Barnwood Builders save American history one log at a time.

I have a crush on these guys. If you love stories about old buildings getting another life, if you like This Old House, meet Barnwood Builders.

Host Mark Bowe and his bearded crew out of West Virginia proudly call themselves hillbillies.  My people. They sound like Daddy and a bunch of his brothers hanging around together, only instead of picking guitars on the front steps, they’re carrying hammers and swinging axes and giant mallets.

The merry Barnwood Builders hop out of their trucks at the site, drawling and punning (really corny puns.) Mark and Sherman and Graham and Tim and Alex and Johnny not only display impressive skills, they’re instantly likable. Together they disassemble or put back together old barns and pioneer cabins, preserving original logs from the 1800’s for re-use.  Along the way, they show us how the people who built these early cabins and barns lived inside them. We learn about the labor and skill that went into the originals.

The Barnwood Builders offer the gift of sincerity, which is often missing on television. They spend long sweaty (or freezing) days treating American history with respect and tenderness.  They know  when deconstruction can only be handled with old-fashioned hand implements and when it’s safe to call in their forklift master, Johnny Jett.  Johnny’s an artist with heavy machinery.  He picks up several hundred pounds of logs, removing crumbling lumber from the side of a cabin and laying it down gently so the crew can get to the precious hand-hewn beams that form the core.  I cheer with the guys when Johnny sets a massive beam down on a dime.

They act like best friends who genuinely like each other.  They laugh at their own bad puns and silly wordplay, then turn misty-eyed while completing an especially tricky move, disassembling a pioneer church, retrieving the original bell from its falling-down tower and presenting it to members of the congregation who stand watching at the site.

Any day now I expect Pa Ingalls will show up to help these Little House On The Prairie neighbors build a village.  Check out Barnwood Builders on the DIY* network and watch these artists help preserve American history one log at a time.

* I see they’re also listed on Great American Country and Discovery Channels.  Not sure of schedules but I set the DVR to record the new ones and watch the others On Demand.* Thanks to whichever vintage house site on Instagram introduced me to these guys.

Instagram Envy

Listen to this blog with music here.

I was late to Instagram and I still don’t post all that often. I use it mostly to watch what other people do. Building and remodeling and designing, planting and pruning and cooking.

I’m a little bit envious until I remember that my personal interest in the domestic arts has been on the wane for years. I don’t plan to begin any of these projects but still, I’m fascinated. A little voice says, I might like to have a wall like that.  Another voice says, too much work, but hey here’s one on Instagram and isn’t it fine? And that chicken pot pie.  Those hydrangeas. That charming old house for sale, cheap. Some of this and some of that which I get to see without doing any of it.

I’m presently following entertainers I like and deep thinkers and silly people and all kinds of home-related posts. Here are some I check often. Nigella Lawson. This Old House. All things San Francisco. All things New England. All Southern cooks, and weather everywhere.

But my current Instagram obsession is Elizabeth’s Humble House. She’s a talented photographer and designer and it shows in all her posts, no matter how brief, which are accompanied by photos taken inside a cottage she and her husband are restoring.

Look at that wood stove.  

 

 

 

 

The floor she painted by hand.

Now I have to go over there and see if she’s posted anything new today.


Photos: Elizabeth Maxson

Music: Nat King Cole Trio “Penthouse Serenade”

 

 

 

The kitchen in the center of this old house

I’m still unpacking in this new-to-me-hundred-year-old house in the redwoods.  Every now and then I climb onto a stool in the very large kitchen, stir some cream into my coffee,  and count my blessings.  I’ve had galley kitchens, pullman kitchens and whatever other glorified descriptions we use for “too small.”  One of my favorite memories is of my  first kitchen as a family lady.  It was a big, square room in a very small house.   

Over the years we moved on up and up and up to modern and big and fancy – but nothing ever took my fancy again like that old kitchen where my daughter’s first birthday party took place.

Nothing makes home home-ier for me than a kitchen that is the center of everything.  Modern houses have plenty of designated spaces for appliances and a granite counter for homework and a breakfast nook attached, but in these old places you can’t get from one spot to another without  going through the kitchen and I like that fine. 

In this house the kitchen is by far the biggest room.  It’s not fancy, but it’s welcoming. It has some funky built-ins.  A pantry and some curiously made shelves.  Rustic?  Oh my yes.  It takes  special mojo to keep the pantry door closed and leveling the new fridge into its spot is a joke. Nothing is level here.  

A side note:  Speaking of old houses, writer, Edie Clark, shares information about her restoration of the vintage “Mary’s Farm” in New England – with all its attendant quirks.  She’s featured in Yankee Magazine as well as her own books, and she blogs regularly at http://www.yankeemagazine.com/blogs/marysfarm/ Edie’s stories are like fairy tales  for a Californian who loves history.  Not the ice on the pond and the shoveling of snow followed by the mud season, but the Currier & Ives  pictures that make the farm look like a Christmas card all winter. 

Back to my old house.  When this cottage was built, there weren’t ranch-style residences with a long hallway.  That was suburban architecture and back then there  weren’t suburbs. There were no family rooms.  No special acvitity spaces.  The kitchen was the only space large enough for the family to gather – except, I guess for the homes of the very rich  and their grand palaces, with which I have only a tourist’s acquaintance. 

I like to think this little house reflects the way many families lived in ye olden days – tight but accommodating.  The kitchen stayed warm all day, what with the cooking and the big table and the coffee and tea brewed all day long. 

I’m a decent cook.  Mostly Southern food.  I’m already stewing-up and frying up a mess-a-sumthin’, but my daughter’s a far more accomplished cook and I can’t wait to taste what she’ll make when she visits.  This Old House makes a person think of things like that. 

Ó Anita Garner 2009