Renovations of the Past and Renovations To Come -  Part V – The Dance Hall Is Introduced

     2014 begins year four for The Barn at High Point Farm – The Wedding Venue.  It has been an exciting, often surprising, and evolving three years. As we have moved forward, we see improvements that we would like to add and  reinvest in our property with a change. 

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     One of our first major changes was converting a couple of our stalls into the Buffet Room.  It was a sensible idea to transform unused space into a food room but it did present some challenges. But – hanging a wall of miscellaneous windows on either end of the Buffet Room helped to jump-start the look.  Talking my husband into drilling holes into some antique store olive buckets to create some funky pendent lights was an interesting plea but he obliged like he does with so many of our odd requests.  The rest came together and we look back now and wonder how we hosted wedding without our Buffet Room.  

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     Year two had us add the Foyer to the front of the barn.  This was a huge decision and expense but it was vital that I find a way to protect the inside of the barn from inclement weather.  I, of course, don’t have the ability to control the weather for my brides but I wanted to make sure that they could still carry on no matter what the weather was.  The foyer not only provided doors to close in order to protect the barn but it added character inside and out.

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     Adding our red trolly doors on the east side of the barn and creating a gravel loop was also a key addition.  This made for better access for vendors and guests as well as produced better flow and access into the barn..  Again – the doors added more than functionality but much character.  I do love my doors.

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     Re-doing the lounge by adding a Family Restroom with a changing station and an extra toilet (handicapped accessible to boot) plus adding hot water to our farm sink made for some very appreciated improvements. 
     Adding a Caterer’s Room in a stall also helped with the general logistics of the food presentation.  Caterers seem quite tickled to have tables and electricity.  Families are grateful that there are a couple of refrigerators plus the ability to tuck all of the mess of the food prep out of sight a bit.
     Adding an extension onto the barn towards the grove was also more of a logistic improvement making it easier for haybales to be stored close to the grove, making it easier for the music providers to have covered access to both the grove and the lawn, and even giving more space and “back door” options for our caterers.

     There were other changes over these years….to the farm and to the broader wedding venue;  Improving the grove so it could be a viable option for ceremonies, adding pathways and rock patios, improving the Groom’s Room, and adding a restroom to the Bridal Preparation area.  As our previous blog has told, we added the Bluebird Cottage to help provide a solution to some of the requests that we have had.  To have an option for guest lodging, to have a nearby option for the bride/groom so they do not have to travel far after their wedding festivities, and to be an option for a large bridal party to have a more spacious place to prepare – all of these now have another option. As we improve – we are able to see the fruits of our labor and how they are being utilized and even appreciated.  We do aim to please.

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     Now for this winter 2013/2014.  Winter is the only time we really have to do our projects but winter is also a very challenging time to get anything accomplished outside.  This year especially since the temps have regularly been frigid.  But….drum roll….we introduce our new addition – The Dance Hall.  It is only in stage one of completion but is beginning to take shape so I wanted to share the news with you.

     The Dance Hall is a 30 ft. x 36 ft. wing that is joined to the barn but will be closed in to be a heated/air-conditioned room to fit the needs of several purposes.  First – a great room for dancing.  On the wall that connects the original barn to the Dance Hall is a wall of windows so that those who remain in the main section of the barn can easily watch the festivities going on inside the dance hall.  One of our signature philosophies is the  open feel and the many doors of our barn so that the lines blur between in and out; that people don’t feel like they are stuck in a closed barn but that the many doors (and windows now) help you see out to various areas – whether to the Pear Tree Patio or to the garden or to the pasture and now….to the Dance Hall.  It means that while you are dancing the night away – that you can do so now in comfort.  This also means that during the day – if Granny comes early – that there is a room that she (and others) could go into to keep comfortable. It is another indoor option for a rain scenario ceremony for those smaller weddings.  This also means that the Foyer now becomes the Stage.  The head table or the photo or cake tables can be on display better and prettier.  This also just gives more room for tables and chairs for those larger weddings.  There are just many pluses to new addition!  Can you begin to imagine the possibilities?
     The picture above shows Jill’s oldest son, Tucker.  He helped me sweep and clean up the Dance Hall before our weekend tours.  The construction mess is continual but it felt good to sweep the floor.  He was a wonderful helper that day. I told him one day he will find it difficult to remember a day when we didn’t have the Dance Hall.
     We have been collecting barn wood for quite sometime now so that the outside will be wearing old aged barn wood so that it blends with the rest of the barn – so it will look as though it has always been here.  There is still much to do.  Adding the barn wood siding on all sides, electrical, insulating, painting windows, adding the interior, creating a funky chandelier to hang, furnishing it with some seating, landscaping, lighting,  and such….so I will likely add some more photos later. We will have it completed prior to the beginning of our wedding season – so no fretting now!   But..if you are a 2014 bride….make plans to utilize this area and then it also gives you more options for the Foyer area.
     There is one more winter project that is up our proverbial sleeve.  It does not get the priority that this project does so until we launch it – I will hold off giving you any clues.  You will just have to put up with this teaser and wonder – imagine – what in the world are these girls up to?
     Till later – Margie

Renovations of the Past and Renovations to Come – Part IV, The Bluebird Cottage

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     As we journey down this path of being a family farm venue, we are always attentive to new thoughts – new ideas – solutions – options.  We ponder them and Jill and I always discuss them and must agree.  It is one of our cornerstone philosophies.  Two minds in agreement before we proceed.      We have considered the idea of Guest Lodging for a year or so and imagined how it might work and how we could achieve this.  Building a cabin on the edge of our property?….Maybe, but this might cross the line for us as we struggle to maintain our property as our home – as much as we can while we juggle the needs of our business.  Buying some adjoining property and building a guest house?  This alone is a daunting possibility burdened by much time and investment – but we have mulled this as a serious contender.
     So – when in late fall, one of our neighbors houses came up for sale as a foreclosure – we jumped at the chance to move forward with this new venture.  I say jumped and that was pretty much the proper verb for this. It came up quickly and we made an offer and it was ours. With all of its issues and challenges, it was ours to transform – and of course, that means a transformation on a strict budget and with as much creativity as we could muster.
     I admit, part of me hates to show the “before” pictures because they look awfully distressed. One can’t help but think somebody out there is saying, “my goodness, what were you girls thinking?” but we both saw the possibilities, saw the strengths beneath the rubble, saw the challenges – yes, but envisioned some great ideas.  For those of you who have been keeping up with my blogs – this all feels somewhat reminiscent of our visions of the farmhouse….a diamond in the rough.


