Friday, March 10, 2017

Mattamuskeet Lake House for Sale - A New Chapter for Mattamuskeet Momma

A new chapter in our lives has begun, but I would be remiss if I didn't share the labor of love that was the restoration of our 200 year-old house on Lake Mattamuskeet.  Our home is currently for sale by owner, and detailed information can be found at  But for now, settle back and I'll tell you a story...

The restoration of the Lake House was no small undertaking.  Before embarking on the year-long adventure, we had a building inspector from Edenton, North Carolina, who specialized in historic homes, evaluate the house.  He confirmed that “her bones were in great shape – she just needed a little TLC.”  With his report fueling our confidence, and with the vision of Jeffery A. Lees, an architect with great experience in historic home restoration, we took the plunge. 

Step 1:
The first step involved the dismantling of the kitchen addition that was unsalvageable.  We were able to save heart pine floor joists that would later become timberframe accents in the house and would also be used to construct the top of our handmade kitchen island, constructed with stunning craftsmanship by our homebuilder, Louis Chestnutt. 

Step 1 also involved the removal of the original brick chimneys on either side of the home, which were in such disrepair at the time to be non-functional.  Every single one of those original bricks was sorted and stacked by yours truly and used later to construct the beautiful herringbone walkway that surrounds the house today.

To comply with current flood zone regulations, the house would then need to be raised to a higher elevation and a new foundation would be constructed.  Worth Hare & Son House Movers of Edenton carefully secured the house and ever-so slowly, raised it to its existing elevation.

To our surprise, when the house was raised we discovered that the original foundation was composed of massive hand-hewn cypress blocks.  Two of the original foundation blocks can be found on our front porch today as re-purposed tables.

The work of building the new foundation and chimneys began, complete with decorative flourishes modeled after historic homes from the comparable time period.

At the same time, I was busy hunting down the mysterious “ship picture” that the original family members had told us stories about.  Ms. Sandra Carawan, whom I will always be indebted to for her great friendship and precious memories, shared with us her childhood recollections of a picture of a ship located on the wall of the original staircase.  I am a sucker for a good mystery, and though heavily pregnant with my second son, I carefully made my way through two layers of paint and two layers of plaster to discover a line drawing of a ship on the original horsehair plaster.  

Step 2:
New discoveries continued to abound as the work of restoration continued.  Upon removing the badly deteriorated plaster, we discovered that the home had been constructed primarily with hand-hewn pegs.

Hand-hewn ax marks could also be clearly seen on the back-side of the second floor heart pine flooring where the joists were fitted. 

We were loath to cover up the evidence of this 200 year-old handiwork and made the decision then and there to leave as much of the original woodwork exposed as possible.  All of these features are in plain view within the house today, and tell the story of its creation better than we ever could. Some slight cleaning and sanding brought out the beauty of the beams, and we left the old lath and plaster marks for their character.

The work was completed on the fireplaces and foundation, and the beautiful brickwork resulted in the renewed functionality of four working, wood-burning fireplaces in the home.

Step 3:
While restoration continued in the original main house, the new addition was being completed.  The addition would house a large mudroom, full bathroom, half-bath, walk-in pantry, dining room, and kitchen on the lower floor, including a second staircase to access the upstairs.  On the second floor, the addition would house an additional bedroom with full bathroom, as well as a new bathroom for the bedroom being used as the master, with accompanying closet spaces.  The addition blends seamlessly with the original home and visitors are hard-pressed to identify where the old ends and the new begins.

The addition was sided with Hardi-plank for sustainability and low maintenance requirements.

The original part of the home had been sided with cypress planks, that were, for the most part, in pristine condition.  We replaced the few that needed replacement with cypress boards custom-milled in Gates County, North Carolina, to match the existing siding boards.

It was incredibly important to us to save and re-use everything in the original house that we could.  Unfortunately, through previous owners, the original windows in the living room had been removed.  We decided to take advantage of the situation by installing French doors to extend the living space out into expansive 400 square foot front porch that overlooks the lake.

