More Construction – Interior Details

When I first told you about Countrymark Log Homes cabin design, rustic, main floor plan, cabin(www.countrymarkloghomes.com), I told you that they had a plan that we were able to modify.  That plan is called the Maggie Valley.  It features two large bedrooms, one on the first floor and one on the second floor, each with its own bathroom and a large laundry room.  Neither Stuart nor I felt that we cabin design, rustic, main floor plan, cabinneeded a large master bedroom or bathroom.  We thought that if we expanded the length and the width of the plans, reduced the size of the laundry room and open loft areas, expanded the existing shed dormer and added an identical one on the other side, that we could get an additional bedroom on each level.  cabin design, rustic, second floor plan, cabinOur motivation for wanting the extra bedroom space is to be able to host our extended family and friends at our cabin.  We also wanted to expand the size of the porches and add a porch to the other side of the house.  Additionally, we changed one of cabin design, rustic, second floor plans, cabineach of the first floor bedroom windows to doors so that there could be access to the porches from each of these bedrooms.

 

 

 

Luckily for us, Ed Demaree with Countrymark has the knowledge and the capability to tweak his plans to accommodate requests like ours.  We went through several revisions and modifications before arriving at our final plan.  Even after construction began, modifications were made and Ed was always willing to make the changes.  His biggest concern was structural integrity, which we very much appreciated!  One of the last minute changes he made was to allow for the old beams that Stuart wanted to put in the basement.  This required changing the cabin design, rustic, main floor plan, cabinway the floor joists run.  After some head scratching and calculating, his engineering mind made it work.  Another alteration he made during construction was to accommodate my kitchen plan.  I knew that I wasn’t going to have custom built cabinets in the cabin due to budget constraints.  There are many quality stock and semi custom products out there to choose from which are far less costly and still beautiful.  I spent many weeks designing the layout of the kitchen and researching cabinet options.  Although there are some variations, most of the non custom products come in standard sizes that can translate from brand to brand.  The basic layout I had to work with was a ‘U’ shape.   One thing I noticed, after studying our plans was that I wanted a bit more width in the dining area.  To accomplish this, I need to narrow the kitchen plan a bit.  I would come up with a configuration and look at the measurement of the open floor space between the sides, cabin design, rustic, main floor plan, cabin, kitchen, kitchen layoutnext I would go into the kitchen in my home with a tape measure and set it on that length, then I’d walk around imagining the new space and trying to decide if it was roomy enough.  Once I came up with a final plan (well, sort of final since I hadn’t yet decided on a cabinet manufacturer!), I noticed that the window was not going to be in the right place.  Reluctantly, I asked Stuart to ask Ed if he could change it.  Ed was happy to make yet another change and construction continued.

We were also very lucky that our construction manager, Samuel Girod, was not only willing to make on site changes such as the sizes of the interior door openings to allow our reclaimed doors to fit, but he was excited to use alternate cabin design, rustic, cedar posts, cabin exterior, cabinbuilding materials like cedar posts and beams cut from our property for use as exterior and interior posts and accents.  We also decided after seeing the actual size of the openings, to turn two closets in the hallway into one, reduce the cabin design, rustic, main floor stairs, cabin, cedar postssize of our master bedroom closet about a foot to make a closet in the main room larger, to alter the beams in one of the loft bedrooms to accentuate the vaulted ceiling, and to change the design of the stairways to the basement and the loft.  Samuel was happy to work with us and make all of these changes (SDG Investments LLC – sdgirod2015@gmail.com).

 

One aspect that I think Stuart and I would both have cabin, cabin construction, owl visitorwanted to be done differently in hindsight, would be to have some sort of insulation between the main floor ceiling and the loft floor.  As it is, they are one in the same.  The ceiling in our bedroom is also the floor of the bedroom above.  When our son had his friends stay overnight at the cabin with us, we can hear pretty much every noise they make.  One day, when he’s grown and gone, we’ll probably long for that noise.  But right now, it keeps us (mostly Stuart – I am a sounder sleeper) up at night.  Check out one of our adorable neighbors who came to visit during construction!

Our HVAC installers were also willing to make changes to help us utilize cabin design, rustic, vintage, cabinnon standard materials like the vintage grates we found at Architectural Salvage (http://www.architecturalsalvage.com ). When we brought them in, they got very excited to change the size of the openings and cut the subfloor so that they would be flush with the floor.  All of these little details has helped us create a cabin that is uniquely ours and reflects our tastes and vision.

Don’t forget to check out this great site for cabin ideas, inspiration, and resources:  http://www.log-cabin-connection.com/ !

Lots more great details to follow – stay tuned!

Finally, Construction!

