Monday, March 25, 2013

Finding John Muir's Victorian Home

Hiking in Briones in Orinda
A new found awesome hiking spot at Mott Peak in Briones

This past weekend, we accidentally found ourselves at the home of John Muir located in the town of Martinez. We  stumbled upon it after finishing a beautiful hike in the Briones Nat. Park. While we hiked, we were saying how lucky we are to be within minutes of all these great natural parks away from the urban vibe and computers. Later, after picking up sandwiches, we drove around to find a nice spot to eat and stumbled upon the home of the man who really made the national park system happen. And guess what? It was free and had picnic benches!
Click for link about the Muir house

Muir's Victorian Home
When most people (including myself) think about Muir, we usually think about a person who buttonholed a president into creating the first great national park system and who served as the ultimate advocate of open, natural spaces accessible by the American public to enjoy. But before all that, Muir lived and worked at this beautiful Victorian owned by his stepfather and wife where they grew wine grapes, fruit trees, pears and other delicious food. The house sits on a small hill overlooking the land and downtown Martinez. He worked very hard to maintain the family's growing business for many years until his wife decided he needed to go back to what he truly loved to do; explore the land and be an advocate for America's natural beauty. Once inside the grand Vic, you instantly step into the past and see how the great naturalist lived in his 3 story Italianate home. The original hardwood floors look just like ours as does the base floor molding.
I made a light very similar to this one.

We both picked up tips on how to make our home more authentic to the period while keeping it updated to modern standards. One of the more astonishing things (to me) were in the attic. There was a table filled with tools of the era including a hand crank drill. Hand-cranked!!
Tools in John Muir's attic
I'm able to do quite a lot with our meager battery and electric tools but always wish for better things. Yet, Muir, and people like him, built these fabulous homes and created incredible furniture using simple (painfully simple) hand powered tools. Can you imagine using these tools now?? Now perhaps Muir hired many laborers to build the big structures but I'm sure he needed to use these tools to maintain the house and land. About 50 yards from the main house was the carriage house complete with a horse carriage appropriate to the era. I stopped to admire the carriage doors, having just built a set for our house. Perhaps it's just 'projecting', but I felt a real connection with the life Muir lived nearly 100 years ago. He worked hard on the beautiful house, worked the land for food and business and found incredible beauty in the natural landscape.
Crazy wheelboard that I could make out of wood if need be
John Muir's study is all wood

 These are all enlivening things that I've rediscovered in me just these past 3 years.

It has been far harder but far more rewarding then many of the computer-based work I had been doing up to that time. Our house is about 1/3 the size of Muirs' and our yard 1/10 of his land yet it still seems a great challenge to work with wood and soil year round. Most people would have a gardener and a contractor but we've decided to do all our work ourselves since we have been basically operating on the slogan: 'No Experience, No Tools, No Budget, No Help...No Problem!' lol
Stones placed around Muir's farm

Anyway, going forward...perhaps the technology expertise I possess can best be used to help others "rediscover" the values of the past that have been buried by the avalanche of zeros and ones? That sounds good to me. What about you?

Andrea's favorite room is named 'The Scribble Den'

Andrea develops crush for Mr. Muir

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

A new entry

Viola! The Entry Way Closet is finished. We restored more beautiful old floor. The charming cushion seat is compliments of the lovely Sylvia.
George did some repair work in the walls, insulated, put up new drywall, painted it light gray, and stained/installed the trim pieces. 

We are currently restoring the hardwood floor in the art/guest room behind this closet. Boy is it hard work scraping old vinyl, vinyl glue, and paint off the wood floor! We are now cleaning/scrubbing the floor, and then will be ready to start sanding. For breaks, we've been exploring amazing parks in the East Bay and taking up hiking.

We're also starting to work on the backyard again which is going through some changing and evolving. Right now the Santa Rosa Plum tree has the most white blossoms I've ever seen on the tree. Photos to follow.