Wait.

by the Artist

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It's been a rough few weeks. Four years of searching (and all that entails) for talented crew members finally caught up with us. Bountiful projects and not enough workers. It brewed a perfect storm. And it landed heavily on the Carpenter's shoulders and mind. He's had to manage the projects and step in to do the work. It's been extremely long days, very late nights and weekends. He's had to juggle the crew to keep all the projects going. And in the spirit of transparency about our build life.. working seven days a week doesn't make for much home life. 

The past two weeks culminated in the longest days yet this week. The carpenter had a project deadline he was determined to meet because he made a promise. He would roll in around midnight and be gone by 7:30 the next morning. Last night he came home at two am. (the homeowners were out of town so he could work on the project late). He is beyond exhausted physically and emotionally. I've never seen such sheer resolve.

Well thanks to two new crew members who came on board in the past two weeks, our lead and the Carpenter's determination we have met that particular project deadline, as well as keeping up with our other projects within the constraints of waiting for and bringing on new crew. And we are happy to say that we have found two really super guys.

Hiring talented crew isn't easy in this economy and culture. But through it all we believed that if God brought the work.. he would bring the workers and he did!

So I'm looking forward to having the Carpenter back home in the evenings and weekends and he's looking forward to getting some rest!

Porch update

by the Artist

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Anyone traveling by Applewood headquarters will notice our porch is getting a facelift. It was showing its age after 18 years. Hard to believe we have lived here long enough, that now our original renovation is needing renovation!

So for the past two weekends the Carpenter has been demoing and rebuilding. And this has brought us to a big design decision. To remove the porch railing which opens up the space pretty dramatically as well as updating the style, or rebuilding the rail system. 

My original intention was to rebuild the railing. It has served us well. It adds just enough privacy from our very busy road. And now we are wide open to the road. Wide open. So there's a problem needing to be solved! After much discussion we have settled on adding a landscaped garden area to create soft privacy. We could incorporate a section of fencing too. But I'm not sure I want that much privacy. 

This will be phase 1 of updating our 20 year renovation project. I'm going for all white with black accents. Modern "farmhouse" style. I'm focusing on simple updates that won't take much of the Carpenter's time or strain our budget. The most expensive part of the update will be a new craftsman front door which will be either black or stained depending on where I land design wise. I'm going to try painting all the window grids black and remove the shutters. These changes will definitely freshen and update our cape cod. 

We also have a very old mostly dead pine tree that will be taken down that the Carpenter wants a wood carving done with part of the trunk. If we can nestle a "white bear" into garden scape in a subtle way then I'm all for that!

The Carpenter finished up late last evening in the rain. He had to get the steps in. I can't wait to see it finished! If only the Carpenter had more time. ha!

September!

by the Artist

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It is really September! Today here in Minnesota feels like fall. It never fails. The warm month of August slips into the first days of September and the great "switch" in the sky is flipped to "autumn". That's the way I've always thought of it living here. And the Carpenter commented today that the "Old Man" is coming. (winter).

The Carpenter has had a particularly busy summer interviewing and hiring to expand our work force. We have the biggest project load in 30+ years, and more help is needed to complete all the projects done in a timely manner. He has spent many many evenings/days at our local Caribou Coffee shop meeting potential candidates. We have found some great guys and are looking forward to having them all on board by October.

The Carpenter is also is spending many hours putting project bids together. (right now it is 10 PM and he is in his office) He recently told me about a method he uses to put together the bids. (so he doesn't miss any areas) He literally starts from the ground up like he is working on an actual project, detail by detail "building" the bid. And the bids are complex. Every single aspect of the proposed project has to be written down, thoroughly researched, and all pricing/information gathered from vendors and subcontractors. I handle the final part. Proofing all the proposals. 

And somewhere in all of that he has to project manage on the job sites, as well as meet with all the current and future potential homeowners.

And then there is home time. There isn't much of that these days. This past Labor Day weekend he did start a project to replace all the rotted wood on our 20 year old front porch while I painted new Applewood lawn sign frames. Yes Labor Day lived up to it's name for us!

