Stillman's Blog

Little House almost a year later

Lots of you have been following our efforts to move Egbert into a home near to the farm and it’s finally happened!

Here’s the back story: Egbert, lived in the Bronx with one of his daughters. He found out about work up here at the farm a few years ago and has been working for us ever since. His daughter and her husband would drive him up here in the Spring and collect him at the end of the season…they would drive up a few times during the summer for a visit or to take him back to the Bronx for a long weekend. Back at home, he also has a wife, a son (Travis, 17) and another daughter (Caroline, gorgeous young woman and VERY hard worker). Egbert expressed to us last year that he really wanted to stay up here, he loves the countryside and wants to bring his wife and son up to live here. We began the search for an apartment for him to rent. Well, just about that time, a little house down the street from us came up for sale and we all decided it was perfect for Egbert – especially because he does not drive.

We closed on the house at the beginning of January and I got to work.

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The little house 1/2 mile down the road

There were some fairly interesting things to note about the house right away, such as it is really two houses pulled together (which is actually a very common thing back in the day), it is quite a bit older than people thought, and, as far as I can tell, neither of the two structures that make up the whole house are original to the property. Also, one of the front rooms served as the post office for a few years and there was even a flag pole installed on the front lawn. I’ll get back to this in a bit.

Some of you may already know that I am a little bit of a historic house junkie, I love architecture and I can get so absorbed researching a house which, invariably leads to genealogical research and all sorts of other nonsense that consumers all my time. Because of that, I have not even looked at much of my research that I had started and put down years ago when I got too busy with my children and the farm. needless to say, buying a house down the street that turned out to be of historic interest was extremely inconvenient!  😉 As it was, all the cleaning and prepping was going to be tricky to accomplish when there is so much for me to do that the farm. AND our trained farm help from Jamaica was delayed getting here so we were short handed. AND it turned out the house needed So many more hours (read days and weeks) of ripping out, tearing down, and cleaning than I had anticipated.

This is a good time to mention that I really like the woman who had been living here since forever. We moved to town in ’91, and she had been there for some time – guessing the 70’s. BUT, time had stopped sometime before that. The previous owners must have remodeled and redecorated: avocado carpeting, big bay window, ceiling tiles, more carpeting, shiny floral wallpaper (some of it I really liked but because of some leaking-rain-issues, had to go) assorted switch plates of metal, bakelite, plastic with “gold filigree”…
Also, she had moved out a couple years before and the house had been empty. I actually felt really sad when I wasn’t totally annoyed cleaning because it seemed to me nothing had been cleaned for years and years. The house had been vacant for about two years but it is obvious a mopping of the floor or vacuuming had not happened for some time. Please note here that if you have a parent, or an elder you love, look around next time you are there. Perhaps you might offer to scrub the floor while they put the kettle on, or patch a hole in the wall with something other than a Styrofoam sheet. I am no angel, but if I see my Mother’s steps need vacuuming, I try to take care of it. My house could use a good scrubbing too, but at least I can tell what color my woodwork is…that’s all I am saying about that.

I could go on an on about compounding the problem instead of actually fixing it, but it is too frustrating to write or read about and I and no matter how much you might think you get it about what I was contending with, you probably can’t. I spend weeks cursing and sputtering and asking Glenn questions like “Why would you fill in the split door panel with plaster only to not have the door not shut and then have to install hooks on both sides of the door to keep it somewhat closed?” and the “Why would you do that to a second door?”

I started by ripping out everything I knew had to leave: this included a lots of wall paper and the sink from the kitchen, two layers of linoleum in a bedroom, the ceiling, wallpaper and carpet in the living room, a massive metal shelving system and more wall paper in the back entry and a back room.

All that leads to more work, uggg.

OK, so the kitchen was pretty cute with it’s vintage cabinets and such….but what the heck are those built in drawers in the middle of the wall, and the washing machine and radiator taking up valuable space in the allotted kitchen storage space is a little tough. Plus there is not much counter space and what there is has cabinetry hanging 12″ over it. Aside form the fact that the 80’s were calling and looking for their wallpaper (which is perfectly understandable), I thought the vinyl floor was shades of brown and tan (it wasn’t). There is an adorable little pantry in the kitchen, but the ceiling in it had fallen in and the whole space was filled with old plaster and assorted crap… really, crap.

It was pretty cool to rip off wallpaper and wallboard to find graffiti! Based on initials and town records, we can date this graffiti to c. 1800-1850.

I could write a lot about the house…or I should say I SHOULD write a lot about the house, but as it has taken me most of a year to get this far, I will cut it off here. For everyone who donated money, gift cards, furniture, or all, THANK YOU so much. Your gifts gave me hope when I needed it.

Yes, we have plenty to do still, BUT, LOTS has been accomplished.

Thank you SO much for:

furniture
light bulbs
clothespin hanger
pots
pans
utensils
side table
kitchen table
chairs
lamps
beds
money for supplies
dresser
dryer

So, to summarize, this post kind of stinks, but it it slightly representative of being out straight 🙂

I hope to have a chance to do a do-over and post a super cool post about the historic find and how Egbert’s wife has been busy gardening and how well their son is doing at school…….