     A “diamond in the rough” did I say?  This is the description that was on the realtor ad for this foreclosure:  “A Little Diamond In The Rough. This Quaint Cottage Is Just Waiting On A New Owner To Come And Restore It To The Charmer That It Is Destined To Be. ”  This home indeed was a cottage – cute design if you look at it.  Pretty detailing on the porch portico – lots of windows – shutters – a fireplace – and really a great lot of over an acre.  Built in 1937, it was certainly in need of updating and with it being a foreclosure – it was definitely in need of restoration and frankly – some rescuing. 
     The challenges:  1. Needs a new roof, 2. Mud Room is almost caving in, 3. Parking in the back which is a fair walk to the front, 4. Needs outdoor painting and curb appeal, 5. only wall heaters and a hole in the wall for an a/c unit,  6. Plaster wall cracks everywhere, 7. dark dated paneling all over the place, 8. Tiny and isolated kitchen, 9. Outdated and small bathroom, 10. Floors all need repaired or replacing, 11. Bedrooms need updating, 12. Door hardware had been stolen, 13.recent handicapped alterations were handicapping the house’s appearance and traffic flow, and 14. surely there were needs of electrical and plumbing upgrades.  There is my dirty laundry list for this house.  Of course this also meant coming up with a plan “on a tight budget” and trying to think outside the box as much as possible to produce a “pinterest-inspried get-away” suitable for almost anyone. Was this going to be possible?
     The bathroom – oh, that was the worst part.  I swear, I think I could “almost” sit on the toilet and wash my hands at the same time – had I tried!  The flimsy sliding glass doors and crumbling tile were admittedly a stumbling block to my imagination at first.  Yet – we were determined to make it work.  So – we set forth with a slew of ideas and  possibilities – deconstruction and construction – wings and additions – porches and extensions – walls moved, kitchens expanded, and….and….and more.
     Once we began getting project price bids on our ideas – things came to a quick halt.  Yikes!  Let’s go back to the drawing board, pick our fights; i.e. figure out what projects were most important and which ones had to be professionally handled.  Once we had that short list – the rest would just have to come from our own resourcefulness and imagination – somehow!

   First – stop the bleeding.  The Mud Room off to the side either had to be rescued or demolished. Our contractor, Woodward Enterprises (Steve Woodward) said the space was too valuable to get rid of – so a new roof and some structural “shoring-up” rescued the wing for future possibilities.  Our plans for this was to convert this room from a Mud Room to a Kitchen Pantry.  This suited the space much better and the odd exit to nowhere was virtually eliminated.  The door still in tack allows for an exodus of the garbage but the new purpose was a splendid idea.  I found a cute Victorian style old screen door – cut it to size – gave it a paint-do and now….it has presence!
     Before above and After Below

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   The kitchen also presented some interesting challenges.  It was indeed a tiny space.  The various cabinetry was an array of mis-matched sizes and shapes of cabinets.  Mis-match can be a good thing but not in this case. Some cabinets went to the ceiling and some not. The counters were not the same height anywhere.   The ceiling tiles were broken and irreplaceable.  The floor (several various layers of vinyls) were surely secured in some sort of industrial quality glue yet somehow chipped and yellowing.  The plaster walls were cracked. The plumbing was likely original.  This would require a full gutting of the room.  Away with most of the plaster, old plumbing, old electrical, and flooring.

