Index of Articles







Are you interested in CONSTRUCTION?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

Pint-size Plow-horses by Doug Smith

Yesterday’s Fence for Today’s Homestead by Kathryn Wingrove

Too Close for Comfort: One Woman's Misadventures in Pasture Creation by Sue Dick

Gimme Shelter (And I’d Like it to Look Like…a House, Please) by Sheri Dixon

An Illustrated History of Log Cabins by Doug Smith

Home Winterization Anyone Can Tackle by Doug Smith

Homesteading with Pythagoras by D. Glenn Miller

Rockin’ Out With the Stones -  Homesteader Style: Building a Natural Stone Fireplace Surround by Sheri Dixon

Friend, Anybody can Weld by Doug Smith

You CAN Afford Your Homestead Dream, Part ll by Tony Colella

How Chicken-wire and Concrete Solved My Problems by Mark S. Chenail

Gotta Getta Ger- the Permanent Temporary Movable Structure  by Sheri Dixon

The Simplest House of All - The Dacha Series by Mark S. Chenail

The Natural Building Colloquium of Kerrville, Texas  by Sheri Dixon

The Homestead Woodstove by Tony Collella




For Sale By Owner by Sheri Dixon

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My daughter's room is what used to be the dining room.  Double windows, a transom window from her room to the hallway connecting it to the kitchen, wooden wainscoting, a chair rail all around and a door onto a tiny porch give it a lot of character.  When we moved in this room was painted white with Pepto-Bismol-pink woodwork.  She chose blue to replace the pink.  The walls and ceiling are now a light blue, almost white, and the woodwork is just a shade darker.  The wainscoting is sponge-painted, as are the doors.  Our neighbor, Fran found an old wrought-iron light fixture at a garage sale, painted it white and rewired it for this elegant room.  My daughter’s favorite art posters are wallpaper glued to the walls, framed with slivers of wallpaper borders.  A rainforest wallpaper border above the chair rail, rag rugs, calico curtains and new quilt for her great-great- grandmother's bed completed the look.  She sent out a declaration of independence from the rest of the house, as her room was too cool to coexist with the shabbiness around it.

My son's room is on the other side of the kitchen, what used to be the "keeping room" for putting up produce.  The woodwork is not as fancy as the main house, but it does have double windows and is attached to the sun porch.  He chose green and a fish theme.  We texture-painted over the cheap paneling and the result was too dark.  In trying to come up with something a nine-year-old could do, I hit on thinning a little pale green paint, putting it in a spray bottle and telling him to zap the walls.  It has a nice spatter effect and lightened the walls.  We stenciled fish on all the woodwork and realized that two of the four types of fish didn't have eyes (!).  Off we went to the craft store, and many little googly eyes and dabs of hot glue later, all the fishies were able to see.  Dark green plush carpet (remnant store, cut to size like a big area rug), undersea posters, whale wallpaper border and trout bedding finished it out.

The master bedroom was originally the den, with ceiling-high built-in bookcases and a fireplace.  When the house was moved, the bricks were removed from the fireplaces/chimneys and they were not replaced.  The fireplaces were still there, lovely old wooden mantels intact, but boarded up.  The walls were as most of the rest: nasty dark fake paneling that had chunks broken out of it in places, warped in places, and thousands of staples and nails everywhere else.  We wondered what was under all this nasty paneling, so we pried up a corner of it.  We found very old wallpaper on top of cheesecloth on top of wood.  Solid wood.  Curious, we did the same thing in each room of the house.  More wood.  The house was solid wood, some so old and petrified that we couldn't drive a nail into it.  Other spots were pocked by an old termite population, and still others were water damaged.

How to "fix" the walls on a shoestring budget? OK, who am I fooling? My budget was not a shoestring, it was the Dust on a Bug's Shoestring.  Enter my friend - fabric.  The master bedroom was swathed in plain muslin, applied with finishing nails, topped with a fern border also nailed in place.  This set off the dark woodwork.  Since the room was once the library, it had no closet, but it did have an alcove.  I found bed-sheets in a pattern that I liked that were the perfect size for curtains (with the size of the windows, draperies would have been custom; read Expensive) so I curtained off the alcove with the help of a spring-type shower rod.  Instant closet.  Another trip to the remnant store scored a nice patterned Berber that we cut to fit. 

