Hidden Bend Retreat, Romney West Virginia

Romney, WV

Friday, November 14, 2014

Visit from Mom and Patty

In mid-October, my sister Patty flew out from Kansas City and brought my mom with her for her first visit to our place in West Virginia. We had a great week of visiting and hanging out. While they were here, we did the Potomac Eagle train trip through the Trough. As usual, the scenery was excellent, we hit the leaves in full color and saw a few eagles from the train. Here are a couple of pictures.

Here's one of mom, Patty, and Donna.

Donna's sister Dolores, her Dad, and husband Paul. These are taken at the station before leaving- the trip down and back through the Trough on the South Branch of the Potomac takes about 3 hours.

Here are a couple of pictures of the trip, it was an overcast day but we were lucky and the rain held off.

Miss Squeaky Pictures

Earlier this summer, a kitten that looked to be about 6-9 months old showed up at the house and is now a full time resident. She's full grown now and an outside cat but does like to sneak in if a door is left open. She tolerates the dogs but if she runs, then chaos breaks out and they all have to chase- looks like Miss Squeaky will be an outside cat. We have a cat door in my workshop so she can get out of the cold and a heated pad on the screened porch so she'll do fine- so far, she prefers to be on the porch so she can track our movements.

She's really friendly once she gets to know you and loves to rub against your legs or sit with you outside by the fire. When we're working outside, she likes to stay close by.

Here are a few pictures.

Following us between the guest cabin and the house. Squeaky loves to visit Donna's dad, sister, and brother in law who are staying in the cabin!

Enjoying a snuggle with Donna by the fire.

Church House Pictures

Here are 3 pictures of the main room in the church house, makes up the living area, eating space, and kitchen.

99% of everything you see in all these pictures was already in the house as part of the purchase. We'll have a lot of clothing and stuff to take to Goodwill once we start clearing out the bedrooms. You can see we had a fire in the wood stove as it was in the 40's here and very cold inside- the stove did a nice job getting the main room up to the low 60's by the time we were ready to wrap up for the day.

Here's a shot of the sink, you just don't see orange like this anymore!

The next pictures show the metal spiral stairs up to the loft that runs about 75% of the length of the church. The close up pictures of the light show that it was originally an oil or kerosene fixture that was converted to electric some time ago.

Here's a picture standing at the back of the loft looking back to the stairs, you can see all the stuff that was left up there, there are a lot of old chairs, tables, and beds along with a collection of other "treasures". We found some fishing gear, some magazines from the 60's and early 70's, books, and there are a couple of large, truck inner tubes inflated and ready for the river!

There is a lot to go through and clean up but looks like this would be a great spot to spend some time in the summer. We're still figuring out how much we'll want to change- we know we'll want to improve the stairs coming in to the church on the front- maybe a deck along with the stairs as it would be a great place for to watch that water go by and hold a grill.

More as we move along, enjoy.

Church Property Update

Donna and I closed on the church property earlier this week, sale went as planned with a few bits of interesting information learned along the way. Turns out the listing was incorrect and there are actually two pieces of property that totals about 1/2 an acre instead of the original 1/4 acre we thought it was setting on. There was an interesting story and background about how there came to be two properties divided by the "Old County Road" that crosses through and allows access to one more >200 acre property beside us.

We had 65 degree weather the day we closed so I brought a kayak and took a quick tour on the river and looks like it is going to be great. Very little current at this point so was an easy paddle up stream (towards Romney) and looks like there are some nice riffles about a 1/3 of the mile in both directions that I saved to explore another day. If we get another nice day, will have to put a kayak in under the Romney bridge and float to the church, looks to be about 5 or 6 miles. If you look at a map of the South Branch of the  Potomac near Romney, you'll see what's called Hanging Rocks about 5 miles north- these rocks are very close to the property to give you an idea where we are.

Here's a couple of pictures from the water, you can see the Hanging Rocks in the second picture.

Next post will show some pictures from inside the house.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We Bought a Church

Well, not exactly. Donna and I made an offer yesterday that was accepted
this morning on an old church built in 1897 that was converted to a
river camp sometime in the 1940's. Pictures below. It's on a quarter of
an acre on the South Branch of the Potomac about 7 miles from our house
outside Romney.

