Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Come on in!!

THIS is the gorgeous staircase in the foyer. Try to see beyond a couple of years worth of dust, and even more years of it not being cleaned much. Look way beyond the lovely red linoleum tiles that have only partially been removed.

I can hear my knees popping and creaking already, as I run (ha!) up and down the stairs, what will undoubtedly be ten thousand times. I will know it is my knees, because the stairs don't make the first squeak, even when the boys (some bigger than others) travel up and down it while working and carrying heavy tools.

Yesterday, we were sitting on the porch talking, and Hershel was flipping channels, and we happened upon This Old House. Can you guess what they were doing? Cleaning an old staircase! We learned how to do it by watching the experts in renovation. Here we thought we would have to strip it, sand it and stain it, but nope! That's a last resort.

I can't wait to see this staircase cleaned, restained and polished. Wanna bet who gets stuck cleaning all those spindles with strips of cloth, toothbrushes and dental floss???

Labels: Staircase, cleaning, restoration

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Buyin' Blind

Originally posted Sept 1, 2008

For as long as I can remember, Hershel and I have dreamed of finding an old house that needed fixin' up, and restoring it to its original beauty. Although we have looked at more than one, there has never been a house that we thought was 'the one.'

And for as long as I can remember, Hershel has been trying to talk me into moving back to the hills of Tennessee. I have always had one reason or another for staying put. The kids, the grand kids, my studies, the money. More than anything, moving out of the year-round Florida sunshine is definitely out of my comfort zone!

Then my family got in the middle of it. Almost ten years ago, my sister Jeani started it, by buying a weekend cabin in Mentone, Alabama. Mentone, population 400-something, has a blinking light, a laid-back atmosphere, and the 450-mile yard sale each summer. We both fell in love with the area on our first trip. We have looked at property in and around Mentone for most of the last ten years, and never found 'the one.' Jeani has since sold her cabin, but has replaced it with a beautiful home on the brow in nearby Cloudland, GA. Then my niece, Mye, got into it. She has a five-year plan that includes moving close to her mom in North Georgia or North Alabama. She wants us to move up there, and has found several properties for us to look at, knowing that it was a matter of time until we found 'the one.'

Well, six months ago, it happened. I found what I thought was 'the one.' It's in SmallTown, Alabama, population 611. SmallTown is just a few miles from Mentone. The only problem was, we couldn't figure out how to make it work financially. Three months later, the price was reduced, nearly in half. We talked about it in great length, chicken scratching numbers, figuring, supposing, and playing 'what if' - a lot.

We tussled with, "How can we leave the kids and grand kids here?" "What if we miss them too much?" and all of the other emotional things that go along with moving away. How could I leave the volunteer programs I have been so strongly involved in? How could Hershel give up his clients, some of whom are like family to us? How could we leave the best neighbors ever?

Then it happened. The price was reduced again. Ok, now the price was just so ridiculously low that we felt we could not pass up this opportunity to chase our dream. We sent Jeani to take a look at the house. We began intensifying our what if games, because now this was real. I have to admit, I was half-way hoping that my sister would make it really easy for us by looking at the house and saying, "Run!!" But, she didn't.

Anyone that knows my sister Jeani knows she is very prudent and a tad conservative when it comes to financial decisions. The chance of it being a win has to far outweigh the chance of it being a loser of a deal. Knowing this, my heart leaped when she said, "Jack, the house is beautiful, and I would jump on it in a heartbeat!" Then she sent me nearly 100 pictures. This was IT!

We went to lunch, Hershel looked at me and said, "Do you want to do it?" I said, "Let's do it!!" And so we did!
When we got home, I called my sister, Jeani, who conveniently for me, happens to be a Realtor/Broker, and told her we wanted to make an offer. We did, and it was accepted!

So here it is,
 the beginning of our dream......

The house was built in 1900. 2800 square feet, four bedrooms, one bath. It is sound and solid, except for the kitchen with a sagging rotting floor, and some previous improvements that need to be undone.
All of the interior walls and ceilings are 'matchstick' tongue and groove wood. Some are stained, some are painted. Almost all of the floors are original, as are all of the doors and windows. There is a fireplace in every room.

