Christmas 2018..doing it a little different this year

Merry Christmas everyone! We are literally 1 day out from the big guy arriving and I am happy to say I have finally finished shopping. Now Kevin and I just have to spend the entire night wrapping every single present because they are all boxed up in the back of our Suburban in the driveway.

This year we are doing Christmas a little different than normal because we are living in our 400 Sq ft tiny home on our farm until the house renovation in complete. Because our tiny house is so small, and all of our Christmas decorations are in storage I didn’t really do too much decorating back home. Aside from buying a tree with a bulb and planting it in the ground and decorating that.. there wasn’t much flair around the house. You can’t imagine how painful it was to sit back and watch everyone decorate for the holidays and post their pics on social media while all I could do was admire and reminisce about my decor from Christmas pasts.

Progress picture of the house…Kind of crazy huh?
Foyer Tree 2017
Case de Keller until the farmhouse is complete
Farm Tree 2018

On Friday we packed up the Suburban and Mercedes and headed for the Jersey shore to have Christmas at our shore house. We are so lucky to have this house as an escape when the kids are off from school. Before we sold our big house in Landenberg and moved into the tiny home on the property our kids did not have an appreciation for this little gem of a house in Wildwood Crest NJ. Now they are full of praise and appreciation for the time we get to spend here spreading out, having their own rooms to sleep in, being able to close the door and have a minute to themselves and being able to use the bathroom at the same time because we have 2.. it truly is the little things in life.. lol.

One tradition I wanted to keep for the kids was to make sure we had a tree to put their gifts under. When we arrived on Friday we unpacked the cars, arranged the cats and dogs and headed out to buy our Christmas tree. Knowing that we were late to the game we didn’t have high expectations for what we would find in terms of quality trees. Our first stop was our local Lowe’s in Rio Grande, NJ. Our original plan was to get a fake tree (because it is just more practical and saves us money, according to Reese our youngest child). Well, if you have ever started your Christmas decorating 4 days before Christmas you certainly know that there is not much left to purchase in terms of decorations and there certainly wasn’t a fake tree of any shape or size to be purchased. We were lucky that they had about 10 real trees under 6 ft left to pick through. After a great debate between a few trees that looked like they would catch fire as soon as we put lights on them we decided on the last healthy Frasier Fir in the store.

Now on the flip side, if you are one of the few who start decorating for Christmas after everyone else you know what a great deal you can get on all the Christmas decorations that are leftover at Lowe’s. All of the Christmas decorations were 50% off, which was a blessing in disguise because I certainly don’t need any more christmas decorations. I think I have enough decorations, including about 4 trees, in storage to decorate 3 houses completely. Our little Lowes Christmas tree, originally $34.99 was less that $17! We bought all of the decorations, including the the tree for around $150! You guys, my tree is super cute too!

Our Lowes Christmas Tree

Now that we have our tree up and are getting settled at our shore house it finally feels like Christmas. We have really just relaxed and taken the chance to spend time together here at the house. We have spent hours playing board games, baking cookies and watching movies. I hope you and your family are spending some quality time together and getting to enjoy the magic of the holiday.

Thanks so much for reading my blog and following our journey through life in the tiny house and our farmhouse renovation. Stay tuned for many more updates, including what we are doing with our fireplaces, rebuilding stone walls and the “approved” kitchen design and layout.

XOXO- Melanie

We bought a farm…

Kevin and I looked passively for a property to purchase for over 2 years.  We even put offers in on 2 properties (1 was accepted and we ended up backing out due to legal issues with the HOA, the other was rejected).  There were only 2 requirements when it came to what was a “must have” for us to purchase our future home.   The property had to be 10+ acres and there had to be potential to make the house our own.  We were open to either building a brand new house or renovating an existing one.  Being that renovating and flipping houses is one of our businesses we weren’t too worried about the condition of any home we were looking at.  However, NEVER in my mind did I envision that the project we were about to take on would be a combination of the two.  Literally building a new house within an almost 200 year old shell.

