Our farm, our house, and our lives have been under siege now for seven, very long weeks, and time is still counting. Since the last week of September, a steady stream of trucks bringing workers to address various issues of twenty year old buildings and their long and much needed upkeep, have arrived each weekday in the early morning with their ladders, saws, and hammers. Beginning at the crack of dawn they have buzzed, banged, and hammered the days away, fixing this and that, until the late afternoon when their tail lights have drifted down the driveway, leaving an eerie, and temporary, silence in their wake.
We began in late September with the barn. A twenty year old roof that had suffered under numerous hail attacks and the effects of time, was torn off and replaced with new shingles. The whole structure was pressure washed inside and out, displacing unknown numbers of spiders who had called the rafters home for decades. Long tubes of dried mud from the industrious dirt daubers that had lined the walls were washed away in sickly streaks of yellow and orange. Rotten wood was replaced and the whole barn got a fresh coat of new paint and once again it was a nice space to walk into. Hercules could not have done a better job if this barn had been added to Eurystheus’s to do list.
During this time when focus was on the barn, I fenced the horses away from their stalls and paddock to keep them out of the way and out of trouble. For weeks they stood in shock and in utter amazement at the goings on around their world. Kitty, my older and alpha mare, continually pawed at the gate in her furious disapproval of the situation and at the shunning they were getting. In doing so, she eventually dug up the buried hot wire for the fencing and managed to shock herself by hitting the exposed wire. Adding this insult to her malady resulted in some momentary, and very theatrical head tossing and airs above the ground. We reburied the wire and, after all work was done and stray nails picked up, finally reopened the gates. My herd is happy again.
The house project has been a bit more of a challenge to live with however. Remodeling always begins with demolition and demolition always means there is going to be a mess, and its magnitude is the big unknown. There is also the issue of there being no privacy in remodeling while living in a changing house. We have lived for years in a fish bowl out here in the country with no curtains, because, there weren’t any close by neighbors to see us, but now, having had a constant parade of tile layers, carpenters, painters, and their helpers in and out of the house, has often left me wishing for a very large sized invisibility cloak.
Simply leaving the house/farm while work is being done has simply not been an option. There are so many unknowns when the sheetrock comes off the wall, or the floor gets ripped up. There are just so many decisions that are made before the project begins, but there are even more that get made as it progresses, and these are the ones that have required my input, my executive decision. So for 99% of the time of our siege, I have stayed here in the house or, in the barn for very short breaks, directing this and correcting that. The 1% of the time, when I thought all decisions were made for the moment, I left for a quick lunch. When I got back, I found that one tile had been laid that was just not right, and stood out and not in a good way. So now I wait for that to be corrected, and it will be, but, my bad on leaving too soon.
Fortunately, during the process of remodeling, it can, thankfully, have its lighter moments. In the removal of our old fiberglass shower unit we found that behind it, nestled sweetly in the fiberglass insulation, was the currently uninhabited home of some Mickys and Minnies. It looked as though they had been in residence for some time judging by complexity of the burrowed tunnels in the fluffy pink insulation, and also by a large amount of crunched up acorns that lay on the subfloor that used to be under the shower floor. The real surprise was though, alongside these empty nut shells were ketchup packets with obvious bite marks where the mice had opened the packages. Our guess was that these house mouses had been dipping their acorns in the ketchup for a little extra flavor. Maybe they were tiny chefs? Our house is set under a canopy of large oaks and so finding the stashed acorns was not a total surprise, but ketchup packages? Where in the heck did they get them and how did they haul them all the way under the house and up the walls to their hideaway, and better yet, why?
The carpet is being ripped up today and is being replaced with new. Twenty years of history peeled like an onion, every cat and dog who left their mark, every spilled blob of paint, and every uh-oh is being erased and their attached memories will soon be forgotten and there will be a certain poignancy in their fading away. Each of their marks told a story, the stories of my children’s youth and how they lived in this space they called their rooms. With time I hope that these remodeled rooms will be filled with new memories that will be added to the fabric of this house, only cleaner I hope and will perhaps last well until I leave this house for the last time.
To live in any house is a responsibility. It is important to take care of it and to be a good steward for the next person who will share the running history with these walls and floors, living under the shade of this roof. Twenty years ago when we built this house we built with a strong emphasis on the bones and regrettably needed to use some lesser quality finish materials and details as place cards. We have had to wait until now to finish the details like I had wanted to do then, and I am glad to have this chance to do it. I designed this house, and feel it is part of my legacy, and not a tiny one, to me. I had wanted to leave this house in better shape than it had been in for a while, and so now in its closing moments of remodeling for this project, this process has been worth the pain. There is certainly more left to do. There always will be. The process is continual, but after twenty years of waiting, we have made a good start.
I was not surprised at the stress levels it would raise doing all of this, and it certainly has, but we were not new to remodeling and were resigned to its inconveniences. The details that needed attention, the corrections, the changes, the dust, the roaming through the house to find a bathroom that still worked, and the intrusion into our lives has been rough. For the most part though, I have survived. And I know too, that when I watch those last tail lights heading back to town for the last time, I will be ready for a serious massage, a very large and very cold martini or two, a very quiet house, and in no, particular order.