By: Amanda Emerson, December 20th 2017
Our family moved into this mountain top money pit in late summer and have not stopped working since. As life long Mainers we thought we knew what a Winter on a Maine Mountain had in store for us—but we may have had some romantic notions.
To get a loan on the house we replaced two smaller sections of roof on the oddly-designed monstrosity. Before winter threatened we spent our time buzzing off overgrown rhododendrons that brushed the house and clearing the brush to reduce ticks. Some days we’d find multiple ticks on us.
The water ran out and we pulled out the well pump to replace it only to run out again a few days later. It wasn’t a horse-power issue, it was the supply. We pulled it again with the help of Kevin’s father making an awesome contraception to reel it up with a truck. After measuring it, we found out the well was over a hundred feet deeper and decided to drop a longer pipe and wire down in.
The radiant heating was busted in the first floor slab and concrete second floor. The kids and I would go around listening for hissing in the floors while Kevin pressurized the line with the air compressor. He sliced the metal underlayment and chiseled to concrete away from the leaks from below and patched them. In a few days we had heat in most of the house and blocked off other parts. Kevin hooked up the washer and we out up two clotheslines.
All the furniture for the home was purchased at yard sales and thrift stores. We turned the playroom into a pirate theme complete with fishing net loft rails, real palm fronds from a tiki-bar that shut down in Brewer, fake swords and an antique treasure trunk from an estate sale. Dozens of mice, rats, squirrels and chipmunks have been trapped here after it being abandoned so long. They ate tunnels through the insulation.
Kevin installed a Fisher wood stove with double doors and a large firebox. It had a two-tiered flat-top design allowing for pots of hot water and large stones to warm for using outdoors for the livestock. Kevin’s amazing sister busted her butt splitting, hauling and stacking firewood one saturday and helped us get enough wood in to last a month—but the coldest part of winter is yet to come.
We looked at tractors and weighed all of our options and quickly decided a tractor payment was scary as hell for a new one. Snow fell and we bought a killer plow truck. The guy didn’t have the title and the bed is rusted to heck. It’s an ’04 F-250 Super Duty with knobby mud tires. Kevin tossed some toothy chains on and we yanked the lift out to make it more stable on our narrow crowned road. Our amazing neighbors just so happen to have an identical truck and are willing to give up their plow seeing as they have a tractor and a snowblower. They even let us use their garage to get the truck going.
With the help of my youngest we strung lights on our row of Colorado spruce out front. My sisters watched us haul a 12-foot balsam fir up a winding staircase with three landings. There had been an ice storm the week before and two snowstorms so the tree was heavily laden with snow.
Little spiky needles littered the carpeted stairs after we bent it around and corner and busted off some branches to get it into the playroom upstairs. We hauled it upward from a loft above, laid a red comforter underneath and stuck the trunk in a 20-gallon bucket.
Once safely tied off the kids climbed up into the loft to set an angel on top. The kids spent all afternoon decorating the towering Christmas tree with the help of a couple ladders. That was three days ago and there is still a puddle from all the melted snow and ice on the playroom carpet.
Coops and hutches have been built. A duck enclosure with a small plastic pond went in before the big freeze and We even did our first poultry butchering here just as it was getting too cool out for my fingers to want to work right. My father loaned me his plucker and scalder. I bred our two Giant Flemish does and they are due a week apart next month. We picked up Guinea fowl eggs at a local dairy farm and incubated them here before the house even closed.
We have made friends here and already thrown down some strong roots. I enjoyed bushhogging what was once a lawn with a ridiculously undersized riding mower. As time allowed we worked on widening the twitch trail to make it a road again. Boxed were moved, unpacked, sorted and many bags were drug over the Goodwill in Bangor.
Kevin setup his workspace here to work from home. I started a new job and began writing again. I have struggled through two child custody battles and am still dealing with one. I transplanted dozens of indoor herbs, peppers, garlic and leeks after a tenant we had moved out and left them behind in their garden. My computer crashed leaving me unable to work in Photoshop and Illustrator and I lost hundreds of photos. Kevin tore it apart and doubled my memory and RAM. We moved a stove, fridge and microwave to instal in the new kitchen and purchased a second fridge half-off at Home Depot with a couple dents in it.
Our neighbors shot three deer on our property this year plus nabbed a roakill. They were kind enough to give us a couple deer’s worth of meat. The husband brought mill felt and water pods home from work for me to use for my animals here. The wife gave me some amazingly sweet homemade wine. Another neighbor gave us a grain barrel I keep meat rabbit feed in and a water storage container I’ll save to tap maples with come spring. For now we’re busy keeping enough firewood inside to stay warm and plastic-coating windows to keep heat in.