to live outside the City limits into the County and thus we have far more livestock than people as neighbors. True to my nature, however, I still crave civilization, now, especially, that of the past. Tumbled barns, remnants of stone foundations, depressions in a field’s landscape now surrounded by trees and occasionally overgrown, wild ornamental plantings give evidence that somebody was here before us. Why they came and what made them leave or disappear may answer my question: Why am I here? Is there something more than the natural beauty – so reminiscent of my family’s home place in Ireland’s West – and the gentleness of the people that drew us, after a few false starts, like a magnet to this land of both Peace and Rebellion?

Read all you want about a place, nothing gives more clues about its true nature than the artifacts, the tangibles of those that came before. Study Pompeii ‘til blue in the face and nothing will give you a clearer sense of that place or those people than actually seeing the chariot ruts and street-side “cafes” or the menus inscribed onto the walls of the “guest houses”. View the bleak stone slopes of western Ireland and one can instantly comprehend Cromwell’s curse of those refusing to submit. Thus it is with every place, past or present: it must be touched to be known.

And so, this past Thursday, I finally made my journey into the past that now surrounds me, using the key that The Redhead gifted me last Christmas. I unpacked and charged up my long-desired but intimidating metal detector. A few Readers of this blog are actually quite astute in the use of these machines and have experienced both the joys and frustrations of combing through fields, parks, beaches and, well, just about anywhere they can get permission to search for the past. Some seek “treasure” in the form of jewelry or coinage – both ancient and not so much so. Others, while never turning their nose up at things of value, mostly enjoy “the hunt” for the past. I’ve read their blogs, watched their YouTube videos and enjoyed and even became hooked on the wonderful British television series, Detectorists. I was ready. Or so I thought!

Mackenzie Crook, Gerard Horan, Toby Jones, Pearce Quigley, Divian Ladwa, etc.
The Detectorists

My machine, (just saying it makes me feel, “part of the club”, lol) a Nokta Makro Simplex+ is designed to be just that: Simple, yet “advanced”. Perhaps it is. Cradling it under my arm and carrying a canvas ditty bag containing gloves, “pointer”, sharp-edged mini-trowel and a zip-lock enclosed instruction manual (just in case) I walked down to the property of our neighbor whom had given me the all-important permission to “hunt”.

Nokta Makro Simplex Metal Detector 3
The Simplex Machine

He said to wear old clothes since his land was a bit rough. Unlike the fields and pasture lands of the videos I had watched over and over, Old Kevin’s land was a mire of brambles, saplings, old growth trees, ruts, abandoned “privies” and cesspools, a tumbled down shack and enough blackberry bushes to feed several bears for a season and enough thorns to keep everything else away. Except for Moi, the newbie “detector”. And all of it was, it seemed, located on a 30 degree slope!

By the time we reached the back of the property, the site I would begin searching in, I looked, thanks to the blackberry thorns, to be auditioning for the lead role in a Passion Play. Oi! Selecting a relatively clear area, I turned on the machine and began the search.

What the…? Not using headphones (why bother) the air was filled with static, crackles, pops, screeches and toots of every sort. Selecting a spot that emitted a steady screech I knelt down and began digging with the trowel. Rocks. More rocks. This can’t be, I thought. I held the machine up to a few and yep, the signal was louder than ever. There was a ton of iron in those rocks. Hmmm. Maybe that’s why I had read of there being so many pre- Civil War small iron smelters in the area . Well, I thought, let me move to another likely spot, with a different tune playing, so to speak. Ah, for the love of Pete. I can’t get up. My knees have locked! Trying to look just inquisitive rather than flummoxed, I root around a bit more until I spy a nearby sturdy looking branch and knee-waddle over to it to hoist myself upright. Jaysus!! The fookin’ thorns pierce my leather palmed gloves. Bugger me! This is rough work, I’m thinkin’. But, I’m up.

