Friday, March 25, 2011


 There are so many trivial, yet perplexing issues you face when recreating an interior in a crumbling old farmhouse. I call Andy (the builder) early in the morning to toss around a new thought. You know the bathroom? Where you're extending the wall some? We thought maybe it would work to create a space for storing towels and linens. 

Ideas for improving space use at the farmhouse spring forth sometimes quickly, with plenty of advance notice, and at other times they pop up when the work is already beyond the point of no return. We're on target this time. Andy's grandson, who has restored many a crumbling structure in his time, listens to this most recent suggestion. It's good. We can do it. A sigh of relief.

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On our way to the farmhouse, we stop at the lumberyard where I had put in an order for the kitchen countertop. I've forgotten which one we purchased and I need the information now to think about a backsplash in a place where there isn’t enough wall to do the job.

The person at the lumber yard tells me – you ordered chocolate cognac. Really? I am in a place of exotic tastes and colors. Ginger with chocolate cognac. Ghana, with France at the side, beckoning.

At the farmhouse, Ed looks through the purchased hickory  floor boards. I take on the task of removing all the scattered pieces of nonsense that should have been cleared from the house before the construction began. Ed’s mom’s artwork. My photos. Ed’s childhood books. And so on. They all now have a thick layer of construction dust and Ed suggests I use his air gun to clean them off. It is insanely satisfying to blast air at a piece and watch it come clean.

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Inspired by my role here as the dirt blaster, I take a vacuum to the basement and attack the overhead cobwebs there. Eighty years of dead spiders and their webs are sucked into the ridiculously impartial bowels of the vacuum cleaner.

Things are looking good.

... Until Andy’s grandson mentions – oh, by the way, you’ve got a nice bunch of mice here.
Every morning when we come in, we see a fresh set of mouse footprints. They go up the stairs, check things out upstairs then go down again.


Of course, there are going to be mice in the country. I’m not repulsed by them. Indeed, on the last day in Ghana, I had opened my suitcase only to find a chewed granola bar and some black deposits there. A mouse had feasted than pooped right inside my bag.

Still, this does put a fresh dimension on how to set up the kitchen. Must I use plastic to hide all foods now? I ask Andy’s grandson whether he has had mice and if so how has he dealt with them. Oh – lots of mice. You make a game of hunting them down. He packs up for the weekend and gets ready to go. Happy hunting! -- he shouts over his shoulder on his way out.


So, there’ll be a game going. Just to stack the deck a little, I invite Ed's cat, Isis, to take a quick walk through the farmhouse. Surely the mice will recognize that we mean business here?

It's cold outside still. The ground is not yet fully thawed. Not a single crocus has bloomed yet. You can't rush spring. Not in Wisconsin, not where the field mice still like to stay close to your furnace.