A few weeks ago Kelly pointed out that I had not blogged about the farm in awhile. So I wrote about the farm, and now, since I am on vacation, I will update you on the construction of the house. In case you were wondering about the writing lapse, I was busy. For example, anesthetizing. I have also been medical directoring, also known as emailinging and meetinging, These day job enterprises have no winter. Technically they do have winter, but unlike plants, emails and meetings proliferate in the absence of sunlight and warmth and without regard for soil fertility. Some of my time is spent making new verbs by adding ing, sometimes to words already ending in that. And I lied about giving up sports. I still play tennis and bike to work less than I would like to but more than not at all. And I have been watching basketball, I guess because basketball is still a part of who I am, like my coracobrachialis muscle.
And there has been plenty of farming too. And learning about farming, which is why YouTube and podcasts were invented. And we are selling our suburb house, which means I had to help keep it clean instead of my usual job of messing it up. When you sell your house there is stuff to fix--like the lock on the master bathroom pocket door--that we didn’t think mattered, but matters if you are selling your house. Every day I repeat our motto: You can’t do everything. But you can do a lot of things.
Our modern farmhouse is nearing completion. We will live there before the last frost of the year. My heart speeds up every time I go there, not because of the price tag, but because in my half century of noticing things, I have never seen a building built so well. I have great admiration for people who build their own homes, but even more for the people building ours, while we spend our time being busy. I cannot imagine the workmanship in this home being better if these builders were planning to live there. I have tradesman crushes on the subcontractors who saw, hammer, level, glue and grout with amazing skill and efficiency. Icing on the cake (or caulk on the window sill): They are really nice people. All of them. And they say things like, “I just love this house.” It must be hard to build something like this, then give it up for adoption. If this sounds like it might be an indirect endorsement of our general contractor, Aldo Partners, no, it’s not indirect.
Our wood floors are re-purposed, milled from massive oak beams salvaged from an old barn. Hard to get more farmy than that. Each floorboard has its signature set of cracks, knots and nail holes. Some would call these imperfections. We call them perfections. We intend to walk on these floors. Sometimes with our boots on. Right, Kelly? Clyde’s claws will add scratches. We will drop things. Spill things. It will be hard to notice.
And speaking of barn beams, there are three such intact beams spanning the open ceiling above our kitchen and dining area. Because I am not supposed to care about designythings, I won’t tell you that these are the coolest architectural features ever. These beams, made of pine, came from an early-1900’s barn in Blue Mounds. I helped the guys lift them out of the truck. Had the beams been oak, like the ones milled for the floors, I would have scheduled my hernia surgery first. They didn’t need my help, but they let me help, probably because I was a lot dirtier than any of them and because they figured there was are really good chance I was not going to hurt myself and sue them. It wasn’t much, but now I can sorta, as long as nobody is listening, claim I helped build our house.
We thought back to the interview process a year ago. With the help of our forward-thinking architects at Design Coalition we interviewed six builders. There were questions about how the subcontractors were chosen. Some of the guys bid out all their jobs. We we drawn to that approach because we thought it would save money. Then we realized that the jobs would then be done by the lowest bidders and that’s not always the best value. Just ask my brothers, who build and repair swimming pools. A lot of their repair work is a consequence of other contractors’ low-bid mistakes. Andy and Tim, the guys we picked, had their own finish carpenters and a select list of subcontractors for most of the other parts of the project. They said it was the best way to control the quality of the work. I believe them.
The house won’t be finished until the artifacts are added. Artifacts--that’s what I call them. Just a few things saved from the old Lalor house before the bulldozer’s blade erased it. The house had been abandoned and the Lalor descendants from whom we purchased the land said it was fine if we explored and preserved what we could find. Kelly wouldn’t explore because of the all the raccoon poop, but Patrick was up for it. We wore filter masks and gloves as we cautiously searched the basement, attic and crawl space for remnants of past lives. We filled a small box with a few clothes hooks, a plate for a door lock, yellow 1930’s newspapers, three-fourths of a porcelain lid, a light fixture cover, hand-written school assignments from Lalor students long graduated. My favorite is an envelope addressed to the Lalors, Route 1, Oregon, Wis., before zip codes were invented. I will frame it and hang where it can remind us of the last people to farm this land. I found a few more things in and around the old farm sheds: a rusted 1917 license plate used to patch a hole in the wall of the shed. An old ax head and a scythe blade were added to the collection. The Lalor family owned and farmed this land since the 1850’s. It will be an honor to honor that history.