Monday, June 23, 2008

Withy Dell

Well, I just found out my house lied about its age… many of us middle-aged do that, so I can’t hold it against her (homes, being the realm of Vesta, are female). I ran into someone who had come back to take photos of the neighboring house and told me he’d lived there (in the neighboring house) in ‘51, and my house was there, a good four years prior to the supposed build-time of the place… It was fun to hear about the neighborhood and how it looked then. I have always been a home historian -- if I can find out about how the place was built, or changed or who lived there, I have a great time. I can’t find any permits on record for the building, so I’m guessing it was all gerry-rigged. The last owner was a retired Boeing engineer, and we all know what that means! I’m finding “engineering kludges” all over the place, such as the old truck topper used as a shed, and what looks like a miniature railroad segment used to hang tools in the garage… oh, yes - and the iron pipe that sticks out of the wall on the outside of the kitchen which (I found out four months after I got here) actually drains all of the water from the kitchen sink… and since the water barrel that he must have had there was sold in the estate sale, has been pouring water down under the foundation all winter! I’ve duck-taped an old gutter pipe to the outlet “for now” - truly ugly, but a classic kludge, so I’m kinda proud.

Anyway, the place has the feel of a cabin, mainly because of the knotty pine walls and the old iron woodstove with the cabin scene embossed in relief on the side. It’s cozy because the former owners did insulate; I’m grateful for that, especially since the two bedrooms are unheated… but there’s another classic “kludge”: an old motor rigged to an old box fan has been “inset” (okay, jammed) into a hole in the wall near the woodstove that opens onto the back hallway. Now anytime I want to enjoy the sound of a busy airport, all I have to do is flip a switch and the fan will send the warm air from around the stove through the hole and into the hall at speeds that turn it into air conditioning…

Also, unlike me, the house got a facelift sometime in its past. Recently, one of the 50’s style concrete shingles came off, and I discovered solid pine beadboard siding underneath. So now I am in a careful but exuberant process of taking off the retrofit to reveal the cottage underneath. All things become fashionable again… but you won’t find me wearing hip-huggers or mini-skirts, even if they are all the rage!

So far, the excavations haven’t revealed too many nasty surprises. Still, I feel like those scientists who are checking out the near-miss comets: will “Comet Repair” impact my wallet, or will I be able to adjust the flight path to a near-miss?

Oh, and in case you’re curious - I’ve named the place Withy Dell, using the centuries-old tradition (still widely used in real estate) of giving a sow’s ear the name of a silk purse. I have enough saplings in the yard to create a small woodlot by the time I croak, and although I am cutting them down as fast as I can, I am trying to re-use my “withies” for various staking tasks. And it’s low enough to count as a dell -- nothing to do with the computer company, you nerds. Although… with all the kludges… who knows??

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder how old the house really is? Hope you find some clues ... and I bet the previous owner was not a Mr. Happy/smug, either. I always say, if something is really worth doing, it's even worth doing wrong.