The photo above is of the house I’m sitting in right now, where the wood stove is spitting out just enough heat to perc my coffee and, soon as I’m finished writing this, fry a couple eggs. Maybe three; I’m hungry. I like a fire on these cool mornings that don’t really need a fire. It won’t be long before I don’t have the luxury of choosing between fire and no fire.
The view of the house is on the way back from feeding the pigs; they’re at the height of a little knobbed hill we’re clearing for pasture. You can’t really see it, but between the lens of the camera and the garden, there’s a steep slope; not long ago, it was densely wooded – spruce, mostly – but I cleared it this spring, piled the brush in windrows, and then we planted blueberries between the windrows. Forty of them, I think. They’re doing pretty good.
I guess it’s not a very flattering photo of our home, but it’s an honest one. You might be able to see that many of the windows don’t match; that’s because I bought all but two of them used. One of them has a big crack in an upper sash, but I got it real cheap, and we’ve sorta gotten used to the crack, hardly notice it anymore. We own the siding – spruce clapboards stacked inconveniently in that little nub of a room poking out the south-faced gable end of the house – and it’s nice to think about covering up that tar paper, but it’s been difficult to make a priority of it. Thought it would happen this spring, but it didn’t, then thought it would happen this summer, but it hasn’t. And this fall is looking pretty full already. Ah, well. Keeps the taxes down, I suppose.
We started on the house almost exactly a year ago, maybe a little less. We’d just finished getting tin over the barn, which we’d made a priority because we hoped to get the roof on in time to stack the first cutting of hay under it. We made it with three days to spare. At that point, it was clear we probably weren’t going to get the house closed in by winter, so we spent another couple weeks making the upstairs of the barn kindasorta livable, and that’s where we stayed for the first three months we moved up here. It wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t too warm, either.
It’s remarkable to me how quickly and profoundly humans can remake a piece of land. A year ago, that house site was a piece of woods, that garden space was under a thicket of wild brambles, and if I’d taken a photo from the same vantage point, all you would’ve seen is a wall of trees. Gone, now. We’ve taken over, I guess.
This house is less than half the size of our previous home, and despite its still-rough edges, I like it better. It’s simpler, more humble, feels more manageable. No one seems to miss the extra space, though I don’t think we’d want anything smaller. We’ve got somewhere around $35k into the house, and could probably polish all those rough edges for another few grand. So it’ll be a $40,000-ish home by the time it’s finished. It could be done cheaper, for sure, by someone with more time and resourcefulness than we possess. Then again, it could also be done a whole lot more expensively.
I’ve written about this before, and I know it sounds sort of strange, but I’m ok with knowing that someday, this house will be gone. Rotted right into the ground. Someday, all the land I cleared, the trees I took, all that stuff, will return. Or at least I hope they will. I guess I have this sense of us merely borrowing this place, arranging it to suit our temporary needs. Maybe our kids will stay on or maybe they won’t, and maybe our kids’ kids will stay on or maybe they won’t, and maybe somewhere along the way someone will sell it to someone else, and who knows what they will or won’t do with it.
For now, though, I’m glad to have this tight roof over my head. I’m glad for the cook stove fire, coffee burbling, bacon grease heating for eggs. I’m pleased about those little berry bushes on the hill. They’re not much to look at now, but in a few years, they’ll start bearing like crazy. Come to think of it, I’m glad, even, for that cracked window sash. Because when I stand in front of it, everything looks just a little different.
Musically speaking, today I’d like to introduce John Moreland. Please, please do yourself a favor and give a listen. If you can honestly tell me you don’t like it, I’ll send you… hell, I don’t know, but something.
You Don’t Care For Me Enough to Cry
Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars