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July 17, 2013

Creativity runs amok in my house. Between Mary Elizabeth’s painting projects, Mike’s farming and architecture projects, Nick’s cooking, and my various—well, just—projects, this place is nearly ALWAYS in turmoil.  Friends come here and admire the garden and the house and the fun things that are going on, and although they are aware that things are usually a little topsy-turvey, and I am a little frayed around the edges, they have no idea what it usually is like. Rarely do they see the long stretches when no one is invited over because the place looks like Armageddon.

Right now we are in the middle of yet another remodel.  Not the first, not even the 10th, and certainly not the last.  Seems like the house always needs to be improved on, and I have realized that when you are married to an architect/artist/free-wheeling, manic creator (and, I admit, also happen to be a very stupidly enthusiastic proponent of home improvement), you are never going to have the house the way you want it.  My children grew up in construction mess.  Mary Elizabeth vividly remembers sleeping on a mattress in the floor in the alcove at the top of the stairs, her clothes in boxes all around her while we added a floor so she could have a real bedroom.  One morning she woke up a little later than she should have to find 6 construction workers staring at her as she slept.  She was sixteen. I’m proud that she decided not to let it mess with her head.

This summer, it’s the living room. When we originally restored and remodeled this house, we stupidly   tried to get by with not tearing down a wall that we should have because it was a load bearing wall and the expense would have been prohibitive.  As it turns out, it’s even more expensive because the original foundation wall underneath is not in the right spot.  We have ended up not only tearing out walls, but jacking up floors and digging foundation supports in a crawl space about 3 feet high.  Not easy.  Not cheap. Not a clean or fast process.

Here is the living room we have been living with for over a month now, cleaned up and ready for the sheetrock to go in.


And because we have had to move all the furniture out of the living room, we  had to find a place for all that stuff.  Here are pictures of the dining room and  foyer, where we are storing all that furniture.


If we were normal people, we would sequence our projects.  One or two rooms might be torn up at a time, but since we have 100,000 projects to finish before we die, we tend to work on several at a time, all the time.  All this rain we’ve been having has caused the furniture on the back porch to mildew, and I figured we had better refinish and seal everything before it got too bad to fix.  So we spend most of the weekend cleaning the porch, scrubbing furniture, painting, and sealing.  Unfortunately, all the rain means that nothing will dry.  Here is a picture of the back porch we are living with, and probably will have to live with until the monsoon is over.


And, of course, we have to store all that stuff that was in the furniture on the back porch somewhere, so here is a picture of our breakfast nook.



You may wonder why we didn’t move all that furniture to the garage and work on it there, but the garage is full of future projects that will be tackled sometime over the next several years.  Here is a picture of the garage in it’s current state.



That big piece of furniture?  Oh, well, that’s going in the workshop that is going to be built  over in a corner of the property.  We bought a used mobile classroom for a song at an auction a couple of weeks ago, and Mike has designed an addition to it so that we basically plan to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse and use it as a studio for Mike and Mary Elizabeth to paint and also as a farm store where we can sell produce.  If we can get the farm up and running and actually make a little money selling produce, we reduce our property taxes.  That’s good incentive, don’t you think? We’ve got it all figured out: If we can sell tomatoes for $50 each and blueberries for $100 per quart, and sell thousands of tomatoes and blueberries, we’ll break even in about 5 years.  Can’t wait for the crowd to show up.


But we have to have enough of the property into farm production to qualify for the tax break.  That means we are planting an orchard and getting the blueberry patch up and running. We’ve been planting and grading—we’ve put in a pond and we’re working on a stream. Unfortunately, we have to wait on electrical and irrigation to finish it up, and since the electrical has to run under the stream bed, the stream is torn up for the moment.  The rye grass we planted in the spring after we graded has already died off, and the weeds have taken over.  I haven’t gotten around to planting around the pond yet.  Here is a picture of the sad state of the site in it’s current condition.


Oh, yes, then there is Mary Elizabeth’s art business.  We’re happy she’s successful, meaning she is happily producing paintings and selling them, although, not being much of a business woman, still is not exactly rolling in dough or even what you might call “affluent.”  Or able to contribute to an IRA.

