Enon Hall


These journal entries track our progress as we undertake our adventure of restoring this very old home. The main reason for keeping this journal on the web is that we have found that there are very few resources (books or websites) that follow all of the trials and tribulations of restoring an old home...from start to finish.

May 2, 2004

Surprise, surprise...I cut the grass. (But doesn't it look good?)

Meanwhile, Gay and William planted a vegetable garden and installed some defenses to help fend off mooching wildlife.

As usual, we are overrun with woodchucks. They live under the outbuildings, in the graveyard, and in the field. I spotted a particularly large woodchuck who lives in the field. He's now known as Sasquatch. -- Bill

May 9, 2004

Remember the "damn fig bush?"

Well, once again this year it's attempting to make something of itself. Once again Gay has nursed it, weeded it, mulched it, and proclaimed that it will soon be a thing of beauty, bearing luscious fruits. Yeah, OK.

Not much going on in the wildflower field. There are a few things germinating...but are they weeds or wildflowers? To soon to tell.

Not much to report for this weekend as we took some time to celebrate Mother's Day...and, of course, cut the grass. But check back during this coming week for more updates. I've devoted this week to achieving foreward momentum at Enon Hall and have a list of projects as long as my arm. Plus, our new windmill goes up on Tuesday and I'll have lots of pictures of that project! -- Bill

May 10, 2004

The secret to maintaining our family's interest in working on Enon Hall is balancing the hard work with fun. For fun, we take advantage of the creek with our kayaks, our take our boat out to an island at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay with a great beach.

At the moment the boat is on the "work" list rather than the "fun" list and I'm anxious to get that reversed. The cockpit floor is spongey from rot. This morning I removed the seats and ripped up the fiberglas-covered plywood.

The wooden stretchers below also have some rot damage. I'm not sure how to proceed from here, so I'm mulling it over and doing some online research while things dry out a bit.

I moved from the boat to the back porch...my annual spring project of sanding and repainting.

If you remember, the porch boards were installed without any space between them (yes, by me) and this stress has caused the paint to fail very quickly. This year, I'm thinking about running a circular saw up a handful of the joints in the hopes of creating a little expansion room. I am also considering going with a latex floor enamel this year; maybe it will flex a little better than the brittle oil. But I'll still have an oil primer coat. Dunno.

This evening the sun set for the last time on our old windmill. Kinda sad. It's gonna be strange to have a bright and shiney new mill up there by tomorrow night. A photographer from our little local paper (The Rappahannock Record) is coming tomorrow to capture the big event. Maybe I'll see if the county museum wants the old tail. -- Bill

May 11, 2004

The new windmill is up and very cool! There are tons of photos today, so my apologies to anybody with a slow Internet connection. But since William had to be in school during the installation, I promised him a blow-by-blow account.

Just as Ken and Sharon O'Brock arrived, I finished priming the back porch. I decided against making the circular saw cuts, figuring that if I did that then I'd just have to go back and nail the boards down since I would have cut through the tongues that held them together.

Ken and Sharon are a great team to watch in action. She works from the ground, fastening everything to ropes to be pulled to the top as he needs them. He climbs the tower once at the beginning of the process and doesn't come down until the whole job is done...which in this case was about 2-1/2 hours later.

Before he climbed the tower, he attached my tail to the arm and to the gearbox. Then he headed on up.

He hoisted up a gin pole which he used to raise the old mill off of the tower and then lower it slowly to the ground, with Sharon at the other end of the rope holding it out from the tower.

Once the old windmill was down Sharon was able to locate the manufacture date, 1932. I had never known how old the windmill was, so that was nice information. But there was more info to come.

Ken installed a new platform and then it was time to lift up the new windmill, beginning with the gearbox and tail assembly. (Oh, and a jug of water for Ken.)

Then the vanes were hoisted and attached.

Meanwhile, Sharon wrote an epic for posterity inside the "helmet" that sits on top of the gearbox.

She wouldn't let me see it, but I know it included the date, our names (Bill, Gay, and William), their names, the temperature, and maybe even a recipe or two. (She was writing for quite a while.) I guess I won't get to see it until I go up to change the oil in a couple years!

Also, a steady stream of visitors was stopping by to watch the spectacle...seemed like half the county at one point. Neighbors, a reporter, even the McKessons (Phyllis and David) who lived at Enon Hall in the early 60s. David said that the windmill was still being used at that time to pump water to the barn...another tidbit that I didn't know.

By 1:30, the installation was complete. As Ken was going to install the brake at the bottom of the tower he found an inscription on the inside of one of the tower legs.

"Moved from Kinsale. March, 1943"

So now we know that the windmill started its life in 1932 in Kinsale, VA and was then moved here in 1943. All the pieces of the puzzle came together.

