Category Archives: Building a Home

Wow! Lots of Activity


“Warner’s”We have a lot going on here at “Camp Smedley”! 


We have a lot going on here at Warner’s “Camp Smedley”! Our house is nearly finished although I’d argue that it will never really be finished. Homes are a work in progress. Right? Ned and Tom have been working on the porch railings and the steps down to the yard. It’s wonderful to have our coffee on the porch again!

Last week the landscaping was started and it should be wrapped up on Wednesday with our sod going down. This is a huge project! As far as we know, there’s never been any “real” landscaping done here and many of the plants that we planted have not survived.

We hired Native Notions from Belgrade Lakes to do our landscaping. Matt’s design was creative and the plants were appropriate and hardy (and low maintenance). He really listened at our first meeting and delivered a plan that was just what we asked for. Thursday the crew arrived and went to work scraping the old gross yard away and then began to fill it back in with loam and the flower beds began to take shape. A couple of things that we particularly appreciated what that they installed a silt fence to protect the lake and were thoughtful of re-purposing the hosta and day lilies that were planted by Ned’s mother all those ages ago.

Here’s what it looked like before …

The yard on the railroad side of the house ... before

The yard on the railroad side of the house … before (with a little bit of Ned in the top corner)

Helen's Garden Before

Helen’s Garden Before

Lakeside Garden Before

Lakeside Garden Before

Every day when I came home after work I  was pleasantly surprised by the changes that I could see. It’s already a huge improvement and I can’t wait to see the finished project! I hope I took enough before and after pictures so that you can see what a wonderful job they did!

Day 1 - the yard on the railroad side after

Day 1 – the yard on the railroad side after

Day 1 - Lakeside Garden - After

Day 1 – Lakeside Garden – After

Day 1 - Helen's Garden - After

Day 1 – Helen’s Garden – After

One of my favorite parts, oddly enough, is the pathway of rocks around the house that will serve as a drip edge. It’s so pretty!

We are getting ready to have the whole family here for our wedding on July 30. Lots to finish up and clean up in preparation for our big event. I figure if we can live together in our little guest cottage for ten months and build a house without detesting each other we figured it’s time to make it formal!

Every day we thank our lucky stars to be here!

We Are In!

Last night we slept in the house for the first time. It feels great to have some space and “real” heat (rather than space heaters).

We still have a lot of work to be done but we can live in the house while it’s done – and it may be just in time for our first snow storm overnight.

Tomorrow the moving company delivers all of our stuff from Florida. We are eager to see what we own after seven months! We got rid of a lot of stuff before we moved, things that we knew we didn’t want in our Maine house … and tomorrow it arrives.

Our replacement cupboard and counter tops should be coming this week, too. It’s so nice to have a kitchen with more than a one-burner camp stove! Ned’s new stove/oven is so fancy I don’t even know how to make it work … I want to bake so I guess I’ll find out.

We’ve been horrible about writing lately and for that we’re sorry. Chronicling this adventure has been a priority but lately we’ve been busy. Ned has been working in the house and I’ve been working at the yarn shop and teaching knitting. I’m eager to get my studio set up so I can work at home – I have a quilt to finish and a sweater to finish before December 13th! I’m on a deadline!

More pictures soon, we promise!

The Final Stretch and Struggle



The last couple of weeks have been a struggle for me because I’m getting impatient to get in the house. The weather has been getting colder (and then warmer and then colder) and the little cabin is not really a warm place even with (sometimes) three space heaters blasting away.

The cabin pipes that have always had the water drained from them by now and I’ve been feeling the pressure to close up this cabin. It’s been six months since we moved up here (both from the big house and from Florida) and we’re feeling the need to stretch out!

We are finally in the final stretch of building our home and it can’t happen fast enough as far as I am concerned.

We sent back the washer and dryer that we purchased because they were way too big for our laundry space. There is a lot of mechanical stuff that needs to go into our utility room and we are already wishing that the utility room was bigger. *Sigh*

We are still waiting for our replacement cabinets to be delivered. I think we had both expected to hear from Home Depot in advance of their delivery about how they intend to make good on the near-disastrous kitchen order but there have been no calls. We expect the cabinets to be delivered early next week. We are crossing fingers and toes!

