Gambrel Cottage ~ all that is old is new again.

Written in June of 2016.

There may be nothing more crazy than deciding to sell your brand new, ubber-modern, luxurious home to buy . . . . a falling down house, built in 1915 complete with a crumbling foundation, ruined roof, out-dated bathrooms, small kitchen and cramped closet space.

But no one has ever accused me of being sane.


And with that, it begins.

Welcome to the Gambrel Cottage in beautiful Old West Lawrence.

Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearning
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden, 
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep going in.
(Wendell Berry, excerpted from “The Country of Marriage”)
As I write this, I am still at our Wild Plum house.  We won’t make the big move until July.  I am sitting out on our covered deck looking at the apple tree I planted last year and it is full of gold finches.  I will leave behind me a young garden, newly planted by my own hands and inherit a garden planted by others.  It was left to go wild, just as the house was and is overcome with honeysuckle and lemon balm, vinca and blackberry brambles.  Today Trey and I will go over to our “new”, old house and continue to try and tame it ~ both the house and the garden.  It is June, but we have already had many days in a row in the 90’s ~ it has been sweaty, tiring work.  And you know how when you watch those fixer-upper shows, they always have those “gasp” moments?  In real life, it is even more dramatic!
During the course of the foundation work, a cistern was discovered that takes up one whole wall of the basement and snakes it way throughout the basement.  So imagine 2 inches of 100 year old concrete floor with 4 to 5 feet of open space beneath it, complete with 2 feet of water (and many mosquitoes). Literally there is a <very slow> river running through our house.  How strange and intriguing and terrible.  The structural engineer said probably only 3 or 4 houses in all of Lawrence were built with a cistern running under the basement floor.
Typically cisterns sat underneath porches, or just outside of the home and they were used to collect rain water in a time before city water.  This water was used for gardens, doing wash and canning.  The best information I could find on cisterns, of the age as ours was on the “old house web“.
Part of our Beehive shaped Cistern

Unfortunately, to maintain the integrity of the home’s foundation, we will have to pump out the cistern. Then jackhammer to entire floor of the basement, basically turning it into gravel fill for the cistern running under the entire length of the basement.  Finally the foundation guys will bring in cement and re-create the floor of the basement and possibly the entire southern wall.  So I guess, the cistern will become a ghost.  I had hoped to salvage part of to use for watering the garden, but the integrity of the house comes before my dream of rain water reclamation.

Today, Trey and I will be working outside.  Replacing the posts that support the upstairs balcony and rebuilding the outside deck.  With a bit of cloud cover to soften the sun, spray bottles full of cool water, EnduraCool Multi-Cool head covers, and Route 44 frozen limeades, we should have a pretty good day.
Come back for an update on our Gambrel Cottage.  We will be doing a complete home re-model from the basement to the attic so there will be many adventures to report.
Until next time, enjoy life and make a good home!


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