     One of my most exciting “ah-ha moments” on this project came with the kitchen.  With new sheetrock on the walls – things quickly went from drab to clean and fresh quickly.  My contractor, Steve, asked what to do about the ceiling tiles.  A few of my million trips to Lowes confirmed that there were no ceiling tiles similar to the one’s that were currently on there.  With the cabinetry removed – it left huge gaps needing to be filled.  What to do – what to do?  As I surveyed my storage room of rescued boards, baseboards and trim pieces, and such – I looked at this huge stash of plaster wall furring strips that had come out of the walls and scraped clean of the plaster.  These furring strips are cheap rough-cut pieces of thin wood used to help support the plaster on the walls.  I began to imagine how I could possibly use this bounty of resources that I had for the ceiling wall need that confronted me.  The idea came to me and I began to paint.  Everybody thought I was crazy and far-fetched ideas don’t always pan out as wonderfully in real life as they are imagined in your mind….but this began to take shape and it truly was one of my most proud achievements with the house makeover project.
     I used a short list of various colors from my pallet of shades that we planned to use in the house. The Bluebird Cottage obviously means we are using some blues but one of our colors is that turquoise type blue that looks sometimes green and sometimes blue.  I more or less dry painted a ton of these furring strips in these various shades.  Let me also say that I spent oodles of hours removing all of the many mini-nails from each furring strip before I set off to my painting tasks but the hard work paid off.  I can still see the look on Steve’s face when I explained to him what I wanted him to do with these strips.  “Use your nail gun and in random orders – just begin nailing up the strips so that the colors are fully mixed.”  As crazy as they all thought I was, it was in a matter of minutes before I had a room full of true believers.  It is indeed funky but I love it.
     Next we found an old timey farmhouse cast iron sink, hand crafted a stand for it from a couple of old Victorian style porch posts, painted the room a bright fresh color, made some simple cabinets, new counter top, and new appliances.
     This room was fun to decorate.  A couple of old sconces from Ebay added the vintage touch to the lighting.  Jill sewed our curtains made from our stash of vintage handkerchiefs and kitchen towels which adds again to our old vintage/retro feel. We made a rag curtain for our farmhouse sink.  One of my best “finds” were these huge red signage letters (found at Joy’s United Gift Shop in Ringgold) that spell out “EAT” that we placed on the wall.  We added a plate rack and some of my old cute vintage dishes and the room just came together beautifully.  We also cut a hole in the wall above the stove to open up the area and visibility to the “Great Room” so it would feel more open and inclusive….I love the way it turned out.
    Next “must have” room make-overs was the bathroom.  I can deal with one bathroom but it has to be updated, cuter, and a bit larger.  So – we robbed a bit of space from an adjoining closet and gave it the bathroom space.  This made all the difference in the world.  Again….almost a full gutting of the room initially but in the end – many repurposing uses for much of what we tore out.
     The varnished wood pieces from the old bathroom wall were salvaged and placed on the ceiling in tongue-and-groove fashion. Then primed and funky-painted and distressed a bit and created a flurry of vintage color above.  The old cast iron tub was salvaged, cleaned, and re-used.  The old distressed window was revived and even allowed to keep some of its distressing to go along with the new tiles that we put on the floor and tub areas.  An antiqiue-store find of this old dresser was painted turquoise and converted into the bathroom vanity.  A vessel sink was added to dress it up.  A chandelier was placed above the sink – and old mirror on the wall.  We kept the old doors and made due with their issues. We added a chalkboard sign area on this bathroom door to welcome our guests with a friendly sign. Added an adorable shower curtain from Anthropologie to match our color scheme…an antique medicine cabinet was added to the wall for decor…and again…..the room transformed before our very eyes. 
     While much of the inside was being destructed then constructed – the outside was getting a new roof, a new front door, a new heating and air system, new porch railings, and a new color on the house and front doors.  How about a deep rich gray with nice white clean trim and a turquoise front door for a noticeable curb appeal?
     The hall seemed like such an insignificant space but the paneling just made the area look dark. The plaster ceiling was all cracked overhead but my budget was bleeding from the gut at this point so tearing out the walls and ceiling were not an option.  Repurposing to the rescue!  We painted the paneling walls and we used some old roof tins from one of our barn projects – cut them into small strips – and nailed them up to cover up the plaster ceiling.  I love the look…..I wish I had enough of that old ripply tin to have done a huge room.
     Bedrooms were going to be transformed so to create a certain mood.  The first bedroom was more or less just a work in progress.  I was determined to paint the paneling but didn’t want just a regular paint job….so begin an evolution from traditional paneling to a gray weather barnwood effect.  Primer and some paint and faux glaze and some fun mixed together slowly changed the room.  Using one of the kitchen cabinet bases – painting it a funky but distressed turquoise – ripping off the vinyl countertop and painting it – add a thrift store mirror find…well – that produced a dresser area for any guest to prep by.
We have some interesting ideas how to create a “faux headboard” pinterest style…so there are bits of extras to be done here and there.
     Second bedroom again needed a good paint job and some decorating vision.  We went with a brown “nest” color – Jill again created some beautiful country cottage curtains – we found a great quilt like duvet on ebay – added some country decor with old rewired lamp stand, an old vintage seat tapestry for the wall, some cute pillows and such….and it looks totally new. (Items from Joy’s United Gift Shop, The Green Door Trading Company, and Sugar Plum Antiques).  The house had some original oak wood flooring – yes they had been abused – but a good sanding and refinishing – they are like new….for both bedrooms, hall, and great room.
     The last of the room transformation was a pivotal change. This was the Great Room. What once had a handicapped side entry door aside the fireplace wall….and on the other side – a hole in the wall for an a/c unit – virtually gutting this one end and closing it up changed the look and flow of the room.
     Paint the walls a colonial blue.  It was amazing how the drab dark paneled walls came alive with a few coats of paint.  The large room has two double sets of windows giving it plenty of light. The white trim adds a crispness to the color hue.  We salvaged a very old wooden log from a Blacksmith Shop on Garrett’s Chapel Road in Chickamauga – and made a fireplace mantel out of it.  We rid ourselves of the outdated ceiling fans and added a vintage ceiling light in the living room (ebay) and did a make-over on one of our lamps for the dining area (striped it up a bit to pull in the same theme as the kitchen ceiling boards).  I also added the same effect on some wooden chairs for the dining area.  I refurnished an old pale farmhouse table that we found at a local estate sale.  It turned out stunning – what some staining effect, polyurethane, and some dark wax can do to a table!
    Find some Craig’s List outdated lamps pretty cheap – give those a makeover with white paint and some dark wax – producing a two tone vintage lamp that has a doily effect.  Found 3 tables for $89 and re-painting them with my distressed white effect.  Added the retro couch/chair with our “Jetson” chairs (looks like they came straight out of the cartoon – but man, are they comfortable!)….and this room begins to come together as well. The TV on the mantel fits nicely is easily seen by a room full of guests.  I found a great cupboard and painted it just the right color….added some decor and vintage kitchen pieces to pull this retro/vintage look together…and well…..it is almost completely done. 
     We did put in an extended driveway “loop” around the Magnolia tree so that it  drops the guests off at the rock sidewalk that we have added.  We are still working on the landscaping outside.  With the winter months here – this part will slowly improve as we wait for pretty days here and there to make changes.
   So – some quick side by  side comparisons…..if nothing else is said – good or bad – I can with confidence say that this home has improved with our ownership – that alone is a good thing.
     We still have some finishing touches – some decor to add here and there – some landscaping to complete….a bit of painting on the porch.  But we are ready to have our unofficial Open House and to begin to allow guests to rent  the Bluebird Cottage.
     We have had brides interested in it already so they can rent it when they come into town for their planning session.  We have brides who want to use it for any of their family or guests lodging the night of the wedding.  We even have some who are interested in having it for the bridal party preparation area.  If you have a large group of girls in your wedding party – it gives you much more room and a nice space – with the kitchen and dining areas – to do your preparation.  Many choices for sure.  So if you are interested in booking the Bluebird Cottage – just email us or contact Jill.  If you are interested in popping by for our unofficial Open House – email us for the time.
     As for the next blog – we are actually going to continue this series again one more time (maybe even two).  We have an exciting winter project at the barn that we have begun that we will want to share with you as it starts taking shape.  Do I tempt you with any tidbit of information about the project?   Hmmmmmmmm?  Maybe so.  Our project is being called The Dance Hall.  Stay tuned.

