Landscaping: The Machete Stage

Edge Hill has fertile soil.  This is a double-edged sword – great for corn and tomatoes,

but not so great for keeping your house from being devoured by Virginia Creeper and poison ivy.

(Luckily, this is the slave house – even the main house wasn’t quite this bad.)

The stranglers were inching their way up to the second-story windows of the house even though Chad had ripped them all down within the last year.  Two weeks ago, Chad went at the vines with a chemical assault (Round Up), weakening their defenses.   After the withering had begun, we picked a perfect evening to take our first stab at “landscaping.”

We grabbed some shovels, shears, and work gloves –

– and began hacking away at the Virginia Creeper around the front of the house.

We started by giving the plants’ foliage a buzz cut, and discovered one of the reasons we’ve had so many bugs inside our house.  Major ant, wasp, and cricket habitat (Chad took a stinger to the hand with the first cut).  There were also dozens of well-fed praying mantises who evidently got too stuffed to keep the thriving insect population at bay.

After trimming back the ground growth, we stumbled upon a magical outdoor liquor cabinet:

As we peeled back the layers of scrub, we found the step we had been tripping over for months, decorated with a few beer cans and shreds of plastic.

After a few more slashes with the shears and an epic battle between our lower backs and some well-rooted vines, we had made great, great progress.

When we came back a few days later to pick up the trash and sweep off the porch, we found ANOTHER HOUSE TREASURE:

“Edge Hill”


If you look closely, you can see the above inscriptions are etched into the concrete step leading onto the front porch of the house.

After we cleared the above-ground portion of the plants, we brought in a tiller to turn over the cleared ground and prepare the bed for planting.  Depending on the weather, we’re hoping to write about Landscaping: Phase 2 later this week!

A Long-Awaited Upload

So far, we have been taking all of the pictures for our blog with the iPhone camera, which has actually done admirably well.  This is largely due to the fact that our slightly nicer camera has been out of commission – the cord we needed to upload pictures from the camera to the computer has been missing for quite a while….

…and by a while, I mean since September.

We finally got a card reader and released the pictures that have been hostage on our nice camera.  We found fun pictures from a  horse race in the fall (woohoo, Fall Foxfield!) and a few of the house that have been waiting to be unlocked.  Here are a few of the better ones:

This black snack somehow slithered to the top of the woven wire fence in our front yard – he’s about 3 feet long, 4 feet off the ground, and wound like a corkscrew around the top wire!


Afton really wants to make friends with the mama cows and their calves, which were also in our front yard for a while.

But she’s like the 7 year-old boy who flirts by leaving a slug on your desk or punching you in the arm – more annoying than endearing:

And finally, a few other wall paper images.  This one was too delicate to unroll in one piece, but was a beautiful pattern – wish we would’ve found it in better shape.

This is a tulip wall paper –

– that matches the tulip border:

And, on the back of this piece –

– we found these amateur charcoal and pastel sketches:

What gems!

Let There (Not) Be Light

The history post we mentioned last time is coming, folks, we promise!  We’re tracking down a little bit more information and then we can give you the most up-to-date version of the story we have.

In the meantime…

Chad and I would like to share our mentality about this whole fixer-uper process.  We like to do things right, but sometimes that can be expensive (we dream of Viking, Sub-Zero, custom cabinetry, and granite counters).  Our approach is to keep the shabby things we can live with until we can afford  the things we REALLY want (read: when we’re mortgaged up to our necks).

This post is about some exceptions to that general  rule.

For example, one of our current “dining room” chairs is a little shield back we almost literally stole at an estate sale:

Price tage: $3.  For serious.

We love estate sales for finding great deals, especially on antiques or interesting art.  Our rules: be picky (don’t buy something just because it’s cheap) and set hard budgets before the heat of the auction starts to carry you away.  Recently, this practice has helped us score a couple desperately-needed rugs, bedroom pieces, and some…unique…items.  We keep our eye on the monthly auctions at both Pangle’s and Laughlin’s in Woodstock.

Today, we also broke down and made another purchase that clearly breaks our rule, as this purchase was neither high style nor high dollar – purely a temporary fix, but this time we are completely thrilled with the decision.

Here is our bedroom, originally a formal dining room, but en suite to the only serviceable full bath in the house:

And here is the truck stop, as seen out the above-pictured right-hand window:

Aaaand they often pull up just outside this window, as their office is immediately to the right of our third bedroom window:

(That white portion you can see is the entrance to the addition where the trucking business office is located, on the other side of our kitchen).

There are three primary reasons we decided is was positively imperative that we update the decor of the bedroom:

1) The windows are approximately 6 feet by 4 feet, which is great for illuminating this large, dark old house…

BUT Afton, the World’s Neediest Great Dane, wakes up with the sun at approximately 6:30 a.m. to let us know her bladder will absolutely not make it one more second and can she please go out right now I mean RIGHT NOW MOM AND DAAAAAAAD!

