Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Choosing Exterior Stain.... Help!

Thanksgiving gave me a much needed break from my computer and the house.   I've been practically paralyzed with indecision this week and feeling a bit jittery about some choices that need to be made at the new house.  

Two words:  Exterior Colors.

Board and batten siding, trim, soffit, fascia, rafter tails, columns, girders, beams, porch ceilings......

My mind is bouncing around like a pinball.  Where to go darker, where to go lighter?  What to tie in with what?

It's a beautiful house and I don't want to mess it up!!!!  We'll be living with these color choices for a long time; it's not like I can decide one morning to buy a few gallons of paint and do a little redecorating.

The crew wants to put a coat of stain on the posts and rafters before building the timber-framed porch that will span the back of the house.   Friday is my deadline for giving them the stain!

We've been having some vibrant sunsets throwing color on the walls and on the timbers as they lay on the ground.  Pinks and hot oranges aren't typical Craftsman/Prairie colors, so I'll have to look elsewhere for inspiration.

This is the time that I wish I had "people" who would make these decisions for me.

I could show up on move-in day and presto:  there would be my house.  A house with beautifully coordinated stain.  And with doors (interior and exterior), stone, porch flooring, cabinets..... (Colors aren't the only choices on my radar this week!)

Let's get real, I couldn't let anyone make all those decisions for me!  I'd still be calling the shots but a little advice would be nice.  The guy at the Sherwin Williams store is helpful in a maddeningly uncommitted way; I think he's had many years of learning to smile and let the customer always be right.  I say one thing and he seems to agree.  I change my mind and he nods and agrees again.  He must be a great husband to someone!

I'll post some photos of the final selections tomorrow!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Advent!

I never wished anyone here in blogland a Happy Thanksgiving, so I'll jump right into the current season and wish you all a Happy Advent!

We still haven't celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Virginia since we drove to Tennessee last week in order to be with family.   Mr. Biggs came along since he's too difficult to leave behind now that he's getting more and more "tottery" in his old age.  Our helpful neighbor Sharon offered to take care of Atta and Noel even though she had family coming over for the holiday..... talk about nice!

When we drove away from Rockbridge County in the AM on Wednesday, it was one of the most glorious days that we'd seen this fall.  The leaves are off all of the hardwoods, but the day was so clear and bright that each branch of the trees on the mountainsides was sharply distinct.  We saw hilltops beyond hilltops that we had never noticed before and houses nestled in the woods that were previously obscured by foliage.

When we neared the VA/TN border, it got a little drizzly and then ..... a rainbow!  

I was driving but Joe took a few snapshots through the car window.  
Stretching across much of the sky, it had the shadow of a second arc next to it and we could clearly see each of the seven color bands;  it was as if VA was wishing us goodbye! 

The four sons were scattered across the country for the holiday, each of them spending the day with friends in their respective home states, so we didn't see any of them.  But Tennessee is home to my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew and his wife (is she my niece-in-law?... that doesn't sound right?), and my adorable great-niece and great-nephew.

The torch of hosting Thanksgiving dinner was passed to the younger generation and though hampered by having only one oven which was just big enough to hold the turkey and no side dishes, they did a great job!  We were full and just a little uncomfortable from making room for a little more of everything on our plates!

A cautionary word of advice for anyone else with one oven:  If you are tempted to fire up the outdoor BBQ/smoker in order to cook and heat side dishes, DON'T!

Proof that we aren't as intelligent as I'd like to think is the fact that not a single one of the seven adults present thought of taking the turkey out of the oven and putting it in the smoker instead of the towering stack of casseroles which my nephew had balanced above the charcoal.  This oh-so-obvious solution was suggested by a neighbor here in VA after we were telling him the tale of the burnt green beans!

It was my first time to meet my "new" great nephew (he's almost 20 months old!) and I hadn't seen his sister since she was a baby, so the feast was secondary to spending the day with family and getting to know the kids.  Having folks descend on your house when you are the parents of toddlers and preschoolers isn't easy, and they probably collapsed in bed for days after we left!

