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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I've been creating lately, but it's a creation of a different kind. We're remodeling our other house, to turn it into a studio/gallery. Robert writes poetry, I do the art, sometimes we do works together. We also like to collect antique items and sell or trade them.

We're also into recycling-Big Time! We haven't had to purchase anything for the studio house except for some windows and we bought them at the Human Resources store. We like buying things for the house there as they use the money they get to build Habitat for Humanity houses.

To describe a typical day for us: We were in Great Falls and decided to go down some alleys to look for building materials. We had the 8' camper on the pickup. What do we find but acres and acres of carpet that had been thrown out from an independent living building. Two people who worked there were out having a smoke so we asked them if anyone cared if we emptied their dumpster of that carpet. Of course they were glad to get rid of it as it was spilling out into the alley and causing a mess. So we had to spread that carpet out, and roll it up right there in the middle of town. Along with the carpet pad.

From there, we stuffed that 8 foot camper completely full of rolls of carpet. I don't know how on earth we got it all in there. The carpet was nice carpet, not ruined in our opinion, but you could see where the building must have leaked and caused water stains on the backing.

We got the carpet home, out of the camper and spread it out on the ground. I took a broom and a bucket of soapy water and scrubbed each peice. From there, we hung that carpet over a fence and Robert pressure washed it. Now it's the cleanest carpet you'd ever want to find!

When we bought our place, it was in shambles. Two double wides that belonged to people who spent their time watching porn, doing dope and having run-ins with the law. When we came here, the weeds on this two acres were up over our heads. The house that's now our studio, had been abruptly abandoned when the guy who lived there shot someone in the head, and went on the run.

The freezer was full of meat but the electricity was turned off. The meat had melted and the blood had run through the house and under the dining room carpet. Flour and other food had been left in cupboards and the mice had a hey day with everything. The roof leaked so there was water damage.

We laughed like fools while we were cleaning that house because we'd grab a peice of carpet, to throw it out, and we'd be gagging and hacking all the way to the door. It took us forever to empty that house of filth because we were driving truck then and we only got home once or twice a month and that would only be for a day at a time. We'd get home, do everything we could, then head out on the road again.

When we had the carpets out of the house, we'd pour straight purex over the floors and let it sit until we got home again. We'd then mop everything down and do it over again.

Every door in each of these houses had holes bashed in them. We collected doors on our dump runs like maniacs. I think we've found 20 doors and Robert slowly replaced our bashed in doors with good ones we found in the dumpsters.

As soon as we'd get a house bare, and purexed, Robert's next step was to turn off the electricity and bring in the garden hose. He'd take a five gallon bucket of hot water, filled with Pinesol and dish wasing soap and he'd take big scrub brush and we scrubbed every single inch of both of these houses with hot soapy water. He had me use the garden hose to rinse the ceilings and walls behind him. The black dirt would run down the walls. You can't imagine how filthy they were.

We discovered also, the sewer lines on the studio house were broken. When the house was set down, someone set a huge block of cement right on top of the sewer line, where it came out from under the house. We had to break up that block and get it off the line to repair the line. We discovered the sewer line to the back bathroom had been cut and was running on the ground for probably years. Instead of fixing the problem, the people who lived here cut the sewer line to let it run! We wore masks and coveralls and took the siding off the studio house. We left it open to air out for a year after we took rakes and scraped the ground bare and clean. That was a job, I don't know how Robert stood it, to go under that house and rake that mess out. Of course it was all dry but it was still a horrible mess.

Meantime, everything outside had to be taken care of also. The place had been fenced in a Ma Kettle fashion and it looked horrible and shaggy. Robert took down the crazy fence. We don't have farming tools, but there were two trailer house hitches out back. We weighted them down with iron and pulled them behind the pickup, they gathered up the weed stems and we pulled the weeds into huge piles which we burned.

Now tell me this, does this make sense to you? There was dope, porn, animal and human cruelty, and killing going on here, before we moved to this place. The cops were here every other day like clock work. We move here and start cleaning things up and the neighbors are screaming their heads off, we had to deal with the county guy every five minutes because we're making a mess here.... Of course we're making a mess...how can you throw out tons of carpet, ruined cupboards, and appliances, crummy stinking furniture and not make a mess? But don't you have to make a mess sometimes to make things better? Plus get this, we're not young anymore, we're almost 60 years old. It takes us longer to clean things up than it did when we were young.

In the meantime, not one neighbor came by to say hello or to offer their help. Not that they had to, didn't expect that. I just thought when you can obviously see someone cleaning things up, why not leave them alone to get the job done?

I spent all last year painting. I painted every wall in this house we're living in about four times. The house was in such disrepair, the paint soaked in like the walls were thirsty. I used paint we pulled from dumpsters, mixing my own colors as I went. I did buy kilz and primer for the first coats of paint to bury any remaining stains and make an even coat to work over. The ceilings all took four coats of paint. Two of primer and kilz and two of regular ceiling paint. The other house was just as bad, it needed several coats of paint before the walls and ceilings looked half way decent. I painted the paneling after I fixed the holes that had been bashed in the walls.

I also stained four large decks, and put two outside coats of paint on the house we live in and got the front of the garage painted on the studio house. When Robert got finished with plumbing, electrical and carpenter repairs, he helped me paint our garage.

We took a funny old shed that was out in the horse pasture and drug it up to hook onto our house for a back porch. We put the wood stove in that porch. The washer and dryer are now out there also. It gave us more room in here. :) We took another old shed that was all ready attached to this house and turned it into a spare bedroom. We call it the Navajo room as it's furnished in a southwestern style.

There are still tons of work to do around here. We want to insulate both garages and put roofs over three remaining decks, we installed a roof over our front deck in the house we live in last summer. We need to get a roof on the studio house. We planted drought resistant pasture grass in the little field behind the house. We've been trying to get grass to grow out there since we moved here. We spend half the summer spraying for weeds and spraying for bugs. This place was so run down, we don't know any other way to get ahead of the earwigs and the weeds. When we have nice healthy grass, it will make a huge difference.

The woman who sold us this place, was a funny one. She was kind of simple. When we made her an offer on this place, she said, "I've never been able to understand this, my real estate agent brings people out here to look at this place, then they never come back...."

Everytime we think of that, we laugh. We know all the reasons no one ever came back to take a second look at this place. But we're a little crazy, we'd rather take a place that's run down and needs us than to find something brand new and beautiful. We'd rather find building materials in the dumpsters, and use them, than to buy the stuff new in the stores.

We actually think when we're finished with this place, it's going to be beautiful....
Donna