2) Due to their irregular schedule, we are fairly sure that the drivers, on more than one occasion, had the chance to catch us mid-wardrobe change (hopefully they missed the show, sorry guys…and girls!).

3) Lighting:

So today, while I was a busy-bee with law school responsibilities, Chad made a stop at our closeout retailer of choice, Tuesday Morning.  As his cousin/aunt Susan says, the “thrill of the hunt” is the only way to make it through these places.

During today’s excursion, a “kill” was achieved!  In our last few trips, we could find some curtains, but never enough that matched.  Today, not only did we find four that matched, but they go with the gold-and-maroon theme we, ahem, inherited with the house.  (Hey Dan: Go Maroons?).

Also, we found some bargain lamps to complete the look:

Tying it all together:

Not too bad!  And for $130, this splurge was a good way to achieve essential functionality while saving for the down-the-road furnishings this future dining room will demand.

Buried Treasure

Last weekend, we spent hours in the sun on a Quixotic hunt for the bakery door buried beneath the mound of bricks, spiders, and rubble.  Alas, the door was never found.  On Sunday, we moved on to the next pile of debris….

We’ve been slowly progressing through the house, scrub brush in hand, in an effort to clear out every corner (and this house has quite a few corners).  We had successfully emptied every room, save one: the hottest, darkest, and dustiest of them all: THE ATTIC…the Final Frontier.

The stairs that previously had the red runner have a counterpart up to a “third floor” – the dramatic ascent is slightly anticlimactic.

Hard to believe Chad had already cleared out a whole room’s worth of the previous owner’s possessions.  What you’re seeing here, folks, is your attic multiplied by ten extra decades.  Imagine how many boxes of Christmas lights and baby clothes you have tucked away in your attic, confident that every item would undoubtedly be put to great use again in the future…and then remained there for the rest of its days.  One trip at a time the stuff multiples, and one trip at a time, Chad and I took it all the way down to the dump trailer.

Step One: Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

The attic has a hatch that provides roof access.  It, however, is not for the faint of heart (me), and I left it up to Chad to survey the roof’s status and to take in the beautiful view.

Step Two: Start hauling.  Carefully.

Chad and I are really dorky and we see the potential in weird, old things, like bent lamp shades, a vinyl GM luggage rack circa 1970, a tripod base with no top, and a few old wooden barrel hoops.  But, all in all, it was mostly twenty trips up and down three flights of stairs to the dumpster.  As the day wore on, the attic began to heat up, and just like my paleontology phase the day before, the charm was wearing off as the thermometer was rising.

After about 3 hours of trash removal, we were down to the final corner in the entire house.  It was a corner with absolutely no light, a suspect floor, and my patience was shot.  There was boxes with miscellaneous broken item and melted goo (what the heck WAS that?), and a trunk full of mildewy looking paper scraps.

And, for the love of Pete, is that more red berber carpet in that box???

We were initially of a mind to heave the whole thing into the dumpster (we’d been picking small scraps of paper up off the floor for hours – these were conveniently packaged in an easy-to-trash box!), but cooler heads prevailed.

We carefully unrolled a few scrolls of crumbly paper, and to our delight, we hit pay dirt.  This pile of paper turned out to be the remnants of old wall paper – beautifully, and miraculously preserved, 19th-century, hand-painted, wall paper:

Digging further into the trunk, we also found a musty old book.


The book is a record of hundreds of purchases made in 1839.  It is organized chronologically, providing a daily account of who shopped, what they bought, and how much it cost.  Callico, butter, gloves, nails, quince, and the list goes on…in perfect penmanship, nonetheless.

The store was in Mount Jackson, which is still just up the road and is home to our closest grocery store.  Some of the customer names in the ledger are family names that are still prominent in the area.

We also found these tags:

We knew that Samuel Moore had been one of Edge Hill’s original owners!  Hooray!  We did a little quick research and realized that the Moore Family had owned a locally famous general store, later burned by Sheridan’s Army in the Civil War.  All the puzzle pieces in the trunk started falling into place.  More to come in our next post regarding this awesome history lesson.

We also found some turn-of-the-century hand weights:

I think they only weigh about one pound each, so you’d have to do about 3,000 reps to get a burn.

The trunk also contained what we believe are some of the house’s original window valances – wall paper backed with newspaper, and adorned with cut-outs of flowers.  The newspaper articles are from the 1890s and seem to originate from Minnesota.  Luckily, the red fabric poking out of the box turned out not to be more berber runner, but rather the tassels on the valances.  Maybe not the most beautiful specimens any more, but fabulous that they have made it this long in the hot, hot attic.

Our last treasure was a wonderful map – we haven’t taken pictures yet, as this might be the subject of a future escapade and thus of a future post.  It’s huge, and simply identifies the center of the African continent as “Unexplored Territory.”  So.  Cool.

In the words of the immortal Forest Gump: life at Edge Hill’s like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get :)