We returned to VA on Friday in time to take part in the community tree lighting and caroling down Main Street.
When darkness fell, we lit candles and walked through downtown behind Santa and Mrs. Claus who were riding in a carriage pulled by two beautiful white horses with sleigh bells jingling.
The caroling was a little haphazard as the crowd of 400 was spread out so far from front to back, but the glow of candlelight illuminated smiles all around and the crisp weather made for a fine evening.

Farewell to Thanksgiving and let the Advent preparations for Christmas begin!  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Riding in Rich Hole Wilderness

When Deb whom we first met last weekend mentioned that she would be using her mules in a few days and that we were welcome to ride along, you know that I jumped on the invitation!

I didn't know where we were going or whether the ride would be strenuous or easy, but I immediately said "Yes!  We'll be there!"  Who can pass up the chance to make new friends, ride new trails or see mules in action?

Friday AM dawned clear and thankfully not windy.  Though the temperature was in the high 20's it felt brisk but not uncomfortable.

We were going to the Rich Hole Wilderness about 15 miles west of town;  Deb had been asked by a group of hunters to pack in their supplies for a week in the woods (rifle season for deer opens Monday).   Named for the rich soil that is found in the coves or "holes" in the area, Rich Hole Wilderness consists of 6,450 acres set aside as wilderness area by Congress in 1988 and administered by the US Forest Service.

In the 1800's the area had an iron-producing furnace (Longdale Furnace) which employed thousands.  The mine and furnaces closed in 1911 and 20,000 acres were eventually "given" to the Federal Government after the death of the heirless owner of the Longdale Furnace area.

Between the mining and associated logging operations, only the highest and steepest parts of the mountain were untouched, but nature has since had almost 100 years to reclaim the Rich Hole Wilderness Area.

Once the four mules were loaded and the seven saddle horses mounted, we were finally ready to start.  It takes a quite a while to get so many saddles, bridles, packs and riders organized!

We crossed the road from our parking area and followed at first alongside the clear waters of Simpsons Creek before turning and beginning up the western side of Brushy Mountain.  With 11 equines crunching through the leaves and me chattering to new friends Barb and Wendy for most of the ride, we didn't see any signs of wildlife along the way!

We were surrounded by mature hardwoods, but all of the leaves were down so I couldn't tell a poplar from an oak or sugar maple.

The ferns and mosses in sheltered areas were the only bits of green to be seen.... winter has arrived on the higher elevations!

In spite of one stretch where we climbed almost 1,000 feet in just over a mile, the ascent seemed fairly gradual for the entire 4 mile trip up the mountain.

The trail was wide and well banked with no erosion, plus the well placed switchbacks kept the horses from needing to work too hard.

Despite the good footing, you never know what will go wrong when you're dealing with animals.  We were almost to the top when the mule carrying the largest load shied after his load shifted.  He stepped off the trail, immediately was caught by gravity, and went sliding down the side of the mountain!  He didn't go far before being stopped by a tree.  He lay quietly and remained steady while Deb, Forrest, Wendy and Lisa cut the packs free.

Aside from a scrape on his nose, he was fine and was able to scramble and lurch back up to the trail.  It could have been MUCH worse!

When we reached the top, we had ascended from our start of 1,500 feet to 3,500 feet.  Cloud isn't ready for the Himalayas, but it was an accomplishment for us flatlanders!

A massive canvas tent complete with wood stove had been packed in the week before, so roughing it was a relative term for these hunters.  We ate a hurried lunch from our saddlebags while sitting on a rock at the crest of the mountain and then it was time to retrace our steps before the early sunset of daylight savings caught us out after dark.

We settled our pair of tired horses in their stalls at the boarding stable, unloaded our gear, unhooked the trailer, drove back home and fell into bed (after taking some Aleve!);  it had been a long day.... but one to remember!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

House Progress Interior Shots

Posting a few photos taken this week of the main floor entry and den.
Foyer.... ignore the temporary front door!
     Our plumber and electrician are a father and son who work together as a team.  They've been busy pulling wire and laying pipe. 

     We're going the extra mile and putting in cast iron drops (the vertical drain pipes) within the walls so that the noise of water draining through the pipes isn't loud.  I stayed at a house last year where the sound of rushing water from upstairs showers and toilets through the PVC sounded like a waterfall within the walls.... seriously!  
View from the foyer toward the den.  (Basement stairs to right, bookcases on the left.
     Cast iron isn't used very much anymore, but it was important to us.  We had insisted on cast iron drops at the old house and as a result there was no sound of  water falling through the walls in the hallway.  

