Fire Takes a Homestead

| 12/30/2014 8:59:00 AM

Tags: fire, insurance, community, Maryland, Ilene White Freedman,

In January 2014, I wrote a post for MOTHER EARTH NEWS entitled Sheep Come to the Homestead-Warming Party. I was raving about the beautiful artistry in my dear friends’ complete historic home renovation, revealing an 1800's log cabin and stone kitchen. A model of preservation and repurposing. Award-winning craftsmanship, design and determination. They enjoyed a year in their new home, and then, on the afternoon of December 12, 2014, fire took their home in a matter of hours. The house was ravaged in a catastrophic fire and deemed a complete loss.


So, homesteaders, what happens when you put an overdose of sweat and tears into a huge DIY project, only to lose it all? Insurance reimbursements can rebuild a house. But who will rebuild their spirits? Who will rebuild that, after the deep loss of tireless effort and personalized project?

BJ Miller and Shannon Varley dedicated two years to renovating the condemned 1800's farmhouse, working overtime to pay for the project and pulling all-nighters to balance jobs, kids and the renovation. Every room had repurposed pieces, every corner had a story. There were barters and gifts and sale finds in the appliances and furniture, offering more stories to enrich the space. It held community spirit, as many homespun projects do, with friends and family contributing to work days and building parties.

The words of a friend, Sarah Frost: Shannon worked during the days gutting the house, repointing, and chinking the old log cabin portion of the house. Then BJ would come home from his timber frame construction job, spend time with the family, get the kids to bed, and start to work rebuilding. Meanwhile, Shannon would go off to work at her waitressing job.

BJ is such a fantastic craftsman and between the two of them they created a house that was worthy of the pages of This Old House Magazine. BJ and Shannon won the contest for Best Kitchen in This Old House Magazine’s contest for 2014 One-Room Wonder Best Remodels, published in October 2014. It is probably still on the magazine racks in book stores and groceries.

12/31/2014 1:09:07 PM

What an elegant and heartfelt tribute to the value of friendship and community!

12/31/2014 1:08:31 PM

What an elegant and heartfelt tribute to the value of friendship and community!

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!