A Day In The Basement

The basement after I had emptied most of it out.

Our basement kept me out of my studio today.

When the water pump started making a strange sound we called Mike, our handyman.  He was here at 7:30 this morning suggesting the condensation from all the rain we’ve been getting has wreaked havoc with the inside of the water pump.

The wooden boards that are snuggled into the dirt floor of the basement are usually dry.  But this summer moisture from the ground has dampened their edges.

Mike suggested covering the floor in 5ml plastic, and a dehumidifier wouldn’t hurt.

Since the first time I saw it, I was impressed with our basement.  The ceiling high enough for me to walk without a thought of bumping my head.  The stone walls, straight and square.  And the cold storage room, with its wide board door,  handwrought thumb latch, plaster walls, and pantry shelves is like stepping back in time.

The people who sold us the house cleaned out most of it.  Including the Stickley desk that was stuck in the corner that had become a shelf for old paint cans.

But they left a few things behind.  Broken screens and windows, a workbench filled with nails, screws, and washers, glass, cut to fit a six-over-six window, still in a wooden crate with thin sleeves of paper between them and a car battery.   There was a pile of sand in one corner and a pile of coal in another.  On the wooden shelves were a box of copper pipe fittings,  two white porcelain door knobs and lockbox, a newspaper from 1946, three or four Playboy magazines from the 70s, and a handmade wooden sign with the name H Walrath on it.

The sign was made by Harold, who lived in the house with his wife Florence.   I got the feeling the basement was Harold’s domain.  He even painted his initials on the basement door.

I’ve been wanting to clean up the basement since we moved into the house but never really wanted to take it on.  It’s a dirty job and I never spent enough time in the basement to make it worthwhile.

But when I decided to do the job of laying the basement floor with plastic this morning, I knew I’d have to clean out the basement to do it right.

I really wanted to get to my studio, to finish my Turtle Pillow and work on my Ravens, but I knew if I left the job for the weekend, I’d have too much time to think about it and it would become daunting.

So I got right to it.

I opened the Bilco doors and started hauling stuff out.  I made a pile of wood to burn, threw what I could in our garbage pails, and made a pile for the dump.

I used a rake to level out the dirt and started to roll out the plastic.  There were plenty of old bricks and rocks to weigh the edges down.  I cut around the stairs and posts and tucked the plastic under the oil tank and workbench.

When I ran out of plastic I picked up another roll at the hardware store.  They only had white, so the floor is two-toned. I used duct tape to tape the big pieces of plastic together.

That took till about lunchtime, then there was the cleanup of all the stuff I had carried up the stone steps and left by the back porch.

The basement with the plastic on the floor

I piled up the old wood in the barnyard to be burned.  Then Jon and I went to dump and dropped the car battery off at the local Auto Parts store.

By 4 pm I was napping on the couch.

Jon wrote on his blog that I love our basement.  And it’s true. I’ve been in a lot of basements of a lot of old houses and they can be scary.    But not this basement.  It speaks of a strong foundation which I find comforting.

If we had to pay someone to do the work I did today, it would have been much more than I earn in a day.  And knowing it’s cleaned out and I’ve done something to make it drier, feels really good.

Jon and I have lived in this house for 11 years.  That’s longer than I’ve lived in any house since leaving the house I grew up in when I was 22 years old.   When we decided to buy this house, I had the feeling that I could live here for the rest of my life.  Something I’d never felt about any of the other houses I lived in.

It’s also the first house that has felt like home.

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