One Hundred and Eighty Days of Stuff I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, But Now I Do

I was going to say that if this time last year you told me I’d be living on six acres in the middle of nowhere fixing up a hundred-and-fifty year old farm house by myself, I probably would have blinked at you seventeen times and then whistled while circling a finger around my ear to indicate that cleary you’re one beer short of a full case. Right? Because it’s not like I’ve ever sold a perfectly adorable storybook house to live in a garage for two years or anything…


Oh. Wait.

Fine, fine, I’m the batshit crazy variable in this equation but my point is that everything that has happened in the six months since I stumbled upon the farm has been, um, unexpected, to say the least.

With Memorial House, I actually owned that place for over a year before starting work on it, and took sixty hours of classes for my contractors license while planning out the addition, all before we broke ground. Was it a little crazy to take on building a 900 sq ft addition with only an Engineer and a hammer to help me? Yes. But I was as prepared as a person can be for that kind of adventure. However, when you see a house at 3 PM on a Monday afternoon, and then buy said house while sitting in a bar at 11 PM on the same day when twelve hours earlier you actually had no intention of buying a house at all … well, let’s just say that things haven’t stopped surprising me since. Particularly things that involve a peacock.

One of the things I marvel at almost every day isn’t the progress on the house so much as the volume of new stuff that’s been crammed into a brain that is already full to the brim with things like old-school NES cheat codes (left-right-left-right-up-down-B-A-select-start… yup, still taking up valuable space in the cortex).

With one hundred and eighty days (and the bank list) under my belt, I feel like I’m moving into more familiar territory as far as house projects go, but here are just a few things I was completely unprepared for six months ago…

Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know Before Buying This House #1: You Can, In Fact, Buy a House Online While Sitting in a Bar

It sounds like one of those “are you wiring this money to a prince in Pakistan who is going to pay you a million dollars once he’s out of jail” fraud questions that a bank would ask you.

And, you would like a loan because you essentially bought a house on eBay? Riiight.

It was probably the most stress filled and frustrating thirty consecutive days I’ve experienced, uh, ever, but I also learned a ton about title companies, forelosures, online auctions, how to protect yourself, reading legal documents, and exactly how effective it can be to lower your voice and tell a banker you’re about to lose your shit if they don’t figure out a way to make. things. right.

(You can read more about that epic journey and my experience with the online auction here.)

Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know Before Buying This House #2: How a Boiler Works

This is my first ever boiler heated house, and let’s be blunt… that cranky old bitch is way more temperamental than your typical gas furnace or geothermal heat pump. Since the baseboard pipes weren’t properly winterized (which resulted in a full-on fountain in every room in this house the first time the system was turned on) the boiler and I got acquainted realfast early on. Truth: I’m not looking forward to rekindling that relationship as Fall approaches, but I’m hoping we worked most of the kinks out last Winter.


Related things I did not know: How much filling up fuel oil costs (a shitload), the closest your fuel oil tank can be located to your well (75 feet), what the red light on the boiler ignitor means (safety lockout so your house doesn’t get blown to kingdom come).

Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know Before Buying This House #3: How to Mow a Lawn 

Can we just call this a serious, serious gap in my early education? I mean they drill the effing Pythagorean theorem into your brain–which you will use all of once in the next three decades– but at no point in the last thirty years did someone say, hey, one day you’re going to have two acres of lawn to mow every single week and you’re going to need to be able to operate a tractor, so here’s how this works.  God bless my grandpa for fielding two days of constant phone calls that consisted of questions like, “So… how do I make it go forward?”


That’s my grandma, totally showing me up on the mower, but I’ve got the hang of it now. (By which I mean I hardly ever run into the house anymore…)

Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know Before Buying This House #4: How to Install Roof Shingles

Eh, okay so I knew I didn’t know how to do this, I just thought I was safe in my ignorance because for a number of years I was strategically cohabitating with an Engineer who once worked on a roofing crew. The obvious flaw in that plan is that there are, apparently, a limited number of Engineer/Roofers available to cohabitate with at any given time… once you’ve burned through one, that’s pretty much it for you. Sigh. Which means at some point your ass is going to spend a lot of hours up on a roof. Get used to it.


