Sunday, August 14, 2022

Some things are NOT worth saving

Last post, I described some things that are worth saving. In this post, I'll describe something that's not.

You might remember a post I put up last September titled "A tree in a million." I described a rare and magnificent American elm towering over an old farmhouse not far away.

For the longest time, I wanted to gather seeds from this magnificent tree, but the property was unoccupied (pending a sale) and I'm not the type to trespass, so I never got any seeds.

Well, the sale of the property went through, and the new owners (who hail from south of Portland) began moving their possessions to the property. Like us, they were moving a small farm as well as a construction business, so there was a lot of trekking back and forth throughout the summer. We met them in passing once or twice and they seemed like delightful folks, but that was about it.

I knew the century-old farmhouse over which the elm tree towered was uninhabitable and needed to be torn down (the new owners were temporarily living in a nearby town). But how uninhabitable was the house, really? I'd heard rumors, but that was it. From one spot on our property, we have an elevated view, and I could see the roof was trashed. This certainly didn't bode well for the inside.

In one of our passing stop-and-chat moments with the wife, I gave her our phone number and asked to see the interior of the house before they tore it down.

Meanwhile, these new owners (and remember, the husband's business is construction) started moving in and stacking up the components necessary to build a "pole barn"-style home. Their plan was to construct the new home on the footprint of the old.

On Saturday, the wife called and invited us over to see the place before they began tearing it down. It was also a pleasant opportunity to get better acquainted with these new neighbors (who are about our age and very nice folks).

Well, the interior of the house was every bit as uninhabitable as the rumors had indicated. There were many places the floor was not safe to walk on. There are two front entrances to the house, and this was the interior view from one of them. The "pit" visible in the center-left is a huge wood cookstove that has crashed through the floorboards below, which had become rotten from the leaking roof above.

I have no idea if the stove itself is salvageable.

Since the kitchen floor was so unsafe, we didn't dare venture into the back rooms behind the stove. I don't know if the new owners had even ventured into them.

Everywhere, the ceiling was in imminent danger of coming down.

We exited the first door and went into the second entryway, with a view of the living room next to the kitchen.

The inside of the home was surprisingly spacious. A hallway led to several back bedrooms. But I'm sure you're seeing the obvious.

Yes, black mold. Chest-high thick black mold throughout the entire bedroom and hallway area. Ewww.

Most of the black mold was lower, but in a few places it was creeping down from the top of the room.

The back rooms were in bad shape too, with chunks of the ceiling coming down and the floors rotting.

A hall closet had been fitted out as a pantry, with some jars of home-canned food still on the shelves. One was dated to the year 2000; a couple others I picked up had no dates.

The new owners had laid some boards across the threshold between the hallway and living room so as not to fall through the floorboards.

This is the back of the house. From this viewpoint, it doesn't look too bad, right? Nothing a little coat of paint couldn't handle.

But the inside of the house tells a far more tragic tale. The new owners have no idea how or why this venerable farmhouse was allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair, but there you go.

At the very least, the new owners got fourteen beautiful acres and a few smaller outbuildings for far less cost than if the house has been habitable. However they have a huge number of complicated tasks ahead of them: knocking down the house, installing a new septic system (the current one is trashed too, apparently), drilling a well (the house ran for a hundred years from a spring), and of course building a home.

As for that American elm tree? Now that I had a chance to see it up close, I was in awe. The truck is at least two feet in diameter and it's absolutely, positively one of the most majestic trees I've ever seen.

Fortunately the new owners agree, and intend to care-take the tree during the development of the property.

So there you go. Sadly, some things are not worth saving. This old farmhouse is one of them.


  1. The former guesthouse on my property was like that. It was built in the 1940s, with no foundation, on just sand. (Beach house.) Yep, the termites got and the roof eventually caved in. I had to completely rebuild it from scratch, but it's pretty nice now. I always prefer to save rather than trash, but some things are beyond saving.

  2. Are you getting seeds to plant?

    1. Yes, although the tree hasn't produced any yet this year. I presume they'll be available in October or so.

      - Patrice

  3. I always think it's sad when old places are left to deteriorate. Glad they are keeping the elm though and that hopefully you've got some good neighbors.

  4. Is any of the wood framing salvageable? If that is an old farm house there might lots of old-growth timber. I'm sure Don would be absolutely over the moon to get his mitts on some of that. I know I would be.