Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – If Cabinets Could Talk

My life in Appalachia - If Cabinets could talk

I used to love to watch the tv show If Walls Could Talk. Homeowners of old houses are highlighted on the show-or I should say the interesting items the homeowners discover while renovating their old homes are highlighted.

Pap and The Deer Hunter built our house close to 20 years ago. The house isn’t anything special-just a plain ranch style over a basement. But without Pap having ‘the know how’ to build a house we would never have been able to afford a new house of our own.

The Deer Hunter would say Pap taught him everything he knows about building-Pap would say “I think he learned from someone other than me because he’s better at it than I am.”

Over the last couple of years our house has started showing it’s age. Windows that need replacing (we were young and bought the cheapest they had), linoleum that was shoddy to begin with and seperated from the wall over time, stained bathroom fixtures (from little girls who repeatedly scrubbed their rocks in the sink) and a host of other things.

Last winter we spruced up the girls’ bedrooms and the main bathroom. This winter it’s time to give the kitchen a makeover.

Truthfully after last winter’s renovation we were in no hurry to tackle another room, but our 20 year old double ovens decided to die. Replacing them led to a host of other issues like a gaping hole in the counter top. So here we are renovating the kitchen.

Turns out cabinets can talk. The photo above shows where someone wrote “Jerry Wilson Builder” on one of the cabinet braces. (Pap and The Deer Hunter built our kitchen cabinets too)

We’ve found other scribbles, my favorite being where they figured out the size of the next piece of material or how much of something they needed before the next trip to town. They used wood that would be hidden once the work was completed as I would a piece of scrap paper.

Maybe if I call the tv show they’ll come and let me tell them about my talking cabinets.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    January 4, 2015 at 9:27 am

    My husband and I both come from families of do-it-your-selfers/jacks&janes of all trades but our approaches are different. Hubby’s family spends lots of time “cogitating” (I interpret that as procrastinating) about projects and rarely completes them (“Let me count the ways” as demonstrated by our unfinished house of 15 years!) My family measures 5 or 6 times then cuts once and once a project is started, you burn the midnight oil until the project is done! You can imagine the conflicts which have arisen as my husband and my Dad have worked together on building our house!.
    About counter tops: I’m proud to say that our kids are all jacks/janes of all trades also. Our daughter showed particular tenacity as she completed their concrete kitchen counter tops while almost nine months pregnant. With hubby, Dad, and Grandpa there to do all the heavy lifting, she designed the forms, pressed in the counter drain “rack” to the sink, shaped and finished the concrete, and cut the holes for the fixtures. I have pictures of her in very round silhouette working intently, determined to have them done before baby two was born.
    She had planned to color the concrete but decided to leave it natural; the earth tone of the pebbles that show through and the gray of the concrete are a nice compliment to the sage color of the cabinets.
    About a week and a half after she declared “done: on the countertops, Baby 2 arrived in the middle of an ice storm!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 3, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    I would love to see hoe they are made

  • Reply
    January 3, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Congrats on your kitchen project! Measuring is everything when installing cabinets, or extending wall space. In fact, the next person who tears into our kitchen will find a very nice tape measure inside the wall/partition, where my husband left it- if walls COULD talk!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    January 3, 2015 at 11:02 am

    When my sister and her husband built a new home for themselves in Maggie Valley, she was constantly bargain hunting in the I Wanna, and found some real gems for the house, including an antique claw foot tub, among other treasures. Do you have an I Wanna for your area in which you could find unique fixtures for your remodel?

  • Reply
    Carol Stuart
    January 3, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Would love to see anything you are willing to share regarding your kitchen remodel. We hope to have our kitchen redone in July but I am already selecting the “ingredients”! Our house was built in early 1970’s and was built by a man who owned the construction company – I think that he must have had a few quirks when it came to design though. For example, the only access to the attic is located inside a closet and the access panel is halfway up the wall, secured by screws. So, you must unscrew a bunch of screws, remove the panel, drag in a step stool, climb up on the stool and then push up into the attic. I have lived in a lot of houses over the years – this access to the attic is unique (not good, just unique). In the finished basement one wall has a slatted boxed-in removable unit that is about 3 feet wide and 18 inches deep and is located next to the ceiling. The only thing on the other side of the unit is an open space tall enough for a man to stand in under our living room. The space is totally sealed. So the access “panel” isn’t there to provide circulation and the space is just a small dead space! Not a fallout shelter with open slats. Not disguised well enough for a hideout! Just plain strange. But, back to our upcoming kitchen remodel: our cabinets hide a couple of secret pathways! One is for tiny, tiny ants to come visit in startling multitudes in the summertime. The other is for mice to come dart around in wintertime. My main remodel goal………….find those entrances and stop them up for good!!!!! Best of luck with your wonderful new kitchen (when it is done).