Our intrepid ditch digger, Ron, came back to dig ditches for our water and gas lines. The water line has to be at least four feet deep so that it doesn’t freeze. With our rocky ground at the side of the lake, we were very lucky that we have Ron who found a few more big rocks but got us all dug out and ready. Of course, that meant that our driveway and most of the yard were a muddy mess when it decided to rain … and it rained sideways here … but Ned pulled out some of the boards that we’ve been keeping around “just in case” and made “bridges” so we could get in and out of the cabin and across the ditch to the new house.

IMG_5715After many false hopes, we finally found a well company that was willing to help us. We are so grateful for the successful “fracturing” job by Rolf’s Well Drilling and we are happy to report that we have lots more well water! And now we have a new pump in the well and the new water line is in place. We’re all ready (almost) to hook it up in the house!

The boiler is in the utility room with the storage tank. We still have to add a water holding tank to the mix. It shouldn’t take long to get the radiators in place on the second floor and the heating unit for the third floor and then we will be able to finish sealing the pine floors and ceilings. It’s too cold to do a good job without heat! (Although it may warm up again next week which would be perfect timing and we could open the windows to let the stink out!)

We’ve had some difficulty with Dead River Company coming when they say they are coming but we finally have the gas line in the ground and they are scheduled to return on Wednesday with our new 1,000 gallon tank and they’ll be able to hook us up if the heating equipment is ready. I’d hate to think about the phone call that I’ll make if they don’t show up as they say they will. I’m working double overtime to not stress over their rather poor record so far. I’m trying to trust the process and breathe.

Stair Treads

Stair Treads

We have been polyurethane-ing all the pine for the trim and stairs. That’s a lot of wood that needs two or three coats with a sanding in between! Both Ned and I have been “painting” and we are not done yet.

The wood floors are finished on the second floor (with the exception of the bathroom) and the third floor is almost there. Once the third floor floors are done, the ceiling will be done and then we’ll have more polyurethaning to do!

The concrete floor needs to be stained before our stuff can come out of storage. That will not be a difficult job but we need to clean the concrete thoroughly, “etch” it with something so the stain will adhere and then stain and seal it. We’ve picked our stain and are ready to go … when all the other pieces are in place.

Today Tom came out to put the deck at the entryway on the house. We officially have a front step. Yay!

Our outside lights and two of the three kitchen pendants are in the house waiting for the electrician to get them hung. It’s bizarre to walk into the house and have lights on! We’ve ordered the balance of the outdoor fixtures and the ceiling fans and they should arrive pretty soon. Once they’re all in, the electrician is pretty much done. We do need him to provide a hook-up for our new generator, too. I am hoping we never need to use it but when you’re at the end of a dirt road, in Maine, in the winter … well, suffice it to say, it’s required. Ours isn’t fancy but it should keep the refrigerator and boiler going and a few lights on!

Salvaged Flooring Resurrected as a Wall

Salvaged Flooring Resurrected as a Wall

Ned has finished the wall in the front entryway. These are the salvaged floor boards from the old house. They’ve all been sanded and will be sanded once more now that they’re hanging. We both loved the idea and we both love the result! A nod to those who have walked the floors in the past.

We have a move-in date of November 19th. A Thursday. And Ned’s younger daughter is coming for Thanksgiving. Not a minute to waste!


Fracturing Wells, Digging Ditches … Closer

Glorious Fall Days on Messalonskee

Glorious Fall Days on Messalonskee

There has been a lot of progress and not without a couple of bumps. But we are hoping against hope that we will be able to move into the new house in the early part of November. It’s getting a bit chilly up here in the cabin.

This morning temperatures were in the middle-20s and it’s not expected to get much warmer today. We have both space heaters running in an attempt to keep the pipes flowing with water and all of us warm. Even the electric blanket didn’t feel warm enough last night to this pair of winter-newbies and it’s still only fall! The one comforting thought is that even the locals, Mainers for their whole life or most of it, are turning on their pellet and wood stoves … And some, their heat!

