First Year: Reflections

The last day of 2013 seems like a perfect time to reflect on the first year with our place in Afton (which we lovingly call Ridgeside). We purchased the house and land in mid-December of 2012 and have enjoyed it so much. We’re continuously inspired by it, and there are many things that we’ve learned. During this first year, we’ve also accomplished a lot of projects on the house as we work to convert it into a bed and breakfast.

Just for a fun wrap-up of our first year, here’s a list of what’s inspired us, some of the things we’ve learned, and a recap of our home improvement projects.

And to confess, I’ve taken about 2,000 photos this year, and it took me way too long to look through them and pick which ones to put in this post!


  • Trains go through Afton Mountain several times a day, and every time I hear one, I smile (and sometimes jump up and down). I love to hear the roaring over the tracks and the whistles. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but that’s one of my favorite awe-inspiring things.


  • Just being outside on a chilly day inspired us to build a fire pit. We had some friends to visit on a weekend in January, and everyone wanted to spend more time outdoors, enjoying the crisp air. We definitely needed a fire pit, so Josh dug a hole near the creek, lined it with rocks, and circled it with large logs to sit on. Perfect!
  • One of our first “projects” was building bluebird houses. We noticed many bluebirds around the property and thought it’d be great to support them. They’re so beautiful and have happy calls. With Josh’s help, I built four houses, and all of them were used! Some of them had two broods.


  • An important part of the land at Ridgeside is the mini ridge. It keeps the property secluded and cozy, and it hosts such a great amount of wildlife. To best enjoy the ridge, Josh built a hiking trail through it last winter. I love to see how things change from each time we walk it – sometimes we see deer prints, different types of mushrooms and wildflowers, birds, and once we saw a pair of fox. Earlier this winter, yellow witch hazel flowers were in bloom.



We’ve learned a lot from both the house and the surrounding property. Some of the things that amaze and inspire us, are also the things that have taught us:


  • I can identify a lot more birds and their songs including bluebirds, eastern phoebe (we had a very enthusiastic one that sang all day long in the spring and summer, and my brother identified it’s call for me), tufted titmouse, screech and great horned owl, pileated woodpecker, carolina wren, and others. These are pretty basic birds but before this year, I was only sure about really common ones like cardinals, robins, and chickadees.
  • Josh learned how to solder copper pipes and made a beautiful shower curtain rod.


  • Spiny orb-weavers are crazy spiders that look like they’re carrying shells on their backs – they really liked building their webs over our hiking trail in the summer.


  • Josh tought me that sycamore “bombs” are really fun to throw. But chestnuts, on the other hand, are not fun to step on.


  • Jewel weed is not only a natural remedy for poison ivy, but it is also exciting and scary to touch them, causing them to spring open and launch their seeds. You can see them in action here.


A few of the larger home improvement projects we completed this year:

  • Removed wallpaper from the bedrooms, the kitchen, the great room, the hallway, and the bathrooms.


  • Painted the kitchen cabinets and the kitchen and great room walls blue (and removed the kitchen drawer liners).

liner free drawers!

  • Renovated one of the bathrooms (including plumbing, electrical, lots of tiling, etc.)


Next Year

For 2014, we have some projects lined up such as building a bat house, cleaning up the barn (with a surprise twist – we’ll reveal details later), and there will be more blue (stay tuned to find out what we’re painting). Plus there will be other exciting planned and unplanned projects and inspirations.

We’re so grateful for everyone’s support – thanks and happy New Year, everyone!




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