After my husband died, I found that even making the decision to get out of bed in the morning took some effort. Major decisions? Please! I was just trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other. During the first year my husband was gone, we had to deal with of those “final” things you would expect. But life doesn’t wait for grief and we also had college visits, financial aid to figure out, a confirmation, a graduation and then we had to pack the graduate up and send him off to college. This craziness was on top of the usual day to day craziness of working and taking care of a family. My ability to make decisions had been pushed to the limit.
So here I was facing yet another decision that I really did not want to make; do we just walk away from this house that we had poured so much time and energy into? Do we move into town where there would be a lot less maintenance and a lot more convenience? How would we walk away from the memories made here? Twenty years of living in one place didn’t just mean there were tons of memories here…there is also tons of STUFF here. How would we get rid of all of it?
I did sometimes think walking away from it all and making the move to town would have its advantages. Flat tire in the morning? Walk to work. A snowstorm dumps 5 inches of snow in your driveway? Hire the guy who does all of the houses on the block to move it. No milk? Run to the store three blocks down the street. Even mowing a small yard in town versus mowing never-ending acres did sound a little appealing, too.
The grief “experts” will tell you not to rush into anything during the first year. The rationale is that you’re not at your sharpest mentally after the trauma of losing a loved one. Your judgment skills may be lacking. I’m not sure I was any sharper at year two than I was during year one. I decided not to leave anything to chance and that I’d better just follow the expert advice because this was uncharted water for me.
My kids played a large part in the decision of whether to stay or go. I heard their answer loud and clear. The answer was, “STAY!”. This is the only home they have ever known. There is comfort here and there are memories here. To them, this place is Dad. And I would have to agree. Whether it was teaching each of them how to plant and harvest a garden, how to change the oil in a car in the shop, how to feed cattle in the barn, how to frame a wall in the house or sit on Dad’s lap while he was mowing the yard, they built lots of memories here with him. To say he left his mark on this place would be a huge understatement.
So we, as a family, decided to stay. But it became time to address the elephant in the room: our home was in desperate need of repair. It had been torn up long ago and we’d been living in a state of remodel and repair for 12 years. We needed to finish the project that had been started all those years ago.
My reasons for finishing the project really were two-fold. One, it had been long enough that we were in a house that was a complete mess inside and deteriorating with each passing year. I thought if the kids and I were going to stay here, it had to be comfortable, safe and rodent-free. This 1900 farmhouse has an old fieldstone and mortar foundation under it, and over the years, it had become weathered and the mortar had started to crumble. It caused trouble with doors and windows not shutting properly. Mice and snakes were making their way in through the foundation. We had no way of locking the doors. The HVAC system was over 30 years old. The water was very rusty and its quality was poor. The electrical system was becoming a hazard.
If a house is the greatest investment a person makes, ours was not going to return much if I would have tried to sell it in its current state. I needed to protect the investment we made in it.
My second reason is probably selfish. Maybe I felt entitled to it. Maybe I just thought it would ease at least one burden. In all honesty, my kids and I have walked through fire in losing our husband and father and I felt like we need that place where we feel safe and grounded. With my attachment to this house and the memories made here, it would be hard for me to leave, too. I had to see this renovation project through to the end. If nothing else, I had to see if my vision for it all those years ago matched the finished product.
Make no mistake, I would live in a cardboard box if it meant I could have my husband back, but I know that’s not going to happen. My husband is living in his beautiful home in heaven. (John 14:2) I need to take care of the home we have here on earth.
So the plan for the house is as follows:
- Excavate the old stone and mortar foundation and replace with a poured foundation.
- Extend the basement foundation out to the west side of our house 20 feet to give us better basement access and more living space.
- Add a 20 x 30-foot addition that will serve as a kitchen/great room combination
- Add a 2 stall garage to the west of the house
- New furnace. This will be an air source electric heat pump/AC system with an LP back up furnace. We will have new ductwork throughout the house. Our last system was 35 years old.
- Fix the plumbing system. Most of the water lines and pipe had been replaced by PEX tubing and PVC pipe a few years ago. The rusty well water is horrible so a new filtration system and softener will have to be installed. I have never drunk the water straight from the tap at our house. We have had bottled water since we moved here. It’s time.
- Rewire the house and put a new electric panel in the basement to bring the house up to modern standards. The last time the house was rewired was about 1982 and then it was only a partial rewiring.
- Replace all of the windows in the house.
- Re-do the flooring in the house, which may or may not include refinishing the existing wood floors and/or installing new carpet.
- Finish the renovations on the house that were started 12 years ago. This includes gutting three more rooms and completing the finish work on the remaining rooms. This will involve finishing and texturizing the drywall, adding trim and doors.
- Replace the front porch since it will be lost in the foundation excavation portion of the project. Add a deck and start from scratch on the landscaping.
I am prayerfully moving along through this and making an intentional choice to trust in the Lord. There will be many posts ahead that chronicle our renovation from start to finish.
Salvaging A Farmhouse is a series of blog posts that chronicles my experience of renovating and reclaiming our 1900 farmhouse. This is a project that is over a decade in the making. We were working towards some pretty serious renovations on the house until my husband became sick with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and died 9 weeks after his diagnosis. My kids and I have been left with the task of completing what we started all those years ago. Every house and every family have a story and this is the story of ours.
To view the series from beginning to end please go to this page: Salvaging A Farmhouse.