Renovations of the Past and Renovations to Come – Part III

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   There have been many changes to the farm over these many, many years.  The broader history of the farm is that indeed it was a working farm – bought and lost by many farmers over the years.  Cotton, sorghum, corn, Irish potatoes, and cattle were the more common products of the farmers here.  But most were self-sufficient farmers as well which meant that they grew a good size garden, had chickens and turkeys, a milk cow, and pigs (plenty of acorns for those pigs with all of the oak trees that we have). But – the same “high point of Lookout Mountain” that helps our farm avoid some of the rains for our weddings is the same mountain peak that likely kept many of those rain patterns from watering the crops.  I suspect that it made an additional challenge for any farmer to make a living off of the farm.
 

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   This is the oldest picture that I have of the farm. This photo is of the Buckner couple who had the farm in their early years, as shown, and lived their till their death – actually. This photo is taken in front of the farmhouse but you can see that there is a no frill approach to the property but considering that this was not long after the depression – it is quite understandable. 
      We do know that they owned a good size herd of cattle and the barn was adapted to handle them with many wood slats in order for the cattle to stick their heads through so they could be fed in the barn.  The pole barn design was ideal for bringing haywagons full of hay into the barn to stack into the hayloft.  

        The above photo is again, of Mr. Buckner (much older in this photo) which is herd of beef cattle. My dad did own a couple of cows throughout the years but they were a pain in the side to keep contained. The pasture was always greener on the other side according to our cows so my early memories of having cows were always associated with trying to retrieve and coax them back home.
  My parents posed for this “Green Acres” type photo shortly after they purchased the farm.  They spent many long hours on their new dream – the farm.  While they were working on housing  – I was a horse nut through and through and began my search for a horse.

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   My interest was always horses and in my younger years they were filled with my two favorites – Chester Brown and Sam.. This is me in my late teens (with one of my nieces) on Chester Brown – a wild and cantankerous equine but still somehow he was dear to my heart.  As I married – and children came along – we ended up with a slew of horses plus animals of all sorts from cows to pigs to rabbits to sheep to chickens – even a pet emu and of course – goats.

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   That said, it was our love of horses that prompted us to slowly convert the barn more to a horse barn than a cattle barn….and it evolved one stall at a time and spaced out over years. The barn slowly morphed from an open-air pole barn design into a closed horse barn design with two large trolley doors accessing the inside of the barn. The boards were slowly added along the outside of the barn closing it in.


      The Tack Room, a.k.a. The Lounge, actually had a restroom installed soon after my parents purchased the farm. My grandfather installed the restroom so that my parents would have access to a real toilet during their house building process.  The Tack Room was lined with many bridles and several rows of saddles.

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      Beyond the barn changes – the surrounding areas changed too.  We had adjoining corrals, pig lots, round pens for training, gates going towards the creek and  gates towards the pasture, a parking area, vegetable gardens,chicken coop and run,  dog pen with chain link fencing, manure piles, mulch beds, burn areas, and more. .

   Fast forward to nine years ago as we began to transform the barn – short term – to a wedding reception area for Jill’s wedding.  Animals were ousted, stalls mucked, boards power-washed, curtains made and hung, twinkle lights draped, the Tack room restroom renewed, signs made, and the list went on.

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The barn was simply done but had hints of its current version even back then. It was cutting edge back then – not the first by any means but a rarity around here.  It was so “very Jill” and so it seems even more appropriate that she is part of its evolution to share this dream with other girls. 

   Fast forward again as we show a few of our project pictures as we transformed the barn into the venue it is today.
  Which brings us current to where we are today.  It has come together – evolved over time – and hopefully refined and improved along the way.  It is our artist canvas of sorts.   We picture what can be out of what we have and then figure out how to transform it.  Under the improvements is the essence of what was there in the beginning only better.
  This is the essence of the History of our Farm….and its transition from a struggling farm to a family hobby farm to a wedding farm venue.  I hope you were fascinated and maybe even amused at our long and interesting journey.  As we pick up soon with Part IV of Renovations of the Past and Renovations to Come – we will introduce you to the Bluebird Cottage and its transformation from a aged, neglected, abandoned, and out-dated house to a pinterest-inspired cozy cottage soon to be available for Guest Lodging.                    Good Night-Margie

Renovations of the Past and Renovations to Come – Part II

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  Shortly after Jill and John got married, they called me and asked “would it be okay if we lived in the old farmhouse?”  I admit I was surprised because the old house was far from appealing and it was a stretch to consider it “livable.” Yet – their interest in coming to the farm to live was, of course, very appealing to us and so the answer was “of course, you can!”
  The wheels of change moved very slowly at first. Stabilizing the house was priority number one since it need some securing at the foundation – needed a chiropractor (of sorts) to level up some of the sagging joists, and a one-of-many trips to Lowe’s for lumber and hardware.

