History and Present Merge

My farmhouse was built in 1910, before consumerism became a past time.  In 1910, the values of the era would cause one to be looked down upon if you squandered money, put on airs, or worse didn’t take care of the few material belongings one owned.  There was no such thing as garbage pick up and people still saved rags for the rag picker.

brick flower bed

This farmhouse had no running water or indoor plumbing and consisted of four rooms, two on each floor. The farmhouse was heated by a single fireplace which was where meals were also prepared as there was no kitchen.  The small size of the rooms was offset by tall twelve-foot ceilings giving the illusion of more space.

Later a small addition (14 feet by 17 feet) would be added to hold both a kitchen and small bathroom. This is the house I now call home.

It seems fitting that the history of the house I found to call home began with the same ideals of  green living I seek in my own life.

For a decade I continually sought to reduce my footprint by moving into smaller and smaller apartments until I finally moved into a studio. The idea of moving my measly belongings into a house with actual rooms set fear into my soul, unfounded fear that I would need to fill those rooms with bought, new furniture.

Move in day I arrived with my bed, a night stand, futon, one lamp, a portable sewing machine and a chair.  I have bought no new furniture but now have a kitchen table, bed frames and small areas rugs for the two spare rooms my grandchildren use on their visits, a vanity for one bedroom, a dresser and a child’s table….all free and saved from being picked up by the trash collector.

In return I have given freely to others the items left behind in the house: a window air conditioner, carpeting (just not the one damaged beyond saving by pet stains), bricks, lumber and cement blocks found on the property.

I have re-purposed other materials found on the property from the original windows that now serve as picture frames to the bricks which are now raised flower beds to add curb appeal.

I have shopped salvage shops to replace light fixtures and was given free paint found in homes cleaned out by property managers, what I couldn’t use I’ve shared with neighbors who welcomed me and expressed a need for these items.

I moved here with the intention to become completely self-sufficient. I wanted to add solar panels, install a wood stove for heat and grow all my own food, in essence return to a similar lifestyle to what those at the turn of the 20th century would have led.

I’ve since learned self-sufficiency defined as able to supply one’s own needs without external assistance is impossible. It is only with the help of others that we are able to be less dependent on the consumer markets. It is this realization that has come to me since moving into my farmhouse. 

In restoring this farmhouse I had the choice of entering back into the consumerist culture I’d worked so hard to escape to furnish and restore the farmhouse or I could open my heart and embrace those in the community by sharing what I have to give, whether that be material items or useful skills, and receiving in return the items others are willing and able to share with me. 

I’ve learned to accept  an interdependence with those in my community that I now realize was at the heart of how a successful farming family survived and prospered.



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