Wide Load: Moving the Train Depot

I took Boo to her basketball practice last night after a long day and a few familiar faces said “was that your building being towed through town this afternoon?”  

It was.  I had a building moved 50 miles.  A crazy hair brained idea…but one that I was dead set on. I wanted to save an old building and recycle it into something new.

When I pulled up to the building yesterday the mover that I’d found was already hard at work. The depot was jacked up and they had used hydraulics to pivot it 45 degrees toward the road. Their trucks and trailer made it so I had to stop right in the middle of the road and park. I could see the looks in their eyes as I parked: great, we have to move all these trucks so that vehicle can drive through. I waved to them signaling I was fine and got out of the truck. They had stopped working for a second, while looking at me.  A man walked up and said: I sure hope you are Ashley.  And I said: You must be Mickey.  As soon as we shook hands the hydraulics started up again.

how to move a house or building - house mover

Mickey Simmons is a salt of the earth kind of guy. You can tell he’s a hard worker, no b.s., and takes care of his workers. They work like a well-oiled machine with their signals, movements, etc.  I didn’t do a lot of research right at first to find a mover, I had a few referrals from locals and I called them all but got mostly answering machines. The few that answered the phone or actually returned my call said it was too big of a job and they couldn’t do it with the equipment they had.  So I searched on the Internet and found a few house moving companies. Brett asked how I picked Simmons House Moving and my answer was: well, he sounded just like my dad.  It was more than that though…I have a really good sense of people. I liked Mickey right off.  I knew I could trust him.

And yesterday, as we finally got to meet after days of talking on the phone about the job, I told him I was glad the day was finally here because I’d had anxiety about it, not about transport necessarily, but the owners of the property on the other side were worried about having trucks in the horse pasture and making it muddy, how fast we were going to get it moved, how we were going to get it moved, about heavy equipment tearing up the asphalt, and truck oil on the driveway etc. etc. etc.

Mickey: Anxiety? You didn’t need to worry about any of this.

Me: I know, but there were so many logistics and I was worried about putting these people out while we moved it.

And then he looked at me all serious and said:

Listen here, the sun is going to rise tomorrow. And then it’s going to set. And then the sun is going to rise again. Don’t worry about all that other stuff.

I nodded. He was right.

house moving in north carolina and southeast

And then as it started pouring rain in the freezing cold I stood there watching them work. I wasn’t cold because I was mesmerized with the process….and the scenery:

maggie valley

I noticed that they were spending a lot of time underneath the structure attaching metal straps everywhere.  Me: Is that going to keep it all together?  Mickey:  Yep, this is what is known as a balloon construction. The building is just resting on the floor. We have to secure the top and bottom together to keep it from falling apart. (I love knowing just a little bit about just about everything.)

moving an old train railroad depot - simmons house moving

I think it probably took longer than they expected because of the condition of the building. And with the rain everything was getting slick. And then just like that, the sun came out, and they were ready to transport: We’ll just follow you.

Me: Uh oh, I have to pick up my daughter from school. I’ll run go do that and then meet you back at the highway exit.

Nothing like packing in a full day right? I ran to get Boo from school thinking I’d have enough time but they arrived faster than I thought they would. When they called to say they were on the exit I had to answer: Um, I’m stuck in a carpool line. I can’t go forward or reverse.  I bet that’s never happened before.

So I called Brett who was working on a roof right at the corner of Main Street: Hey, they are headed your way, I’m going to tell them to look out for you and can you get in front of them and direct them up to our property and where to put the building?

Brett: I see them. They are at the stoplight.

Talk about good timing.  I had switched trucks with Brett in the morning, because Ruby was leaking transmission fluid, so I told Mickey to look for the “1982 red Chevy pickup” and to follow it.  But then talk about bad timing: at the same exact moment I said that ANOTHER red chevy pickup pulled in front of the convoy… and they followed the wrong pickup! It took them up to the hospital. What are the odds….  Brett eventually caught up to them and they were able to get back on track to drive around the hospital to our place.