Eeee, eeeee, Eeeet. Now, That’s a signal, I’m sure. Down I go, much faster than I had just gotten up, I assure you. Scratch, dig. Retry the signal. Eeee, Eeee, EEEEEE. Ah, you’re onto something now, boy. Dig a few more inches. Aha! I can feel something. Coins? Old musket balls? Oh… Well, a pile of old nails is something, at least. Not wanting to grab another palm full of pain, I decide to use the trowel for a bit of leverage to get up. It sinks into the only soft dirt for probably several yards around. I look at the detector and hope it will not bend or break if I use it as a bit of a crutch. It holds and I’m up again, even if a bit slower than before.

Navigating more ruts and brambles, we come to a bit of a clearing and then it happens…a new signal, different than those of before. Oink, oinnk, ahoink. This has got to be gold. Or silver. Or an old Civil War relic. Kevin is nearby rooting around with a stick and unearths a skull. Animal, for sure. But, what else could be lurking nearby? We are, after all, only a few hundred yards from a compound of “Odd Ones”, as the locals call them, who find it rather amusing to hang deer butts from posts in their front yards. Nothing like a little “local color”, I suppose. But, the oinkking doesn’t quit and neither will I. The trowel hits something a few inches below the surface. An iron fence-wire guide emerges. I keep digging . Good thing, too. Something big is struck. What the heck! An old hinge of some sort is pried out. Maybe part of a buggy. Maybe an old piece of some machinery. Beats me. But, wait, there’s more, as the old TV commercial used to taunt. Is it wood? No. It’s a bit soft. Ah, an old leather satchel lost in the heat of battle? Hmm. No, not that either.

Heavy work, Detectoring!

As I said at the beginning of this piece, to know a place or a people or a particular thing you must touch it to know it for what it is.

After only one afternoon of being a “relic hunter” (as painful as it was) I found something – quite by chance – that generations of historians, archaeologists and scientists have devoted their careers to either proving or disproving. I held in my hands proof that the believers were right. I did it.

Unearthed in this Valley of the Shenandoah, on the outskirts of Staunton, was irrefutable proof that not only does The Mighty Sasquatch, The Yiddi, The Bigfoot exist, but that he, too, like us, has a life cycle. And a not yet considered intelligence.

For the first time in known history here is the proof:

Sole of Bigfoot shoe, probably adolescent. Note wear hole and rudimentary stitching!

Believe! And keep hunting.

Here are just a few of the blogs on metal detecting that I follow and you may find interesting as well:

The North Essex Detectorist (UK)

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/108296728

Detecting Diva

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/8473461

American Digger

https://americandigger.com/

Day Tripper

Well, how the heck are you doing? It’s been a tough few weeks, right? Same here. That upper respiratory virus that’s going around sure put a whooping on me…no energy for anything. But, when it passed, The Redhead and I decided to hit the road and do a little day-tripping in this beautiful part of Virginia.

Bushong Farm, New Market, Virginia

First, we decided to take a little trip up to the town of New Market, where the VMI Civil War Museum is located. Still feeling a little weak we didn’t do much walking but did enjoy the views of the town and the Battlefield. How one’s thoughts can meander when looking at the scene of the battlefield set in the middle of the Bushong family farm, just on the outskirts of town. The Battle of New Market is mostly famous because of the efforts and contributions of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, located in Lexington. The cadets marched the 85 miles in order to stop the approaching Union Army and as a result several of these young boys lost their lives. The stories of the townspeople helping the wounded from both armies is very touching and one can only imagine the terror the Bushong family felt as they huddled in their basement as the two armies clashed at their doorstep. Today, the scene is idyllic yet it doesn’t take much to imagine what happened all around you and pray it never happens again. (https://vmi.edu/museums-and-archives/virginia-museum-of-the-civil-war/)

Downtown New Market is filled with small, family run restaurants, shops and a great coffee shop, Jackson’s Corner Coffee Roastery and Cafe.

