Saturday, March 7, 2009

Catching Up - The House and Barn Project

Well – It has been far too long since I have posted to my blog – so I have some catching up to do! Here is the story of our house and barn repair project:

A House-Doo!

Well our “little” mansion finally got its make over. We loving call our house “Money Pit – The Sequel” because sometimes it seems like we will never get it all done – and probably we won’t. But we sure are having a good time with it, and spending a goodly amount of money trying!

Our house is the longest still-standing residence in our village – 200+ years old (1804). We actually gave it a 200th Birthday Party in 2004 and had an open house to celebrate. We bought our grand ol’ home in 2001 and got married in it that September 29th. We had thought of canceling our wedding because of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, but changed our minds with the thought that if we did cancel our plans then the terrorists had won. Shortly after 9-11 I put electric candles in all of the front windows and they have been our little beacons of hope and peace even since. They even stayed lit during the flood of 2006, and the fire fighters that brought us the news that our house did not flood inside told us how nice it was to see those candles lit as they patrolled at night. So we have been pretty dedicated to our house since we bought it.

The Briarwood Company ( crews showed up for the first time on August 3, 2008, with a projected date to be finished somewhere around the first week of October. I am ever the skeptic and knew it would not go that quickly or that smoothly. After all - It has had 200 years to rot and decay! There were places in need of repair that we would never guess or find until the repairs started, but it was not without hope as most of the repairs were pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. The project was pretty much wrapped up by the beginning of November with only a few minor adjustments left to be done.

They started with scraping . . . and scraping . . . and more scraping. They took all of the shutters down – battling the bats hiding in the slats and the hornets nesting behind. They did repairs to trim and moldings, put in a new portico floor and replaced any bad pieces of clapboard siding. As the painting was done, storm windows were adjusted and refitted for better energy conservation, and drafty places were insulated and plugged. Then came the primer and then coats of the traditional yellow paint the house is famous for – even written about in several books.

The Barn - Deplorably Before!
The “carriage house” was another matter. It’s not really a carriage house, but the broker who sold us the house called it that and it stuck. I always thought it was a little snooty cuz it’s actually a barn! So now – I have insisted we call it the barn! The front addition that made it look so cute was originally attached to the house. It was moved back and placed on the front of the barn. It gave it such a cute look and was once even an apartment with electricity, running water and even a small bathroom. At one time it was even used as a music studio – but it had fallen in much disrepair over the last few decades and the flood finished it off by caving in the floor.

On the back of the barn at sometime or other an addition was added to transform the barn into a three-stall garage. The sad part was that the original hand-hewn beams were cut into in order to mount garage door openers, and this compromised the beams and they began to sag. So the addition on the back had to come off as well.

Our main goal for the barn was to stabilize the structure and restore as much as possible to the barn it once was. It still has its working sliding barn doors and a chicken door! The Briarwood Company did a fabulous job and we are very, very pleased with how things have finished up!

Now that spring is just around the corner, we look out to the back of the property and see all of the next steps (work) that we will soon be taking. We put in a 12 x 24 foot garden shed behind the barn for all of the lawn and garden equipment in order to keep the grass clippings and oil from the equipment from getting onto the barn floor. We kept the concrete floor in the barn and it worked out very nicely – We don’t want to mess it up. And we are not really sure what we will eventually use the barn for – maybe we will just sit back and admire it!

The Barn - All Done!
The House - All Done!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Trip to the Poconos!

I have been a bit remiss in keeping up with my blog. This post is from a trip we took to the Poconos for our 7th anniversary on September 30th:

To the Poconos . . . and beyond! Well –Maybe not beyond but the trip here to the Poconos is well needed and well deserved on our part!

The painting and repair work on our 200 year old house and barn is progressing very well, but we needed a break from the constant scraping and banging. And poor ol’ Dillon has pretty much given up with trying to keep up with his barking duties as the workers ferry their ladders around to different sides of the house. When we left Monday there was a large truck with a trailer full of wooden blocks for raising the barn up. Oooo – I don’t know if it would be good for me to watch that! What if they drop it?

So we packed up and dropped Mr. Dillon off at Puppy Camp (he never even looked back he likes it there so much) and headed for my sister-in-law’s vacation house just a short ways from the Delaware River and the Delaware Water Gap. The weather is great this time of year and in spite of a daunting weather forecast when we left of rain and gloom – we were optimistic that the days would be nice, cool and comfortable.

The little house rests in the middle of a preserved woodsy gated community but one would never know it. Some of the residents live here year round and some, such as ourselves, are occasional visitors.

The house has a screened-in porch and that is my favorite place to park. There’s no TV and no internet – only AM-FM and we brought our portable Sirius Radio to keep up with budget disaster (that seems to be working itself out). The area around the houses is very dense forest and the deer are daily visitors. They tolerate the people – or the people tolerate them – and I rarely see any that have succumbed to connecting with a moving vehicle. This year there is a doe that is a dark blackish-brown and she has two other smaller younger deer more reddish-brown than she is hanging with her. Then along came the man of the
house . . . errrr . . . woods. And what a character he has turned out to be!

“Crooked Horn” he has been dubbed due to a quirky left-side horn that points back inward at its tip. He saunters right up to the door, almost, to see if any apple slices might have accidently fallen out the door, but he won’t come all the way to my hand. He will stand there eyeing me patiently until I throw the delights his way. He will eat them up with glee and sachet around and then all of sudden bolt up the hill and run back around the house, slow down, and then start grazing up under the trees. He says – “I am in charge here!” He doesn’t bolt off when the apples are thrown, only when he feels the time is right to put on some show!

The wooded area around the house is ripe with nature and photo opportunities, and I have tried my hand at some unusual shots. They all look great to me – maybe I’ll make a calendar some day!

Among the trees several oaks grow and they are heavy with acorns this year. A walk up among this area is a precarious one and the acorns sting quite a bit when they connect with the top of ones head. A dark black squirrel with a long fluffy tail has not let up with his nut search and gathering since we pulled into the driveway. He is not the least bit shy and will pretty much ignore any advances or calling out to him – more focused on the winter’s meal stash. His antics are fun to watch as he plows his nose through the fallen leaves and ground litter like a rutting pig would do in search of the illusive acorns.

The forest would not be complete without the visiting bird – and he came in the form of a very loud crow who happened to perch on the roof right outside the bedroom window just as I was enjoying a long needed afternoon nap. He was so close I could hear his feet scratching on the roof and I could hear the little round pieces from shingles flitter down the side of the house. He kept up his loud raucous calling until I heard the rest of the crow band coming closer and then he took flight for the next unsuspecting napper further up the hill!

I am writing this today on day two – and so far it has been a wonderful rest. Tomorrow we are heading out for a pottery barn to watch a demonstration from picking the clay to finishing the pot. No doubt some shopping will be part of the tour. We have also planned a trip to a brewery and dinner at their elite restaurant, a trip to a farmer’s market in South Stroudsburg, and a trip the Candle Factory to see how the beautiful carved candles are made and to scope out some neat Christmas gifts for those back home. We probably won’t fit everything in for this time around – but we sure will try!

To be continued . . . .

Well, no sooner than I shut the PC down than did those old rain drops did begin to fall, working from a slow pitter-patter up to a downpour by bed time.

Now it’s day three and the sun tried to shine through very heavy fog and mist – and we were off to find the Holly Ross Pottery showcase. We were sorely disappointed finding a place quite different from the internet image. We were way too late for any pottery demonstration. There were a lot of things to look and we did buy a $10 pizza stone and a $40 bird bath – but we shied away from the four inch fancy blue cereal bowls that were $16 a piece. Imagine letting the little ones eat their cocoa puffs out of one of those!

Next we were onto the House of Candles – a family-owned business four miles up a winding mountain road and well worth the trip. The foliage is just starting to turn and it was a beautiful drive even on a gray fall day.

Once inside we were treated to the wonderful aromas of a candle store with every manner of holder and decoration surrounding us. We started wandering around and ended up going “downstairs” to the area where the carved candles are created. We were just in time for a demonstration of candle carving, beginning with the dipping of the eight-point star-shaped candle in different colored layers of hot wax and the subsequent carving that produces such a beautiful finished product. After the candle is dipped in all of the layers, but before it is carved, the artist cuts the very bottom off where all of the waxes dripped and then forms this piece into a mushroom shaped little candle holder – which we promptly begged to buy – and succeeded!

We picked out a light house carved candle and they drilled out the center of the top of the candle so we don’t have to actually burn the piece itself. We purchased a liquid paraffin insert, but discovered that the little battery operate flickering votives worked very well and look like a real candle (See our picture).

After the candle trip we decided that we needed some pizza to bolster up our energy level and we had the Garmin pick out a spot. Well – as we Reichardts have a tendency to do – everything is an adventure. We knew we were getting some real Italian pizza when the whole family that owned and worked the place barely spoke English. We wanted to sit and be waited on and almost left because they weren’t sure what we were asking. Apparently customers can order and then sit – or just sit first. At any rate – the antipasto salad was huge and we split that, the cokes were huge and we couldn’t finish them, and half of the pizza came back to the house. We will munch on that tomorrow night while we listen the vice-presidential debates!

So we are here again relaxing out on the screened porch and the rain is beginning to fall. Tomorrow it is on to the brewery!

To be continued, again . . . .

Here we are at day four – the last whole day we have to our vacation. We got up a little bit earlier and had some cereal at the house. Then it was off to the brewery for the 12:30 tour of the beer making facilities and a meal at the restaurant there. It was a very good thing that we did leave a little early as the I-80 traffic was traveling at a whopping 20 miles per hour.

We got to the Barley Creek Brewery at about noon and looked over the scrumptious (and expensive) menu. We planned to eat after the tour and were already having trouble making up our minds. We had looked previously at their menu on-line so we knew there weren’t going to be any surprises and had decided that today would be the one vacation day that we would not count our pennies – we planned on a big meal ticket!

We were the only two people for the little tour and a very friendly young man led us through the art of beer making from cracking the barley to choosing the hops to temperatures and yeast and gravity and straining and bottling and drinking the brewskies themselves! Their brewing style is based on British Ale brewing.

Next we parked ourselves at a comfortable booth by a window overlooking the woods on the other side of the road – and the waitress brought us a complimentary four-glass beer tasting sampler (But only 5 ounces each!). First we tried the Rescue IPA(India Pale Ale). It was a surprise for a beer as I am not a brewsky connoisseur – it was smooth and rich but had very little carbonation to it.

Next was a pale golden ale called Antler Brown Ale and it was very, very good. This was Charlie’s choice of the four and I passed the glass over to him to finish off. Third on the sampler was a darker gold Navigator Golden Ale that was good – but not as good as number two! But for me the fourth one, a much darker beer, was the clincher Oktoberfest! Mmmm-mmmm-mmmm! I managed to finish the glass off and a six pack of Oktoberfest followed us right out to the car and begged to come home with us to Unadilla!

The meal was absolutely worth every penny and the portions were big enough that we had leftovers to bring back for later.

Take a look at Charlie finishing off his meal!

Next we headed off the Callie’s Candy Kitchen by way of a many mile detour because Garmin had it located in Bangor, PA, as opposed to the Cresco-Mountainhome area. When we got to the store we asked if the business had ever been in Bangor – Yes – 30 years ago! Thank you Ms. Recalculating Garmin!

At any rate – I could not believe all of the homemade scrumptious candies at this place and we came out with $27 worth that included Pocono Bark candy, chocolate covered potato chips and Oreo cookies, dipped cream cheese (a very special taste needed for that one) and a host of others that we haven’t tried yet. We also ended up with a “sampler” pack of butter crunch candies. We will dole out our chocolate goodies very sparingly to make them last!

And the trip to Callie’s Candy Kitchen would not be complete without driving 3 miles down the road to Callie’s Pretzel Factory! I did not know that so many things could be done to pretzels and popcorn – but we came out of there with enough snacks to last quite a long while.

By this point in our day, and in our vacation, we were ready to call it quits. We headed back to the little house in the Pocono Ranch Lands to indulge in a few of goodies, eat last night’s leftover pizza, and to wait for the vice-presidential debate to come on – out entertainment for night!

Tomorrow – we pack it up early and head to Perkins for brunch. Then we head home to pick up Mr. Dillon and to see what has happened with the house and barn since we have been gone.

To the Poconos – Adieu! Adieu! Parting is such sweet sorrow!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thinking back on the Flood of 2006

Two years ago about this time we were privately celebrating that we had survived the June 2006 floods that devastated New York’s Central Southern Tier and Northern Central Pennsylvania. We were extremely lucky in our little village in that most of the damage to our homes was limited to a soggy, stinky landscape and some very high water in our basements. But some families down closer to the river took the full brunt of the water, and other local towns, such as Sidney below us and Otego above us, were battered very badly. Some families lost their homes but in our village all of our homes stood firm and are once again dry.

It has bothered me more this year at flood anniversary time than it did last on the one year anniversary date – who knows why. The river is low this year and rainfall is normal, but I am thinking back more now than I did then.

I remember coming back to our home after almost 3 days in an emergency shelter at our local high school with dozens of others who had fled the rising river waters. We knew from news that had been brought to us at the shelter by our tireless local volunteer fire department members that our house was fine and that we probably did not have water into the first floor. We also knew that the electric had somehow stayed on under the deep water and the electric candles in the windows of our home-safe-home had stayed on the whole time – giving hope to all who passed in large trucks or boats over those long three days.

The water fell even faster than it rose, but nothing could have prepared us for what we came home to - the smell of the flood mud – the FLUDGE as we still call it in our parts. Sometimes I can still get a faint whiff of it when a gentle rain first begins to fall on an early summer evening.

Our hearts go out to those who now have had to come home – or to what may be left it – out in the Midwest. There are no words that can fully describe it. It is only time and the perseverance of the people and their communities that can heal the scars.

Tonight we celebrated as a community once again in our little village with a community picnic and summer concert – The flood was not the topic this year – the high fuel prices were. But, looking around at all of the familiar faces there tapping their feet to the music, I know that the flood of June 2006 will never be forgotten in our Village Beautiful – It may be on our tongues, but it stays on our minds.

One last look out the car windshield as we head off to the shelter June 28, 2006

Main Street and our front yard.

Mud was everywhere!

The mud had to be swept off of the street.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Welcome to my new blog – my very first blog! I have always enjoyed having my way with the English language and it is high time I stepped out into the Blog-O-Sphere! So come along with me and the people who surround me as I comment on anything and everything that comes along our way!

Charlie (my husband) and I live in a 200 year old house of our dreams, located in a sleepy little upstate New York village named Unadilla. Perched on the western banks of the Susquehanna River, the house has seen over 200 years of history, stories and adventures that we are only just beginning to uncover and appreciate. As my blog progresses, I will share our house hopes and dreams – and what it has taken to chip away at the challenges that have built up over that time. I will share past trials and future hopes as well what we’re up to at the present time.

We are ordinary folks by local I greatly appreciate that he has been “upstate” for a very long time, and we both love the small town life and everything that comes with it.

Last night we attended the first of the 2008 summer concert series on the front lawn of the Village of Unadilla Community House, and turn-of–the-century Italianate that houses the village offices and library. Every manner of folding chair populated the grassy area – many of us clustered under the few trees there as dark clouds threatened rain. But the clouds flew on by, and the big band & swing tunes rolled out of the “Fabulous Moonlighters” who were parked up on the Community House porch. Young and old – every manner of resident chatted and tapped their feet to the live music presentation.

Summer after summer this particular rhythm goes on – it is both comforting and disturbing at the same time: The older folks that are left to remember tell us of dancing to the familiar tunes of Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey when they were number one hits, while the youngsters of today prance around on the basketball court and romp on the playground equipment. It is one of those small town things that I know went on long before I arrived and will continue long after I am gone. Comforting.

"Is there not a certain satisfaction in the fact that natural limits are set to the life of an individual, so that at its conclusion it may appear as a work of art?"
-- Albert Einstein