But then there was the mud. It had been hailing in Bryson City earlier in the day and the ground had thawed from being frozen.  Also, the gas company had dug a trench up the yard earlier in the morning….a perfect storm of mushy red clay.  As soon as they got the trailer down to the edge of the yard, the truck began slipping.  Another truck was brought around to pull it through the mud:

simmons house moving

If they were nervous they didn’t show it.  I wasn’t nervous either…the sun is going to rise tomorrow right?

So then, they methodically inched the depot into place and began to lower it, positioning blocks and leveling it as they went. I could hear them talking: we need to dig this out or it will settle eventually. I thought for sure the building would just be dropped, but they made sure it had blocks to sit on for as long as I needed them. It will probably never move from that spot as long as we live here:

structure relocation - simmons house moving shelby

And then as fast as they came, they were gone, onto the next city for the next move.  Boo checking out the new addition to our property:

The Old Depot Project #theolddepotproject

There are some people that walk this earth that you are just glad you got a chance to meet, to cross paths with if even for a few moments.  I got to spend a day with Mickey, his son and their team and watch them work.  It was awesome.  I could just follow them around all the time and watch them move really big things.

But the best part is that I’ll always remember Mickey’s words, in the same southern accent my father would have had: the sun is going to rise again tomorrow.

That reminds me of something Kid President said recently:

kidpresident

If you ever need a house, or anything huge, awkward and heavy moved, I’ve got your contact: Simmons House Moving  I even love the story of how they got started:

“Every family has a dream to own their own home and in 1981 that dream became a reality for me and my family when someone offered to give me a home to be moved. Not only do I still live in this home today but also our business was born out of that move. “

Check out the structures they’ve moved on their Facebook page here.  Impressive.

DIY Upcycled Infinity T-Shirt Scarf

how to make a diy infinity scarf using t-shirts

Last April I taught a class on making t-shirt infinity scarves at the SNAP Conference in SLC.  I’m just now remembering that I hadn’t posted a tutorial for them…so better late than never!  The scarves were a hit…they are so easy to make that each person in the class made more than one.

_MG_0805

I had precut all the squares for the class:

knit scarf instructions and tutorial - recycled t-shirt projects

Here’s Boo with infinity scarf samples I made and wearing the scarf she made: recycled and upcycled t-shirt projects - infinity scarf

 

Love all the colorful combinations:

_MG_0804

To make your scarf, first you need to cut a bunch of 11″ squares from t-shirts, pajama pants, etc or just knit-by-the-yard:

upcycled t-shirt projects

For the adult sized scarf you need 8 squares per scarf and the child sized only needs 6 squares.  Lay them out in the pattern you want the finished scarf to be. 2 rows of 4:

_MG_0573

Sew each row of 4 together first using a sewing machine or a serger, like you are making a quilt. So you will have 2 long rectangles: [Read more…]

Investments

An open aware heart is your camera. -Ansel Adams

My little girl watching the sun rise yesterday morning on her own:

watching the sun rise

That picture just makes my heart swell….that she even expressed interest in the sunrise.  I want her to be awake to the world. To be able to entertain herself.  To play, to explore, to read, to connect widely offline.  She can tinker and wander and wonder. She can invent her own life.

investments

And at her own pace. Last weekend she wanted to build a house for the squirrels.  Brett let her make all the decisions.

building

It took all day…but the result was a house…with a swinging bridge. Practical? No…but very creative. I think I need to unlearn some things.

I want her to be full of experience.  And I want her heart to be moved. Over and over.

Investments.

The sunrise is a good start.

Step 1. Wonder at something.

Step 2: Invite others to wonder with you.

You should wonder at the things nobody else is wondering about. If everybody’s wondering about apples, go wonder about oranges.

-Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

 

 

The Old Depot Project

I can come up with a new project in an instant.  And…some are bigger than others. Anyway, it’s Brett’s fault…he’s the one that looked up from his computer a few nights ago and said “there’s an old train depot for sale near Waynesville for $500, but it has to be moved by next week.” A few minutes later I was emailing the owner that I was interested.

Brett: How are you going to move it?
Me: I don’t know yet, but I’ll figure it out.

