early days


We got to the house Friday late afternoon and walked into mostly what we expected: a pretty filthy place. The toilets, sinks, and bathtub appeared to have been wiped, but there were big gobs of dog hair floating around, and my feet got dirty walking around. The carpet upstairs, which was gross already, had so much dog hair matted into it that even after a number of vigorous vacuumings, I just decided never to take off my shoes. They had one of those giant Bernese dogs, and I honestly don’t think they cleaned the floors or vacuumed the carpets with any kind of regularity. Not being a pet person myself, I find it disgusting. The walls are filthy, and with all their stuff gone we see that they aren’t even all painted fully. There is sheetrock damage where they had jerry-rigged a telephone on the wall, so that will have to be replaced. It all needs to be painted and deep cleaned. The baseboards have a 3/4″ flat surface and I don’t think they ever wiped them. It’s pretty gross.

We had bought a very fancy inflatable mattress but the pump mechanism was broken, so with great difficulty that first evening we moved the mattress from the basement up to the bedroom on the second floor. I really didn’t want my mattress sitting on the nasty carpet but there was no way we had it in us to move the mattress, box springs, headboard/ footboard and rails, and then assemble it all, so we plopped it on the floor and I made the bed. When we got the bed fully moved upstairs a couple of days later, and I lifted the mattress, I just can’t tell you how gross the underside was. I mean, I could, but I won’t. YUCK.

And the house, well, we very much love it and it’s solidly built, and we love the open downstairs, etc etc etc., and there are some super weird things about it. The well for the stairs that go up and down is . . . let’s just say I think they were drunk when they designed it. Down should be up, and up should be down, and we have no idea why they arranged it as they did.

So you can’t use the refrigerator fully, and you certainly can’t pull out the shelves to clean. Which is obvious when you look at them.

The stairs to the second level dead end right into the refrigerator — like, to the point where you cannot open the refrigerator door all the way because it hits the bottom step. WHY???? And as annoying as this is (but remedied by getting a different refrigerator, one with French doors and a slimmer profile), this arrangement makes it impossible to move large furniture upstairs because it’s impossible to make the turn. (Again: why???) The stairs down to the basement are near the large foyer by the front door, that would’ve been the arrangement for going upstairs, given the basic floor plan, and down to the basement from the kitchen would’ve made perfect sense. Right?


And so we come to a different understanding of the door off the master bedroom, with stairs going down to the deck. That’s the only way to move furniture to the second floor. So we bring furniture up out of the basement through the bilco doors to the outside, then up onto the deck, then up that small flight of stairs and then lifting the furniture up over the railing, turning to move it into the master bedroom. REALLY? People, really? None of this would be required if they’d placed the stairs in the obvious arrangement.

We can’t reconstruct the arrangement of the stairwell, so we will just buy a different refrigerator and deal with the awkwardness, which won’t be an ongoing problem once all the furniture is in place.

Another super bizarre thing that we’ll just live with (but less egregious than the refrigerator/stairs issue) is that they installed the screens and sliding glass doors to the deck in the wrong way. (Again, drunk?) Usually the sliding glass door is inside, and the screen is outside, right? Well, here the screen is inside and the glass is outside, so at the end of the day, I have to open the screen door in order to pull closed the glass door, and then close the screen door again (or not). And the screen doors are installed in such a crappy way that you have to hold your mouth just right to get them to move.

Many of the outlets simply don’t work (never have, according to the former owners who built this house and who we are increasingly irritated by), nor does the light fixture over the sink. “You can call an electrician,” the previous owner told me. And they left so much junk behind — drawers full of stuff, crap hanging in trees and leaning against the house, tchotchkes on the wall that are not at all my taste and now I have to find a way to get rid of it all. Grumble grumble grumble.

So very quickly we need to replace the super nasty carpet upstairs, paint the downstairs at least, and buy a new refrigerator. We also want to replace the electric stove with a gas one, and get a dishwasher (although I don’t mind handwashing dishes, I find it a relaxing job for some reason). Once the place is clean and fresh, and we’re moved in, and the electrical outlets work, the rest will be just the quirks of the house, eventually not even noticed.


