Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Nov. 25
Hectic days getting ready for winter. We’ve moved bricks and sand into the house in order to build fireplaces after freeze-up.  The back staircase treads and risers are in and I now turn my attention to the spiral oak staircase in the center of the house. Sam has made his first attempt at thin coat plastering. He has the upstairs bathroom scratch coat on and already he is showing a talent for the work. By the time we get to the formal downstairs rooms he should be fairly accomplished at it. There are only two more door casings to hang and that tedious work will be complete. The days are shorter now but we have lighting in nearly all of the rooms so when not too exhausted by the day’s chores we will be able to work at night as well. Jim

I am thankful for stone and wood. Carbon, silicon, oxygen and more congealed together to form the structure of this mass. Without these atoms, without these bonds, there is no reason for hammer, chisel, nail, and screw. The most basic of elements gives us the greatest beauty. The smallest touch leads to the greatest change. The tree grew through many seasons, the stone sustained intense heat and pressure. Ours has been an intense process through many seasons. Many elements have come together to create this mass of stone and wood. Sam

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I am in a steady relationship. I do not know if she is right for me. She is high maintenance, requires daily attention, and is never quite satisfied. This is all well and good, except I do not know if she likes me. She glitters and sparkles and seems to smile when attention is given to her. She is beautiful, to be sure. A real show-stopper, second, third, and even more unwarranted looks have been cast her way. Yet I ignore all of this. I am in this relationship not for her attention. I do not try to hide her beauty, or to stifle the unwarranted looks. I feed her need for high maintenance. I build this beauty for the sake of beauty. It turns heads; casts a shadow of grace. Do those who see her know that she is not out of their league? They too can have beauty as her. Commit to a relationship of daily working with whatever materials to be found. Work to mold, shape, and construct a thing of beauty. Line, color, texture, form, symmetry. The relationship will form and heads may turn. She will always approve.Sam

Sam talks of his "relationship" with this beauty. To me,at my age, she is more like a cruel mistress...demanding, infuriating and eating all my waking and some of my sleeping hours. But by far the worst part is the knowledge that at least a whole year remains to satisfy her voraciousness. The exterior of the cupola and the completion of the porch remain to be done before winter. There is also the extensive landscaping that awaits. The interior,well, every day of every week will hardly complete it by next fall. This mistress may kill me yet! Jim

Friday, August 30, 2013

More Gingerbread Please

It is hard to not look. This has been a hot week. We have been painting. Jim has been working on the porch, and I have been working on the second floor. We have decided to use a gray for the trim and a muted ocher for the cedar shingles. I was worried that my sweat would dilute the paint too much, but the colors turned out quite well. It is really turning into a jewel box. Sam

It was wonderful today to see the first of the porch trim go up. We chose to paint it an off-white gray which is in the green rather than the blue register. It is merely a lighter shade of the gray we are going to use on the second floor trim. This light gray appears like blue green ice. It gives the porch a light rather than a heavy feeling. It looks remarkable against the darker stone of the walls. We have enough trim to complete the entire three sided porch and hope to get it installed in the next several weeks.There is a lot to do before winter and snow moves us inside.Jim

Monday, August 19, 2013

Porch columns

Mid-August and it is still crazy busy. The house looks different yet again as the framework of the Victorian gingerbread porch which will surround three sides of the house is now in place. We are ready to begin putting on the roof boards and some of the decorative trim. There is still hope that we might get most of the exterior done before the winter hits and we turn our attention again to the inside. Jim

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last Stone

Our projected date for having all of the stonework done was August first. We made it with two days to spare! It feels wonderful to have an end of stone and cement, and the finished product looks spectacular. There are easily 10,000 individual stones on the seven walls of the first floor. Sam has got six sides of the second floor finished with the shingles he individually cut with the scalloped design…only one left to go. Soon we should be able to put up the rest of the trim and moldings in preparation for a coat of paint. Jim

If you have ever seen Fight Club then you may understand. Walking to the house, behind Jim I was not sure of his presence or mine. Was he of my imagination or was I his shadow? On days like this things just come together. Time freezes and flashes forward at the same instant. The house, when we stop to look is almost a mirage. But it is real. He is real. Am I a shadow? Sam