I wrote this journal entry sitting in the shade in the back yard with the new windmill spinning wonderfully (and quietly) in the breeze overhead. Life is good. -- Bill

May 19, 2004

We made the front page of the paper! Click on the image below to view the PDF. It's also interesting to see that the adjacent story is about the denial of a permit for an electricity-generating turbine windmill. -- Bill

May 23, 2004

With next weekend being Memorial Day, we spent most of this weekend in preparation for visitors. I cleaned up the boat to get it ready to put back in the water. Tomorrow, I'm going to put in a temporary cabin floor that will get us through the summer. I decided this would be a good idea when the boat guy that I contacted about replacing the floor asked, "Did you want to use it this summer?"

William bagged about 6 leaf bags full of magnolia leaves while Gay and I cut the grass. I bought a new push mower so that Gay can cut the lawn in front of the house while I do the wider open spaces with the tractor. Divide and conquer.

You know, Christmas can come any day of the year, if you only believe. I bought shutters for Enon Hall over a year ago and we're still not ready to hang them. Meanwhile, they've been sitting in storage. Boxes and boxes of them, and we hadn't even opened any of them to take a peek. This weekend I broke out one box from the vault...and cardboard, craft paper, and tape flew as William ripped into it with great excitement.

Yes, I know he's holding it upside down. Hold your E-mails!

I held a shutter into place so that Gay and William could "ooh" and "ah" and then they went back into storage until we can finish repairing all the window frames, get our hardware, decide on a color, paint all 24 of them, etc.

Christmas comes and goes so quickly... -- Bill

May 31, 2004

This weekend began as a battle against wildlife. Or at least a battle against running over and chopping up wildlife. I was on the tractor cutting grass when I spotted a black snake. So, I gave him room, while trying to keep an eye on his location so that I wouldn't run over him later. Next was the box turtle. I moved him to safer ground and then checked on him periodically to make sure he hadn't sped back into my path. Next came the crazed rabbit that ran right in front of the tractor and the usual frogs leaping in all directions. I was starting to feel like all of the animals had gotten together and developed some master plan to disrupt my grass cutting.

In the lot we have a new family of woodchucks, Mama Sasquatch (didn't realize she was pregnant when I named her Sasquatch...just thought she was huge) and her four babies. We have groundhogs everywhere and they are generally a nuisance, but this little family has actually been fun to watch from the kitchen window. While we're eating breakfast the babies stand up on their hind legs and engage in pushing/slapping/boxing matches which end when the loser flips over backwards and slides back down into the burrow. Meanwhile, Mama Sasquatch stands by trying to look like she doesn't know them. Well, now their burrow was in the path of my tractor and as I approached they all wisely scampered underground. But when I was only ten feet away from passing directly over their front door, one baby woodchuck head popped up from the hole looking at me with a stupidly inquisitive "hey, what's that?" look. A second later he was gone back down the hole. Actually it looked kinda like he was yanked back down into the hole from below. I bet Mama had a word or two for her not-so-bright baby.

Meanwhile I was capturing deerflies like crazy with my new, homemade deerfly trap attached to the tractor. A blue funnel slathered with "Tanglefoot" insect trap goop. The deerflies loved it and zoomed right in...but didn't zoom away. And it kept them from biting me!

But the episode of Enon Hall Wild Kingdom wasn't over yet. We have an awful mole problem. The whole yard undulates and squishes under your feet from the miles and miles of mole tunnels. Lucy (our Jack Russell Terrier) loves to dig up their tunnels and hunt for moles, but she's never caught one. Instead she just makes a bigger mess with all of her digging. Well, that finally changed this weekend as she caught her first mole.

Odd looking little creature! Lucy now has my blessing to dig away!

Saturday brought family, crabbing, kayaking, a boat excursion (yep, got her fixed up and back in the water), fireworks, and all sorts of other fun.

On Memorial Day, forecast rain detered our planned guests...but then the rain never really materialized. So we had no choice but to resort to labor. Gay planted a bed of daylillies behind the screened porch.

And I finally applied the second coat to the walls in the guest bedroom. (A project started long ago, but never finished.) But then when it came time for the trim paint, I didn't get far before deciding that I hated the color we had chosen.

Actually, I just hate the color with the floor, which is very orange in that room. So I stopped in midstream to regroup and consult more color charts.

We broke out another set of shutters. This time the raised panel shutters for the 18th century portion of the house. Boy, are they gonna make a huge difference!

People have been asking about the wildflower field. It's not looking good. Weeds are four feet tall. Who knows if there are any wildflowers mixed in there with them. Gay's still keeping the faith. -- Bill

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