Sunday, June 29, 2008

House and Garden Gripes

Seventeen years ago, I lived in a tiny...and I mean tiny...rental house out in the country near Chapel Hill. I could fit everything I owned into one pickup load. My life was a lot simpler then. If something needed fixing or replacing, I knocked on the door of my next-door neighbor, 81 year-old Ralph, who owned the house, and he took care of it. I didn't have to think about it.

I looked forward to one day owning my own house, but I didn't appreciate the freedom of not having to worry about a damn thing except paying the rent on time and making sure I was home in time for Northern Exposure on Monday nights. Money was spent on myself. If I wanted books, I bought them. If I wanted to go to the beach, I went.

Don't get me wrong. I like my house. But there are days when I wonder if I own the house, or if the house owns me. Case in point: astute readers of this blog will notice that we have a new roof, and that the trim on the right side of the house is now white. (Seriously, if you noticed that, you need to get a life, or else I'm calling the cops because you are obviously paying way too much attention to my house...)

The thing is, I'm tired of house projects. Since we bought the place, in addition to the roof, we've stripped wallpaper and/or painted in 6 rooms, replaced carpet in 3, refinished hardwoods in 1, and still need to replace the deck and the heat pump. I'm tired of thinking of what's next on the list. What I'd like to do is have a tiny cabin like Thoreau's--or like my little house in Chapel Hill--in the middle of my garden. Something that required minimal upkeep. A place to sleep, shower, and read. I'll bet I would have a lot more money, not to mention time, do deal with something that I enjoy--my plants.

William Shenstone, an 18th century writer, may have put his finger on part of the reason for my discontent:

The works of a person that builds, begins immediately to decay; while those of him who plants, begins directly to improve.

All that stuff we do to the house starts to wear out or get old the moment we're done. I know, I know, you gotta have a roof, but still...I wish I could reverse the ratio of money and time I spend on the house versus the garden.

Speaking of the garden, I took some photos this afternoon after the thunderstorm. Check them out.
Andy's Garden. I still miss that cat.


Katie said...

I totally know that feeling. We actually moved from a house in which we updated damn near everything to our current house in which we have done damn near nothing (except outside, that is).

You'll always miss Andy, and I personally don't think it gets better with time. I still miss the cat I grew up with, even though he left us 8 years ago. I love the idea of a garden that's devoted to Andy - that is really a great memento and a productive way to channel grief.

Gina said...

David - I feel like that too sometimes. Like right now as I look out the kitchen window to see the paint chipping off the garage window and a bazillion other things that need to be done. Or when dead animals randomly show up in my yard (yes I would call a landlord for that) and I don't want to dispose of them. Still, it's gotta be better than renting, right?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Hang in there David. Things will get better. You will get your house as you want it and then move on to other things to occupy your time and money.

Your garden is looking quite nice. Andy would be so happy in his garden. He would be lolling around watching for some unsuspecting butterfly or bird to pounce on. I am sure he appreciates your efforts in his behalf.

It is good to hear that you had some rain. I hope this means the drought has worked its way out of your region.

Iris said...

I hear ya, David, and our house is brand new. Speaking of decks, I was thinking about them yesterday, and how when I was a kid nobody had a deck. Adults and kids alike hung out on the lawn, in lawn chairs, or at picnic tables, or--shocking!--even sat in the grass! Then decks became ubiquitous and now nobody sits around on the lawn anymore and we all have these expensive decks to maintain. How did that ever happen?

Anonymous said...

David, I think we all feel this way at some point. Owning a house seems to be one never ending weekend project. Since I bought my house, I have replaced the heat pump, painted about half the rooms, put on a new roof and replaced the deck. Vinyl windows and new kitchen counters are on the list for upcoming projects.

At least during the summer we can use the yard and garden as an excuse to get outside.

David in Greensboro, NC said...

See, this is what I like about all of you--you can sympathize!

Katie, thanks--I don't feel so dumb about crying when I think about Andy.

Gina--random dead animals??? Do they show up dead, or do they die after they arrive :)

Thanks Lisa--I might can see the end after the deck and heat pump...then it will be the "surprise repairs..." I'm glad for the rain, especially now that we have new gutters.

That is a very good question, Iris. Houses used to have front porches that were covered, so they might not have been as much maintenance as decks.

I'm wondering, Chad & Brandy...People who don't own a house, or have a downtown condo, what do they do with all that time?

Meg said...

Your garden is coming along quite nicely. I love the mixture of plants. And the curves of the beds. It looks great.

Lori said...

Wow! I can't believe how fast your garden is filling in, especially after that storm. I'll just be over here living vicariously, since all of my plants are doing nothing but wilting in Texas.