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 2, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    You ought to get yourself one of those GoPro things and record yourselves doing the remodeling. Then maybe everyone can realize what actually has to happen to accomplish what you need done.
    Oh, fiddle sticks. I just remembered what we talked about eons ago. I didn’t really specify , but a fair amount of time must pass before the task can be adequately accomplished. Thanks for your patience and hopefully your reward will not be longer in the making.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Hi Tipper,I will very much enjoy watching Deer hunter and all of you working on the kitchen project!Maybe you’ll save me some saw dust?God Bless.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    January 2, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Pap & the Deer Hunter sound like a real Dynamic Duo! Love to see his project come to light. Nicest thing anyone ever did for me was when Roy and I were banished for a month one summer and our son and his amazing family and crew gave us a much needed renovation and new design. It was to be just the kitchen to start but moved on to the bedroom, baths, walls came down and light came in. We can never thank Mike enough for what we have today.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    January 2, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Oh, the joy- sarcasm intended! Can’t wait to see the countertops- we used repurposed galvinized metal for ours. I love them! Waste not, want not-

  • Reply
    January 2, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Yes, let us see the process!

  • Reply
    January 2, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    I would love to see how the Deer Hunter is making the countertops. We remodeled our kitchen 10 years ago and my husband and I did it ourselves. We re-arranged appliances to have some counterspace, and we bought laminate countertops and replaced the base cabinets. The wall cabinets were sturdy, so we kept those and my husband made new doors for them. We didn’t make any plumbing changes. Under the ugliest linoleum were hardwood floors, so we took up the linoleum and refinished the floor. Getting the linoleum up was a chore, because they used more glue than you can imagine! Our house was built in 1939, and the only reason the owners were able to build such a big house was that the husband
    worked for the railroad. The house originally had a coal-fired boiler and we have the old coal poker and there is a little room off the main half-basement that was the coal room. The second floor was unfinished, and we put in 3 bedrooms and a full bath 25 years ago. The plumbing was roughed in and the staircase and hall were in place, but no walls, closets, or floors. We hired someone to help with the upstairs. He started in June, working weekends and the occasional evening, and it was ready to move into shortly before Christmas of that year. Older homes have their own challenges, but you won’t get the same construction and details today.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    You’ve got a good-en in the Deer
    Hunter! Pap thinks the World of
    him! He once told me about replacing a roof when the Deer
    Hunter came by. And in just a minute he was shmmying up the ladder, carrying slabs of plywood
    and fastening it in place. It’s
    nice to have someone who’ll “take
    At the ending of summer The Deer
    Hunter helped me install a Water
    Reservoir way up on the mountain
    at my place. Works real nice!
    I bet thos Cabinets look like a
    Custom Job. No wonder Chitter
    and Chatter are so proud of their

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    January 2, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Yes, by all means do posts on the new kitchen project. Most men (and some women) I know, do all their building and repairing. None are “professionals”, but they all have common sense.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    January 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    I would love to see how the counters are being made. Ours are pretty old & like you said, not the best quality to start with.
    We just finished painting our little dining area off our kitchen. You would have had a good laugh at us moaning & groaning at trying to get up & down (we’re both in our 60’s & we feel it in all our joints)–we had some good laughs at ourselves!!
    We’ve always been do-it-yourselfers both for financial reasons & because we enjoy being self sufficient to a point. Our house was moved here & we remodeled it except for the electric. We were a lot younger & had a lot of help from friends & family. I think our work here is one reason we love our old house so much.

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    January 2, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Please post pictures of the whole experience The deer hunter is not by any means the only creative thinking person in the family I am sure the girls could lend some ideas and of course you will be the main thinker when it comes to your Kitchen.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Appalachian Americans are the most versatile folks I know. Some of the Deerhunter’s skill just has to be partially attributed to all the people surrounding him during his life. It also comes from a lot of old fashioned common sense and the ability to see problems as a challenge.
    Many of the men in my family are what they call “jack of all trades.” I have often been caught in the cross hairs as they discussed motor parts or handy tools. I found this to be very boring until I needed one of them to put on a new water faucet or fix an outlet. I am as amazed at their abilities, much as they are amazed at how good my fried chicken tastes. Working together without depending on hiring some company is the norm around here. I regret not paying more attention and offering more assist as my Dad spent his life remodeling and fixing. Often said I grew up with sawdust always in my nostrils.
    I will be looking forward to anything about your remodeling, and sure hope most completed before gardening time.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Yes, please!

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    January 2, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Tipper: All the comments on your endeavor of re-modeling are interesting. BUT you can get rid of that drafty fire place by putting in gas logs! We finally did that when the price of firewood went so high. Now we have CLOSED fire places and gas logs where there use to be wood boxes and lots of smoke – when the draft flowed down instead of out the chimney! GOOD LUCK! Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    January 2, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Like starting projects but have a hard time finishing. My style is more cut twice, measure once.