She is, however, prolific.  And so is Mike. Mary Elizabeth mostly works on small stuff, glassware that is easily stored, although there is a LOT  of it.  Mike, however, likes to paint BIG paintings.  Do you know how much wall space it takes to display a BIG painting?  How about 30 of them?    Canvases are tucked under beds and behind furniture and behind other canvases.  They hang on the garage walls. Closets are stuffed with paintings. You can imagine my joy when I discovered  these Ziploc bags that you can put all your bulky cloth items in, then suck all the air out with a vacuum cleaner and reduce 3 comforters and 6 pillows and 12 sweaters down to a 6 inch by 36 inch square, very stiff pile.  I’ve been running around stuffing everything I can get my hands on into these bags lately, and I’m proud that I can close a closet door or two these days.

And then there’s Nick.  He is a cooking maniac and something of a culinary genius.  He and Mary Elizabeth will spend an entire day whipping up marvelous organic, preservative and additive free creations in the kitchen, and to say that we eat well is something of an understatement.  But he is a bit messy.  He forgets to wipe his feet when he comes in from the garden, too, but mopping the floor and cleaning the stove is a small price to pay for the feasts he creates.   By the way,  all the bounty from the garden rests here until we either eat it or give it away or dump it in the compost.  It tends to pile up, and we also have a slight problem with fruit flies when we let it pile up too high.  Sometimes I feel like the Beverly Hillbillies in there, when we are making pesto and dropping stuff on the floor and stirring the soup and swatting at fruit flies.

I would like to say that my gardening and writing do not clutter up the place as much as Mike’s, Mary Elizabeth’s, and Nick’s projects, but I have this little addiction of finding wonderful treasures at auctions and junk stores that need a “tiny” bit of fixing up.  The mildewing furniture on the back porch that needed paint and refinishing?  All mine.  The stuffed garage is partly my responsibility, although Mike tends to find art in absolutely everything, so we also have piles of driftwood, rusty metal parts, and unidentifiable things lying around that Mike is going to turn into something beautiful.  Or at least interesting. Or just odd. And the Crate and Barrel boxes are Mary Elizabeth’s.  Just 3 of them shown here.  There have been as many as 10.  Plus huge rolls of bubble wrap.  Plus bags of packing popcorn.  I have to claim the twelve glasses full of mint that I am rooting as giveaways at my book launch party in 6 weeks as well as the garden hats and basket of gardening equipment and gloves tucked into the corner of the kitchen. And, oh, in my bedroom, the great fireplace surround I found at a junk store is currently propped up with books until I can decide what to do with the area.

And oh, there are other projects lying around waiting to happen.  We have all the old windows that we got at an auction just waiting for us to start on the greenhouse.  And the great lamp I found that has to be rewired.  And the piles of reclaimed wood waiting to be turned into a very whimsical chicken house.  And the fountain I am just trying to figure out how to make out of bits of pottery and garden statuary.  And the dozens of herbs I hope to put in an herb spiral as soon as I can find enough rocks.  And, well, there are a few others, but I will put them off until I finally get the garden weeded .. . .

So you think my life is wonderful? That I am surrounded by creativity and good things just waiting to happen?  That I live amid beauty?  That this place is humming with life and energy and wonderful things happening all the time? Yes, I do, and yes it is.  Occasionally.



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  1. Sounds like fun!

  2. Christi Noren permalink

    Hi Deborah!   I just LOVE reading your blogs!  I even print them off for an advisor in my office (he’s also quite eclectic like you and Mike, and his wife is an interior designer, so both creative types).  He loves it too!  I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy them and how much I miss you.   I hope you are doing well!  Please give me a call sometime so we can catch up in between your time in the garden! 🙂   614-726-3410   Christi Noren  

    • Hi Christi, so good to hear from you. It’s great to see you and your beautiful family on fb and sure wish we could have a whole afternoon together to just catch up. I sure will give you a call. Right now things are in such a mess I don’t have a minute to call–getting a book out and remodeling an house and moving house trailers around and weeding and painting and babysitting grandbabies takes more hours than I have in a day, but I’ll call as soon as things settle down a bit.
      Wish you could come to my book launch on Sept 6. Would so love to see your beautiful face!


  3. Carol Harvey permalink

    Deborah, Alicia shared your blog with me at work. After reading half-way thru, I am exhausted:-) Personally, I love home inprovement messes as they are promises of better things to come. (considering they couldn’t get any worse) Sort of like the under side of a cross stitch pattern. It looks like a tangled up, disoragnized mess, (sound familiar?) but then you look at the other side and you see the necessity of the mess in order to produce this amazing work of art. I know (eventually) your home will be just what you worked so hard for. But until then, all the commotion and people here, there and yon, tells the story that your home is alive with life and creactivity.

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