We've been watching for river front property since we moved here but
those we found either didn't have good access to the water, were too far
away, or were on converted farmland where the sun would drive us crazy
in the summer. This is a small lot but has a relatively easy walk down
to the water so should be great for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and
just hanging about. The church is rustic but has working well, septic, 2
bedrooms and a big loft. Wood stove for heat but don't see it being used
in the deep winter. It's being sold as is with the furnishings so might
find some surprises too! Property is easy to winterize from what we have
seen after meeting with the current owner.

We hope to close before Thanksgiving, in the interim, I'm doing some
research to learn more about the property and history of the church.
Looks like it was active starting in 1897 and was sold from the church
trustees to an individual in 1940. The current owner's father bought the
property in 1955.

More as we learn more but thought we'd pass along an update to those of
you that follow the blog.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Miss Kitty

Update- just realized this didn't post from a couple of months ago so add it now.

Miss Kitty, the cat who adopted us when we first moved to Leesburg over
13 years ago died on Monday. The photo shows the plague I cut to put
near her grave- she is buried near Miss Sally on our property.

Miss Kitty showed up to live under our deck when we moved in to the
house in Leesburg in 2001. She was at least a year old and had been
spayed and decided she liked being with us. Over the years, we put a
shop door in to my workshop so she could get out of the weather, then
later, the shop door was in to the garage. Finally, Donna decided she
didn't need to be an outside cat anymore after an altercation with some
other critter so she moved in to our family room.

When we moved to Romney 3 years ago, Miss Kitty decided that our
basement would work out fine and lived here- 3 meals a day and an
occasional rub or scratch. She was always a bit standoffish but
tolerated our dogs and seemed to be happy. We were sorry to let her go
but decided it was time.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Dolores, Donna, and Paul with sparklers last night for the 4th of July.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hay Barn

We decided we wanted to get some additional hay storage so we can bring in a larger supply for the alpacas. We have 9 animals now and like to buy hay when it's readily available in the summer. Because our barn/pasture is behind the main house and we can only use a small tractor or skid steer to drive there, we can only move 6 or 8 bales of hay down there at a time and just seemed like a big process to make 2 trips (90 minute round trip each) to pick up 100 bales of hay, then have to move them down to the barn where we have covered storage in another 12 or more short trips with the hay on the tractor.

The new barn should store 175 or more bales and we can drive the trailer right up to the doors and unload a lot more quickly to get the hay out of the elements. We'll still have plenty of storage at the barn but can load there at a more leisurely pace, we are retired after all!

We decided to buy a barn already constructed, this one is 10'x20', double doors at each end so we can load/unload easily and get to the hay we've had on site longest at any time without moving bales. We purchased the barn from Placka Buildings (Placka), they are a local business who we've used before and would recommend them if you need a barn. This one is from a new supplier and is a post and beam construction with board and batten siding to match our other buildings.

You can see from the pictures the barn is sited north of the solar panels we installed but still easy to reach with the truck/trailer and other vehicles. We modified the original building to add some additional ventilation since we are storing hay.

Enjoy the pictures.

New Resident

A few weeks ago, this young cat arrived at our place and has decided to
stay. Not sure where she came from, maybe was dropped off by someone but
she is one of the most friendly cats we've ever been around.

We're feeding her but also hoping she'll remain an outside cat that we
can teach to hunt mice in the alpaca barn- we'll see if that works out
or she just becomes another mouth to feed. Donna calls her Little Miss
and I've been calling her Miss Squeaky since her meow is really high
pitched, don't know where we'll end up.

She loves to follow us around when we're outside, if you get down on the
ground to weed or work on a tractor, etc., she'll be on your lap.Spends a lot of her day on the front porch just outside the door.

Enjoy the pictures.


Donna and I put in a garden this year for the first time in quite a
while. Only about 6X12 but we're getting a lot of production so far. We
have tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, red peppers, cucumbers, and some
dwarf carrots.

