Winter is always a busy time for food and farm-related events. Everything that can be scheduled into the months when farmers are not full time in the fields clogs the calendar, and a gal finds herself remembering “slow” months in summer that don’t actually exist except in the fuzzy nostalgia of her mind.
Maybe the fair weather months just seem more relaxed because getting there and back from everything that needs doing and everyone that needs visiting is less of a crap shoot. There’s less watching the weather forecasts for potential hazards, possible cancellations, late arrivals, and early departures–but then there’s a different weather-watching for periods of sun and rain–each stirring its own sense of satisfaction or frustration depending on what work needs doing.
Winter’s work pace has ramped up even more for me and John lately as we get our respective houses up to snuff for putting on the market, as well as planning our projects on the farmstead we’ll be closing on at the end of the month.
We’d been scouting the Milan-to-Montevideo stretch and endured a couple of disappointments since we started looking at places right before Thanksgiving. In a twist neither of us expected (and I expected it least of all), we’re settling right here in Big Stone County, on 14 acres owned by my friends Joanne and Simon, who’ve moved on to a better employment situation in New Ulm.
I still love my big old house in Clinton, but in the last month I’ve found myself getting more and more excited about the prospect of turning it over to a new owner–especially as we’ve made, in just a few weeks, more improvements on the space than I was capable of muddling through in the year and four months that I’ve held the keys.
Most of the credit goes to John, who’s been working long hours during the weeks that I’ve been running around the area, region, and state, answering to all the demands of the aforementioned clogged calendar. Shortly after I took ownership back in late 2011, I decided to live mainly on the main floor, so I could work on restoring the three wallpaper-encrusted, beat-up bedrooms upstairs.
Months went by with only a little progress stolen out of a busy schedule–a little stripping here, a little priming there. A new, more efficient furnace installed last winter, and, last summer, the living room floor stripped of carpet and gummy old black backer, then sanded and finished to reveal the luminous quarter-sawn oak underneath. The deteriorating front deck removed.
In the last couple of weeks, things have started to come together upstairs. The front bedroom’s puppy and kitten wallpaper border removed–walls primed and painted, and the floor and trim–already having been painted more than once, have new, fresh coats.
The back bedroom–the worst of the trio with its cracked plaster and layers of painted-over wallpaper, is an entirely new space. John broke out the old newspaper-backed plaster patches and made smooth and solid repairs. I worked with him last weekend to steam and scrape off the last of the old wallpaper, and now the walls are freshly painted, and the trim is ready for painting, too.
It’s exciting to see this grand old house, in its 104th year, start to regain some of its former glory. Built on strong bones and with gorgeous materials, a lot of its needs are cosmetic ones, and we’ve made great strides in fulfilling those needs.
There’s something about a house like this that is more than a place to hang one’s individual hat. This home, built only 26 years after the birth of Clinton itself, holds a great deal of its history–some of it in the lovely old three-volume abstract of title, some hand-painted by our local sign maker on a board that’s in the shop, and some of it residing in the living memory of people who’ve lived in it as adults or played in it as kids.
As newcomers, John and I don’t have much of a claim here in Clinton–no deep roots or family ties, but it’s cool to play even a small part as caretakers and restorers of one of its great old homes.
I hope the next owners will give as much love and have as much respect for this grand old house and this wonderful little community as I do.