Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Substantial, But Not Grand"

Several weeks ago, headed out with Jim on errands, I  hurriedly chose the above book to take along.
[I've learned that its best to have something to read as there is often a stop along the way with no need for me to be involved in the errand.]
I've owned the book for a number of years--one of those that is easy to enjoy, full of interesting photos and text.  I gather that Emma-Louise O'Reilly may be more familiar in the UK as a contributor to decorating and craft magazines than she is in the US.
Her comments are rather pithy, her observations a bit dictatorial.
A phrase caught my eye, 'substantial, but not grand.'
Emma-Louise was describing a modest vintage farmhouse originally built by German settlers in the Texas hill country.
The two Amish farmhouses which we have acquired are also substantial, plainly built, of simple layout--nothing remotely 'grand' about them.

Raising a new house or barn for an Amish family is often a neighborhood affair.
While a 'builder' may be hired [usually another Amish] much of the labor is contributed by relatives, in-laws and other Amish neighbors.
Some of those working on a house may not have the skill level of finish carpenters.

As Jim has labored to install plumbing and electrical wiring in these houses he has discovered an interior wall slightly out of plumb--which has interfered with properly hanging a door, stairs in the lower house that are not evenly spaced, slight discrepancies in the spacing of wall studs.
None of these things affect the stability or integrity of the buildings, but they do make 
for frustrating moments.
By far the most annoying to me is the quite unprofessional finish of the sheetrock on the walls. 
This resulted in visible joins in the sheetrock and 'mud' that wasn't smoothly sanded prior to painting.
I have learned that interior painting is handed over to the women of an Amish household--and I suspect that any female capable of wielding a paintbrush or roller was handed one and told to have at it.  Jim has patched and smoothed some areas, but the complete reworking which would make for a professional appearance isn't feasible in terms of time or budget.
I sternly tell myself that I must relinquish a perfectionist stance and enjoy the transformation of carefully chosen paint colors.
We have continued to plod along through the weeks of heat and humidity, and great progress has been made.

I painted the ceiling in the downstairs guest room last winter. When the spell of frigid weather arrived I closed the door and abandoned the job.
Knowing that our son and daughter-in-law would be arriving for a visit at the end of July inspired me to again pick up my brush and roller.
The actual paint color, Canyon Peach, is less pink than it appears in the above photo.

The room as it looked the day I finished painting.
The room ready for company.
The furniture belongs to our son who is dis-inclined to move it to Florida.
I made the pale sage grey/green curtains for one of our houses in Wyoming.
The vintage trunk at the foot of the bed came from my grandfather's attic.

Making a bed is a task beloved of cats.
Teasel knows that she enhances the quilt.

The following photos demonstrate the simple sturdiness of the buildings.
This is the back door which leads into the Amish 'washroom.'
This room contained a wood-fired boiler, a primitive shower stall, a sink with cold water.
The family laundry was done in a gas-powered wringer washing machine.
The enclosed space to the left of the door is the outhouse--NOT in use at present.
Eventually the pit will be filled in and the space can be utilized for garden tools or such.
We still refer to this area as the ''washroom.' 
The freezer resides there as well as receptacles for recycling. During the winter we stored kindling and some firewood in the space.
Eventually it will become a garage with an overhead door.

The workshop was built a few months before we acquired the property.
We planted a garden in the area below it. Topsoil had been hauled in and perhaps in a less rainy summer a garden could flourish.
The season-long mess of mud and rapidly growing weeds has been disheartening.

The ground falls away rather steeply from the south end of the house,
The guest bedroom is in the extension.  Below it, in the finished basement is a well insulated space for storing canned goods.

South-facing side porch. 
The cement steps leading to the ground floor entry are rather crudely made and a bit uneven.
My feet are learning the varying intervals.

