Heading into winter....again

the Artist


… and we have a fantastic opportunity to build a post and beam wood barn. A year ago we had an opportunity to bid on a “Post and Beam Barn” project from Nebraska. During the bid process and after getting the project, the Carpenter did plenty of research to become familiar with all the unique aspects this project will entail. Earlier this fall, he and crew traveled to Nebraska to visit the company that produces barn “kits”, which are shipped across the country.

Unfortunately the project is finally starting and we are now heading into winter… and here we go with yet another outside winter project! Those of you who have followed us remember some of our large exterior renovations that we worked on during the depth of winter… Bald Eagle Craftsman, The Craftsman Project in North St Paul and more recently The Modern Farmhouse on White Bear Lake to name a few. I’ve created a gallery below to show some of our “Building in a Minnesota Winter” photos! Gallery #1

And of course the kick-off foundation work started the week of extremely cold and blustery October weather. (I visited the site to shoot photos on the absolutely coldest day) This project is just off Bald Eagle Lake and it was miserable. White caps, and snow flurries. See Gallery #2. The landscape was prepared- a large maple had to come down, the hole dug, the foundation built and backfilled, and the floor was poured. Now we wait out the 20 day curing time for the cement floor.

This week the Carpenter met his cement subcontractor to get a bid for a garage type barn near our home. If all the paperwork with the township falls into to place we will be building that this winter too! At least the Carpenter is close enough to home for me to run some coffee or hot cocoa to both barn projects!

So watch as this barn gets raised! And if you are in the area the crew wouldn’t say no to a warm cup of coffee!

And here’s hoping for a “warm winter” that has been predicted! (the Carpenter doesn’t believe it!)

Gallery #1 Building in a Minnesota Winter

Gallery #2 Bald Eagle Barn starts!


by the Artist


How have you been? We've had an interesting summer. Highs and some lows. It's part of life and definitely part of running your own business.

Our projects this summer have been interior updates and repairs on a number of projects. Installing Warm Board in-floor radiant heat system, new wood floors/doors and matching millwork, as well as an entry tile floor and interior joist repair. We are also updating a 20 something townhome's millwork (updating light oak millwork and doors) and changing the facade of a marble fireplace to stacked stone. Beautiful veined marble countertops will bring this townhome into the 2000's!

We will be starting a post and beam barn on beautiful Bald Eagle Lake this fall, as well as working through the design/remodel details of converting a suburban home into a couple's dream of owning their own Bed and Breakfast. 

As we continue always to look for great carpenter's to join our crew... we have hired Apprentice Connor Nash. We also will be welcoming a new member to the Applewood family in February 2019, when Adam our lead.. and his wife Katie welcome their first child! 

So as we step further into fall we will have some interesting photos to show you.

Enjoy this first week of the last three weeks of summer. Fall is on it's way!

home sweet home.

by the Artist


Since Christmas my sister and I have been dealing with that inevitable life issue.. aging parents. After a fall which broke my father's hip we have been on a difficult journey which has left us breathless. He came out of surgery with a new set of challenges. We've had to scramble to get home care, as well as get the house ready for his return from rehab. My sister as I say is on the "frontlines" because she lives close to my father. I'm 1200 miles away. It has been difficult for both of us in similar and not equal ways. The new year has not started off well.

My father's desire is to live at home for as long as he can, as independently as he can. This creates a huge challenge. His home is not ideal for wheelchairs or walkers. The hallways, door openings are narrow. The bathrooms are small, or in one case large enough but the shower is not walk-in, the toilets are low. The home lighting isn't good. (I did buy some motion activated lights for a dark upper hallway). There is too too much furniture. The yard is too hilly and tree root bound to exercise, and the road the house is on is too busy.

We had to rent a chair lift for my father to be able to get to his second floor bedroom. He chooses not to stay in a first floor bedroom. And if he did we would need to remodel the first floor bath to accommodate his needs.

