Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Episode 9: Construction Of The Rental House

After we bought the adjoining vineyard property we had to get some heavy equipment to develop a road that would allow us to come in from the main entrance and drive over to the house.  We wanted the entrance to make an impression by being the first thing a visitor sees when arriving at the vineyard.  We achieved this by installing a guardrail that essentially closed off the original entrance to the driveway leading to the house.  Once completed all traffic must go through the main vineyard entrance.

This is the vineyards main entrance.

This is the new access road to the house.

This is how the house looked in November 2010 when we bought it.  Since then a lot of work has taken place to bring the house up its current status. 
House At Time Of Purchase
As you can see there was not much to the house when we bought it.  After adding quite a bit of detailing the house slowly began to acquire a personality.  The concrete wrap-around patio and paths were poured, a stone facade and wood beam and shutters were added to the first floor. A covered entrance was added to the front of the protect our guests from inclement weather.  The landscaping was another major improvement. We installed irrigation, sod, planting areas,  and a fence. The bulldozer dug into the mountain side to enlarge the parking area.  We ran into granite and had to select an overflow parking area. We also brought in 54 tons of gravel to improve the road surface. 

View of House On Approach as it looks today. 
View from the other side of the house

We had a major problem the corner of the back of the house was very close to the river bank.  When it rained, the rainfall would come off the roof and fall down like a sheet of water with such force that it created deep ruts into the soil. Over time the the soil would simply slide down the bank into the river.  We had to stabilize the soil.  First we installed gutters to divert the water.  Then we started to build the retaining wall behind the house to support the riverbank.  

This was a huge endeavor but was very worthwhile as we reclaimed some of the lost land, and as such we were able to mow the lawn all around the house on our riding lawnmower. We were also able to remove the corner beams that helped support the right corner of the house (still seen in the picture above, on right corner.).

French Bistro set on back patio.

Front of house, on 1st floor.
We also covered the cement exterior with stone and wood  on the first floor and added "red" as the punch color for the doors and other accents.
The transformation is nearly completed.  We added a red english bench where the metal settee is in the picture and soon we will have a lovely metal plaque above it announcing "The Lodgings". There are two full apartments downstairs with full-in suite kitchen, 1 bedroom, 1 bath. The back patio overlooks the Raoring River. 
This is the view from the back patio.
  It has taken a lot of time and effort to bring out the beauty of the house. We knew we had a beautiful spot on the river and the house needed to match its splendor.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Episode 8: The Entrance

Tom wanted the vineyard to have a beautiful entrance.  He had seen one in a development in Charlotte he really liked so he decided to build it.  I am more practical, I wanted to prioritize the projects that will bring in revenue.  We talked about it for quite a while and I could tell he really wanted this, and since this vineyard was "his baby" I agreed to go forward with it. Even though it does not always make sense, sometimes you just have to be flexible.  It is Tom's dream and I want to be supportive. I can always prioritize the other revenue producing projects and create balance!

So here are a few pictures showing you the progression of the construction for the front entrance.
I am standing at the future location of the entrance gate (2001)

This is the entrance right after the forest cleaning.

The entrance is nearly done at this point (2011)
This is the entrance as it stands today (May 2013)

Episode 7: The story Of Jonathan Stuart

Jonathan Stuart was a man in his fifties.  He had traveled to NC on a visit and fell in love with the state and this area. I don't remember his reason for coming to Traphill.  During his visit to the area he fell in love with this area and in particular with the riverside property.  I mentioned that he was trying to establish a residence and as he put it: "Find himself a wife".  So, he purchased the land, moved a mobile home on it and resided there ever since.  He was using an online dating service to fulfill his other wish.

At the time we bought our vineyard property, he was already living there.  Every time we came up from Florida to visit, we always made a point to visit him.  He also kept an eye on our land since we did not have a caretaker at the time, and only had a cattle gate to secure our property. We gave him a key and would open the gate when we had deliveries made ahead of our arrival.