The scenic splendor of this place just never stops. Every walk goes along or crosses creeks, brooks, riverbeds, and there are old stone walls everywhere. The Catskills are not properly mountains, it turns out. Instead, glaciers just carved valleys into the landscape so it seems like mountains. One saying about the Catskills is that there are two rocks for every dirt (but we think it’s more like 20 rocks for every dirt), so tumbled-smooth stones and rocks are so easily found, and rock walls and stone chimneys are characteristic of the area. We’ve done some rambling around, in a car and on foot, and have yet to find a square centimeter that’s less than stunning. It’s pretty great. The sounds of the creeks behind the house are a constant pleasure, and the leaves whisper constantly, almost fighting the creek sound for primacy. At first I thought it was always drizzling, and then I realized it was just the wind in the tall trees.

Our first couple of days here it rained a lot, and it was constantly drizzling, at least, and often raining hard, and suddenly. Both times I had been here before it was raining, and the area gets 180+ days of rain/year, so we had no way of understanding the weather: is this unusual, or is it just how it is? I called the Town Hall on Monday and the clerk said the phone lines were in bad shape because of all the storms, so I’m gathering that weather was a slight aberration. We’ve had gorgeous sunny weather the last couple of days, with very cool mornings (like, I’m glad I have all the handknitted shawls and sweaters and scarves and hats!) and beautiful afternoons.

The only animal sightings have been squirrels and chipmunks, and it may be hard to spot the larger animals until winter, when we can also see their tracks in the snow. In the summer, the forest is so dense, and the autumn is such a riot of color that I imagine the animals will be camouflaged and hard to spot. But there is constant birdsong, and this morning there was a duet between two huge-sounding woodpeckers — the one to the left of the deck, then the one on the right side of our property, then back to the other. It made me laugh with joy.

morning light on the deck
morning light through the trees in the back
Not “my” creek, but they’re all my creeks. 🙂
A short break for a cup of coffee and some work on the sweater I’m knitting. on my front porch.
moss-covered round rocks in the creek

We have a pulley clothesline system strung up from the second floor out to a tree, which makes me so dizzy with happiness I can’t even stand it. I’m constantly searching for laundry to do, and since I want to wash everything that ever touches the floor, that’s been pretty easy.

When Marc left last night to head back to the city, he felt sad to leave, and I felt sad that he had to leave too. It’s just so peaceful here, so beautiful, so much glory outside, and we love the open floor plan, especially downstairs. My plan for these couple of days before he returns is to get the kitchen fully unpacked so that when he cooks for us, he has what he needs. We’ll have next weekend here together, and then Tuesday I fly to Austin to get my car. I’ll be sad to be away from beautiful Heaventree after just finally getting here, but it will be so great to see my loved ones.

Speaking of, back to work for me.

2 thoughts on “early days”

  1. That first photo of the creek with the tall trees overlooking it is my idea of what heaven must look like. How wonderful that you’re so surrounded by such gorgeous trees BUT you still get some direct sunlight, at least on the deck! Gosh, just hearing about it and seeing the photos makes my shoulders drop away from my ears; I can only imagine actually being there. And it must be wonderful for Marc to know that he has that oasis, and you, to come back to on the weekends after living and working in the city all week. I hope your drive back up there from Austin is 100% better this time than last time, and I hope you get all the furniture moved into place soon! Our refrigerator space is this house is really dumb, too, and we can’t open our doors all the way either, and it’s REALLY hard to reach into the back of the fridge like that, but there’s nowhere else to put it. I think we’ll be replacing ours with a slimmer, french-door model soon too. (Screens on the inside?! WHO DOES THAT?! :D) <3 <3 <3

    1. Doesn’t it seem like the most obvious thing, that the refrigerator doors should be open-able??! What’s up with that, seriously. There’s nowhere but this spot for ours too, so we just adjust and do what we can, right?

      And I agree about this looking like heaven — and there are lots of heavens, including high deserts and stony mountains and turquoise water, but I think this is definitely mine. When I go to sleep at night, I look forward to getting up so I can sit on the back deck in the early morning and just listen to the forest wake up. Or at least the parts that are waking up, while other parts are going to sleep.

      Oh Kathy, the song “Ragtime” by Randy Newman, the main theme from the movie Ragtime, just came on and filled me with such intense wistfulness I feel overwhelmed by happiness for being in this beautiful place, and for having dear friends like you to share it with. Thank you for sharing this with me. <3 <3 <3

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