Tag Archives: Home Renovation

The Great Barn Adventure

By Mary

While summer slipped away I was engrossed in the personal process of choosing whether I was going to commit myself to a long-term stint as a missionary, or finding a dependable housing situation which wouldn’t drive me to the brink of despair. You’ll understand the despair better soon,  after Kate’s upcoming post on my prior living arrangements.

Thru the searching process I came to a discernment point in which I felt a calling to remain in the midwest. This then lead me to consider buying or building a place of my own. House hunting was a difficult process for me during which I was blessed with the constant support of my mother. Mom was extremely supportive and helpful. She helped me weigh the pros and cons of different options. She was there with me when I was looking a price quotes for Amish built log cabins, she assisted me in the maddening chore of figuring out viable financial options, and encouraged me to check into may different opportunities such as pursuing a loan from the USDA. All three houses I looked at I pessimistically shot down. My poor mother must have heard me say “uh, I don’t think so, and well, what do you think?” about a billion times.

One Sunday while working out in the midst of a patch of bright sunshine in the top of my parent’s barn, the inspiration to take on a totally new house hunting avenue hit.

As many of you readers may know, in 2010 two of our carpenter brothers spent many a fall day constructing the timber frame barn that proudly rises behind the old farmhouse on Sweet Ridge Farm.

Since its construction, the basement of the barn has been mainly utilized as a space to prepare a cornucopia of organic produce for market. Though much produce has been processed in the basement quarters of the barn, the top level has been used less regularly.

There are times in which the space is used to cure squash

or host mad ping-pong games

or barn dances.

Within a matter of time, the space will also host ME!

An arrangement has been worked out in which the left end of the barn is being partitioned off into a small apartment. This apartment includes the space for a small kitchen and common area, a bathroom, and a low sleeping space in the eaves of the loft. One of my favorite features of this space is that it opens onto a porch that Robert designed and built from trees that grew in the very same woods my brothers and I would play in as children.

This fall has brought along a flurry of barn raising activity (and chaos!). An upcoming post will feature the cast of characters of whom have made this endeavor possible. Before that is to be published, I would like to note a special tribute to my mom. Although there are a half a dozen people adding input, talent and opinions to this project, Mom’s adamant opinions and common sense really what fuels the end result of all considerations.

The 2 of us ladies have been digging thru piles of junk and treasure at the nearest ReSale store every week. We are such frequent customers that the manager greets us by name and often says “I love seeing you in here!” She intends on coming to see the project once it is completed. In the midst of supposed junk we have come away with brand new flooring, vintage doors (the bathroom door is a 7ft church door), windows, a granite island top, a sink, and best of all (to me at least!) a newly redone bathtub with silver claw feet. All of this has been purchased for a fraction of its retail value costs. Mom and I have also been aggressively pursuing Craigslist. I set a very low stubborn price point, and she weighs in with her imput and logic. I never would have thought that looking for water heaters, plumbing and electrical parts at Menards would be fun. However, doing it with my Mom is one heck of an adventure!

Alright, it’s time for me to bring this post to a close. As I write, I am at Starbucks, but I have got to go in order to meet Mom at the ReSale store to look for tiles. Like I said, we are a team, but don’t forget- soon I will be churning out a new post on this project dedicated to the rest of the crew involved. Keep reading, and I will keep you all updated on the craziness.

Must go…tiles are calling! I’ll keep you updated on the barn project. In the meantime, read more about the barn (and our adventures in it) here:

Before We Dance

Petticoat Junction

Learning from the Land Baroness

By Mary

Looking at the header on this blog, you may note that there are a more than just the Slattery sister’ gracing the top of grain bin on Kate’s glorious late June wedding day. The maid in the hot pink dress is Emily Menn. Emily was Kate’s Maid of Honor, and is the older sister of our Sister-In-Law, Aurora. Emily was educated as a lawyer but in more recent times has found herself owning 8 rental properties in Troy, New York. All of her property was constructed in Victorian times. Some apartments were once huge brownstone private family homes. One was built for use as a coach house, another was made to be filled with nuns as a convent. Each have an individual story behind them. The 54 tenants that rent from Em might refer to her as a landlady. Personally, I like to call her a land baroness.

For months I have known that I needed to take time away, and go out into the world. Time and distance away from the quiet frozen ground back home has been a much needed desire. In October or November, Emily and I started co-conspiring for me to come to Troy to vacation, or as I like to approach it, work-cation. A few months have passed since the conspiring to take the trip north on the train was presented, and I am happy to report that I have taken the opportunity to come to New York and keep up with Emily’s workaholic stride.

One of the big focuses while I am here is to completely caulk, plaster and paint a large three bedroom apartment. With the past history as my carpenter brother’s semi-useful assistant, I am really enjoying my time learning home improvement skills. There is nothing like a knife, drill, caulk gun, and a bucket full of tools to make a woman feel useful!

Most days are filled with paint splatters and caulk. Some days have a different twist though- such as on a  recent Saturday. After spending the morning craning my neck sanding down a ceiling , Em and I headed 2 blocks down the street to a rental property. Our task at the apartment there had nothing to do with home improvement skills. Nope. The job there was to attempt to bag and discard of whatever we could. The former occupants had moved out of the house in a hurry. This could have had something to do with a team of US Marshal’s breaking down the door to look for the husband who was on the run due to involvement in illegal sales of certain substances. The past occupants of the apartment left behind 2 floors of things. The most humorous finds of the cleanup effort were very different from each other. The first find was a tiny scale that we could say was,uh, a marketing scale. The other find was the collapsed remnants of a baby grand piano in a dark scary corner. Ah, the exciting life of a Property Baroness!

When Emily I are not working , sleeping , watching wretched reality tv, or eating (we haven’t wasted the time to turn on burners, so coffee, cereal, ice cream, and microwaved marshmallows are our main substance), we have been known to change our clothes and self renovate.

Dressing up and going out for the evening are a rare occasion. More likely than not, my days have been filled with the goodness of busy pleasing labor, and little outside conversation with the exception of the guys on Emily’s payroll who tend to the electrical and craftsman tasks.

Recently, Em and I have gone thru a phase of watching reality tv on netflix at night. It’s fun to do while Emily keeps herself busy making a chandelier, and I have thrown myself into a fixation of making copious amounts of jewelry thanks to a bead gallery down the street feeding into my jewelry addiction. The two of us have watched so many episodes of Say Yes To The Dress, that I never want to see a white dress again. Our newest reality tv show marathon has been keeping up with the clicky tattoo artists on LA Ink. I giggle as I watch the trendy culture displayed and copy the “rad” way the washed out Cali stars talk. My joke is that I am going to go home speaking like the stars of the show from the East Coast.

That’s hardly likely. For no matter where I am- at heart I’m a mid-western girl. Whether climbing up Sioux grain bins, or on top of a ladder, or standing on 3 inch heels, my roots are within the Wisconsin earth, and so are Em’s. It’s a special gift to share this time and laughter with a kindred sister from the Badger state.