Nothing to be scared of….it’s just a bunch of wood and nails. I mean, if I really needed to I could go out there myself with a sawzall and load it up into our trailer, right? I’ve been thinking about building a shed-type building to make into an office/studio/playhouse but the materials are so expensive. Since we live right above the Bryson City train depot I thought it would be really cool to restore a railroad building…very fitting.

Depotfront

The backside of the building. I love the scalloped detail under the eaves:

Depotback

This is the setting that the building is in now…it was moved here over 50 years ago by the owner’s grandfather to use as a hunting cabin:

depot6

The building was being sold with all of its contents…like this huge cast-iron wood stove.  I did some research and it was made by the Ohio Stove Company in the 1940’s. Cleaned up a bit it will make a great heat source:

depot4

Also inside: a few dressers, a desk, a vanity, a wood bed and a metal bed….a few rats nests, a dead bird, a store of acorns and who knows what else:

depot3

We moved everything out yesterday to get the depot ready for moving. Brett worked on cleaning up that table today for our hallway:

depot2

That table in the photo above was covered in years of dust. Brett cleaned it off today and put it in the hallway….I told him I wanted one! I just didn’t think we’d have to buy a train depot to get it.

table

In one of the dressers and in the desk I found a few photos. This one was in the form of a negative, I scanned it in and this is what it looks like inverted:

old photo

I love everything about it. It’s been sitting there waiting for me all these years…

birdhouse

More research turned up that the building wasn’t the “ticket” depot but actually the old sandhouse, used in the time of the steam engine. Every major depot in the days of the steam engine would have a sandhouse to keep traction on the rails. A large stove inside would keep the sand dry (hence the large stove).  Because the sandhouse had the large stove, it was a warm dry place that typically became the railroad worker hangout…perhaps why it was moved in the first place…lots of memories spun there.

The good news is: I found someone to move it for me.  A guy that’s moved almost every sized house you can imagine. The depot building has to be moved 45 miles which means a lot of planning and logistics.  Permits have to be pulled with the DOT and bridge overpass heights checked.  I’ve got butterflies. I’ll bet the old depot does too…being adopted and all. Ruby and “Depot” will get along just fine.  And the old wood stove?  Maybe I’ll name him Buck. Another character in this story of mine.

Vintage Inspired Art Supply Boxes

Craft Room Organization - Vintage Inspired art supply boxes via lilblueboo.com and #michaelsmakers

This month’s Michaels Makers theme is New Year’s Craft Resolutions. The challenge was to start the year off with craft resolutions and since we just moved into our new home I get to start completely from scratch again with my creative space. Michaels wanted me to share my creative space and since I haven’t even had a chance to unpack I thought I’d share the huge space I left behind in California…remember this?

Click here to see a detailed post on my old creative space.

Art Studio space ideas

Now I’m starting over with a much smaller space but I’m more inspired than ever. This month I thought I’d start with a few handmade boxes with a vintage inspired theme to hold various art supplies.

Art Boxes05

Michaels sells various sizes of pre-made unfinished wood boxes like this one:

pre-made unfinished wood box

I created an image using plain text and printed it out onto regular paper.  Here are the images I used as jpegs if you would like to save them and use them:

Free art template for wood art box crayons

 

Once they were printed I taped each in place over a piece of transfer paper. I used the kind of transfer paper with white chalk on the other side because it leaves just a faint line when you apply pressure to it. I traced each letter carefully with enough pressure to transfer the image to the wood:

How to create perfect letters - transfer paper

Then using black acrylic paint and the tiniest paint brush I filled in all the letters.  I have a VERY shaky hand so if I can do it, you can do it.  Since I am going for a distressed look it doesn’t matter if the letters are perfect anyways:

How to paint letters - the art of lettering

Once the black paint dried I used a brush and rag to apply a coat of wood stain:

Staining wood - Rustoleum Golden Oak Stain

It will take a few hours for the stain to dry but here are the finished boxes:

How to organize a craft room or creative space

Love the look of these and they will look great stored anywhere: a shelf, a desk, a table.  A great idea for a gift too:

DIY Crayon or Pencil Storage Container

Filled with crayons:

Crayon storage idea - How to organize kid stuff

Here is the “Artist Supply Co” box:

