Brick by Brick

Edge Hill has three out-buildings: a summer kitchen, a smoke house, and farm hand’s (slave’s?) quarters. Unfortunately, the smoke house is in the worst shape of the three.  The roof has fallen in, which has, in large part, been the culprit causing the building’s deterioration.

(Smokehouse on the left, summer kitchen with addition to main house on the right)

(Farm hand’s quarters on the left, summer kitchen on the right)

The smokehouse was also the site of what some friends have dubbed the “Hurricane Katrina” wedding shoot (in a good, artsy way, I think!):

Evidently the gentleman who owned the property in the ’60s thought the smokehouse would make the perfect little garage for his new sports car.  He gleefully straightened it up, pulled the convertible in, and watched from the main house as winter set in.  When he flung the “garage” open a few months later to take his car out for its first spring spin, he was horrified to find that the salt in the walls, from decades of curing meat, had completely rusted out his toy.  I think he wished so many bad things on the poor smoke house that the roof subsequently caved in.

There were quite a few bricks lying in piles around the smokehouse and the summer kitchen – a combination of bricks that have fallen off the corners of the buildings and the remnants of what was once an outdoor “bakery” directly behind the smoke house that collapsed years ago.  At some point, the broke-down bakery and other bricks were bulldozed into a huge pile of dirt, rubble, and random trash:

If you can believe it, Chad had already worked on this pile for a few hours last weekend…

So, we went at it this morning.  The goal was to pull out any in-tact bricks to save for re-use down the road, and find any bricks with at least one complete side to use in landscaping.  The previous owner of the house also hinted that the pile might contain the bakery’s metal oven door.  BURIED TREASURE!

With trowel in hand, I felt like a kindergartener saying, “I want to be a paleontologist when I grow up!  Yeah, dinosaur bones!”  There was some bizarre excitement about finding glass bottles, old hinges, and LOTS of spiders (before today, I was unfamiliar with the woodlouse hunter/roly-poly killer), ants (this pile was the Manhattan of the ant world), centipedes (as Gina would say, centipedes of prehistoric proportions), and roly-poly bugs (the roly-poly killer spiders now make more sense) .

The skid loader pictured above was CRUCIAL to our endeavor – the perks of living on a working farm!  I even learned to drive it today (although Chad isn’t ready to let me maneuver the attachments quite yet…)!

Four hours later, the novelty of digging in a large pile of dirt in 90-degree heat had worn off, especially when it became clear the pile did not contain the door we had been hunting.  Yet, we succeeded in setting aside an entire pallet of whole bricks, and another pallet and a half of partially useable bricks, in addition to the complete removal of the pile.

A little summer sun and manual labor was well worth having this eye sore transformed into original materials we can save for later (read: money saved)!

In other news, summer has officially come to Quicksburg: the corn (while not yet quite as high as an elephant’s eye) grows noticeably every day!

See the rows?

Stairway to Heaven

We like to dramatize the house and imagine what it will look like in 20 years to ease the pain of its current condition just a bit.  Here’s what we imagine it looks like:

And here’s sassy ol’ me:

And this is how romantic our house (and living in the same zip code for a few months) makes us feel:

But “Rhett” and “Scarlett” are our middle names, after all:

The reality is, we have a pretty awesome staircase.  It is straight ahead as you enter the front door, goes up to a landing, and then makes a u-turn up six more stairs to get to the second floor.

The original banister is still in tact minus 6-7 pickets – pretty good for 170ish years of kids sliding down it.  Mary Poppins would be jealous.  It is, however, a “use at your own risk” banister right now – when you put your body weight on it, the whole banister does creak out at a startling angle.

The side of the staircase also has amazing paneling and gingerbread details.  There doesn’t seem to be any damage and there might only be one layer of paint on this wall(!).

Unfortunately, as you may have noticed from some of the above pictures, the stairs have been sporting a red, berber runner for quite a number of years.  Although you might be imagining something luxurious –

– trust me – it’s not.  Despite multiple vacuumings, our runner still has quite a lot of stuff in it.  Not to mention a healthy portion of spider webs and leftover spider dinners.

Rather than one, long piece of fabric, each stair was covered with its own piece of runner, held tight to the stairs with (what was once) a brass strip.  The brass strips were screwed into the back of each stair:

I went ahead of Chad with the screw driver, clearing out cob webs and removing the brass strips.  Chad admittedly had the harder job, bringing up the rear by ripping up the carpet and the pads underneath.

Unfortunately, in addition to being held down with tacks, someone went a little Annie Oakley with the staple gun…roughly 10 tacks and 20 staples per stair, and 22 stairs plus the landing…you can do the math, but we were certainly becoming experts with the pliers and the back of the hammer.

Even though the bizarre paint layers make our “new” stairs look a little zebra-esque, “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”  It’s so much better than it was, and what a thrilling surprise to find that, despite discoloration, the hardwood underneath is in amazing condition.

Lipstick on a Pig

Hey All-

Sorry for the radio silence.  These last two weeks have been a whirlwind of Brooke and Travis and Jackie and David’s weddings, Gio’s bachelor party, my five year UVA reunion, and a bridal shower and bachelorette party for Gricelda.  Whew.  This post is going to focus on the “livability” updates we have done to the house to get us to one notch above camping.

First and Foremost:  The Kitchen.

The previous owners of Edge Hill did a bit of an addition/renovation combination on the north side of the house, connecting the main house to the summer kitchen in the form of a “Florida Room”, and in that space they made their kitchen, laundry, and an additional living area:

Subsequently, the living space in that portion of the house morphed into the office for the trucking company that still operates on the property, and in preparation for our move in we wanted to close off the kitchen/laundry portion from the office portion.  At the start of the project, the kitchen and pantry were still full, though they hadn’t been used for much more than the sink in a number of years:

On the weekend before our big move in, with our big yellow gloves up to our elbows, Mom and I scrubbed.  And scrubbed.  And ripped up contact paper.  And took out a full trash can that appeared to have ripened.  We also removed all of the old appliances.  Mid-clean, we had made good progress:

But Mom was still freaking.  I mean, look at the floor in the laundry room (or should I say subfloor – not much of the original linoleum was left)!  Enter the professionals.  We put in an emergency call to our favorite craftsman, Colon, and he came to the rescue.  We found a bit of “reject” vinyl flooring for next to nothing, and got everything painted a nice, clean, bright, WHITE.  And voila!



So with a little elbow grease, some hand-me-down appliances, and a lot of white kilz paint, we have a great laundry room and kitchen (for those who have seen the Charlottesville house – strangely similar?).  BUT, the catch is, all of this hard work is temporary.  The plan down the road is to start from scratch on the north end of the house, removing the current addition and replacing it with a bit of a re-designed kitchen/entertaining space with a matching period exterior.  As for the “when” on that project, stay tuned!