Once we had our plans set and were ready to move forward, we needed to choose a contractor. Although Countrymark provides general contractor services on a project, they will allow you to choose your own contractor if you desire. Stuart is very talented and capable of building an entire cabin, but the task of framing and completing the entire exterior structure, called “drying in,” was simply too large and daunting a task for any one person to tackle! The Demarees gave us the names of some framing crews with whom they had previous experience. We ultimately chose Samuel Girod (SDG Investments LLC – sdgirod2015@gmail.com) and set a tentative start date. Stuart had already begun excavation and planned to have the concrete poured for the basement floor and foundation before that date. He had also worked out with Ed to use some old reclaimed beams for the first floor supports rather than the normal material. As I said in a previous post, we realized that with new construction, it was up to us to infuse this cabin with character.

In search of the aforementioned beams, Stuart found himself at a lumber yard on the Kentucky River. He spoke with one of the employees about what he wanted and they settled on a product.cabin design, rustic, cabin, reclaimed wood When he went back to pick it up a few days later, he met the owner and told him what he was picking up. When the owner inquired what the supplies were for, he had another suggestion for my husband. He asked Stuart to hop in his pick up truck and drove to a different part of the yard. There he had an old construction mat. A construction mat is a platform made from huge pieces of timber bolted together to hold large construction equipment on a job site when not in use. This timber was old and weathered with cuts and nicks that gave it lots of character and made it perfect for our project.

To make our foundation as insulated and energy efficient as possible, Stuart first made a bed of gravel with drainage pipes for runoff water to flow under, rather than over the floor. Next, he put down a rubber surface for further protection against water. Then, he laid rectangular pieces of hard foam insulation to help keep the floor from getting too cold in winter. Last, before the concrete would be poured, he built and installed forms for the footers for the basement walls, wing walls, patio and vertical wood beams. Once the cabin design, rustic, cabin, constructionconcrete of the wall footers were cured, he began to build the forms for the walls themselves. If we had our druthers, the basement walls would be solid stone, but alas, it was not in the budget. Stuart decided to use a product that does dual duty. It is a foam block system called ICF (insulated concrete forms) cabin design, rustic, cabin, reclaimed woodthat is easy to build and provides insulation and the stability necessary to hold the walls in place. Once the forms are in place, rebar is added for reinforcement before pouring the concrete. After the wall forms were assembled but before the concrete arrived, Stuart measured each of the horizontal beams (each is somewhat different in size and shape) and custom made inserts to put in the walls forms in order to save space for insertion of the beam. The beams are solid and massive and required a crane to lift them into place.

 

Finally, after all my husband finished all of this prep work, it was off to the races, as they say – especially here in Kentucky, with the cabin design, rustic, cabin, constructionframing! Samuel and his crew worked tirelessly from the beginning of November through the cold winter months to get our cabin dried in, finishing in late February. cabin design, rustic, cabin, constructionSamuel was wonderful to work with and was very open to customizing the interior door openings to accommodate our various sized reclaimed doors and using cedar beams from our property for a variety of interior and exterior support posts.  Other than hiring someone to install the insulation and having Samuel install the interior log walls in the great room and bathrooms, the project was now all us!

 

More to come, stay tuned!cabin design, rustic, cabin, construction

cabin design, rustic, cabin, construction cabin design, rustic, cabin, construction cabin design, rustic, cabin, construction cabin design, rustic, cabin, construction

 

Carl the Junker and the Land of Reclaimed Materials

I must begin by apologizing for my tardiness.  In my last post, I told you that my husband, Stuart, wanted me to talk about construction.  I wrote the floor plan and construction articles simultaneously and got his approval for the floor plan article, which I published last time.  He then asked me to give him the construction portion so that he could edit it (of the two of us, he’s the construction expert, hands down).  Apparently, he is still editing it because I have yet to see it again.  While we wait patiently for that, let me tell you about a man I mentioned in a previous post that I promised to discuss more at a later time.

Our search for reclaimed barn wood and other materials led us, ultimately, to Carl the Junker.  It is said that in the business world, it’s not what you know, but who you know.  The same can be said in the country.  In this slow paced – yet hard working – environment, deals are still settled over a cup of coffee and a handshake and church is where many of your important contacts are made.  Last summer, Stuart began asking his new friends where he might be able to find some old barn wood and other used building materials.  Tommy Smith, our heavy equipment friend, told us that he had recently been having breakfast with a friend from church named Carl who had all sorts of salvaged materials.  Tommy gave us his contact information and Stuart called Carl to set up an appointment to look at his inventory.