Our next trip was to the town of Buchanan and included a stop at New Freedom Farm, a wonderful horse farm providing PTSD and other therapies to veterans. There are a number of wild mustangs on the farm and part of the therapy is for Vet and horse to bond and help one another. It is a beautiful farm and the work they do is incredible. (https://www.newfreedomfarm.org/)

Mustang, New Freedom Farm, Buchanan, VA

Downtown Buchanan is deceiving. Drive over the speed limit, 25mph, and you could go through it within 30 seconds. But, stop, pull over and you’ll discover wonderful architecture, Ransone’s, a great little grill/soda fountain, several small antique shops, the town library and an old fashioned movie house.

Ransone’s Grill, Buchanan, VA
Downtown Buchanan, VA church

Buchanan also has a canoe, kayak river tour company, Twin River Outfitters. You can rent either craft and they’ll take you several miles up the beautiful James River and drop you off so you can paddle leisurely back to town. (https://canoevirginia.net/). Buchanan also has a Blue Grass Festival in early October. While exploring the river and the swinging bridge stop by the old River Craft Rail House. It has just been bought and is undergoing extensive repairs and updates by the new owner, Tammie, who is turning it into a family style restaurant, Tammie’s Place. During our visit we were amazed at the number of townspeople helping to restore this old building and helping Tammie achieve her dream. There is nothing quite like small town America!

Tammie, owner of the soon to open, Tammie’s Place, Buchanan, VA

Our friend, Mary Ellen, from CT visited us last week and we decided to show her around a little bit. Natural Bridge and Lexington are always fun to explore. Natural Bridge, surveyed by George Washington and once owned by Thomas Jefferson, is now part of Virginia’s State Park system. The main attraction, as the name would imply, is the natural bridge carved by Cedar Creek running through the limestone hills over many thousands of years.

Natural Bridge, VA
Initials of George Washington, GW, located within square, Natural Bridge, VA

Also in the park is a recreated Monacan Indian Village, depicting how the early Native Americans lived in the area. Unfortunately, at the time of our visit the village and a section of the park was closed due to a very damaging flash flood. Workers are hard at work opening up the trails and village.

After a nice visit to Natural Bridge, we drove the short distance to Lexington, VA for lunch and a walk around the town. In addition to seeing all the historical homes and architecture we discovered an old bookshop, The Bookery, on West Nelson St. Quaint, quirky and crammed with books – mostly old and some new, The Bookery is a book lovers heaven.

Barren Ridge Winery

Sometimes there are adventures just around the corner and that is what we found when we decided to explore our own area, Staunton, VA . An afternoon at the Barren Ridge Winery was just what The Redhead and Mary Ellen needed…so they claimed. As their designated driver, I, too, enjoyed a nice selection of cheeses and crackers and the magnificent views of the Shenandoah Valley. (https://www.barrenridgevineyards.com/). The girls were very pleased with the wines, made more enjoyable by the beautiful setting.

Evening in Downtown Staunton, VA

Downtown Staunton is really a gem of a small town. Beside being very historical it also has one of the largest collections of Victorian Era buildings and homes in the country. There are numerous shops and restaurants of various types along the main street, East / West Beverly Street as well as the side streets. Latitudes, a Fair Trade shop, offers a wide variety of quality clothing, art and decorative items. (https://latitudesfairtrade.com/pages/staunton) The Foundry, is a new concept store front giving space to a number of local artists and craftspeople. We found several nice hand-made items here and enjoyed the opportunity to speak with the artists that made them. From ice cream, award-winning pizza, art galleries, a movie theater and various music venues, Staunton is the little town that has something for everyone.

Our own church, St. Francis of Assisi is located right downtown and was designed by the famous architect, T.J. Collins. There are numerous buildings throughout the area that were his creations. http://(https://stfrancisparish.org/homepage.html)

St. Francis of Assisi church, Staunton, VA

No trip to Staunton (or to the Shenandoah Valley) would be complete without a visit to the Frontier Culture Museum.

German Farm, Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton, VA
English Home and Farm, Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton, VA. Note chimney date, 1692. The house was actually built in 1630

FCM is a sprawling outdoor exhibit that tells the story of our early settlers and from where they came. As first generation Irish, I particularly enjoy visiting the Irish Farm. It is nearly a mirror copy of my fathers home in the “Old Country” – dirt floor and all.

