Taking a Sunday Drive on Restoration Road

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

 One of my favorite things to do here on the blog is to tell stories, especially stories about people.  Today's story is about several people, and the building that connected their lives.

John and I love watching the tv show, Restoration Road, starring Clint Harp, a carpenter who's appeared with Chip and Joanna Gaines for a very long time building custom furniture for the show's fixer uppers. On Restoration Road, Clint travels the country in search of incredible historic structures in need of restoration. What makes this show especially interesting is that these found structures aren't just restored, they're dismantled and reassembled in another location, sometimes in a different form. One thing that has made the show so interesting for us is that at least 3 of the structures featured on the show have come from this part of NYS - one from Schoharie, one from the Mohawk Valley, and the focus of my story today - a barn from Galway, NY.  
In addition to showing the process of the dismantle and rebuild, some segments of the show are dedicated to exploring the area the structure originates from as well as the the area where the structure will be rebuilt. It's fun to see places like Vroman's Nose (which appears as the leading scene in the show's intro), the Erie Canal and in this case - the little town of Galway on national television. The mastermind behind this particular restoration was Luke Larson, owner of Green Mountain Timber Frames in Middletown Springs, VT whose company mission is transforming old barns into beautiful historic properties.  One of 8 children, Luke grew up on a dairy farm in Wells, VT.  He sparked his passion for woodworking from spending much of his childhood in his grandfather's workshop.  He built his first project, a cedar strip wooden canoe, at age 16.  During college, where he got degrees in sociology and psychology, he rehabbed an 18th century barn on the family farm and made it an addition to their house.  Around that time he became friends with Dan McKeen, founder of Green Mountain Timber Frames.  Dan and Luke collaborated on a number of projects before Dan retired from daily work at the Green Mountain Timber Frames in 2017.  
Luke's mission in saving the Galway barn was to use the framework of the barn to build a permanent craftsman workshop on the site of Green Mountain Timber Frames where people can learn hand-tool woodworking, like barrel-making and basket weaving.   And so the task of moving the Galway barn began......

  From what local historians can tell, the Galway barn was built by Reuben Wait who started farming in Galway in the 1780's or 1790's.  Phyllis Keeler, Town Historian since 1969 (over 50 years), sat down with Clint Harp and read from Galway historical records that Reuben Wait came by boat to Galway in 1774 with 10 Scotch families hoping to start 3 churches.  He lived on Mechanic Street, ran a farm and built churns, kegs, barrels and tubs.  Clint also sat down with Eva Hoffman, age 104, the current owner of the barn.  The farm has been in her family for generations.   Here's Eva (middle), Clint (l), Luke (r) and Eva's family.

 Eva was happy to know her family's barn would get a second chance at life but sadly she did not live to see the project completed in its new location. Before I continue, let me just take a moment to commend the dedication of anyone, especially Phyllis Keeler - now 86 years old - for being a town historian for over 50 years.  I don't know for sure, but I'm betting she might hold the record for the longest time served in any official town capacity.  Even if she doesn't hold that record, she deserves an award for that level of dedication.  

John and I headed out on Sunday morning towards Vermont in hopes that we might get lucky enough to find the Reuben Wait barn.  Considering we didn't think to re-watch the episode which we'd seen some time ago, or do some online research, I'd say we were pretty lucky to find it without much effort.  And considering how beautiful she is, she was pretty easy to spot.  

  Aside from the miraculous transformation of a 200 year old barn into the beautiful structure above, the story is something I find pretty remarkable - a story about people whose lives, past, present and future,  are now connected thanks to one show.  To be able to hear Eva Hoffman relive and share stories of playing in the old barn as a child,  to listen to Phyllis Keeler enthusiastically share Galway's history and read about Reuben Wait, to seeing how one man's enthusiasm for saving old structures can give a building with so much history new life...I find pretty darn fascinating. There's something sort of magical, a bit of a Godwink, that Reuben's barn will once again be involved in barrel making.  It's connections of human beings whose lives and histories intersect in subtle and sometimes unknown ways that remind me what an amazing and small world we live in. While we don't hear about connections like these everyday, they do exist, and they will continue to come to light thanks to the work of Luke Larson, Clint Harp and the whole crew of Restoration Road!

