This house has been a symbol of hope and a dream for over 20 years.
My husband and I bought it and the 12 acres it sat on in October of 1995, just 18 months after we were married. When it came on the market, it was us and another couple bidding on it. The other couple called and offered to buy it from us after we signed the papers. I don’t know how many times we looked back and on that and thought we should’ve sold it to them. But over time, we grew attached the property and the memories we made here.
It had almost everything I wanted. It was an old, two-story farmhouse that seemed big, though it was only 1800 square feet. It was built in 1900 so it was most definitely old. It had five bedrooms and one and a half baths. Sure, it was missing a little bit of the character one comes to expect with an old farmhouse. Sure, I could overlook the rusty well water and the drafty windows. Sure, I could see past the small kitchen and its ugly metal cabinets. I loved that square two-story farmhouse with its big, front porch and most of all, I loved the potential.
This acreage had everything my husband wanted. He had a passion for farming and raising animals–particularly cattle. He loved the big barn, the pole shed and those 12 acres that came with it. Before even looking at the house, my husband went out and checked the barn and surveyed the property. Priorities. Turns out we each had different ones. Typical.
The first thing he said to me when we got back into our truck was “Lori, it has 12 acres. You don’t find that very often.” He was right. Typically, the acreages in our area are only 2-3 acres because the land is too valuable not to farm it. So in that respect, it was special. It was 18 miles from where I worked and only three for him. It was the one and only house either of us had ever purchased. By today’s standards, it didn’t cost much, but it was more than we could afford. And although we experienced many ups and downs in our finances over the years, we managed to hang on to it solely by the grace of God.
This old girl (much like me) looked a whole lot better in 1995 than she does now. Time and a little neglect have not been kind to her.
These are the realtor photos from the newspaper listing. I had forgotten I had these photos until I came across in them buried in a desk drawer. The acreage had amazing trees back in 1995. As you can imagine, trees can experience many variables in weather and disease in twenty years time. Sadly, a lot of them had to come down in the time we lived here. It was so beautiful. It reminded me of a park.
We started remodeling it in true DIY fashion during the summer of 2004. It’ll be fun, he said. We’ll do a little bit at a time as we can afford it, he said. Then he got sick.
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this house. I thought to myself many times that we should have just left well enough alone. I would come home from work, look around my house and just feel emotionally drained. It was hard living in a house that was in a perpetual state of repair. That was the source of a great many conflicts between my husband and me.
For the last five years of his life, I could not get him to do any work on it and that was so frustrating to me. I had long suspected something was wrong, but cancer didn’t enter my mind. I now believe he was a lot sicker for a lot longer than I knew–mainly because he wouldn’t admit to feeling crappy. If I would have only known then what I know now, I would have been more understanding. Hindsight really is 20/20.
After his death, I had to make a plan. I had to decide whether to stay or go. I took a year to think about it and together, with my kids, we made the decision to stay.
Before he died, my husband told me we needed to get a new roof. I knew he liked the idea of a steel roof, so in September of 2015, I had one put on. The new roof is a pretty slate gray and I love how it looks. I had a
little major misstep in choosing a foundation contractor, which cost me a good chunk of money and delayed the project for another year. But now, the repairs have finally begun.
This knot I feel in my stomach is caused by a whole bunch of emotions all coming together. The biggest emotion I feel is fear. I’m afraid I’m doing the wrong thing. This renovation is not going to be cheap. It’s much more extensive than it would have been if my husband were still alive. He would have had to do most of the work so I feel guilty about hiring it all done. I feel sad because in a few years it will be just me rambling around in this house when all I ever wanted to do was sit on the front porch swing with my husband. Fear. Guilt. Sadness. There’s an emotional trifecta if there ever was one.
Buried deep beneath all of those anxieties, is a part of me that feels both excitement and relief it’s finally going to be done. But then that fear crops up and sometimes fear doesn’t let you be excited or relieved. And then, once again, you have to put fear in its place.
One thing I’ve learned since my husband died is that sometimes you just have to do it afraid.
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
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.