The original windows throughout the house were all replaced incredibly energy-efficient Simonton windows, designed to withstand any type of weather that coastal North Carolina can bring.  Each replacement window was constructed true to size of the original window frames, down to including replicating nine-over-six window grids in the downstairs windows.  She was shaping up to be quite the beauty!

Step 4:
The house became a constant place of wonder as the final finishing touches began.  Cypress beadboard, milled at Gates Custom Milling in Gatesville, North Carolina, was used throughout the home to complete the ceilings.

The construction of the custom cabinets and island in the kitchen were completed, along with the aforementioned island top constructed from the original heart pine floor joists from the old kitchen.

All of the home’s original fireplace mantels and trim work were replaced with care, and any new trim work that was needed was custom crafted by Louis Chesnutt, of whom we could never praise enough in his care and attention to detail throughout the entire process.

The original heart pine floors were carefully sanded and refinished, while the floors in the new addition were outfitted with reclaimed tobacco-barn heart pine boards throughout.  Each bathroom was outfitted with a custom-made vanity using antique furniture pieces and, in some instances, fitted with countertops made from heart pine salvaged from the original kitchen.

 And then, a year after we had begun, it was complete.

 From this….

To this…

To now…

It was an amazing transition to be involved in, and we will always be grateful to this house that let us be a part of its history for a short time.  The pages are now awaiting for new story to unfold. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I had to show off our Christmas Card - simple and true, we are blessed!

Blessed Tidings Religious Christmas Card
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Stationery card

Blessed Tidings Religious Christmas Card
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Stationery card

Blessed Tidings Religious Christmas Card
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful . . .

Thanksgiving is the time for realizing our blessings, and the Mattamuskeet Momma home is no exception.  I can't begin to list all of the things that I am thankful for - I think that I would go on for ever this morning, much to the dismay and tummy-growling of my boys.  But there are a few things that come to mind that I haven't been able to share since my long-ago last post.

I am thankful for my family - my three beautiful boys, my wonderful husband, our parents, our sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all of those that touch our lives and make it better for the love that they share with us.  In this picture, my dad and my sister came to visit and we all worked together on the "family apple pie"  made with fresh, organic apples picked from  my mom and dad's trees.

It is, while in moments like these, that I stop and take a look around at every tiny detail  - the crisp smell of ripe apples, the tangy sweetness of the endless apple peel snakes, the excited chatter of the boys, my dad's rough hands carefully enclosing Eli's little ones as he helps him turn the apple peeler . . .  I try to burn these images into my memory forever, in the hopes of keeping them shiny and new and always within easy grasp, like a warm blanket to wrap around my shoulders on a chilly fall day.

 I am, of course, thankful for the bounty that our garden brings us.  I love the boys' shrieks of delight when they find "giant" vegetables nestled within leafy confines.  Cole had to have his picture taken with the asparagus beans that were "as big as him!"

I am thankful for beauty, wherever we may find it. My sunflowers, waving tall over my garden in the late summer never fail to put a smile on my face.

I am thankful for long, lazy days, where there is nothing better to do than just breathe in the goodness around you.

I am thankful for laughter, of which my boys provide me an abundance.  This is my three in their Halloween Costumes this year.  They were a hit as "The Duck Commanders," and their buckets were overflowing with candy by the end of the night.

And I am thankful for the little things in life, like long naps in the car with a belly full of hot doughnuts.

