A WEEK INTO OWNERSHIP of my new/old home, the closest I’ve come to gardening is broadcasting handfuls of Hollytone under yellow-leaved rhododendrons, the only thing to look forward to in terms of blooms this season.
I also had a go this afternoon with Roundup and a sponge brush, working my way along the fence on the western edge of my half-acre lot, where my neighbors’ out-of-control wisteria threatens to pull down parts of the fence it hasn’t already destroyed.
The day, like the few days preceding, was so beautiful I didn’t care what I was doing, as long as I was outside. As I worked, I realize what made this Roundup session so different from those of three years ago at my first East Hampton property. Several factors: First, I didn’t feel guilty about using the stuff. Second, I knew it would be effective. When I labored at this task before, I didn’t know whether my surgical operation – snipping the never-ending roots, pulling it out of the ground as far as I could, winding them around my hand into a ball and stuffing them into trash bags, then daubing Roundup on the cut ends of the invasive vine — was going to do the trick or not. Now I know it works, so the tape that had played in my head the whole time — “Why am I doing this? Is it worth the trouble? How much more do I have to go?” — all went away. The act had purpose.
But beyond that, and this is huge, I realized I am so much more committed to this house then I was to the other. With house number one, I didn’t know if it was a flipper, a rental property, or my home, and if the latter, whether year-round or seasonal (it turned out to be three of the four at various times, and it may be the fourth yet). This one, on the other hand, is my home. For the long haul. I am in it, heart, soul, and checkbook.
I worked alone the past three days, no friends or hired labor to assist. I’ve met with the plumber who is going to give me a rudimentary bathroom and kitchen, and the contractor/carpenter/ painter, whose to-do list, upon receiving his price quote, has been reduced from seven items to two.
On Monday, I needed to do some shopping research, and basically spent the day on Montauk Highway, stopping into East Hampton Plumbing, Water Mill Building Supply, Carpetman, PC Richard, looking at sinks, flooring, appliances. I needed to see what was out there and what my options are if this is to be done in a hurry. I am not making a fetish out of choosing finishes or special ordering anything. I have next to no interest in that, for the first time in my life. I know what I like, and I just want the basics.
But getting in and out of the car a million times was not a joyful experience. Henceforth, I vowed to stay put and devote myself to house and landscape. I woke up Tuesday morning knowing what I must do: rip out the filthy sisal carpet in the living room and the foam padding underneath it, whose age I estimate to be approximately 30 years. With a matt knife and sheer determination, I cut, tore, and pulled 400 ft.² of sisal and foam – black with mold or mildew in places – and dragged it out onto the deck (along with several huge piles of brush picked up from around the property and some rotted stockade fencing; it will be picked up and dumped on Friday).
Then I Shop-vac’d the entire house and poured Clorox straight from the bottle onto areas of plywood floor that looked like they might have something primitive growing on them. The water isn’t turned on yet for the season; otherwise I would have washed the floors. The musty smell is on its way to banishment.
Today was Hollytone/Roundup day. As I worked, I pondered my window dilemma. Having gotten the quote for scraping, painting, planing to fit, rehanging on non-rusty hinges, and creating locks and screens for the existing 23 (!) awning windows, each approximately 36 inches wide and 29 high, on the front of the house, I decided at some point in the middle of the night to get new windows rather than spend any money at all on the old. New windows were not in my budget, especially not right out of the gate. I will have to sacrifice flooring for now, among other things. Perhaps I will paint the plywood subfloors myself and put down area rugs.
I was on the phone with Riverhead Building Supply much of the day. Anderson makes an awning window that will fit the existing openings pretty closely, and they don’t all have to open – some of the 23 can be stationary. They come in four colors, they have cranks, locks, and screens, and they are not even horribly expensive. There are just a lot of them, and they have to be installed.
The contractor proposed that I look into getting double-hung windows the same 36 inches wide and 5 feet long – a standard size that would probably be cheaper than each set of two awning windows it would replace. But it would not be the same. All the frames would have to be rebuilt rather than tweaked with molding, and that would inevitably alter the look of the façade. And unlike the awning windows, the upper and lower parts of the window would be in different planes rather than both flush with the façade. My first choice is to try to keep the period idea of awning windows rather than try to save money on the installation and perhaps ruin the look of the house.
Next week the plumber starts. The week after, the electrician. The windows, once ordered, will take four weeks. Meanwhile, one thing I know for sure: I am so not bored. This morning’s email from Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, who has made a very successful cottage industry out of things one would hope would come naturally but don’t seem to for most people, contained this from William Butler Yeats: “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”
I have to agree.