It's been a fast education in the past two months. My sister and I have learned a lot. We've had to make decisions we never would have imagined we'd need to make. All this to say.. how prepared are you? If your desire is to stay in your home as long as you can.. is your home ready? 

Maybe we can help you continue to love where you live.

It's on my mind these days.




Chasing the cold.

by the Artist


It's been a trying couple of weeks weather wise, for a good part of the US and here in Minnesota. And in particular for those who work outside. We thankfully are mostly inside right now. Except for one project where we are building an addition, where we broke into the main house this week. That took a run to Fleet Farm to purchase kerosene to heat the new addition, to keep the existing home warm despite the hole in the wall! Also lots of plastic over the opening to keep the drafts at a minimum.

We've had our fair share of outside work during the coldest part of winter. It is always challenging. Always. The Carpenter has frostbite damage to prove it! Everything just takes longer and is harder to do in bitter temps. Why are we in this business? Makes us wonder sometimes! 

Currently we are working on a large sun room addition/master bedroom/bath remodel, master shower project, and next up replacing windows. Life goes on here in Minnesota despite our temps. I've taken the Snack Manager outside for play times every day at subzero wind chills. Somehow she's still puppy enough to not notice her cold paws as long as she has a ball to chase, a stick to chew, or the marsh to explore. Me it's harder to ignore. But as the cold snap continues I seem to be acclimating to it. And I'm originally from New Jersey. So it is possible to survive and thrive in this cold without being made of sturdy midwest stock!

So cheers to living in Minnesota! To having a small construction business in Minnesota and to not only surviving but thriving! 

Some cold construction photos. 



There's no time like the holidays to start updating your home!

by the Artist


I have a very small galley style kitchen. When we gutted this old house I chose to have a view from my kitchen window, and so we moved the kitchen to the other side of the house and I lost space. I do wish I had an island but am more content these days with what I have. (but if the Carpenter has a notion to knock out a wall to widen my kitchen I won't complain!)

Two weeks before Thanksgiving with help from friends I repainted the kitchen and eating area a pale warm gray and repainted the red hutch black. I had been living with a sage green that we had used on our last spec home kitchen. No more green.

I bought new curtains, a star shaped foyer light fixture, and new dining room chair cushions. I bought Joanna Gaine's striped black and cream cloth napkins to use on my kitchen window. And a paper mache deer head to mount on the wall. (I did ask the Carpenter if I could have a set of real antlers to paint but that request didn't go far). I've got roman shades to buy, a new love seat and more but I'm off to a good start.

I plan to repaint the entire interior of the house this winter. And update whatever I can without asking the Carpenter to knock down any walls. You know he doesn't have any time for that sort of thing! I do need new countertops but will have to wait for those.

I love Joanna Gaines style. I love a white, black and wood tone palette. I love gold and navy.. bold colors contrasted with pale colors. When we moved in the walls were Ben Moore "Floral White" and my kitchen knobs were gold. I was on trend before anyone else was. And now white and gold are back, and I threw those lovely gold drawer pulls away years ago in favor of oiled bronze. sigh.

I will share my thoughts and some photos along the way. You can hold me accountable to keep on task!



Porch update

by the Artist


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!


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

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 and 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.


Mixed just right.

by the Artist

The Carpenter stopped back at the shop mid morning. There are days like yesterday where he leaves at 7:30 and doesn't reappear until 7:30 or later pm. So it was worth stopping what I was doing to make the most of this unexpected appearance.

I walked into the shop and asked what he was home for. He said.. "mix stain". I ran and got my phone to capture the moment (I'm always on the look out anything interesting to share).

I have never paid much attention to how he mixes stain. He's been doing it for 30+ years. He can match any existing stain or create a custom color. It's just instinct for him now. 

As I held my phone steady it hit me that he is really a stain "mixologist". A stain "bartender". He had those confident movements all the way down to the "shake". Pretty impressive. And as you will see he didn't waste a single bit of stain. Head to Facebook to see the January 18, 2017 video!

So here's to our resident "stain master", "mixologist" and "bartender".

He'd be happy to mix up just the right color for you!