Take a look around you.  What are the things that you are thankful for?  Even on our worst days, there are always things to be found that make our lives worth living.  Blessings come in all shapes and sizes - make sure you count yours today and every day.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Walking the Walk

Having a backyard chicken flock has become extremely popular in recent years, and our backyard is no exception.  Every spring during our visit to the local Tractor Supply Store, my boys would beg me to bring home chicks.  Of course, I put them off for a few years with the "well, we have to build a chicken coop first" excuse.  But this spring, I decided to finally give in.  After all, we were committing to a sustainable lifestyle, and having our own fresh eggs, along with a troop of fertilizing, bug-picking machines was a textbook requirement.  So before the Chick Days kicked off for 2012, I got to work collecting pieces of leftover building materials around our place.  I looked at coop designs, constructed coops, and countless internet sites.  I found chicken tractors, chicken mansions, and strange homemade converted chicken coop contraptions.  Taking stock of what I had, and the time allotted to me with power tools and a toddler, I decided to convert a cold frame that my dad had helped me build a few years back.  Three afternoons with constant interruptions later, my chicken coop was complete.  We were ready to go get our chickens.  

Our all-recycled coop!
So, we headed out to Tractor Supply, the boys bouncing with excitement in the back of the minivan.  This is when I learned Chicken Lesson 1 - Never tell your children that you are going to get chicks if you are not 100% positive that there are chickens at the store.  The boys were devastated that there had been a run on chickens and there were no more chicks at that particular store.  They told us that there would be another shipment in a couple of days.  So I called another Tractor Supply about an hour and a half away.  "Do you have chickens?"  "Yes, plenty of them!" was the reply, so the Temples loaded back into the van and set off on our epic chicken adventure.  This is where I learned Chicken Lesson 2 - Never doubt that within an hour and a half there can be a run on chicks at the Tractor Supply Store. We emerged stiff legged and rump sore at the store, rushed to the chicken section, only to find - you guessed it - no chicks.  "What happened?  I just called!" I asked the sales associate.  She shrugged and said that a bunch of people had come in and bought chickens.  All of the chickens.  So, we headed back to Hyde County, the boys sniffling in the back seat the whole way.

After the weekend I called our local store again and found out that an order of assorted chicks was arriving mid-day.  We quietly loaded Eli and Greyson into the van, picked Cole up after school, and nonchalantly made our way to the store.  "Where are we going?" Cole asked.  "Umm, errands.  We have to run some errands," I said, a veteran of Lesson 1 and living in fear of Lesson 2.  We showed up at the store and found a feed trough full of black and yellow chicks.  They were Black Australorps, the chickens I wanted, but they were straight run and not the pullets I was hoping for.  Do you think I was going to leave that store without chicks based on the possibility of picking all roosters?   Lesson 3 - The possibility of going home with all roosters is preferable to going home for the third time with a car full of crying children.

So we picked out eight chicks, hoping they were all hens, and made our way home with a heat lamp, chick starter, more cedar shavings, a feeder and a waterer.  We got the little balls of fluff settled in the garden shed under the heat lamp and gathered around the box to stare at them.  For hours.  People joke about watching "chicken TV."  They aren't kidding.  Chickens are just about the coolest little things to watch, especially with kids.  The boys asked me all sorts of questions about how they eat, how they sleep, how they move, why they peep, and on and on.  We had more in-depth biology discussions over the course of a couple of hours than we have had over the last year.  

So the chickens grew and grew.  We kept them fed, watered, clean, dry, and tucked under their heat lamp when the nights got chilly.  Soon they moved into the coop we had worked so hard on.  We kept them shut in the coop for a couple of days, so they would know where to "come home to roost."  We let them pick bugs in the square run we had fenced in for them for a week.  Then, came the Big Day, when our little chickens became free ranging, and our yard became theirs.  We worried and watched over them all that day, and sure enough, as soon as the sun went down, all eight chickens were cuddled up in their coop.  We shut them up for the night, and so began our routine.  June and much of July passed with the dawning realization that we had five roosters and only three hens.  I knew that the day of reckoning was soon approaching, but I kept putting it off, even as the gangly young roosters began to harass our poor, out-numbered hens.  Then came the day when Eli was wandering outside and I noticed one of the roosters, we called him White Tail for the patchy white feathers that circled his tail, pranced a little aggressively his way.  As Eli is the same height as the roosters, this raised some concern.  As in, Holy-heck-are-the-chickens-going-to-peck-out-my-son's-eye concerns.  I got on Backyard Chickens and asked the incredibly helpful community what I should do with my chicken situation.  The resounding answer was to send my roosters to "freezer camp", at least four of them, if not all five, for the safety of my toddler.

