Dreams Do Come True! By Ronald Southard
It was 1967, and I was 17 years old, when I envisioned and designed (in my head, at least) the house of my dreams. I wanted a wood frame, post-and-beam home, with a tall cathedral ceiling in the living room, as open as possible. It was to have wood walls, wood floors, wood ceilings, wood everything ... at least as much as possible!
In 1985, I bought a used Wood-Mizer LT-30 sawmill. The first tree I milled was that same year ... a big oak tree! Not bad for a first try, so I put the wood away in a dry barn, separated by slats to allow for better drying. I continued cutting trees, milling the lumber, and storing it as the opportunity came along. A pine, oak, poplar, maple, cedar ... whatever was available, estimated to be about 60,000 linear feet.
We traveled as far away as Elizabethtown and Bladenboro, NC to cut and mill trees. BIG pine trees, too! We were in Bladenboro cutting four pines and an oak tree. The pines were easily over 100 feet tall. I cut the smaller oak tree so I could "lay" the pine tree across that one to help break the fall. Well -lay" it I did! The tree hit so hard it drove the oak tree a good 6-8 inches in the ground. We were working right behind the municipal building, and when the tree fell everyone came out of the building ... they thought there was an earthquake! But we milled the tree right there on the spot. We had a lot of firewood from the limbs, but that was no problem, either. A gentleman came by that wanted it for an elderly shut-in that he helped supply firewood for, so he took almost all of it. Since then, we've been back to Elizabethtown, NC to cut a few other tall pine trees and a large cedar tree.
In 2000, a co-worker of mine told me of a pecan tree he wanted cut down ... he was afraid it was going to come down during a storm and hit the house. So my dad and I went to New Salem, NC to cut it. This tree had many limbs, and was 42" across the stump! It took a while, but we got it down, milled, and put in the barn with the other wood.
I finally put the house design on paper. After a few minor re-draws and adjustments, the dream was beginning to come together.
In July 2002, I was driving down Spring Garden Street to pick up my wife at UNCG when I noticed two huge magnolia trees had been cut down. There was one log left in the yard, so I made a u-turn to go back and ask about it. The gentleman told me that someone was supposed to come by first thing the next morning and pick it up. However, if I came back in the afternoon and the log was still there, it was mine. Later that evening I went to my mom and dad's farm and picked up the come-along, cant hooks, and whatever else I could get my hands on to help me load it. I was SURE it would still be there the next afternoon. And sure enough, it was! Unfortunately, it was 98 degrees that day. I was by myself, but I was determined to get it! I dragged and rolled it all the way across the yard to the truck. I had parked the truck at the edge of the ditch so the tailgate would open on the other side. After a lot of pulling, tugging, and sweating, I got it on the truck. When I pulled in at the farm, my dad came out to see what I was up to ... when he saw how big the log was, he asked who helped me load it. He didn't quite believe me when I told him I loaded it by myself!
When I milled the magnolia, the sawdust was white as snow. So off it was stored with the other wood I had been milling. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, but it was going to be special! I asked around and could not find anyone who had worked with magnolia ... I guess because it takes so long for it to grow to a size big enough to mill.
In 2003, I found an ad in the NC Agricultural Review for a 1958 John Deer front loader in Snow Hill, NC. So off we went in search of this piece of historical marvel. It was in a junk yard, and it took the man quite a while to get back there to where it was. It was in the junk yard for a reason ... it needed a lot of work. But I needed a way to be able to dig the basement, so I got a local towing service to go down there and get it. I took it apart, all the way down to the tracks. As a matter of fact, the only parts not apart were the transmission and the tracks! My dad was sure it would never run ... but one year and one day from the day I bought it, I fired it up! I thought my dad was going to cry. And it sounded so good. It has a Poppin' John engine and it just purrs. And it dug the basement with no problem!