Our oldest daughter, Ellen, happened to be in town and spending some time with us on the day of the appointment.  Carl’s directions to his property were a bit vague:  there were no street names, it was something like turn on the right just past the little river, go up the hill and take the second gravel drive on the right.  Hoping that we were in the correct place (some people don’t appreciate uninvited visitors!), we looked for signs that someone was expecting us.  A quick look around gave us an interesting first impression.  There were lots of animals wandering around loose – a turkey, a couple of horses and several dogs.  There was a trailer home with a few additions and modifications as well as a camper that both appeared to be occupied and lots of junk everywhere!  Carefully, we got out of the car and walked closer towards a parked truck.  Suddenly, two of the dogs came running towards us barking and sniffing.  The larger one reminded me a bit of the three headed dog, Fluffy, from the first Harry Potter movie.  Shortly, a smiling older man in a pair of overalls emerged and said, “don’t worry none about them dogs, they just want you to pet ’em.”  They really were harmless, so we moved forward with our tour.

Carl and my Stuart walked through the piles of junk and garbage more quickly than Ellen and I did.  She and I were easily distracted by the additional animals we saw in various makeshift pens and the other outbuildings piled high with all sorts of discarded items.  At one point, Ellen leaned over to me and whispered, “and the Monohans were never heard from again!”  It definitely felt like uncharted territory.  Once past the buildings, there was an open field area with some semi-organized piles of reclaimed materials.  Carl knew what was in each pile and explained from where he had salvaged them.  Apparently, if you had a building that you wanted torn down, Carl was your guy.  He’d take it down , keep the pieces and parts and sell them when he could find a buyer.  “I’m a junker,”  he exclaimed.  “I always have been.”  We examined the piles and found several things we wanted:  some barn wood to use as the wall covering in one of the bedrooms, the weathered and rusted corrugated metal that would become the walls in the laundry room and the firewood storage shed, and two barn doors, one of which is now a closet door in the barn wood clad bedroom.  Since the wood for the walls is not exactly straight and square, we puzzled over what to put behind them to camouflage the gaps.  Our good friend, Tim, came up with a cheap, quick and easy solution:  over the studs and insulation, we stapled black landscape cloth to all of the walls.  cabin design, rustic, cabin, reclaimed, barn wood, barn doorAfter the wood was installed, the black behind it literally disappears.  We have since made several trips back to Carl’s land of reclaimed materials for additional supplies.  Carl the Junker is a quirky and kind, God fearing, good ole country boy.

 

That construction post is coming, stay tuned!

The Best Laid Plans … Planning our Cabin!

My husband, Stuart, asked me to talk about construction. Typical man topic, right?  Before we get to construction, I need to explain how we arrived at our floor plans.  We spent a lot of years dreaming and deciding what was important to us in our cabin layout and design.  A large room for family gatherings was tops on the list, you know, the open concept idea talked about so much these days.  This great room would encompass a living space with a wood burning fireplace, a dining area and a kitchen.  Stuart and I both have immediate families of 20 plus people, so we wanted to have a space that could accommodate that size group for family get togethers and meals.  Another feature we really wanted in this room was a vaulted ceiling.  The aesthetic and illusion of space that it would provide were something we hoped to incorporate.  The main floor would contain not only the great room, but also two bedrooms, a bathroom and a laundry room.  Additionally, we both felt strongly about incorporating substantial outdoor living space.  cabin floor plans, cabin design, cabin, planning our cabin, CountrymarkAfter all, we started this dream during our camping days when we spent the vast majority of our waking hours outdoors.  We knew we wanted a cabin plan with plenty of porch space.
               In conjunction with the vaulted ceiling, we planned to have some type of loft area.  Many of the cabin plans we found featured a master suite in the loft.  While a master suite is a wonderful use of square footage, neither of us had a desire to use the loft space in this way.  We much preferred extra sleeping quarters to a spa-like bathroom and massive walk-in closet.  Both of us also liked the idea of some sort of open space in the loft as well.  Stuart and I have three children.  It is our hope that, cabin floor plans, cabin design, cabin, planning our cabin, Countrymarkin the future when they have families of their own, they will come visit us at the cabin.  In anticipation of such an event, we wanted to create a floor plan that would ensure ample bedrooms and beds for everyone.
               Lastly, we needed to consider the foundation.  Due to our building site and the need for space for storage and utilities, we decided that a basement was the way to go.  cabin floor plans, cabin design, cabin, planning our cabin, CountrymarkOur basement would have one exposed side due to the fall away area we planned to build.  Inside, having a basement would give us enough area to have some sort of game room.  cabin floor plans, cabin design, cabin, planning our cabin, Countrymarkcabin floor plans, cabin design, cabin, planning our cabin, Countrymark
               As I mentioned in a previous post, we got our plans from Countrymark Log Homes (countrymarkloghomes.com).  The product they sell is a hybrid log cabin.  It is not a traditional log cabin, in the purest sense, but a marrying of standard stick construction with hand hewn log exterior and interior walls.  There were several reasons that we decided to choose this option:  first and foremost was price, old or new traditional log homes are more expensive;  second was energy efficiency, traditional log homes with chinking between are not as tightly sealed and can dry and settle over time causing gaps;  and last was ease in building, stick construction materials are much more uniform in size than their unmilled counterparts.  Countrymark has many plans to choose from and will help customize them to your personal preferences.  We found one of their existing plans and worked with Ed to modify it to suit our priorities.  Ed and Christine Demaree, proprietors of Countrymark Log Homes, also have their own sawmill to provide the log materials. This benefits the customer both in price and delivery time.
               I found an awesome website recently for helping to find ideas and plan for your log cabin home.  It is http://www.log-cabin-connection.com .  Take a look, it may be helpful in planning your dream cabin!
Construction details coming soon, stay tuned!