Cabinets ... One of the bumps

Cabinets … One of the bumps

Our kitchen cabinets were ready about a month ago but we weren’t ready for them until earlier this week.  They were delivered and filled up the living room! When our contractor had installed a wall of the uppers, I realized they weren’t what I thought we had ordered. I wanted cabinets to the ceiling. No wasted space. And for some reason the kitchen designer had order 30″ uppers (not even close to the ceiling) and when our contractor found the mistake and spoke with her, we got closer (39″) but no cigar. In addition, two cabinets were the wrong size … even according to our plans. Luckily, they can be exchanged.

imageThe trim around the windows and doors is going up on the first floor. It looks wonderful. The wood has gone up on the ceiling in the master bedroom and just needs to be varnished. It’s beautiful! Just what we wanted.

Yesterday Central Maine Power arrived to hook us up so we have electricity! This is a big part of the last important steps- getting all of our Utilities connected. We are hoping to get our ditches dug for water and propane in the next couple of days and then Dead River can bring our gargantuan tank in. Initially they were going to bring us two 120 pound tanks … After we asked them to come out, it changed to a 1,000 gallon tank. We didn’t think they’d like to come down here in he middle of the winter. The wells will be “fractured” later this week. They’ll be sealing them up somehow and pumping pressurized water into them to try to find crevices that will break open and give us more water. Our area is so rocky that nobody really wants to try to drill a new well. This man was the first of several companies who agreed to come back and help us. We are very grateful (and I’ll find out his name and give home a plug later!)

imageOur tile is going up in both bathrooms. It’s wonderful to have Chris on the job with his great sense of comedy … He even hung a sign for us when he tiled the floor of our shower. I admit to laughing out loud.

We are running two and sometimes three space heaters in the cabin. I had taken the curtains off the windows to clean them thinking that we wouldn’t “need” them again. I may have been wrong. It might be nice to close them to keep some of our heat inside the cabin. It’s anything but air tight!

Snow on the cabin steps

Snow on the cabin steps

The leaves have peaked and are all falling down. While all the locals are cleaning up their yards, ours is still cluttered with construction equipment, beams from the old house and wood and metal scraps. We had some snow flurries on Sunday. Early by all accounts. I even missed my Macoun apples this year.

We are getting closer.

“Space, the Formal Frontier”

   house under construction 2 (1 of 1) The house has gone through an unexpected transformation. With the sheet rock going up, starting on the ground floor, this construction site of wiring within the walls, plastic covered insulation, conduit hanging limp, has transformed into a house.

r construction 3 (1 of 2)Construction sites are messy. Extension cords and hoses snake through piles of scrap lumber and unused materials while shingles litter the ground, coffee cups sit upon windowsills. While the walls were unsheathed, the mess of construction mattered not. With the addition of drywall encasing the bare 2×4 walls, the space becomes more real, more imaginable, and I have an unquenchable urge to clean. Sweep, pickup, repeat.

    house under construction (1 of 7) Preparing the interior for drywall entails visualizing the planes made by the studs, corners, doorways, etc., and seeing where the drywaller needs additional wood to place a screw. Even with walls up, interiors can be in need of much additional, non structural wood.  This “deadwood” allows sheet rock to be properly affixed. So one must be able to picture the closed space even while looking through the transparent space. An unusual exercise.

house under construction (5 of 7)

    The interiors have become manageable constructs. Visually, a house of stud walls, is difficult to parse. I can walk up the stairs and see the bathroom on my right and guest room on my left but being able to see through the walls, it still feels like  a very large space in which someone has nailed 2×4’s vertically in front of me. With the addition of drywall, these spaces are enclosed and formalized. r construction 3 (2 of 2)Where once I could see and walk through walls, I now have to obey laws of physics and walk the proscribed paths. This has formalized the space, allowed me to imagine a defined existence within.  See-through walls afford no visual or aural privacy, characteristics essential to a home.

house under construction (3 of 7)

Oh yea…the bald guy speaks….

A Quick Update

This is what I arrived home to see the other day! The driveway was full of vehicles!

Plumbers and Electricians and contractors, oh my!

Plumbers and Electricians and Contractors, oh my!

IMG_5516We found a plumber and his crew arrived en masse … and got the rough in completed in three days. Woo! Hoo! We are making progress! I was especially excited to see my tub in the guest bathroom upstairs! Thanks to Brian Bickford for the great and speedy job! And thanks to our friend Janna for the recommendation, too.

