Bonafide Farm

The work of it

January 12th, 2010 § 0

Reading back through this blog, I realize I’ve been awfully flippant about just how this house is getting built. To read my entries one might imagine that the house self-assembles as easily as the words flow onto my computer screen. The truth is anything but. In fact, I realize that I’ve been hiding most of the gritty details of getting this job done—mostly in an effort to avoid further stamping into my mind what already keeps me awake at night. Maybe, I must be reasoning, if I write that things are fine and easy and proceeding smoothly, I can actually make that happen.

Ah. The seductive lure of wishful thinking. The self preservation games we play.

I don’t want to be misleading. Nothing horrible has happened and I don’t anticipate a poor outcome. But what has shocked me about the process of building this house is just how involved I have needed to be. Now that I am about, hopefully, halfway through construction, I can say that the builder I chose doesn’t necessarily share my vision and isn’t quite as quick on the uptake as I might desire. Thus, quality control has fallen to me and my father, and it’s been a round-the-clock job for both of us. For example, I was at the house for six hours in the freezing cold with my dad on Sunday, he sketching out detailing for the front porch and me obsessing about where to hang light fixtures and floodlights and where to install shower mixing valves. Then that night we spent a couple of hours drafting e-mails to my builder to answer all my builder’s questions about how to run wiring, how to pad out porch columns…the list goes on and on. Then Monday I received throughtout the day five long e-mails from my builder requiring thoughts and decisions about structured wiring, sump pumps, water heaters, and god knows what else. After working late at my real job, I came home to a three-hour discussion with my building partner (dad) and drafted e-mail responses to all these questions. And then today several calls from the builder to my office needing answers NOW. Then, after again working late at my real job, I went up to the house to inspect the day’s work in the light of my car’s highbeams and a flashlight. And I should probably get to bed because I have a 7:30 appointment tomorrow morning with my builder at the brickyard, to select bricks for the new fireplace surround. And it has been this way, nonstop, since first engaging the draftsman back in May.

Lots of things have fallen to the wayside through this process. I almost feel as one might when they have a child—all consumed and singularly focused. I’ve had to pass up friends’ invitations to dinners, I’ve been late to important celebrations, my e-mail correspondence has dwindled. Even over New Year’s, when I traveled to meet friends—some of whom had crossed oceans to get together—I was getting 8 a.m. calls from my roofer and reviewing my kitchen cabinet renderings.

You could certainly say I asked for this. To which I’d respond, “You’re right.” I mean, look at my blog header. And I still believe it will be worth it in the end. I cling to the hope that this sustained focus may perhaps teach me just what I am capable of doing in the future. But in the meantime, it’s a slog. Redeemed only by this:

Tonight at the house, 25 degrees outside, I walked into the middle of the front field and turned off my flashlight. The stars snapped into focus, just above my outreached fingertips, and the snow on the ground glowed with their light. In that moment, in the stop-breath cold, I looked up and remembered why I am doing this at all.

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