The apple trees are starting to blossom, and they're gorgeous!
I have so, so many stories to tell about the new house. I have a new kitchen, and the start of a garden, and some chickens, and just so much wonderful that's it's hard to remember where to begin.
So, I will start with a story.
This house was built in 1952. That's all I knew, going into it -- that it was built in 1952, that it used to be a dairy farm, and that there's a silo.
This is a wonderful house. It has four bedrooms, a great, funky basement, and a kitchen that has not been updated since 1952.
This is the "before" picture of the kitchen!
Much of it was renovated about 20 years ago, and it has a new roof, new carpet and paint, an unfinished basement that's huge and that has sliding glass doors that go outside.
The basement has cool stuff like a huge pantry/fruit room, which is a cold storage room with a freezer -- perfect for my paranoia about how having a huge supply of dried beans will prevent the end of the world as we know it, and the entire room is lined with huge shelving units, which will make my goal of have a five-year supply of peanut butter from Costco much easier.
And the room is about 20 feet by 15 feet, so bigger than most bedrooms. Perfect for storing anything from five years worth of food to Christmas stuff to whatever.
So, the house is gorgeous, there's nothing wrong with it, and we got extra money in our loan to renovate whatever we want in the house.
We decided to update the kitchen. There's nothing really structurally wrong with the kitchen -- except that the fridge was in one corner, the sink was in one corner, the stove was in a third corner, and there was a kitchen table right in the middle, and you had to walk around the table to get to any of them. Plus, the stove was in a very weird place, right by the hallway to the kid's rooms. So if you're at the stove cooking, you've got kids and dogs and everyone going right behind you all the time.
So we're ripping out the floor and the florescent lights, putting in can lights and a pretty new floor, taking out all of the upper cabinets and putting in open shelves (my family is all having a heart attack at how messy it will be, while I can't wait to have everything I need right in front of me with no stupid doors in my way,) and we're putting an island in the middle with the stovetop on it. Oh, and new butcherblock countertops, too.
So, here's the other part: The rest of the property.
The barn, and the silo, and the kids and the dog.
It used to be a dairy farm, and there are still nine acres attached to it. There's a carriage house behind the house that has a small room downstairs, an attached garage, and then two bedrooms upstairs. There's a huge barn, with a silo, and then there's woodworking shop in another barn-like building, and a small shed where they kept the milk, and then down the hill, there's HUGE chicken coop -- we're talking 125 feet long by 20 feet wide.
So, the owners put a new tin roof on the barn and the woodworking shop, and haven't done anything with the rest of the property. For whatever reason, they just let ivy and blackberries grow all over it. The guest house, which is a very cute, solid building, two stories with glass windows -- not a shed or anything -- had four feet of ivy over the roof and sides of the building.
That's Mark, on the guest house roof, struggling to take the ivy off.
And behind it, the blackberries were 20 feet tall in places, and there was no way to get down to the chicken coop at all, except to go through the blackberries.
So, here's the story:
The first day we got the property, two weeks ago, I hired a guy with a tractor to come out and take out the blackberries. He spent eight hours getting rid of them and hauled them into a huge burn pile, and right in the middle of the blackberries was another building! We didn't even know it was there! Seriously, the building is ten feet tall, ten feet long and has a door and glass windows, and it was so covered by the blackberries that we hadn't been able to see it!
The first peek into the egg house.
That night, the lady next door started walking up and down her driveway, craning her neck to see everything and checking out where the blackberries had been. So I hollered hello and went out to see her, and started talking. She was older, gray haired and thin and tall, and obviously interested in what we were doing, so I introduced myself.
She said, "Well, I'm Rachel, and I'm sure you've heard, I was born in your house. Well, when it was still a log cabin, of course."
Turns out, she was one of the daughters of the original farmers who built the house. There were five children, and she was the youngest, and she was born in the log cabin there. When she was a teenager, in 1945, her brothers decided that her mother needed a bigger house, so they tore down the log cabin and built the carriage house as a place to live while they built the main house.
She pointed out everything -- where the outhouse was, that the WPA had built in the 1930s, complete with two seats and wooden walls, and showed us how the chicken coop had worked, and that that the little building we'd uncovered was an egg house.
A peek into the outhouse. The door has to be dug out from under 40 years of dirt.
They'd had 2,000 chickens in the chicken coop, and the front of the building was to wash eggs, the back was a pump house, and the top was to keep bees for honey!
I was, of course, entranced by all of this. She'd had the master bedroom when she was a teenager, because that was before it was remodeled, and it was just a tiny attic bedroom, just for kids.
She was SO pleased that we'd torn up all the blackberry bushes, and she showed me where her mother had an old iron cookstove outside (it's still there, covered in ivy,) so she could can and jar things in the summer without it getting too hot. She was also excited that we were redoing the kitchen -- "Oh, I'm so glad -- you know, my mother designed that kitchen, but back in 1950, it was OK to have the refrigerator so far away from the sink -- it needs to be updated!"
She told us a little bit about the apple trees -- there are four of them, and apparently one's early, one's late, and two are in the middle, and one's good for applesauce, and one's good for keeping, and I'm supposed to keep this straight somehow.
The next morning she left a gift on the front porch -- a photograph of the house she took in the early '50s in black and white. I'm to hang it in my new living room, I think, when I'm finally finished painting.
I love this picture. The barn looks almost the same!
Then I met the neighbors on the other side. A very nice woman, who said she'd been friends with the people who had lived here before us.
This woman, Diane, started to tell us about the apple trees on the property. And then she said, "But watch out for Rachel! She thinks the trees are still hers! And last year, she asked if she could have a couple of apples, and she came and carted off bushels of them!"
Wow. That's a lot of drama for my first day here.
Then Diane said, "Oh, and the lady across the street -- that's my ex-sister-in-law. We don't speak."
So the following day, the lady across the street came over, and it turns out that she has the nicest kid ever and he's perfectly suited to play with Sander every day.
Except that Neighbor-across-the-street doesn't speak to Diane, and now Diane is miffed that neighbor-across-the-street comes over to fetch her son and say hello.
Can you say "The Real Farmwives of Washington State?"
And Neighbor-across-the-street said to me last night, "Oh, and watch out for Rachel -- she'll take all of your apples if you don't set some boundaries!"
So then Rachel came over to bring Sander some tadpoles from her pond, which I thought was awfully nice of her.
And she said, "Boy, those apple trees look great this year! I bet you'll have a great harvest -- I love those golden transparents in applesauce!"
I don't know which variety this one is...
So now I'm getting completely paranoid about people stealing apples in the future from trees that currently just have a blossom on them.
We're a month into living here, and our kitchen is almost finished. I have before-and-after pictures to do, and pictures of the chickens, and of the coop, and of the apple trees, and of the view from my bedroom window.
But for now, I'm happy that the drama in my life centers around apples, farm houses, and silliness.
The apple trees are Sander's favorite perch.
I have changed the names of all of my neighbors. Because they're already mad at each other, and this is a two-degrees-of-separation kind of place, and I don't want enemies this soon.