An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 5

The Adorable Ranches:

One: the first house we saw. Perfect: entry-way small but present; three small bedrooms; formal dining room behind kitchen; beautiful light and good traffic patterns. Attached garage. Semi-finished basement (no carpet). Even paint was attractive sunny pastels (pale banana-slug green oddly popular in this area; cannot understand it. Perhaps is due to local slugs being small and black rather than large and khaki-colored).

Deal-breaker: had own well and septic pit. I insist on water and sewer being the city’s problem, not mine.

Two: just up the street from friends of ours, adding to excellence of location; also on high side of the street, a plus, as low side sometimes gets water in basements (so helpful to know people in area). Detached garage: would love to have attached garage, but not an absolute necessity. Very small. Enter into small living room; floor uneven as you go into dining area, indicating settling; small bedrooms; dark partially finished basement. Wanted to love it because of being near friends, but just not room enough for our books and everything else. Also long walk out to garage.

Six on Saturday

Last week saw a lull in the garden; bulbs were over, but nearly everything else (except columbine) was in a not-quite-yet state. Today, though, I have a lot in bloom. I fear some of these pictures may be blurry. Sun was strong on my screen, so I couldn’t really tell what I was doing, just pointed, shot, and hoped for the best. Here we go.

The honeysuckle arch is in full bloom, and you can also see a thistle I’m too lazy to remove, and a pot I recently planted with impatiens, alyssum, and something whose name I have already forgotten torenia (wishbone flower):

Under the honeysuckle, the lilac is adding to the sweet scents:

Not far away, the iris also smell nice (hosta edging into the picture as well):

The volunteer clematis is the first to bloom:

Spiderwort and that yellow thing, which now looks a lot like mustard:

Pinks and columbine:

Whoever planned this garden focused on purple/pink flowers, with a few splashes of complementary yellow to highlight the purple, as you can clearly see this week. Personally, I like bright, exuberantly multicolored gardens with lots of contrast (adjectives like ‘garish’ or ‘vulgar’ might spring to some people’s minds), but while living here, I have tried to honor the choices made by someone who had a clear and tasteful vision. I may let myself go in the next garden—you have been warned!

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator.

An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 4

The Dance Studio and its ilk:

It seems there are two basic models of split-level in this area. One is the type of the Gambling Den; for the other, you enter onto a landing, with stairs up and down from there. Up: living/ dining, kitchen, 3 bedrooms; down: family room, laundry, and office/bedroom. We saw three or four of these, and finally decided they are all too small for us. The Dance Studio lined the entire eastern wall of the house (living/dining) with mirrors. Carpet covered the floors, concealing saggy spots in the living room floor. House not old enough to have saggy floors.

Another of these was a fixer-upper, partially rehabbed, with problems in the laundry room and big (new) sliding doors in the lower-level family room, opening onto a playing field. Foresee broken windows.

Considered a version that had a beautiful multi-level deck off the kitchen and nicely landscaped yard, but the kitchen was poorly laid out, and it was still the same size as the others.

An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 3

The Fixer-Uppers.

The Brothel was one fixer-upper. Saw another in same town, also good location: ranch house with good bones, in process of being rehabbed. What looked from pictures like solar panels on roof proved to be tarp. Windows had broken seals, rotted wood in frames. New appliances in kitchen and new kitchen floor. Other floors wood but still in need of refinishing. Odd loft room over garage leading to laundry room. Never could find how to turn off light in living room.

Another was same basic model as the Gambling Den, minus added family room and basement rec room, bedrooms to the back rather than the side. Darker, as walls added between kitchen, dining room, and living room. Bedrooms and basement all carpeted. Dislike carpeted basements: you never know what’s under there. Shabby grungy bathtub still in place. Uncaulked hole in laundry room to admit mice. No washer or dryer. Sump pump in what is marketed as bedroom.

A small ranch house looked lovely in pictures; rehab nearly complete. New roof going on the day we saw it. Still enter straight into living room, no foyer. Enclosed breezeway between house and garage, probably supposed to be “three-season room,” which in this climate means too hot in summer, too cold in winter, endurable for a month or so in spring and fall. Original 1950s kitchen cabinets preserved and beautifully refinished, likewise shelving in living room. Third bedroom below grade: deal-breaker.

Completely adorable house built in the International Geophysical Year and looking very much of its time, with many original features and excellent mid-century vibe. Signs of structural problems in roof, as well as damaged seal and surrounds on front bay window. We could live with detached garage if it were only the window, but cannot face possible structural damage to roof.

And with closing date on current house set when it is, do not have time for house that needs work.

Fairy Gardens

They’ve popped up all over Our Quaint Village, with variations. There’s a Dinosaur Garden that I often pass on my walks; it is popular with toddling boys and their fathers. Not far away, my eye was caught by an enchanting miniature chalet, standing among tree roots, behind a little courtyard paved with shiny glass cabochons; then I noticed the old 1930’s style model car partially sunk into the mud a foot or so away . . . and then a dinosaur looming behind the tree.