  My husband, David, has had a lot of experience with building since he helped oversee the building of our own house and the subsequent repairs. Jill’s husband, John, has been around some construction crews and brought energy and exuberance  to the equation.  Jill and I (plus family and friends on way too many occasions) helped with demolition, clean up, running to the store, organizing the mess, running to the dump, segregating the boards for future uses,cleaning and sanding – and more cleaning and sanding.  I swear there was 100 years worth of dust and squirrels nests packed into those walls.  My mother was the cook but considering that during this extended year long episode – Jill, John, and David all maintained jobs so it was a huge help to have my mother cook us supper so we can eat and crash each evening.
  We peeled layers after layers of wallpaper off of the walls and discovered beautiful boards hiding behind it all.  We salvaged any board, trim, or door that was feasibly possible.  But admittedly – what started out as a simple face-lift slowly began to morph into a full blown renovation.  Thankfully, that evolution played out slowly.  I am sure if we knew how complex and extensive the needs of this old house were from the beginning – we wouldn’t have had the inclination to tackle them. But many things in life are that way and fortunately – as we sweated through each complicated task – we saw glimpses of the treasure that this farmhouse could become.

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  Piece by piece, board by board, we took them off, figured out whether we could salvage them somehow. If we could – then they were set aside to be sanded. If not, then we replaced it. But our budget was very tight and so partly out of necessity and partly out of a desire to maintain the old timey feel of the farmhouse, we repurposed and reused as much as possible.  I think I sanded boards non-stop for about 3 months but the beauty of the farmhouse with those board walls has made it worth it. 
  After a couple of dozen drawings had been hashed over, a good floor plan was decided on by opening up a wall and creating a great-room effect. Adding a bathroom off the back kept the floor plan simple and the budget on track. Very little of the work was contracted out and for sure – we can relish the fact that this was a labor of love. All of Jill and John’s sweat equity turned an old eye sore into a home and mine and David’s contributions helped to facilitate a new beginning for the farm with an extended family unit. Jill was pregnant through much of this and the time clock was ticking to get to a “move-in-ready” stage before the arrival of baby number one.

  The house was deemed “livable” (though not finished) just in time for baby number one (Tucker) to arrive. We had promised everyone that we would have an Open House to show off our progress.  So many had helped and watched and encouraged us along our way that to finally be able to show our fruits of labor was a huge milestone.
  The renovations did not stop then. Anybody who has owned an old house can tell you that the projects never end. We like to think that we have made the old farmhouse young again – given her a new life to start a new generation with a new family. We do know that we have left her better than we found her. Let me show you a few side by side photos.
The farmhouse as we found her (in the mid-70’s)  and the farmhouse last month.

 
Believe it or not – the photo on the left is John in the “now” Bridal room. The room had layers of linoleum on the floor and layers of that old-fashioned wallpaper that is more like cardboard glued to the wall and to the ceiling. Behind all of that gunk was original wood floors in fairly good shape and great board walls and ceiling – all just needed a good scrubbing and some layers of paint. (I say the word “just” lightly but in reality – this was weeks worth of effort.)
   The same room is pictured below. This photo was taken a few months ago. Huge change, huh?
  And of course, the saga continues. The farmhouse is a slew of projects inside and out. Jill has perfected repurposing and turned this old decrepid house not only into a home but into an attractive and quaint reflection of the past – bringing out the best of her features for many to love and admire.
  When part III begins, I will take a glance back at the farm and how it too has evolved over these many years.  Till next time – Margie

Renovations of the Past and Renovations To Come – Part I

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  We have recently made an announcement that High Point Farms has purchased one of our neighbor’s houses and we are in the midst of converting it into future “guest lodging”; i.e The Bluebird Cottage.  We went from purchase, to planning its renovations, to some light demolition, to some reconstruction, and beginning to complete our phase one.  As I wait just a bit for our “reveal” photos, I thought it tmight be interesting to take a small journey back in time a bit – to show you where the farm has come from – prior to its makeover as well as the old farmhouse.  Now that we have 3 years under our belt, I feel like I can show the before and after pictures and tell a bit of the story.
   Let me start with the farmhouse.  The above picture is what the farmhouse looked like in the mid-70’s when my parents first purchased the farm.  Their initial plan was to renovate and expand the farmhouse but after pulling off the back lean-to part of the rear of the house, they discovered some structural damages that were going to cause too much of a challenge – so they opted to build a new house instead.   Here are a few of those early farmhouse pictures – the one on the left shows the back of the farmhouse as it looked at the time of purchase. The photo on the right shows where the lean-to porch and bathroom coming off of the rear of the house had been removed revealing many of its structural issues.

  After my parents went to their Plan B, the farmhouse just “sat” for years.The back torn off area had been boarded up to “stop the bleeding.”  It became more or less a storage building for old furniture and such. Even when I got married – we opted to build our own farmhouse on a far corner of the farm property. Again – years passed and the farmhouse continued to sit.  We would patch the farmhouse  roof, replace some doors, do what we could to keep the farmhouse standing – hoping that somehow, someday, we would have the resources to tackle something more significant.. 
  The farmhouse became a backdrop of the past. Some people would tell us ” you need to just bulldoze down that old house!” while some would lament “you should restore that old house – it has history with so many various families from the valley.” We always had hope that someday – we would be able to restore it….in the meantime, I was busy raising my kids and had plenty on my plate besides a major makeover of the farmhouse.
  Nine years ago, a twist of fate happened.  Jill (my daughter and partner in thiswedding venue) decided to get married here at the farm. She wanted to get married out in the hayfield under the shadow of Lookout Mountain – and she said we would have the reception in the barn. Back then – barn weddings were barely heard of. We were not the first but it was very uncommon and none near here that I am aware of.  With the wedding being held in the front field – we decided a little sprucing up of the farmhouse would be in order…and little did we know then that this would be the beginning of more than their marriage but the beginning of a huge change for our families and of the farm.
  More to come as the story continues with the transition of the barn – watch for Renovations of the Past and Renovations To Come –  Part II.

