Construction finally started this month on a small sunroom addition. It’s a space that I’ve been dreaming about and planning since March, eager for a way to get myself through the long, dark winters of upstate New York by creating the feeling of being someplace much sunnier at home. With the bite of fall already in the air, it means a welcome promise of warmth and light to come.
Where once a crumbling attached greenhouse covered in broken glass panels used to sit, my own contribution to the footprint of this very old house will soon rest. Rick, the contractor, has done all the remodeling work on the house since I bought it in 2011. He knows it’s idiosyncracies inside and outside, understands how little of it is actually on center, or level, or built to current code. He does his best to work with what he’s got (which is quite a challenge sometimes), and improve upon it for modern safety and convenience.
He’s also very tolerant of me and my last-minute changes and ideas, and doesn’t bs me about anything (though he will bust my chops as he sees fit). His new partner, Jaime, seems to be a good match, too.
They tore the old greenhouse off in one day, that was the first step. The concrete block foundation was wet and crumbling, long past its lifespan, and no heating, water or lighting functioned anymore. This summer mammoth-sized acorns from a nearby oak tree were dropping like flies, threatening to crack the already broken glass roof even more. It was also entirely too shaded now to function as greenhouse anymore; too many maples and the big oak had grown up around it.
Still, I’d once had thoughts of getting it working again, so it was both a pleasure and pain to see it go.
Then for two days an excavator dug a four-foot trench for the frost wall through rock-hard clay and shale. No one could believe how tough the earth was (except me, who has tried to dig in it repeatedly). Rick said he didn’t think anything had been down there since the Ice Age. To prove it he found a giant clamshell at the bottom, along with bowling ball-sized and larger rocks I’m eyeballing to use around the garden.
Last week the concrete truck rumbled in and poured the first layer of the frost wall. Today the second will follow, like baking the layers for a cake. Then a concrete slab will top it all off (the icing). With a slab foundation chipmunks won’t go burrowing their way in like they do in other areas ( the crawlspace under the kitchen), and I’m really looking forward to them not getting into at least one part of the house.
I’ve done a few home remodels (and will do more, I hope) over the years that I turned into rentals, but realized I’d never done an addition before. There is a lot that’s new and more exciting, and some things that are more of a pain: like having to get a permit and routine inspections, and having the yard torn up with piles of dirt and tools scattered everywhere. Saws start buzzing and hammers ring by 7:30 am, typically rain or shine. Already I can hear the music blaring from the stereo of the concrete guys’ Dodge Ram out back.
For someone who isn’t a morning person, I have a hard time imagining how they do it.
But seeing it all get underway keeps me cheerful. So many trees surround the house now making it feel cozy but dark, too, that it will be like a divine revelation to have a space where light shines in freely and openly.
Every night after Rick and the guys leave I go outside and stand in the sunroom’s footprint to watch the sunset. Its not a view I can enjoy from any other room in the house, really. Dreaming of all the sunsets to come, I plan where to put chairs, my houseplants, a desk, space to do yoga, maybe my easel. I already have some garage-sale furniture and other odds and ends piled up in the barn awaiting their new home. It’s become a creative project as much as a spiritual one, one which both my mind and body are eager to wrap themselves up in.
People are already telling me I’ll probably end up living out there, which doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea at this point.
And I think I’m looking forward to the sunroom for my animals as much as for myself. I imagine the kittens basking in the sunshine in the bitter cold of February, and my older cat Ella sprawled out in front of the woodstove. I picture my dog Gordie getting his newly arthritic joints warmed, and my lab Hannah sleeping on yet another couch she’s not supposed to. Lastly I see myself sitting with them all, reading quietly, watching the winter landscape pass us by like a dream.
And who knows? If the chickens plays their cards right, I may even bring them inside now and then to warm up.
By December the sunroom should be finished, just in time for the real winter to begin. I feel very blessed to be able to do something like this, and am grateful so far the work is going smoothly and well. Though the decision to add the sunroom meant sacrificing a couple other projects around the house that might have been more useful (like a garage, for example), I think for myself -for my mental and spiritual health-it will turn out to be the best choice in the long run.
So I say now, until I see my increased tax asssessment for the house next year. But sometimes you have to do those kind of things, choose what you believe will enrich your spirit over what is practical. Life is just too short not to, if you’re able.