Monthly Archives: December 2012

But how will you take care of the animals?

I have spent much of the past week on airplanes. Sometimes that’s the way life goes. I have a very inflexible schedule for December, which means the poor stubborn boy has been going it alone at the house all week. He’s been up at the farm, and I’ve been bringing home the ~ ehr, bacon?

I actually got sent out to Madrid, España, yesterday with my airline. I have to say, in spite of the awful flight, I’m thrilled to be writing this post from Spain. After all, this is where I started my love affair with farm life last February. Here’s the scoop:

Way back in September of 2010, I finally said out loud this  ~I~D~E~A~ brewing in my mind, that I wanted to have a little house in the country with some land and a garden and some goats and chickens. But stubborn boy pointed out that a) I couldn’t have animals unless I could take care of them and b) I couldn’t take care of them because I knew nothing about them and c) even if I knew how to take care of them, I’d have to be with them every day. Not a very good plan when one is a flight attendant and gone from home an average of 15 days a month.

Not to be dissuaded, I set out to get some hands on skills. But since Brooklyn isn’t really a hotbed of rural farming opportunities, I joined the not-for-profit organization WWOOF [World Wide Opportunites on Organic Farms]. This group connects people who want to learn about farming with actual farmers. In return for free labor, WWOOFers get free room and board and learn loads of skills about organic farming. There are farms all over the world and if you’re at all curious, I encourage you to check out their website at:

www.wwoof.org

It is well worth the $35 user registration fee. And well, since I’m a flight attendant and can fly anywhere on the cheap, it seemed reasonable to go to a country where I like the cheese and can speak the language. Thus, I found my way to Santamera,  España and into the lives of my two patrons, Maxi and Samuel. These two granjeros (farmers) have been raising goats and chickens and pigs in the mountains of Spain, just 150 km northeast of Madrid. The two friends meted out wisdom with humor and patience, and is an ongoing relationship between us. They have even offered to come to New York to help me with some of the setup of my own farm.

I will actually be seeing them in just a few weeks. In mid January I am travelling to their farm for another skillshare weekend. I can’t wait to return, to see all of the changes and also to see all the girls (goats) again. I’m sure they’ve been missing me desperately.

I did invite the men up to Madrid to spend Christmas Eve with me but such is farm life. They couldn’t come. Who would watch over their animals?  Score one for stubborn boy…

 

A project is born~!

Hurrah to November 30, 2012. It’s the day we finally closed, after months and months of emailing documents, scanning pages for the bank, phone calls to the attorney, and numerous stress sessions with the stubborn boy saying, “Are we SURE we want to do this?”

While I’m thrilled to finally be closed on the property, the big downside to closing in November is that we only have six months to get all the work done. Which is pretty difficult considering a bulk of our work is getting the house ready for winter, which seems to already be upon us.

The former owner, Mr. K., graciously had allowed us access to the house to get some preliminary work done. Thanks to him, we had completed demolition on the entire second floor.

Here’s a picture so you visualize what I’m talking about:

 

This is the front of the house, which we also call the “main house.” While there doesn’t seem to be too much information about the house, it’s pretty evident that the current house was built in three stages. So the main house is the oldest part of the house, dating to 1843.  You can see part of what we call the “extention” off the back right of the house, where the lower roof and two windows are. That is currently serving as Camp Headquarters, complete with a crockpot kitchen, sleeping chambers and half completed bathroom.

So this house needs: A new roof. New windows. Insulation. Floors need to be leveled in all of the rooms. Complete repointing. Brick rebuilds in several locations. Window Lintel repairs since they’re cracked. And of course, since we had to get to the walls and floors inside to see what, exactly, we’re dealing with, we now need completely new interior framing since we’ve ripped everything down to the brick and joist.

We’ve got three fourths of the demolition done so far. You can see the upstairs fireplace and partial downstairs fireplace running from the main floor straight up to the roof. Alas, it’s coming down. The chimney collapsed I don’t know when, and someone bricked them both up. Plus, it will be impossible to insulate the house if we have an air shaft running through to the outside. Man, what a kick in the teeth that moment of realization was. All my adult life, living in NY and visiting my friends apartments with their gorgeous exposed brick walls… It’s an impossibility if you have a brick wall on the exterior because it’s impossible to insulate.

It can be kind of cool doing demo on an old house. Now, a lot of the demoltion went fast because

1)the house is so old and

2)there was a fire around 1960 which forced some major repair work

So a lot of what we’re encountering is not original to the house. I can’t really tell whether or not the joists are original to the house. What I can see (but you cannot as the photo doesn’t show it) is that the joists are all cut up and sistered to other joists, so they’ve lost a lot of their strength and support, which is why the floors were dropping in the center.  Lucky for me, the stubborn boy came up with a solution. He’s ordering 18 replacement joists, 2x8x16 Select Structure ™ Douglas Fir, and he’s going to restring the entire west side second story.  Which completely freaked me out until he was so casual about it, so I’m really calmed down now. Plus, the new floor joists will eat up time, but not crazy amounts of capital. (remember, I’m rehabbing an old house. Eighteen new floor joists (dollar wise) is nothing compared to the cost of say, twenty two windows or a new roof complete with rafter rebuild.

All in all, i’m thrilled to be started. Now I just need to make sure that stubborn boy stays on focus. We do have some capital available to us, but I don’t want to spend every penny we have rehabbing this house at the sacrifice to the farm.  After all, it was the promise of fresh eggs and goat cheese that we jumped into this vision, er, whole hog, if you will…  We just need the house habitable, so that I can get started with building the farm.