We're looking forward to fall and a full crew. It will speed up our work timelines and free the Carpenter to spend more time with me. I can only hope!

 

 

 

 

Getting there.

by the Artist

We have just returned from our first two week vacation in 30+ years! When I realized that fact the other day I kind of shuddered. That just isn't right. 

We headed to our favorite camping spot in Hayward Wisconsin pulling our RV behind us. We left very late in the day.. missed our departure deadline by 3 hours which caused us to have to set up in the dark (more about that later). The worst thing about setting up a remote "home sweet home" is all the preparation involved. If I wasn't so full of adrenaline and anticipation to get away... I would surely sit down in the middle of the driveway.. arms loaded with more "necessary" stuff.. and have a good cry. But I usually save the tears for unpacking after.

Along the way to camp we donated a lovely three plug electrical cord (the Carpenter's favorite) to a lucky fellow traveler. The Carpenter looked back at the bed of the truck and saw the cord just ever so slightly over the side. He asked me if I thought it would move... it was very very still... and I said "naah". 

We pulled in at dusk, had a hard time backing the trailer in, between the tight campsite entrance, and the artist "helper," it wasn't pretty. Then as I was standing waiting for my next order... I didn't see the Carpenter in the dark on the other side of the truck. I walked around to find him picking himself up off the ground gripping his side. He had tripped on a tree root and dislocated a rib and basically couldn't breathe. I thought.. well so much for our first two week vacation! But thankfully the next day it popped back into place and we were able to stay. 

We're back and getting settled into build life. We have a full load of projects for the balance of the summer and need to hire. So this week the Carpenter is setting up the interviews. We are hiring an experienced residential remodeling Carpenter and also looking for an Apprentice– an individual who wants to learn the trade and start a new career. Know anyone?

I'm going to start planning our next vacation now.

 

 

 

Time for a cup of lemonade!

by the Artist

The other day the Carpenter came home after work and told me a sweet story. He had visited a little lemonade stand that had been set up across the street from one of our projects. Two adorable little sister girls were manning the table. Of course the Carpenter bought a cup and gave them a generous tip. 

Anyway he went back to the job site and happened to look up and see a group of boys biking onto the street. He heard them say.. "Hey a lemonade stand! Let's take it!". (I go right to the bully scenes in a Christmas story.) The Carpenter headed back over to the girls and made sure the boys left them alone. He asked the little girls if they knew the boys, and if they were mean to them and they said yes. He said "well if you have any more trouble come get me or better yet... go get your Mom!" The boys left without a sip of lemonade.

Now how can you not trust a Carpenter who defends little sister girls at a lemonade stand from a pack of bully boys on bikes? I think he will more then care for your project. And he also wouldn't mind a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day if you have one!

PA or Bust!

by the Artist

My Mother's vintage rose bush. Was from my great grandmother's bush. Beautiful blush.

My Mother's vintage rose bush. Was from my great grandmother's bush. Beautiful blush.

I've been away. The Carpenter had to take care of business, home and puppy duties on his own. While I spent two weeks in Pennsylvania helping my Dad transition into life without my Mom– who passed last July. What I anticipated being two weeks of clearing out clothes, light organizing and throwing expired items out of the frig.. ended up being two weeks of dealing with my Dad's mounting health concerns.

I had a crash course in senior issues. 

Doctor visits, scans, PT, senior community housing tours and looking into when long term care insurance could be activated occupied my days. It broke my heart to see my 6'3" executive father in a weakened state. And harder yet to see my sister struggle to handle all the crisis' as the "first responder". (she lives near by)

We had a nurse visit the last day I was there to do an evaluation on my Dad and his home. She just shuddered at how dangerous his home is. No light for the stairwell to the second floor! area rugs, narrow crowded pathways and a large step-in tub. Not to mention the beautiful 3 acre property is a landmine of tree roots and uneven ground. What made this home so beautiful is now a hazard to my father.

He wants to stay there.. not sure how that will shake out. In the meantime we need to make the house as safe as possible. Lighting for the second floor staircase, a lift chair for both staircases (one for the basement), clearing furniture clutter, somehow simplifying his complicated lifestyle.. he's always loved antiques, feeding the birds and working in the yard.

