Project Mouse House

If the couple who previously owned our farm suddenly reappeared, they’d find the house they left 8 years ago. Aside from finishing the cellar, we haven’t painted a wall, replaced a drape, a window shade, a square of wallpaper. The little wooden frog they forgot, suspended over the kitchen window, is still airborne — dust covered but ever-present. The only changes in their absence: spidery cracks in the plaster and peeling wall paper.

So you’d think that after 8 years we’d spruce up the place and give it some personal touches.

Nope. We’re renovating the Mouse House.

In its former life, the Mouse House was a milk parlor — a concrete block and tin-roofed structure adjoining the main barn, used for cooling and storing milk (I think. Any dairy farmers out there, correct me if I’m wrong). By all estimates the barn, milk parlor and silo were built around 1920.

By the ’70s with its dairy days behind it, the barn was converted for horses and the parlor stripped of milking equipment and turned into an apartment. By the time we came around, it was a boys’ club, outfitted with a poker table, a few taxidermy-challenged animals, a basket full of shotgun shells and a rusted fridge stocked with ketchup and a case of Bud.

Though the previous owners only used it for poker, it did have its share of full-time residents. Birds nested in the oven and exhaust fan, and rodents bedded down in the walls and rafters. We immediately called it the Mouse House.

In those rookie months of ownership, we were blissfully clueless about the many farm repairs and what they’d cost. We gutted the Mouse House with great gusto and hatched grandiose plans for an apartment with a bedroom addition and a deck.

Then reality set in.

The Mouse House was long-listed behind more pressing projects like installing a new fence, patching the roof on the house, replacing the rotten bilco doors and pie-in-the-sky dreams of central air conditioning. But this spring, the Mouse House project was paroled with Martin’s determination that the building must become his new home office. (I think he’s in search of a new “man cave” ever since I commandeered his office in the cellar. )

The Mouse House is shoe-box tiny so we’re figuring out how to squeeze in a galley kitchen, outfit the bathroom, enlarge the windows and build an affordable deck.

Fortunately, we’re visionaries — or moderately naive. Personally, I see the renovation as a boost in property value. And after years of flipping through real estate flyers and wandering through open houses, I think this lovely dwelling boasts some amenities that would thrill any homeowner, including:

insulation…look how warm we’ll be in the winter

Greenery. Some turn up their noses at poison ivy, but I think house plants breathe life into a room.

Wall decor. Just the other day, I was pondering: what IS the best way to clean an udder?

Look, our first house guest…


What I’m saying here is critters, be warned. You are on notice of eviction. And we’ll have to find a new home for our toxic chemicals, axes, and other hazmats and bludgeoning tools.

It’s difficult to imagine this place rodent-free and sans poison ivy. But who knows, if it winds up as nice as Martin claims it’ll be, I just might have to move in there….

The man, the vision