Two months have passed since dozens of community volunteers turned out for a weeklong, old-fashioned house-raising to help Michael and Trisha Covelly begin to rebuild their Harford County home, which was destroyed Jan. 2 in an electrical fire.
"Everybody was beautiful," Mrs. Covelly said. "God touched us in a way that couldn't have been done in any other way."
The couple did not have enough insurance to pay a builder to replace their home, a turn-of-the-century structure that once was the one-room Mount Horeb School.
So strangers, neighbors, relatives and friends from Harford churches and the surrounding community donated hours of time to construct the framework for a new 2,100-square-foot Cape Cod-style house on their 8-acre lot on Mount Horeb Road in Street.
"The week when everybody was out here working . . was the biggest step as far as erasing the bad feelings about the fire," Mrs. Covelly said.
Small, hand-painted wooden signs offering thanks to the workers can be seen in the Covellys' yard overlooking Little Deer Creek.
Motorists slow their cars to check on progress; some call out encouragement.
"It makes you smile," Mrs. Covelly said. "It's hard not to smile because everybody's trying to help."
The Covellys, both 42, have continued to work on the house in the weeks since the volunteer effort. A picnic table adorned with a few hand-picked flowers in a cup is set up so they can eat meals there during breaks.
The couple is renting a house about a mile away and expects to have enough work finished to move in to their new home sometime next month with their daughter, Bess, 18, and son, Graham, 13.
The Covellys want to settle in before September so Graham can start eighth grade at North Harford Middle School.
Throughout construction, the Covellys have acted as their own general contractor, hiring an electrician, a plumber, a drywall subcontractor and a painter.
Much of the electrical and plumbing work is done.
Insulation and drywall have been installed, and closets and stairs have been built. Still left are painting; the installation of kitchen cabinets, carpet, flooring and bathroom fixtures; and construction of a deck.
"It is kind of exciting building your own house," Mr. Covelly said. "It has been a challenge. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
Mr. Covelly, a mason, has worked on the house evenings after work and on weekends.
Soon he'll be finished with the brickwork. He has fashioned decorative arches and patterns in the brick. "It's my Christmas card house," Mrs. Covelly said.
When her husband is done, he will have laid nearly 15,000 rose-colored, antiqued bricks. He also built the house's foundation and chimney and will install cedar siding on the dormers.
"Michael has laid every brick with a purpose," Mrs. Covelly said. "Each time he lays a brick he'll say, 'That's 3 inches closer to having my family in a house.' Everything that is done, no matter what it is, is measured in terms of us moving back in."