Renovations Galore (part 1)

The month of August, we undertook a few big projects. One that I will reveal later, is our new parking lot (which is SUPER exciting all by itself!). But first, I wanted to reveal the big change in the ceremony area behind the barn:

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IT’S LEVEL! And it has grass. And brick steps. And steps leading down to the trail where folks like to explore and some of the BEST wedding photos happen among the rocks.

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Here is how it looked a couple of months ago for a photoshoot — you can see it isn’t quite flat, but it also slopes quite a bit off the barn. We had added five feet of dirt earlier in 2017 and it compacted enough for use just in time for weddings last November, but over time it was still settling and nowhere near as level as we wanted it to be. Plus the grass from seed kept dying. We went for sod this time.

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I went digging for how much this space behind the barn has changed since we bought the land just over two years ago — I found this one, from January 2017 (with Cookie in it, which made me sad all over again).

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You can see how MUCH it sloped — there was barely a useable area back here at all, certainly nothing for ceremonies.

And now, with 2 feet more of dirt in some places, plus rock — we treated it like a golf course, after a friend’s excellent suggestion. We have a couple inches of rock below the topsoil — that way, the ground dries faster than if it were only dirt alone. Drainage considerations on a mountain are serious stuff:

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We did most all of this leveling by HAND you guys. That means shovels, and wheelbarrows, and sore bodies. There’s no way to get equipment through the barn, and to go around back is a little dangerous for machinery… and still slow. So by hand it was. We have the muscles to prove it. For a while we were looking pretty svelte too… but I think a few quarts of ice cream may have caught up with us since then.

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The first little set of stairs are reclaimed brick from an old chimney in St Elmo, set with railroad ties to make them pretty long. They were not leveled yet in this shot– just placed down so we knew we had enough of them.

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Same view, from a few months ago with our photoshoot with Hillary Leah.

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One last before and after! We’re so thrilled to have it looking like…. an event space!

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Next post… parking!

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