Making a vintage inspired paint box

Filled with all of my watercolor painting supplies:

Organizing art supplies and painting supplies

Not just organization…home decor accent too:

Vintage inspired organization - DIY art boxes

 

More organization posts I’ve done here: [Read more…]

The Flight Wings

These…are my brother-in-law Gene’s flight wings:

Flight Wings - A Gift

They were a special gift to Boo last week after she said the pledge of allegiance at his retirement ceremony.  Imagine all the missions those wings have been on.  Boo was brought to tears when Gene gave them to her.  She also teared up throughout his whole farewell speech.  We all did.  It was so moving, and funny, and moved us all from tears to laughter to tears.  I asked him for the transcript and have shared excerpts of it throughout this post.

First of all, Gene has the best sense of humor. He had us all laughing at the start:

“Not sure I’m on my A game. Christy changed my yogurt and it’s the “fruit on the bottom” kind. Would it kill them to go ahead and mix the dang yogurt. Program note…for my fans, I will not be playing the guitar during the ceremony, sorry.  For my family, I will not be river dancing. I’m sure you are all relieved to hear that.”

I was really bummed that there wouldn’t be any irish dancing….Gene has mastered his imitation of Michael Flatley.

It was a super quick trip to Niceville, Florida…we drove down just for a few days. The only thing I really remember about the long, long drive is passing a bonsai tree store. (Must return to bonsai tree store.)  The road to Niceville is very nice:

Niceville, Florida on the way to Eglin Air Force Base

The morning of the ceremony we were whisked off to a really big hanger at Eglin Air Force Base and given strict instructions about photography.

Me: So…no selfie from the cockpit?
Man-with-official-looking-badge: No.

My nephews told me that if I took an unapproved photo men would come out of holes in the ground to tackle me within seconds.  Is that true? I love secrets!

Restricted Area at Eglin AFB

Boo got a personal tour of the F-35 from her Uncle Gene who has flown quite a few Air Force planes in his career. I learned that the finish of this plane is top secret…but I’m pretty sure the concoction may include Annie Sloan “Paloma” chalk paint:

The F-35 Lighting II - Eglin

“This is truly a bittersweet moment. I didn’t realize how bittersweet until the day finally arrived. It is scary and exciting to start a new chapter in our lives but at the same time when I stop to think that I will no longer be on active duty in the Air Force that I love it is a bit hard to take. Almost exactly 22 years ago I was driving cross country out to Vandenberg for Missile training. Then 18 years ago about an hour away at the Pensacola Naval Air Museum I was getting my wings.

As I was putting my notes together I was listening to some tunes and a song by the band “Third Day” came on, it is called “This is who I am.” The first verse is:

I’M A SON OF A GOOD MAN
I’M THE CHILD OF AN ANGEL
I’M THE BROTHER OF A WILD ONE
I’M THE LOVER OF A BEAUTY
I’M THE FATHER OF BLESSINGS
THIS IS WHO I AM

You see, this is all I ever wanted to do in my life. I take that back, I would have liked to have been the lead guitar player in KISS, but that’s not going to happen so… In 1986 my fate was sealed when Top Gun came out. I saw it 16 times in the theater went to the Army/Navy store and bought a flight jacket and a motorcycle and was ready to go. I think I even used the line on Christy when we met that “if the government trusts me, maybe you could.” It probably didn’t sound as good when I said it…

I’ve clearly passed that gene on…when Duncan was about 18 months or 2 years old one day he was in the car with his grandmother Kathy going by Barksdale AFB on I-20 and some airplanes flew over the car. Kathy said “Look Duncan, some F-16s or something.” Duncan’s reply was   “A-10 Hogs Grandma, A-10 Hogs!” I think his first three words were Porsche, Dada, and A-10 Hog.

Seriously though, I have truly lived a dream.

As Tolkien wrote:

This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so;
and not a mountain of gold can amend it.
Yet I am glad that I have shared in your perils – that has been more than any man deserves.

The ceremony was held in the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin. We got there really early and Boo had a chance to practice her pledge:

Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin

“For as long as I can possibly remember I wanted to fly in the Air Force, but, like most people in uniform, I never did it for me.

