House Anniversary

It’s been one year to the day since we took possession of the house, and we’re still working out its quirks and features.

These are the things you don’t notice when you tour the house for the first time, or even during the inspection. I’m amazed at what now seems conspicuous, even glaring, but that we missed completely when we were buying the place. For example, the floors. They’d obviously been redone since the house was built 30 years ago, but it’s clear now that that work was done not too long before we bought the place, and it had not been done well: there were problems with the transition pieces and the doors that wouldn’t close, which we had fixed almost immediately, and the carpet in the upper living room/dining room has been causing all sorts of problems with bookshelf stability that we’re still trying to engineer a permanent solution for. More subtle things have since emerged: baseboards that don’t line up, mismatched paint patches, that sort of thing.

But things like this are fixable, and more to the point we can live with them in the meantime, so they don’t bother us too much. We’ll get to them eventually.

Which reminds me: I’m surprised at how eventual “eventually” has come to mean. Things I’d planned to do before we moved in still haven’t been done yet: they’re further down the priority list or they’ve been reclassified as optional. In hindsight I have to ask myself what the hell I was thinking: I was ambitious and wanted to get everything set up as quickly as possible. We really didn’t need to. It’s one thing to move into an apartment that you only plan on staying in for a few years: there isn’t much you can do to the place, and there isn’t much space to do it in. We expect to be here at least 15 years, and moving here doubled our usable square footage. We’ve got a lot more to work on, but we’ve got lots of time to figure it out. In the interim, it’s still a pretty nice place for us to live. We’re a bit rough around the edges too.

To be honest, I’ve been waiting for the house to fall apart on us, and it has surprised me by refusing to do so. The other shoe has failed to drop. Apart from a problem with the main water shutoff valve that we had to deal with shortly after taking possession (that was exciting), the house has been solid. For one thing, it’s extremely well-insulated. In winter it’s heated with electric baseboards, which isn’t as efficient, but because it’s so snug we spend about as much on electricity here as we did at the last place, which was smaller and had a bi-energy furnace, but was draftier. And unless the windows are open, we can’t hear anything outside—not the frogs calling at the pond next door, not even the century-old beech tree that fell over last fall. The only source of outdoor noise that regularly penetrates the stillness is the helicopter that regularly passes overhead (we think it’s an air ambulance).

It’s quiet, and we’ve been needing that. Badly.

In many ways the most interesting and engrossing part of living here has been the property, not the house. We’re on nearly an acre of mixed maple and beech forest. Most of the trees are very tall and very old, and the growth is starting to get very shaggy. We don’t get a lot of light in summer, which makes gardening a challenge and a traditional lawn a struggle, and in the fall we get a ton of leaves on the ground: about a foot deep in some places. At some point we’re going to have to talk to an arborist, or learn a lot more about tree management.

But on the other hand it’s made for some absolutely wonderful discoveries. Between the plants growing natively in the understory and the ornamentals the previous owner planted (some of which have gone feral), there’s usually something in bloom. Then there’s the multiple kinds of mushrooms that have been fruiting across the forest floor, at least two of which we’ve identified as edible. Or the three species of frog we’ve caught. And don’t get me started on the birds. Or the bats. (No snakes yet, though. Sigh.) True, the mosquitoes are dreadful, but it’s kind of worth it to live in such an ecologically active place. It’ll take us years to figure out what to do with it. We’re going to have so much fun.

It’s starting to feel like home. Like we belong here.