Category Archives: Gardening

If You’re Going to Dream, Dream BIG!

The original three story, brick hill barn
The original three-story, brick, hill barn at Morton Hall

Working on a house restoration project is always a balancing act – What needs to be done so the house doesn’t fall down around my ears?  How much money do I have to spend on it this year?  How much can I do myself?  How much do I need to have done by a professional?  And finally, what friends do I know who can do this with me and who are willing to help me, yet again?!!

When I first purchased Morton Hall in 1995, as I told my friend, Susanne, “I care about the house – not the gardens.”  The former tenant of 30 years had put his time and energy into the various gardens around the property and had let the house fall into major disrepair.  Fast forward 22 years (wow, this has been a long project!) and now that the house is stable, livable and a generally pleasant, if eclectic place to hang out,  the encroaching bamboo, poison ivy and grapevine jungle need to be dealt with.  Over the last several years, Kelly has continued to saw, cut and poison the various plant matter that dares to grow in her way.  She has gotten minimal help from me; if the weather is too hot or too cold or there are too many bugs or it is too anything, just forget about me helping.  I am an admitted “Goldilocks Gardener.”  Frankly, I hate the great outdoors.  There’s really nothing all that great about it to me.  Looks perfectly nice from inside the house, with air conditioning and a minimum of pollen and bugs!

I’ve often mentioned over the years that there used to be a 3-story hill barn on the property.  A tornado came

through, spun the roof around the owner at the time had the barn bulldozed for safety reasons.  I’ve often dreamed of winning the lottery and having something similar rebuilt.  Imagine a huge pool in the bottom section (hey….the hole is already dug!), the main floor would be art studios and galleries and the upper floor could be additional housing for guests and/or artists-in residence.  Whether that happens or not (highly

doubtful since you “have to play to win” and I so rarely play), I would still like to at least clear the area and beat back and win the war against the bamboo forest.  With that in mind, one of this years’ goals was to retake the ramp, the beautiful stone wall and the area below the ramp along with the paths around the milk building and silo.  With Kelly plugging away at the area for years, we have gotten somewhat closer.  But this year, with the cooler weather late into the season and some major assistance from our friend and neighbor down the road, Bob and Bob’s life-sized Tonka Tractor Thingie that can mow, rake, scoop, scrape and I don’t know what else, we have made absolutely amazing progress!


There had been a huge pile of trash next to the milk building (leftovers from that same 30-year tenant) which included all manner of windows, shutters, lamp parts and pieces and many, many other unidentified things.  Over the last several weekends, Kelly and I have steadily sorted into piles (wood for burning, save for a project, glass for recycling and metal to go to the metal guy).  Ray and Bobbie came out and did two huge burn piles for us, Bob ripped out a chunk of bamboo next to the ramp wall, sprayed professional grade roundup on all the weeds in our way, moved boulders, rocks and other such things and now….wow….take a look:20170617_152257

Of course there is still more to do (isn’t there always?) but this amount of progress has been amazing.  Thank you so much to Kelly, Bob, Ray and Bobbie!


As for the barn—rumor has it that there may be Model A or Model T parts in the basement.  The beams were made from American Chestnut (high dollar items for resale if they are not rotted), so next goal is to continue hacking at the bamboo so that maybe next fall, all my adventurous friends can do a little excursion into the hole and see what is really down there.  LOL….I will most likely stay topside for ground support, but may attach a go-pro to one or two of the guys so I can see for myself!  Keep your fingers crossed that there are huge unrotted beams and lots of non-rusty parts that I can turn around and sell for millions, would you?

Last year was a big money year at the hall between having several trees removed, some windows put in and flooring the attic.  This year is going to be a mostly sweat-equity year.  With that in mind, I really, really, hope to finish plastering and then paint the middle and front hallways.  Then, I can have Denny put in a new back door in the front hallway and we will have full flow and access throughout the house.  And the big money item this year is to replace the last eight windows in the front portion of the house.  So amazing just having Denny put in three windows last year.  The peach room got two of them and my room got the other.  The peach room used to be terribly noisy (the windows rattled, the wind seriously howled); it is now sooooo quiet, it is unbelievable!  Other, small beautification projects are also going on to include the start of landscaping around the front of the house (starting with one of my favorite flowers, Hydrangeas!) and I am trying to be good and keep up with the weeds on the patio and around the hot tub area.  We are even adding “yart work!”


Ding Dong, the Tree is Gone!



Gingko 2

Well, after several years of suffering through the nasty smell of fermenting berries and severe allergic reactions worse than poison ivy, the 100+ foot Gingko Tree that once graced the front yard is gone. While it had its positive points in providing shade, privacy and a lovely sound as the breezes passed through, its negatives finally outweighed the positives when it crushed Kelly’s car a couple years ago. With the odd storms and weather patterns that we have had recently (60 mile an hour winds etc.) I finally accepted that the tree had to go.

20151003_125315Since a large maple tree on the driveway had come down in one of our winter storms and we still had various piles of debris from the microburst storm a couple years ago which we were unable to move ourselves, I had Johnsons Tree Removal come out and do a little spring cleaning.

Six or seven trucks came rolling down the driveway at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 16. After20160416_105926 seeing them remove the maple and all the other cleanup piles in about an hour, I thought they would be done with the gingko by noon or so. Mmm…not so much. Matt Johnson and his crew finished up and left at about 4 p.m. They used a cherry picker for a few hours and wielded a chainsaw bigger than I have ever seen (as tall as Matt!)



But, it is now gone, except for the stump (stump grinding is an expense that I just couldn’t swing this year) and maybe we will now have some fonder memories of the tree….or not. It was a pretty nasty tree and was prolific with those berries.

And if you couldn’t guess, Kelly is very, very happy to say good riddance to the tree!20160416_150551

What have we been up to you ask?

A few things 🙂  First, over the winter we worked on raising funds for upcoming projects.  That meant making and acquiring more items and selling them.  As you can imagine, most of the projects at the hall are expensive and while we are willing and able to put in manual labor, materials and professionals still come with a cost.  In order to offset these costs, we started to buy things at auction and create/fix up items with the intention of selling.  Mostly we take our items to local consignments shops but we also use ebay and craigslist.  Here are a few examples:

Chair we no longer need
Repurposed footstool


Tutu puff ball light (handmade)
map shade
Lampshade with map (visible when turned on)
Euro pillow (reversible) – silk

You never know what kind of crazy items we might find or make 🙂 

We also discussed the plans for this year – Laurie has decided it is to have the porches redone (thanks to Denny) and build a patio!  Here is where the patio will be going:


Side of house (moving towards back)
Long ago “before”


Progress has been made – additional posts to come 🙂

We hope everyone had a wonderful winter and is enjoying this gorgeous spring!