I never did it to get medals or free meals on Veterans Day.   I did it so others didn’t have to. I did it because I believe in the greatness of America, for that flag, for the Constitution. I did it to make my mom and dad proud, and to confirm that they raised me to make a difference.

Christy and I were fortunate to attend the Special Operations Warrior Foundation dinner a few weeks ago. They raise money for SpecOps warriors who have paid the ultimate price for their country. AFSOC/CC Lt Gen Heithold spoke about something interesting. We are the real 1%. There are 300 million people in this country and only about 3 million men and women serving in the military.

We have been at war for more than half of my career and this war is not going away anytime soon. A few months ago we got a briefing on ISIS. We saw a propaganda video that had 6 to 9 year old kids being trained for and shouting Jihad against America. All of you in uniform and those who will be continue to answer the call, I for one am grateful.

I get it honestly.  On the 7th of October 1780 Arthur McFalls and his brother John fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War, on September 19th, 1863 his grandson and namesake Arthur, my great-great grandfather, was killed fighting with the 58th North Carolina Regiment on the field of battle at Chickamauga in the Civil War. My brother David left our home for the Navy when he was 17 years old and served on the USS Nicholas. My uncle, Lt Col Robert Abernathy was a fighter pilot. He flew 3 of the airplanes in this room. The P-47, F-105, and perhaps the most legendary fighter of all time the P-51 Mustang. I idolized him growing up as he would regale me with stories about shooting down ME-262s, strafing boats along the Rhine and flying Thud Ridge in Vietnam.

Having this ceremony in this room, surrounded by these planes, with the mighty BUFF outside, is a perfect way to end this chapter of my life.”

 

That’s the mighty BUFF, the B-52, and Gene back in the day.  Boo got to see one up close at the Air Force Armament Museum. Any plane that needs wheels just for its wings is huge. [Read more…]

Crystal Clear

How thin and insecure is that little beach of white sand we call consciousness. I’ve always known that in my writing it is the dark troubled sea of which I know nothing, save its presence, that carried me. I’ve always felt that creating was a fearless and a timid, a despairing and hopeful, launching out into that unknown. -Athol Fugard

A quick trip to Florida. The sand in these beaches traveled all the way from the Appalachian mountains…to the gulf. Tiny pieces of quartz, crumbled from mountain sides, polished while traveling down river thousands of years ago.

beach3

It was 30 degrees and windy…but just to look at it:

beach1

…in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth. -Rachel Carson

beach4

Home Sweet New Home

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. -Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

A few nights ago we slept in our new house. I woke up to the morning light streaming in through new $5 blinds and it just felt like home:

morning

I haven’t written in a whole week…because there hasn’t been any time. We’ve been busy. Seriously busy. I still can’t believe how much we accomplished in just a few short days.  On kind of a whim I decided that I wanted to be in our new house at the very first of this year.  My mom was visiting and kept Boo entertained while Brett and I spent the last week finishing up projects, cleaning and painting.

paintingsupplies

I picked one color for the entire house…a light gray:

painting

The entire month of December we had spent removing old radiator baseboard heaters…and they left a huge mess that needed to be patched in every single room…walls and floors:

baseboard

There were three old heaters in the attic…all that weight is probably why there was a crack running through the ceiling. We recycled every piece of metal in the house and made a huge dent in a new furnace cost:

three heaters

We fixed the plumbing in the house and added new floor joists where old ones had been cut and weakened:

floor joists

And the new roof finally stopped all the leaking in the ceiling so we replaced drywall and patched those areas too:

ceiling

Fast forward through all that to this past week: After selling off all our belongings in California we are basically starting from scratch (except for a gazillion books and boxes of art supplies). We don’t even own pots and pans. My mother gave us a few pieces of furniture that she had moved up from her house in Florida after my dad died. Our friend gave us a bed they didn’t want anymore, which is by far the nicest bed Brett and I have ever owned. I posted a photo on Facebook and Instagram and opened up a can of worms on whether or not it should be painted. Don’t worry it’s not painted…. yet:

bed

We thought we would stay at the inn for at least a year but I’m like a river…I bend and turn constantly. Following the river’s path. We decided to go ahead and move from the inn since they are closed from now until April.  I knew in my heart one night … as we drove up the long winding drive: no lights, no cars, the inn was quiet and dark and suddenly in a deep hibernation.  It was going to be a very quiet winter up there for the three of us and I needed a little more space to work:

Me: So what do you like the most about the new house?
Boo: That I don’t have to share my bedroom with your books.

