Thursday, January 1, 2009

City Mouse becomes a Country Mouse

Take a city girl, put her in a 150 year old Gothic Revival farmhouse in need of much love and care, surround them with farmers fields, old wood forests, and 'secure in their ways' country folk and see what changes happen, to her and her house, over the next twelve months.

Following my yearning to fulfill a childhood dream and a wish for my husband to return to his childhood, we have done what many people talk about but few actually go forward with...we have 'moved to the country'. With two children and two cats in tow and our luggage packed with big dreams and even bigger plans will we be able to make the life for ourselves that we have dreamed about together since our first date?

On a cold, wet spring day, we fell in love with a yellow board and batten house built in the Gothic Revival style. We were welcomed by an entrancing fire in the kitchen hearth...it was lust at the first sight of such a luxury! A rambling house with several additions, more fireplaces and a second floor reserved solely for the master bedroom and bath. We ambled greedily along the perimeter of the two and half acre property falling in love instantly with the large pond, (visions of winter skating parties danced in our heads). We admired the giant pine trees and the adorable bridge over the creek, painted in the same rustic yellow as the house, and then the room. Oh, the room! We would have space for vegetable gardens, for raising chickens, for playing fetch with a dog, for a barn raising to house our future goats and and perhaps even a cow, for growing our own Christmas trees, and some back pocket bribery for our two nine year old children...building a tree house. We knew instantly this was our dream property. We also knew every room in the house and even the house itself would need a fresh coat of paint but isn't that true of any house? A little elbow grease and our own furnishings and we would be ready to start gardening. Or so we thought. Entering the empty house on the eve of Labour Day weekend, my stomach churned at the water stains under the bay window, the neglected hardwood floors and the dirt left behind by someone who sadly never learned how to clean. My heart sank even further, how could I have slowly walked through this house several times, even photographing every room for posterity and parental approval and not have noticed the ugliest kitchen counter this side of the Atlantic or that every single light fixture of this old abode was less than five years old and that all the original and surely beautiful baseboards were replaced with modern, factory manufactured, pseudo colonial trim. The most damaging piece of evidence, that proved the character and the history of this home had long been neglected and shown a disrespect no home of this era deserves, was the addition of a bay window to the front of the house. (Please note a brown bay window, the other 18 windows are white.) For those not familiar with the Gothic Revival style symmetry is a key element. An entry door in the middle of the front facade is flanked by a double hung window on each side. Let the dilemmas of how to fix that problem and many more and the ever growing list of fix-it jobs begin.

Since moving day some quick fixes have improved the state of the house but for every little job that gets scratched off the top of the list, five more are added to the bottom. We can clearly see why the previous owners had high heating bills. The cold air easily seeps in through windows, improperly installed with a half inch gap between the window and the house, or the lack of weather stripping around any of the outside doors. We have stopped shaking our heads at the number of jobs on this house that just simply were not done right. In fact, if we listen closely, we can often hear the house breathing a huge sigh of relief. Finally! Someone is here to love me again!

So if you're interested in watching a city girl adapt to the country and how she learns about everything that comes along with a rural life or watching a couple slowly renovate a long unloved farm house then you've come to the right place. I can't promise it will always be exciting but it will be an adventure. After four months, I have already been stung by a bee on the underside of my tongue, just as I was about to serve dinner to a dozen guests and the corn on the cob was on the stove. As the boiling intensified so it seemed did the pain in my mouth. I have bailed bucket after bucket of water from a basement that seemed to snuggle closer and closer to the pond in the backyard, the longer the power was off. And, I have witnessed how one little red squirrel can work so hard each day under the ancient pines and how devastatingly easy that same squirrel can shred a box spring stored in the sun room. (He had my admiration until he entered my domain.) I don't dare ask what is in store for us next, for it will happen without my prompting no doubt, so why test the fates any more than necessary. And just think, you can ride along, whispering all the while....I told you so.

2 comments:

Oz Girl said...

But isn't it the most lovely of transformations - yours, and the house?! :) I share your transition from city to country.

And as you say, as soon as you cross items off the to-do list, you can add 5 more at the bottom. To keep this from becoming an overwhelming feeling, I remind hubby -- keep the crossed off items ON the list. This will serve as our reminder, we have accomplished MUCH, even though there is still much to do!

Mountain Woman of Red Pine Mountain said...

Just catching up with the beginning of the tale and I really enjoyed finding out more.