The former couple who owned our lovely homestead property live only 4 miles away, closer to town. Their house is right off the main drive through we have to take to go to work and back. The man, Don, told us any time we needed/wanted to borrow a tool we can just stop by, this is including his weed-whacker, chainsaw, power tools, post hole digger, etc… this will be a BOON for our start up year(s) on the property here.
He is a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy and his past includes having been a navy fire fighter on big ships, and underwater diver on construction jobs for things like oil rigs and other crazy things you hire under water construction people for, electrical engineering and networking, and he also holds a degree in biology and loves trees and tree identification. You wouldn’t suspect all of that to look at him because he’s a rather unassuming presence, with a quiet/mild tone of voice and temperament that is very easy going.
He has been retired for a few years now, and even though his family hadnt lived in this house for the past 2+ years or so before we bought it – it was his hermitage, and he would still come out here almost daily to maintain it and do projects etc… up until the day they turned the keys over to us. It kept him busy and was a labor of love.
He’s expressed more than once to us how happy he is that two young folks who see so much potential in the property are the ones who bought the house. Its like an extension of his own dreams for the place, which he was getting less physically able to achieve as he’s grown older he said.
That being said though, he still likes to keep busy and do hard work. So he also had extended the offer to help out with things we may need on the property. He’s made a couple of big disclaimers to the effect of wanting to be clear he and his wife would never intend to “crowd” us out here, and/or be up in our business, but that any time we are working on something and might like extra hands, he is ready and willing. More so than ever at the moment even, since he is still currently retired/unemployed.
So there is this big wood pile off to the side of the parking area. It is lumber from an old cabin farm house that used to be on the property dating back to the early 1900s. He dismantled the cabin a few years back because it was unusable for anything other than storage, and barely usable for that. It was just an eyesore he said. So all by himself, piece by piece, by hand, he took it apart and stacked most of the lumber aside because it is heavy hard woods like oak and chestnut and still quite good and solid. He told us his biggest regret about leaving the property was not getting the lumber pile processed/cleaned up before turning it over to us. He felt bad about leaving it there, more or less a daunting mountain of disorganization full of old rusty nails.
A couple of days ago I swung by his place to borrow his help to cut holes into the tops of what will be our rain barrels, he told me what his plan had been for the lumber. Since realizing that having roofless/gutterless rain barrels isnt terribly effective, and since there is no handy place to keep tools right next to the garden, we’d already been thinking about the desire to put a small tool shed shack of some sort next to the garden. He had the same plan prior to us and its why he saved all of that lumber. Since I was off work today, and it was rather nice outside, I asked if he wanted to come over and help me start the woodpile project he’d been meaning to get to.
First we met up the road at a place I had seen that had some free pallets. I’d been trying to find someone that could help me get them here, to use to make quick and easy compost bins. His truck was big enough so we got all 6 needed. Super nice of him to help with that little side errand. Then, once back at the property, i got the saw horses out of the barn and we went about starting to sort the lumber pile according to type and length – Beams, planks, 2x4s, rotted tidbits that just need to get scrapped or burnt, old wood flooring, etc…
The old porch to the cabin is still standing. Well, standing fully now that James used a bottle jack to hoist it up earlier this afternoon so we could put some supports under the center beam and level it all back out again. Now this ready-made platform could become a staging area for the lumber operation. Don, our handy new acquaintance, went about sawing any bad ends off the old planks, measuring and writing down lengths to all boards he cut, cleaning them off, and starting to lay them out and stack them on the old porch so that they could dry out. Meanwhile i climbed around on the pile trying to find and pull out just the planks for now, and start yanking any old nails out of them that were dangerously sticking out or in the way of where the saw would have to cut.
We didnt work terribly fast, because we kept stopping our sawing and hammer noise making to just chat. But he said he always felt is was important to make sure you targeted enough to get done to feel like you accomplished something for the day even if only working a few short hours. In his case, he said he was just happy to see we cleared away a lot of the random bits near the front of the woodpile so he could see more of the core of the good wood at the heart of it, in order to verify it had still been holding up well despite beings stacked there for over a year (it had).
All in all, he said his calculations would have it that we could likely build as big as a 10×20 foot shed barn next to the garden with this amount of material. He said if we went to buy this much lumber new it would be over $1000 and likely not even made of as solid of a hard wood as these old siding and beams are. We will have enough to build a tool shed as well as some raised beds for the garden! Hooray for recycling! And, hooray for having a handyman in the neighborhood! He even said he found the whole thing fun to do. I am very thankful we ended up buying a property like this from someone like him. What a win-win situation.