Saturday, October 29, 2011

Country Drive... Milller's Mill

Since I'm new to town (and the state) there's always something to admire and discover by taking a drive around the scenic county roads.  

Little things that longtime residents take for granted we find thrilling....

such as clear streams with rocks instead of mud!
Kerrs Creek
House Mountain
 An imaginative auto shop.  That's the trunk of an old Chevy over the door.

As we were driving along I saw what looked like at first glance like a miniature ferris wheel embedded in the ground.

Too bad we couldn't climb over the fence to explore, but there were No Trespassing signs so we just admired the old mill from across the field.  

All that appears to be left of the stone base is this corner.

Curious to know more, I did a little "Googling" and found that the remains are of Miller's Mill which was built around 1816.

The two photos below are from the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey via the  Genealogy Trails History Group website
Even though the siding is falling off, the roof is still intact and the mill race is clear so it may have still been in use when these were taken. 

From another source, this shot is from 1979.... obviously no longer in use.   
Photo courtesy of the USGenWeb Archives Project   Originally contributed by Gill Pollard. 
 There was still a large heap of wood and tin behind the wheel area so it looks like it was left to slowly crumble over the years. 

Finally for those of you who are bird watchers, the variety of avian life in the area is quite striking!

Here are a few tropical species (and subspecies) that I wouldn't have expected to see wintering here in the Shenandoah Valley.

I may need to get an updated Field Guide.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

It's a puzzle to me how I managed to shop for house materials twenty-six years ago with a three year old, a one year old and a newborn in tow.   All that I have along with me now is a husband and an occasional dog but final selections are as scarce as hens teeth and nothing has been ordered.  

Back in the 80's, I loaded up the kids, headed for one of several stores in Baton Rouge (found via the Yellow Pages) and got it done.  No internet, no catalogs, no cell phone distractions, no long distance calling, no shipping things in from Timbuktu.    

In the internet era, I find that I'm searching for the "perfect" chandelier, sink, shower tile, etc.  
The Holy Grail of front doorknobs is out there;  I just haven't discovered the source yet.  
It could be in a catalog, pictured on the internet or lurking in a distant store. 

So I keep looking, and pondering, and comparing.... and not making a final decision. 

I'm not only searching for the "ultimate," I'm also trying to score the best deal.  I might like a certain faucet,  but there could be another that I'd like as much for less... 
and how will I find it if I don't keep looking?  
Surely someone is selling that Hansgrohe faucet for the master bathroom at Price Pfister prices?! 

"Back in the day", there were a manageable number of choices at one or two local stores.  
Brass or chrome?  Expensive, middle of the road, or cheap? 
Joe and I were on a strict budget; we were not only trying to afford building our new house but needed to keep the boys in food and diapers, so that helped keep my desires in check.  
I mulled choices over quickly with the advice of a knowledgeable salesperson and I was ultimately happy for years with what I chose.  

Now that there are no little ones needing my attention,  I have time to wade through websites for hours on end.  I've got a budget (I think), but it's kind of vague and hazy. 

I wander through lighting showrooms until my neck aches from looking up at the ceiling.  I can quote dimensions on Kohler sinks better than anyone at the plumbing store.
I've got so many photographs of tile showers and cabinet designs that I had empty my cache, cookies etc and defrag my computer just to free up more memory.  

But do I know which tile, sinks, faucets, lights etc I'm using in the house?  
Well, I've got it narrowed down.  
Except for the things that I don't have narrowed down.  
I can't seem to motivate myself to do what I did years ago when I sailed into the lighting store and in less than 4 hours purchased every freaking light I needed for a 5 BR, 3500 square foot house.  

I was 8 1/2 months pregnant and had splurged by hiring a babysitter.  Every single electrical selection was made that afternoon:  chandeliers, sconces, recessed lighting, porch lights, switches, central vacuum, fans, .... even the kitchen appliances.  
One afternoon.  

It was a productive day in more ways than one since I went into labor that evening!  
Surely just coincidence! 

 The multitude of information that we have right at our fingertips is both a help and a hindrance. 
Especially if you are like me and tend to research something to death.  

I'll make my final plumbing decisions for the new house by this weekend and hopefully get much of it ordered.  But I know that I'll still be feeling as though I've left stones unturned.
It's like the opposite of compulsive shopping.... compulsive comparisons.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Obligatory Fall Foliage Photos!

View across our rental home's driveway
The conversations in the car lately are variations on the following few phrases....

"Look at that tree!"

"Oh... look at that yard"
Near campus in town

"I'd forgotten how pretty Fall could be."
Park and Dam in Town

"Man that's a bright orange"

To the point are the continual "Wow"s.   
Steeple at our new church.

When it all starts to fade a little next week, I've got my secret weapon...... 
My sunglasses make everything just a little more vivid!  

I've taken to calling them my "Vermont Shades", since they boost the color up a notch or two!  

Hence another common phrase heard in the car is.... 
"That's gorgeous..... and I don't even have my sunglasses on!" 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

House Construction Progress: Windows!!