We first visited the farm in Spring 2017 after a conversation with our Realtor, Stephen Gross.  While talking to him and expressing my doubt that we would ever find a property to buy I mentioned that I just wanted something that I can make my own.  Stephen, knowing me and that I am pretty particular despite having a list of only 2 must haves, replied I think I have a property for you and sent me the listing.  When you pulled up the listing on Zillow it wasn’t completely terrible.  Knowing that we can renovate any property and make it amazing we weren’t completely deterred from the dilapidated exterior.   On the flip side when you pull up to house and are surrounded by the barns that are falling down and house looks like it is right out of a horror film you want to get right back in your car and keep driving.  My first impression of the property was “NO WAY”.  I might have told Stephen he was crazy for thinking we could handle this.  BUT and this is a big but…when you decoded the pad lock and pulled open the make shift plywood door what was behind it was amazing.  The original Oak floors are still in place throughout the main house.  The stone foundation is completely sound.  The floor joists are straight and there is no sagging. The ceilings on the first floor in the main house are 9ft high, there are 3 fireplaces between the living room and dining room and the character is incredible.  They simply don’t build houses like this anymore.   Although most of the house had been looted and there were holes everywhere from vandals trying to steal the copper pipes the bones were good.  We knew that as long as the bones were good we could work with everything else.

Below are some pics of the original condition when we purchased the house

Photo Feb 12, 12 55 20 PM

Entry Foyer

 

Photo Feb 12, 12 55 28 PM

Living room to the right of the Foyer

Photo Feb 12, 12 54 42 PM

Dining room to the left of the foyer

If you are not familiar with the property than you will be surprised to know that our property Springdale has an older twin called Oakdale.  Our Realtor is friendly with the owners of Oakdale and they graciously agreed to allow us to tour their home and property to get an idea of what the house and accessory buildings could look like fixed up.  After walking Oakdale and seeing what Springdale once was and what we could do to bring it back to life we were definitely more intrigued about how we could make Springdale ours.  It took 3 months and many days sitting on the beach discussing the what-ifs..but we finally made our decision and eventually settled on the farm in December 2017.

Clearly the decision to buy Springdale Farm was not an easy one.  As you can see from the photos, the main house and all of the accessory buildings were in very poor condition.  Demolition by neglect is the term the township used when we applied for our permits to remove the bank barn, the wagon barn and accessory sheds.  Below are some pictures of the farm house and barns when we purchased the property.  The barns and sheds are officially demolished as of today and the front porch has been removed so the front of the house is more visible.

It is always comical to talk to friends and family about some of my ideas.  If you know me you know I am always busy and always doing something so when I made the announcement that we were going to sell our gorgeous home in Landenberg to renovate a rundown farmhouse they thought I had lost my mind.  Some people were supportive and told us we were the right people for the renovation.  But most people told us we should do everything we could to get out of owning this property.  We were called crazy and even told that there is no way they would move into the farmhouse even if someone else paid for the renovation..LOL.  Although we were laughing on the outside deep down we definitely knew this wasn’t an ordinary project.  Kevin and I actually have had moments (well, me more than Kevin) when walking on the property before the work started that we thought what in the world did we get ourselves into.  This fall as we moved into our tiny home on the property and still hadn’t had the approvals for the project I thought I might lose my mind.  Yes, you read that right, we moved our family of 5, 4 dogs and cat into a tiny home of 400 sq ft right on the property so we can be on site for the renovation.  The milk house has been turned into my laundry room.  We are truly homesteading it!  If you thought I was crazy for buying the property you must really think I have lost it…no worries, somedays I think I have too!

Tiny Home

Tiny Home

I think I could write a blog on the Chronicles of Living in a tiny home..like about the time when our pipes froze because despite my numerous reminders to Kevin that the temp was going to dip below 32 degrees in the night he did not believe me that the pipes would freeze that easily.  Nothing like having your son wake up to take a shower in the morning and having no water…luckily Kevin had an extra hose near by and just swapped it out but really the stories go on and on and are quite comical.  Despite moving from almost 8,000 Sq Ft to 400 Sq Ft we have been making the best of it and are enjoying the time being on top of each other.  I actually enjoy the kids having to figure out what it is like having only 1 bathroom to share and not each having their own.  I wouldn’t mind having my own bathroom but this is a temporary solution to a more permanent and amazing home to live in.