What sort of fairy would move into this Jurassic Swiss Appalachian Park? Someone out of an urban fantasy? Emma Bull’s Finder? I’m still pondering this.

An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 2

The . . . Frat House?

Location excellent, near station and highway access. Front yard mostly asphalt, though long driveway leads to garage. As agent taking some time to get code for door lock, we explore back yard. Half a garbage can is dug into ground near patio area: makeshift ice chest for brewskies, I suggest. Sir John notes fire pit. Agent notes tiki torches along high fence dividing yard from neighbors. We enter. Despite new fancy front door and kitchen appliances, house not (as advertised) fully rehabbed: water damage to front window and living room floor, bathroom floors damaged. Lower level family (?) room, opening to back patio, tiled, not only floor but halfway up walls. Ceiling fan in lower-level bedroom filthy. Upstairs bedrooms have chain locks on the inside. Definitely a multi-person rental, agent says. Sir John suggests sex traffickers.

Locks would then be on outside, I say, and what about the party-hearty backyard? Frat house.


But we are not in a college town.


We are not even near a college town.

I reconsider Sir John’s suggestion. Too too lurid, but as we refer to the first house as The Gambling Den, this one becomes The Brothel.

Autre temps, autres moeurs

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of mid-century light fiction by women. Barbara Pym, of course, and also D. E. Stevenson, E. M. Delafield, Elizabeth Fair, and similar works either suggested by Amazon or discovered via Furrowed Middlebrow or Clothes in Books. Having read gobs of British fiction from an early age, I don’t generally have any difficulty over vocabulary differences (sneakers/trainers, sweater/jumper, jumper/pinafore dress, etc). But I had a glitchy moment last night when reading Wine of Honour, by Barbara Beauchamp; maybe it’s my years as a vegetarian, or where I went to college:

“[Lady Gurney] expected her children to return to her as they had left her. . . . It was a lovely picture, misted with her tears and rosy with the port Sir James would bring up from the cellar and decant for the first family gathering round the dining-room table. There would be flowers and a huge joint . . . ”

Duuuuuude. When I get out of the RAF I’m going to get so wasted with Mum and Dad.

An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 1

The Gambling Den

From outside, house is well-cared-for split-level, vintage 70s. Flagpole and bird feeder in front yard. Attached garage. We enter straight into living room; behind it, kitchen and dining room; to our left, stairs down to lower-level room apparently used as bedroom. Bath and laundry off this room; also exit to garage. Ideal for health-care worker, we say: come in, strip, shower, wash clothes, before rejoining family. Above this area, 3 small bedrooms and another bath. Behind kitchen, enormous room, nearly doubling the square footage of main floor of original house. Additions are a deal-breaker. Explore anyway: was this a garage converted to living space? No: garage in front, not enough space between houses for there to have been a driveway to the back.

We find back door and another stairway leading down to equally large basement room, lower than garage-joined bedroom, not communicating with that level. On wall, rack for pool cues, also what at first I take to be dart board, then discover is sort of mini roulette wheel. A house for gambler and health-care worker: nearly the same thing, these days.

An Academic Lady’s House is Inspected

After contract signed, buyers have five days to perform professional house inspection and negotiate further. In our case, “as-is” clause meant no further negotiations, but buyers could walk away.

For inspection, we incarcerate cats and leave things tidy, but do not remove litter boxes, set up fancy bedding, or otherwise stage the house. Rain, again, and again we have nowhere to go, so sit up the street in our car, each with book to read. Agent arrives. Tall woman in purple sweatshirt, presumably buyer, arrives (approve choice of color). Inspector arrives in white van.

Half an hour passes. Another van drives up. Radon testing unit unloaded, taken into house. Second van departs.

First hour passes. I check e-mail and respond to students.

Second hour passes. Regret second cup of tea with breakfast.

At two and a half hours, see hands trying to open windows in living room. Chance would be fine thing: old owners painted them shut and only two open partway in dry weather.

Third hour passes. Discomfort now extreme. Buyers understandably cautious about checking everything out, but would you please finish and go away?

Finally back in bathroom house. Cats indignant about prolonged visit from unknown people: Reina because she denies existence of hoo-mans other than her own, Glendower because he wasn’t allowed to supervise their activities, Basement Cat on general principles. Hoo-mans also ruffled from feeling of strangers evaluating our house and lives.

Two days later: Sir John goes to basement to put in load of laundry, discovers dead mouse. Consternation ensues. Consider questioning Sir John as to freshness or otherwise of corpse, but desist, as likely to prove highly unprofitable discussion. Maintain private hope that mouse died since inspection, but have little hope that in three hours including installation of radon detector in basement, inspector failed to see mouse if present. Spend weekend expecting deal to fall apart due to rodents, also planning to unpack everything stored in basement to inspect for signs of mice.

Next week: Radon at acceptable levels (no surprise, as old house is leaky sieve, despite sticky windows in living room, new windows upstairs and in kitchen). Mirabile dictu, deal goes through, despite mouse.

Onward to our own house hunt!