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I miss my house, my fortress

When reading iamkaym's writeup, fireplace, I was reminded of my own fireplace, in my own little house. And suddenly I realized that I just had to spill the story here. The tale of Me, my little house on the outskirts of a small forest, my fireplace. A year in my life. (If this sounds desperately boring I'd advise you not to read it...)

First I need to fill in the background.
In May 2001 my life went a little pear-shaped. The farm I owned, together with some friends, was being sold as we couldn't afford it any longer. We had been thoroughly screwed over (excuse my language, but I am still extremely pissed about that!) by a "friend", who had spent most of our money - and then some - prior to moving out, no forwarding address. She had been the "trusted person to handle the finances", so when she left I had to take over, salvage what could be salvaged, sell the farm and try to keep us all from total bankruptcy. This was 5 years ago, and some of us are still paying! Stupidity can be very expensive.

Anyway: as the farm got sold much faster than I expected, I was left with no place to stay. My friends, fortunately, had found new homes, but I had had no such luck. I was pretty much broke and close to desperation with two months to find something, and the clock ticking fast. (My ex hubby offered up his garage (it was roomy, insulated, had running water, and access to bathing facilities). His new wife didn’t like it much, though...)

Then my most recent ex (I know, I know: it really sounds as if I’m collecting them) came up with an idea: I could have his workshop to live in. It needed some fixing - floors, ceiling, inner walls, water, heating - but I could easily do that! And, hey, it beat living on the street or with my ex hubby’s new wife.

Building my fortress
I spent June and July working to get my house ready. I have already stated that it was a "little house"; well, it was! It was 6m*3m. 18m2. 18 very precious m2 to hold me and my belongings for at least one whole year. I knew I had to make every last square cm count.

To begin with, the workshop was crammed full of strange old stuff. It had to be moved out, and stored various places on the property. Luckily I had found a load of nice planks on the farm to use as floor, and the new owners said they didn't need them. I had to learn how to install a floor (there's probably a technical term for that) the hard way, and I think the end result was very nice. It didn't even creak. Much. I also found out how to put up dry walls, and how to fit a ceiling between the beams that bore the roof.

And I put in insulation. The summer was very hot that year, and the cold of winter seemed so very distant. I should have paid more attention to insulating the place thoroughly, but that didn't become apparent until winter. As it was, I did the best I could, cheated every now and then, and thought: 'It's probably going to be fine.'

I wasn't finished in time for the new owners to take over the farm, but they graciously told me to take it easy. They were going to make a lot of changes and remodelling, which they could easily do even if I was still around. There are a lot of great people in this world, you know...

Eventually, a fortnight later than I had hoped, I moved out of the farm and into my new home. Actually my stuff had to sit on the lawn under a tarpaulin for two nights, since I wasn't done painting, but all in all: I was there.

My fireplace?
The property I now lived on was located some 10 km from the nearest town, close to the coast and with a large stream only 600m from the house. There was a big lawn (it had always been my job to mow it) with a big, beautiful oak in the middle (as far as we could establish, that tree was close to 350 years old). There were a few patches of "forest", and two meadows. And there were our two houses: my ex's and mine.

I loved that place. I loved to grab a beer at the end of the day, and stroll down to the stream. Sitting under the trees, listening to birds, watching deer go by in the undergrowth, drinking my beer... Sometimes I would spend an hour or two chasing after the goats, since they invariably escaped from their enclosure no matter how we tried to keep them in. Goats are pretty clever that way. I like goats.

Oh, yes, the fireplace... At first I made do with a petroleum heater I borrowed from my ex-hubby, but then my host (the other ex) installed a small cast-iron stove. We utterly destroyed his most powerful drill while making the hole for the chimney. We wanted to drill a circle of holes in the brick wall, and knock out the center. It didn't quite work that way, but in the end it turned out fine. We made the chimney from some old aluminium pipes, and they got soot-clogged every two weeks, but it was okay (an authorized chimney-sweeper looked at the installation, shook his head and said: 'Oh, well...'). I had my stove, and it was perfect!

The worst year of my life - and the best
I lived in my little house for more than a year. I liked to tell people that I had a livingroom, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a computer room - and I did. On 18m2. I could go from the kitchen to the bedroom in three steps, and I could get from the computer room to the bedroom, simply by turning my back to the computer... I could reach the fridge from the couch, which came in very handy, very often.

That winter (the winter of '01-'02) was very cold. I could get all the wood I needed for my stove, and it warmed the house a treat, but I came to regret my cheating on the insulation: I could not keep the house warm through the night. I would stay up late, feeding the fire, just to get the place nice and hot, and in the morning it would still be freezing. The task of getting up, getting the fire going before going to work... that I don't miss. The inconvenience of having most of my stuff stored at my ex-hubby's... I don't miss that either. Having to sprint through the freezing night, into the "big house" to go to the bathroom, I don't miss.

But I do miss walking down by the stream, beer in one pocket, binoculars in the other, listening to the silence (turning away the odd intruder - I really enjoyed that). I miss opening the narrow door to my house and stepping in, knowing I built every last bit, except for the brick walls and the concrete foundation. Lighting the candle on the window sill I constructed, (making only minor mistakes); getting my slippers from the shoe-shelf I put up by the door. Getting the fire going, and warming glögg on the stove... Damn but I miss all that.

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