The Practicality, Mystery and Beauty of An Attic

attics“As the years pass, I keep thinking that our greatest lack today is attics.  Modern homes never have them, with the result that young people live only in their own generation, feeling no intimate connection with the past.  Their roots will go deeper if their homes have attics?”

from “More Than Petticoats” – the chapter on Maude Frazier, an early Nevada educator

When we were house hunting in anticipation of our move from California to Kansas, I made a list of features I wanted in a house.  One of those was amble space for a proper library for my husband’s bibliophile habit.  We also wanted a home with some history and character.  We were weary of So Cal subdivisions, one story, no basement, no character houses.  It was all so, well, boring!
Our time in Europe had awakened my Kansas need for the character and history of an older home.  Our Realtor understood, and scoped out homes in the older “classic” neighborhoods of Wichita.   She did find it curious that before the kitchen and bath decor or number of bedrooms we headed for the basement and/or attic.  We needed serious space for this library.
Early Attic Dreams
The house I grew up was a two story frame with the second story almost attics like.attics

It had a real attic but it was not usable for anything other than getting to the flat part of the roof.  I was only up there once or twice since it had to be accessed with a ladder from the upstairs hallway, but sleeping among the gables in my second story bedroom brings back cozy memories.

The vision of a proper third floor library, a retreat among books drew us in.  When we first looked at the historic home we eventually purchased, it was the attic that clinched the deal.  My husband’s books still rest in boxes up there, patiently waiting for the home they have been promised.  We have a vision, and even plans drawn up, but other necessary steps seem to extend the path as we travel toward that dream library in the sky.

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A Red Slate Roof Lives On! How You Can Own A Piece

  • In 1995 the red slate roof of our historic home was redone.  It was a massive job.  We learned a lot about historic restoration projects in the process  and much detail about the structure of our home.  The slate originally came from Vermont as did the slate for this project.  Apparently that is the only place it is found.

The project included replacing:

  • red painted black slate that had been substituted in a patch job in the 1970s.
  • broken and badly weathered slate.  Even though slate has a very long life, it does get brittle, chip and flakes over the years.  In this case over 100 years of Kansas wind, hail and even some abuse from walking on the roof had taken its toll.
  • the valleys, flashing, yankee guttering and downspouts.  We learned that water runoff from slate is corrosive to galvanized metal.  Since one of a roof’s function is to shed water and keep the structure and its inhabitants dry, it was interesting to find out the chemistry behind water run off.  This was one of the design flaws in the original construction of the house as over the years the runoff had corroded the galvanized valleys, gutters and downspouts, causing all kinds of issues.
  • and/or reinforcing rafters and ceiling joists.  Slate is heavy, 1,200 LBS per square.  Although our home was built with yellow pine dimensional 2 x 4s on 12 inch centers, the 12 12 pitch roof had spread the attic rafters enough to need attention.
  • and re-stacking the three chimneys (there are four fireplaces and a couple of free standing stoves)
  • the soffets, reparing the gables and then painting.
Re-Cycling First
We reused more than half of the original slate which was used on the north side of the house.  It was cleaned up, re-cut and relaid.  The new slate was used on the south side.  That meant that over 12 square of used Vermont red slate was left over after the project was complete.  We didn’t want to just toss it in the landfill, so it was stacked at the back of our property.
What To Do With Used Red Slate

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dream-Home

Finding Lost Family Members – Or Not….

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing – Wernher von Braun

In a post about a circa 1907 family reunion on the Rightmeier homestead in Jewelllost family County, Kansas, I mentioned a great great uncle, August, we had lost track of.  A friend who has a gift for finding lost family  on the Internet decided to poke around for me.  I was humbled that she took time to do this.