Main Floor Cabin Bathroom

A few years ago we vacationed with some dear friends in Napa, California.  Instead of booking individual hotel rooms, we decided to rent a house so that we could enjoy time together in the common indoor and outdoor living spaces that a house would provide.  Our house included a backyard which featured a pool, hot tub, bocci court, and fire pit.  We spent quite a bit of time enjoying that space.  Near the pool was a dedicated bathroom.  cabin design, main floor cabin bathroom, rustic, cabinThe sink in that bathroom provided the design inspiration for our main floor cabin bathroom.  The vanity was made of some roughly hewn chunky pieces of lumber with the sink set in the center and the bronze finish faucet mounted on the wall.  It looked like just the type of style that I wanted in our cabin.  The sink, though, was not exactly my taste and I had envisioned more of a vessel type.  A random catalog delivered to our house became our source for the sink and fixtures, not only in this bathroom, but for many items in our entire project.  The catalog featured sinks that I had no idea existed.  Many of the ones pictured were either solid stone or stone with some type of inlay.  I grabbed my laptop to investigate the entire line on their website.  Interestingly enough, this company is located in Northern Kentucky, about an hour away.  I highly recommend checking out http://signaturehardware.com .  We have found their products to be excellent quality at very reasonable prices.  main floor cabin bathroom, rustic, cabin, honey onyx, vessel sink, cabin designThey have an extensive line of all sorts of interior finishes and our dealings with their customer service have been extremely pleasant.  The sink we chose is a rock exterior with inlaid honey onyx on the inside of the bowl.  I thought the honey color of the onyx would coordinate nicely with the wood walls and trim.

Stuart was planning to make the vanity out of some leftover pieces of lumber from the exterior construction of the cabin, but I wanted something that looked older.  One of our new friends named Ricky, who has delivered rock and dirt for several projects, generously offered some old barn wood he had out in a field that we were welcome to pick through and take what we wanted.  We hooked up the trailer and headed over.  The field was overgrown and the wood was piled on top of each other in a bit of a heap.  I must admit to being a little nervous of encountering snakes or other wild critters as we picked through the pile.  Unfortunately, much of it was rotted since it had been in the elements for so long, but, armed with the photo of my chunky rough vanity inspiration, we managed to find several good pieces we could use.

cabin design, rustic, main floor cabin bathroom vanity, cabin designMy husband really is quite an artist.  He dried the pieces out and carefully plotted the construction using the most interesting parts of each piece of wood.  Our vanity boasts some unique features including old nails, wires and hinges.  cabin design, rustic, main floor cabin bathroom vanity, cabinIt turned out even better than I had imagined!

 

In researching the tile for the shower, I found that I could actually get tile in the same honey onyx as the sink.  I knew that would give the space a cohesive look but I still needed to figure out the floor for the shower as well as the curb and seat.  Stuart suggested that I look for some granite for the curb and seat, so off I went to our local granite dealer, Mees Tile’s fabrication department  (http://meestile.com) .  There they have many remnants to choose from.  These remnants are ideal for smaller projects, especially if you don’t have your heart set on a specific stone.  For my projects, I make sure I have all of the measurements so that I can pick a slab that is the correct size and I know what colors I want.  Other than that, I try to be open to all of the possibilities they have.  The staff there is very knowledgable and helpful.  Ruth is my go to person at Mees.  cabin design, rustic, cabin, main floor cabin bathroom shower, pebble tile, granite curb, honey onyx tile, leathered graniteShe helped my pick out a really cool remnant that almost looks like the weathered patten of the wood in the vanity with flecks of the honey onyx color running through it.  It just happened to have a leathered finish which gives it the perfect texture for a shower.  I wanted to somehow tie in the gray stone of our sink with the rest of the natural elements in the bathroom.  To accomplish this, I chose a Bali Ocean Pebble Tile from the Pebble Tile Shop (http://pebbletileshop.com) in 12 inch by 12 inch sheets for the shower floor.  To finish off this project, I used a vintage look double sconce  and cool drum style chandelier from LampClick (http://lampclick.com) , some rustic looking shelves from Dot and Bo (http://dotandbo.com) , a rustic / industrial towel bar and toilet paper holder from Houzz (http://houzz.com), reclaimed door, cabin design, rustic, cabin, main floor cabin bathroom doora mirror, vintage fruit box for use as a towel holder and olive bucket turned wastepaper basket from EBTH (http://ebth.com), another reclaimed wood door from Architectural Salvage (http://architecturalsalvage.com) and finally, some accessories from The Urban Farmhouse Market (a great local store, check them out on Facebook).  This main floor bathroom is 100% complete!

