I began my quest for the perfect place for the bed and breakfast but what I found initially was far from perfect. I had been eyeing what would eventually become the Hains House for quite some time. I would see the house go on the market, call my realtor, only to be disappointed that the house already had an offer on it. I went through this process four times, and finally the house was available to view. I knew I might be in for a surprise and I surely was. The MLS listing had only one photo of the house. It was an outside view of the front of the house with about three feet of overgrown grass. I needed to be prepared for a fixer upper!
I remember this like it was yesterday. As we went to see the house for the first time, we drove down a long, long gravel driveway. I remember saying as we drove down the driveway, “This is it.” My friend said, “Don’t you want to see the house first?” It didn’t matter to me what the house looked like. The property was perfect. The interior of the house was indeed in extreme disrepair. More appalling however was the amount of trash and garbage all around the outside of the house. There were two twelve foot trailers with eight foot plywood for walls. They were both filled with household garbage. The barn, shop and garage were all filled to the brim with trash and rubble. It looked like there had not been any garbage pickup or cleanup on the property for a number of years. But the cleanup seemed possible to me. The home repairs seemed doable even though I didn’t have even one ounce of home repair skills or experience. I was fearless in my resolve! I can do this! So, I proceeded to make an offer on the house and with much ado, the property was finally mine.
Once I owned the property, I decided to move in so I could begin working on the house. I still had my other house to sell. I remember the first night I stayed at the house. It was February 2008 and it was cold and no heat in the house. I had no hot water and no appliances except a microwave and mini refrigerator. I came home with a small bag of food for dinner from Fred Meyer’s deli. I was just about to heat up the food, when my oldest son, David and his contractor friend James swung in. They came in and I told David to go out to the front porch and roll that ugly round table back in to the living room. The day before I rolled it outside to the porch because I couldn’t stand having that ugly thing in the house.
I heated up the deli food and got out my best dishes. I pulled my great grandmother’s tablecloth out of a box and spread it on that hideous table. We all sat down at that table in front of the living room fireplace. David and James said that I’d just prepared the best meal they’d had in a while. It was a good time. We laughed a lot.
I remember James saying that he wouldn’t even know where to start in a place like this and further he was surprised that I wasn’t crying all the time. I said, “Give me five minutes.” James then offered up a place to start on the home repairs. The living room wall above the crown molding was painted hunter green. James said, “This is what you have to do. Get some good primer and get rid of that awful juju green. Paint it a different color. There, that will get you started but that green has to go because I am sure that could hold you back.” And you know, I took him up on that suggestion. It was a very good place to start.
Before David and James left that night they asked if there was anything they could do. I said that I could do most of it but the hardest part was not having hot water. There were two hot water heaters in the house but neither one of them worked. James asked David if he had a soldering iron. David did have one so he brought it in and both he and James worked to repair the hot water heater. That was really the beginning of things turning around.
I won’t ever forget my first night in the house. I slept in the downstairs bedroom off the living room. I had a large blue tarp hanging between the living room and dining room. I had a small space heater in the bedroom and lots of blankets. As I settled down for my first night, I remember being exhausted. I was just about to fall asleep. Suddenly I awakened to the sound of a pack of coyotes. The sound of their howling is terrifying and unnerving the first time you hear it. I am a fairly rational person, but I do also have a vivid imagination. I was suddenly transported to a scene in Dr. Zhivago. You know, the one where Lara is by herself in the dead of winter and hears the wolves. Oh, okay, mine were only coyotes. But you get the correlation.
I did calm myself down and went to sleep. I was in a house with doors locked and no coyotes were getting in. I am quite sure if it were an option, coyotes would be the first animal species I would refer for mental health services. Seriously.
And so, the cleanup began. There were toilets and sinks and claw foot tubs scattered around the property. The sinks and claw foot tubs were restored. The three toilets had to go and “no” I didn’t want to keep them for flower planters! I put on boots and gloves and picked through every bit of trash in the two large trailers. I sorted trash to the dump and started a burn pile. My son in laws were helpful in tending the fire for days. We sifted through countless aerosol spray paint cans and other non-dump items and recycled them properly. I am not exaggerating when I say I hauled at least 30 truckloads to the dump. I was friends with the whole crew at the Rochester Transfer Station. We knew each other by name!
A few years later, friends told me that they could not understand my initial enthusiasm for the place. They were certain I had lost my mind. And I admit, often times I think now that they might have been right. But I am so glad that my friends kept their mouths shut before I bought this place. I might have listened to them.
A beekeeper friend of mine came over a few weeks ago who had never been out before. She said with great affection, “Pat, you have certainly made a very sweet life for yourself out here, haven’t you?” I didn’t have to ponder that question very long. I replied, “Now that you mention it, I think I have.”