In 2004, we finally made the leap to go ahead with Building the Dream ... we bought a mobile home (sight-unseen, no less!) and had it brought up to Stokesdale, NC from Bennettsville, SC. Now we were left with just one more obstacle ... my grandparent's old house was right where I wanted to build my house. Not really a big problem; we had been using it for storage space for several years. So I began to take the blocks out from the foundation. We use to own a 10x50 rental mobile home that tenants literally destroyed. I had brought it to the farm and dismantled it, took the aluminum to the scrap yard, and kept any of the wood frame that might be usable around a farm. Those just left the base frame perfect for sliding under the old house and move it. My dad thought I should just tear it down, but it was (and still is) in good condition, especially for much-needed storage space. I used the John Deere to break through the foundation.
In 2005, we were coming back from visiting with my wife's sister and brother-in-law in New London, NC when I spotted an old dump truck parked in a lot with a For Sale sign in the window. We doubled-back (I seem to do a lot of that!) and pulled in to take a look. It looked to be in fairly good condition, so I wrote the number down to call. I found out it was originally a state truck from West Virginia, used to salt the highways during bad weather. OK, so it needed a little more than I originally thought, but I really needed a dump truck. So we struck a deal. I picked up the truck and immediately took it to our auto mechanic who gave it a thorough check-up. Turns out it wasn't as bad as I thought ... it needed a new brake system.
So we were all set ... I used the Wood-Mizer to mill the lumber, the John Deere to dig the basement, and the dump truck to haul the rocks from the quarry. And here's what can be accomplished with the right tools!
The House that Ron Built! By Lynn Southard
I start this off by saying "Ron built," because he really did build it! He usually tells me (and others) that he had help along the way, but without his expertise, guidance, and patience (and LOTS of it), we'd still be building the house. We also had lots of help from friends and family: Bruce Schneeman; Jay & Angie Stout; Martin & Dorothy Southard; Tommy Southard; Thomas Baird; Wanda & Junior Allison; Angela, Kevin, Brianna, & Noah Baggett; Michele Boltuc; Danny, Christopher, & Rebecca Southard; Gary Smith; Mike Friddle; Brian Friddle; Wayne Goke; Toby Smith; Joe Reynolds, Anthony Scales; and Roosevelt Nixon.
Although we did purchase some of the wood, to conform to county codes or for convenience sake, most of it was "home-grown." I couldn't tell you how many trees from so many different places that we cut down, milled, dried, planed, cut, and shaped to put together the ultimate puzzle.
This house is located on just over ten acres of beautiful land. The original house was built over 200 years ago ... at least part of it was. Ron truly has a God-given talent for construction. When he was about 17 years old, his parents basically turned over their home to him for his high school carpentry shop project. He added about 780 square feet to the house, plus a covered patio. Needless to say, he got an "A" for the project!
About the same time, he had a vision for his dream house ... a custom-built, arch-beam cathedral. Welcome to Ron's Dream Home!
The outside of the house is covered with knotty pine (yes, we cut those trees), which has been toned. The rocks covering the foundation are real rocks, not faux. When the farm was originally built, most of the rocks were everywhere. In cleaning up so they could use the land for farming, they hauled the rocks out of the way. So Ron knew right where they were and went back to get them to put them on the house. Some of them are HUGE! But there are a few "special" rocks. We brought one back from Colorado, and Angie & Jay brought us one from the Grand Canyon. There's one rock that looks like a silhouette of a cat, and one that looks like a Coke bottle.
As you enter, the first thing that catches your eye is the living room floor. Talk about "custom!" There are 26 squares, each three-by-three feet, bordered by a nine-inch board. These are made of red oak and white oak, which graduate to the center piece which is white maple. The floor is drilled and pegged with oak dowels. Yes, it took a long time! Ron figured each three-by-three square took about 3-4 hours to complete; that is once we got the hang of it! The design is called "pearling" and is generally used in tile flooring. Ron heard of one floor that was made like this at the turn of the century in a dance floor, but it was destroyed in a fire. Since it is so time consuming (and costly), they decided not to rebuild the floor like that again. In case you were wondering, there are six coats of polyurethane on the floor!