Much more to come, stay tuned!

Where to Begin? Laundry Room Design

I previously told you that, after doing some reading and searching on http://www.houzz.com, I began to develop my personal cabin style. But I had a daunting task in front of me:  I still had an entire house to decorate! The question soon surfaced in my mind:  Where do I begin? I knew that I wanted each space to have a bit of an individual personality while unifying them with my style descriptors (rustic, industrial, farmhouse). While I didn’t really plan to start in the smallest room, that is exactly what happened. Our floor plans included a space for a laundry room on the main floor. One day I happened across a photo of a laundry room that I really liked.  laundry room design, cabin design  That’s where I launched my laundry room design. In the photo, the washer and dryer were side by side with a cabinet frame around them, a folding counter on the top and cabinets for storage above. In the corner next to the dryer was tucked a tiled floor sink with a faucet and sprayer and a hanging rod above. I was in love! Well, as in love as you can be with a laundry room! From there I started to imagine what we would put on the walls. I think that I have failed to mention previously that Stuart gave me another challenge: He wanted no drywall, anywhere. Although I thought the hand hewn log walls would be nice in the great room, I couldn’t imagine them on every vertical surface in the cabin (way too much of the same thing!). So, my current dilemma was what to put on the walls in the laundry room? A group of items I was following on http://EBTH.com began to give me inspiration.  laundry design ideas, vintage laundry, washboard, cabin  There I found a lot of vintage laundry items: baskets, a wall mount drying rack, some old wooden clothespins, and a few hand held washboards. As I looked at the picture of the washboards, I started to imagine the textured surface of the scrubbing portion of the board on the walls. With that idea, I began investigating corrugated metal wall coverings. I quickly decided that I wanted the galvanized (non shiny) metal. We were lucky enough to come across some old metal with some rust on the edges from our new found “junker” friend, Carl (more on him later). Next, I found and bought some hand painted Mexican tiles from http://houzz.com to use for the floor sink and the image really began to take shape in my mind.  handmade Mexican tiles, laundry room design, cabin  While it would take a while before I decided on the exact cabinets, I decided on the color, an olive green. I picked out one of the cabinet pulls and some light fixtures that I had placed in my Houzz ideabook to use.  industrial lighting, laundry room design, cabin laundry room design, rustic, cabin  I also decided I would put a shelf above the hanging rod with some of my vintage laundry items from EBTH and an oval enameled wash basin that I remember my mother using when I was a young girl to presoak stained clothing.  A reclaimed Dutch door from Architectural Salvage (http://architecturalsalvage.com) with dark metal hardware and windows on the upper half was the perfect choice to close the room off from the hallway.  My husband’s creative mind figured out a way to use some reclaimed and weathered wood to frame in the metal walls and around the exterior window.  This room is still a work in progress. The floor sink, hanging rod and shelf are not yet installed and the counter top is temporary until we find the perfect stone remnant.  I will include more finished photos in future posts.

Next up: the main floor bathroom. Stay tuned!

To everything (turn, turn, turn) There is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time to every purpose, under heaven – The Byrds

The change of seasons and the unique qualities of each are something that I really enjoy. Even though I sometimes yearn for an endless summer with long warm days and a more relaxed schedule, the same weather and scenery year round are not for me. Here in Kentucky, we generally have beautiful Spring, Summer, and Fall seasons. Come visit our fantastic state and see for yourself!  http://kentuckytourism.com   Our weakest link is Winter. Winters are often cold and gray with not much snow or sun. Occasionally, we will get a measurable snowfall. When this happens, it is an event to savor!

 

In my last post, I shared a few wild flower photos with you. The natural wonders at the farm are treasures to behold. I love walking around our property at different times discovering God’s creations! Because I desire to know the names of the wild plant and animal life around, I have acquired some books to identify the birds, butterflies, insects and flowers. Some of the flowers are the type of thing that we might actually consider a weed in our home landscaping and try to kill it off. On the farm, these hardy plants are much too resilient to irradicate, so we find a way to appreciate and enjoy their untamed beauty instead. My junior high science teacher, Mrs. Kruse (please excuse the potential misspelling – 7th and 8th grades were a long time ago!) used to say “a weed is just a misplaced flower.” After all of these years, I finally understand what she meant!

