Another fixer-upper, I think as I survey the mess beyond the deck. A vast expanse of dirt, quickly turning to mud. Muddy paw prints in the house. Muddy boot prints on the stairs coming up from the garden. Two machines, one called a Ditch Witch. Mounds of overturned grass to the side.
Snapping photos, I wonder about our propensity for fixer-uppers.
12 moves in 34 years. So many houses, so many renovations. Tiling floors on July long weekends. Painting until midnight. Filling dumpsters. Clearly it’s an addiction. Or, better yet, a disease. Let’s call it fixerupperitis.
Here in Vernon it takes us a mere 4 months to buy a second property, a bi-level on 13th St, putting us close to the renovation on 20th St. We buy it because so little is needed inside. Just a few tweaks: move the fridge, build a wall and a pantry, and bookshelves, buy new appliances, some blackout blinds. Compared to other houses, this one is a snap to fix-up. It only takes two months.
Once the snow melts we see how very much is needed outside. Consisting mostly of grass damaged by 5 years of Rover relieving himself, it is lumpy, weedy, patchy and brown. No trees. No shrubs. No shade. No privacy. We count 27 neighbours visible from our property.
Anticipating that the heat of the summer sun blazing all day will be unbearable, we rush to the nearest garden store and buy as many trees as can be stuffed into the back of the VW.
(Yes the VW is back on the road after two trips to Partly Dave’s neighbourhood garage and a chunk of change later.)
The size of the yard is alarming. At 1/3 acre it feels ginormous to a couple of city folk more accustomed to 33ft wide lots. Craig, of course, sees himself as a nascent market gardener and has big plans for the space. He figures that his post-virus skills as the jolly green giant will be more lucrative than the ones as a lawyer. We’ll see.
You’d think we’d be more accustomed to the many irritations of renovating by now. Or we’d just stop buying fixeruppers.
“Down the hill” – as house #1 will be come to be known – at 20th St, the guts come out. The furnace and ducts, old wiring, old plumbing, and a pile of 2x4s are helter-skelter in the driveway. The place looks like a tornado hit. The garage is filled with doors, venetian blinds, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures and other items we hope to put back in the house.
Demolition. I feel like the Hindu god Shiva. Shiva the destroyer, destroying the universe at the end of each life cycle, allowing for a new creation. Shiva, the benevolent deity with a dark side. Mirroring my mixed feelings about the good we are doing by improving the house and the bad we are doing by discarding much of it.
We stop in daily (and often more often) to check on the progress, in the beginning covering our noses to keep the asbestos and other toxins at bay. The house seems shrunken. Rooms look smaller than we remember.
Past the point of no return now, well past, in fact, it is both stressful and enjoyable. Daunting for sure. Even a bit bewildering. Like renovation inconvenience, you’d think we’d become accustomed to the disorientation of change. And I guess we are. Otherwise we would not have endured the past two years, ones of so much bewildering change.
But, like a phoenix, the new structure rises from the detritus of the old. Our vision for a gathering place for family and friends is coming to life. Our dream of a retirement home in the Okanagan is being realized.
Very soon we will pack up our belongings and move again. In the meantime we continue to enhance our little bi-level with more plantings and paint, improved plumbing and electricity. When we leave, it will be with fond memories of a home that sheltered us for a while. Maybe because we travel, we seem to be able to bloom where we’re planted.