I live in a farmhouse that’s a little over 100 years old. My grandparents bought it in the 1930’s, and lived here all their lives. My grandmother was my primary babysitter when I was a child, so I spent many wonderful afternoons here, never dreaming this house would one day become a bigger part of my life.
When we moved in, my husband and I had ambitious plans of tackling a project every weekend, doing the entire renovation ourselves, and completing it over the course of a year or two. Very quickly it became apparent that our plan wasn’t realistic.
I often compare old houses to sweaters—once a thread starts unraveling, it doesn’t take long for the whole thing to start coming apart. While the house was in overall good condition, there were a lot of projects that once started, would feed into other projects, and we soon began to realize that a lot of jobs would have to be done simultaneously.
There was no insulation or central heat/air conditioning in the house. The entire house had about 5 electrical outlets, and there was one bathroom. The upstairs had no electricity or running water, and all of the walls were original plaster, which was fairly crumbly. There was also a dropped tile ceiling that covered a wallpapered plaster ceiling.
After living in our house for about five years, we packed up, stored all our worldly possessions in a storage unit, and remodeled the entire thing, top to bottom. Our goal was to update with modern conveniences, while still retaining the old farmhouse character.
All of the electrical and plumbing was replaced, the chipping plaster came down and drywall went up. We added a bathroom upstairs and downstairs, and put multiple electrical outlets in each room. We painstakingly removed all of the woodwork and trim, labeled it, and had it refinished. Later we fit all the pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle.
While we didn’t do all the work ourselves, my husband and I did as much as we could, and rebuilding our new/old house will always be a crazy and sleep deprived, but very special memory.
I have the unusual privilege of living in a house that has been part of my past, present and future. Though my grandmother never met my sons, I like to think that she watches over us. I’m sure she would be highly amused at some of the antics that go on here.
My grandparents weren’t farmers—they both had regular full time jobs, but in addition, they milked a Jersey cow twice daily, raised chickens both for meat and eggs, and raised sheep and beef cattle. My grandmother had a large garden every year and canned the produce herself. She gathered walnuts from the tree in the yard, and gave us large jars of walnuts every Christmas.
When we moved into our house, I didn’t think about the fact that we were also getting a chicken house and barn. But now those buildings have become a vital part of our life. Our interest in food has been intensified by the fact that we have some space for a few chickens, and room for a garden and orchard. I now can green beans on hot summer afternoons, just like my grandmother did, and I send my boys to gather eggs out of the same chicken house her chickens used.
I’m so thrilled that this is where my boys will grow up. They have an appreciation of food, where it comes from, and the work required to grow it. Some of our best memories have been made exploring the outdoors, and I’m so grateful we have a small space in which to live, work and play.
Living in a house that’s over 100 years old is not for everyone, and we’ve definitely had our challenges and fair share of hard work. But this is my spot in the world where I feel at peace. When I walk out on the porch on warm summer nights and hear the cicadas, I know I’m where I belong.