 

 

Each season on the farm holds a different and wonderful surprise. My favorite part about Winter has to be the time right after the snow has stopped falling. While the flakes coming down are lovely, it is so much fun to explore the property with freshly fallen snow. Since we have quite a few acres, there are no human footprints anywhere, except for our own.
We love finding and following the tracks of the animals who have explored the virgin terrain before us. Among them, we have found deer, coyote, and turkey tracks. The snow covering the trees, bushes, and ground make the entire place feel magical!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring brings dramatic changes to our rolling hills. As the days begin to grow longer, there is more opportunity to explore. Early morning frost is often followed by groups of does and fawns grazing in the open grassy areas and on some of the shrubs Stuart would just as soon they leave alone! Its amazing how camouflaged the deer are. They can be not far into the trees and are practically invisible without careful observation! During this time the earliest flowers also make their glorious appearance.   Insects begin to appear in late Spring and multiply into the Summer. Many of them are fascinating and colorful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can imagine, Summer is lots of fun at the cabin. The warm weather and long amounts of daylight hours are the perfect conditions for meandering the property, finding and picking wildflowers, splashing in the pond, quietly watching the animals at twilight and stargazing on a clear evening. In the Summer, everything is very green, including the pond algae!

Flowers continue to bloom throughout this season giving us a bounty for wildflower centerpieces.

 

 

The colors of the Fall foliage are the subject of poems, songs and paintings. But at our farm, my two favorite features during this season are not the multicolored hues of the many varieties of Maple trees as you might suspect. Although the rising and setting sun can be picturesque wherever you are, they seem even more heavenly somehow out in the country.  My favorite flower in this season as the days shorten and the temperature cools, isn’t a flower at all. Frost flowers were something I had never seen or heard of until we got our place in the country. They are some of the most incredible things I have ever seen and only form when the conditions are right. They “bloom” on very cold mornings from the base of tall thin plants. The moisture, at the bottom of the plants, pushes outward and freezes as it is moving to form amazing ribbon-like patterns that are extremely fragile and beautiful. Late last Fall, my friend Sally used them to make some fantastic outdoor arrangements.          Much more to come, stay tuned!

Be careful what you wish for!

Some of the beautiful wild flowers on our farm.

Once the plans for the cabin were solidified, we met with an electrician to decide where the outlets and fixtures would be.  I must admit, it made me a little nervous trying to figure out some of these things in a space that wasn’t built yet.  Thankfully, our electrician is much more accustomed to this task and made some great suggestions.  Then, he dropped a bomb on me.  He told me that he wanted all of the lighting picked out and ordered before he ran the electrical wires.  I had no idea that I would have to undertake such a chore before the place was an actual place!  That is how the design of the interior began.

I knew that I wanted it to look like a cabin on the inside, but not like a country themed souvenir store.   I also had a special request from my husband that threw a wrench in the works. He told me that for air movement, he wanted ceiling fans in all of the bedrooms, in the great room, on the deck and the porches.  I am not a huge fan of ceiling fans.  Or maybe I should say I wasn’t. It did not seem in keeping with the vision I had in my head to go to the local home improvement store and pick up a bunch of your standard ceiling fans.  Thank goodness for the Internet!  I started typing in some key words to find some kind of fan that I might like.  That search led me to Houzz.com. If you haven’t gone there, you owe it to yourself to do so!  Not only do they have an endless amount of decor ideas in every conceivable style, but you can make an account for yourself where you can create what they call ideabooks that save photos of items that you might like.  You can even upload photos of your own.  When you are searching, you can choose keywords to narrow your search to find the products that appeal to you.  My keywords included rustic, farmhouse, and industrial.  I wound up finding some really unique cabinesque fans that I absolutely loved from a company called Lamp Click (lampclick.com)!    Of course, my Houzz ideabook did not stop at fans.  I found lots of other decor inspiration as well!
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I am not a decorator, but that website helped launch my vision for my project.  It started to come easily to me to pick out furnishings that I liked once I had an idea of what that was!  Suddenly, I found myself taking photos with my phone of things everywhere.  I’d see a cupola on someone’s garage while I was driving and pull over and snap a few photos.  Something I have always enjoyed is to bring a memento home from traveling.  I don’t traditionally get such things from a gift or souvenir shop.  I like to buy something that I will actually use, that someone else might not even realize came from somewhere else, but I know and it takes me back to that location every time I use it.  When my family traveled to Ireland three years ago, I found just such an item for the cabin.  It was actually a pair of items.  A pair of chairs to be exact.  As you can imagine, chairs are not the type of thing you can pack in your suitcase or put in your carry on luggage.  I found these chairs in an antique shop in a small Irish town.  The shopkeeper had never tried to ship anything to the US before and had no idea how to accomplish such a feat.  With the daunting shipping question remaining unanswered, I left the shop without the chairs.  In the days that followed, I couldn’t stop thinking about those chairs and how perfect they would be in our future cabin.  I told Stuart that I really wanted those chairs and that they were all I wanted for my 50th birthday which was in a few months. The chairs were not expensive, but I figured that the shipping would be tricky.  He inquired with a local pub owner, Cillian, who we had befriended, and Cillian assured Stuart that he would help him figure out how to get them to the US.  Apparently after we returned home, the promise to help my husband was no longer a priority for Cillian and the chairs never made it here.  Still, I was hopeful when my birthday rolled around that the “it didn’t happen” scenario was a cover story to throw me off and think I wasn’t going to get them.  I kept wishing and dreaming that surprise, there they would be!  Unfortunately, the chairs were not in the nicely wrapped package I opened on my birthday.  Some lucky Irish folks probably now own the chairs not knowing how perfect they would be in my cabin.  My husband still cringes at the mention of those chairs.  After that disappointment, I have told myself to “be careful what you wish for!”
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Another resource I found was a website called EBTH.com.  My friend Sally, who has helped us quite a bit with the cabin, turned me on to EBTH.  EBTH is an acronym for Everything But The House.  It’s an online estate sale website with sales all over the country.  You can follow a sale or a particular item and bid on things up to the last second of the auction.  Since the items come from many different sources, there are always unique and one of a kind things to discover.  I have also found their support staff to be extremely helpful.  In my experience, they are very interested in customer satisfaction.  Check it out.  The website is easy to use.  You can search all sales, sales in or near you, or for particular types of items.  If you are the winning bidder, you can either pick your item up from the estate or have it shipped to you.  All items have lots of photos, measurements, descriptions of the piece and it’s condition, and a shipping estimate.  Many of our cabin furnishing have come from EBTH.  
Much more to come, stay tuned!

