In our spare time, we’ve begun gutting the old farmhouse we purchased back in May. The house was built in 1889 by a farmer for his wife before they were married. She moved in in 1902 on their wedding day. The grandsons told me of stories where grandma spent nights holding a lantern over grandpa’s head while he finished the construction.
The house was built to be a productive family farmhouse. The family farmed all of their land right up to the house–dairy cows, chickens, cotton, etc.. but in subsequent generations the children opted out of the toil of farming for work in construction, buying into the post-WWII “modern world” fallacies. They put water heaters in the root cellars making them warm and moist so food couldn’t be stored in them any longer. They opted for central heat and air, which mean that ceilings needed to be lowered and ducts run all through the house–and fireplaces and windows needed to be sealed up. The wood cookstoves were replaced by electric ranges. Family time moved from the porch to the TV room. In the most recent generation, surround-sound entertainment systems were added, Playstations and plasma TVs mounted on the walls and satellite dishes mounted on the roof…of a 19th century farmhouse that grandpa built.
When we first toured the house, my eyes saw grandpa’s work…and I knew I could get a dumpster big enough for his children’s additions. So, now that things have settled down for us with visitors and outdoor work, we’re tearing it up.
We’ve pulled all the dropped-ceilings down. We opened up the original chimneys and uncovered the old fireplaces. We’re moving the water heaters out of the root cellar and making the root cellar a root cellar again. We’ve cleaned all of the lawn chairs and RV/camping equipment out of the canning kitchen. We uncovered the original wood cookstove vents and tore out all of the cabinets–which no farm kitchen needs.
In time, we’ll be bringing in a new wood cookstove. We’ll be restoring the original fireplaces and chimneys. We’ll be filling the root cellar with food. We’ll be canning in the canning kitchen. We’ll have no more electric air conditioning or heating filling the dead spaces of the house with t-shirt accomodating forced air, but the ventilation and breezes and the 12′ ceilings that grandpa knew would control the temperature in his house will comfort us as they did him. We’ll be snuggled in front of warm fire or around the cookstove in the winter. The kitchen will be processing fresh milk and butter, cheesecloths will be hanging to dry in the windows, girls will be kneading dough on the work table. The house will be filled with the sounds of bleating sheep, summer crickets and singing birds–not video games and TV commercials that have no place in the country.
I tell those around us that I’ll be “reveterizing” the house–making it old again. More importantly, I will make the house make sense again. I wish the old grandpa was here because I know he knew what he was doing. Life made sense in his generation. Not in ours. We’ll fix it and our kids will only know a world that makes sense.