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House as Vessel

We bought our first house when we were twenty, We still live in it 43 years later. I don't know how this happened, I mean I do know but really I'm baffled that the series of accidents and diversions that have befallen us has left us still in this symbiotic relationship with the place we call home. The purchase of this place was a brash move at twenty, we barely considered the house, it was the land that we were most interested in not the century-old house. Within the next decade, in all probability, we will have lived in this house for a third of its existence when it will be 150 years old.

We and the house are mutually dependant. It's the stage set of our lives, the machinery of our quotidian existence. We have shaped it and it has shaped us. The vicissitudes of home maintenance and repair have required us to acquire a wide range of skills, and to be humbled by our half-assedness in much that we've attempted to do.

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Wood processing alone has been life shaping, keeping the furnace fed with well-seasoned wood occupies some part of every day at least half of every year, the nuances of stoking are subtle and often frustrated by the wood supply at hand.

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The bones of this well-built house were assembled, we surmise, in the 1870's, when labour was cheap, time was not of the essence, and insulation was apparently not an issue. We cut, split hauled stacked and burned 10-12 cords of wood in our early years here. After insulating, re-insulating, re-siding, replacing windows and then re-fenestrating with triple glazing we are down to about 4 cords of wood for our annual fuel use. An old house has character and builds character, over time you make it your own, you earn your place in it.

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The workings of the house all meet in plenary session in the basement. The plumbing, electrical circuits, stored wood, root cellar, heat ducts, furnace, pumps, freezers, various rat and mouse traps, air exchanger; all the vital organs of residential existence congregate in the cellar, backstage, thrumming and humming, making what we take for granted as modern people possible. It wasn't always thus. This house, for all it's elegance was without plumbing, central heating, indoor toilets or electricity when it was built  and didn't acquire any of the modern inconveniences until the nineteen fifties or sixties, at this date roughly half of it's life. When we moved in there was a derelict but functional 4 holer next to a similarly decrepit pig barn about 100 feet from the house.

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People in their generations come and go, are born, age and die within the membrane of this shelter. There is a weight, a presence of circumstance that an old house has that the newer variety lack, no matter how audacious. There is a gravitas, a sense of experience that the well honoured and maintained house conveys I don't mean the sort of place the monied tart up, but the kind of place that various occupants have put their hearts into  over decades, centuries, into shaping and maintaining where they live; out of love and necessity."