Sally at the Irish Farm, Frontier Culture Museum.

For these early settlers, America was their dream, their lifeline and their hope. How fortunate we are. (https://www.frontiermuseum.org/index.php/about/)

Well, that’s our little day tripping. Hope you enjoyed it. It beats listening to the news, doesn’t it! If you have any questions about any of these places or have visited them, please let me know.

Don’t worry. Pray. God Bless America!

Sometimes in Winter

This morning we woke to our first winter in five years. Snow was covering everything, at least everything up to two inches! But, snow it is and what a welcome sight.

Before clearing our driveway and sidewalk I grabbed my camera – just to record the scene before me: snow covered fields, pine trees with snow draped branches and snow fog – the sort of fog arising when warmer air mixes with cold snow below. It may seem funny, but to this former New Englander, the sight of this snowy morning meant one thing – I am home. Yes, in this Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I am home.

We are Home

Memories can creep up on you from almost anything and at the most unexpected times. This past week or so, I have been plagued by my annual December Creepies that always seem to wait until nightfall to make their appearance. It’s been a bit of a battle keeping them at bay. But, this morning, shovel in hand, other, very welcome memories popped up: Music and Coffee.

Sometimes in Winter. It has been many years since I’ve heard or thought of that Blood, Sweat and Tears song. Part Jazz, part Rock, part Poem, it is the type of song that can stay with you forever. And, there it was, playing in my head as I stood in front of our home early this morning. Click: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D0HVYiMyq8 Yes, sometimes in Winter, everything seems right.

Another melody that popped up, altogether unrelated tonally to the first, was Tchaikovsky’s, Winter Dreams. Perhaps, it was the sight of the snow and frost covered trees that reminded me of an old DG album cover of this recording: Click:   https://youtu.be/tFAvb-Kga30  This symphony, or at least as much as I could recall, would, long ago, accompany me as I drove for hours through wintry, city streets. Yet, here it was again, in full daylight.

Now, some may think that coffee is coffee. But, no, there are differences, just as there are with any food or beverage. There is what is called Commodity coffee. That’s pretty much what you get in most restaurants, diners and even many “coffee shops”. Some of it is downright awful, some, not so bad. One of the most well-known coffee sellers charges a small fortune for a cup of coffee by adding flavorings and fancy names to otherwise unremarkable brew. There are now a lot of local or regional coffee shops / kiosks offering really good coffee. But, it comes at a price, which I understand: quality costs.

The real issue for us, The Redhead and I, is how to have a really good cup of coffee at home. This is especially true with all of the lockdowns and restrictions we are enduring. So, I began my quest for really good coffee that I could brew at home. I first tried some old favorite brands found in the grocery stores. Eh. Then, some experimentation with generic, “organic” coffees found at the local alternative grocery store. One wasn’t too bad at all. The other tasted like, well, old dirt. Since we don’t add sugar to our coffee, there was no way to fix this bad boy! Some mail order coffees cost a fortune and quality wasn’t a sure thing if the on-line reviews can be believed. Then, a light bulb went on in my noggin’.

A while back we had gotten some really good coffee beans (we grind our own…it’s a nice way to start the morning) from Costco. But, with all the restrictions, we haven’t been to Costco in about a year. So, I looked up the company and yes, they sell directly to customers. Mayorga Organics https://www.mayorgaorganics.com/. Their prices are very fair, the coffee is great and their customer service is outstanding. They roast the coffee at two locations: Florida and Maryland. A quick phone call later and I was speaking with one of their Team members, Natasha. We spoke of the different coffees and, since I am partial to Mocha Java, Natasha also recommended the Mayorga Mayan blend. I’ll report back to you on this blend very soon! The Mocha Java is very good, though.

No, Enjoyment is not necessarily an addiction!

Now, here’s the really nice thing about Mayorga. They deal directly with the coffee farmers in Latin America, thus ensuring top quality coffee and a truly decent way to deal with the people that actually grow the beans. All farmers should be so lucky! If you are interested in trying one of the Mayorga coffees, just give them a call or go on-line. It’s very easy. If you order before the end of December, ALL on-line sales will be donated to relief efforts in Latin America due to hurricanes Iota and Eta. What a nice Christmas present for those folks!