 Restoration Road can be seen on the Magnolia Network which has taken over the DIY Network on cable (Channel 161 on Spectrum) or on Discovery + for only $4.99 a month or $6.99 commercial free.  It can also be seen on Amazon Prime Video.  Clint Harp is not only a talented carpenter, he has that boy next door charm and easy smile that makes him the perfect host and storyteller of his own tv show.  

Luke Larson appeared in another episode of Restoration Road in the first episode of Season 2.  In that episode Luke and his team convert an old corn crib into a gorgeous cabin on their property where guests can spend time completely off the grid soaking up everything beautiful about Vermont.  Luke's passion for old buildings and old-style carpentry is only upstaged by his humble demeanor and boyish grin.  He and Clint make the perfect team to share projects to help preserve the historic past.

Middletown Springs, founded in 1784, is a charming little Vermont village, just over 23 square miles large, home to about 750 residents.  It is located just east of Poultney and north of Wells resembling exactly what you picture when you imagine a Vermont village.

Overlooking Middletown Springs
Middletown Springs Community Church
My account here doesn't do the story justice, nor does it show the level of workmanship that goes into a project of this magnitude nor the inside of this truly magnificent transformation. You really need to see the episode and read Luke's blog posts to truly appreciate the project. You can see Luke's blog here: 
Thank you for letting me share this story and all the stories in Life As I See It.  To read more stories like these, check out my blog Directory.  Don't forget to check out this and other episodes of Restoration Road.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post with more scenes from our drive on restoration road.

Design on a Dollar - Transitioning from Christmas to Winter Without Breaking the Bank

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

 When it's time to take down and pack up your Christmas decorations, are you sad or exhilarated?  Or, like me, are you a little of both?

I used to leave my decorations up until January 6th and some years, even until Martin Luther King Day, but the past few years I've gone to bed one night thrilled to still be surrounded by Santa Claus and twinkly lights only to wake up the next morning totally ready and anxious to pack it all away.  There's something so cathartic about having everything back in the attic, the house clean and back to normal.  That being said, there are some decorations that I'm not quite ready to pack away - pinecones, pine boughs, snowflakes - wintry items, and I've found a way to extend the season to incorporate those into my surroundings for another month or two.  And I've found a way to do it on a budget!

Before I proceed, let me share a big disclaimer - I am not an interior designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I love being inspired by them.  Last year, in fact, I was inspired by Colleen of Life on Kaydeross Creek who has an amazing blog about decorating and furniture restoration and has an antique shop in Ballston Spa.  Her decorating style really inspires me, especially when it comes to her use of vintage finds and antiques.  While I am not a pro and my taste may not match anyone else's, I've discovered a few low-cost ways to decorate for any season that I'd like to share because who doesn't want to save money? 

Now it certainly doesn't hurt that I'm old and have been collecting 'stuff' for almost 44 years of my married life.  While I certainly enjoy visiting my favorite shops (check my December posts if you missed them) and add new things to my collection, I have absolutely reached the point where I can 'shop' in my own closets and cupboards to stage a space.  I remember watching a couple shows on tv years ago that redecorated houses doing just that.  Let me show you some of the ways I did that this season when transitioning from Christmas to Winter and share a few really inexpensive ways to add to your décor.

Since we bought our home in 1995, I've struggled to decorate my mantle properly.  When I look at old photos of Christmases past, those early years when I thought I was Martha Stewart, I'm appalled at how lacking my design was.  Martha - I was NOT!  Thankfully over the years I've learned some tricks from my friend... Maureen, at the Speckled Hen, and this year was probably my favorite mantle ever.  In fact I loved it so much, I wanted to find a way to prolong the design.  The whole idea began during a night of insomnia when I got the idea to use my grandfather's old cubby on the mantle to display my Santa collection which has never had a proper viewing location.  I added bottle brush trees, some tiny lights, a few reindeer and some gnomes and was thrilled with the end result.  Finally, something useful about insomnia!

