Monday, February 27, 2017

Remembering the Farm: How I met your mother Part III

I seem to be on a roll so will just keep going.

We wanted a house to rent when we moved from North Battleford to Saskatoon for me to go back to U of S. Hospitality was a tradition in both families.  There were a lot of kids in University that we knew well and wanted a place they could come to escape the pressures of class.  Finding something we could afford was another issue.  We had people looking.

WE "lucked out".  A colleague of friends of ours in the autobody business had bought a small house next door to where they lived and was looking for renters.  Small was the operable word; Story and a half, 16' x 24' with a front and back porch. Kitchen and living room down and two bedrooms (no closets) up. The bathroom was drop your drawers and back in small.

It had belonged to a slumlord and looked it.  When we saw it, professional cleaners had been through it twice.  Your mother cried all night after we saw it but we knew it was right.  The landlord offered us 6 months free rent and guaranteed us possession for 24 months if we would make it habitable and sale-able.  We had a blank check for materials (within limits).

Ella and her mom went to work while she looked for a job. The previous renters had two large dogs which they kept in the front veranda and it was rank.  Kettles of boiling water made it livable except on the hottest of days.  They painted, wallpapered and mactac'd.  The basement and back yard were full of junk.  We borrowed the landlord's van and hauled 21 loads to the dump.  I painted the basement; we planted grass in the yard and straightened the back fence then painted it. We painted the house trim.  The landlord gave us two more months free rent.

Wedding gift money was for a Queen sized bed.  Being newly weds we worried only about the bed. However, the stairwell would only take a 48" bed so we slept on that for two years. We were smaller then.  We had no stove or fridge. Never thought about that.  Your mom's brother-in-law had been going to SIAST and just happened to be finished his courses and sold us cheap his avocado green stove and fridge.

About one month into renos the house was livable and your mother got work as the Campus Parking Secretary, so we renovated on weekends only.  One of her jobs was assigning parking spaces. Universities hate cars.  Parking lots especially for students were so far away from the main campus, it needed LRT connections. Professors and staff got closer parking but not always to their liking. One prof tried to pull rank on her and another tried to bribe her.  You can imagine how that ended.

The Green Meanies (campus police) also reported to her.  I dropped her off and then went to Animal Science Building, parking always where I was not allowed.  Campus Police had strict orders from your mother to find our car and tow it away.  She would deal with me after. How hard they looked, I don't know, but they never ticketed or towed me in two years.

The Parking Office finally got too busy even for your mother so she hired a woman she had worked with years back as assistant.  They were two of a kind.  There was no need to communicate between them, they just knew and did. When they left after two years, the university hired four people to replace them.

We would drive out to the farm on weekends sometimes and your Grandparents L would come down from North Battleford for church on Sunday and to the farm for dinner.  It was at one of these meals your Grandma L announced that one should never kick a gift horse in the teeth.  This nearly finished my mother.

The first year at Christmas, we went to the farm. I had digestibility trials underway and had to feed my steers in the morning and collect their manure before we could leave.  (Digestibility being what goes in minus what comes out).  Your mother came to help so we could get finished faster.  She had more towels wrapped around her luxurious long dark hair that the Ayatollah but that faint aroma seemed to cling.  My mother's sisters and their husbands pretended not to notice.

Your mother wore a clingy backless black dress she bought at Army and Navy (aka Antoine's) for $25.  She saw the exact dress for many times that amount in the window of THE most expensive women's shop in town. Was she ever proud of herself.

The second Christmas, your mother was four months pregnant with Bronwyn.  Dad and I spent Christmas morning hammering grain for the livestock (don't ask, please) and we didn't get in for dinner or gift opening until 4:00 pm.  The day after Christmas we butchered chickens.  Dad had bought about 50 from a neighbour, where they were killed and plucked.  They were then brought home to clean and package.  Your mother, four months pregnant remember, had never cleaned chickens but she was game and helped my mother.  That night she threw up for hours.  We did not go back to the farm for Christmas for several years.  It almost ended our marriage.

15 comments:

  1. OMG that fixer-upper -- how did you ever survive without a fridge and stove?

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    1. Oh, we knew as we moved in that the only bed that would fit upstairs was a 48" and realized immediately we needed appliances worse. I forget whet we cooked on for a couple days until we got them.
      Our landlord made awesome money when he sold the place and we did very well by 8 months free rent

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    1. I was in some deep trouble, let me tell you.

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  3. This is a great story BF! We still hear of a few places around that get fixed up in lieu of rent. It is a good thing when you can find it. And are young enough to have the energy to do it.

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    1. Thanks, Jono. I have personally been involved in renovating 5 homes. The last two homes that were reno'd, including the one Tanya and I live in, were contracted out. Ran out of energy.

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  4. No fridge and stove? My former neighbours existed without a fridge for quite a while, they put the milk out on the back step in the winter. I grew up without electricity so definitely no fridge, but we did have a gas stove and a Rayburn.
    Love this story. I can just imagine what your pregnant wife thought about cleaning all those chickens. Poor lady.

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    1. We got our appliances within a week but we sure laughed at ourselves for being so stupid.

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  5. I've been enjoying your series of tales! Fascinating memories, and all well-told. :-) I'm feeling great sympathy over the chicken-cleaning episode - been there, done that (minus the hours of vomiting). Lucky you were forgiven in the end!

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    1. I wondered where you were and was looking for your comments. Glad you think they are well told. thank you. That is high praise.

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    2. I'm sorry I missed commenting on the first couple. I read them and enjoyed them but I was late to the party! :-) We're down to only two and a half weeks before our house is due to be delivered so there's lots to do both on site and in last-minute planning and coordination for electrical, plumbing, water supply (I've never lived with a well before), and heating. It's fun and interesting, but a wee bit stressful!

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    3. That is ok. I figured you were house busy, for sure. I do hope everything comes together on time and on budget. Do you have your own sewer system too or are you connected to a community pipeline?
      I have contacts in the Stool Bus business if you have a septic tank.

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    4. "Stool Bus" - bahahaha!!! Yep, we've got a septic tank and field - if you've got contacts in the Parksville/QB area, we'd appreciate that.

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