We are also all closed in! The last door and window went in yesterday. Staining the cedar shingles is happening … it’s supposed to look like driftwood. I like it. Ned not so much (yet.)

The stain will look like driftwood … hopefully

The stain will look like driftwood … hopefully! Do we call this the front door?

Today I went to check on the progress inside and it was all cleaned up! After the insulation went in, it was a mess!  A MESS! (Did I yell it loud enough?) This afternoon it was all clean! Matt wins the golden broom award for cleaning up! I was shocked at how nice everything looks.

Tomorrow when I am in Bangor at a quilting class, Ned’s going to finish staining the top half of the front (lake side) of the house and then the framing for the front porch can happen while the sheet rockers are inside working. Monday we call for our inspection.

Beam-Strewn Yard With Tall Grass and All … Looking Good!



We’ve had a damp and humid patch that caused a little bit of stress here at Messalonskee Chronicles headquarters (the little cabin on the hill). When I went to put on a pair of “fancy” sandals, I noticed that my shoes were all covered in mold or mildew. A rough start to that day but we’ve managed to clean them all off and have purchased a little dehumidifier so it (hopefully) doesn’t happen again!

Lots of activity has been happening on our house and we are rolling along toward an occupancy date! Not sure of exactly when that will be, but we are getting closer every day. Meanwhile here’s what we’ve been up to …

Pipes for heat

Pipes for heat

The heating is being installed in the upper floors. We will have radiant heat in our slab on the first floor and baseboard heaters on the second floor. The third floor will have a plug-in unit. We expect to be super warm come winter! (And luckily, if we find ourselves feeling cool, I knit and have made and am making several warming pieces!)

We have also had our electrician here putting in all of his wiring. We have had to make some difficult decisions about where security lights will go and where we want the cans for the kitchen lights, etc.

lights will be nice!

lights will be nice!



We are grateful for every choice we are making because it means that we’re getting closer and closer to living our dream! (We hear that heat and lights will contribute to our success in Maine in the cooler months!)


Windows are here (and mostly installed!)

Windows are here (and mostly installed!)









We have had many (MANY!) deliveries by Hammond Lumber and we are continually amazed by the drivers who maneuver their big trucks loaded down with lumber, rolls of metal for the flashing and eaves and soffitts down our driveway BACKWARDS! A Hammond delivery is nearly a daily happening here and sometimes we get more than one delivery!

Painting in Progress

Painting in Progress

We’ve been painting the trim that will go around the windows and will be nailed up on the corners of the house. It’s going to look wonderful when we’re finished! It’s already looking better than we ever imagined (well, maybe we did imagine it but it’s amazing in person!)

If you’ve been by on the lake, you’ve seen the progress and many of you have stopped by to say hello. We appreciate your positive comments and looks forward to having a dock put in so you can come ashore and visit for a bit.

View from the Third Floor

View from the Third Floor



The view is breathtaking from the third floor … well, I think it’s pretty spectacular from every window! The doors arrive tomorrow! I hear we will be working most of the Labor Day weekend … and the kitchen should be coming pretty soon. We just need some plumbing roughed in and then an inspection by the town. We are making progress every day! How lucky we are!


We are looking good! Beam-strewn yard with tall grass and all!

Inquisitive Folk

lamp (1 of 1)I used to work as a video journalist for a news station in Orlando, going out and about each day looking for news, chasing ambulances (literally), or doing live shots. We drove marked vehicles, our logo and call letters brandished across every inch of metal, and became inured to frequent intrusions by the viewing public enamored with the thought of being on tv (“Hi mom”) or simply the proximity, however remote, to their favorite news anchors. We worked in a fishbowl, subject to scrutiny from the unwashed masses. It was hard to go unnoticed.

weather vane (1 of 1)Now I sit in my guest cottage, 50 feet from home construction, old floor joists littering the lawn, stacks of lumber nearby, a two man hydraulic lift at rest, and watch as boats slow down to gawk or make u-turns to inspect the progress. Had we a dock to park your vessels, I would welcome you for a tour. Come in and talk for a spell. Admittedly I am putting myself out there for scrutiny with this bloggy thing but don’t we all welcome talking about ourselves, what we love, or love to do? I am literally building my home, lack of skills notwithstanding, stick by stick and I would love to show it to you.  Today a confluence of kayakers came by, wondering about the boathouse, the new house, the guest house, the moorings, the sign advertising this blog, etc. I found myself  waffling between mild annoyance and an urge to explain and had I not been spotted, which necessitated a greeting (I try to be polite), I would have stayed quiet. But because of that simple connection though I was eager to chat, explain the situation, show off my dogs, and spend a few minutes with inquisitive folk.water dancing (1 of 1)