I remember one time while we were visiting him he told my husband how lucky he was to have a good wife.  And how much he wanted that for himself.  We knew he had not yet found his soulmate but he kept dating different women.

We told him that once he built his dream home that his prospects would be much better but he never got to realize his dreams.

On December 6, 2010 Tom was on a business trip in NC and decided to look in on our property, we had a residence on top of the hill by that time, so it was easy for him to stay there. During his visit with Jonathan he found that he was sick and had a cough that sounded really bad, so Tom suggested that he needed to see a doctor.  Jonathan stated that he did not trust doctors and that he would self-medicate.

He had an unusual belief system.  He did not trust the government, stated that they had fly-overs just to spy on us.  But he was the nicest guy, not a mean bone in him.  He adopted 7 dogs that people dropped off by the Roaring River bridge near his home. So the fact that he did not trust doctors did not surprise us very much.  Regardless of that, Tom strongly urged him to see a doctor.  We did not hear from him after that because we did not come up often during the winter season.

In March, of 2010 we got a call from our Vineyard Manager that Jonathan had died.  We were shocked! Apparently, after self-mediating he was not getting better and decided to see a doctor the week between Christmas and the New Year.  Soon after he received the bad news that he had stage 4 lung cancer.

Soon after that, his son came to drive him to Florida at first, then to Alabama where his family lived.  He was hospitalized and passed away 3 weeks later. As soon as we found out we called his family to express our condolences and found out his brother also had cancer.  It broke our hearts to hear that.

His mother and sisters came to visit not long after we bought the house and were happy to see what we had done with it since purchasing it.

We felt so bad that Jonathan never saw the house in its finished state and not had the chance to live in it. In the beginning I felt his presence, and sometimes addressed him.  We built a memorial by the Grist Mill that was a popular swim home in the area- it has the date when he was born and the date he died, with his name and a bible verse to honor his memory.  We showed it to his mother on a subsequent visit and she was happy that we remembered him in that way.

The construction workers told me that Jonathan's departure was so rapid that he left the sun roof of his Mercedes open, his cell phone on the seat. Left the house and pick-up truck unlocked.  They fed the dogs while they continued working on the construction of the house.  Eventually, after they found out he had died they fed the dogs everyday until they were able to  place the dogs. Only one dog remained after some time, and the builder drove over him in his pick-up. The next day the builder brought his gun to finish off the dog and put him out of his misery.  But when he arrived the dog was running around like nothing had happened! Evidently, the ground was soggy after some rain, and when he was run over the dog sank in the mud, saving his life in the process.  They could not find anyone to adopt him so we took him in.  He is a beautiful large Australian Ridged-back, rust-colored and named Rusty.  The funny thing is that we already had two dogs and one of them was also named Rusty. Our dogs are inside dogs, and he was a free running outdoor dog.  So we asked our Vineyard Manager to watch over him, that we would own him, and pay for his food and expenses until we move here permanently.

In October 2012 we officially relocated from Florida to Traphill, NC.  We live in Jonathan's old house and now have 3 dogs. Rusty stays on top of the vineyards and visit our house by the river.  When he comes down "Little Florida Rusty" and Bobo bark at him and chase him when he visits they just can't understand that he, too, is our dog!

Episode 6: The Graphical Rendering Of The Future Vineyard Property

Early on we realized we needed to have a Master Plan for the property.  So we commissioned someone to create one for us.  We met with the contractor and discussed what we wanted and his job was to take our information and represent it in a graphical representation that gave us the altitude of the land, where the building were to be built.  This is the guide that we have been using ever since.

On the upper left corner is a rendition of the wine label we created with the name of our future vineyard "Roaring River Vineyards".  The name was chosen because the property is bordered on the left by the Roaring River shown in Blue to the left. There was a sliver of a property owned by our neighbor located between the river and our property. If you look closely at the ponds, you will see a hatched line that starts at the left pond.  If you follow that black hatched line you see the 3-acre property that ends at the river just above the midway point of the river. At one time this 3-acre property and our 47 -acre vineyard property were one property.  

