Friday, December 04, 2009

House chores

I've never owned a house before. Except for the first four years of my life, and the first six months of 1980 living on winter and spring crew at Farm and Wilderness, I have not lived in a single house. Most of my childhood was spent in a two-family, and every now and then I'd be reminded it was two-family, like when I was about 16 and sleeping in my third-floor room when three or four people came in, around midnight. They were visiting someone in the other half and came in by mistake.

I've lived in apartment buildings small, seven or eight to an entryway, and smaller, two or three. And while it's not exactly group living, sharing a building like that always means some compromise, some give and take in daily living, as simple turning down the music. When we lived in our condo on Warren Street our Chinese neighbors the floor above liked to make fried fish and the moment we smelled it we'd yell, "Incoming!" and race to the stove fan to get the odor going the other direction. Very nice family, just didn't like the fish smell.

We've lived in this house for two and a half years and so far we've had this work done: carpets, paint, windows, garage door fixed, second hot water heater, energy audit (and they are air sealing it now), tile repaired in the main floor bathroom, deck repaired and painted, various electrical work, new sliding glass doors, replaced rot on outside of my studio, storage room off the garage cleaned of mold and ventilated, new coat closet, laundry room and sinks installed, and lots of trees taken down and stumps ground up. I'm probably forgetting stuff. But it really adds up and the house is worth much less than what we paid for, given the lousy economy.

And I want to pay a touch more and put in a closet upstairs and build a wall around our bedroom, so we can finally have some privacy. I also want to replace the front door, and all the hollow-core doors that give us even less privacy in this crazy house. We need new carpet in the basement, and I want to install a ductless heater in my studio so I can use that space year-round (last spring and early summer was so cold and rainy I didn't really use it until July).

And next we need to turn our attention to the yard next, and that's a bigger thing. My sister Bondi suggested we put down some paths in the form of a certain stone she likes, and that will help make it manageable: We can dig up and work on a section at a time, as delineated by the path. So now saving money for stones. First we need topsoil to fill in the deep holes made by the stump grinder.

This is all in addition to the fix-it stuff that we--mostly Dave--have done around the house, like building the pantry, or making the linen closet. And of course the seasonal chores like raking leaves, shoveling snow, stacking firewood, and moving pellets to their storage room, and the daily stuff like vacuuming and laundry and taking out the compost and cleaning the kitty litter. A house demands a lot, and I can see the appeal of an apartment--smaller space, contained, don't have to pay for the hot water replacement, say.

Still, I love it. I like the tasks. I don't see them as distracting or a nuisance, I see them a routine, or even, a ritual. Stacking firewood is a way to stay in touch with the seasons. I don't even mind the cleaning, and I really enjoy laundry. I can't quite get my brain around the gardening yet, which feels foreign to me. I don't understand about light and soil and plants yet, I don't truly appreciate going in and changing them to fit my needs, and the idea of working on such an enormous palate--yes I think my front yard is enormous; I could never be a farmer!--feels overwhelming.

But that will come. So many of my hopes and dreams for myself and my family about this relocation have come true, and I trust that more will follow. It's been such a short time. I've never lived any place more than 14 years, and I want very much to stay here for many years, maybe even until we're as old as the Unnos, the previous owners, who were in their eighties, I think. Still, be careful what you wish for, right? It's working for me now.

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