We’re Still Here

Oh hi there! Our unexpected hiatus has kept us away for far more months than we would have liked. Life has been consistently busy. However, as the weather chills and our house projects begin to slow, I have high hopes to share here what we’ve done over the past six months as well as talk about new dreams we’ve created for the Pillar House moving forward. Peep some of the more memorable moments below and jump back weekly for updates — we’re not going anywhere and will be sharing more faithfully moving forward!

Foundational Support
Grant and our friend Ben have completed all the foundational work in the basement. This project included replacing old wooden supports to steel I-beams and adding quite a number of support jacks to help with sagging floors. The work added a few cracks in the plaster on the main and second floors, but that was expected. Walking across the main floor is now solid where before there were definite dips that caused a “bouncing” feeling. The house was solid enough when we bought her, but she’s definitely more secure now!

Unwanted House Guests
In early May we experienced a number of unexpected and unwanted house guests: bats. The fact that these little guys had made a home in our house was not a total surprise — the Pillar House was vacant for three years after all — but finding a colony of over 300 bats in the loft definitely scared us! Six months later and we are proud to say we have become quite the bat experts. We worked to eliminate all opportunities for the creatures to get into our main living quarters by taping off the loft’s entrance door and venting holes and then waited to evict the bats when the time was right. Did you know that bats are protected animals because they are pollinators? We didn’t until May 2021! So extermination was never an option. Instead, we had to be patient and “evacuate” the bats in early-Fall. This is because bats have their offspring in the spring and if you evacuate them too early, the babies are left behind to die. We had no intention of causing harm to these little guys!

Thankfully, our house guests caused little disturbance during their stay. One youngling made it into the living room, but we easily captured him and released him into a tree. Over Labor Day weekend, G and our friend Spencer found where the bats were exiting and entering the roof, secured evacuation cones to those areas, and watched as the entire colony left. The bats are now neighbors, living in the neighboring barn, and we still enjoy watching them do acrobatics at night. I sweetly like to refer to them as our “drunk birds” because of their chaotic flight patterns.

Landscaping
Our entire Memorial Day weekend was spent adding to our front curb-appeal. Along the driveway, we re-cemented the house’s brickwork, painted the foundation with dry-lock, and added a rock garden. It has been a learning experience to find when and where the sun hits our yard in order to place plants. In this rock garden, I settled with a rhododendron, hostas, coral bells, and Russian sage.

Interior Decorating
Knowing our house is a multi-year project in the making, interior decorating has been difficult. I am relying on pieces that came with us from the Apple House rather than buying new. This is mostly because I know I’ll change my mind a million times before we finish a room, and I don’t want to buy anything to never use it. A few key decorations and/or furniture pieces that have been acquired and will be with us for the long haul are a hard oak 6-seat dining table found at an estate sale, an oak buffet that perfectly matches our China cabinet, a 1940’s desk that was an adventure in itself to get home, an antique 4’x6′ United States map dated 1953, and a daybed given to us by my grandpa.

Aside from actual decorations, I have found a great hobby in cultivating my green thumb and have a large amount of houseplants now calling the Pillar House their home. Last I counted, I had 42 different types of indoor plants with numerous propagations lounging around the house also. After a particularly stressful workday, I love nothing better than coming home, taking a plant or two to the front porch, and caring for it. There is something so medicinal about spending time with these little guys — I highly recommend it to everyone!

This, That, and Everything In-Between
Other “big” projects that we’ve completed since moving into the Pillar House mid-February include replacing all the main floor and basement windows, disconnecting the fuel oil furnace and replacing with propane, installing central air conditioning, and replacing the exterior doors. Smaller projects were simply cleaning the house, unpacking all our belongings, insulating the basement, replacing the sump pump, plumbing the kitchen, the main floor shower, and the washer, rearranging electrical circuits, reconstructing the front porch’s stairs, fixing drainage issues outside, and removing the old fuel oil tank from the basement.