The good news is, once I got done with the two-day shed roofing marathon I felt like someone just plugged me in to the mainframe and downloaded an encyclopedia of roofing knowledge into my brain a la Matrix.

Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know Before Buying This House #5: How Mortise Door Hardware Worked 

I figured that since I’m reasonably versed in installing basic exterior and interior door hardware and have successfully picked a lock with a couple of hairpins, my locksmithing skills had about peaked.

And then there was this…


I was flummoxed. And frankly, the only reason this worked out so well is because I hit the mortise hardware jackpot and found the exact same set to install in the door.

Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know Before Buying This House #6: That I Could Smile at an Ugly Green Door

Sounds weird from a serial remodeler, but there were some things on this house I thought would absolutely need to be replaced to stop my left eye from twitching, and I’m still shocked at how much I don’t hate this door…


Now that it looks like this.


I didn’t think a color could overcome that kind of ugly, but now I know. And I’m wondering if I can use that trick with lipstick or full on face-paint, too…

Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know Before Buying This House #7: When It Comes To House Related Stress, It’s Easier To Do It Alone

Listen, when it comes to lifting heavy objects or all-night Bruce Willis movie marathons, yes, it’s nice to have someone else around. (Bonus points if that someone else has a beard and a pickup truck.) But, having done this house thing before once (or twice) with a significant other and now doing it alone… oh my god, the difference in my stress level can’t even be quantified in words, except for to say that there is none. No stress.

Pressure? Yes. Challenges? Absolutely. Pushing the limits of my physical capabilities? Every. Single. Day. But, stress? Or worrying about if someone else is stressed? Absolutely none.

I know that I’m an oddly independent person, so doing it all by yourself may not be for everyone, but the fact that I haven’t had to check in, compromise, worry that I’m taking over (hello, inner control-freak), worry that I’m not doing enough, question who is doing what, or wash somebody else’s dishes has been… liberating. (Also, don’t let me fool you into thinking I ever washed somebody else’s dishes. I have lived with two men in the last decade almost exclusively so that I would have someone to wash mine. I mean, and because they were awesomely entertaining dudes, obviously– and yes, I’m still friends with and dearly love both of them– but let’s be honest, the dish-washing thing was really the clincher.)

It really has been an eye-opening experience for me, and while I used to harbor this fantasy that I might one day have a partner-in-crime who would love living in the middle of crazy house projects as much as I do, what I’ve come to realize is that this self-reliant (and somewhat self-absorbed), never-ask-permission way of existing is really when I do my best work. And I’m totally loving it.

So what I’m really trying to say is that sometimes you have to embrace the unexpected, and, when something feels right, veer completely off the path you’ve set for yourself . Because six months down the road you might just end up knowing a lot more about roofing shingles and yourself than you ever could have imagined.

9 Responses

  1. Has anyone ever pointed out the parachute in your photo of your grandpa on the tractor?

    I can totally relate to the “doing it yourself” — even though I have been living with my partner for almost 17 years, I still find it’s best if I tackle the DIY projects around the house by myself. It keeps peace in the relationship and is probably one of the reasons why, after 17 some years, we’re still a very happy couple.

  2. Very nicely put. I have been making all my home improvement decisions solo for about 9 years. And as much as I love that recently I’ve started to make those decisions with my boyfriend, there is a whole ‘nother layer of stress, just as you described!

    Similar to your Roofing 101, we tiled a floor this summer. I had never even SEEN this done, let alone, been an active participant! But now I feel quite comfortable with it! I love learning new things!

  3. When I had a partner, I was expected to NOT know how to DIY anything that wasn’t cooking/cleaning/raising children, ya’ know…”wifely” things…and now I am single, (20+ years) enjoying myself immensely DIYing on my terms!Very freeing!

  4. The problem with doing it yourself is that when you get into an argument on how it should be done, you soon realized you’ve got bigger problems.

  5. Of course, if your doing things yourself, and get in a heated argument with youself about how things should be done…well you might be a little too stressed!
    Keep up the great work, Kit, we’re proud of andinspired by you!

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