Some years before we bought it Jonathan Stuart fell in love with this site and had the owner carve out that 3-acre lot from the 50-acre land. He wanted to live on the water and thought this spot was really beautiful.  He did not , however, want the entire 50-acres, only the scenic 3-acres. He planned to build his dream home on the river and look for a wife. Soon after we bought the remaining 47-acres we became acquainted with Jonathan and quickly became friends. 

We asked him one day how he was able to talk the owner in carving out this valuable part of the property because in doing so, a good portion of the riverfront was cut-out.

He told us he had dated the woman who owned the property and that is how he was able to buy it. We met her later on as she lives near us. She denies this, but we think that it was probably true because the division of the property did not make sense. Doing so took a large portion of the riverfront away from the 47-acre lot which made it less valuable than before. So there had to be a strong motivation for doing so and we will never know for sure.  We will let the reader come to his/her own conclusion on that matter!

Description of the Rendering:
It shows where the main house was going to be (the one that looks like a semi-circle).  Just below it to the was the place recommended to put our wine-tasting room.

There are 4 more houses on the left that we were keeping for our 4 children to build a vacation home.  The ponds was something the artist put in to make the place look nice.

On the bottom right is the place we selected to create a "French Village".  The idea was to sell a few lots for: 1) have a few neighbors to socialize with, and 2) to fund the construction of the winery and wine-tasting room.

The other buildings above our future home is the barn and residence of our Vineyard Manager.

The pink areas are the various vineyards representing the different grapes we would grow.

How does our property look today as compared to that rendering? 

  1. We now have a beautiful entrance
  2. We built the two ponds and the dam between them which connect to the vineyard road
  3. We planted grapevines 4 years in a row
  4. We cleared the French Village to prepare it for development
  5. We build the Vineyard Manager residence, and Barn
  6. We bought all the farming equipment
  7. We installed a well and irrigation for the entire vineyard
  8. We installed a deer control fence around the vineyard
  9. We planted 150 truffle trees

In March 2011 we found out that Jonathan Stuart died suddenly from stage-4 lung cancer.   We lost a good friend and miss him very much.  A long time ago we had asked Jonathan to give us first right of refusal if he wanted to sell the property. Which meant, should he ever opt to sell his house, he had to offer it to us first before offering it to the public at large.  It was never put in writing,however, it was an oral agreement.  Jonathan had been living in a mobile home while he was building his dream house.  The construction was not finished when he passed away. We met his son when he came up from Florida to assess the situation. He decided to complete the construction of the house and determine the financial disposition of the estate.  His intent was to keep the house in the family. He tried very hard to do so but in the end it did not work out financially and he decided to sell.

So in November 2010 we bought the house. Although, the house had an occupancy permit it was not completely detailed and did not have any appliances. So our first order of business was to finish the work that still needed to be done, buy all the appliances and paint the interior, stain the 2nd floor wrap-around porch. There was no flooring around the house's 1st floor wrap-around porch, no driveway or path leading to the house.  So we went into construction completion mode.

Finally, the 50-acre property was reunited.  With it came the ruins of the Brewer Grist Mill which dates back to 1793.  The mill was intact until Jonathan bought it.  There was, however, another person who wanted to buy the mill and when he failed to obtain the house,  he opted to burnt it down and skip town. He has not been seen since then as the story goes!

There was also the Brewer Sawmill on the other side of the river - also in ruins.  It was operated by the water from a dam above them which was destroyed by the great flood of 1940,  Apparently many mills were damaged by this flood. The Miller's house next to the sawmill is still intact.
On December 28, 2012 we purchased the sawmill property and the miller's houser, in doing so, we reunited the mills as well.  Now our property is complete.

Preview of next episode:  The story of Jonathan Stuart