We basically just used some of our composted alpaca manure on top of the ground, set the plants, added water and stayed out of the way. Picture
shows the first crop of green beans- we roasted these in the oven in a ginger/garlic/honey recipe we both really like and they were great.

Second picture shows a small garden plot we put up by the guest cabin. Donna's dad, sister and her sister's husband are staying with us this summer so they put out a few plants as well.

Next year, maybe we'll be a bit more ambitious and put in a larger plot.

Red Winged Blackbird

We have a new visitor to our bird feeders this year. A Red Winged
Red Winged Blackbird
Blackbird. We've seen these in the area before but haven't ever seen any
up at our place until now. Just go this one shot where you can just make out some of the markings on the wing.

Arthur and Aries Have Arrived

Can't believe it has been so long since I posted! A few weeks ago, we brought two new alpacas to the farm. Aries and Arthur. These two are half brothers (same father) and have been together for so long that they never go far from each other. They are both well over a year old but on the small side which we like. Arthur is super friendly, will walk right up to you for a kiss- Aries is shy but does fine once you get hold of him, lol.

More of these two later.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Paca Coats

We're supposed to have temps in the low 30's tonight so decided to put
coats on the pacas since they were just sheared. Here are a couple of
pictures- Donna made their coats last year and looks like she's going to
have to make a couple of new ones as the smallest coats just barely fit.
The guys seem to tolerate wearing them pretty well and hope they'll
appreciate them in the morning.

Plaques made with Trex

There are some pet and animal memorials I'm working on using the CNC
router. They're all from white Trex decking material- the black color
comes from a spray can of enamel paint. Working out the best way to
preserve the paint if these are left outdoors.

Shearing Complete

Here are a couple of pictures of the alpacas after they were sheared. We
plan to use the blanket fleece from each of the boys to make yarn. We
combined all the rest of the fleece from the legs, head, neck, etc.
together and will send it off to be made in to rug yarn like we've done
the last two years. We still haven't finished working on all the fleece
from last year so now we have 7 more blankets to work on!

Alpaca Shearing

Matt Best was here today to shear our alpacas, it's a quick process.
Arrived on site at 11:45 and was driving away at 12:45 after shearing 7
alpacas. Here are some pictures of Pepe getting sheared. Will do a
couple more posts with some shots of the crew after they were done.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Solar Array Install 2

Here are some more pictures of the solar array install. Once the framework was completed, the panels were attached and the connections made to the main electric feed for the guest cabin. It was 2 long days for the install team but the weather cooperated and the physical install and connections were completed by late Friday afternoon.

Bill Anderson, the owner of Milestone Solar (Milestone Solar) will be back on Monday if the weather is sunny to set up the monitoring system. We decided to go with a micro-inverter system for each panel from Enphase (Enphase M215 Inverter) that includes a comprehensive monitoring system called Envoy. Envoy collects individual performance for each of the 32 panels as well as summaries for the entire system. Each of the inverters is connected via the electrical connection and then to an ethernet connection to our local internet router. A host system called Enlighten collects the data from the panels and is then accessed using a web browser to see the performance information. Will be interested to see how all that looks!

The install crew really did a great job, worked at a steady (but not frantic!) pace and sorted out any of the small issues that pop up in a real life install. Bill said this was one of the larger ground mounted systems they had done. They also had to contend with the normal WV slope for the framing but all looked great when it was done.

Will post more next week once the monitoring is up and running.

Solar Array Installation 1

Donna and I decided to try to offset some of our electric usage by
having a solar panel array installed. Work started on Thursday as we had
a nice break in the cold weather. Here are a few pictures as the crew
from Milestone Solar worked to set up the framework that holds the
array. The last picture shows a stack of 4 panels connected together and
ready to be attached to the frame. There will be 32 panels and is rated
at about 8.6kw.

The connection will run to the guest cabin and any excess electricity
generated is fed back to the power company by basically causing the
meter to run in reverse. Once all is connected and the power company has
changed out the meter for one that can handle net metering, we
should be generating power. Next post will show more pictures
 as the install progressed.