We were living in only 900 square feet and loved it but the best case scenario would have been to have a little more living area…which the new house has. We had started to move some belongings out of the cottage at the inn to make a little more space and we just kept moving and moving and decided it was right to just move it all. Move in. And we are extremely grateful to the entire Hemlock family for welcoming us in this past year. We got to experience behind the scenes at an inn, multiple weddings, and even the birth of their first granddaughter. Over ONE HUNDRED of you came to visit us at the inn and many of us still keep in touch. A few of you stopped me in the street just to say hi. I love that…meeting and putting names to faces. It was bittersweet leaving the little cottage we have called home for the past seven months. It seemed so empty when we left. Just a cottage again, not a home. And this past week I spent two days cleaning and painting to make sure we left the cottage better than we found it. Over the months we lived there we painted and caulked every single inch, cleared out the brush, planted grass, brought in gravel to make the driveway bigger and even installed a new septic system. That’s what we are taught right? To leave things better than we found them. If anything I hope we did our part in helping spread the word about this inn that marked my childhood so deeply and know will do the same for Boo.  I love that little cottage…it definitely has one of the most beautiful views.

view1

And then there’s the view from our new home.  The first night at our new home felt just like that: home. For the first three nights we sat in the living room with the lights off and just watched the city lights below:

nightime

Phew. It’s been a lot of work. My whole body has been sore and I have bruises all over from “hard” labor.  It feels good but I’m due for a day of rest I think.  I didn’t think we’d be homeowners again so soon but this is the direction we’ve been led in…to these mountains. To our house on the hill.

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with al it’s stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home. -Annie Dillard, Tinker at Pilgrim Creek

I love this town. I love our church. Brett has found work he loves (more on that later). I continue to write and create and attempt to make a living at it all. And we will forever be growing up and growing old. Last Sunday at church I had this deep feeling of knowing why I have said yes to so many different directions: each direction is a blessing.  Now to keep listening to find what these blessings are to be used for. They will be used for something good, to tell a better story with our lives this year and to encourage others to do the same.

God, take my soul to that place, where I may speak without words. -Rumi

 

For all The House on Hospital Hill posts click here.  

For all Hemlock Inn posts click here. 

 

 

The End of the Season

Last night was the last dinner of the season at the Hemlock. The inn closes down for the next few months.  George, the cook, made a traditional New Years Eve dinner: greens for prosperity, black eyed peas for luck.  We are very grateful for all that we have and all that the Hemlock Inn has provided.  Exactly one year ago our move to a small town, to live at an inn for a year, was just a tiny “maybe” idea.  Over the past 6 months we’ve met guests from all over the world who visited the Hemlock and keep in touch with many of them still. We’ve immersed ourselves in the the small town of Bryson City and discovered the beauty and tranquility of the Great Smoky Mountains.  This all reminds me of what that man said to me at my first revival a few months ago:

You need to know….that in these mountains…..you are in a place of safety and refuge.

The Hemlock Inn

 

I still feel that here.  2015 will be a great year. Much love to you all. Thank you for following along with me on this journey.

This View

The road to our house winds up a hill towards the hospital (i.e. “hospital hill”)…and overlooks the small town. The morning light through the clouds makes it seem like a scene from a story book, like maybe from the Mitford series. You can see the Great Smoky Mountains passenger train warming up and the courthouse in the distance.   The small hill in the background is “schoolhouse hill.” The white building in the lower left is the old Nehi bottling plant…now it’s RC Cola…but you can still see the “Nehi” ghost letters left behind.  (and I mostly notice this because I love Grape Nehi).

I pinch myself each day. I really live here in Bryson City:

Bryson City

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Subscribe