Looking from the MBR hallway across the back of the  den,  Kitchen at far end, dining room to right.  
     The sounds of silence aren't something that anyone will notice so it's easy to overlook the benefit.  But visitors in the guest room would otherwise be having to listen to the sounds of our shower and toilet draining down from above their heads!  

Temporary stairs to the basement, foyer.   
We're also bucking the norm here in VA and not putting floor registers in the main level for the heat and air.  Yes, I know that heat rises and so floor vents help with heating, but I also know how much dog hair and dirt gets on my floor each day.  So we're routing the vents up to the ceiling.  No worries about furniture placement and Atta can shed to her hearts content! 

Looking from the kitchen toward the dining room (L) and den (R).  Beverage area (R) with 1/2 bath behind it.  
Our stretch of warm weather ended this afternoon when some blustery cold winds moved in and the temperatures will be down in the mid-20's tonight.  We're going riding in the morning and I'm wishing that I had ordered some winter riding pants!  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

County Road Signs Mirror Our Life

Sometimes I wonder how we got here.  We seemed so set in our path of staying in Louisiana and never leaving our "forever" home there.   

We were rolling along on a track that seemed set in stone.... or bounded in iron.  Little deviations might have happened here and there but this was our path.... 

And then we crossed .......

Since he was self employed, we never thought that Joe would be able to retire at an early age..... "early age" being a relative term to anyone under 30!
  With no corporate 401K etc, we assumed that retirement was many years down the road.

The buyout offer from Farmers came at the perfect time.  
My parents had passed away, children began to leave home, and we began to get more and more disenchanted with the crime and craziness in EBR parish.  

At some point, the tiny seeds of discontent and doubt about staying on our chosen track began to sprout.  

So we wrenched and pulled, pried and levered and we did it!  

We took the train off the tracks!

I love that analogy...... 
 I don't picture a train wreck.  No engine laying on it's side with cars all a jumble.  
Instead I envision the freedom to break out of a rut.

Without our tracks, we were free to swoop over onto.....

Where to go from there?  We couldn't just wander around aimlessly.  We needed a plan.

The answer came easily.  We haven't had a minutes regret about our decision to move here.  

Yep, Rockbridge County is also home to.....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Busy Weekend

I've got a lot to learn about the plants and wildlife in Virginia, so I'd been looking forward to attending Saturday's nature walk sponsored by the local Master Naturalists concerning winter woodland habitat.  
The walk began out on the eastern end of the Chessie Trail and was led by Bruce Bytnar,  a retired National Park Service Ranger.

The Chessie starts in town and stretches for 6 miles following the Maury River along the old railway bed of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.  We spent about 2 hours out walking with perfect crisp weather but other than a few flocks of Canadian geese who flew in for landings on the river, the wildlife stayed far away from our group of 15.  

(No I haven't let my hair go brown since moving to VA... that isn't me in the photo above!)

Bruce was informative and entertaining, and at the conclusion of the walk, you just know that we had to let him (and his wife) know that we were proud parents of a NPS ranger!

Saturday night we took off our walking shoes and put on something a little dressier to go in to hear the Rockbridge Symphony concert held on the campus of VMI.  Comprised of about 45 volunteer members from the community, the Rockbridge Symphony was awesome!  

And how I made it to be an adult without having heard classical guitar in played in person before is a mystery!  If you ever have a chance to hear Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, GO! 

Here's a fuzzy cell phone photo taken from the balcony of Jackson Hall which serves as VMI's assembly hall.  (The straight backs in the lower pews had both of us squirming around, so we retreated to the cushioned seats in the upper balcony after intermission!)   

The mural at the end of the hall is 18x23 feet and was painted by an 1880 graduate to commemorate VMI's participation in the Civil War battle of New Market.  

More Lexington simplicity .... tickets were only $10.00, no advance tickets, no assigned seating, no need to get dressed to the nines, parking was a short stroll through campus.  It was a lovely evening! 