It's gonna be a huge job. A bigger change. But one that is doable if done with sensitivity and firm positive steps.

Hopefully my Dad can stay where he lives for the foreseeable future. He will be able to continue enjoying the birds, deer and turkeys and putter around. If we can make his environment safe, and get him the in-home care that he will need.

One thing I noticed about the house. It has lost its heart. My Mother was the heart of the home. She had a lovely warm decor style and a soft presence. I always looked forward to her big smile when I arrived from Minnesota. She was always so happy to see me. And she never complained about anything. Never made me feel guilty for living so far away. I missed her terribly this visit.

I'm sure I will be heading back to PA sooner then later. It's hard being 1200 miles away. I wish I could bring the Carpenter along in my suitcase to help. And maybe the snack manager to brighten the day with her antics!

"Noticer"

by the Artist

"In every nook, I find little things that tell me about her. She was a noticer... for all the shelves are lined with shells, bird feathers, dried sea grasses, pebbles, eggshells. They're just bits that were lying on the ground, that anyone else would step over or on, but she saw that they were beautiful and brought them home."


I am currently reading a book and these words jumped out at me. I haven't heard that term "noticer" before but it resonates with me. I'm a "noticer". I have collections too of bits of egg shells, feathers, a piece of birch bark. I walked last week up in Brainerd on a nature trail. I kept my eyes on the ground constantly looking. I'd rather take a photo of a detail of nature then of a human. It's just how I'm made. 

The Carpenter is a "noticer" too. Nothing gets by him. He notices when something is ever so slightly out of level, when there is a small gap, when something doesn't quite line up. He notices subtle variations in matching stain hues. After so many years..he just knows and can "see". And if he notices he makes sure it is fixed. Nothing is going to change that. Our lead carpenter Adam who is in his 10th year with us notices now too. Our standards are high. I've said that before. It's not gonna change.

So if you want your project done right, even in the "unseen" areas.. you probably want to give us a shout. We'd be happy to be a "noticer" for you.

Quote:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Spring

by the Artist

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

A quote I have on my personal email signature that resonates with me. Someone commented about it recently and it made me pause. I could not remember who quoted it. William Morris a 19th century author, designer and craftsman. 

A few years back I dipped my toe into a bit of professional organizing. I loved it. It was always thrilling to see a space be transformed. It took work. For me to keep patient as we worked through "donate, sell, recycle or trash" for every single item. For the other person to stay focused and work with me through the process. 

The thrilling part comes at the end when the room is clutter free. I love to "stage" the room, rearrange furniture, bring in some fresh flowers for a table that formally was completely covered in papers- coupons, bills whatever landed there. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It's kind of like my own little "Fixer Upper" reveal. It is really a rush for this beauty bringer.

It's spring as I write this. The trees out my window have tiny leaves and buds waiting for sunshine and warmth to burst open. It's the season of new beginnings. More so then January 1 in my opinion. Who doesn't have a desire to clean something out? A drawer or garage. Organize the clutter and debris of those long housebound winter months. 

Useful and beautiful. Sentimental? A good bargain? A later possible use? How to stay in control of all the things that flow into our lives. Coupons littered on the counter among the junk mail, receipts and store purchase bags, groceries that didn't get put away, old batteries and pens that don't work, paper clips and an old key (for what?). Life on this earth can and is extremely overwhelming. Just too much stuff. Stuff strangles and can own us. I've seen it shut a person down.

I know it is easy for me to say that. I am not overly sentimental. I keep heart memories over physical memory objects. Years ago I wanted to keep something from one of our dogs when she died. The Carpenter said..."let it go and keep her memory in your heart". Well that stuck with me.

These days I share my organizing gene with friends and family. Currently I'm driving almost an hour to help a friend who owns a farm and is recently remarried. We're making room for her new husband's belongings in an already full house with not the best storage. The hours fly by like minutes. It is intensely gratifying work and brings me such happiness to bring happiness to another person. And it doesn't hurt that it is a farm if any of you know me. ;) 

 

 

 

 

 

Estimating for you.

by the Artist

Mazie our Snack Manager apprentice on her first photo shoot!