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cupola Floor

Tell the world that the cupola floor is up! Something fantastic has transpired. The welder brought over the frame for the floor in two pieces. He and I lugged it up and got it laid in place. Very sturdy. This last week has been a bout of supply gathering. Two maple beds on Monday; field stone on Tuesday; limestone and wood trim on Wednesday; cut cedar shingles on Thursday; field stone, limestone, and wood trim on Friday. With brief periods of laying stone and shingles, interspersed with numerous water breaks. A fine week for supplies but not one I would readily want repeated for weather. Hot and humid. Sam

I am hot. I am tired. I've been bitten everywhere by mosquitoes. It is hard to maintain enthusiasm for a project this daunting in the mid-summer heat and humidity. We are still a little behind schedule on the stonework but the cupola floor is in! It is going to work out well and should be the showplace of the house when completed. We also managed to get all of the concrete bases set for the victorian porch that will grace the front three sides. Sam at twenty-five handles the hot and humid weather a LOT better than someone my age! Where is that Canadian cool front?? Jim

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Outside Composite

July 3
Summer is in full swing and the afternoons often get hot enough to slow down the work. We are hoping to have all of the stone applied by the end of this month but the building already is proving to be quite eye-popping. The texture of the stonework in sunlight is very appealing and the cut shingle work on the second floor has proven to be a nice compliment. All work is focused on the exterior as we hope to get most of that done before the winter sets in again. We also attached a number of the corbels that we made last winter to the soffit and fascia and they add a finishing touch to the roof. All that is left is to add the moldings between them to complete the look.
Today we poured the ten footings for the Victorian porch that will go around three sides of the house. We won’t know how well proportioned it will be to the rest of the house until several of the support columns are up.
In a surprising turn of events today I managed to locate enough stone in a farm field to finish the exterior. I had exhausted all the sources I knew of and our piles were growing a little thin for making selections as the last walls go up. Sam’s brother is here for a couple of days and that has been a help in moving supplies. Jim

Friday, June 7, 2013


June 6
It has been a busy several weeks again. Lots of visitors checking up on our progress. On that front, the south side of the house has over half of its stonework in place. The cool cloudy spring has been a boon because when the sun shines, the cement used on the stones dries out before it sets so it has to be covered as soon as it is laid and even then it needs to be watered occasionally throughout the day. As far as the entire exterior is concerned, over half of all the stone is in place and soon we will be having to look for more raw material in order to finish the job. Inside, the great change is the concrete floor laid over the sand on the first floor. The heating cables were laid last fall and all winter we struggled working in the sand. Finally we have a hard floor throughout and can even sweep up the sawdust and wood shavings we make. Jim

My body split and moved wood today. It mixed, poured, and finished cement this week. It met friends, family, and nature alike. Open, accepting, invigorated, it was in motion; alive it was. More than that I was visited as a brother, nephew, son and friend. It was the inspection by these relatives and acquaintances that inspired and moved my humanity. All told another busy week with a few slow shuffling steps forward. Amen. Sam

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Inside and Out

May 13
The weather here has been unbelievable…a low of 30 two days ago and 100 today. Amazing. We still manage to get some work done. The second stone arch is up and two walls are almost faced with stone. The large rocks in the foreground are for landscaping the terraces in front of the house that we’ll get to when Sam’s brother stops by for a visit. The large maple tree in the front of the house will soon aid us with its shade! Sam has also begun to nail up the cut shingle work on the second floor which really sets off the decorative window trim.
We have also begun to pour the concrete floor over the radiant heating system on the first floor inside. Eventually the floor will be paved with a polished stone facing. The central staircase post is in place as is the newel post that will be at the bottom of the steps. The large oak doors will also get their stained and etched glass windows…hopefully before snow flies again. LOTS to do in the months to come.  Jim

On the street a man runs. He runs, runs, runs. I do not see what he runs from. Is it disease, famine, bombs? What does he run from?  He runs from the hole, the hole that is found in his soul. He continues to run, continues to run on by. And I build to mask the ugly house behind and the ugly house behind and beyond. The houses built for owners who have no time, care, concern, thought for what they create. Just a wall, and a roof; a box to protect the chair in which they sit and watch the world slip on by on the screen on which others create fantasy, spectacle, and dream. The dream which they do not live but mask with their ugly house as a screen, and when it fails they run, they continue to run on by.  Sam

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Time itself

May 1

We have been laying stone for the last four days thanks to the change in the weather. The front façade is almost complete and we are inching up on the window arches on the two adjacent sides.