The house has a main central hall and rooms opening into it on each side.  Each side room also opens into the room behind and in front of it.  When I purchased the house I had no worries or intentions of ever having to chase a toddler around the many circular patterns that can be run here, but life is funny.  Five years ago, when my other kids were 13 and 18 another child joined the family; born right here with two midwives in attendance.  Trying to catch the little bugger takes a team of at least 2 adults - one to flush and one to catch.

The central hallway was painted gangrenous infection green over '50's institutional green wainscoting and woodwork.  A single light bulb tried valiantly but unsuccessfully to light it.  It took three coats of light peach paint and another rummage sale light fixture (a magnificent wrought-iron whimsy of palm leaves and blossoms) to transform it into an inviting entryway.  The floor in the hall, front to back, was particle board.  It had deteriorated over the years and was not in any condition to accept the tile I'd like eventually, so back to the remnant store we went for simple white roll linoleum. 

This is as good a point as any to remark that I don't like white walls.  My goal for my house was to have every room a different color.  Also, there is something completely freeing about working with a house in this state of disrepair.  You can try whatever you want to, and no matter how dismal the results are, it will still be an improvement.

Double French doors open into the back hall, which serves as the utility/sewing room.  It was grey with a plywood ceiling.  I painted it lavender with iris and dragonfly wallpaper and hot glued lavender-pinstripe fabric (OK, bed-sheets) to the ceiling.  Important scientific observation - when using hot glue on the ceiling, gravity is NOT your friend, and when a glop of the molten glue does fall on your hand, your first inclination is to quick wipe it off with your OTHER hand, giving you double burns to enjoy.  Someday this will be a metal ceiling, but many of the initial projects were necessarily cost-effective "first wave" decorating.  Surprisingly, a number of these projects turned out so well, that now I don't want what I originally thought I did.  A roll-down shade hides the furnace from view, and rolls up to service it.

The kitchen was one of the rooms that had undamaged walls under the paneling, wallpaper and cheesecloth, so these were painted pale yellow.  There are three doors into the kitchen - one from the back hall, one from my daughter's room and one to my son's room.  One of these retained the original transom window, but the other two had been gleaned and sold, the holes badly patched.  Someday, I hope to find matching transoms, but for now, they are covered with "mirror windows" purchased from the local home improvement center.  When the counters were ripped out, it left me sink-less, and I purchased a large utility sink that I love for roughly a quarter the cost of the cheapest "kitchen" sink.  I can wash lots of produce and small dogs (not at the same time), and it hides a fair amount of dishes.  I have taken the art-on-the-fridge idea to the extreme and framed toddler masterpieces with frames from the dollar store.  They cover the walls almost to the 12-foot ceiling.

The bathroom contained what was indisputably the most valuable item in the house - a metal claw-footed tub.  As far as I can tell, the only reason they didn't sell it was because they actually built the bathroom around the tub, and it won't fit through the door.  Unfortunately, it had been painted pink.  Then brown.  It took several coats of white to get it back.  A new pedestal sink, pale pink paint to cover the dark brown (like all the dark brown paneling hadn't been enough) plus a flock of flamingos and the bathroom was good to go.

We reached a point where we could tackle the Big Stuff: projects we didn't have the skills or youth to do.  The day they shingled the roof was a banner day.  For six months after the roof was put on, the first thought in my head when it clouded up was, "Are the buckets empty and in the right spots?" Then I'd smile.  If I was at home, I'd stand under where we used to be roofless and listen to the rain, feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

With the new roof on, we could finally do the living room.  Time had not been kind to the living room.  There were gaping holes in the ceiling, the walls were water-damaged and so was the floor.  The living room is another place I'd like a pressed tin ceiling, but for now it's white metal ridged siding, and it looks pretty slick.  My husband asked what color the woodwork was going to be, and I told him without hesitation, “Red”. 



