11 April 2013

A Long Time In Coming... Part 2

In the intervening years since the chimney fire, (read part one of the story here), our little cottage has seen many changes and improvements. The initial construction was done when we were novice builders and there were some things we decided to do over, due to mistakes made by inexperience. We also had to use salvage goods for building materials, since there were limited supplies for a good while after the hurricane, so we replaced our salvage yard doors and floor coverings as time and money allowed.

The total time elapsed on completion of the house after the hurricane was about 6 years. During those years we lived our lives around the construction projects going on inside. We split our time between indoor construction projects, and establishing gardens and outbuildings to house our growing menagerie of barnyard animals.
A roof top view of one of our early garden configurations. The espaliered fruit trees and our two "sentinal" plum trees were just a few years old. The potting shed was later torn down to make more room for blueberry bushes.

The kids helped to finish their rooms, doing whatever task was appropriate to their age. Driving nails, spackling sheet rock, sanding and painting, were some of the things that they did. Our oldest son, who was 9 or 10 at the time, wanted to place a time capsule in the space above his door frame, so in the future if the walls ever came down again, there would be a history of the boy whose room it was. Before we closed the walls in with sheet rock, he placed his time capsule in the wall and signed the wooden header above the door with his signature and the date. The youngest also "signed" his wall frame before the sheet rock went up, although his signature was that of a 3 year old so it wasn't really legible. I think the experience of living as we had to live for those years, gave my children exposure to a number of useful skills and experiences that added significantly to their lives as adults.

Our house has been a work in process for 24 years, we have raised our children, home schooled two very different children, supporting their interests by allowing them to develop parts of the yard for their own use. N. our oldest, was very interested in creating bonsai. He had several beautiful specimens that he created and more that he collected from other places. He selected the east side of the house to have a showcase garden for his bonsai. He and his dad designed and built display tables for his bonsai and collection of Ping Mountain rocks that he used as foils for his trees. It was a lovely addition to the yard and gave us much pleasure.
Our oldest son with a couple of his bonsai trees. Circa 1996
N. training his root over rock Ficus Benjamina

 Our youngest child, E.M., was interested in animals and wanted to raise chickens. He and his dad built his first chicken coop when he was 6 years old. His first flock was a bantam rooster and  5 hens. As the years went by we added other chicken coops, then we added a rabbit house and later two barns for our herd of dairy goats and their progeny. He raised chickens and sold eggs and supplied eggs to our table,  sold rabbits to 4-H members as show animals, and the dairy goats gave us an ample supply of goats milk for cheese and to drink.  The grounds around our house were developed to support his interests and we enjoyed the life that the animals brought to the homestead and the wholesome, beautiful food that came to the table.

The first small coop that 6 year old E.M and his dad built to house his prized bantam Rooster "Bad Boy" and his 5 hens. The bantam eggs make wonderful omelets!

E.M. planting flowers around the rabbit cage in his "Bunny Garden"  Circa 1996

 Our home schooling years, (17 years in total), occupied our attentions and land for many years. As the boys grew and developed new interests, we tried to make sure that they had a place and time to explore them. Now that the boys have grown to men and live in their own places, the homestead has been taking on a new face. We are now crafting our land to meet the needs and interests of an empty nest couple. Our interest has always been self sufficiency, organic sustainable agriculture, and preserving of "lost arts" like herbal medicine, food preservation, and "simple" living. Now that it is just the two of us, that is our focus. We are vegan, so we no longer need to have livestock or chickens, and as much as I loved having the animals around, I want to be free to travel for extended periods, so we no longer have barnyard animals. We have been streamlining our gardens, adding more beds to host my medicinal herbs and beds for permanent perennials like asparagus and ginger and edible perennials that we never had room for when we had growing boys, (and their friends), to feed. We have also been looking to the future with our efforts going to establishing a learning center/ nursery here at Heart's Ease Cottage. Teaching is my passion, and I want to make our years of experience and the techniques that we have developed available to others who are interested in self sufficiency and small scale homesteading. More on that in future blog posts, but for today I want to turn one of our most recent projects...

A year or so ago, a friend of ours gave us a 1890's vintage wood stove. He had kept it as a project for years, but never had the time to work on it, so he gave it to us. It spent a year in stasis in one of the chicken houses, protected from the weather, but still in need of a lot of TLC. Then last summer, my husband began to putter on it, brushing it with a wire brush and sand paper to eliminate the rust, (much of this was done without my knowledge, since he was trying to surprise me with the completed stove).

One piece of the unfinished stove

He sent several of the ornamental parts off to be nickel plated, and began to make plans for the interior brick chimney to be refaced. At this point he let me in on the surprise, since he knew I would want to choose the new interior look. We had the chimney repaired, the interior refaced and the stove sanded  and painted with stove black. When the decorative pieces arrived, (a saga in itself, where the plating company changed location and lost some of the key parts... which as of yet have not been found or replaced...sigh.), we were ready to put the stove in place and hook it up to the new chimney. So, after 22 years of waiting, Heart's Ease Cottage is once again equipped with a wood burning heat stove. The project is not finished, since we will be refurbishing the wood floor in that room during the warm weather months and installing a ceramic tile base for the stove to stand on. For now the stove is sitting on a fireproof pad awaiting the completion of that room. But in the meantime are able to use the stove and enjoy its warmth for heat and ambiance.It has been a long time in coming, but it is so worth the wait! Many thanks and big hugs to my husband for knowing the desires of my heart and working so hard to bring them to life!

The old Franklin stove and the 1944 brick chimney which was damaged by the hurricane.  Circa 1989

A day time view of the new stone and newly refinished 1890's stove.

 I am so excited about having a working stove in that room again, and it sure is pretty set against the lighter stone we chose for the chimney face!  Circa 2013

So while the cool weather lasts, we are drinking hot tea and playing cards or backgammon near the fire and enjoying the fruits of our labors. Until next time! I hope you are loving life and living your dreams!

Blog Hops this post is linked to:
Busy Bee's Blog Hop #12 
Country Homemaker Hop#60


  1. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick


  2. I found you over at The Chicken Chick! I added you to my bloglist... I love to keep up with blogs like this! I love it!!
    Love, JL www.fruittreehillhannibal.blogspot.com


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