The windows arrived this week!  The installation is finished along the front and sides and almost through along the rear of the house.

We decided to go a bit overboard and we chose to use Loewen for the windows and all of the glass doors.
 Chairs where the Master Bathtub will eventually be....
Made in Canada (wish we could have gone US made, but we didn't feel that we were seeing the same quality in the Marvin and Pella).  They've got a straight grain fir on the interior and clad on the exterior. 
Since we're staining all of the interior wood that fir should be beautiful!

I agonized a bit (OK a lot!) over the exterior color choice and decided to be slightly edgy with a dark graphite. 

The stairwell window is 6' square, so we were relieved to see that they built a platform to help them with the installation!  

The casement on the left isn't installed yet, but this is the kitchen sink view.  I'm excited beyond belief to realize that on a clear day, I can see the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains peeking up in the distance!!  

It was a major hit to the budget to go with Loewen and our builder had never used them before so we have been holding our breath hoping that our decision was a good one.  We were relieved that the comments from the crew were all positive regarding the quality, the heft and the squareness of everything they've installed so far.  

They'll be a royal pain to design the layout around, but I love the little casements in the master closet! 
I'm almost ready to gush over how glad I am that we took the Loewen plunge, BUT we've got a problem with the grills on ALL of the doors (5 different openings);  the grills (muntins) are about 6" too high and so don't line up with the grills on the windows.

We're waiting to see how either Loewen or the distributor in Charlottesville handles it, so I'm trying to reserve my initial enthusiasm a bit until after we see what plan they come up to make it right and how quickly customer service tries to remedy the error.

Since I'm the one who was making the biggest push to use Loewen, largely because of the quality we'd get in the doors, I'll either be singing their praises or knocking myself in the side of the head!

Monday, October 17, 2011

More Great Neighbors

Once again it seems as though we'll be lucky enough to have wonderful neighbors surrounding our home.  

Maybe similar minds flock to similar places?

Our former neighbors in Lake Jolie Vue are irreplaceable but I remind myself that I'm not trying to replace anyone.  Shifting categories from "friend and neighbor" to just "friend" doesn't mean that anyone left behind is less loved or missed.  

We've felt welcomed on our new road since shortly after we bought the land two years ago.  Since then we've gotten to know all but one of the homeowners on the road (there are seven total) and we've shared a meal or long visit with many of them.

Our "southside" neighbors, Brenda and Clay have been nice enough to invite us for coffee several times on previous visits and they asked us over for dinner a little over a week ago.  At the time were still unpacking and so it was a VERY welcome break.  Plus they also invited neighbor Betty whom I enjoyed getting to know better.  

Can I admit that it was also a nice change to carry on a sustained conversation with someone other than Joe?!  We've done a few things separately since that evening, but at the time we were seemingly joined at the hip and hadn't been apart in days.  

If I had remembered to bring the camera, there might be photos here of the perfectly grilled salmon and steak or the smile on my face.  It was a fun evening and helped us feel less like newcomers and more like part of the town.  

Neighbors Linda and Dave are right across the road from the new house and on Thursday of this week, I finally got to attend one of the concerts that they host at their home on a regular basis.

This is the view of the Blue Ridge Mtns looking east from their driveway!  No photoshopping here... I couldn't do it justice anyway, it's so much more beautiful in person than my point and shoot can capture.  Plus there are 360 degree views like this all the way around from atop their 50 acres.  

 Even by Rockbridge County standards (there are views everywhere!),  it's a jawdropping sight.  

Dave and Linda hold regular "house concerts" and "house music parties" in their "concert room".  

It's hard to explain the atmosphere of relaxation and community that comes across when you're there.  

Irish guitarist Tom Martin was the guest artist on Thursday and as I listened to him sing and fingerpick his guitar (imagine a combination of John Prine and Albert King with an Irish accent), I kept picturing myself being able to tootle across the gravel lane to such concerts on a regular basis when the house is completed. 

Friendly neighbors with interesting stories and lives  ......  Ah yes!   

Twenty six years later, we've picked another splendid road on which to build a house!  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Land of Milk and Honey?

It's quite a kick being able to get such a variety of local goods.  Considering that the county is only 35K total, there is a lot of diversity in what's available.

This was the haul from my visit to the Farmer's Market last week; all produced and grown nearby and most of it organic!

Sugar Pie Pumpkins
Apples (3 varieties)
Banana Peppers
Green Beans
Goat Cheese
Fingerling Potatoes
Ichiban Eggplant
Miniature Delicata Squash
Shitake Mushrooms
Sweet Potatoes
Pork Sausage
Beef Stew Meat
Ground Beef
3 Varieties of Milk

Noel had to check it all out as I was unloading, but alas no cans of cat food!

The title of this post is land of milk and honey, but I already had a jar of honey so didn't need to buy any this week.

Why did I buy three kinds of milk?  The heaviest cream top was for the pumpkin soup and other cooking, 2% was for drinking and the 1% for foaming in our morning coffee.  ....