OK back to the farm project… After months of waiting for architectural plans and then going through historical approvals we finally received the OK to move forward with construction in October.  OCTOBER…10 months after we purchased the property, about 5 months after I was hoping we would have started working on the property and the 1st month of cold season here in the North East.  Talk about timing!  As you read in my previous post work has started on the exterior and interior stone, stucco and fireplaces.  This old farmhouse is starting to slowly come back to life.  Stay tuned for future blogs where I will talk about the construction plans, the demolition work, the fireplaces and what we found when pulling down walls in the attic.

 

 

 

 

Springdale Historic Renovation Phase 1…Finally

I have sat down to write this blog post about 100 times and always get distracted with about 100 other things that come up and take my attention away.  So tonight I am sitting down and starting the documentation of my historic farmhouse renovation.

A little information regarding our farm and the house that we are renovating.  It is OLD.  Like 1700s old.  And we are only the 2nd family to actually live in the house.  The house was formerly owned by the Mendenhall Family who was given the property in the early 1700 by William Penn himself.  The property remained in the Mendenhall Family until about 9 years ago when unfortunately it was turned over to an investor who divided the remaining parcels of land and sold it off.  We purchased the last 11.7 acre parcel  in December 2017.

Here is the original deed and some historical information on the house

Deed

The original deed

Historical Write up

With that 11.7 parcel we also inherited the farmhouse, a tenant house, a butcher shed, a weigh station, a wagon barn, quite a few stables, a milk house and an enormous bank barn.  All of which were in horrible shape.  Like uninhabitable for even the animals to live in.  Have you seen The Haunting of Hill House…for a while, I felt like I was moving in to Hill House…

Front Exterior

 

We actually have done quite a lot to the house since we purchased it 1 year ago.  I CAN NOT believe that it has been 1 year and we are just getting this project started!  If anyone would have told me that it would have taken almost a year before we would finally have approval to start working on this historic house I would have probably never done this.  Patience is not in my vocabulary and there have been many times that I thought I might lose my mind over the detail we had to go into to get this approved.  But we are finally here and I am LOVING this project.

Kevin and I have flipped and renovated quite a few properties but this by far is the most extensive and by far will be the biggest transformation.  There isn’t 1 inch of this house that won’t be touched throughout this renovation.  Literally every single inch needs work.  We started and completed the basement work about 6 months ago.  The original basement was a dirt floor with an oil tank, knob and tube wiring…the list goes on and on.    Basically whatever was in there had to go and since the floor, while the height at about 7ft wasn’t terrible for a house that old we wanted a more walkable usable basement even though we have no plans to finish it as of right now.  So we dug down 22 inches and backfilled with rock and concrete and created a proper basement floor with a drain and french drain to help with any potential water issues.  Here are some before pics.

 

We finally received approval in October to begin work on the house.  The first item that had to be addressed was the roof chimneys and the exterior repointing.  Being that most of the mortar joints were original to the house and most of the house was covered in vines there has been a ton of water intrusion and damage to the interior plaster.  So the first and most important item on the list to address being that we are going into winter on the East Coast was securing the exterior.  Here is a little tidbit of information on what goes in to repointing the stone and brick.  They dig out the mortar around each and every stone.  Then they power wash to clean the stone.  After the stone is dry they take bags of mixed mortar and fill and press around every stone 3 times!  Talk about some tedious work.  Every stone is like a work of art!

We went to Italy in October, a trip I will be sure to blog about soon, and when we came back work was already started on the house.  While we were away I received this picture from my dad.

Chimney Repair

They took the chimneys down below the roof line and rebuilt them.  They also started the exterior repointing and power washing on the front, back and west side of the house.    The East side of the house is being completely rebuilt so there wasn’t much repoint to do there, just more demolition work.  I will blog about that project and the exposure of the stone and brick fireplaces in various rooms.

Below are some before and after pics of the house from a couple months ago to today.  The transformation in only the exterior work has been dramatic.

Rear Exterior Before

Rear exterior when our contractors started doing the basement work

Photo Aug 27, 3 38 17 PM

West Side Exterior…Notice the date stone is completely covered

 

 

Photo Nov 21, 7 36 49 PM

Rear and Side Exterior Today

Photo Nov 12, 2 55 32 PM

Front and side exterior today

Well, I hope you enjoy this little update on our project.  Be sure to stay tuned because there is still a lot more to write about!