It’s Coming Back

I’ve been too busy working to blog about the house going up but there has been a lot of excitement around here every day! We’ve got walls and it’s starting to show us what it’s going to look like and how we can place furniture in our rooms!

First Floor Coming Along!

First Floor Coming Along!

I thought it was exciting when I came home and the first floor was all closed in with the plywood. I could finally see the size of the windows and where the front door would be. Before this I thought it was going to be small. Ned even went and measured the slab one night because I was so worried that we’d built it too small. It was spot on! The door you can see is the one that will lead to the screened porch. The two smaller windows is the kitchen and the large window is the dining room. All of the rooms are in the same place as in the old house. It’s basically the same downstairs floor plan it’s just more open!

And then one day I came home and climbed up a ladder to stand on what will be our second floor.

View from my Atelier on the Second Floor

View from my Atelier on the Second Floor

With some of the exterior walls up, it’s going to be a phenomenal view of the lake through the big windows on the front of the house (and the sides, too!) We have to have a bunch of bedrooms available because we want our family to come visit (and friends, too.) Each room on the second floor will be able to sleep our friends and family. Only one will be a dedicated guest room. The other will be my studio and the third will be Ned’s TV room. Although we discussed moving the TV up to the third floor and expanding my studio when we saw the size of the third floor former attic space.

IMG_5171The best day of all was when I saw the roof of the house rising above the woodshed roof again. There has been a hole there since we took the old house down and nothing felt right. But it’s coming back and all is right with the world. I got a ride with our contractor in the lift that we’ve rented to get the wood up to the roof without having to carry it. What a blast! The view of the house from the air is amazing and the view of the lake from the top of the house is phenomenal. Ned’s office space on the third floor is going to be the best view in the house.

Pinch me! We get to live here!

“Cut a cripple for the dustpan”

It’s been a good week of banging nails.

Mo Betta Bangin’ from Ned Warner on Vimeo.

This is conventional framing, that is without much in the way of blueprints. And since we altered the basic floor plan, it does lead to unintended consequences. An alteration on the first floor ends up hitting you in the face on the third floor. We are using no manufactured trusses, so the roof is measured and cut on site, piece by piece, which necessitates knowledgeable framers. We have them, but there are always several ways of getting the job done, so opinions vary and discussions ensue. I can listen to two guys on site talk about a framing issue and marvel that although they use English and understand each other, I am at an almost complete loss. It does remind me how much of a visual thinker I am and my need to “see it” to aid comprehension.

The third floor is framed in along with three dormers…”dustpan” dormers as one of the carpenters said. The flat roof of this shed dormer may resemble a dustpan, it’s been hard to find any etymological history on the term, but I am fascinated by words specific to a profession.

Having been in two other professions  (television news and kitchens), terminology specific to each sometimes was completely foreign to those not in the business. The worlds of home building and architecture, have some distinct jargon. In carpentry, a “jack stud” or “trimmer” refers to a stud holding up a “header”, which is a beam running horizontally above a window or door to transfer the weight above it. “King rafter” (not sure),  “king stud”(immediately outside a “jack”, and “cripple” which is a smaller, vertical stud under a window sill. terms typical-wall-framing

“Birdmouth” or “crowsmouth” refers to a diagonal cut in a rafter that lets it rest on the “top plate”, which is the horizontal length of wood on top of a wall. I wonder if that is related to “dovecote”- a shelter, sometimes built on the gable end or eaves, for birds or pigeons?DSCF2069

“Cats paw”, “plumb bob”, “crown”, “scissor truss”, the list goes on, identifying tools or procedures specific to a profession, enabling workers to communicate in a shorthand. Not surprisingly, some words are common to both architecture and carpentry, they are after all  intricately linked together. So excuse me while I go cut some cripples.