Cedar and cypress siding installation image on an 1800s Queen Anne Victorian house in Tennessee

How to Plan a Barnraising Weekend

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Many of you have asked that I keep you apprised of what we’re doing with the Victorian. The truth is it’s a very slow and ongoing effort that’s going to take us years, so there haven’t been a whole lot of completed projects of late. That said, we’re finally making traction on the exterior, so let’s take a look shall we?

Queen Anne Victorian house

If you recall, this is what our house looked like when we bought it two years ago:

Queen Anne Victorian house

And the back side:

Queen Anne Victorian house

First up, we replaced the roof. Then, we added a custom finial that SVV had made in Portland. Then, last year, we hired a couple of guys to start replacing the siding, once we ripped out that ugly awning.

SVV later wound up firing them because slowly they started showing up late and leaving early and eventually didn’t show up at all (it’s tricky finding reliable labor in these parts). And so we decided to do the rest of it ourselves because my husband the former carpenter/contractor/painter is every bit as skilled at it as anyone we’d find in these parts.

Queen Anne Victorian house

But then we didn’t have time—and realized we might not ever. So we hired a guy to do some of the more difficult craftsmen-work on the turret and porch. He finally finished that last week. The house is now “all buttoned up” for the winter, as SVV likes to say, and we already have a crew scheduled to finish off the remaining sides when it warms up in the spring. At that point, SVV and I will paint it ourselves.

Meanwhile, on the side, we were trying to complete a fence to go around the perimeter.

Queen Anne Victorian house

Back in May, we rented a gas-powered hydraulic auger to dig the post holes. Of course, it picked that particular weekend to turn 50 degrees and rainy.

Digging a Fence

We persevered anyway. It turns out I really like wielding heavy equipment. Who knew?

Digging a Fence

It was all smooth sailing … until we hit a water line. So our entire second day of post hole-digging turned into fixing the pipe and making five trips to Home Depot and having Darryl, the neighborhood water guy, pay us a handful of visits and saving our flooded yard. The van Lunas know how to bring the drama, y’all!

But then, finally, we were ready to put up the fence!

Fence Digging

Only, we ran into problems because, well, when have things ever gone seamlessly for us? Never is the answer. (It’s a good thing we both like a challenge.)


That’s right: After two years of ignoring us, the codes board came a callin’. Turns out we (allegedly) needed a variance to build such a structure. Only nowhere in the thousand-page code book did it ever say this. After a couple civil arguments, the powers-that-be insisted that the only way we could get permission was to appeal to the board—and it was going to be another two months until we could get onto the agenda.


So we spent the rest of the summer working on our garden(s) instead.

Cactus Garden Gardening

We waited it out until the codes meeting in September, for which we (meaning SVV) had prepared a full-on presentation with visuals, only to arrive and have the board grant us an exemption with no questions asked. Meaning we could have spent the summer finishing the fence after all, instead of wasting four months waiting to be given permission. It wound up taking SVV one afternoon to finish the side of the fence we had started. Small town politics, I give up.

Variance for fence

The next task is putting up the picket along the two street-facing sides of our half-acre lot—only before we install it, we have to paint all those pickets first (or at least slap on a coat of primer). This is where our amazing friends, who spent this past weekend with us, come in.

Barn Raising

Last year before Christmas, we had a handful of our favorite people come down for the weekend for a holiday-themed adult sleepover. This time, we thought we’d throw a little productivity in the mix and have a good, old-fashioned barn raising.

Barn Raising

And, surprisingly, they all came! Which was clutch, as we had 479 pickets to prime.

Barn Raising Barn Raising

The weather had been in the 30s and raining/sleeting/precipitating all week long, so we were concerned the barn raising part of the weekend might have to be canceled. But we woke up on Saturday, made some breakfast, drank some mimosas and went outside to find a relatively pleasant 48 degrees with intermittent sun. So barn raise we did.

Queen Anne Victorian house Barn Raising Queen Anne Victorian house

You’d be surprised what you can accomplish with a whole team at your disposal. It didn’t take long for us to get into a groove, and after just three hours, we had every picket painted and lain out on our driveway.

Queen Anne Victorian house Queen Anne Victorian house Queen Anne Victorian house

And then we rewarded ourselves with showers and more mimosas. And bourbon (always bourbon).

Brian and Max

Eventually—as in some time by the summer—we hope our house looks something like this (only more realistic and with less snow):

1899 Victorian with picket fence

Which means we might need another barn-raising weekend in order to do that. Who’s in? We make a mean cocktail. And employ a really cute canine foreman to top it all off.

Ella the dog

  • November 17, 2014


  • November 17, 2014

    Loving the house update! You and SVV are pretty inspiring, doing so much for yourselves. My husband and I just bought our first house in August and I can only hope we handle our own DIY’s so well! I’ll have to keep the idea of a “barn-raising weekend” in my back pocket for a particularly tricky project.

    • November 17, 2014

      Thank you, Erin! I have to say that there are plenty of days I just want to say, “screw this! Let’s hire someone to do it!” but reliable construction labor in this area is slim, so even if I wanted to, that wouldn’t necessarily be a possibility 😉

  • November 17, 2014

    Your house looks great, Kristin! So much hard work is paying off. Hope you guys are doing well. I didn’t realize a poll was happening, so thanks for the heads up. I voted for you today!

    • November 17, 2014

      Thank you, Carol! Appreciate it!

  • November 17, 2014

    Count me in for barn raising. I don’t think I can fly my honorary American flag till I’ve raised a barn.

    • November 18, 2014

      YES! Would love for you and Tyson to come down soon. We’ll have a tool belt around your waist in no time 😉

  • November 17, 2014

    If I lived in Tennessee I think you’d be my favorite neighbor! First because your house is adorable, and second because you are apparently growing mandrakes in your garden, which is awesome.

    • November 17, 2014

      HA! Yes, I totally Instgrammed this photo a couple months ago with a mandrake/Harry Potter reference in it. So reason #3 we’d be compatible neighbors: We both passed our OWLs in Herbology!

  • November 17, 2014

    Voted! And I’m so in for a barn raising… name the time and the place and I’ll be there with bells on 😉

    • November 18, 2014

      What are you doing in summer 2015? I’m sure we could organize a barn raising around PRSA in Lexington (3 hours up the road)… 😉

  • November 20, 2014

    Such A beautiful house you have. Hope you are enjoying the stay in it. Cheers:)

  • November 23, 2014

    Your house is looking better and better.

    • November 24, 2014

      Thank you so much! We are trying to give her the attention she deserves.

  • November 24, 2014

    Your house looks amazing. I’m so pleased that it’s old style Victorian. Very apt. You’ll have a lovely time there I’m sure.

    I only got your post today but I still tried my luck in clicking. I was very pleased that you cam in at 2nd place. Well done!

    • November 24, 2014

      Ah I didn’t even know that about the Elliott awards! Thanks for letting me know =)

  • November 27, 2014

    It is coming along! I have no doubt that you have armies of friends who would gladly help you do anything!!

  • October 27, 2015

    Oh my, thank you for the reminder that we need to call the utilities to find out where electric, gas, and plumbing lines run! We’re putting in a fence this weekend and I hadn’t even thought of that!! Sorry you had to deal with that hiccup though.

    • October 27, 2015

      Ha, well happy to prevent you from repeating my mistake! =)

      P.S. Good luck!!!

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