He just shook his head and walked away.  I painted the woodwork before doing the walls, so I was painting next to the nasty dark-paneling, and of course, when the paint was wet, it was shiny.  Shiny Fire Engine Red.  Bravely I painted on, and the finished product is striking and dramatic.  Fabric was brought into play again for the walls.  I found a pattern of tiny floral calico in multi-colors and ordered eight bolts.  Seen from a distance of a few feet, it looks muted, not busy.  It's a lovely counterpoint for the Victorian Red woodwork.  To the remnant store again (they love me there) for more Berber.

There was a large porch off of the living room that had fallen down with the other rooms we dismantled.  The foundation beams for this porch were still there, and, in fact were proving to be all but impossible to pry off.  It was therefore decided to make half into a deck off the living room and the other half a badly needed second bathroom that would open onto the back hall.  The one wall of the bathroom was in fact the outside of the living room wall, so, solid wood.  Our contractor picked out lovely pine planks to make the other walls and I satin-polyurethane-ed them and the ceiling (another project where gravity is not your friend).  The first time my older son saw the new bathroom he announced "Smells like Canada". 
Whatever that means.

The last room to be done was the sun-porch off the boys' room.  I was officially out of colors to choose from, and the walls were in good enough shape to hold wallpaper, so the room became plaid.  When we opened the door to our little son's new playroom, he exclaimed "I love it.  It's my treehouse!" And you know, with the windows all around and the forest pressing in, it truly is.

Siding the house was a hard decision.  I really wanted to save the original wood siding, but was given the news by several painting contractors that to repair and replace and THEN paint would be roughly three times as costly as vinyl siding.  My contractor (who loves old houses) pointed out that siding has come a long way in the last few years, and there are different widths and styles you can choose from.  We chose a narrow width, like the original, and even found vinyl medallions and fancy trim for over the windows and doors similar to what was sold from of the house before it was moved.  There are even vinyl "fish-scales" for the peaks.  All in all, after the siding was done, the house looked much more from its own period than it had in years.  After the siding was complete, one neighbor called to complain that now his property taxes would go up (grin), and another still brings people down the road to show them what we've done to the house.

Less glamorous projects included insulation in the attic, the walls and under the house (there had been NONE), installing ductwork and hooking up the furnace to it (heat in every room, all the time), and moving the circuit box indoors (I kinda miss standing in the dark, in the rain, in a puddle, flipping circuits) and adding a few new ones.  The house had eight circuits when we moved in, no 220.  In the kitchen, if we were making Sunday breakfast, we could make toast, and eggs, but if we wanted the coffee maker on, we'd have to turn the lights off.  Now we have over 30 circuits, and don't use more than half of them.  There's 220 if we need it. 

We chose to have the windows reglazed rather than replaced.  It's not energy efficient, especially given the size and number of the windows, and it was costly, but I just couldn't part with the old, lovely wavy glass.  When I first moved into the house and it was room after room floor to ceiling bleakness and despair, I would lie in bed and look out the windows at the oak trees and marvel at how beautiful they looked through that glass. 

The ultimate finishing touch was getting the fireplaces back in working order.  The first night with a fire was glorious.  There is nothing more decadent than a fire in the fireplace in your BEDROOM, cocoa on the bedside table, good book in hand, snuggled under quilts with dogs and family all contentedly snoring next to you.

Oh, there are still lots of things that need doing, or re-doing.  A house is like your life, a constant work in progress.  The important thing is that after a long, hard journey, a sad tired woman found a sad tired house and together, with a lot of help and a lot of hard work, they are Home.

Postscript- The story you have just finished is an unabashed love-story to my house.  Even though the winds of change may blow me elsewhere, and on to new challenges, this house will be forever in my heart as the old house in the country that I finally had the privilege to restore.  In bringing this house back to life, so my own life was healed and restored.


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