Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Back Story

This year we bought a real fixer-upper in Albuquerque's North Valley. We had seen some pictures online and made an offer which, much to our surprise, was accepted.  We knew it would be a big project, but having never seen the property, we were not aware of the extent. This is what we found:

By many people's standards this would seem small, around 900 square feet, but it suits us just fine. The mismatched exterior would be no problem. And, look, huge shade trees--that should help the summer cooling bill, right? Then we stepped inside...

The kitchen. The gentleman who owned the house before us was ill and unable to finish the project. He was also unable to install wiring up to code, so the house had no electricity. The sink worked, though! Without gas or electricity he barbequed outside. A lot.  The yard was littered with bones.

The view from the kitchen. You can make out the hot water heater behind the plastic and on the other side of the "wall" was the toilet and a vinyl shower like you might find in an RV.

This was the other view from the kitchen--a partially framed bedroom that appeared to be sinking into the sand. Well, it was sinking. It was officially 4 inches below the kitchen. And that foreboding rectangle of darkness off to the right? The one that if you were watching a horror movie you'd say, "don't go in there, you fool!" Well, this "room" didn't have any windows and had this 2 foot wide "hall" that extended about 7 feet back behind the bathroom. Very creepy.

Most of floor was badly laid concrete and none of the supports or framing was up to code--well, maybe the exterior walls if you didn't use a tape measure. We had a lot of work on our hands.

We were fortunate enough to rent the house right next door and are grateful for the deal we received on rent. Renting eased the stress of our other options: camp at the property, haul a trailer onsite, or live out of a conversion van until we could live in the house. Winter in Albuquerque is cold and, while an adventure, seemed a bit too much. With a lot of help from our good neighbor, two trips out by Amy's dad and a handful of months we now live here:

We have lots of windows and a beautiful stucco job on the exterior. You'll notice the shade trees are conspicuously absent. They were 90% dead Siberian elms and had to go. Fruit trees will replace them but in the meantime we're very exposed out in the yard.

The kitchen is full of light and Amy's favorite room in the house. She spends most of her free time in here whipping up delicious meals. The shelves are reclaimed barn wood and add a rustic touch that we adore.

The dining nook is right next to the kitchen and Amy's second favorite room, since that's where she gets to eat. The walls are a natural clay plaster from American Clay. We brought home the 50 pound sacks on our bikes! 

There aren't too many pictures of the rest of the house that are post-worthy. We are still working on projects and things look very, um, lived in.  As we get things more organized and fabulous, photos will get posted, don't you worry. 

I will tell you that we laid brick floors to offset the 4 inches of sink and they turned out lovely. 

So we're settling in, getting to know our community and planning the garden. We'll be posting about simple living, sustainability, vegetable gardening and whatever else strikes our fancy. Enjoy!

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