(Queue up “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme song)
I decided this morning that the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I should post a badly-made and misspelled sign on our house lettered “The New Hampsha Hillbillies.” We have lived here in our circa 1953 house since 2007, and the Crankee Yankee has been making repairs and improvements ever since. We have had staging on our house every day since 2007; sometimes in the front of the house where the front porch he designed and partially put up is still in progress, sometimes in the back of the house, where the back porch is still in progress, and sometimes on the bay window side of the house, where shingling is in progress. Once the back and front porches are done, he wants to re-roof them both with metal roofing. That’s the outside.
On the inside, the new (as of 2007) ceiling in the living room is still unpainted, as is the bedroom pocket door. The now-gutted upstairs is in the process of being re-insulated and refurbished with recycled flooring. The new deck and stairs on the side of the house is still underway; all the basics are there, just unfinished. The Crankee Yankee scares me every year by saying that the entire kitchen needs to be re-done: ceiling replaced, walls stripped to the studs, old and crappy cabinets ripped out, and best of all, the horrible poison-green-with-dirty-ivory-squares linoleum has to come up and be replaced. Oh, and the kitchen door, which at this time you can’t use if the oven door is open (the oven is literally 2.5″ from the door handle)–needs to be moved over about two feet.
Just the mere words “kitchen renovation” make me weak and nauseous, and triggers my fight-or-flight reflex; as in I want to be instantly transported away when all this happens. His final (so far) project will be to tear down the ancient and sagging garage–re-build it AND add an efficiency apartment on top of it. I will say right here, right now, that I would rather eat a bug than have to worry about a tenant over the garage.
I haven’t even addressed the furnishings: we seem to be some vortex for other people’s crappy furniture outcasts. So, courtesy of one of the Crankee Yankee’s model railroad fellows, we have a black pleather office chair–one of those huge plushy ones. Both armrests have the pleather worn off so that the ugly gray stuffing shows; on one arm, you can see right down to the fake wood. Thanks to this same person, we also have a matching black pleather recliner–just as plushy, and oozing stuffing, too. The cats have scratched it to bits, recognizing it for the piece of crap it is. Also in our living room is the orange sofa/sleeper Mom and Dad gave us when they bought a nice new futon. It came “pre-scratched” from their cat to our three to enjoy. I cover it with a red fleece blanket (to cover up all the entrails leaking out of it), but it still looks terrible.
On the plus side, our circa 1953 home now has a roomy and sunny back and front porch, a sturdy and good-looking deck with wide and graceful stairs and two bannisters. In front of our house, the Crankee Yankee has put in a great deal of work making four raised-bed gardens, beautifully bordered in wood, with crushed stone walk-ways in between so that it’s easy to plant, weed and harvest. Last year we tried growing potatoes, and behold and lo–we harvested 31 of them! We also planted romaine, which we picked and enjoyed all summer. Last fall we planted garlic, and fingers crossed that it will come up this year. The plans for this year’s gardens are beets, brussels sprouts, lettuce, herbs and possibly peas. Oh, and also flowers.
Because of the Crankee Yankee’s overall handiness, we were the recipients of many pounds of free crushed stone from the town sewer workers. They worked all last year on our local roads, re-paving the streets and fixing some badly aged plumbing below the streets. Part of the work involved replacing the neighborhood’s water and sewer pipes, which meant everyone except the Crankee Yankee had to make sure that their pipes had access to the main roads. He dug his own trench and laid the pipe for our house, 1) because he knows what he’s doing, and 2) because as he says, “I have nothing else to do, and all the time in the world to do it in.” The road crew appreciated one less house to work with, and rewarded him with the crushed stone, which we are still using today.
All three of our cats have benefited as well. He put up a series of rather nice-looking shelves in the living room, and the cats love to perch and snooze on them. He is in the process of installing another cellar casement window, and while working on it, he took the time to make a little shelf so that the cats now have a ground-level view.
The funny thing about the Crankee Yankee’s mode of operation is that it’s just like mine: when bored of something, we both put a “bookmark” in what we’re doing and move on to something else. This way, everything eventually gets done, just not right away. I so admire people like my mom and my brother-in-law in the way they approach tasks. They clear the area in which they plan to work, they lay out all their tools and supplies, and get to it. They let nothing distract them from the task at hand, and they complete it in a timely fashion. Once done, they clean everything up, put things back where they were; done and done.
Sadly, that is not our style. While it is sometimes frustrating to have things constantly “in progress,” there is a weird hopeful feeling about it. We know that we will eventually get around to everything, and despite how things look, the Crankee Yankee has a master plan, and I believe in him. All during the past seven years, several people have kept track of his progress, and most are encouraging. The few who aren’t and complain about how the house looks are met with one of the Crankee Yankee’s standard stony stares and an invitation to complain all they want.
I think we’ll add a sign right next to the New Hampsha Hillbillies one that reads, “If you don’t like the time it’s taking to complete the work on this house, please feel free to donate.” And right next to that, we’ll nail up a coffee can with a slot in the lid.