I admit to being a little crazy about cooking.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Construction Progress.... We've Got Fireplaces!

The back wall of the den looks much less open now that the fireplace is in!!  

It'll be covered with stacked ledgestone (manmade or "cultured" stone), the hearth will be soapstone.
To get a sense of scale, the bolts coming out of the masonry that will eventually hold the mantel are a little higher than 6'..... it's not quite a Cracker Barrel fireplace, but it's pretty big!

And the fireplace on the outside lower level is also finished!  

The timbers for the rear porch have been delivered but for now it looks strange with the roof just ending back there and doors to nowhere!  

When the Louisiana house sale went through, we gave the okay to continue work on the garage.
The foundation walls were poured at the same time as the house, but we had stopped work figuring that we could easily do without the garage.
But since I love the design (architecturally it's more striking than the house from the front) and since Bernard the Mini would love to be "inside", I'm glad that we move ahead with it.

The garage is oriented at a 45 degree angle from the house.  We'll have a walkway but aren't sure whether we'll cover it or do an arbor type of connection.  

I'm standing on the gravel lane taking this photo... they're ready for the slab, but rain over the next day or two might slow that down.  

The front view.... forms going up for the front porch.
Now.... notice anything odd?

Or from the back did you catch what was a little strange?
What doesn't quite add up?

There are two fireplaces and three flues!
The real flues are the two on the right.... the dummy flue on the left was suggested by the stone mason as a way to balance the look since he couldn't center the flues in the chimney!  
We knew that one had to be centered and one on the right and we had never thought about filling the void with a false flue.... Genius!!
The chimney and stone around the flues will eventually come up to the level of the concrete on the dummy flue and will have a band detail. 

Again for a sense of scale... they are monster flues!  

Another milestone..... the windows and doors were delivered today! 
Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

McCormick Mill Day

There are only three boxes left to unpack and we've managed to have a little fun almost every day.  A walk, lunch out, a drive in the country ..... little pleasures.

Each trip out to the new house gets me more excited to see it completed;  I'm confident that it will be as warm and welcoming as the old house.  

My IT guy (Joe) got us a wireless "aircard," so hopefully the blog posts will be more regular.  We're going to try and do without TV until the "real" move.  I'm fine with the occasional Netflix movie, but I'm not sure that Joe is equally as happy.  I may come home one day to find that he's figured out a way to hook up one of the antennas that are up on the roof! 

One of our outings was Mill Day at the nearby McCormick Farm.  Back in History class in elementary and middle school, it used to be standard to teach about inventors Eli Whitney, Robert Fulton and Cyrus McCormick.  I wonder if they are still part of the modern curriculum?  Cyrus was born and lived up in the northern part of the County; he's the one who invented the mechanical reaper which pretty well revolutionized grain production in America and changed the scope of agricultural production in the mid 1800's.  
The trademark red McCormick Farmall eventually became International Harvester
Water Wheel at the McCormick Mill

McCormick's 600 acre farm, Walnut Grove, was donated to Virginia Tech and is used as an agricultural experiment station.  Two acres with the gristmill, blacksmith shop, manor house, cabin, smokehouse and schoolroom is set aside as a memorial to McCormick and is a National Historic Landmark.  

Once a year the water wheel on the old grist mill is allowed to operate and "Mill Day" is held to celebrate and encourage folks to come and see the site.  

It was an unusually cold windy weekend and we were bundled up but still had fun strolling around.  In addition to the gristmill which was grinding corn, local folks were demonstrating their old McCormick Farmall tractors, early small engines, alpaca farming and blacksmithing/forge work. 

The Raphine Volunteer Fire Department was cooking the most delicious BBQ Chicken that I've EVER tasted!  

I'll travel to find them when I hear that they are firing up their pits again!!

We've been doing more riding, but today it was on my old trusty steed John.... as in John Deere.  

The big tractor is still at Paige and David's in LA but we've got the riding mower here.  The drawback to renting a house with 4 acres is the grass, and I'm here to tell you that mowing on hills slows down progress considerably!  

Gone are the days of daydreaming while mowing and cruising along with one hand on the wheel!  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our First Virginia Ride!

We're black and blue from pinching ourselves to be sure that we're really here.

This is what it looks like out at the farm where we're boarding the horses.....
Joe and Sarge doing a little warming up in the arena because Sarge was acting like a green broke colt instead of his usual steady 15 year old self.  I'm sure that having a couple of month lay-off didn't have anything to do it!

Cloud and I posing in front of the Blue Ridge up in one of the hay fields.....
(btw I'm really loving my new little mare!)

Crossing the stream on our way back to the barn......

And another view of the mountains from the hayfield...... Surely I'll never get used to seeing such a beautiful sight?!   

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Construction Progress

It's going to be an awesome house!!!  
View from the front
From the Rear... Outdoor fireplace finished.  Moving up to the den interior fireplace.  Porches yet to come....
View through one set of den french doors
Looking up from the bottom of the basement stairwell
The most important room.... the guest room!!