Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Construction - An Unexpected Hiatis

Construction is Temporarily on Hold
In late August, when the excavation was nearly complete for letting the house into the hillside, several unexpected circumstances disrupted progress.  

The reason for waiting until late summer for breaking ground was to excavate during the dry season in order to minimize the amount of erosion of the wind-blown loess soil once its organic covering has been removed.  However, rainfall of more than four inches over normal has put a stop to digging several times for days on end and has resulted in serious problems keeping the silt under control with silt fencing.

But the major reason for the hiatus in construction, as inopportune as it has been in the short term, will be a big plus over the next couple of years--we have moved into the house next door.

The Farenzena Homeplace
Our building site was part of a farm-ette on what was, in early twentieth century, on the outskirts or Collinsville (despite being only 8 blocks from Main Street).  Our three and a third acres represent about a fifth of the original farm.  The 92 year old farmhouse with its remaining acre of land abutted our property.  Our good neighbor, Vincent Farenzena, was born in the house, lived in it his entire life then inherited it after his parents were gone.
Our building site lies beyond the house (click to enlarge).

Good New, Bad News
The bad news is that Vincent passed away suddenly in late August. We had approached him in July about arranging for us to have the right of first refusal on his property if and when he were no longer able to use it.   The good news is that, despite any prior arrangement, we purchased the property, moved into it and are doing the upgrades that make it more livable--all of which has kept me from working on the new house for several weeks now.  One of the advantages of the move is that the large garage will be available as a workshop for storing tools and hardware and for woodworking in conjunction with construction.

Re-combining the Farenzena Property
We feel good about putting the Farenzena homeplace back together again, at least to the extent it was when Vincent's parents died in the early '80s. (By then, more than half of the original farm had been sold for development).  Dottie's garden (Dottie's eclectic garden) lies directly behind Vincent's house.  She will miss visiting with him over the garden fence and we will both miss him as a source of information on his family as well as Collinsville history.

Interesting Family History
The elder Mr. Farenzena emigrated from Italy in the 1920's to work in the nearby coal mines.  With draft horses, cows, chickens, hogs, row crops, fruit trees, berry patch, veggie garden and vineyards on their +/-15 acres, plus his steady day job in the mines, the Farenzenas and their three children were self-sufficient and able to avoid government assistance during the great depression.  As part of their resourcefulness during the depression, they bartered with wine, in lieu of cash, for essential goods and services.

Basement Wine-Making Facility and Cool Storage
The floor in one corner of the basement is lower than the rest and is configured uniquely. Apparently, grapes were dumped through the basement window into a large wooden vat situated in a round concrete depression.   According to the surviving Farenzena brother, the lid for the vat was then loaded with stones to sqeeze the juice from the grapes which was then transferred to a series of barrels to finish the process.

Extending from the wine area outward under the earth is an interesting domed space.  It is cooled by being subterranean, by the cistern adjacent to it on the outside as well as by having a floor even lower than the wine-making area so as to attract the coldest air in the basement.  It served as a root cellar and cool storage for home-butchered meat products such as sausage.