Out back, there is a stone retaining wall that runs the length of the house, ending at what was probably the original summer kitchen. Out front, there is a stacked stone wall that runs most of the length of the 1+ acre.

Crazy, huh? We bought a house we've never seen! We are so excited we can't stand it!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Much excitement!

Originally posted October 2008

Well, we just got home from spending four days at our new house! It is everything we had hoped it would be, and then some! We have investigated, speculated, and contemplated the entire house. We have measured all of the rooms, crawled under the house, and climbed into the attic. Ok, well I didn't actually do all that stuff, but Hershel and his brother did!

We mowed, raked, and clipped the overgrown unkempt yard. We hauled out several tubs of trash, and several more bags of junk that had been strewn throughout the yard. Our 'burn pile' is 10x10 and 10 feet high! My sister Jeani commented, "I can't believe you have this whole big house to work on, and you are worried about cleaning up the yard!" Yep, I'm a yard girl. Give me a cup of coffee and a pair of clippers, and I am totally in my element!

We had some wonderful special visitors on our first day! Being a Florida Master Gardener, I had called the DeKalb County Master Gardeners, and asked if there might be a MGardener or two that could come identify trees and shrubs for me. I was surprised to have four of the sweetest gals show up and walk the yard with me, identifying what I didn't recognize. I knew I should have written down their names, because now I don't remember them, but none the less, Harriett and her fellow Master Gardeners were full of information! It was a very enjoyable few hours, and I am looking forward to seeing their smiling faces again! THANK YOU, LADIES!!

Then we were visited by Jean and Kenneth, the parents of Teresa, a fellow Master Gardener from here in FL. Teresa was raised in nearby Fort Payne, and her parents now live in Mentone. Across the street, across a field and down a little hill, across the railroad tracks from our house, is a lumber mill. Kenneth's daddy used to be the foreman at the lumber mill across the railroad tracks, and Kenneth had lived on site at the lumber mill as a child! True Southern friendliness, we sure did enjoy the visit, and just loved learning more of the history of Valley Head and the first families. And Kenneth, if you read this, you asked if you "could help" -- Hershel said he would just love for you to come help him work on the house and share your skills and knowledge!

One of our neighbors, Faye, from "down the road" stopped by. Seems the locals are all talking about the 'folks from Florida' that bought the old house! Hope we've made a good impression!

Before we left home, I had gotten on the internet and snooped around for Valley Head history and information. I checked tax records to see who our neighbors were. One of our neighbors, John, published an article on Rootsweb, a genealogy site, on the Valley Head Mill property. Perfect! He knows about the history of Valley Head! So we went and introduced ourselves. We also had the pleasure of meeting his mother, a true Southern lady. Friday mid-afternoon, and she was dressed to the nines~ hair done, makeup carefully applied, and jewelry~ exactly what you would expect from a southern belle that is gracefully aging. They were full of information about the house and the local history, and it was such a pleasure to spend time listening to their stories. They were thrilled that someone had bought the 'grand old house' and wanted to restore it--they had been afraid someone would buy it and just rent it out, and let it slip further into disrepair.

John suggested that we go to the Town Hall and introduce ourselves to Marty, the Town Clerk. He said if anyone knew where pictures, stories, or histories were, it would be Marty - she knew just about everyone and everything there was to know about Valley Head. So Monday morning, we did just that! At first she seemed a bit "stand-offish" --you know, we were obviously strangers in her small town. When we told her we had bought the old green house, her face just lit up! She was full of questions about our plans. We chatted for a while, but then we had to leave and head back home.

About an hour towards home, Hershel's cell phone rang, and it was Marty. She said, "You know, I have the old piano that came out of that house, that belonged to the family that built our home, the Whites. It is in my sewing room, and I would love to get it out of there. If you would like to have it, I would love to give it to you! I'll keep it in my sewing room until you are ready for it, but I really think it belongs in that house once you are done renovating it."

I was stunned and excited! Almost speechless! There have been very few times in my life that I was speechless.
What a generous offer, we are honored. Here we were all worried that folks would consider us outsiders for a long time, and that we might have trouble fitting in. Maybe not, we are certainly thrilled with the kindness and excitement we have seen already!