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    January 2, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Keep us updated. 🙂

  • Reply
    January 2, 2015 at 9:34 am

    I wish I had known someone with the know how when I remodeled my house. If I hired someone to replace the old sheetrock, they would find the wiring bad as one thing led to another. I could have built a new house by the time they got through charging for one project at a time. As far as I know, the only interesting find was an old moonshine bottle with a hand written date of nearly 100 years ago.
    I would love to see how the Deer Hunter is making your new counter tops.

  • Reply
    grandpa Ken
    January 2, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Wife replace cabinets, painted and got new counter tops. The project started in February 2013 was finished in September 2013. No kitchen the whole time. Lowe’s did the job delays, reorders, wrong sizes, and missed shipments. Hope I never have to do that again.
    Good luck
    grandpa Ken

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    January 2, 2015 at 9:20 am

    My Grandfather, Father and his brothers were barn builders in Perry County, PA.
    He did not build our house but he built
    homes for his sisters and he always had a workshop in the basement. The best thing I learned from him was to measure twice and cut once.
    He was a master at laying hardwood floors and was always in demand on weekends to help his friends.
    He was the building and bridge inspector for the Pennsylvania Railroad for the whole Philadelphia Division.
    There are few craftsmen today like Pap, The Deer Hunter and my Dad who could do everything.
    You are so lucky.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 2, 2015 at 9:14 am

    I have all kind of thoughts swirling around in my head about how Deer Hunter is building the counter tops…Would it be those new hand made metal ones just perfect for cooking, a fancy wood treatment, marble or flat stones or, or …..well just show us pictures…
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    January 2, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Yes, to the p.s.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 2, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Remodeling in the winter gives one a little more time, but when the water has to be off…It means a trip to the woods behind a tree. Nope we never did get us an emergency outhouse built. You know some olden things (like outhouses) can come in right handy when you’re remodeling! Although we have a well, it is maintained by electricity and we have no outdoor well to pull up a bucket of water. The spring, well it is a fer piece down the hill from the house and more of a wet weather spring so water doesn’t pool very deep! We draw up milk jugs of water in an expected emergency! (Think SNOW!) Since the power is liable to be off for a new electrical connection, that means the heat will be off so would bundle up in one room with no heat, since we got rid of our wood burning stove, due to old age and closed up the drafty fireplace…What were we thinking!
    Hope you think about all these modern day necessities before, turning off the water, electric and closing down the toilets for a few hours…LOL
    Yep, remodeling in the winter is fun…The best part, cooking chili on the outdoor grill in the dead of winter…Only if it was a campfire with the cast-iron hooks, then we would really be living the days of our ancestors…
    Yep, been there done that…Good luck Tipper, best part sound like you have some expert help in the carpenter field!

  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    January 2, 2015 at 8:36 am


  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    January 2, 2015 at 8:36 am


  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    January 2, 2015 at 8:36 am


  • Reply
    Lola Howard
    January 2, 2015 at 8:36 am


  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    January 2, 2015 at 8:35 am

    We are moving into our new house this weekend. During construction, my wife and I took magic markers and wrote some of our favorite Bible verses on the inside of the wall sheathing before the insulation went in. It would be interesting to see the reactions of people who may be tearing down or renovating that house years from now!

  • Reply
    January 2, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Re-doing a kitchen is not always the fun one thinks it is. I know you will enjoy the modernization of your kitchen, especially a new oven. There’s nothing like baking in a new oven. Picking out colors is a challenge, also. Been there, done this a while back. Stainless gets fingerprints; white is neutral and you can put any kind of accessories with it. Good luck and enjoy every stressful moment. The old cabinets have many a story to tell about what happened in your kitchen and the goodies inside their walls. Can’t wait to see pictures!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 2, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Tipper, the Deer Hunter is a ‘can do’ kind of person and he is an innovative thinker. He doesn’t see a problem he see’s a puzzle to be solved.
    He did some remodeling on my previous home. He was great to work with. I told him what I’d like to have changed and he figured a way to make it happen.
    I don’t think anyone but Pap taught him it’s that he has a creative mind and figured new ways to get jobs done.
    I love what you all have done and undone so far. I am certain the outcome will be beautiful, you see The Deer Hunter is not the only creative thinker working on this job. I’d rank you both among the most creative people I know!
    Yes, pictures please!

  • Reply
    benny terry
    January 2, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Would love to see more of the Deer Hunter; you talk so much about him. I’m not much of a carpenter but would like to get some ideas.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2015 at 5:46 am

    Aren’t you lucky that Pap has that know-how and the Deer Hunter has learned by working with him! Must be a very satisfying feeling to build your own house, right from scratch.
    And yes, I’d be very interested in seeing your new project come along! 🙂

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