Oh, BTW, I am not affiliated in any way with Mayorga. I just really like their coffee and the way they do business. Period.

So, how do Winter and Music and Coffee tie together? Well, we are now entering winter, both literally and figuratively. We need to stay healthy and happy and connected to one another. We cannot let fear separate us. If you can, invite someone – a family member, a friend, a neighbor over to enjoy some good coffee and good music. Not sure if it’s the “right time”? Well, maybe, it’s Sometimes in Winter.

Baby Jesus is coming. Don’t be afraid. Pray. Be nice.

Finding Baby Jesus

In 1971, the rock band, The Who, released a recording of the song, “We Won’t Get Fooled again” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODKZGBrAtxY.  Written by Pete Townsend, it was a cynical look at both power and revolution.  Many of my generation misunderstood the song’s meaning.  They thought that by adopting  catchy slogans such as, “Question Authority” or aligning with “radical” political groups, they would bring about a better, more “just” world and not get fooled again. The sad thing is that nearly all of the problems that were besetting the world back then in ‘71, still are.  And, more so.  Townsend knew, I believe, that looking toward Power and Revolution as answers to what is wrong in the world is…futile and that by doing so we would get fooled again and again. Boy, was he right.

Here we are, half a century later (I shake my head as a write this!) and we are continually disappointed.  Politicians of every stripe have shown themselves less as true leaders than opportunists. Too many to count “religious leaders” have fallen from grace, leaving many of us shaken and bewildered. Neighbors have grown fearful, suspicious and angry with one another. Why?

Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” Isaiah 35:4

2020 started out with so much promise and optimism. And then, in the blink of an eye, it started to unravel. Maybe our current unrest is all – or mostly – contrived. Maybe there are powers or forces that want to cause disruption and fear. Maybe there is a plan to have us turn against one another. Maybe.

“Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.'” Revelation 1:17

I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what can be done about what’s going on out there.  Organize a protest? I don’t think so. Join a protest? Ah, NO!  Write to some “Elected Official” and tell them just what I think?  Just the mere thought makes me laugh.  After probably burning out more than a few brain cells (and having none to spare, believe me) I figured it out: There Is Nothing I Can Do About What’s Going On Out There. But, there is something I can do about what’s going on in here – within me.

“Immediately He spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” Mark 6:50

It is Advent. We await. We anticipate:  Not with Fear, but Hope. With Joy.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

This Christmas, the first in our new home here in Staunton, Virginia, we have set up several outside decorations. One of them is something that I have wanted for a long time, but never had the space to do it: a manger scene. One that I have admired and been touched by for its simplicity is a silhouette of The Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and The Infant Jesus lying in His crib.

Ours is set up in the front yard. It is constructed of heavy white plastic.  Although it is front and center, during the daytime, with a bright sun and a still dirt-filled front yard, it can be less noticed.

Manger

But, at night, when everything is darkest, a simple solar light shines on the crib. And there He is: The Baby Jesus. He is there during the day, of course, right in front of me. But, as I said, sometimes He’s hard to see. Do I just naturally see Baby Jesus during the darkest hours? Or, should I just look harder during the day?  Maybe.

B

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

How will you find the Baby Jesus this Christmas?

The Skivvy

What’s it like to relocate to another part of the country or to build a new home?

Finally getting our yard regraded!

That’s a question we’re being asked more and more lately. Being here in the Shenandoah Valley for almost two years now makes us certainly not “old hands”, but we do have more insight now than before this adventure began. Here’s the skivvy.

Sometimes we wonder if we should have moved earlier, when we were a bit younger. But, change one thing and everything changes. So, it seems that now was the “just right” time for us to move…even if it took us two tries.

Before moving from Connecticut for our first relocation, I had never lived more than 6 miles from the house where I was born. Talk about being a homeboy! But circumstances were what they were and I stayed put.  Enter The Redhead and another chapter was started.

