A friend indeed

Whenever we have guests, I try and see our house through fresh eyes, to get a feel for what someone who doesn’t live here might make of it. I never like what I see.

Some of the things we’ve gotten used to, like the peeling 1960s wallpaper in the bathroom or the two dead arborvitaes whose transplant didn’t take, look seedy and sloppy. Some of the things we haven’t gotten used to, like the stained carpet that will eventually be replaced by wide-plank pine or the bare spots in front of the house where the chickens ate all the hostas, look even worse.

Then there are the piles of crap from all the projects we’ve got underway. The bricks for the never-ending wood-fired oven. The giant flowerpot that will be a tandoor. The PVC pipe for the greenhouse. The washing machine parts for the chicken plucker. The oyster paraphernalia.

I saw all those things as Kevin and I tried to whip house and grounds into shape for our friend Allison, coming to visit from Brooklyn.

Allison had been here before, but it was when we first bought the house and had the excuse of newness. It was perfectly reasonable that we hadn’t gotten rid of that carpet when we’d only lived there for a month. Now what’s our excuse?

Allison is one of our all-time favorite people. She’s smart and charming, open-hearted and curious, gracious and vivacious. And she didn’t give a shit about the carpet.

What she saw was what we’ve built in the two-and-a-half years since we bought this house. She saw a beautiful, functional chicken coop and seven healthy birds. She saw a garden where there’d been only scrub and sand. She saw four contented turkeys in a spacious pen, and two well-established beehives. She saw flourishing shiitake mushrooms and a robust little fig tree.

We took her fishing, we took her to see the oysters, we took her lobstering. We took her to a farm-to-table dinner at Coonamessett Farm, and introduced her to some of the friends we’ve made since we moved here. While she was here, she ate lobster and bluefish that we caught ourselves, tomatoes and onions we picked from the garden, eggs from our free-roaming hens, and one-third of the one fig that was our entire crop (the other fig fell off, and those free-roaming hens got it).

She saw something constructive, something productive. She saw the hard work and the skill acquisition. She saw a lifestyle that was interesting and compelling, and two former city-dwellers who built it, from scratch, with joy. And she made me see it too.

To hell with the carpet.

10 people are having a conversation about “A friend indeed

  1. I’m sure visitors to our place see all the things you mentioned. Like you, I prefer not to see or even thing about the piles of junk, the indifferent landscaping where it’s too shady to grow crops, and the hideous bathroom wallpaper. Maybe it takes another homesteader to see the beauty in the functional, productive parts of the property. Or maybe, once in a while, a non-homesteader can see it too. One of these years, I keep telling myself, all the really important functional work will be done and I can turn my attention to making this place a little bit pretty, as conventionally defined.

  2. Just reading the list of the many improvements you have made and the advances in raising and growing your own food makes me fatigued. You have done so so so much, and so what if you have a way to go yet? It is all grist for the mill, and you are doing (I think) what you wanted to do in the first place upon leaving NYC. AND then there is the humor: washing machine parts for the chicken plucker – a hoot! Allison sounds like a good and wise friend – a keeper.

  3. Hey- we all need more friends like Allison! My mother and older sister are coming for a visit in a couple of weeks, and I’m trying to get some last minute stuff whipped into shape before they get here. I’m really stoked that Mom is coming, but I have to acknowledge bracing myself for the criticism that will assuredly come with her visit. I wish I could borrow Allison around the same time….

  4. I love this post. I’ve recently moved to a house where we can change our lives a bit like you have. We have a beehive waiting for bees, plans for a chicken tractor, glasshouse and garden. Life is more fun this way, even if it is messy!

  5. Nothing like a friend such as Allison to remind you the carpet just doesn’t matter. This post makes me look forward to finally getting our own place where we can grow and do as we please. We are waiting to hear if our bid on a place is going to be taken! First thing going in is a chicken coop, so I can get my blue laced wyandottes before I start nursing school! What better sort of person than the Allison’s of the world to share your one fig with?

  6. Kate — I tell myself the same thing, that the time will come when the substantive work will be done and I’ll be able to focus on things like the interior floors. I’m not sure, though, that the substantive work will ever be done, but pretty is something I can live without for a very long time.

    Margaret — Sometimes I think it sounds like harder work than it actually is. (But don’t tell anyone!)

    Paula — I don’t get why parents think it’s OK to be critical of their adult children. It’s not like your Mom is going to come to your house and find the bodies of all the children you murdered buried in your backyard. I hope your mother sees all the constructive, interesting things you’ve got going on at your house, and is suitably impressed. I know I am.

    Melanie — Congratulations and good luck! It is messy, and it is fun, and it’s also profoundly satisfying. Keep me posted on your progress!

    Brooke — I’ve got my fingers crossed for you. I hope your bid goes through. I know it’s a nerve-wracking time, but keep in mind that, if this doesn’t happen, something else will. We made bids on a couple of other houses before we found this one, and we’re really glad they all fell through. There’s lots of real estate out there, and your blue Wyandottes will be ready when you are.

  7. I’m glad I read this. Makes me feel not so slack. We have piles of old windows, pallets for firewood, an attached greenhouse that’s been attached to a pallet for 2 1/2 years and various other piles of white treasure that are earmarked for elusive projects. We still don’t (after 5 years) have a bathroom sink and no flooring or trim in half of the house. There was an ugly rusty chest freezer on the porch for a while that we’ve since traded for a refrigerator, a washer and a gas stove. We say it keeps the realtors away 😀

  8. That’s exactly what we see when we read your blog. Innovation and creativity, and chutzpah. We don’t give a shit about your carpet either.

  9. This post makes me feel so much better about the piles of stuff in our drive. They have an earmarked purpose but do look a bit scruffy.

    You have achieved so much – my head whirls.

    We have a carpet like that too 🙂

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