It’s funny, the things you learn about the person who lived in a house before you. In our case, the cabin is just a getaway, but the previous owner, George, lived there year-round for 25 years (according to the realtor).
During this renovation process, I feel like I’ve gotten to know old George a little bit thru the things he left behind and what he’d built. I’m not sure I’d like the guy — in fact, I am fairy confident that we have very little in common — but I do admire his ingenuity and flat out moxie.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about our neighbor in time.
1) Dude loved to hammer. If George built it, sturdiness was the number one priority. We’ve ripped out bookshelves held together with 4″ nails designed for decks, and wood paneling attached with dozens of nails per piece when two would have done just fine. He was either single-handedly propping up the nail manufacturing industry or one day he stumbled upon the nail sale of a lifetime. I guess if you live alone in the woods, you need something to keep you busy.
2) I’d like him with me if I was stranded in the desert. Originally built as a campground community, few of the older style cabins nearby have running water… it was camping, after all. But George figured out how to run water from the natural spring across the road into a cistern under our deck so we have a continuous freshwater supply. He trained a small waterfall to flow into a cement bowl, into which he embedded a water line that runs under the road. A mini well pump under the kitchen sink and a small hot water heater completed the system. Let’s not talk about plumbing codes, but it’s a genius use of existing resources that would make MacGuyver jealous.
3) He wasn’t ready to leave. One of the things that most struck me when we first saw the cabin was that it was frozen in time: clothes in the closet, toothbrush in the medicine cabinet, and half a cup of coffee on the kitchen counter. It’s rare to get a snapshot into a stranger’s life with such intimate detail. From this, we guessed that George fell suddenly ill and never was able to return to his home in the woods. The realtor shared that he had moved instead to Georgia to be with relatives. I hate to think that a survivalist like George was taken down by something so routine as a heart attack or stroke, but I suppose even the mighty must fall. Godspeed, Georgie boy.
I can finally “see” the cabin – now that the demolition phase has ended and the new walls are up we are looking forward to getting some cleaning done and paiting the walls.
Don’t be horrified – most people do not paint log walls… but our log walls are really, really, REALLY dirty. Beyond the serious investment of significant time, sand blasting, scraping and sanding, not much would help them. We’re painting. Deal with it.
After several weeks of convincing Janeé eventually agreed to keep the brown Pizza Hut lamp that we acquired with the cabin. With water finally flowing she couldn’t wait to get her hands on the lamp and clean it.
Oh. It’s not brown.
In the last three weeks, I’ve learned a whole lot about junk removal. There is a whole industry of shady characters who will come right to your house and haul away stuff you don’t want. These folks seem to be retired guys for the most part, and they don’t think girls can do anything. They’ll mostly even take your metal stuff for free! That was excellent news for our 200+ pound coal stove that Jen and Mary wrestled outside with the sheer force of will. I’d thank Keith Nolastname, who fought the muddy road and had to be pulled out, but I am pretty sure there ain’t no internet where Keith lives.
Another excellent way to get rid of shit is to burn it! Sometimes we play this game while camping, which we’ve coined Eat It, Burn It, or Chuck It. Needless to say, NOTHING at the cabin is safe to eat so we’re trying to work our way through 25 years of wood paneling and oak flooring by burning it a bit at a time. You definitely can’t do this in Columbia. Two metal garbage cans have been perfect for keeping the fire under control-ish.
I cannot even begin to express to you how dirty the inside of our cabin is. I’d been turning a blind eye (mostly because we don’t have any power and it’s dark in there) but after a whole day not being able to see the river I took a bottle of windex and a roll of paper towels to the window. The first round of degreaser spray shook loose 25 years of nicotine, which streaked down the windows in rivers. After the second round, I could see light. The third round was the ticket — I could finally see that view we’d bought!
Nine windows in total, a roll and a half of paper towels, and half a bottle of cleaner later and we could see inside! Oh wait, look at those cobwebs… my god, check out that dirt… hey, is that jelly? Oh my, we have a ways to go.
Except for the most mentally disturbed, most people dislike cleaning. It’s even more unlikable when you’re cleaning up after someone else.
Our cabin needs a lot of TLC – from a deck that needs replaced to throwing out the previous owner’s toothbrush, we’ve gone through a lot of gloves during our weekend of cleaning. Beyond the PBR advertising paraphernalia, not much of the stuff left in the cabin is very interesting – all of it is headed to the dump.
When you live in a townhouse, the only hurdle would be how to get it to the dump. However, when your property sits at the end of a long and steep trail, the difficulty is getting a truck to the it. We found a nice fellow through the local paper The Delta Star who was willing to brave the trail to the cabin. After a long, grueling trip in reverse with his trailer, he and his co-worker made quick work of the piles I had prepared.
After they left with my trash and my check, it felt a little easier to breath in the cabin.
Next tasks are to replace the door, remove the plastic from the windows, wash the windows, wash the windows again, and start working on eradicating everyone else who had been living in the cabin the past three years.
I’ve started another pile for them…