So I take a deep breath, look around me, and see possibilities and a ton of work. I am going to update a farmhouse, in real time, myself. I intend to do most everything I can myself, excepting if I add a second bathroom. That will require someone who likes to do plumbing more than I do. I am not even really sure what I want for each room so I will accept all ideas!
Let me tell you a bit about myself. I am a middle age woman living in a rural pocket on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, with seven acres of hillside in a dilapidated house that did not have indoor plumbing or a kitchen or bathroom in 1965. My dad bought the house for a few hundred dollars and he and his dad set out to do what our family does best: repurpose and build. His new wife would soon be pregnant for the first time, living in half a duplex. My dad worked all day and went to the house every evening and on weekends to dig out the cellar; add a garage, basement, and bathroom; and turn the cold spring house into a kitchen. Parquet floors were put in downstairs, salvaged from a school gym when it was torn down. Cut glass doorknobs and leaded doors were added to a built-in bookcase when the “new room” was added over 35 years ago. Slate flooring went on the landing, oak from the family barn was added here and there. The piece de resistance, however, is the old glass in the Dutch door, signed by etching pen by everyone who entered our family. My parents did a decent job of maintaining the large house through the years, and in retirement my father added a glorious mancave on the hillside overlooking the valley. There is a shooting range, and a storage barn. There is a chicken coop and playhouse and other outbuildings that should have been demolished decades ago, and over the years my parents became more reluctant to let things go. Add feathered and furry friends to line their now-empty nest, a mother whose heart condition precluded much physical activity, and a dad who was as busy as busy could be inventing his next irrigation system or perfecting a pie recipe. It’s a lot of house to handle.
Fast forward to December 14, 2013. I came home for my MBA class and visit with the folks for the weekend. My husband had filed for divorce earlier in the year and I scheduled a blind date. The as-yet-unknown man insisted we meet at a very public coffeeshop for my comfort. I challenged him to order for me and I would meet him there. Test #1. He gathered opinions, followed clues I left on my Facebook page, and made sure there was food at the coffeeshop (black coffee and raisin bread so I would have something in my stomach but not too much, if I was subject to nerves) and a pub nearby. He passed Test #1. We shook hands and I stood in the rain, watching him drive away in his minivan.
My sister and her family were coming to celebrate the holiday, too, that weekend. I drove my mom to church because she didn’t drive and my dad wasn’t feeling well. Halfway through the service, my cell phone rang. My dad. I memorized the message. “Don’t drive like a nut. I’m not dying or anything. I just want to go and have someone check me out.” Maybe I could take him in to the ER. Coming from a man who never missed a day of work in his life, I drove l like a nut. He felt a bit better by the time we got home, so he called off the trip to the hospital. We celebrated Christmas as a family. I offered to stay the next day and take him to the ER. He was hesitant. He didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. “It’s a lot less inconvenient to do it this way, Daddy, than to drive 2 hours mid-week to come do it.” After his tests, I sat and read Porky Chedwick articles to him while we waited for the doctor to come give him an antacid and send him home. Just when we were bored beyond belief, the doctor came in. Stage 4. Terminal. Pancreatic, lung, liver, lymph. The indestructible man’s head snapped back, then forward to his chest as if he had been hit as he heard the C word. “Ooof.”
Between my sister and I, we started living there 6 days a week, cooking, cleaning, feeding, driving, talking, administering pills, shopping, making phone calls. A month later he was gone.
His wife, the only woman he ever dated, the only woman he ever loved, is moving into an independent living apartment where we don’t need to worry about her heart. She can’t take care of the house on her own. The last six months have taken its toll on it. It hasn’t been scrubbed. Everything was as it was in the fall when my dad got it ready for winter: storm windows, covered landscaping ponds. My sister has slowed coming home for the summer, now that her kids are out of school. Packing my mother’s life into cardboard boxes takes every minute of housework time I have. We are lucky to get our laundry and dishes done.
The house is grimy. Some rooms are classically and tastefully done behind the disarray; others are simply outdated. Having only one bathroom is a problem. How quickly the beautiful English gardens have become overgrown with weeds! The new room – we still call it the “new room” – has never been re-wallpapered or re-carpeted. The paper is peeling and the carpet is beyond stained. The lighting is dim and the walls are scuffed.
So I am moving back into the house to see if I can handle it, financially, physically, and mentally; if not, it will be fresh for the market.
I did the same, on a grander scale, twenty years ago, when I bought my first house – a little hunting cabin with no heater and plaid carpet and velvet wallpaper that became something I loved with a cathedral ceiling and skylights and spiral staircase to loft and exposed fireplace. I wish I could do that here, but I feel my age, and I think you would grow bored long before I finished. My goal is to keep each room or area to one month, and only spend $250/room on average to refresh it. I would like to add a bathroom, but I am not sure where yet.
I hope you will travel with me on this journey. You will meet my family and friends as we go. I will be highlighting some of the great products from Online Stores, Inc.’s three construction sites: SafetyGirl, Construction Gear, and Discount Safety Gear. I welcome your questions, advice, and comments.
First up will be the small bathroom. I want to give it a facelift and brighten it up, with the hopes of it becoming the second bathroom eventually. I will review our tool belt and disposable coveralls while I restore the cabinets, paint the floor (yes!!) and swap out hardware and accessories. The additional gear from our stores that I will be using for the bathroom will be a respirator, gloves, and safety glasses.