Back to Basics

It seems we have put behind the wintry blast of the several days ago, and are back to the jolly spring weather of May.  This is good, because our house does not currently have heat beyond an electric radiator or two.  And we’ll be moving in two weeks from now.

We did buy this house to be our home, after all.  And our current lease runs out on the 1st.  The summer in Buffalo is a wonderful time, and a little camping out will be fun.  Fortunately, the front two rooms of the first floor remain undemolished, so it’s there we’ll make our stand.  Thinking of it as a pioneer-era cabin trapped inside an old barn makes the move into an American adventure.  It also makes you think about what you really need to be reasonably comfortable.  Protection from the weather, clean water, something to eat, somewhere to sleep, somewhere to sit, a good book or two.  And someone to share it with.

These tight quarters present an interesting challenge in terms of furniture arrangement.  Living well in small spaces has always been a fascinating art to me.  Architecture and design in Tokyo or some of the denser European cities is, at its best, a no-wasted-space bonanza of shelves, hidden storage, and this-folds-into-that ingenuity.  Well we’re not doing any of that, but we can still look there for inspiration.  Efficient living, on the cheap.  Hand-me-downs have been critical here.  For starters, we have the bed.  A sleeper couch that has been in my family since the Flood now sits in front of the porch windows, allowing either a comfortable place to put guests while entertaining, or a much comfier sleeping option than the twin bed we currently share.  Improvement already.  Next there is the drop-leaf table my mother gifted us a few weeks ago.  It has a formica top so, hey, no coasters.  The leaves are dropped by a clever mechanism which I won’t attempt to describe, but it does not require oaths to operate and that is dandy.  Add a mismatched pair of dining table chairs and you have a place to read a book while eating a bowl of noodles.  We also have a “portable kitchen”, which is a cabinet on casters which holds a few dishes and such inside, and microwave (gift from friends) and toaster oven (Salvation Army) on top.  Also, we have an electric kettle for hot water, a great find at the Salvation Army “As-Is” store on Military Rd.  That place is full of diamonds in the rough.  Add a set of shelves holding various dry food items and you have our parlor, the larger of our two rooms.  The other room we call the office, and it holds the desk and filing cabinet, where the deed to the house and a copy of The Last Whole Earth Catalog are stored.  It is the room under the stairs, and it also has a neat little closet under said stairs, so we even have a place to hang up a nice shirt.

And that’s it for now, except for the temporary bathroom at the back of the house.  But living at the house will certainly provide further motivation to fix windows, build a kitchen, build a better bathroom, paint the house, and on and on.  Stay tuned.

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Outside work

As K. said in the last post, we’re focusing a lot on the outside of the house right now.  When the weather was cold and we were working inside, it was hard for people to tell that any work was being done – except when we’d have massive work party days every month or so.  Now that we’re able to work outside, we can do things that are immediately visible to the neighborhood (even if a lot of times it will look worse before it looks better, like when half of the paint has been scraped off the porch clapboard.)  We’re both looking forward to the day when our house doesn’t come across visually as a huge eyesore that’s begging for demolition or vandalization.  It’s also easy to meet your neighbors when you’re out and about.  I know I don’t really need to go into the importance of knowing your neighbors… and it’s easy to strike up a conversation from the starting point of yard work, snow shoveling, or home repairs.

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“so, your porch needs some work?” since this was taken window frames have been primed and OSB has been replaced with brick walkway (thanks, obsolete ex-chimney)

The other thing we’re doing right now is planting trees and shrubs on the side lot.  We’re way too occupied with stabilizing the house to have a full garden this year, but the earlier trees are planted, the longer they have to grow.  We ordered some plants through the Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual tree and shrub sale, and although they are tiny right now, we’re looking forward to a future of lilacs providing color and fragrance as well as a wall of evergreens providing a windbreak for the wind that blows off the river straight through our side lot.

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our chosen paint colors. green = clapboard, white = trim, blue = window sashes, orange = trim detail

Even more than the holes in the roof, the most glaring problem with the outside of our house (at least visually speaking) is the peeling paint.  Well, maybe also the boarded up windows, which have to wait until each wooden window can be stripped, repaired, reglazed, and repainted.  It’s hard to know where to begin sometimes, with a huge project like this.  That’s why it’s good to step back once in a while and work on smaller projects like tree planting that demonstrate to passers-by that the house is being cared for and on the way to being occupied again.

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broken lath bonfire in the side yard