Nov 9, 2009

House Reno's: Priorities and Passions

A little over a year ago we found the ideal property - 5 acres with multiple out-buildings, a 1936 house that once served as a library, forest, pasture... Room to grow all our foods, our children, our dreams.

Then we moved into the reality of a large rural property with old buildings. Scantily clad with a fix-up budget from our mortgage that already looked too small, we made a bit of a priority list then just started to address whatever came up as highest priority. Looking back at the list now, there is a logical order that perhaps tells a lot about our process and state of mind.

In the first fall months, we did HEAT. Our cold old house with inefficient electric baseboard heaters was quickly graced with a heat pump, energy-efficient furnace to move that heat around, and a high-efficcy fireplace insert. We built storm windows for all the kitchen and north-facing single-pane windows. And just for fun, we kid-proofed the hayloft above the barn to be a playspace.

Now with a comfortably warm house, I made the rational choice to spend the winter outside. The priority now was COMMUNITY and REVENUE, turning the garage into a rental suite that brought two and a half wonderful people into our lives to share the land. Along the way we also ran electricity out to my workshop, and to one of the chicken coops for future chick-raising.

Spring sprung and called our attention to the GARDEN. We built a huge deer fence and spent all our energies cultivating the first-quarter of that ambitious plot. Over the summer we added irrigation, a cow fence and shed, a chicken fence, fixed up the greenhouse, and cut down trees to let more sunlight kiss the fruit trees.

Other OUTDOOR needs we addressed were a new septic field, gray-water laundry field, and the county's highest laundry line.
Just for fun we built an outdoor shower and hot-tub pad in the garden, and a playground area with old truck tires, tightrope and hammock.

Whew! To celebrate a year of hard hard work and $50,000 wisely invested, we smiled with this list for a minute, then of course made the next lists. The list of things we still GOTTA do perhaps is the most telling - the unglamourous tasks that didn't bubble up to the top of the list but are still pressing: sealing and insulating the crawlspace, replacing old roof screws, rebuilding the chimney, weatherstripping, the rest of the storm windows, new tiles for the shower (we haven't been able to have full showers since April), woodrot under the kitchen window, the front door's glass pane that an angry Zekiah broke in June.

The WANNA list is more fun, but thanks to the discipline we hope to have and the money we don't have, will have to wait until after then "gotta" list. It includes: basement office for Sarah, new plastic for the old greenhouse, a new greenhouse, more playground equipment, new grass over the septic field and front lawn, solar hot water to the outdoor shower, paint the living room, a basement bedroom and bathroom for lodgers, finally setting up my workshop, cubbies for the mudroom mayhem, new water tank for the pumphouse, fix up the barn for better usage.

I still cheerfully operate under the illusion that the above list is complete; that once we get through it there'll just be little maintenance tasks for the next 20 years. The reality, as any homeowner knows, is that there's always a new project peeking around the corner, tempting us away from the tranquil Joy of just living on the land. I need to remember that Mr. Home Improvements is just one of the hats I try to wear around here, and ultimately less important than Farmer Rick, Writer, and of course Mr. Mom. The challenge is to enjoy the projects that truly lead to increased quality of life, and to let go (or procrastinate) those that are just cluttering up the view and keeping us from the other priorities in our lives.

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