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 moving with a House removal company, 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!”