Labors Around the House

When my children were small, we lived in a cute little house. With one tiny bathroom. Where the two kids shared one teensy bedroom. As the kids got to be bigger, the home seemed smaller and we decided to look for a domicile with more space.

Golly, did we ever find it! A 2,800 square foot home, originally built in 1901, with a huge yard in a wonderful neighborhood, within walking distance of a nice park and the public library. It was (barely) within our price range, due to the fact that it had been sitting vacant for a few years and needed some work. A lot of work. So much work.

But my husband and I fell right in love with it. We liked tackling projects on our previous house and figured we could restore this one to its former glory, or something resembling it. So, some window panes were missing, and there was a hole in the upstairs hall ceiling where a light fixture used to be, and someone had removed every single rod from every single closet, and the entire house needed to be rewired, and a former do-it-yourselfer had mixed up the plumbing in one of the bathrooms so that the sink didn’t have hot water but the toilet did. When you’re in love, none of those things matter. Besides, by the time we’d fixed it up and were ready to downsize, we would have increased the value so much, buying it was like investing in our retirement. Right?…Right?

We’ve lived here for fourteen years now. There have been good times and bad. The first few years we got a lot fixed and improved. Window glass was installed, crumbling plaster was replaced with sheet rock. Knob and tube wiring was removed and replaced with safer, modern methods.

Then I picked up more hours at work for the much-needed income. My husband was working long hours as well. We found ourselves with teenagers (which is more time-consuming and energy draining than anyone can prepare you for.) And we moved my mom to town, so I could be close by and take charge of her affairs. Those years will go down in our family history as the Whack-a-Mole Era. Nothing much got done to our house, not even in the way of cleaning, beyond the bare minimum to keep it livable.

Now the two kids, though still living with us, are both grown (22 and 19 respectively.) In a nice development, they have become helpful around here. I have seen my mom out to the end and more or less settled all of her affairs. I still have some of her possessions to deal with, but am pretty sure all bills are paid off and legal paperwork finished. This year, the hubs and I finally have a little time and energy to refocus on our relationship…with the house.

We had three large, dangerously near-death trees removed. We hired someone for that – an expert who told us the locust would have ended up on top of our house or the neighbors’ be year’s end if we hadn’t called him in to take it out.

The sexiest and most exciting project involved getting a shed, a carport and – drum roll – solar panels. We are on solar energy, as of about seven weeks ago. Remember how I said the grown kids have become helpful?

That’s my husband in the green and my 19-year-old son behind all the hair, installing the first solar panel.
All solar, baby!

My husband is trained in electrical systems, so he knew what he was doing. We did have a licensed electrician put in the new meter and hook it all up.  It’s fun to go outside and watch the meter run backward on a sunny day.






Our next project involves fencing. The west side of our house has been pretty much a mess. One of the trees we got removed had been shading an area over there more than I realized. After it was gone, a new jungle sprang up. I got about half of it cleared out this weekend, along with some other yard work, including an epic battle with a sticker bush. Once it’s all out, I’ll figure out what to do plant-wise in that spot, but we already know we’re putting in a fence panel to give us some privacy from the next Google Streetview car that comes along.

Yesterday morning, the top half of the photo looked like the bottom half.


Farther back along that side of the house we had an old, rotting, falling down wooden fence covered in various vines and weeds. We’re replacing that, too. In an amazing feat, the hubs cleared it all away in two days.

Half the fence and overgrowth gone.


Ready for new fence panels.

I’ll post photos when the new fence is in. Right now, the spouse and I are in the midst of a decision about buying vs. renting when it comes to posthole diggers.


Trying to Be Home for the Holidays

Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. Not to panic anyone. My oldest brother and his wife will be coming in from out of state, and we will bring my mom out from the nursing home for part of the day. It should be great. I’m looking forward to it. There’s only one slight major problem: accessibility.

Front entrance to our house.
A different view of the front entrance












We also have a side door, but once you step inside it, you immediately have to go up stairs to get to the main level. And our parking area is behind the house. What we really need is a back door.

We could use a back door, about here.










And a wheelchair ramp from the there to where we park.

We could use a ramp along here.










So we’re having it done. Dispensing with our usual do-it-yourself mode that can make projects stretch out for months, we’re hiring a contractor my husband knows to put in a back door and build a ramp. He says he can have it done in plenty of time for Thanksgiving.

Putting aside my anxiety dreams about Thanksgiving arriving to find a half-finished project and unusable guest room in a still-inaccessible house because something’s sure to go wrong, we have to pay for this thing. Since the contractor is a friend, we’re getting a good price, but I’ve discovered nobody wants to loan you $4,500. They’ll happily loan us ten times that much, however. It’s crazy.

So we’re refinancing the whole shebang, trading in our old mortgage and rolling the cost of the project into a new one. Man alive, has that meant a lot of form filling out and information tracking down.The good news is how much interest rates have dropped. Our payments will be a lot lower.

The construction materials should arrive Friday, and work begins next week. We’ve talked about making the house accessible since we moved in nine years ago, but it’s never risen to the top of the to-do list until now. I’m happy to know we’ll have an ADA compliant entrance.

Oh, about the back room where the door is going – I mentioned it’s our guest bedroom. My son helped me move out the furniture already. It’s scattered in other places throughout the house. There’s a tight squeeze to get to my home office at the moment, but I can still make it.

Temporary bed storage