It’s cold and snowing and the wind is blowing; it’s typical January weather for this part of my state.

Once the outside chores are done, chickens other critters fed (barn cats and the dog), I head for the house and start ‘digging in’. This is the time of year for me to sort through and toss unneeded ‘stuff’. I like to watch the ‘fix-it-up’ television shows while I do this chore, mostly to get some ideas for what I can do here in my home on a limited budget–even though their idea and my idea of a very small budget are worlds apart.

The show that intrigues me most is the one where people spend months restoring and fixing up older homes that are prime targets for a bulldozer and the dump. These are some serious fixer-uppers.

Typically, when the buyer finally gets to walk in the door, the places have been trashed by people who either lived there or broke into and vandalized. There is all kinds of garbage everywhere; holes in the walls, windows broken, appliances missing or destroyed.

The vandalism can be pretty awful–I don’t know if I would ever be able to tackle some of the jobs these folks take on. One home had the kitchen sink destroyed and the two bathrooms were so damaged, I wondered if they could even be repaired. The people who destroyed that home had taken big hammers to the walls and beaten the beautiful carved fireplace mantle into sticks and did some serious damage to the hardwood bookshelves on either side of the fireplace. This particular vandal had even taken the time and hassle to mix up bags of ‘quick cement’ and poured the liquid into the bathtubs, sinks and the toilets!

The folks who restore these older homes are very careful with their money, shopping garage sales, second-hand plumbing dealers and re-use stores for items they use, such as the beautiful claw foot bathtubs and older radiators still in working order.  Used flooring boards to restore the damages in some of the rooms can also be found at these re-use stores. Older kitchen cabinets are often repurposed.

I cannot imagine the number of hours it take to restore these older homes, but they are lovely once finished. The outside siding is painted or restored and windows are replaced as needed. Inside, the walls are painted and the floors sanded, stained and refinished to its former glory. The home is once again ready to be lived in and loved.

They spend time restoring the yard as well, planting grass and flowers and putting up fences for privacy and for boundary reasons. These folks don’t want people wandering through the flower beds, tossing food wrappers on the front lawn or letting their critters ‘do their business’ on newly planted grass.

Several of the other ‘fix-it’ shows have some very good ideas as well, but sometimes there are things about them that bother me a bit. I realize this is television and there are time constraints, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why those involved do not donate discarded cabinets and countertops to groups and organizations that retrofit homes for families that cannot afford to buy ‘all new’. I grew up and come from an area where the kitchen cupboards were old wooden apple boxes nailed to a wall with a piece of a flour sack tacked to the front–that was the ‘door’! Some of the homes here still contain rooms that were once a ‘homestead shack’ and the whole family lived in just that one room!

As I said, it’s hard to watch a crew take those big sledge hammers and smash up perfectly good cabinets and counter tops. Why not remove them and repurpose them for storage in garages and storage sheds? Lots of farmers and ranchers in my area have rehabbed old kitchen cupboards for use in their farm shops. They hold tools and supplies where you can find them–and, most of the time the rejects are free because folks just want them out of the house!

At any rate, these shows are fun to watch. I just might tackle my own kitchen cupboards and even repaint them. After 30 years of brown, I’m ready for a change.

Have a great New Year, and think ‘recycle’ when and where you can!

Till next month, Paula


by Paula Vogelgesang | Paula Vogelgesang is the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", and is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory. Email her at [email protected].  Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond.