Shinrin-Yoku – Learning to Take in the Forest

I hadn’t heard of Shinrin-yoku until last winter, when I came across an article explaining the restorative, calming, benefits of the practice. There are full studies on the effects of forest bathing being held in Japan, noting reduced blood pressure, improved mood, increased energy levels, improved sleep, an increased ability to focus and even accelerated recovery from surgery or illness.

Having purchased this property while working in a fairly stressful job, I can attest to how just taking ten minutes to breathe outdoors here, staring up at the tree canopy or sitting on the ground did far more to calm my racing mind than a glass of wine.

The concept of Shinrin Yoku is simple: visit a natural area and walk in a relaxed manner. I would argue, one does not even need to walk — simply choose a spot, and sit still. Oh, and leave your electronic leash (cell phone) in the car.

The science behind it is fascinating, for example, many trees give off organic compounds that support our “natural killer” cells that are part of our immune system’s way of fighting cancer.

Over the last few months, Dave and I have done more digging into elements of the practice of Shinrin-yoku. We have found it’s best if you can take in nature through all five senses, and we have noted that many of us busy Americans need to be coached in what “walking slowly” is. No fitbit. No hiking. No goal except to simply relax.

To that end, Dave and I have decided to host a Shinrin-yoku workshop here at Oakleaf on Oct 22nd. We will practice breathing, take a guided, slow walk through the forest, enjoy site-made tea and refreshments and learn how to fully engage with the beauty of the wild — and meet some like-minded folks interested in the benefits of the forest.

We decided on a Sunday, so you can start your week off right.

It’s better than a hike, I promise. Get tickets here.

Cris (and Dave)

 

 

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Summer’s Last Hurrah Dinner

Confession time: I, Cris, am a tableware hoarder.

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I’ve wanted an excuse to create an “ocean” themed table for ages, ever since I first found this vase some years ago. As time went on, I found more pieces that related to it — flower holders, salt and pepper shakers…

And then it just happens that my family has three birthdays in September. And that one of those persons is usually not in town.

And it also just so happens that Mom and Dad come back from the Bahamas with yummy things like lobster and crab that Dad found while snorkeling. And suddenly a table concept was born. With only a day left before the last day of summer, it was to be Summer’s Last Hurrah — a nod to all the fun and joys of summer, with a menu to match.

Bonus: I had to play with dye to make the linens I needed for an “ocean” theme. Gosh, how terrible.

Friends, I give you Summer’s Last Hurrah.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos of the meal itself. We had crab, rockfish, lobster, roasted vegetables, the best rice pilaf ever…. and then for dessert we had Key Lime pie, blueberry cheesecake and a strawberry cake. It was fabulous.

I was also terrible about taking photos of the crowd — but it’s family and sometimes that feels awkward, no? We had a great time. And, I can say the front porch can easily dine 16.

I had so much fun making the linens I’m not at all opposed to making some for anyone who wants some. I’m still working out specific color abilities with dye, but I’d do my best to get colors you like 😉

Setting tables is a serious passion of mine — I’m so grateful to have Oakleaf, with all its various places to set up to my heart’s content virtually anything I can dream up, and so many family and friends who put up with my madness.

Happy first day of Fall!

Cris.

 

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Revealing the Barn

Well, kinda revealing. It’s not finished — but considering where we started a few months back, the transformation is coming along well.

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oakleaf cottage barn exterior

We had a deadline that we never expected would be tight, but with all the rain this spring it took for-ev-ah to get dirt and rock up here. Also, due to our location, a lot of work has to be done by hand. Mostly by two people. Myself, and Dave. I’ve got some pretty cool muscles going after slinging a pickaxe so often. Who needs a gym, when you are remodeling a barn on the side of a mountain?

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Our deck is complete, save we will be changing out the farm-fence look to tension wire in the very near future. It’s 16×50, and feels outright amazing – like you are in the treetops. After we stain it in a couple of months we can add pots and some minor furnishings out here for our Cottage guests to relax on while watching the sunset. We’ll be leaving lots of room for morning yoga, which some recent guests found the deck to be perfect for.

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Inside, we are still working as well. The floor will get poured SOON, and we have some really cool details that will go into that. After that, we can install the lighting on the posts (and down the center), and we will be using reclaimed brick on the posts to give the barn a different, but solid, look.

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Our first event, a rehearsal dinner, went super well. Everyone loved it, and we loved watching how guests spilled out to explore the property and trails, some assisting newly walking kiddos who held on to their parent’s fingers — both for balance and to pull Mommy and Daddy everywhere. We were completely exhausted, but even through that were thrilled to see how people interacted in the space. It’s just as we dreamed.

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We literally pulled our temporary bar together using the original lower stall doors about 2 hours before the event started. We were sooooo down to the wire. We’re happy it looks halfway decent, but looking forward to installing the original design with bar sinks and an undercabinet fridge. It will have a floating/locking island that can be used too, for greater versatility of space. But it dresses up nice.

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Early this week, we had a small group of people come through to have a look at our little construction project, so we set out a little wine and cheese. I loooove pulling greenery straight from the outdoors in decorating a space.

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Our tripod dog, Cookie, was completely worn out from playing host/official greeter and spent the majority of two hours right about here.

Work continues out here — this week, Dave has been installing the beams and details on the ceilings on the sides of the barn. It has a steel structure, which is nice and sturdy but not terribly pretty. From here, it’s all cosmetics.

new beams

We can’t wait to see what neat events will be in store for this place over the years, and have a number of great seminars and nature-related events in the works. Watch our events page or follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss out!

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xoxo-

Cris & Dave

 

 

Deck and Barn Progress

The passage of time is a strange thing when you are working on a big project, because every day you see one more small thing finished or changed and it seems like progress takes forever, until you look at your photos from a week or two ago and realize how far you’ve come.

This was the MOAD less than two weeks ago (Mother of All Decks, which is what we are jokingly calling the massive deck we are building off the barn’s stall doors). Dave and I now have added the beginnings of stairs, considerably more posts, cross bracing and more cross bracing, and the board aprons.

When the Cottage isn’t rented, we like to take advantage of the kitchen and create a picnic lunch somewhere on the property. We have a slight tendency toward workaholicism, and it’s good for us to occasionally stop and enjoy this place we love so much, but work so hard on. The grapes left by the last guest made a welcome addition to our Eggplant Parmigiana.

  We don’t stop long, but it’s fun to swing our feet under us like little kids and talk about next steps or things we are looking forward to. How we will string lights in the trees, the view from the deck in winter, what kind of furniture we should have out here most of the time, the workshops we’d love to host. Before long, guests will be able to lunch (or dinner, or breakfast, or coffee) out here — and they won’t have to balance on a 2×12 to do it, either.

Last week, I laid new gravel in front of the barn. With so many loads of dirt being brought in, plus all the rain, the drive in front of the barn was terribly rough. I spent a day in the mud, trying to shovel the ruts out and get it level again, and the next two days spreading gravel — but it looks much improved and was the first step toward something looking better, rather than worse, as construction often does.

Around the same time, Dave poured the last section of footer and sill in the barn — we had to leave the back doors open while shuttling in all the dirt for the Barn Lawn (raising the ground level back up by about 5 feet from where it had been dug out during the barn’s build some years ago). This end of the barn was 32″ lower than the other, which also necessitated a lot of dirt/fill being needed in the barn.

The interior of the barn now has the start of the electrical rough-in, we spread gravel throughout, and I spent Saturday removing the original oak boards and the thin insulation behind them (seen in the sill photo above). The oak will go back up after the new insulation is installed next week, and we are saving the old insulation for the goat shed we will build this winter. None of this is particularly picture-worthy and we both hate showing something that isn’t perfect — so note, you don’t see much of the walls in the below picture (if you follow us on Instagram, you may notice I don’t post pictures of the barn or construction, but I do show it in the Stories.)

Also — oh HAPPY DAY! — I finally found reclaimed windows to replace the existing vinyl windows (and in two places, we are adding windows). We were beginning to think we might have to cobble several windows together, as the opening size is rather unusual and generally custom order — but this guy had the precise size we needed, and the exact number! We will be cutting the window openings taller to make room for them, and we are both excited to see more natural light coming in to the barn interior.

We will have more natural light coming in from the other side as well, as we are taking the original stall doors that led to the outside (and now lead to the deck!) and changing them to look a little like this:

It feels so good to be finished with the “deconstruction” phase and start seeing progress toward the place looking better. Hope you are having an amazing summer so far!

Cris & Dave

 

 

 

 

Year One

We cannot believe a year has passed since we purchased Oakleaf Cottage. A year ago today, we left the title office, packed a tiny overnight bag, an air mattress, a bottle of wine and our favorite celebratory glasses: a pair of gold-decked champagne flutes Dave’s mom found at auction. We treated ourselves to dinner at Canyon Grill, still trying to absorb what we had done, and what we needed to do.

We dozed off with the full solstice moon shining blue through the uncovered windows, lulled by the sound of a pair of owls talking to each other across the night, and a soft breeze in the treetops. Dawn arrived clear and cool, and we sat on the steps of the front porch, sipping coffee, drawing sketches, discussing details and plans, dreaming and getting distracted by the beauty around us.

oakleaf cottage exterior

A number of changes took place in the first few months – starting with remodeling the Cottage. It has fabulous bones, a classic “four over four” farmhouse layout that feels like home, or your grandparent’s home. There is no want for windows and natural light, and the living spaces have the perfect balance between openness and privacy.

We wanted to draw out more of that sense of an older home, every change we made was with consideration of what an older farmhouse would have. We settled on tongue and groove for the ceilings rather than beadboard, as we knew it would be very difficult to make the home seem 100 years old — but we could make it feel 80, with built-ins and simple trim.

Our first year saw a couple moderate-sized events, a few insanely fun photoshoots, and even a commercial was filmed here!

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Photo courtesy of Riverworks Marketing

We are still undergoing more changes, and this year’s focus has been on the barn. We’ve never seen a barn smack dab in the woods before, and certainly not snuggled up alongside such an impressive rocky mountainside. We’ve been bringing in loads of dirt, first to level the floor of the barn (it had a 28″ difference in floor height from one end to the other) and then to fill in the area behind the barn where a lot of dirt had been dug out by the original owners to create a level enough space for the barn – we are on the side of a mountain, after all.

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behind the barn original

Behind the Barn – Last Year

Standing on all that dirt, four feet higher than we had ever seen it before, felt surreal to Dave and I (and not just for the fact that we spent a lot of money on dirt we could stand on). We see the area behind the barn as being such a fun place, like a back lawn. We can’t wait to have dinners and Celidihs (Kay-lees) here.

We were first exposed to a celidih while in Nova Scotia, taking in Celtic music during the yearly festival known as Celtic Colors, which brings in musicians from all over the world to play Gaelic-inspired music. In its traditional Scottish or Irish sense, it’s simply a social gathering, involving music and dancing. It’s so much fun, we want to have a place to hold such music here — and what better place than next to a mossy rock wall that looks like it came straight out of Darby O’Gill and the Little People?

This past year has been extremely exciting for us. We’ve done most all the work ourselves, and so it’s been a lot of long days and late nights and early mornings (which explains some of my sloppy blogging history). We can’t wait to move forward and share more of this gorgeous place. We are, every day, grateful and in awe of this place we come to, a place that offers new surprises all the time, like our little friend Casper:

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Here’s to our first year!

  • Cris & Dave

New Year 2017

Old houses are a funny thing. I find myself wondering what past holidays were like. Were they happy? Was there a real tree in the living room, or an artificial one? What were the traditions, the favorite things shared, were the gifts handmade, was there a big meal or a simple but traditional breakfast?

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Of course, people vary in what they think about homes with any history. Some say it’s silly, houses don’t have a soul or a past. Others say every life ever in it leaves a bit of themselves behind. As we remodeled Oakleaf, we found a lot of past marks, some of which we kept, some, like the LEGO wedged inextricably between a couple of floorboards upstairs, we had no choice but to keep as we refinished the floors. Signs of a bigger dog than the little wiry one we met, the partly sanded-out sibling rivalry evidenced on a bedroom door (we sanded it out the rest of the way, though we found it amusing), the names of all the children inscribed in pencil in a hidden spot.

I was glad my family wanted to celebrate Christmas at Oakleaf Cottage this year. It seemed wrong for a house to sit empty on such a big holiday, and we were happy to bring in a tree. Mom made a yummy holiday brunch, we all entertained my 6-month old nephew, took lots of photos and had a nice little holiday together. We may not have that luxury next year, but knowing the house will not be empty for big holidays makes us feel warm inside.

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We had the opportunity to enjoy Oakleaf for the very reason, and very use, that we envision for others: a place for families to enjoy together.

So here we are, greeting 2017. Oakleaf Cottage has some lovely guests enjoying the New Year already — a gathering of family, some from afar. Another such meeting of old friends booked earlier today. It looks like the Cottage will be what we dreamed, full of happy memories, great meals, connecting with friends and families, relaxing in nature, and living in the moment.

At the end of the day, the above things are what is important in life.

May your 2017 be filled with good times, great friends, fantastic food, plenty of fresh air and just enough time in a day to appreciate those moments.

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Nice Day for a White Wedding

Whew! Fall is THE time for weddings, and we had TWO photoshoots this weekend! It gave us a taste of what we can expect here at Oakleaf Cottage. It is so FUN watching the photographers work, and listen to the oohs and ahhs when people see the setting — not to mention how gorgeous the brides looked! It was very exciting and we loved every minute of it.

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blog_ps1 The fall leaves have just been incredible, in spite of the drought. We are lucky to have any color at all, and also lucky that the smoke from all the wildfires near us mostly cleared for both shoots.

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For one, we heavily decorated the barn – so fun!

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These are all just my iPhone photos — but you get the picture. 🙂

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Hillary of HMX Photography directing the bride and groom.

I can never get over those rocks! We used electric candles, so nobody panic. We are trying to help prevent forest fires! When I went back later in the night to retrieve the electric votives, I just stood there a while — the “candlelight” mingled with the rocks was magical. We WILL do more of that, for sure!

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ArtTra Photography has given us a sneak peek at one of their images — we cannot wait to see them all!

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Want to book a wedding with us? Contact us!