Back in mid-2020 we had it all figured out. (Ok, fine, we had the semblance of a plan.) That plan was that we’d both quit our full time jobs to finish construction of The Branch (ugh, building a house in 2021) and look into other opportunities to serve visitors to Elk County. Jeremy gave his notice first, because his constructions skills are far superior to mine. I worked through December 31 and helped with construction and cleaning The Sapling on the weekends through the Fall. Soon, we’d have 2 lovely vacation rentals for Benezette visitors to choose from.
We’ve always had our eyes out for potential new In The Sticks Cabins locations and so when a farmhouse built in 1864, with roughly 4 acres sat on the market for a while, we went to check it out. With 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, a huge eat-in-kitchen addition and a super cool barn, we couldn’t say no. (Though, looking back on the slightly sloped second story floors, carpeted bathrooms and coal dust stained carpets, I’m pretty sure we were being over ambitious.) And so, then there would be 3 In The Sticks Cabins. We closed on the farmhouse in November of 2020, knowing full well that it needed some love.
The updated plan was that I could work on removing carpet, painting walls and replace electrical devices at the farmhouse. Jeremy would work a part time “real job” over the weekend. Through the week, he could work on The Branch (which was a concrete slab and some 2x4s at this point) and whatever I couldn’t tackle at the farm.
Jeremy’s family was instrumental in giving what is now The Willow an In The Sticks Cabins vibe. His Dad was a huge help with removing carpet and trim so that his Mom and I could get paint on the walls. His sisters and our nieces and nephew even helped paint. (Seriously, there was so much painting.)
We painted walls. We painted doors. We painted countertops. We painted kitchen cabinet hardware (and then ended up not using it). We painted chairs. And lastly, after every light fixture in the house had been replaced and I still couldn’t find one I liked for the dining area, we painted the existing fixture. Where it hung. I taped newspaper to the walls and ceiling and had Jeremy’s sister hold an old shower curtain up while I climbed a ladder and sprayed. (It turns out there’s limited photographic proof of this, which is probably for the better.)Jeremy would have stopped me had he known what I was up to. But in the end, it turned out great. (Though, I still want to replace it if I ever find the perfect fixture.)
It took us about 4 months to get The Willow ready to welcome guests. Renovations in the sticks are not for the faint of heart.
We really designed The Willow with families in mind, since ours was so integral in getting it ready. The downstairs master is perfect for grandparents, while 3 bedrooms upstairs sleep an additional 9 people.
Our nieces and nephews always fight over who will get to sleep in the closet bed. It is absolutely the kids favorite (and perfect for adults who like a dark place to sleep with some serious privacy)! This room has 2 full size beds and a single, making it the perfect room for cousins and siblings to bunk up in.
The last thing we needed to do was fine tune the outdoor spaces. There was no path to get into The Willow from the driveway, so Jeremy constructed the most beautiful set of outdoor stairs (not before our niece, brother-in-law, and I, all slipped down the hill). We also turned the side yard off of the kitchen into a rock-io (a patio, but made out of rocks) to create a fire pit area.
We’re so glad we’ve had the opportunity to share The Willow with other families who are exploring in Benezette. It’s a great home base for groups who are looking to see the elk, hike, fish, or check out The Elk Country Visitor Center (which is about 15 minutes away). Head over to our availability page and make your reservation now!