After lunch yesterday a new arrival presented itself. Sam noticed an antique octagon faced oak school clock from the turn of the century hanging on a plasterboard wall in the dining room. Someone evidently stopped and hung it there. It will look fantastic with the oak woodwork in the downstairs which is coming from a demolition 40 years ago of an old Victorian house. We need to figure out who the benefactor was! We have been very fortunate in this project to have so many people contribute excess materials. To date we have received a walnut parlor set, a walnut buffet, two mahogany side chairs and a center table and the clock in the furniture department. Then there were the building supplies…baseboard heat units for the whole second floor, a gas fired boiler, a water heater, and all of the roof boards and attic flooring, the hardwood flooring for several of the formal rooms, much of the rough sawn oak to be milled into woodwork for the first floor, metal railings and a spiral staircase to the cupola, and miscellaneous stuff too numerous to mention! Every day seems to be Christmas!  Jim.

There was not a single May Day basket at the front door this morning. Jim keeps warning me to carry a big stick to beat the girls off with. I thought that the stonework going up would surely attract them but apparently not; probably thankfully so. There is, however, snow falling today. I am doing my best at deciphering the meaning of the mysterious clock. Maybe it is a sign that we are taking too long on finishing this project. Or we should be more aware of our own time on this earth. Whatever the case I have dusted for fingerprints, gathered a few loose hairs for DNA analysis, and will be assessing the originality of the clock itself. No stone will remain unlaid! As with all great crime fighters I will never rest until the case is solved.  P.I. Sam

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring has Sprung

April 26

After the longest winter in recent memory we are finally back in the 70’s. Yesterday we cemented in the first stone arch over the front doors. The stones were all hand dressed during the winter so they would be ready when the weather was. We have also begun to install the soffits in preparation for installing the fascia, corbels, and then the cut shingle work that will cover the second floor exterior walls.

The greatest change in the interior was the removal of the plastic covering the first floor windows which we had installed to conserve heat during the winter. The rooms were suddenly flooded with light and the views out of several of the windows were quite spectacular. From here on in all fair weather work will be focused on the exterior leaving any interior efforts for the occasional rainy day. Jim

Hallelujah, hallelujah, it is spring, it is spring. It is now a challenge of getting used to the warm temperature; something that will be very manageable. Sam

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Awaits

The Gothic Pantry entrance
The first ceiling plasterboard
Stairway to nowhere (the attic)

March 27

This has been the coldest March in over fifty years.  Snow, ice, and a little melting and refreeze to make things even worse. We are itching to get back to working on the exterior, but there is still so much to do inside that there is no dearth of things to do. More than half the sheetrock is on the walls in readiness for the thin coat plaster to follow. The blueboard makes the rooms seem small but that will change again when the white plaster will make them look huge. What I anticipate most is having the base concrete put down on the first floor. All winter I’ve had to deal with the loose sand and dust. Drop a nail and it simply disappears!

We managed to score a deal on the stone and tile for the bathroom floors, buying some leftovers from a previous job.  I have also located a welder to make a metal frame for the cupola floor. It will have a decorative grate in the center which will allow light to stream down to the first floor from nearly fifty feet above! As soon as we can get sand and aggregate from our supplier the exterior stone facing will start to go back up. Jim

An eclectic mix of tasks have been set upon. From plasterboard to staircases this place is coming into focus. I was looking back at some previous pictures of this project and cannot believe that only two years have elapsed, and that this place does exist. Water is cascading in torrents down the drive as the snow and ice are shrinking. A delightful sight as the ground will thaw and the jungle will reappear. Sam