To transition to winter, I was inspired by my friend, Jeanne, who displays her bird collection on a garland over her kitchen window.  I used my collection of winter birds, a squirrel and a chipmunk ornament..... placing them in the cubbies where my Santas had been.  I completed the mantle by adding some simple winter greens in different containers (both from Speckled Hen), some vintage books I've been collecting from our visits to Owl Pen Books, added some amazing candles from Speckled Hen and for some added winter fun, I added some vintage winter photos of my Great Uncle George speedskating and my dad when he playing in the snow when he was a little boy.

The candles above are from Speckled Hen.  They have timers and are remote controlled!!! Don't you love them?  I love old photos and am fortunate to have a huge collection so I continued the theme on my mother-in-laws antique sewing machine in front of our family tree ... my dad as a youngster, attempting to ski.  Since it's the only photo of him with skiis and the only winter sports I saw him partake was ice fishing and snowmobiling, I'm guessing his skiing experience was summed up in this one photo.

On my dry sink, I displayed already framed old photos of my great grandmother, my dad's family in the 1930's, and my mom as a little girl.  I like the way the vintage photos compliment the old antique dry sink.

On my hearth, I replaced Santa with a simple basket of winter greens, some snowflakes and a few of the 'snowballs' the grandkids and I made using painted styrofoam balls, epsom salts and glitter in an antique basket.  On the other side of the fireplace I just kept out a few winter trees, a stacked birdhouse and some antique wooden Dutch shoes.

A few years ago I happened upon the company Ginger Blue Decor from Saugerties, NY.  I actually purchased a product from them many, many years ago at the Country Folk Art Show and found them on Instagram in 2020.  Ginger Blue makes magnetic art and barnwood frames in all sizes.  I have two frames...both hold a 5 1/2" x 5 1/2" photo (their smallest size art magnet) that is magnetized.    In the past couple of years, I've collected about 10 seasonal photos (art magnets start at $8.95 each) and now each season I have seasonal art to display that can change with a simple swap of the magnet photo.  You can purchase all sizes of frames in several wood finishes and colors, and art magnets to suit any taste.  In fact, they just added personalized magnets to their line.   Great company to do business with and it's nice to support a small local business too!  

Another great way to spice up your space is digital art from Etsy.  This year was the first time I've done this, but I promise it won't be the last.  Just go on the Etsy app and search digital prints.  There are hundreds of beautiful pieces of art available for as little as $2 or $3.00, some more depending on the art and vendor, make your purchase, and immediately download the digital files.  Then just upload your file to your favorite photo printing vendor (I used CVS) and voila .... you have a new piece of art for your wall.  I bought 3 different prints totaling $14.37, had them printed at CVS for $9.59 for three 8 x 10's (there was a 50% off coupon) and used recycled frames from my closet.  Hard to beat that, right?  Here's the three prints I purchased and how I used them.... for less than $25.00!!!!

I think there's times when we decorate parts of our homes and leave them the same for decades, (I have a few of those) but when you can redecorate and recycle your home this easy and without spending a fortune, why not change things up?

A crewel piece I did back in the 80's

The stack of books below aren't just random vintage books - one is a 1907 Bobbsey Twin and the other is one of several of the Honeybunch series from the 1920's I've collected because my grandmother's nickname for me was Honeybunch.  

Whenever I do a blog about my home décor, I'm all excited to share the post until it is finished. It's then that I look at the completed post and feel silly because my simple style is nothing compared to the many, talented, professional bloggers out there. But then I remember that it doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter who my style or décor resembles. I decorate for me. I surround myself with things that make me happy, items handed down from generations, photos of people I love, some I never even knew. And isn't that how we should all be decorating? I don't want to live in a home that looks like a magazine, like a home no one lives in, a home with no personal artifacts to tell the story of the people who live there. Your home should resemble YOU and your family. It should showcase things that have a personal connection and tell your story, not just mimic a blog post or magazine article.  I think my home achieves that and even if it's not magazine worthy or blog worthy - it's where I spend my time and where my family makes memories. I hope that in sharing my home I inspire you to make your home a place that looks and feels like you and the people from your past and present....no matter what season you're decorating for.  So think outside the box and pull out items from your family's past and display them for everyone to see.  I promise it will inspire some great storytelling and reminiscing and keep your loved ones present in your everyday life - even in a small way.  Happy Winter friends.  Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you'll come back soon for more Life As I See It.

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