On Oldtime Craftsmanship
We’ve had a LOT of interest in our place. Everyone who comes agrees that the property itself is off a postcard, and the workshop and observatory are huge pluses. However, there has been concern from a couple of visitors about the fact that this is an old farmhouse. Though I certainly understand and respect that concern, I wish people could see this place like I do. This house has obviously been taken care of and is in fantastic shape. I’ve seen a lot of old farm houses and this one is as solid and clean as they come.
People think newer homes have fewer problems. I understand why people think that, and it can certainly be the case much of the time. But the truth is that poorly built houses have problems, and houses that haven’t been taken care of have problems. It doesn’t matter if it is brand new or, like this one, was built in the 1930′s and added onto in the 1970′s. Bad work is bad work, bad materials are bad materials, and bad previous owners are bad previous owners. This house is made with maple and oak floor joists, not flimsy white pine. These walls are tongue-and-groove hardwoods, not cheap drywall. The stairs weren’t stained to look like they are maple – they ARE maple! Woods like oak, maple, hickory, cherry, chestnut… have built this house. Not white pine. Not cheap Chinese drywall. Not toxic plywood and particle board. This house will still be around long after I’m dead and gone if people continue to live in it and take care of it.
If you were to ask a contractor to recreate this home as new, plank for plank, joist for joist, hardwood for hardwood… I can guarantee that would cost you over $500,000 if not close to a million. These materials aren’t cheap. Some of them, like the American Chestnut, are pretty close to being extinct.
On The Scalability of Multigenerational Homes:
The entire house has ductwork and forced air furnace heat, but it is easy for us to just close the stairway door and only have to heat the bottom floor using the wood stove. This house is designed to scale up and down and grow and shrink as family needs change. The kids move out and ma and pa don’t like using the stairs so they put their bedroom in what is now the prep room. Upstairs is just for guests so most of the time they don’t even have to heat it. Kids move back in after getting married, open the upstairs back up and then it starts all over again.
When this house was built and added onto it was done with future generations in mind. THAT is the difference between manufacturing and craftsmanship.
I got sick of buying new pruning sheers every year so I bought a well-crafted pair made in the USA that cost twice as much as the Chinese ones from the garden store. I still have them four years later so I consider them a great investment. I have found the same to be true of everything from drill bits and chainsaws to furniture and clothing. I’ll take old craftsmanship over new manufacturing any day of the week. Lord knows I went through enough Poulan Pros and Black & Deckers before figuring this out.
Our home was well-crafted and has stood the test of time. It has been lived in, yes. There are scratches on the hardwood floor from over 75 years of use. But it is dry in the spring, cool in the summer, warm in the winter – and ready for the next 75 years worth of being a good, solid home.
On a related note, Missy is opening a shop in town called Salvaged Boutique and Studio where she can sell all of the vintage, handmade and upcycled clothes and accessories she finds and makes. Here in Appalachia there is still a lot of good old time craftstmanship going on. We still have master blacksmiths, carpenters, stone masons and fiddle-makers here, and are thick with folk-artists and musicians who know a thing or two about craft. Missy is a craftsperson herself, and I’m happy she has finally found her calling in an area like this.