Sunday, July 29, 2012


Everyone is in to being "Green" and recycling these days.  However, anyone who has ever lived in the country probably knows more about recycling than most environmentalists.  Heck... we were environmentalists before the term was even coined!!!  It was simply a way of life that was instilled in us from early on:  Don't be wasteful!!!

Now, I will admit that growing up,  I would gladly have given the cooked parsnips or pickled beets that were on my plate to those "poor starving children over in Biafra (Nigeria)."  that my mother used to tell us about.  Even though we lived out in the country, my mother knew there were people on the other side of the world that were starving, and she didn't want to hear a bunch of whining children complain about their food.  She had no time to waste on picky eaters, and if we didn't want to eat what was on our plates for dinner... well... it would still be there for breakfast and we could always eat it then (of course, with it being cold it would taste even worse).  And while I was more tolerant of my own children's eating habits, I don't tolerate wastefulness.

Karl and I have made it a priority to reuse everything possible in the renovation of our house. He built the shelving in the 2 sheds to house the materials that we either brought from his shop in Wrentham, MA,  took out of the farmhouse, or purchased through on-line sites or yard sales.  Recycling old building materials is simply the what we chose to do. Plus, economically it just makes sense.

For instance, just yesterday he and I went to Salsibury, NC (about 2 1/2 hours away from Floyd) and picked up a sink to go into our bathroom.

It came out of an historic house that was being renovated, and is EXACTLY the sink that Karl and I were looking for.  It matches our large tub that was already in the house.  The faucets and knobs are in great shape, and the price (including what it took for gas) was far less than purchasing a new one.  Now... we got what we wanted and the nice lady got rid of it and everyone was happy.  This is how our house is being put together...piece by piece... with stuff that's being salvaged.

Every time we have removed a wall or ceiling, we labelled the boards that were taken off for future use.

Some time in the past, some of the ceilings of the house had had acoustical ceiling tiles added to them and the adhesive that was used was so hard that it couldn't be sanded or chiseled off.

In that case, we had to use a heat gun to remove it.

It was painstaking work, but why waste all the beautiful heart pine wainscoting (You will see how it all comes together in a future post.)?
Now several years ago, Karl had cut down an huge oak tree on his property in Wrentham.  He had it rough-sawn into wide boards, and then stored it under some metal roofing in back of his shop.  This was approx. 30 years ago.  His daughter and I cleared away the weeds that hid the pile, and then he and his sons brought it into his shop...
and made what was once old-weathered boards...

into beautiful counter tops!!!   I find it amazing that something so crude can become so beautiful!

Another recycling moment: The owner of what at one time had been an old store was going to tear it down.

Years after the store had closed, the building had housed the burlap bags that were wrapped around trees for transporting.  We took down a small door (currently used on our chicken house) and all of the shelving and crown-molding.

The numbers in the crown molding and walls were reference numbers for the bag sizes.  It took a lot of bleach, elbow grease, and paint to get everything usable again, but in the end...

we had beautiful, sold grained walnut and chestnut boards with which to build our kitchen shelving, cabinets, and the baseboards throughout the house.  You can see the before and after photos...

SOLID and BEAUTIFUL... And all from RECYCLED materials!!!

Also, in the process of building the dining area, we tore out 4 walls in order to make the area into a dining/library, and we used 2 windows that are at least a couple of hundred years old to frame out the bookcases.  These came from a house that Karl had restored in the Boston area, and although they left that house looking pitiful...

they cleaned up like a new penny and now sit above the window seats that grace our dining area.

And speaking of dining area,  below is a picture of the old wood that was used to make the bookshelves and credenzas.

The picture above is of Karl tearing apart a tripod support from an old library that he renovated in the Boston area.  These tripods were used to hold shelving in an hexagon fashion within the library.  Karl had kept these for more than 30 years in the mezzanine of his shop.  Each board is 1" oak!    He also used some old architectural pieces to add a little panache to the whole area...

and when we put all the elements together, we have a dining area that is both functional and beautiful.  Even our 12' table came out of a Boston library (we refinished it).

Recycling at its finest!

The dining/library area is also framed with corbels that came out of a mansion in Boston that Karl had remodeled years ago.

 We had to cannibalize them in order for them to fit our area, but the end results are stunning.

In the process of renovating the inside of the house, we discovered an old fireplace that had been walled up years before. The bricks were hand made and the fireplace was lined with soapstone that had come from the property.

Karl and his friend Jason, spent many days removing the bricks.  Each evening Karl would pick away at the old mortar and we'd stack them in order of usability.

These bricks were made on our house site and we reused them to face our new fireplace when it was built.

They even had the date they were made:

What bricks couldn't be used for the fireplace were used in making a walkway onto the deck outside the camper.  We used the old soapstone for our raised hearth on the new fireplace...

and the rest are currently being used as a small fire pit outside the camper that is fabulous on a chilly autumn evening.

Throughout the house we have used recycled doors, many that came from a salvage yard in New Hampshire, like these two "Double-tombstone" stained glass doors that went on our pantry and downstairs bathroom...

and our front door (which originally came from a row-house in Ireland).

We even used period knobs and hardware.  If it wasn't attached to the door, we again went online or used other salvage places.

Besides indoor, we've found novel uses for other items.  A cattle feeding trough makes a wonderful container garden.

And we have certainly been the recipients of wonderful tomatoes, lettuce and beans that have been grown in these containers, as well as the beautiful impatiens that we cascade down the sides for aesthetic purposes.

SO.... Just a few (or a lot of) words on recycling and reusing.  It isn't always easy, but the end results can be astounding.  And knowing that we are holding something in our hands, putting something on our walls, or laying something on our floors that has a history... it just feels right. We have had so many friends and family marvel at how an ugly piece of molding or wood has been transformed into something beautiful, almost like magic.

In future posts, I will show each of our rooms as they were before the renovations, during the renovations, and the end result.  Everything in them, with the exception of the electrical and the insulation, has been recycled and reused.  Hopefully everyone will agree that it was all worth the effort. We think so.

No comments:

Post a Comment