First, we decided to move to Florida. We had good friends that lived there and we even spent part of one summer there to test out the weather. The gods must have been laughing because that rather tolerable summer was an anomaly. But, we made connections that will last a lifetime. And, we successfully oversaw the complete renovation of a house. But, four years and four hurricanes were enough though!

So, we explored other areas and set certain criteria for making a move. We had to be near an airport that would fly us directly to NY (the closest to our hometown where family still lived), it also had to be reasonably drivable (under 8 hours), just in case. Weather played a big part, too. No more sweltering heat for most of the year. Yet, we were both attracted to Southern states. Georgia? No. South Carolina? Hmm, no. North Carolina? Hmmm, maybe, but, No. How about Tennessee? Well, it did have a big draw for us and I ain’t talkin’ about Dolly!

Those Tennessee mountains weren’t enough of a draw!

But, No.  Where to then?  

After miles and miles of driving and weeks in hotels and B&B’s, it was Back to the Drawing Board. So, rethinking everything, we refocused our priorities.: Small town, Southern state, close to an airport and a reasonable drive back to family. We also needed good medical facilities, culture, natural beauty and Church. And, it had to be peaceful and safe.

After lots of online research we decided to explore Virginia and that’s how we found Staunton.

We had contacted a Realtor prior to driving up to Staunton the first time. She was wonderful and generous with her time in showing us around the area. Yes, Staunton was the area we wanted to call home. We returned home, thought about it some more and decided to sell our “forever” home and move. We sold our home in 6 hours! Back to Staunton we went to secure a rental so that we could transition more easily and sensibly. This was a bit tricky and we wound up finding a nice apartment on our own.

For some reason, working with Realtors did not work out too well for us. The first Realtor that showed us around when we were exploring needed to take care of some matters so she wasn’t as available as we had hoped. Too bad, because she is a wonderful person that we would have loved to do business with.

We were open to building or remodeling an existing home. It was in finding the right location that proved to be elusive. While we initially thought city living was just right for us – being able to walk to amenities had been a goal – downtown Staunton would be a challenge. We didn’t want to undertake another complete renovation nor were we alpine hikers, something that might come in handy in navigating the hills of Staunton. Realtors showed us homes that needed everything from complete gutting / renovation to mold remediation to needing a herd of goats to keep the acreage under weed and brush control. One memorable agent might have taken us a bit too literally when we said we wanted a quiet, safe neighborhood. His picks were a building lot that was somehow located within an old cemetery and a new home that had an electric fence surrounding it – to keep out the neighbor’s cattle.

A Shocking Experience!

Fast forward a bit to where we finally located a building lot in the perfect location for us: just outside of the city limits of Staunton in Augusta County. And this is where our experience may be most helpful to those thinking of doing something similar to us: relocating and building/remodeling in a new area.

First, learn everything you can about the location: tax rates, are public utilities available, zoning (what type of homes are allowed in your area – single family only or mixed use (multiple family), future Planned Development by the town/county/ developer.  Don’t forget to explore the area. Is that nice building behind the trees an office building or a prison?  Thankfully, we didn’t have that experience.

Research the potential Builder / Re-modeler – Diligently! Ask the County / Town/ Neighbors about any Failed Inspections they may have had with previous jobs. Talk with Homeowners that have worked with them…in private. Don’t have the Realtor or Builder present during the conversation. It’s understandable that some people may be less than candid if there were any problems during / after their home building process if a third party is present. Talk with suppliers, including those in the Big Box stores if the builder uses them. An “eye roll” may be worth a thousand words. Talk to competitors. Most good / ethical builders will be honest in speaking of another builder. They may do things a little differently or prices may be a little more or less than the other guy, but a prolonged, “Welllll”, speaks volumes! Talk with everyone and don’t forget the folks at the local zoning / building departments and the local police / sheriff. Our experience was that they were very helpful and gave us great insight.

