I told you in an earlier post that I have been left with the task of restoring our 1900 farmhouse after my husband passed away. My husband and I began the project about 12 years ago. It all started with an old brick chimney that was starting to lean a little too much and was causing water to leak through the roof and down the walls.
So my husband, never one to back down from a challenge, took the chimney removal task on by himself. He was an independent guy who rarely asked for help, so most projects were done on his own.
He started at the top of the roof (scary, high roof) knocking down the bricks through the chimney one by one and then through the attic. Eventually, he reached the second and first floors of the house until they ended up in a pile in the basement. From there, he hauled them out by a wheelbarrow through the cellar doors. He repurposed the bricks by using them as fill in a low section of a ditch near our driveway. The chimney removal was messy and time-consuming, but he got it done!
The chimney ran up through the middle of the four square house, running right through our kitchen. Once the chimney was out, he thought it would be a good idea to make the kitchen bigger. In order to do that, the stairway had to be moved from the center of the house to the north side of the house.
All he had to do was say the words “bigger kitchen” and I was in! There would also be the extra bonus of a bigger upstairs bathroom and an open staircase. One of the more disappointing things about this house was that it was lacking an open staircase. I’d always had this grand plan of decorating an open staircase with greenery at Christmas time and now I was going to have one!!
In 12 years of pictures, I couldn’t find a single chimney removal picture. I could, however, find the start of the staircase project. It’s hard to believe that toddler “helping” in the photo is now almost 14 years old.
And this is pretty much where the house has stayed from this point on. We’ve gutted all but three rooms in the house and replaced the old plaster and lath material with sheet rock. We’ve replaced some windows, and have completed about 95% of the bathroom and two bedrooms. But we’ve mostly been living like this:
When I started to review what I’d written, I realized how super indulgent this post was. I got to take a trip down memory lane and I dragged you along with me. It’s heartbreaking, embarrassing and cathartic all at the same time.
For years, my pride made me want to keep where we live hidden. We didn’t invite any “new” friends over because I was so embarrassed about how it looked. And how many years can you say to your “old friends” and family, “Please excuse the mess, we’re remodeling?” We didn’t have the financial means to hire it done and my husband took a job that would not allow him to be home very often. The job lasted three years and when it was over, I believe that’s when he started to feel sick. My husband was not the type of guy you would find napping on the couch on the weekends. He was a hard worker who always kept moving until cancer changed all of that.
I only just now feel comfortable showing the world the condition of my house. It’s probably because by the time I decide to hit the publish button on this series, the house will be well on to its way to completion and the mess will be a distant memory.
Those who know me in the “real world” will be surprised at how we’ve had to live. Those who have lived in old farmhouses will understand. Those who have a DIY spirit will get it. This was a challenge my husband and I chose to take on. You know what they say about the best-laid plans. None of us know what will happen tomorrow. My husband and I thought we would have this project completed by the time our oldest graduated. He died a week before our oldest started his senior year.
Swallow the pride. Embrace the chaos. Life is just too dang short.
I will break down your stubborn pride. ~Leviticus 26:19
Salvaging A Farmhouse is a series of blog posts that chronicle 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.