We’re on dumpster 11 in the rehab of our 2 family. The sad thing is that we haven’t even started gutting the inside yet. That’s just the major exterior repairs like roof (3 layers) and rotted siding and trash removal. We found some old tractor tires, rusted milk buckets and barbed wire during our yard cleanup last week that we hadn’t noticed before. I think we’ve gotten most of it at this point. As I talk to other people with older homes, this trash discovery issue is fairly common. A friend of mine found 20 old metal lamp posts in his back yard recently.
Babci and I have been doing a little arguing about her master plan for the property. Two days after we closed on our house we spent a good chunk of change removing about 8 trees that were dangerously close to the house and it was a good thing too because 4 of them were rotted in the middle. Anyway, as we were walking the land and trying to figure out where to put her shrubs, and she was like “you should have cut this tree down too..and this one and this one..and this whole row over here.” Actually, I can’t think of a single tree or ornamental bush that saw and liked. Some of the trees were close to the property line and provided some privacy from the neighbors too. She also complained of the stumps that were still there (and how was I supposed to get rid of them in the dead of winter?) In my frustration, I lost my patience and said..”Do you think I’m made of money? If it were up to you, I’d spend $50,000 on tree removal and clear cut the whole 2 acre lot.” I also told her that privacy from your neighbors adds property value and by taking down all the trees, it would not only cost a fortune, but it would also devalue the home. It’s not like there is no sunny spot for her garden, there’s a huge area about 5 times the size of what she has now.
After a few days of introspection, I realized that although some of the things she was saying were indeed crazy, impractical and wasteful, she was just projecting her dream home vision onto our property. In in her dream home, the bulk of the land is pasture and the only trees and shrubs on the property bear fruit. As long as we’re dreaming, this home would also be predator free so her chickens could free range graze to their heart’s content. Her garden would have a magical force field around it to keep the local groundhogs, birds, squirrels and chipmunks away from her garden harvest. She’d still let the turkeys in, but instead of chowing down on the current bushes, they’d walk into her chicken coop, get tamed and eventually be eaten for Thanksgiving dinner.
I am starting to realize that she’s got some real challenges ahead of her. This is the first time in over 40 years, she will be gardening in a rural setting. All her previous gardens in the US had been urban gardens and there is significantly less wildlife in those settings than where we’re moving to. The bird life is amazing as we have a large number of mature black cherry trees on the property as well as wild blackberries in the woods. Although we’re going to love it, Babci’s currant bushes don’t stand a chance unless there are completely enclosed in netting. We were also told by the neighbor that there is a fox that lives somewhere in the back acreage of the various connecting lots and we spotted a groundhog this weekend as well. No surprise there as we found a whole bunch of dens in the back woods recently. Although we have 2 acres, there are a number of neighbors that also have significant acreage that all connects together. The wooded area behind our house is really well over 20 acres. Oh boy. The battle royal between Babci and mother nature will be epic. I can see it already.
Babci’s Home Wants
As picky as she is about the land and what she wants to get out of it, she is the complete opposite when it comes to creature comforts. Since she grew up in a dirt floored log cabin with no electricity or running water, pretty much any house that keeps her warm and dry will satisfy her wants. Our own addition to this list was that she have her own kitchen, a first floor bathroom and first floor bedroom. She can sleep any old place she says, but the bathroom needs to be tub free. She has a hard time lifting her legs over tub lips these days, so that’ll have to be built from scratch.
The other big thing she hates is Vermin. She tells stories of the mice waking her up as a girl because they would run all over her in bed. It was pretty horrible and she always had a shoe nearby to try to get them. Even today, she acts much like the hippopotamus in Fantasia and dances on her tippy toes anytime she sees one. We’ve cleaned a lot of mouse carcasses out of the house so she’s very concerned about the vermin (as am I). I’ve been assured that most of the dead bodies we found were very old and the writers who owned our property before us weren’t known for their cleanliness. Since the basement was thick with cobwebs akin to the Temple of Doom, it’s a good chance that there was about 25 years of mouse bodies down there that just hadn’t been disposed of. It’s nothing a little concrete and wire mesh can’t take care of. All in good time.
We both have very sensitive noses and as a result are overly dramatic about smells too. I’ve done a few rounds of bleaching of the floors, removed all the carpets and changed over the heating system which should help tremendously with the smells. Her apartment had forced hot air, but the ducts were absolutely nasty. They were never sized properly, so they had to go anyway, but it’s a good thing because it was gross. The old ducts literally had fur on the inside and when you’d turn the heat on, you’d smell dog. The main house had hot water radiators with the same issue. As I was sawsalling out the old baseboard radiators last weekend, the vibration of the cutting released a bunch of pet dander from the heat exchanger fins. Yuck. That upgrade was worth every penny. Her apartment was literally the cow barn/milking area, so some of the animal smells are quite strong. We’re working on it though. I still can’t believe someone was living in this apartment in the state it was in. It boggles the mind.
So, here’s the progress report on fulfilling Babci’s Dream Home Wish List
- Leaking Roof fixed = Dry – Check
- Sunny Spot for her plants – Check
- New Heating System = Warm = Less Smelly – Check
- Foundation Repair = less mice = more warm – Check
- Property Grading = pond in basement gone = mold gone = frogs + musty smell gone – 1/2 way there
We’re almost ready to actually do things on the inside of the house now like get a bathroom that doesn’t leak and windows that open. As crazy as this all sounds, the best part of this house is the prospect of all living together in a place we’ll all love. With enough vision, hard work and money, this one should fit the bill. Wish us luck on getting our other places sold. We had a great time burning last weekend. We had friends over and made s’mores and hung out. It’s such a nice yard. I can’t wait to move so we can spend more time there. Really looking forward to it.