 I had found an 1880 census record of an August G. Rehtmeyer on Ancestry that put him working as a “clerk in a store” in  Pocahontas, Bond, Illinois.  He was 19.
What We Found On August G Rehtmeier
  • He voted in 1890 while living at 819 W North Avenue, Chicago, IL
  • On November 24, 1887 he married Catharine Goldenbogen in Chicago, IL.  Sir name spelled Rithmeyer on the marriage license.
  • 1900 US Census shows him in Chicago at that same location with a wife, Kate and three children, Neta
  • (Nettie) (11), Walter (8) and Florence (5) Sir name spelled Rehtmeyr and occupation as a furniture dealer
  • He and Kate took a ship while cited as being a resident of Chicago and he went to Hamburg, on the Hamburg-Amerika line, a Dampfschiff (steam ship)
  • 1908 He’s married and going from Hamburg through a French port to New York
  • September 12, 1912 He, Kate and the two girls takes the ship President Grant from Boulogne sur Mer France to New York
  • 1920 Census he and Kate are living in Los Angeles on 3008 West 7th Street in a rental. He is listed as a furniture merchant and employer. The building there today looks about a 1920’s stor
    efront. It is probable they lived above the store he ran. Name shown as AG Rehtmeyr
  • Then I see him going from Hawaii to LA on a ship 1923 and he’s living in LA on Olive St in 1926. He voted in CA as a Republican.
  • Two places have his death mentioned: Jan 6 1929, Los Angeles, CA at age 67. He’s buried at Forest Lawn Glendale. He was considered American on all the ships manifests.
Opps…

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Imagine – The Value in Leftovers

 

I enjoy re-doing and re-making things.  I always have.  Using leftovers, taking what is on hand and making something useful again:

Things that began life as one thing are “up-cycled” into a new life.  So where did this tendency come from?
The Why
For me, some came out of necessity.  Using and reusing was a way of life in the world I grew up in.
  • Dad, an auto salvage operator took old cars apart.  They were scrapped out for usable parts and metal.   Some parts were refurbished and resold, others just reused as is on another vehicle.
  • Clothes were re-done and handed down.  If they were too worn out, the cloth was remade into quilts, comforters or some other useful item (remember cloth dust rags?).leftovers
  • Mom composted in the garden and turned grass clippings and leaves into flower beds (no pesticides were used!).
Today, it is called being “green” by recycling, up-cycling and re-purposing.  For us it was being practical and frugal.  We were not poor, we just conserved cash for what only cash could buy avoiding the waste of things and time.  In my small town there was retail, but not the Walmart kind of retail.  Many things had to be acquired through mail order catalogs or we made the occasional shopping trip to “the city”.
The DNA
In addition, there was my grand-parents farm where nothing was wasted.  Even what did go into the trash was used as fuel for the stove.  Paper, bits of wood and anything that would burn would make it into the incinerator.  Along with some of the methods used by my parents, my grand-parent’s cows, pigs and chickens ate, in addition to their regular feed, vegetable and fruit scraps.  The dogs and barn cats  were glad recipients of meat scraps and bones (after they were boiled for broth, of course).  Bailing wire was the all purpose duct-tape for farm machinery (until a proper repair could be made).  Well, you get the idea.
New Is Good Too!
At the same time, I do not consider myself “cheap”.  I enjoy nice new things.  I have some of the finest Irish China, French and German crystal and German flatware there is.  We only use it a few times a year and I do not feel one bit guilty about it.  None-the-less, that thing in me that is profoundly satisfied when an old object is remade and given new life is undeniable.  Aside from the practical aspects, there is actually a deeper root to all of this.
Divine Leftovers
It is found in the two stories of multiplying loaves and fishes as told in the Gospels*.  In both cases after the multiplication had occurred and everyone had eaten their fill, Jesus had the leftovers gathered up and collected.  Why would the Son of God who had just multiplied food do that?  To show off?  Not really in his nature.  To give a sign to the disciples of God’s ability to provide?  Perhaps.  The answer is in the text:  Jesus said:  “Gather up that which remains so that nothing is lost.”  Jesus did not want to waste the leftovers!  Wow, what a concept.  God, who created everything, does not waste, even leftover bread and fish.

