Saturday, May 31, 2014

Heave Ho!!!

     Once I got over the initial buyer's remorse after we bought what we affectionately referred to as the "Blue House", it became clear that the first step was that we had to empty it out and clean it. I researched dumpsters in the area and finally found a company that would drop a 30 yard dumpster at our back porch for a week.  The day it showed up Jonathan and I arrived wearing durable clothes, gloves and face masks.  There wasn't a lot of mold, but we weren't taking any chances. For good measure I took off my eye glasses and put them on one of the mantles for safe keeping.  My theory behind this move was that if I couldn't actually see what I was touching then it wasn't really in my hands. I know, irrational, but desperate times called for any measure of any kind to get the job done.

  Anyone who knows Jonathan and I knows that as laid back as we can come across to folks, we can really work when we need to get a job finished. We were relentless with this project, though I got sidetracked now and then by old newspapers. It was fun to read what people were writing about in the 50's, until Jonathan would jolt me back to reality by barking at me to get back to work.  We made trip after trip walking up and down the concrete back steps, like drones on a mission.  Below is our lovely sun porch. It had a hole in the roof, and thanks to a few rain storms all of the stuff in the photo was soggy. It made the job just that much more fun.

This is our "Kitchen". I wasn't lying when I said that the house was painted in a spectacular shade of burn your eyeballs in their sockets green.  The rest of the rooms weren't quite as full as these two, but they still provided a lot of trekking to and from the dumpster.  The two car garage scared me to pieces, since I have a fear of creepy crawly things and it seemed to me like a brilliant first class hideout for all of the creepy crawlies in SC.  However, when we'd finally gotten the house as empty as we could it was time to tackle the garage.  Most of the time I was holding my breath while doing the garage portion of "evacuate the crap", so my memories of it are hazy due to oxygen deprivation.  It was definitely better that way.  One thing struck me while we were getting rid of all of this eccentric dead guy's garbage. I kept expecting to see a mouse, or a spider, cockroach, anything that would scuttle and cause me to leap to the ceiling. All I found for animal/insect evidence was a mummified bird, who had probably found it's way down the chimney by accident.  I began to wonder if the house had some sort of curse on it that kept living creatures from being able to survive under it's roof and partially collapsed roof. Maybe it emitted a odorless gas that told the wildlife to stay away, but us dumb humans would suck it into our lungs and only realize what was going on right before paralysis set in.  These aren't the sort of thoughts you should be having when you've just bought your first house, but this was the mood I was in on that first day of heaving out.  
Now don't be jelly of our delightful claw footed tub!  I guess the former owners couldn't bear to have any of that leftover green paint go to waste, so they gave the tubby a quick splash of it to ensure not one room would be spared the tasteful effect of this irresistible shade.  Later, I discovered it's actually quite common in the period to paint the lower half of a claw foot tub, but I prefer to imagine the former owners just being cruel.  My hatred for what they'd done to this house has spurned my work ethic immeasurably over the last few months.  

   Inside the tub you'll see the "linens".  Ancient terry cloth towels that were tissue paper thin, crusty facecloths and set of sheer curtains, gray with age. All truly disgusting.  It appeared that at one point the propane heater that was mounted at a jaunty angle behind the door had caught fire and done a fair amount of smoke damage in the tiny bathroom.  The walls were smeared with soot and filth. It took me days before I could force myself to set foot onto the actual bathroom floor.  There was a full set of gentleman's toiletries still intact on the shelves of the medicine cabinet. Aqua Velva, Pepto Bismol, Bryl-cream, even a toothbrush.  It was as if the man decided on a whim one day that he would move out and he left the place as intact as a crime scene. It was eerie to say the least. 

So there you have it. The first glimpses of our sweet little Shangri-la. I've provided photographic evidence to prove that I wasn't exaggerating about the extent of the mess inside this little gem of a home. It was a staggering job, but we eventually got it cleaned out to the last coat hanger.  The dumpster sides nearly groaned outward, because we'd stuffed it so full.  It felt really good to be able to navigate our way through the house without having to dodge boxes and bits of furniture.  The sun porch proved to be a much bigger room than we had anticipated (see below). Things were starting to look up. A little bit.  I still wasn't about to get carried away with glee, but I could see a pinprick of light at the end of what is proving to be an endless, yet entirely rewarding, tunnel. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

We bought a hovel, I mean house!

  Well, as it always does, the dust settled after I got down to SC with the animals. The blurry edges of my life started to come into focus again. Jonathan's dad was still in critical condition in the ICU, which was freaking all of us out.  He would make a small improvement and then lapse. The doctors had no answers, it wasn't really up to anyone what happened next. Time would tell if he'd improve, or continue to spiral downward.  All we could do was be there as support for Jonathan's mom and pray.

  The matter of buying our house was looming in the next week. We had stopped off at the property the day after I arrived down south.  It was a grey, gloomy day in late December, with a rawness that only the air in winter can provide.  The house had been unoccupied for nearly a decade and it's owner had passed away from a heart attack in late summer.  He used the house to store "things" for yard sales. And by "things" I mean anything you can think of, from tools, to curtains, to clothing, etc. The house was full of crap. Useless, dirty, cluttery...crap.  The flat roof on the back addition had long since rotted and was falling in, allowing rain to accumulate in puddles on the floors in the kitchen and sunroom.   As for the property itself, the acreage was mostly wooded.  A slanted red barn that was also full of crap listed on one side of the property. The two car garage was a white cinder block building that was filled with more crap.  For some reason someone had decided that painting the pump house yellow, with a red roof was a good idea. It sure was something to see.

"Isn't it awesome?" Jonathan kept saying.

  I would muster a feeble grin, raising my eyebrows to show my enthusiasm, but honestly the place was just gross.  I liked the house itself, but the amount of work ahead of us before we could actually live there was overwhelming.  It had no running water, no electricity, no plumbing, no heat, no a/c, no working anything.  And it was filthy dirty.  And most of the interior rooms were painted the most putrid shade of green you can imagine, floor and ceiling. And the back roof was caving in. I swear if a house could sigh this place would be sighing big time. I know I was doing plenty of sighing, though I kept it to myself.

 The big day of the closing finally arrived right before Christmas. We met our realtor, who had been amazing through this whole process, in the parking lot.

"Y'all ready to buy a house?" she said with a grin.

I let Jonathan answer that question, since at the time I was having trouble showing any positive reaction toward the idea.  The lawyer had the papers all ready so it was a matter of a few signatures and we were on our way.  It was official. We were now home owners, of a house that we couldn't actually live in. Leave it to us, I said to myself. Go buy a house you can't live in and that needs ten zillion hours of work.  Lord, it was going to be a very long, long winter.