Friday, June 6, 2008

Hello from the little granary on the prairie

We are turning a 50-some-year-old granary into a house.

How did you react to that sentence?

We've gotten quite a few different reactions when we tell people what we're up to. Here's my favorite: "Wow! Talk about preservation and restoration!" But that has not been nearly as common as some variation on the theme, "But why didn't you just get a mobile home?"

Why not, indeed? It would have been easier. Far less aggravating. Faster. Probably, in the long run, cheaper.

Well, here's a spur-of-the-moment list of some of the reasons I came up with for trying this crazy stunt:
  • We are a little bit crazy.
  • We love old things better than new ones.
  • We were going to have to maintain the granary anyway, and this is one less building on the farm to think about taking care of (compared to building a new home, or bringing in a mobile home).
  • We’ll have a great story to tell about the home we live in.
  • Our home will have amazing character.
  • We’ll see if this holds true, but I think we’ll end up saving some money over building new. And it’s possible that at the end of all this, we will have a home and no debt for it! Ah, the best laid plans, I’m sure … but that’s the goal.
  • It’s one huge puzzle, figuring out how to turn an old building into a livable house. And we like puzzles. (Or at least I like puzzles. Dave, I think, just likes solved puzzles ... well, we'll get there.)
And so, with that crazy plan in mind, we moved back to the farm where I grew up in January--to the freezing plains, in the dark of winter--a move that could have been judged as insane in itself. But that's when Dave's new job started, and a person doesn't turn down a government job when he and his prairie-born, prairie-rooted wife want to live this far away from most of civilization. We moved in with my parents and put our house in Iowa on the market.

So, let me run down the list of what was going on in our lives then: We were living with my parents, and all of our stuff was crammed into this already stuff-filled house. (It's a big house, but it's also the family homeplace, so everywhere you turn around there's history that's hard to throw away. And my mom's weaving business is very stuff-intensive in itself. Every possible storage place in this house is packed.) I had just quit my job and was adjusting to full-time motherhood (of our wonderful, energy-sapping 2 1/2-year-old daughter Sofia), even during the hours I was still a part-time journalist. Dave was just starting a new job. Our house in Iowa was on the market during the worst housing crisis in decades, the headlines kept telling us. My grandmother, who had been ailing for some months, died on the last day of 2007. My father, who is in his 80s, had several health scares (and would have several more throughout the spring). We had this crazy idea to build a house from a granary, even though it would mean a lot of long days and stress as we tried to figure out how to go about this.

Oh, and did I mention I'm pregnant, due in August--well before our house is likely to be finished?

I ran down this list with a friend before we moved, and she commented that we are doing most of life's most stressful events all at once.

Wow, we are doing really well this sixth day of June, considering all that.

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