Before I offend anyone who would cry "Why not give the roosters away to someone who needs them?" please understand that where I live, no one needs roosters!  The people who already have chickens have too many roosters, so relocation was not a factor.  But, still, I dragged my feet.  I kept a close eye on Eli every time I was outside with the chickens, which is almost impossible as he cruises around the yard like the RoadRunner, his little feet a blur.  Then came the evening when I was working in the garden and I asked Ed and the boys, who were picking figs for me, to keep an eye on Eli.  Of course he started to wander away as they were picking on the other side of the tree.  The mother's sixth sense kicked in, as a faint "chick, chick" carried to me across the late evening air.  My head jerked up from the weeding and, hoe in hand, I ran out of the garden.  Eli was standing a few steps from the fig tree, and White Tail was speeding across the yard - straight to him.  Screaming "No!  Eli!"  I bolted across the yard.  Cole and Ed heard me, and Cole ran straight to him from the other direction.  We both reached Eli just as White Tail, with puffed up chest, came toe to toe with my toddler.  Of course, when he saw a crazed mother with a hoe and a yelling six year old bearing down on him, he promptly took off.  Cole and I chased him until we were out of breath and he was far from Eli.  Honestly, if I could have gotten in a swing with my hoe, White Tail would have been history.    Regardless, I knew time was up.  Something had to be done.

My mom and dad were due for a visit that week.  Dad gets on the phone with me and says "I hear you need to kill some chickens.  I can help with that."  There is something, no matter how old you are, supremely comforting in the thought that your Dad will take care of whatever unpleasantness you need him to take care of.  Of course, Ed and Cole had said that they were going to kill the roosters for me.  Their method was going to be death by firing squad - Cole with his BB gun and Ed with number 6's.  But, when Dad said he was going to "take care of it" I knew that the roosters' days were indeed numbered.  

My parents arrived, and the next morning I was ready to go.  I was up at 6:30 and collectived all manner of utensils that I thought might come in handy.  When Dad came down the stairs, he found a pile of knives, rubber gloves, bowls, and cutting boards.  He took one knife from the pile and shook his head at the rest.  I was outside trying to determine which roosters were going to go.  There was one especially pretty rooster with a long, fancy tail that Ed and I said we should keep.  We figured if they were going to breed, then we should have the prettiest rooster.  The problem was that I was especially fond of Short Tail, a rooster that followed me around like a puppy looking for treats.  The whole rooster killing experience was hard enough without actually throwing in a chicken that I was genuinely fond of.  So, I decided that I would keep a spare rooster, in case something happened to one of them, and if they harassed the hens or started to fight, one of them would be dinner at a later date.  That said, I had to figure out which one was Short Tail, and not mix him up with another rooster who looked just like him.  Out in the pen that morning, I held out some bread and Short Tail came running up as usual.  As he cocked his head to look at me, I noticed that someone had pooped on his head that night, and a long streak of white marred his iridescent feathers.  It is amazing how providence works - who knew getting pooped on would lead to saving your life?

Dad was ready and told me to hand the roosters to him over the fence and he would take care of the rest.  Cole was hanging around and I told him to go inside.  He said no, but a look of panic began to overtake him as he saw me hand my dad the first rooster.  I told him again to go in the house, and he ran to the other side of the yard, where I assumed he would go into the house.  Dad stretched the rooster out on the almost horizontal trunk of our old pear tree, and I crouched in the chicken pen with my hands over my eyes.  I looked up after hearing the whack of the butcher knife, just in time to see the chicken leap from the pear tree and engage in its macabre death dance in the yard.  "It's still alive!"  I shrieked, but Dad said no, that's just what they do.  Regardless, the first sight of that was a little horrifying, even more so when Cole came running around the corner of the house to witness the hurky-jerky chicken dance.  Fortunately, I did not have to tell him to go into the house again.  My mom told me later that he blew into the house like a shot, took a deep breath and said "I'm fine, Ma.  I think I'm just going to stay inside."

My Dad and the results of his expert butchering.
After the first, it was easier, and soon we had three roosters killed cleanly.  Dad started to clean them, but I told him that this was where I stopped being a wimp.  As I didn't have a big outside burner for boiling water, we opted for skinning and cleaning the birds.  It was surprisingly quick and easy, and when we were done, we had some of the most beautiful chicken meat that I had ever seen.  We washed it off, put it in a container of salt water, and let them sit in the refrigerator to soak.  Just like that.  

We cooked it for dinner a couple of nights later, and it was the most amazing chicken that I had ever eaten.  Tender, juicy, and almost sweet.  And what made it taste even better was that I knew there were no chemicals in my chickens, there were no strange hands butchering and processing my chicken, there were no trucks and packaging and long hours of refrigeration.  They were my chickens - fat on garden scraps, bugs, and long, warm days grazing the green grass.  

To me, watching my children munching chicken legs and then going outside to water the five left in our little flock, it was an important moment.  It is well and good to talk about sustainability, and to garden and bake and preserve.  But, as a meat eater, raising my own meat and humanely harvesting it is one of the most important things that I have ever done.  That's when it finally felt real to me.  I wanted the chickens for the eggs and for the experiences, but I also had to do what a responsible flock owner needs to do.  It's not all cute coops and chicken pictures, it is indeed a responsibility to the health of my chickens and to my family.  And though it was not my hand wielding the knife, the next time it will be.  And I will be ok with that because, in this sustainable life, you must be prepared to walk the walk, even if you start with baby steps.  Chicken legs, anyone?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Getting Ready for Market Day

I am so sorry that I have not had a chance to write lately, and I have been trying to get a spare minute all week long to no avail!  But today is Friday, which has become the busiest day of the week - the day before the Farmer's Market.  Between my work with my non-profit, chasing after the boys, keeping up with chores, and baking and preserving up a storm, I'm ready to collapse into a heap on Friday nights now!  Just take a look at the preparations:

Our welcome sign for our customers.

Beautiful Candied Fig and Orange Preserves - they taste divine if I do say so myself.  There is something about the marriage between orange and fig that is a match made in heaven!

Baking, baking and more baking.!  I have twelve loaves wrapped and ready to go.  The Momma's Garden Herb Bread is my favorite, made with my organic garden herbs (basil, oregano, dill, parsley and my crushed garlic).  Ed loves the Roasted Sweet Pepper, which is chocked full of roasted Mattamuskeet Sweet Onions and my organic bell and sweet banana peppers.  And the Cinnamon Swirl, what can I say?  I actually hope that I don't sell it all because I make sinful French toast with any leftovers on Sunday mornings!

My mom and dad just came to visit this week and brought me  loads of juicy white and yellow peaches.  I blended this together with pure cane sugar and a little lemon juice and let it simmer to golden nectar.  There is something to be said for letting the flavor of pure, fresh ingredients take the lead, and this is an example of uncomplicated glory.

Ok, so you know me, I had to experiment just a bit!  I had beautiful lavender growing in my herb garden, and I couldn't resist blending it with my peach preserves just to see what  happened.  I made a test batch of Old Fashioned Peach, and steeped sprigs of English lavender in at the finish.  I removed the sprigs and stirred in some lavender flower buds to generate a random taste explosion throughout.  What resulted was a smooth rich peach flavor with a lingering floral essence reminiscent of an English garden a high tea.  I love it when an experiment works out!

So, dear readers, I will be back this weekend to fill you in on all of the happenings - the tomato horn worms, the chicken killings (long story!), and all of the rest of the homestead news.  See you soon!