It’s not that I don’t like the cabin, or my house. I appreciate having solid, wood-lined walls, and a deck where the only view is trees, hillsides and valleys. They’re both at 2,000 feet elevation, so I have a wealth of Southern Appalachian flora and fauna to observe.
What I mind is that owning property involves maintenance. Labor + time.
Ignore it at your peril.
Yesterday we discovered a hole in the wood frame covering the cabin’s crawl space. Big enough for a mouse, and big enough for a squirrel to be enticed to keep chewing it bigger.
Get a squirrel or a family of mice in the crawl space, and you’ve earned yourself at least a couple days of labor to clean up their mess inside the house. Plus several hundred bucks to pay the pest control guys to get them out.
Had to look in boxes and bins and shelves in the shed for what I had to plug that hole. No wood caulk, only cement caulk gun. Found some steel wool, finally.
Dragged the ladder out of the shed – a ladder that I spent a couple hours to research, choose, drag home and then drag to the cabin, not to mention the actual cost (around $130).
Had to struggle to release the catches to expand the ladder to its full height. Had to stabilize it so that I wouldn’t fall, repositioning it four times, because I can’t take any chance of hurting myself in a fall.
Crawled up there, knocked down spider webs, crammed the steel wool into four corners, saw that the screen overall is a bit loose, hoped the steel wool would do for a few months.
Crawled down, took the ladder apart and folded it, dragged it back into the shed.
This is a small task in the home maintenance world. About as small and simple as it gets. I didn’t bother to time it. But it wasn’t nothing.
Maybe that sounds petty. By itself, it might be. Trouble is, when you own property, this sort of task is ENDLESS. Weather, nature, insects, time, all work to chip away at our shelters, and even moreso when your house is in the forest and up the side of a mountain.
When I walked around yesterday with the loppers, I saw a half-dozen small trees that are likely to fall across the road within the next few years. They are too big to drive over in Xena, and too big to cut with the loppers, and I am out of practice with the chainsaw and Tom won’t be able to handle a chainsaw safely for many months yet. What happens when we try to come here some lovely fall or winter weekend and one of those trees is across the road?
There are termites, powder beetles, snakes, bears, raccoons, and wild hogs, and these are just the normal everyday threats, besides the mice and squirrels, besides the mold and mildew in a place without AC, besides the carpenter bees and ants and other insects that also can’t be ignored.
I do have a healthy imagination, but these aren’t imaginary threats. They are real. If you left your house for a year in North Georgia without maintenance, at least one of these pests would take over.
I’m setting aside for now the issue of thieves, who did about $400 in damage when they ripped up our propane lines outside the cabin in order to net a few dollars for copper pipes, a regulator and a 30-lb. tank.
I’m not even touching on the work involved when a tree falls on the roof.
And let’s not get started on what it takes to manage a contractor who is installing a septic tank in a place as remote as Booger Hollow.
Or what it takes to find, schedule and supervise a couple of certified propane technicians who can repair your propane appliances and replace the parts that the thieves stole and are willing to come all the way to Booger Hollow to do it.
Or the time to find, manage and then manage some more the young man who will come in to blow away the leaves, haul the junk that is too big for the car, and split all the firewood from those big trees that you paid $3,500 to take down.
Homeowner labor is unpaid. It becomes part of an invisible investment cost, doesn’t show up on any accounting of the value of the place.
It’s taking the payments out on my creativity.
The hours that I could be spending on improving my drawing skills or making more fused glass pieces, or even marketing the art pieces that I do manage to produce, go into being a maintenance gal.
When is there going to be a federal holiday that celebrates making art?
When are my labors going to be directed to creating what my soul really needs to give the world?
Today’s penny is a 2011, the year we bought the cabin.