All was quiet out at the Lazy Redneck Ranch this winter morning. Maybe you could have heard the sound of the sparrows tweeting and flitting up in the hayloft of the horse barn. Maybe the cats will chase the dog around the kitchen again. Maybe the grandkids are due for a visit. Soon enough, though, the ice will thaw and the endless work on the house that hometown tenacity built will begain again anew.
More than four years have passed since the excavator pulled up front of the Falker-Crandall homestead to dig the foundation for their new home (that's it up there). Since then, plenty of folks with the last name Falker or Crandall and plenty others, too, have visited that plot of land along Lockport Road in Oakfield, where a husband and wife decided that they weren't going to pay someone else to build their home. Nah. They would do it themselves.
You could see that house, too, standing proud, quite handsome, proof that as long as you've got the desire, the know-how and a few carpenters for relatives nothing can keep you from building your own home. Not that it's finished. Not by a long shot. Mark and Barb Falker-Crandall talk about their "expansion" plans with that audacity in their voice that lets you know they mean to keep on going, adding this, remodeling that, until they migrate to the big ranch in the sky.
"It will be one of those things that I'll work on until I can't pick up a hammer no more," says Mark. I can see him, too, decades from now, grizzled and grey, still swinging the ball-peen, tweaking this, patching that. It's his home, literally. Barb's too. They built it with their bare hands... and "with a little help from good friends and God," as Barb likes to say, they got it done.
Let's back up a little, though, back to that day the excavator arrived. It was August. Sunny and warm. Mark was stoked. He thought he was going to have off work a few months to lay the foundation and maybe even get up the walls of his new house. They would be out of the trailer in no time... Then the phone rang, and Mark was packing for Binghamton that same afternoon.
So he put in the call to his old school chum Wayne Shamblin, who was out at the site as soon as the plot had been dug. Wayne had the block all laid by the time Mark was home from Binghamton that weekend, and just like that, the Falker-Crandalls had a foundation.
That was how it went for the next couple years. They did what they could when they could and got help when they couldn't. Mark worked on the place mostly on weekends, until he started a night shift the following spring. Barb was going to school full-time and working full-time, plus the internship. "It was crazy," she admits.
"There wasn't a lot of sleep going on at that time," says Mark. He brags that the excavator work was the only part of the job that they didn't do themselves... with a little help from friends and family, of course. That's no exaggeration. They did the plumbing, the electrical, the drywall, all the structural work. Mark built a kitchen counter with a bar. Barb sewed the curtains and the doilies. Mark borrowed an aluminum break from one friend and got another friend to bend all the ductwork for the heating system.
When the trusses were ready to go up, Barb got together a bunch of folks from their church. Husbands and wives came out. They brought food. "It was like a good old Amish barn raising," says Barb. They raised the roof in a day.
What's more: they did it all with local goods.
Mark got the trusses from Potter Lumber Co. in Corfu. Most of the rest of the lumber, they had delivered by Trathen Logging Co. Windows and doors were got from Millwork Solutions in Batavia, where they scored an incredible deal on French doors for the back of the house. Their kitchen cupboards came from a shop in Indian Falls. Everything was local, got from hometown businesses, from people they knew who knew how to cut a deal. Heck, Mark even bought their furnace—brand new, mind you—at a garage sale.
Mark and Barb don't have the kind of spic and span credit that gets you a bankroll no questions asked. Like most of us. So they worked deals, borrowed from friends, even bartered. Once the trailer was hauled off the property, they sold that to pay for the insulation. When they needed dirt for fill—they also built the horse barn next to the house... from scratch—Barb negotiated with the construction crews who were then redoing the roads in Oakfield. She made them an offer they couldn't refuse.
"Twenty-two loads," she says, "and all it cost me was two homemade apple pies."
They got that raw, cabin-style look by going with rough cut lumber, as opposed to finished siding. That also saved them considerably. Aesthetics + cash in pocket = a job well done. "People tell us: 'Your place looks so nice. It looks like the little house on the prarie,'" says Barb.
Well, that's not exactly the name they went with.
"You want to know what we call it?" asks Mark. "We call it the Lazy Redneck Ranch." According to a sibling who shall remain nameless, Mark explains that he's been dubbed the lazy one—so lazy he built himself a house—and Barb's the redneck.
A redneck who knits doilies? "Yes," she says. "I play in the mud. I'll play tackle football, ride a horse, get out the four-wheeler... and... I like my guns."
She's also known to spoil a grandchild every now and then.