This Old Farmhouse

We bought this old farmhouse about 25 years ago. It was our second house, and second effort at renovation (the first was an old Craftsman style house in the city). I started out very “purist” when we moved here, but I think that was probably a wasted good intention. As we went deeper into the innards of the house, it became apparent that this was a house that grew organically over time, and it had started out quite generically at the beginning anyway. Sometimes pragmatism will get the better of you.

I had many reservations going into this project, and looking back, it is too bad my husbands dreamy optimism swept away my naturally gloomy, but realistic assessment. We have both said, at this much later date, that we would never attempt such a folly again. Don’t get me wrong… I will always love an old house, but this one was only a few years away from being condemned, and we have just about rebuilt it. It has taken too much of our lives and efforts to the detriment of hospitality and other important things. I would not do it again, and my advice is to those who are thinking about it for themselves is to realistically view your resources, your expected outcome from the house, and the basics of the house itself. Not just your romantic imagination of “old-time” living.

Not the comments you expected, I daresay.

Here is a bit more along the positive: we now have a very nice home to live in, we have quite a few memories, of the frustrated part somewhat, but some are funny, and not a few are happy and all gave us some expertise in the remaking of the home. My husband is pretty accomplished.

Our particular house is the type they slapped up all over this part of the country, back when it was built. Clapboard, with a two over two as the main part, with a side L room which I imagine originally was one story ( although I could be wrong about that). We found a date marked on an old piece of lath when we renovated the kitchen- it showed 1898, so my guess is that is when it was built in its original parts. It has seen a good deal of remodeling over the ensuing time- not all of it good, and that created our own story. The kitchen is a post in itself. This area was settled quite late as far as Ohio history goes, and my house was next in line after an old wood cabin which used to be down the road. It was moved lock, stock, and barrel a few years back, and subsequently replaced with a modern house, I am not sure where the original cabin ended up, although I had known the people who last lived there and seen its insides and construction- quite fancy as log cabins go.

Sometime at the turn of the century the Amish farmers arrived. One of their families bought this house and its farm, and when I was first here I met and talked with a number of the former inhabitants and guest of this old house. In fact, I talked quite a bit with the elderly lady who first moved here when she was fifteen, they were the second Amish family to own it. Her father had a choice of this or the farm next to it, and she had no little pride in the fact that he made a successful farming business out of something that the previous owner had adamantly argued was unproductive, before he moved out west to Iowa. This was formerly a soggy wet prairie, and it took time, patience and drainage ditches before it became productive farmland…Some say the best in the world. Black dirt loam. Kokomo soils to be precise.

Anyway, those farmers could certainly farm, but they were not all the renowned carpenters of today’s Amish. Far from it, and some of the makeshift work gets my husband to muttering. It gives us the topics for uttered remarks upon attempted constructions of just what were those guys thinking when they did this or that. Like the wall joist that stood in the wall- pretending to have purpose, but not really connected to anything or holding anything up…Just there for show, I guess.

We saw where the old center chimney was removed. Where there once was only a root cellar before the basement was excavated ( always, always the bane of our house!) and was proudly marked with the date of the cement pour in 1921. That was when the side addition grew upwards in a old Pennsylvania Dutch proportion. Big Blocky and the roof now higher in an odd conformation to the old two over two portion. It also grew out to the back with odd additions of what was once separate wash house and summer kitchen work places. My present kitchen appears to have been the old back porch and I imagine in times past the women used to do their evening sewing there. The old kitchen is now our dining room, a part of the original old house.

Well, this is the bare bones of the story and enough to describe the place. It had been sadly neglected and parts of it torn out by the former owner who seemed to like best tearing stuff down and cutting all the old trees. It was pretty bare and rundown around here when we arrived. What were we thinking? The answer for that is for another time.

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