A Tribute To My Mom

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  The matron of the farm is my mother – kindly referred to as Mimi – by her grandchildren and now almost everybody.  It was my mother (and father) who purchased the farm many years ago. Her love of the farm is renowned by any of those who know her. Her bedroom faces High Point on the mountain and she draws such peace and comfort from this view.  She has the beauty of the clouds rolling in from the southwest and the awesome foliage of the ridges to the east. She is the mother hen who watches over the comings and goings of the barn activities. She has also lead by her example with opening up the farm over her many years to friends and family and to her church. She is quick to share a meal at her table with others or to share a pack of seeds from her flower garden to any new acquaintance. 
  My mother has been very supportive of our wedding business. We feel as though it has in some ways been an extension of the pattern set before us all these years as we have opened up our homes and the farm to many different groups over the years. We have had family reunions, class reunions, Easter Sun Rise Services, Annual Prairie Day outings for the whole fourth grade class, local widows come to harvest turnip greens, Annual Down on the Farm for a local church, Fall  Hoe-Down, Homecoming Week Preparations, Annual Rowing Club End of the Season Barn parties, Halloween Parties, Movie Night in the Barn, 4-H Horse Club Meetings, and the list goes on. My mother rarely meets a stranger and if she does – she doesn’t allow them to be a stranger for long. Her hospitality is legendary and I aim to continue her legacy.
  My mother has always had a green thumb – she came by it naturally as her mother was a gardener 24-7. It is a passion that has been passed down both to me and to Jill as well but my mother, still today, works her garden daily.  I joke to others that my mother will be on her death-bed asking somebody to weed her flower bed until she returns. It is her joy and her creative passion that takes her back to her flower garden every day. There are stories to be told of half of the flowers and bushes growing around her yard.  Most of the flowers at the venue and at Jill’s farmhouse came from seeds, cuttings, or transplants from “Mimi’s” yard. She has helped to beautify the farm with year-around color from her Beauty-Berry bush, her rare spring Poppy flowers, an array of dazzling lilies,  a row of knock-Out roses, and a list that would be a hundred long if I could remember them all.

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  Even now – I find it amazing how well she handles the realities of our farm weddings.  The flood of people that come each weekend, the late night beat of Gangnam Style echoing through the farm, brides posing for the camera in her front yard, touring brides coming by at inconvenient times, driveways being clogged with vehicles, and weekends that run  till midnight. Yet, she takes it all in strides and enjoys watching from her window.  She asks about each wedding and each bride. She watches the cars pull in. She waits for the bride to head towards the barn to get a glimpse of her in her wedding dress.  Even when I make a mad dash to her house in search of some odd necessity that is needed at the barn; a coffee filter, a punch bowl, some plastic forks, a cutting knife, etc…she graciously  rummages through her cabinets to help find it so I can dash out to the barn to rescue the day.  I have so often pilfered her china plates, her vintage napkins stash, and her bread baskets to fulfill my decorating duties…and she does so with pride knowing that she has contributing someway – somehow to the cause. She follows my blog, shares any new wedding FB photos with her friends, and looks forward to the next wedding.  I am blessed and fortunate to have her here on the farm and for her to be a part of this wild and crazy journey of the Barn at High Point Farms.  I offer this blog as a tribute to her – my mom.

A New Trend

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  We have many of our brides who are opting to add our Vintage China Collection Package to their special day. You can see by the photo how elegant the presentation is – the whole marrying of the rustic barn and  (as shown here) the barn wood tables with the beauty of the old vintage china.  It becomes part of the overall presentation as well as raises the level of your event by letting your guest eat off of real plates – plus the charm of these old vintage patterns are just stunning.
  But – we have seen a new trend which I am enamored by – it is to serve your food “family dining style” instead of  style.  What this entails is setting out your china on the tables and then having your food put into vintage bowls and platters placed at each table. Your guests pass around the food thus the term “family dining style”.
  This eliminates all of the back and forth from the tables to the buffet room.  It also encourages more conversation at the tables.  It becomes a complete package.  We have seen this done several times now and we are now getting more requests for the extended package – which includes my vintage platters of all sizes, vintage bowls, and even having tea cups available for those who wish to have coffee with their desserts. 
   When it comes to desserts – we still see the dessert smorgasbord being a very popular crowd pleaser…in the same way that our brides like choices – so do your guests.  Some of the weddings have the guests find their way to the dessert table that often has not only a variety of cakes and cupcakes – but pies and cake balls, cookies and fudge – even a candy bar. Some of the weddings have the desserts already placed on the vintage dessert plates – and then have servers walk around offering a variety of choices – while their guests are still at their tables.  It is like fine dining at a high end restaurant.
  It is just fun to see the variety of approaches but I will say that I do like this one (family style dining).  It makes it an intimate affair to be seated at the table passing around food – it makes it feel like you are seated with family.  I love to see the ladies admiring my old plates and such….I have quite a fetish with these plates. They have been acquired from a variety of trips from estate sales, to thrift stores, to antique shops, and ebay.  I have many people tell me when they sell me a few pieces that “my mother would be so tickled to know that these plates will be enjoyed by so many at a wedding!”….These patterns are so beautiful that it makes it difficult to pick my favorites. It is a labor intensive Add On but it pleases me to make them available to you and to see the reaction of your guests as they feel like they have been treated to a very special occasion – as they should feel!
  Here is a gallery of my favorites from the platter and bowl collection.