Once you decide on a builder, “do a Reagan”: Trust but Verify! Be specific in what you want and what you’ll get. Everything must be in writing, including materials that will be used.  Weather affects almost every building process. But, what happens if the builder delays completion for 2, 3, 4 months or even more? It’s going to cost you money to extend a lease or sale of an existing home. Will a deliberate delay cost them anything? Some builders start, stop and move onto another project before finishing the first. Find out, too, who will be doing the actual construction. Does the builder have his own “core crew” for framing and finishing, etc. or is everything sub-contracted out? If a “core crew” is used, how long have they worked for the builder?  Be cautious of a builder that has an exceedingly high turnover rate or that constantly flips sub-contractors. There is a reason. Make sure there is an actual blueprint for the job and not an “online rendering” and that you are given a complete copy. Go over everything in the plans with the builder and an attorney / architect before contracts are signed (expect to pay for these beforehand, they do cost money). Changes made after contracts are signed will almost certainly cost you money and time, especially if made during construction. A wall color change probably won’t, unless the builder has already bought the paint. When picking appliances verify when the choices must be made and when they will be bought. Sometimes a buyer can buy the appliances directly and have them held by the store until needed. This can spare you the aggravation of hearing later from the builder that the prices went up or the item is out of stock so you must pick some other model or make. Experience is speaking here!

Finally, find out how a particular builder handles mistakes or problems. Only a previous home buyer can tell you this. Things happen, but how those unforeseen snags are taken care of is important to your sanity and enjoyment of your home.

Building can be a challenge. But, being diligent (and a bit lucky), patient and choosing wisely can turn that empty lot into your Home, Sweet Home!

Home, Sweet Home

If you are ever considering moving to Staunton give us a shout!

Building a Home – 8

It’s been a while since I’ve posted updates of our home building project here in Augusta County, Staunton, Virginia. Because of the current virus distancing protocols, we haven’t been able to visit the site as often as we had previously. But, this afternoon, The Redhead and I met with our builder and went over a few remaining details and got an up close look at all the progress that has been made these past few weeks. What a change!

Most of the heavy work has been completed. The rear deck is awaiting stairs and the stairs to basement and attic will be finished shortly. Plumbing fixtures will be installed soon as will be the granite counter tops and kitchen cabinet doors. The Hickory wood floors have all been installed and are in the process of getting a final sanding before the finish is added. But, it really has come together.

Two features that we think will be very beneficial are ceiling fans in almost every room and the addition of interior insulation. Both features will help in maintaining comfortable temperatures year-round and the insulation of the interior walls will also help to  reduce noise between rooms. I’ll update on this after we have settled in for a while.

Now, come along and take a peek at what will soon be our new home.

DSC_0637 (1024x683)
View of Living Room from front entrance. Fireplace is awaiting custom cabinetry. Sun porch is through doorways.

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Sun Porch with view of deck. Facing East, we’ll get views of sunrise above the mountains and sometimes our neighbor’s cows! Walls are getting paint touch-ups.

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Wall of cabinets awaiting granite counters. Marble subway-style tiles will be used as back splash and wall around stove vent and duct. Walk-in pantry is to right.

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Another wall of hand-made cabinets.Top section of upper cabinets will have glass fronts. Dining room is through doorway.

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One of the guest bedrooms, view of front yard.

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2nd guest bedroom, view of sunrises and cows!

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View of front entryway and dining room. Notice the extra tall front door.

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Painter David doing touch-up painting in Laundry Room. Ya’ gotta love that “Corona Doo” hairstyle! David started out on our house as a framing apprentice but turned out to be an excellent painter.

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The Redhead (wearing hat) visiting with our across the street friends and neighbors, Ann and James.

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Front of our new Staunton , Virginia home. Front porch columns, when finished, will be tapered in a Craftsman style.

So, there you are. Work on the house is now going full-steam ahead. Closing may be very late this month or possibly the beginning of June. The lock-downs have caused a bit of a slow down with personnel and the material supply chain. But, all seems well now.

The Redhead and I are going to have our work cut out for us in landscaping the yards, planting shrubs, etc. Any volunteers??