All work and no play . . . is just no fun!!!

Before moving forward, I must jump back for a moment.  In my first post, I mentioned that we started camping many years ago with our two young daughters.  Those daughters are now 27 and 25.  Fifteen years ago, our family was blessed with a third child, Henry.  I laugh to myself as I type “third” because, in Ireland, where our family traveled in the summer of 2014, they only pronounce the “T” sound in most “TH” words.  From then on, we have teasingly and affectionately called him our tird child!
The summer of 2012, our first summer as farm owners, was grueling.  Imagine spending hours pulling overgrown weeds and rusted barbed wire fencing on a hot summer day (with long sleeves and long pants!), only to find that you have pulled out 50 yards but still have several hundred more yards to go!  Installing a post and board fence, complete with a custom gate and ranch style entry (made by my talented husband), was the very next job.  Old fence out, new and improved fence in.
There were many days and jobs like this, taking only the occasional break for a picnic or a cold beverage.  All of this work was accomplished on the weekends since we both have paying day jobs and our son had, and has, his own activities that keep us all busy.
One thing I learned is that in the country, and on a farm in particular, you have to take the weather much more seriously.  If it rained all week long, there is little that you can do on the weekend because everything is still waterlogged.  Since there is much less topsoil than the standard lawn, the water doesn’t drain as well and the ground holds the water.  If you had planned on moving dirt, for example, your plans just got changed.  Another thing that Stuart and I discovered early on is that time is different in the country.  “I’ll be there on Monday,” doesn’t necessarily mean the next Monday.  And even if it does mean next Monday, if the person you have hired to come help you out has their own farm, your work just got put on the back burner if their cows got out or their barn door broke.  It seems as though we spend a lot of time waiting, but it is the way of things in the country.
One of our first new friends was a man named Tommy Smith.  Tommy is retired from road construction and has his own farm nearby.  He has just about every piece of heavy equipment you can imagine, this is one of his.  
 He has helped us reroute and regrade our driveway to make it accessible for cars, rather than just for trucks or four wheel drive vehicles;  excavate our small pond, 15;  level out our field;  clear the terrain for and dam up our large pond;  create a septic pond (which he promised wouldn’t smell – so far, so good);  and I’m sure countless other things that I am currently forgetting.  In addition to being an expert in farm construction, Tommy has also served as a kind and wise mentor to Stuart.  We will forever be grateful for Tommy!
Summer 2013 at the farm was a combination of work and play, much more my style!  Projects that summer included:  building our pavilion on 15,
beginning construction on a tree house,
carving out a space for the future large pond, erecting a dock for that pond, creating better drainage on the driveway,
and a few other things I probably have neglected to mention.  Luckily Stuart will remind me as soon as he reads this!  But we also had the chance to enjoy the farm a lot more that summer.  We had lots of picnics at the pavilion, camp outs with our son and his friends,
target shooting,
and the occasional lazy afternoon reading a book in a camping chair while watching Henry splash around in the water at 15.
A friend recently asked me to include recipes every once in a while, so here goes!  The following recipe is one of our family favorites when camping.  We named it after Clifftop, West Virginia, a frequented camping spot.
Clifftop Casserole
1 cup brown rice
3 + cups beef broth
1 large onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1 cup celery chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
2 cups canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
shredded cheese
Cook the rice with 3 cups of broth in a heavy pan over a camp stove or fire until down.  Remove to a bowl temporarily.  In the same pan, brown beef and then the vegetables.  Add the tomatoes, cooked rice and seasonings.  Cover and cook over a low flame for 30 minutes or so until the flavors have blended (add broth as needed).  Serve with shredded cheese.  You can serve a salad and bread with it, but it’s got pretty much all of the food groups in one pot!
One of the other fun things we began to do is to choose the location for our cabin and design how it would look.  Although we had been collecting books, articles, and photos of our favorite cabin ideas, we had not seriously looked at architectural plans.  We knew we wanted 3 – 4 bedrooms, a loft, a great room that encompassed family room, kitchen and dining, porches, porches, and more porches, but we had no specifics.  An authentic log cabin made of big round logs with chinking between, a stone foundation and stone fireplace is what I had in my head, but we soon found out after a bit of research, that some of those things were either too expensive and / or too energy inefficient for us.  Lots of investigation and some local home and garden expos led us to our perfect solution.  There are lots of cabin builders and products out there.  The one that made sense for us is a company located not far from us called Countrymark Log Homes which specializes in hybrid log homes.  Hybrid log homes utilize standard stick built construction with hand hewn logs on the exterior and interior.  Ed and Christine Demaree, who are the owner operators, are extremely kind and patient people.  They spent countless hours with us pouring over ideas, reworking and modifying plans, fielding millions of questions, and ultimately helping us design our dream cabin!  In my opinion, if their product suits your tastes, they are the perfect company.  They have lots of plans that they can customize for you, and they will do anything from sell the construction drawings and materials only, to help you find subcontractors, to doing everything from start to finish if you desire.  Did I mention that they are very patient?  We started working with them a full three years before we actually began construction!  http://countrymarkloghomes.com
 
