02 August 2013

Harvesting Nails and Other Bits.

It is the first harvest of the fall cycle and we are busy, busy people. With an abundance of gratitude for the friends who came by and lent their strength and time helping gut the kitchen, we have the shell beginning to take shape. 

I am both relieved and bummed that we're in the process of doing this. We are a far cry from where I had hoped to be - I wanted to be canning pickles and making blueberry pie filling to stuff the larder with - but when one hasn't a stove, well. Priorities, people. Priorities. I am bemused that my grand plans for the garden and storage of food completely fell apart this year and instead I am neck deep in dust and chaos. 

But it's good chaos. Next year then for a massive can-a-thon. The farmers market vendors will fear my coming as they will hear Flight of the Valkyries playing when I peel into the parking lot with a mad look on my face muttering something about bread & butter pickles and fondling all the peaches. 

One small portion of the mess. 

In the meantime, I am spending my evenings trying to help with the little things like pulling penny nails out of the studs, or running errands (new cabinets are in! now I just need to go and pick them up!), or trying to catch up on laundry and ignore my filthy house.

My dad has a story about the first job he ever had, working with his step dad in the shop. Along with sweeping the floor he had to take the nails that were pulled from various jobs and straighten them out to be reused. As I am pulling hundreds of nails out of the wall that we missed on our first pass through while ripping out the lathe, I am reminded of a small boy with a hammer, dutifully tapping on each nail.

It has been hard filling a 20 yard dumpster with wood, plaster, and virtually new sheet rock. I know where it is going and it always breaks my heart when I realize that I am part of a cycle of waste. The lathe might have been reused for something - we aren't entirely sure what at the moment - but the plaster was not reusable for anything other than fill. The sheet rock, new when we moved in, was only in place due to the constraints of our loan. Even then we knew we would be ripping it out as soon as we started the kitchen. It bothered us both but the point was getting the house, not fighting with the loan company about the waste we'd be creating.

I learned so much about waste and recycling, really re-using materials when I lived in Ireland and a lot of the time I feel like I am doing a huge disservice to that experience. It's a matter of cost and output here. I could spend the time pulling the nails out of the lathe, finding something for the lathe, storing it until we found a way to reuse it, but it is wholly inconvenient and it is exactly that inconvenience that drives our culture. The cast iron sink that was apparently the second kitchen sink to be used in the house is being reused in our basement primarily because I forbade Jeff from getting rid of it. Other than cosmetic issues, it is a perfectly serviceable sink and as we are finding throughout the house, materials are not made like this anymore. When our house was built in 1902, that plaster and lathe was meant to be there for the entirety of the life of the house. They didn't consider needing to do rewiring or the like.

We have also discovered more work that needs to be done sooner rather than later which is normally how these things go in old houses. The old chimney that is no longer in use sits in one corner of the kitchen. Our plan is to eventually take it down once we get to the roof in a few years but between now and then we'll need to clean it up so it's not a complete eyesore or crumbling out which means I get to read up and make a grand mess of re-pointing and acid washing. Should be a fascinating learning experience.

We are making a point to purchase reasonably quality goods. The cabinets are not the solid wood that we had originally priced out, but they are very sturdy and will last us our life with the house and beyond. The counter tops we are looking at are quartz, durable and long lasting without the same problems of granite. I'm choosing classic fixtures and colors - black and white tile for the galley, marble back splash - because as much as I know they'll go out of style, they will return again. At least, these are the stories I tell myself in the hopes that in thirty years or more, the new owners won't need to rent their own 20 yard dumpster to repeat the process. This might just be wishful thinking though.

While I harvest nails and Jeff harvests little shocks from rewiring the electrical, I am focusing on being grateful for the abundance of help and excellent know-how from family and friends, the luck that has gotten us this far with our home, and the love that is going into making each inch of space count. It's not pickles and blueberries, but it means a great deal regardless.

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