Mazie our Snack Manager apprentice on her first photo shoot!

We had three big projects going simultaneously over the winter. Which made this winter move along quickly. We are still on the third project- a front porch craftsman entrance and third garage for a traditional rambler. 

In preparation for the later start of phase 2 of this project- the front entry porch- we had to keep the ground from freezing before deep ground frost settled in. One day walking Mazie out in our marsh this spring I was curious about what looked like "hay" and smelled like hay laying on top of last seasons flattened marsh grass. I thought.. "well this is weird! The marsh must have grown some really thick grass last season!" Yes I'm blonde.

Then I found out that the hay that was used on top of a heavy tarp to keep the ground from freezing for the porch, had been spread around the marsh by the Carpenter this spring. Hmmm. I said well why couldn't we have given it to my friend who has a farm?... I guess it wasn't fresh enough, but it looked "fresh" to me. Anyway.. along with his "farm" like duties.. the Carpenter has been meeting with a ton of homeowners for a variety of projects. This is the time of the year when we get increased website contacts. I don't know how one guy can work on that many bids at one time.

When a homeowner contacts us for potential work, the Carpenter meets initially with them (along with me if there is design involved), takes photos, measurements, gathers project plans (if there are any) and whatever info he needs to write up an "estimate". He then depending on the size of the project, brings in his subs to get their estimates. Then he gathers all the info and writes up the estimate. This can take quite a few hours. But thankfully after 30+ years in the business, his time instincts (how long a project will take.. are pretty accurate (not including customer change orders for added work to the original proposal). He sometimes presents the estimate in person, calls or emails. Again it all just depends on the time constraints.

We do not charge for estimates. With all the work involved it seems like an industry standard that needs to be revised. And just like any other business.. the competition is steep. He just spent hours on a estimate for a large project we didn't get. Win a few lose a few. The Carpenter tries to assess what the competition might be bidding against him on a potential project.. and sometimes he's wrong. He likes to know what the competition is, how many people might be involved in the bid and what might his chances be to get the project. Sometimes he knows right away that there is no budget for what the homeowner wants to do, and he will use a very rough estimate just to see if the project is in the realm of possibility. If he knows (based on the customer's reaction) that they had no idea what it actually costs... then he knows it is time to move on. (He always asks if they have gotten other bids to use as a comparison). I asked the Carpenter what is the best way to pick the right estimate based purely on the numbers. He said.. "throw out the lowest and the highest and pick from the middle." 

Oh and if a homeowner wants to hire Applewood to handle their project.. the Carpenter then creates a formal proposal that is signed and the work begins!

I thought about what to write for this post, and realized that writing about the estimate process would be the most appropriate and transparent, as that is what is consuming the Carpenter these days. Just know that if you are reading this post and considering contacting us to bid your project... the Carpenter will put together an accurate realistic estimate for you.


 

 

Carrying on.

by the Artist

Training our hearts out. That's how it feels these days with our latest hire.. Mazie. She is full of life and sass. We haven't gotten to "how to manage snacks" portion of the job yet (right now she's exploring counter cruising). Still covering the basics. We are looking forward to starting a puppy class this Thursday night. We just know she will be the smartest dog in the class! ;)

The Carpenter and crew just finished up the Birchwood Renovation Project https://www.applewoodremodelers.com/birchwood-renovation/ and The Lecuyer Project https://www.applewoodremodelers.com/the-lecuyer-project/. It was nice to work with two different architectural styles. It is always so satisfying to complete a project where the homeowners are thrilled with their new spaces. We are now full steam ahead on the Floral Project building a third garage, and adding a front porch entrance to update a rambler.

The Carpenter is meeting weekly with potential customers on a variety of projects. (we are booking into spring but still have room in our schedule for you!) He continues to manage the projects, pick up supplies and just generally be there for homeowner or crew's project concerns or questions. He is so busy he doesn't have time to write a post these days for this blog. What can I say? 

Carrying on.