Forgive Me, Father, It Has Been 3 Mos. Since My Last Confession

   This is my first reaction as I sit down to write a new blog entry.  It has been such a long time since the last entry that I feel as though I have dropped the ball a bit.  I have people all the time telling me that they follow my blog – and I am awed and quite grateful.  At some level, the blog is a bit of a confession – maybe a tad of therapy too.  I do hope that you find it informative and yes, just a bit enjoyable too.
   May 6, 2013 was the last blog entry.  May and June were both packed fulled of weddings and ultimately my responsibility lies in doing all we can do to prepare for each wedding that is coming next….so Facebook entries and Blog entries fall lower on my to-do list.  As July rolled around – we take off the month for summer projects and for our vacation.  It was a nice reprieve and food for the soul to be in the North Carolina mountains with all of my family. If I was slow to return phone calls or emails – please forgive…..we actually had no cell or internet service during that week.  They say that it is good for you to set your cell phone aside for a vacation – it is not recommended when you have a aged mother back home, a slew of critters to oversee, and a crew of construction workers finishing up a project….but we survived.

   Speaking of “projects”…..we have completed our summer project: a restroom exclusively for the bridal room.  Up till now – Jill (and family) graciously shared their bathroom with brides for their needs.  One can only imagine how challenging this was to do with having three young children.  So, we have not only added a restroom exclusively to be used by our brides – but we have revamped our Bridal Preparation Room a bit …taking out the Jenny Lind bed, adding some additional seating, and…..I found an awesome Victorian love seat that  is “right at home” beside the cow (look at the pictures before you jump to any conclusions).
   Mirrors, mirrors, and more mirrors – enough for everybody, I think.  The new Powder Room is a beautiful turquoise hue aged to perfection (hopefully).  I found this awesome antique dresser at Sugar Plum Antiques and persuaded my favorite Handy Man (Steve Woodward at Woodward Enterprises) to add the enamelware dishpan as a sink.  He doesn’t even give me the crazy look anymore when I suggest a new project.  I added some color and just the right knobs – and it seems to fit the room just wonderfully.
   I can just imagine what awesome photos some of our expert photographers can do with the bride – and her dress – in this room.  We have accented it with a dash of red to add a bit more pizazz!   Did I need more pizazz?…oh yes….let’s add just a bit!
   I love shopping with my daughter (and partner) Jill.  We are different in some ways – sure – but give us an antique shop or yard sale and we gravitate to the same items almost instantly.  We found this old farmhouse screen door and just knew it would be a good fit for this room.   Make a little privacy curtain out of one of those old vintage tablecloths – well…perfect!
   Finally – a funky shabby chic rag curtain mixing in the turquoise, the red, a bit of vintage patterns, some burlap and lace.  We hope that you love it like we do.  Either way – the toilet is new and works!……so I think you will be quite happy!….and Jill’s kids can pee in their own toilet when they need to – life is good!

   Now that the confession is off of my chest……I can be pondering my next blog.

   Have a blessed day!                        Margie

We Allow Your Creativity to Shine

   One of our hallmark features is that we allow our brides to come here and “make this wedding her own.”  This is incorporated in many different ways, but we feel that though we have set the stage – decorated the barn and the areas around the farm with natural eye candy plus bits of rustic and vintage decor – that we then allow the bride to come in and let her own creativity shine.
   We have many options as far as how the ceremony can be set up and even where.  Choices, choices but we see brides gravitate almost instantly to one place.  Some brides just love the feel of the intimacy of the grove. Some like the grand exit from the barn towards the lawn while some love the mountain backdrop of the open hayfield. But within the choices, we still allow the brides to think outside the box in ways to make this wedding reflect her and her style and her vision for her special day.
   Whether it is renting our pergola and dressing it up with flowers or material or grapevine wreathes, etc. or bringing your own – with some reasonable restrictions – we allow these ceremony additions.
   Sometimes the additions are more subtle like hanging things from the trees. (Please no nailing to our trees or to our barn.)
    As we tout – we have created the stage so that you don’t have to start from a bare-bones barn to transform…..we have the backdrop complete, but you can set the theme and make your table decor and such whatever you want.  It is amazing how just the infusion of certain colors or decorating styles (rustic, vintage, shabby chic, etc.) can change the mood from one wedding to the other.
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Whether a Country/Western Theme

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Shabby Chic

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Vintage theme…..

   Even in and around the barn, there are some allowances (and some rules) for hanging decor from the walls and infusing more of your theme  inside the barn.
   Of course, another biggie is that we allow you to use your own  vendors.  Yes – we have a suggestion page with a list of vendors who have come here – proven themselves as professionals – AND received positive feedback from their brides….BUT…..we allow you to use the vendors that you want……..no demand to use us (we don’t cater) for your everything. This means you can go fancy upscale or BBQ or Jambalaya or a taco bar or bring in specialty vendors like the Good Dog cart vendor or Nana’s Frozen Custard or Blackbird Baking Co. etc.  You pick your own photographer – have a photo booth – hire a decorator or hire us. You can have your church family bring food. You can bring a DJ or let your friend bring his sound system and guitar.  We try as often as possible to say yes to these choices.
  When I think I have seen it all – a bride comes along and surprises me with unique decor or props or themes.  It is really awesome, from our perspective even, that our farm venue – as unique and specific genre as it is – still is able to be transformed into a place that looks different from each wedding to the next.  The little things seem to make a difference and I think that is great.   It seems to please our brides. Let me show off a few of some unique flairs.
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Ashley has always had a “thing” about unicorns and our boy Jack accommodated the costume.

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Kaylin also wanted a door entry but these doors were “manned” by men and opened as she approached the wedding aisle.

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A family member hand-made this cross for the Hannah/Matt wedding this year. It made an awesome presence.

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Brian was a fireman – obviously.

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Katie had a vision – coming through the doors “towards” the ceremony…it did make for a grand entrance though was quite a challenge to arrange.

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Josh wore his respectable suit for the wedding ceremony but quickly changed into his comfy overalls for the reception.

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Alyson and Micah’s wedding was held at another location and the bridal party arrived in style in the Chattanooga Double Decker bus.

