Category Archives: General News

Bare feet

I spent most of my childhood barefooted. I grew up in the South with meadows, woods, and ditches right out the back door. I remember how tender my feet would be on asphalt and gravel when it first got warm in the spring, but within a few weeks, I hardly noticed. When I got horses as a teen, I wore shoes more often, but only because horse hooves are awfully heavy when they step on you. And because stables harbor tetanus. But mostly the former.

My mother blamed my wide feet on my going barefoot so much. It’s probably true.

At some point along the way, I stopped going barefoot much. Never outside. Inside until a massage therapist told me that my knee pain was caused by going barefoot. He told me to get orthotics in my shoes and never be without them, or I’d end up with knee and backpain for life. So for the last several years I’ve slipped on shoes as soon as I rolled out of bed in the morning.

It never seemed to be much of a problem. I mean, this is what grown-ups do, right? At some point I stopped being the tomboy who lived in the woods and became the woman who cringed away when “nature touched me.”

Last year, as I began delving into Paleo and Crossfit, I heard about barefoot running. Now, I’m not a runner and can’t imagine I ever will be. But I thought some of the arguments they made about bare feet being healthier than shod feet were interesting. I dropped the orthotics and switched to minimalist shoes. I looked at Vibrams — those glove shoes — but hadn’t taken the plunge yet. It didn’t occur to me to just kick off my shoes and go barefoot. Ew. My feet would get dirty and wet and cold. And there were bugs. And spiders.

A week or two ago, one of my daily meditations suggested going outside, taking off my shoes, and just connecting with the Earth. See above: bugs, spiders, cold, nature touching me. But it got sunny, and it was early spring…. It seemed silly, but I tried it.

I’d forgotten how cool the grass felt and how spongy the earth was. It felt… right. I walked on grass. I walked in dirt. I picked up a pinecone with my toes. I closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face and the ground under my feet, and I felt balanced and connected.

Today I walked to the mailbox and back barefooted. I avoided the honeybees on the dandelions and tried to ignore the plethora of little black spiders scurrying out of my way. I gritted my teeth and picked my way across the gravel road. (Want to pracitice mindfulness and “be here now”? Walk outside. With bare feet. On gravel. You will be here now. I promise.) There were moments I questioned the sanity of that choice, but when I got inside, my feet were happy. Truly happy.

It may take some time to build up those tough soles I had when I was a kid, but I want to give it a try. I really think all this shoe wearing has a price, and I don’t want to pay that price anymore. I miss the meadows and the woods and the ditches. I miss that connections. I think it may be time to let nature touch me again.

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Remodel update at the end of week 2

Wow, those two weeks went by fast. So far we’re still energized and excited by the project. The chaos hasn’t gotten on our nerves too much, and we’re not arguing with each other or our contractor. 🙂

Current state

  • The basement is completely naked — concrete floor, no walls, bare to the studs in the exterior walls and ceiling.
  • The guest bedroom (my future office) had the carpet removed and is completely empty. We’re going to do some electrical work in there, but we don’t have to take it to the studs to do it.

Decisions made

  • Our contractor worked with an engineer to figure out how to replace the beam down the center of the basement with steel in order to remove one of the posts. Ain’t happening. That post, it turns out, is the central point of the house and, because of how everything was built, it’s carrying the load of not only the floor above it but the roof as well. A steel beam would have to be 2 feet thick to compensate, which would mean we’d have to limbo to cross the room. Thus, we’re not going to mess with the beam or post at all. Money saved!
  • We’re adding the laundry room to the list of things being remodeled in this project, because the changes we want to make in there involve plumbing and propane. Makes sense to do those while we have the plumber here.
  • Our contractor gave us a bid for the complete remodel of my office. It will cost just under what we expected to pay to change the beam and get rid of the post. Because finishing the office will give us some space and get a lot of junk (and me!) out of the kitchen, my husband wants to put that at the top of the priority list.

Current tasks

  • Our contractor is arranging to bring in a plumber and an electrician.
  • My husband has found a propane provider, and he’s arranging for someone from there to come out and give us a bid for tank installation.
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Naked basement

The house has been shaking for the past two days as my contractor and some awesome neighbor kids have been demolishing my basement. They’re not completely done with the demolition, but they’ve done most of it. It’s so cool to get rid of that middle wall. It really gives me a better idea of what the space will look like later.

Biggest surprise? We discovered someone had done all the plumbing for a bathroom and then walled (and floored) over it! We’ll be able to put a small bathroom down there and add a ton of value to the house for not-very-much money. Score!

Here are some pics:

This, and the next two pics, are taken from the existing stairs (where my desk use to be). The old well room is that area behind the pellet stove. See the beam in the ceiling on the upper left edge of the picture? There used to be a wall running the length of that beam, separating the basement in half.

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I pivoted about 45 degrees to the left. The opening in the right of this picture is in the left of the picture above. This area used to be Jay’s office and the storeroom. Kind of in the center, in the corner, you can see a tiny black circle on the floor. That’s part of the surprise plumbing. The bathroom would be put in that area. We want that beam in the center of the picture to GO AWAY.

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And this is one more 45 degree turn to the right. The stairs are to my left (by the flashlight). The drain thingie is in that corner on the right. The bathroom will take up a portion of the right side of this photo. The left side will be an alcove at the back of the main room. We’ll probably build in bookcases and make a reading nook.