Personally, I can’t wait to set up my workshop in the spacious basement and get back to reviving American vintage furniture. It’s been several years since I’ve mixed my varnishes and stains and used my glues, clamps and brushes. Let’s hope I’ve retained some of my Redeux Vintage Furniture skills!

A special thanks to all of our friends and “family of the heart” that have kept us in their prayers. Without your support and prayers, tonight’s blog may have been a different story. And, thanks to St. Padre Pio, your intercession has never failed.

Bill

 

 

Gettin’ the stink off!

My mother had an expression she would use if she found us hanging around the house too much: “Get out and blow the stink off.”

If hanging around the house can make you stink, many of us are now close to down- right putrid.

There isn’t much more to say about this virus lock-down. We’re all talked out about it, I think. Some areas are starting to see rebellions of one sort or another, but, so far, these are, for the most part, peaceful and sensible. People want to work and be with their families and see their friends and pray together. No one wants to get or give the cooties.

This past week, The Redhead and I did try to get some of the stink off. We drove and walked around Staunton and yesterday, Saturday, we joined several of our friends for what was a real treat. It seems that even this virus can bring unexpected blessings.

So, here are a few pics of our lock-down life here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Come on along.

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Sacred Heart window, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Staunton
Stained Glass window of Mary, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Staunton, VA
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Train awaiting repair at Staunton train yard.
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Staunton, VA train yard
Crucible Coffee
Crucible Coffee Shop and Roaster, Staunton, VA
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Even a face mask won’t block the aroma of freshly roasted and brewed coffee at Crucible Coffee, Staunton
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Walking with friends along the Blue Ridge Parkway…no cars allowed!
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An “intoxicating view”- the vineyards of the Shenandoah!
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View of Humpback Mountain in distance (notch at top).
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Street Art, river walk park, downtown Waynesboro, VA
It’s an interesting perspective that one gains when traveling by foot and being surrounded by silence. The stained glass windows of our church, St. Francis of Assisi in Staunton were especially beautiful during our visit Friday morning. The window of the Sacred Heart brought back a flood of memories. It was in Sacred Heart Church in Connecticut that, as a child, I found protection from something much scarier than the Corona Cooties.

This very unusual period of time has given us opportunities we may have overlooked or not been able to take advantage of: Walking the Blue Ridge Parkway, exploring the nooks and crannies of Staunton and Waynesboro, and rediscovering the Beauty of Silence.

Get out, walk, discover the beauty all around you.
Be happy, pray and don’t worry.
Bill

 

 

 

The Impeachment Antidote!

I can’t take it anymore!

Turn on the t.v and it’s there. Click on the car radio…it’s there. Glance at a newspaper when picking up a cup of coffee…gotcha! Is there no relief from everything Ukraining on my parade?

The “leaders” of our country seem bent on arguing, posturing, riling everyone up, fabricating and just being nasty. Many, if not most, of them have never done an honest day’s work in their life. Yet, they create one “crisis” after another and try to pit one American against another. Their world is not the real world.

To find a world where civility, integrity, hard and honest work and common sense are, well, common, all I have to do is take the short ride up to our home building site here in Staunton, VA.

Construction may be the great equalizer. You can either do it or you can’t. It makes no difference if you are young or older, big or small, male or female. Where you are from or what you look like is of no importance. If you can do the work or learn, that’s all that matters.

If you’re like me and can’t take the daily bombardment of crazy anymore, come along for a peak into the real world…the building of our home.

Eric Argenbright, Owner of E&A Home Builders, supervising and banging nails!

Buck, the lead man, showing new guy, David, the details of setting roof trusses.
This ain’t DC, lots of teamwork here! Kyle, David and Buck getting it done.
Teamwork making progress
Windows going in…and look what’s on the roof!
The roofing crew in action…men and women!
All that hammering upstairs doesn’t slow down Buck, Kyle and David from working on the living room ceiling!

Now, don’t you feel better? I do! Turn off the t.v. and radio. Watch some real work getting done, meet and talk to your neighbors and see how nice this world really is!

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

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