   The point is – this is YOUR SPECIAL DAY.  It is great that there are pictures and pinterest to stimulate your ideas and to help you visualize what you like….and there is no harm in copying some of these very creative and neat ideas – from table decor to bouquet ideas, etc. The key is that it is your choosing – your likes – your look – so these each wedding here can reflect our brides – YOU!  And – we love seeing it and being a witness to such an event.

sincerely – Margie

Information For Your Caterer

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   One of our hallmark features here at the farm is choices – whether that is the location of your ceremony or the layout of your reception or what you wear or from which door you come out of or what photographer you use or whether you want additional services or not or what caterer you use.  These various decisions not only helps you stay within your budget but it allows these weddings to reflect you and your look – your theme – your vision of this special day. 
   We do have a great Vendor Suggestion page link where we provide you with great vendors of various kind who have been here – proven themselves as worthy professionals to be included on our list PLUS they have received positive feedback from our brides.  This Vendor Suggestion page is a great first start to your hunt especially when selecting a caterer.  By choosing one of the vendors on our list – lets you know that they not only are qualified but that they understand the challenges of catering an event at an unusual venue like we have.  Outdoor weddings are becoming very commonplace but it does present special challenges.  We want you to be able to choose your caterer but it is very important that you inform them of our location – remember – you have toured our facilities but they have not.
   When we get a call from a new vendor and they ask “what kind of kitchen do you have?” we know right off that the bride has not communicated well with them.  Our venue surely presents challenges to them but we have seen many vendors successfully caterer here – from high end full course catering to simple basic barbecue meals.  It can be done but it is to be determined by the caterer whether they themselves are equipped “and willing” to meet those challenges.  That is where good communication with them is important.
   One more tidbit of information for you to ponder.  Consider the time of year when choosing what your menu is and even what kind of cake (or cake icing) or desserts you pick.  If you are a summer bride – choose items that can travel well, be kept cool easier, and don’t present an extra problem for your caterer.  Picking a butter cream icing for a cake that may sit out for a few hours before consumption just doesn’t make sense.  Your caterer should be a professional and a seasoned veteran and such affairs and his advice should be listened to.  Let him know that this is basically an outdoor venue of sorts and have a conversation about good and better choices.  Embrace the farm and its benefits by wisely choosing your attire – your menu – the time of day your ceremony begins – what you drink – and when you cut the cake.  I did say ‘cut the cake’ as a choice too.  If your cake is delivered at 3-4 p.m. for a 6-7 p.m. wedding – and you don’t “cut the cake” until 8:30 – then you may have a problem with the quality of the cake icing if you wait that long.  These are just considerations that you need to weigh when making your plans.
 


Let me review a few of the topics that would be important for you to convey to your caterer – if  they have not already been to our location.
1.  We are an authentic barn which means we are not air-conditioned nor heated.
2.  We have limited extra electricity so this means that any extra appliances (like coffee pots, warming trays, crock pots, etc.) should be VERY limited, used sparingly, and if they have any question about that – to contact us about it.
3.  Bunsen burners are allowed for the caterers even though we have a no-candle policy for the barn. We understand the need for the caterers to keep their food warm  and count of them to be extra careful with any open flame.
4. Currently, we have one refrigerator/freezer that they have access to. We have two large coolers that are often used to store ice in. Most of our brides use our Ice Vendor (also located on the Vendor Suggestion Page) who delivers the ice – unloads it and sets it where ever you need; typically loads some in the cast iron tub for drinks, maybe some in one of the wash tins, some in the large green coolers, and a few in the freezer….again – these are choices that you make – and decide who brings ice/how much/and where to put it.

5. There is a fire extinguisher located in the buffet room.
6. The Buffet Room has one long shelf reaching almost 24 feet long for food set up. If they prefer to serve the plates for the buffet then they need to talk to you about any available extra tables that they can use and then if they need to bring linens for those tables.
7.  We have 6 garbage cans with bags and they are located in the Tack Room or in the Caterer’s Stall. We have extra bags if need be.    Avoid over-packing plastic garbage bags – for your benefit or ours. If I can’t pick them up – then they are too heavy.  HP Farms will automatically dispose up to 6 bags of garbage complimentary with your contract and any extra bags will be charged at $5 per bag and will be deducted from your security deposit.
8. We do expect your caterer to haul off his own grease and food liquids. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should your caterer dump tea, coffee, juices, food liquids, etc. on our floor or grasses. Any violation of this will ultimately be carried by you – the client.  I mention this only because we have seen the carelessness of some vendors who have poured green bean juice or left-over tea on our lawn – the same lawn where the next breed hopes to be vibrant and green for her walk to the ceremony.  Even large quantities of ice piled on our grasses will freeze then kill the grass so we are obviously very protective of our grasses and lawn. 
9. The caterer is responsible for cleaning up any messes that they have created – specifically the buffet room and the caterer’s room.
10. Unloading/loading of supplies – by you, your caterer, or decorator – is available on the driveway loop or the Farmhouse driveway. We actually now have one parking spot behind the farmhouse just for you…point is that the caterer’s vehicle should not be on the loop when guests begin to arrive!   If your caterer can come early enough to unload – then coming to the barn loop would be more convenient for him….but no unloading  is allowed on the loop within one hour of the ceremony time. Any late arrivals should follow the vendor parking sign which sends you behind the farmhouse.

11. NO VEHICLES SHOULD EVER BE ALLOWED ON THE GRASSY AREAS AROUND THE BARN – please!  Once the cars have been unloaded – ask your helpers to then move the cars out of sight so that your venue area stays clear of the clutter of vehicles. By keeping others off the grass, it keeps the lawn nice for all of our brides – your special day and others.
12. We have a sink in the Tack Room for washing your hands but since our water supply comes from a well – we do not allow you to use this water for drinking purposes. Make sure your caterer knows this so they will bring in their own water supply for drinks.  Our limited water and sink area also means that this sink area should not be used by your caterer to wash dishes.
  So happy hunting!  Hopefully this information will be helpful to you.  If you have any questions – feel free to drop us an email or call Jill.

Margie

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