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New vantage point — over by the pellet stove looking back towards the stairs, where I was standing in the last photos. These stairs will be closed up, and the new stairs will be at the right edge of the picture.

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45 degree turn to the right. Looking into the corner where the reading nook will be. That post is the one going bye bye.

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A turn further to the right. The bathroom will be on the left side of the photo. The hot water heater was in the old storeroom. It’s going to be moved to the well room, which is out of sight to my immediate right in this picture. We’ll rebuild the storeroom for just that — storage.

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Final pic. I moved to stand in the new bathroom (sort of) to get a picture of the well room. This room is going to stay, but it’s going to be considerably smaller.

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Before pictures

Well, we did it! We got everything out of the basement and the guest room, and were ready to start the remodel on time. Some people have asked for pictures, so here are the “Before” pictures.

The basement had four areas: den, Jay’s office, the storeroom (which we refer to as the “attic”), and the well room. I didn’t take pictures of the well room. In addition to the basement, we’re remodeling the guest bedroom and turning it into my office.

Before photo of the den, from the stairs. It’s long and narrow — Jason’s long and narrow office is on the other side of the wall to the left. The plan is to get rid of that wall and make one good-sized, well-proportioned room. Notice that there’s no carpet. That’s because we’ve been battling leaking down there for years. That’s one of the things we MUST fix with this remodel. The door at the far end goes to the well room.

And here is the view from the opposite end of the room. You can see the wide stairs from what we call the “mezzanine” level of the house. Those will be closed off during the remodel, and the stairs moved to the right, under the main house stairs. The area of the mezzanine you can see here will be turned into Jay’s new office. Eventually it will be a finished bedroom (that we’ll use as an office).

This is the before pic of Jay’s old office. The dark cavern at the back is the storeroom.

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Here is the other end of Jay’s office, shot from the doorway to the storeroom.

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And here is the storeroom. Not organized. We don’t have an attic in the house — or a garage — so this is our primary storage room.  (Well, less so now that we don’t have horses. Our barn has turned into a garage.)

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Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a picture of the guest room before it was broken down. Be glad you missed the overflowing closet. Not a very exciting room — yet. This will be turned into my office.

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The “stuff” we pulled out of the rooms being remodeled has been stuck in two areas — our kitchen and the mezzanine. Here is a shot of the kitchen showing my temporary office on the kitchen table.

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This photo is taken from roughly the same location — I just scooted forward and turned a bit so you can see the rest of the stuff (including couch, treadmill, and TV) that we packed into this room.

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The mezzanine is a long narrow area with a sunroom on one end and that area at the head of the stairs to the basement at the other end. This is the sunroom end.

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And this is the other end. I basically just swiveled around to take this shot. You can see that Jay has set up his office. This is where his office will live permanently, but a regular room will be built in that area for him.

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Preparing for a remodel

Our house is… quirky. The original cabin was a summer house built in the 1930s. (I adore the original part of the house.) It was added on to at least twice since then, including finishing the basement. We have a lot of square footage, but the house feels small because the space isn’t usable. The house lacks FLOW.

The first five years or so that we were here, we focused on improving the infrastructure of the property. We cleared brush and debris, did a ton of fencework, improved drainage/mud control, and put down gravel in key areas. We didn’t “landscape” and make it pretty, but we did a damn good job making it usable.

Then we moved on to the house. Thus far, our projects — with the exception of removing the drop ceiling in the hallway — have been practical rather than aesthetic. Now we’re about to take the first steps of a major remodel, which will be both functional and aesthetic.

We’re tackling two areas initially: the basement and the guest bedroom, which is soon to be my office. We’re taking the basement to the studs in order to do some signficant inside-the-walls work. We want to rip out and replace every bit of electrical wire in the house, updating it for the 21st century and wiring in a generator capable of running the whole house. My husband wants to bring in propane, and we want to make sure all the plumbing is solid. We also need to do infrastructure work for the computer networking and a new heating system. Oh, and we need to replace the central beam that runs underneath the original cabin.

Massive, expensive work, and that’s just the functional stuff!

The demolition begins on Monday, April 2. Over the past three weeks, my husband and I have been preparing. There are five spaces (four in the basement, plus the guest room) that have to be completely emptied. Three of these were used primarily for storage. The other two were Jay’s office and our living room, which includes my office and the treadmill. Everything in those five areas is being moved to two other areas, both of which have other functions — like our kitchen. I joke that it’s like playing three-dimensional Tetris.

Still, I feel good about where we are. I’ve taken “before” pictures of the basement. (Haven’t taken them of the guest room yet, which is a bummer, because it has been mostly broken down now.) We’re down to one storeroom and the big furniture, and we know where everything is going. My biggest frustration now is that I need to take a bunch of stuff to the barn and out to the trash today, and it’s pouring down rain. That’s a pretty minor frustration considering we’re just a few days away from D (Destruction) Day.

We don’t have a firm timeline for the project. We pay for these sorts of things in cash, and so we can do it exactly as fast as we are able to save money for it. We have some “getting started” money, and I *expect* to work some overtime this summer. If the latter fails to materialize, that’s okay — it will just take longer to finish. It could, in fact, take years to get back into the finished basement. But, like I said, that’s okay. We’re doing what needs to be done, and we’re doing it right.

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