The lower farmhouse has a larger compartmented barn, as well as a shed which sheltered buggies and a wood store.
We have the small stable built to accommodate one horse and a buggy.
Renovations continue, although I haven't documented the progress with photos.
Over the past month I have painted the sunroom which adjoins the downstairs guest room.
Upstairs, Jim paints ceilings, I paint walls.
He has been installing electricity, creating the space for the shower in the master suite, constructing trim for around windows, bedroom doors and baseboards.
[In all the Amish homes we have seen, upstairs bedrooms are not finished in terms of trim work.]
The large upstairs guest room has been painted and finished, small guest room painted and trim being installed. Furniture and oddments are shoved from one space to another to make room to work.
I do what I can to help.
I have to confess that painting rooms is not as easy a project for me as it was several years ago.
I clamber clumsily up and down my step ladder.
I sometimes want to sit down on the floor and wail with weariness even as I tick off 
another job finished. 
Soon, the major renovations will be complete.
Soon I can unpack pictures and small treasures, consider how furniture should be arranged.
Soon we can look around with satisfaction and know that we have created a home--not at all 'grand' but comfortable and welcoming.


  1. Oh, you have worked so hard, I don't know how you do it. I like to paint, but it wears me out. I can't do it in hot weather at all.

    1. Janet; "it wears me out"--a simple and comprehensive description of what is happening as I paint!

  2. You've worked hard and you must be looking forward to having it finished so that you can move on to the pleasanter process of making it into 'home'. It sounds as though you will be able to relax and enjoy it all by the time winter arrives.

    1. Rowan: I think we will be settled by early winter--small projects to tackle, but the major renovations will be done. Anticipation keeps me going!

  3. You two have accomplished so much not just with this home and property but the ones before, which you made or were making into your homes. One day, hopefully soon, you'll look back on this latest adventure and rejoice that it is done, (for the most part, always tweaking to be done).

    Your home is sturdy, it has its' quirks, but that gives it character. You are filling it with love and joy for living.

    I've got painting to do both inside and out, after it cools down here.

    God's blessings on you both.


    1. Rainey; You are always an inspiration. You were part of doing so much for your property when your husband was alive and you've continued to tackle big jobs on your own.

  4. Your home looks delightful, how hard you have worked. I did enjoy seeing Miss Teasel modelling your beautiful, the sage green suits her perfectly.
    I have thought of you often the last few weeks as I am making the star log cabin blocks.

    1. Kath; My cats just know that they born to make the quilts look good! I hope you'll be sharing photos of your quilt.

  5. I can't imagine doing all of the work you've done on the house and property. It looks beautiful an I especially love the porch on the house.

    1. Lillian; Porches are such a friendly and useful attachment to a house. Sometimes these spots do collect a few items that should be there. What can I say?

  6. Well done!!! Being a woman of a certain age, I can identify with being discouraged at times. Particularly in the heat and humidity of deep summer!!
    Definitely not the time when my energy levels are at their peak. As much as I love the cool crisp days of autumn I am loath to wish my life away.

    1. Mundi; I have long delighted in that phrase--'a woman of a certain age.'
      I've reached the point where denying it won't help!
      Most of the time I realize I am blessed to be able to work at these projects even if more slowly than in the past.

  7. Congratulations on a job well done! It really is amazing what you and your husband have accomplished in the last couple of years. I think the plainness of you Amish homestead will be a perfect backdrop for your quilts and gardens. Looking forward to seeing the end results.


    1. Jane; Thank-you! it really is coming along. I think before winter I'll be able to unpack quilts and little treasures. I can see that a better garden will be a project for another year.

  8. I think you have done marvels to the new house, it is beautiful, I can see why you have a 'struggle' with the gardening it is because of the weather. Our move is quite tame to yours, a lick of paint here and then is all that is needed, and of course fencing and a gate and then we're finished except for hanging pictures.

    1. Thelma; Jim is a marvel with renovating--figuring out ways to deal with an unconventional space--but he balks when it comes to the details of hanging pictures and considering furniture arrangements.
      Moving house is never easy--I've imagined you and LS putting together furniture which arrived 'knocked down'--inspiring perhaps, but the process of going through an accumulation of papers and projects is wearisome. Glad you are more or less settled.