Sunday we skipped church in order to enter a Hunter Pace (basically a marked trail ride) through the grounds of the Middlebrook Hounds Hunt Club.  Foxhunting is a big deal up here!  A Hunter Pace is open to all disciplines so we didn't need blazers, english saddles, knee boots etc.  No hounds or hunting, a Hunter Pace is just a "go as you please" ride.  

We went about 6 miles through the woods over some very hilly terrain and only saw one other set of riders out on the course, so it was peaceful and quiet.  

 Cloud was a joy to ride and we met several trail riding enthusiasts who've promised to help us learn some good trails nearby.  

Although Sarge almost looks as though he could just step over this one, neither of us were tempted by the jumps along the course.... guess I'm getting old and more cautious!  

 I don't think that Sarge could gather up his Tennessee Walking Horse legs and hurl himself over a jump if grizzly bears were after him, so there isn't much hope of Joe being Master of the Hunt!  


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Front Porch TimberFraming

 The framing of the front entry porch is largely finished!!  

The white oak beams were locally cut and milled.... beautiful aren't they? 

The exposed timber framing was a little out of the scope of what the crew usually does, but they rose to the occasion and did a fantastic job.

Rounding off the ends to create the curved rafter tails.....

From the underside, it's especially beautiful.... now I'm questioning my original plan to stain the wood beams a dark brown.  I'm sort of liking being able to see the grain etc.
(The horizontal beam will be wrapped with oak)

The metal poles will be wrapped with tapered stone columns.  And the temporary front door will eventually be bigger, wider and have side lights.  Of course, I still haven't chosen the real front door yet, but it's on the list!  :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Few Virginia Firsts

No, I didn't fall off a cliff!

There's been SO much happening lately that finding the time to sit and write has been challenging.  Since I want the blog to help me remember what's happening in these exciting times as we get settled into a new life, I need to get off my duff and start writing!!

I'll play catch up and mention a few "firsts" that have happened since my last post ....
  • Our first snowfall was about a month earlier than I expected.  It was only about 1/2" and melted before lunch,  but it made us realize that we need to buy a snow shovel and some de-icer so that we'll be ready when the real thing comes along.  Snow shovels weren't something that we ever needed in Louisiana!

  • I attended my first lacrosse game since I was in college:  the 25th annual Lee-Jackson Lacrosse Classic pitted VMI against W&L in a preseason matchup.  Free admission and the peaceful stroll to the stadium is always a perk when going to W&L sporting events!

  • It may not seem like much but I got up the courage to find a new hairdresser here in VA.  After going to Nona R in Baton Rouge for the past 24 years (!!), it was nerve wracking to let someone else highlight and cut my hair!  Visions of having hair with streaky stripes and walking out with a crazy cut thankfully didn't come true!  Everett and Kelly did a fine job, so I should be able to relax and enjoy the experience with my next visit.  
  • Sarge and Cloud had their first shoeing with their new farrier.  I'm still getting to know Cloud, but she's coming along and I'm very happy that she's mine.
  • Bernard the Mini is sporting a new license plate, and I've got a VA driver's license in my wallet!  Our first visit to the Virginia DMV was successful from the point of view of the Virginia state coffers.  It cost us almost 900.00 to register the cars and trailers and get new drivers licenses! We still have to get our inspection stickers (state AND county) so more revenue is coming VA's way!   Nobody ever said moving to paradise was going to be cheap! 
  • Halloween was our first "holiday" event since moving to Lexington.  Trick or Treat in town was quite the spectacle as streams of costumed kids and their parents went up and down the streets in the afternoon collecting candy from the downtown businesses.  We walked around a bit and then settled into a table in the front of the coffee shop where we could watch the action.  Funny how times have changed.... other than one vampire, I didn't see any ghouls, goblins or witches!

Even the horses from the carriage ride business got into the spirit...  Guess they are being "horses of a different color"?  
  • I celebrated my first birthday as a Virginian.  55!!  Who'd have thought?  Joe and I had lots to talk about during dinner out at my favorite restaurant in town:  The Southern Inn.   

And that's a handful of our firsts from recent days.......

Stay tuned for a house update tomorrow.... there have been lots of changes at the new house!