Life Outside the House
Life continued to be busy outside our house projects. My full-time job keeps me busy even when I finally get home, Grant steadily does handy-man work for friends and neighbors, and we both have plans to enroll in school beginning in 2022 — G is seeking a Business Associate’s degree and I’m returning to school to earn my Master’s in Public Administration. In July, we were able to enjoy a family trip with G’s parents, brother, sister-in-law, and our two nephews to Baraboo, Wisconsin. Then in October, the two of us took a weekend getaway to Traverse City, Michigan, marking 2021 as our second annual vacation to Michigan’s Northern Wine Country.

As with all things, we experienced a few lows throughout this year. There have been funerals attended, tears cried, and dreams reassessed. On Labor Day, we suffered our fourth miscarriage. This time was harder than the others as we were two months into the pregnancy and had spent the holiday weekend finishing our registry and making plans for the nursery. Still, we look to God and His promise that He won’t allow anything into our lives too large for us to handle. Though we mourn the loss of what could have been, we are thankful that we are able to get pregnant and are hopeful for what the future might bring.

God has provided us with a sound support system. We’ve been lucky to host a couple of family dinners at the Pillar House and a number of game nights with friends. To celebrate my thirtieth birthday (hello, new decade!), we hosted our first large gathering as well. Eighteen of our closest friends came for a bonfire and brats night. The Pillar House was filled with warmth, laughter, and lots of love — the exact reason why we chose to make her our home. It was the perfect first gathering in the line of many more to come.

BTW What is to Come?
We are glad you asked! Our dreams for the Pillar House are constantly evolving, but one idea we are currently playing with is shifting this old, beautiful house into a bed and breakfast. One day, when we are finally retired, G and I love the idea of opening our home into a cherished space to share Southwest Michigan with travelers from far and wide. We’re not completely sure what that will look like as it is years down the road, but we’re excited at the possibilities.

Considering the possibilities, we’ve been thinking of ways to make the Pillar House timeless and welcoming, but also functional and accommodating to all. We have drawn plans to refigure the interior to include better moveability by rebuilding the main staircase, moving and adding doorways, and constructing a spacious sunroom to the rear of the house in order to not only have an additional social space, but also optional sleeping quarters. We are also toying with the idea of changing the exterior of the house from yellow to charcoal. I know, I know, that diminishes her farmhouse appearance, but that may be just what the doctor ordered! Looking at images with her having a charcoal exterior creates a much more stately appearance, especially with the growth of new trees in the front yard, added landscaping, and an upper balcony on top of the front porch. We have several years before such a color call needs to be made, but this is something we’re playing with in the grand scheme of where we want to take the Pillar House in the future.

In the immediate future (meaning 2022), our game plan is as full, if not more so, than 2021. We will have the top story roof rebuilt, eliminating the dormer (the main reason all our bat friends found their way into the loft) and changing the color to a dark gray shingle. We also will be adding gutters. We have to replace the front porch’s pillars and add onto the front landscaping by planting some trees and beginning a rock garden to the opposite side of what we completed this year.

Then we will begin construction in the living room. The living room is going to be a major project which will entail swapping the current wood beams to steel I-beams, centering the front door and replacing it with a more modern, no-side-lights door, removing the built-ins, rebuilding the staircase to eliminate the landing, moving the mudroom entry, adding a closet, building pony-walls to section the living room apart from the study, and reflooring with vinyl planks. The living room may look like a warzone for a year or so, but when it is complete — magnifique!

That is all to say, this is our game plan if nothing significant changes in our lives. New baby? Health issue? Job change? Life might have other plans for us, but this is our tentative blueprint for 2022. As we move forward, I promise to do a better job of sharing our projects and DIY lessons along the way. We’re doing these house projects with our own labor and on a newlywed/young couple’s budget, so being as budget-friendly as possible is a keen goal. If you have suggestions on something we could do better, then by all means, share with us! We are happy to be critiqued and learn as we move along with the Pillar House.

In the hope to better balance my work and home life, I also have plans to add more cozy touches to this blog. Writing is a great passion of mine, as well as a few other hobbies that bring me joy — and help me de-stress. As a newer green thumb, I want to share my trials and errors of being a #plantmom. I love to cook and bake also, so homemade recipes will begin gracing some posts in the future too.

We invite you into the Pillar House with us, virtually for the time being. Welcome! We are so glad you are here.

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