6.16.2009

The Orchard House

This is a story dedicated to our favorite home thus far in our married life: the Orchard House. When Andrew and I were first married, we were blessed to be able to rent a home from his aunt and uncle. It was a beautiful home they had recently purchased and fixed up. The house was built on a hill, and we had mountain views all around us. You can see some of those views throughout this post. We named it the Orchard House because it was on a small apple orchard with a few peach trees as well. It was built in the 1950s and hadn’t been occupied for the last 20 years. We were excited to be able to live there…and we loved it; especially our many adventures that happened during that first year.

All houses seem to have strange sounds that you have to get used to, and this place was no exception. There was an unfinished basement that we closed off and only used to store boxes or our Christmas decorations. Sometimes I think some of the noises came from the basement…but it was a big open house, so they felt like they came from everywhere. Soon after we moved in, we were informed that there may be some mice in the house, and it might be a good idea to get some cats. Andrew worked with someone who needed to get rid of some kittens, so it worked perfectly. We brought home Frank and Heffe (which means boss in Spanish). They were brother and sister…but looked and acted nothing alike. Heffe was white, and looked a little Siamese; when we brought them home, she was bossy. She would always beat up on Frank. And then they changed, and she became a wimp! It would take her hours to get the courage to go outside. Frank, the black cat, was the smartest cat I’ve ever known! And he was crazy, and would take off outside as soon as we opened the window. He loved sitting in the kitchen sink…and everywhere else. Most of all, Andrew and I loved that their new home was the basement. We loved having them there because from then on, anytime we heard some weird Orchard House noise, we said, “it must be the cats.”

After we had been in the house for a few weeks, my parents came into town and stayed with us. While we gave them a tour of the house, my dad noticed that some water was leaking in the basement around a drain. We also noticed what we thought was mold on the floor. We cleaned it up, and checked on it, but it kept leaking, so Andrew asked a few people from Church to help us with it. Fortunately, they figured out what was wrong. Unfortunately, the problem was not a leak, but a backed up septic tank. His uncle didn’t know where on the property it was located, so we searched for it by pounding rebar into the ground, hoping to hit some metal. We did…but that one was actually an empty septic tank the original owner had installed as a backup. We pulled out the rebar again and searched…for over a week! During this time, we couldn’t use any source of water at all, so we were staying somewhere else, and just working there in the day. Finally, thanks to Andrew, his uncle, dad, and cousin it was found and uncovered. But now we had another problem…we couldn’t get a septic tank company to come to empty it. The driveway was filled with bushes, and they had to drive under some tree branches, and onto the yard, between two large hedges. The septic tank was down the hill from that position, but that was the only way they could get to it. Everyone turned us down, but finally, we got somebody to come. It was a wonderful day! Then, all we had to do was clean up the basement. We didn’t want to take any chances during the clean up process, so luckily Andrew had some weird painting jumpsuits and rubber gloves.
Our next adventure was all my fault. And Home Depot’s. Andrew was on a winning streak for awhile; he won a snow blower at Home Depot (but traded it in for store credit), and then he won a $20 gift card from them as well. We were baking a turkey for dinner that day, and I was boiling the neck meat to make broth for the gravy. I had been simmering it on the stove, and then Home Depot called. We were going to go pick up the gift card, but Andrew decided to call his family first to share the news. I didn’t feel like putting the broth in the fridge, so I turned it up on high to get it nice and warm, and then planned to turn it off, and let it sit out until we got back. Well, his family wasn’t home, so we left right away. And we decided to look around after he got the gift card…so an hour later, we got home.

We were talking in the car, and kept hearing this beeping noise, but we thought it was our neighbors. After a few minutes Andrew realized what it was…the smoke alarm! I left the stove on high the whole time! He went running into the garage, opened up the house, and smoke poured out the door. Then, he ran into that smoke! He turned off the stove, grabbed the pot that was red on the bottom from all the heat, and ran out the other door. I was freaking out, so I followed him; but I forgot to breathe, so I got a mouthful of smoke and then couldn’t stop coughing or crying. There were no flames…only billowing gray smoke. Andrew opened all the windows. I tried to help, but I just kept coughing, and I was not much help. The smoke left quickly, but the smell stayed for awhile. It did finally leave, but we had to clean everything, and air out all our clothes and blankets. My pan was ruined and Andrew had to throw it at the ground to even get the lid off. Our turkey dinner was great…just without gravy.

Because we were on an orchard, we learned about irrigation ditches. Andrew would sometimes take care of it, and open the gate of the ditch for the water to flow into the orchard. Our last Sunday before we moved to Colorado, we went to his family’s house for dinner to say goodbye. We got home at about 10:30 that night and for some reason, I went to the basement to check on Heffe and Frank. Then, I thought I heard some water dripping. We had had some problems with the bathtub dripping, so I thought it was that, but I went down the hall to check. I’m glad I did…because there was water all over the floor. I looked into the back rooms, where there are two window wells that face the irrigation ditch. They were filled up with water! They looked like aquariums, and because the windows were old, they were leaky aquariums…dripping water onto the floor! (Remember, this was an unfinished basement fortunately…that had concrete floors and a drain in one room). I yelled for Andrew, who came running down, and then went running back up to take care of the problem. We were still wearing our clothes from church, and he went outside in his slacks and white shirt. I changed out of my skirt, and then followed.

Now, I have to explain a little background. The irrigation was flood irrigation, and some water wouldn’t make it to the orchard, and would go down a ditch in the yard, about ten feet from the house. We never got too much water flowing through it, but we thought it would be a great way to water the lawn…or at least a small amount of the lawn. So, we created a small dam to try to get the water to build up and flood the lawn. It really only worked one time…barely, but for some reason, that night, the water came with a vengeance, and there was more water than we had ever seen! It wasn’t even our night for irrigation water, so the gate was closed. Back to the story…

The window wells were so full, and there were bushes growing in front of them. Andrew, who doesn’t like spiders, crawled behind them with a bucket, and started scooping water out, and throwing it onto the lawn…which was already pretty wet. This went on for awhile, until finally, they were emptied. Then, we were able to clean up the mess in a dark basement. We were so grateful for that drain in the floor! Finally, at about 1:30 in the morning, we went to bed. A week later…we moved from the beloved Orchard House. Even after all that happened, we loved it and his aunt and uncle still thought we were good renters!

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