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Discerning Fake News – Family History Style

fake newsThe thing that interests me most about family history is the gap between the things we think we know about our families and the realities.
– Jeremy Hardy
In a recent post about a circa 1907 family reunion on the Rightmeier homestead in Jewell County, Kansas, I mentioned a great great uncle, August, we had lost track of.  He was one of my great great grandfather’s older brothers with whom he stowed away on a ship in order to immigrate to America from northern Germany.
A friend and reader of this BLOG who has a gift for finding information on the Internet decided to poke around for me.  I was humbled that she took time to do this.  I found an 1880 census record of Uncle August on Ancestry that put him working as a “clerk in a store” in  Pocahontas, Bond, Illinois.  We currently subscribe to only the US portion of Ancestry, but my friend has the global version.
Avoiding Making Fake News
She found all kinds of neat stuff that opened up all manner of “filling in the blanks”.  I wrote a great BLOG about it, even contacted a couple of family members about it. Using  my version of Ancestry to find more details, I filled in a few more gaps.  Once done, I decided to update my family tree maker in preparation to build a tree on ancestry with all this found information.  And then I realized that the August Rehtmeyer that worked as a clerk in a store was not MY uncle August.  Opps, that pesky reality, Truth, was about to mess up all my work.

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The Denim Collection – The Diverse Life of a French Fabric

“When in doubt, wear denim” – unknown
“I’ll never throw away my blue jeans.” –  Susan Ford
                        denim denim
I like denim.  I am glad that denim has burst well beyond its original hard-working, sturdy, cowboy, country ranch realm and into all things blue.  In fashion and decorating is it considered a neutral, like gray, black and the beiges.
I wear a lot of denim.  Even more since I “retired” and work from my home.  Over the years, between my husband and I, I have amassed a  lot of used denim that has gone beyond its wearable stage, yet seeds of  life remain.  In this state it has almost endless possibilities.
Where Did It Come From?
denimA bit of research revealed that The name “denim” comes from the name of a sturdy fabric called “Serge de Nîmes”, initially made in Nîmes, France, hence “de Nîmes” – “denim”.  Who would have thought.  Perhaps that is why Yves Saint Laurent said:  “I wish I had invented blue jeans. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal,

 

Denim Diversity
In the W.B. Allistion House, the “little house” we are about to finish rehabbing, I am using denim as the accent fabric for the attic decor.  No, it is not a country theme, but this fabric compliments the warm vintage wood tones and soft blue gray color pallet I am going with. This will be a home office space for both my husband and I, as well as a library and media space.
denimI want a soft, relaxing, creative air, that is gender neutral.  We will be living in this house while renovations of the “big house”, Maison Steinbuchel. take place.  It will serve as a retreat from activity, decisions and, yes, the stress, this project may bring.  It will eventually serve as a guest house on the property.
simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.”
 “Denim Is a  Way  of Life”
denimIn addition to wearing and decorating with denim, I make stuff.  There is a section of my on-line shop named “The Denim Collection”, that features these products.  Here are some examples.  The photos have links that will provide details on how they were made, what

denimwent into the item and its creative origin.

You could make some of these things yourself, but you have enough to do.   I have already done the hard work!
The Holidays are on their way.
Which Item do you favor?  Let me know in the comments below.  Don’t forget to subscribe!
 

Chance Encounters, Connections and History

encounters

Recently while my husband was blowing off our sidewalks, he spotted a gentleman looking over our house from the curb.  This is not an uncommon occurrence, since the house, even in its current “need for a redo state”, is quite striking.  A conversation was begun that lasted, again not uncommonly, for a while. Chance encounters making connections.
It turns out this man had known Dorothy Elisabeth Steinbuchel Wilson Gouldner in her later years as a neighbor.  He was currently reading her book, A Living Gravestone, about the family and the house.  We do not have a house number – this would not have been a part of its original decor – so he wanted to ensure he had the right location.
We shared stories and information and told him of the research I was doing to update and even validate the information in the book.  The Foundations pillar of this BLOG is devoted primarily to that endeavor along with a place to share progress on the historic restoration  when it begins in earnest.
Encounters With New Details
The visitor said Elisabeth was very proud of that book.  In addition, he mentioned that Olive Ann Beech’s daughter helped her to get it to publication.   Hummmm, a detail I was unaware of before, since there is no mention of this in the book by way of  acknowledgment.  I am aware, however, from the book The Barnstormer and the Lady, that Elisabeth’s brother-in-law, Rene Goulnder was Walter Beech’s personal physician.  His signature is on Mr. Beech’s death certificate. Thus the probable connection.