Stay tuned!

Taming the Beast

In my last post, I told you that we found our property on landwatch.com, which we did. After we found this piece of property, we needed a realtor.   Finding a realtor who is familiar with farms and / or rural property is important. If you are in the Louisville, Kentucky area, as are we, I highly recommend using our realtor, Julie Scott Beam with Kentucky Select Properties (jbeam@kyselectproperties.com). Full disclosure here, Julie is my sister, however, she is a fantastic realtor, with years of experience, and an expert when it comes to farm / rural properties.

After taking possession, we began working on the projects to make this long neglected property marginally habitable. We needed to begin to tame the beast!  First on the list was removing the old, rusted, overgrown barbed wire fencing. To complicate matters, this fencing was covered in plants and vines, including lots of poison ivy. Long sleeves, long pants, gloves and applying a poison ivy barrier like Ivy X is a must when dealing with this pervasive plant! Trust me, my blistered and itching wrists, which were the only thing not covered the first time, sidelined me for more than a week from making progress on this project.

Other immediate tasks included uncovering and cleaning out the old, overgrown barn and clearing the one large field at the summit of the farm. My husband, Stuart, used his chainsaw to cut away the trees and plants that had sprouted and grown too close to the barn and, since we didn’t have any farm equipment yet, we hired someone to clear the field. Then Stuart and I began removing years of junk from the inside of the barn.

Though the aforementioned were the initial tasks, I think the favorite first project for both Stuart and me was cultivating a quiet and comfortable retreat on our small pond. This small pond is in the middle of a grove of cedar trees and is literally a small circle of water. We immediately and affectionately named it “the hole.” To me, the hole was, and is, magical. It is secluded and rough and teaming with frogs, butterflies and dragonflies in the summer. In the winter, it is an ice and snow covered wonderland!

One of the first things I found there was a deer antler. For me, that antler symbolizes the wildlife that surrounds us. Sometime early in our work at the farm, when we were still calling the small pond “the hole,” Stuart suggested that we call it “15.” I grew up on a golf course on the 15th hole and we had the old marker from that tee, so our daughter, Megan, repainted the sign, Stuart put it up, and ever since, that pond is called “15.”

      We built a small pavilion at the edge of the pond. It is a great place to take a nap and / or read a book on a summer day.

The old barn, which had absolutely no charm whatsoever, was our biggest initial project. It had been put up in haste, I would guess, and had absolutely no frills. It was a rectangle wood frame with galvanized metal siding and roof, which was in a state of disrepair. My husband found a group of Amish craftsmen who would patch the holes, fix the roof and fabricate new doors for us to secure the building. It still wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. Our next task was to make it more attractive. Stuart painted the exterior walls black and the doors and roof red. We also ordered a cupola from wayfair.com (who knew they had cupolas?!). Stuart painted it to match and installed it.