If the floor doesn't catch your eye, the ceiling fan certainly does! The motors can tilt in three different positions, and the blades are walnut. It's called a Twin Star II and was purchased from Dan's Fans in Greensboro.
The walls are made of eastern white pine (purchased), the ceiling is European white pine (also purchased), and the six-by-six beams that flank the room and ceiling, as well as the baseboards, window and door casings, are yellow pine (not purchased). The built-in bookcase base is made of oak. Eventually, we'll put up shelves to hold the books and knick-knacks currently in the office. The fireplace is wood-burning with twin fans to bring the heat into the room instead of up the chimney. The area around the fireplace and the hearth is faux rock.
The front room on the left is the office. Again, the floors are red oak and white oak. The ceiling is eastern white pine, but the walls are made of yellow poplar. The window box is lined in cedar, but the lid is also yellow poplar. Notice the overhang on the interior wall; makes a great place for dust-catchers! There is an access door up there that leads to a big storage area. We'll eventually clean-up and refinish a library ladder we have to have easy (or easier) access. And yes, Ron made that door!
Next is the guest bathroom. This is where we first tried out the idea of bringing the red oak and white oak to a center piece of maple. Once again, Ron gave it that custom touch by drilling and pegging our initial into the maple. The walls are yellow poplar and the ceiling is European white pine. The vanity cabinet is made out of pecan ... one Ron and his dad cut down in New Salem, NC. BIG pecan tree, too!
The back room on the left is the master bedroom... red oak and white oak floors, yellow poplar walls, eastern white pine ceiling. Again, we put the overhang on the interior wall for more display area. Just off the bedroom is the master bath. Same flooring, same ceiling, same pecan vanity cabinet, but here the walls are very different. Before we started this project, Ron decided to take the old pack house and convert it to a cabinet/work shop. It had a loft, but he needed the overhead space to turn long boards around, so he removed the flooring of the loft. He thought it would be pretty neat to use those old boards somewhere in the house, especially since they are about 175 years old! He knew it would have to be a small area as there weren't that many. So when he started putting together the bathroom, he knew he'd found the perfect spot. He put them through the plane once and what you see is the outcome. The light fixtures are quite another story, too. We had found some bathroom light fixtures, but I was just so-so about how they would look. What you see here is NOT those light fixtures. These were found at the Goodwill Store! I wasn't looking for new fixtures; they found me!
The dining room floor was originally going to be just like the office and master bedroom floor. Then a friend of ours, Michele Boltuc, suggested we put in one larger square (four-by-four) like the smaller ones in the living room! Great idea, too! There is another window box lined in cedar; great for those hand-made quilts that Ron's mom still makes! Take a peek; they're in there. There is also another access door leading to yet another storage area over the kitchen. We'll probably use the same library ladder from the office, just move it when we need it. The walls and ceiling are eastern white pine.
Then we get to the kitchen! This floor is spatted maple. The dark areas are a fungus that grew in the tree. You have to be careful when you work with it or the dust can get into the lungs. We wore masks when we cut and planed this wood. The long wall on the left is sugar maple. The cabinets are custom made out of pecan. It's almost like a peacock, showing off its colors! Very brilliant and vibrant! The countertop is made of granite, and is called Uba Tuba. Along with the ceiling fan in the living room, it was one of our "big splurges."
The last room (more like a nook) is the laundry area. We continued the spatted maple flooring, but the walls are yellow poplar and the ceiling is eastern white pine. You'll notice two storage areas at each end ... we tried to make as much use of every space we could. The far back walls of each areas is lined in cedar.
The door on the left leads to the full daylight basement. The back wall of the stairwell is cedar, but the rest of the stairwell is knotty pine, just like the outside of the house, only it has not been toned. The landing is made of red oak, but the stairs are pine. These were also drilled and pegged (thanks, Jay!).
The basement is unfinished, but it does have a 4 x 13 cedar closet for winter clothes and storage. We've put up some cabinets for extra storage, but they're almost full already! There are three sets of French doors that open to the back yard, which has a wonderful view of the rolling land.
We hope you've enjoyed your tour. Ya'll come back now!