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Resistance, Stealing and Autumn Products

“It’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are. ” 
Austin Kleon from Steal Like An Artist
This space is where four key stones in my life have a place to converge and then “cry out”:
  • Flight – Insights from years in air traffic control and as a pilot
  • Family – Stories centering on family history and events
  • Foundations – Experiences as we restore our historic home and information on the family for which it is named
  • Faith – the stone upon which all else rests in my life
I share stories and observations emerging from these four stones.  The other tangible outflow from all this, are products I make re-purposing found vintage materials.
Thus The Stonebridge tag line:
Giving Lost Stories a Voice – Giving Found Materials Fresh Form and Purpose. 
Products Finding a Voice
I have an on-line shop and, until recently, had a presence as a vendor in a local shop.  It closed.  This could be discouraging.  OK, it was discouraging.

products

Then I read couple a books:

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Grosspapa’s Passing – A Lesson In Loss and Life

grosspapa'sGrief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life. – Anne Roiphe
Maison Steinbüchel, a Kansas State Historic Landmark and our home, is named for the family of Herman Frederick Steinbüchel , the second husband of Marie-Louise Hahn.
We recently learned of the passing of Mark Joseph Steinbüchel.  He was one of  house’s last namesake to have lived here and was one of the grandson’s of Marie-Louise and Herman.  We met he and his brothers Max and Mike when they dropped by a few times.  If I have the family lines correct, there remain three siblings who lived in this house.
Dealing With Death
I am not fond of dwelling on death.  My Christian faith and world view regard it as simply a departure.  Yet once we walk this earth, no matter how visible or widely known that life is or is not, it matters.  It made an impression.  In fact, as I look into the Steinbüchel and my own family’s history, the more I realize the impact one single life makes.  It is for this reason, I take time to piece together the footprints left by those who have gone before.  To uncover the lost or buried stories and retell them.
For the Marie-Louise Hahn-Stackman-Steinbuchel story, my go-to guide is an out-of-print book by Dorothy Elisabeth Steinbüchel-Wilson-Gouldner, A Living Gravestone.  She was the daughter of Herman and Marie-Louise.  On page 66 of the book, there is a section, “Grandpapa’s Passing”.  Sometime in 1900 Bernard Steinbüchel became bed-ridden.  She describes his last days and the times she sat with him.  He lived with his two daughters at a house at 11th and Main next to where Elisabeth and her family lived at the time.

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Butterflies at Maison Steinbuchel – Monet in Kansas

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough. Rabindranath Tagore
Every September I am enamored with the convergence of all matter of butterflies on Maison Steinbuchel.  The flurry of peaceful activity brings out the child in me as i stand right in the middle of my flower bed and let the joy of these flying flowers surround me.  It lifts my soul and cleanses any drudgery the day may have brought.
The season begins in May and June when the bleuet or cornflowers,  whose original seed I purchased at Monet’s garden in Giverny France. begin to bloom.  By July 4th these have faded and multicolored zinnias, who also originated from M. Monet’s garden, begin their season.  I do not plant these each year as seeds from the previous year emerge on their own.  I simply carefully remove spent flowers, unwanted weeds and grass.  Among side the zinnias, rouge lemon basil also grows.  This combination seems to appeal to butterflies, since they come in droves.
Of course there are bees and even birds, all enjoying each other’s company while keeping my nearby veggie garden pollinated and reasonably pest free.
Butterflies and Purple Things
There is also a walkway, made up of 4 inch thick limestone slabs.  It’s plantings include:
  • purple mums brought from our California garden when we moved here in 1988
  • sweet potato vines from the Flower Ranch
  • Texas sized coleus from the Flower Ranch
  • creeping thyme step-ables from local garden centers
  • native phlox – a gift from a neighbor
  • zinnias that self sowed
  • rose moss that self sowed
The butterflies also enjoy this area, and our cats sit for hours entertained by the flying flowers.
As summer winds down and autumn begins to show herself, the butterflies represent, that although a winter rest is coming, spring will again come forth from the seeds being sown. They too will return.  For now, I sit and enjoy their beauty.
The music in the video can be found on iTunes.  Search for Into the Street by Chris Christiansen
If you want to enjoy this little bit of heaven on earth make a plan now to create your own garden next spring.  To learn how to make your own butterfly garden you don’t have to get seeds from France.  I suggest P. Allen Smith as a resource.  Once established, it takes minimal effort to maintain.
Please comment below on your impressions of this “impressionist” garden!