Two Years ?

Here’s that same photograph of the bungalow and front shed from two years ago, around the time of closing on this 5.84 acres near Craigs Mountain, on the Pilot side of Montgomery County in December 2021.

Heaps have happened in the two years since closing on 2537 Rosemary Road, a closing that signed off two years ago today. To mark the anniversary, I thought I may as well attempt a short rewind, recollect some of the moments and fragments:

  • The biggest of upgrades so far amount to attic foam and crawlspace encapsulation. There are fewer mice (two in 2023) and no snakes on record in the attic, and the crawlspace is no longer exposed dirt. It is lit, sealed in plastic, and fitted with a remote hygrometer, so that from the up-above we can monitor conditions in the down-below. Without crawling under there. The next biggest of upgrades are the front shed foundation waterproofing and the back shed attic critter mitigation. The front shed would run rivulets of water after rain storms, so we found someone who would excavate below grade, inlay gravel and drain tile, and refill. It still needs better landscaping; recent rains have led to settling in a few spots. But the garage floor is dry (and coated, too, on the inside with Drylock), the foundation effectively patched, tarred, re-sealed. As for the back shed attic, we found someone who would pull the abundance of chewed insulation, squirrels nests, and black snake skins, and who would then block gappy edges with hardware cloth. The job was difficult, and the results were uneven. One squirrel was trapped, so we had to undo the hardware cloth, let him escape, then put the mesh back. And the backside hardware cloth was so poorly done that I spent a day on the roof in October reworking it, repairing the repair, so to speak, and buttoning things down so there is no abovehead critter activity and, although rustic, the meshed eaves don’t call attention to themselves.
  • There was a load of slate rocks for the side shed, and lots of clean-up there, too. Eventually, with the cleanout and painting of the upper shed, we ordered a haul-off, though that, too, ended up being over-priced. The market here is damned tricky when it comes to getting bids on things that can then be punctually and professionally executed. Our projects are peanuts-scale compared to the mcmansion mimeography happening on the other side of the county. And, fair is fair: there is beaucoup contractor payload to be made nearer to Blacksburg, whereas we’re out here on the quiet end of a dirt road and without all of that engineering and computer science money to really vie for priority. Description, not complaint.
  • The Wonder Hollow Six, a mixed flock, have been among the highlights of 2023. Chickens are free ranging here and loving it, though they do sometimes wander to distances and places we’d prefer they avoid, like the middle of the dirt road (Fluffy’s favorite spot, lately) and the foot of our nearest neighbors’ tree, where they will scratch until interrupted. Two planting cycles have in the garden taught us much about what stands to thrive, how to manage insects, watering schedules, and so on. This past summer was excellent on the front end, but iffy and eventually bug food on the tail end.
  • A couple of days ago we hosted an arborist for an hour-long consultation, walked the holler and noted a few of the trees: the massive white oak that sends acorns aplenty down the right of way, the catawba whose trunk is hollow and see-through yet it regreens and fruits as if all is fine and good, the pair of black walnuts nearest the house that have been pollarded like a bad haircut but that are healthy otherwise, pending some touch-ups, the cedar who is crowded by a few tree of heaven saplings that will soon be cut out, the various ornamental redbuds and dogwoods and witch hazels, and the massive stand of mature white pines that will, in the next 50 years, topple or suffer disease or die standing up or all of the above and in any order.
  • The black walnut in front is, if we estimate by trunk diameter times three, somewhere between 75-90 years old. Might’ve been a sapling when the house was built in 1948 (easy to remember because that’s the same year my mom was born in Ogemaw County, Mich.). And although the trunk has a weeping spot, it is solid and appears to be healthy to an arborist’s eye. He also spotted a vertical seam that suggested a crisis on the order of a lightning strike, a vehicle strike, or a life-threatening hard freeze at some point along the close-to-a-century it has witnessed.
  • The to-do list is still long and pricey. We’ve made repairs to the control switch for the pump, but the pump is old, and the water system would do well to be upgraded and have filtration added. I drink from the tap, and we get the water tested, but hard water corrodes lines and stains metal surfaces like faucets and sinks. The roofing and siding is 25 years old and aging. The roofs of the back shed and small addition to the front shed need cool seal or tar recoating, respectively. I’ve made strides in the front shed to replace missing insulation and to fit openings where wallboard was missing for who knows why. The electrical all checks out, and with any luck, if I can get my day job to cooperate, I’ll be able to get the rest of the front shed interior into shape so it will be more hospitable to mycology, the worm farm, and a small workstation where I can spot up for writing sessions or for working on the Wonder Hollow Six micro-documentary.
  • In these two years, we’ve learned a lot about infrastructure, too. The Verizon copper network did disappoint, as the land line was as likely to spit static as to connect for audible phone calls. Adding to that, HughesNet was terrible, too, in that the signal was intermittent at best. We’re on Starlink now, and it’s solidly consistent, yielding only to occasional lapses in quality, usually due to cloud cover. The DIY in-ground irrigation system sprung a leak last summer, as well, which meant no water feeding to the back shed or the midyard spigot. With the foundation repair we ripped that half of the system all the way out, figuring above ground hoses are adequate and another solution will eventually come around. We also bidded out a couple three minisplits, and although the units are under 2k apiece, the bids came in between $13k and $17k, and for that price we can no thank-you and instead get a couple of nice sweatshirts and long johns for holding heat in those spaces. The out buildings all have heat, and we can probably update the window AC units if absolutely necessary, even though we don’t have a clear or consistent need for that right now. I’m still thinking about a mini-split in the Moon House, but it isn’t today’s problem.
  • The day job I mentioned has also been the site of spirited flux in the two years we’ve lived out this way. I was administering the writing program, but the fevers were rising heat and no breaks (seriously, the midnight enrollment panic emails from an asst. dean in July were too too much), so I decided it best and necessary to step back, salve to the comb, like we do with the chickens when one of them gets pecked at more than they deserve. English Departments I’ve worked in have tended to be corrosive like volunteering for gout. Wonder Hollow has been a quiet and slow offset to workside flare-ups, and time will tell what is next, though I only know it has to involve more self-set reading and writing rhythms, more walks and swimming, better boundaries from the all-hours emails about unnecessary crises, and stepping back from corrosive forces like back-biting, or suspicion, or sniping, and so on.
  • By the end of year three, I hope to have the bloom room fruiting mushrooms well enough to learn about the local farmers’ markets. I’d like to get the rest of the rocks from the excavation work into place along the creek. Plant some red buds and learn to propagate from cuttings some of the dogwoods and witch hazel. Do better to harvest and freeze the baby bok choy in June. Plant a deep purple lilac near the front shed. And some bamboo, just enough for what we hear is a great playground for the chickens. Mightcould stack a Davinci bridge over the diverter pond. Get a 3.5 gallon cauldron for Big Soup get-togethers. Green house dreams. Al fresco meditation platform at mossy ledge. Sunflower patch. Asparagus and rhubarb, too. Outdoor pizza kitchen, crafted so as not to entice the family of bears to visit unwelcomed. Wood stove for front shed. List goes on.