In April we signed a lease for our third year in this home. When we’re finished with this year, we will have lived here longer than any other spot during our marriage. Even the two homes we owned! We have probably put at least ten times more work into this house than the others, too. I’m not exaggerating. I might still be off by a factor of two.
We chose this rental after six months of seriously discouraging searching. Our first purchased home was in the same neighborhood and we knew how much we loved it, so we felt dedicated to finding a place there within our budget. But, most of the homes we viewed you wouldn’t even want to bring your dog into, let alone let your baby crawl in or toddler explore. One had a balcony falling away from the house, another smelled like it was solely occupied by dogs and cats. We were just about to broaden our search to other neighborhoods when I saw this place posted as the top line on craigslist. The price made me question even coming to see it because it was significantly lower than a lot of other area homes. But, knowing I was probably the first person to see the posting and that it would go fast if it was at all good, I jumped on it.
There were problems. Definite problems and serious ugly issues. The carpet stains definitely didn’t add to the unique ’80s turquoise color. There were pink, thick, greasy stained curtains that had probably been there since the 1940s and uncleaned for at least a decade. I’m pretty sure multiple generations of spider families lived in their folds. There were holes in the walls. There was mold on a bathroom ceiling along with a giant water stain that didn’t bode well for the roof. The baseboards were broken, mismatched and generally about as ugly as one could muster if intentionally trying to make a place look bad. The landscaping was weed laden, apart from the old, well-established trees and bushes, and a few lone flowers that survived years of neglect and incessant weed whacking. We moved in and found out that the dishwasher, oven and dryer didn’t work. So yes, there were a few issues.
But, THE YARD! It had a very established plum tree, two pear trees, a grapevine and other gorgeous bushes. Despite it’s neglect, it was obvious that prior to being a rental it had been a very treasured, nurtured space. There was even a (now defunct) automatic drip irrigation system. We were ecstatic to have a place for the boys to play outside and I couldn’t wait to have room to grow food again. We knew a lot, inside and out, could be fixed cosmetically through serious elbow grease. We knew the questions to ask the landlord (eg, Could we paint? Could we remove the curtains? Could we fix up the yard?) and thought the hard work was worth the chance to live in our desired location at a more affordable price. Did I mention the land?
Moving in brought me face to face with my perfectionism. I wanted the weeds gone and I wanted them gone yesterday! I felt twinges of embarrassment when bringing new friends over to the home, thinking they’d judge us by baseboards. (As if I’d want to be friends with people like that, anyways! Sheesh.) I had a hard time tackling the garden bit by bit and not getting discouraged by the scope of the project.
After two years of serious dedication, I’ve come to appreciate the journey for itself. Thank goodness, because there will always be weeds. I’ve noticed that gardening is one of the rare experiences that I completely lose track of time. Harry has experienced the same feeling with pruning the trees and bushes. We both throw ourselves into it head first. Since moving in we’ve added four raised beds, an herb bed, several blueberry bushes, an artichoke, evergreen huckleberries, strawberries, and rescued, divided and transplanted countless other plants in the yard. We’ve hauled in three cubic yards of soil and seven cubic yards of mulch. And we’ve pulled a lot of weeds. My disdain for Morning Glory grows by the minute. But, this spring and summer we’ve been thoroughly enjoying the fruits of our labor as more flowers bloom, trees look gorgeous and we eat more food from our garden. It is so nice to live somewhere long enough to improve it and savor the newly emerging beauty.
Many people wonder why we pour hours of time into a yard that we don’t own. It does seem odd in many ways, sometimes even to us, but it is our home. We may live here for many more years. We may move out next April. Either way, I’m glad we’ve taken care of this land really well. We’ve dramatically improved it without spending a lot of money and we’ll continue to do so as long as it’s our place. We will be leaving the land and soil much healthier. No matter what happens, someone benefits. For the time being, it’s us.