To celebrate our upcoming first wedding anniversary, K took some time off so we could go do fun stuff. Because the amount of disposable income we have is pathetically small (and the number of items still on our fixer-upper “to do” list is frighteningly large), we decided to keep the fun stuff local—very local, on many days, to the point of staycation. I am happy with this. Even though I work mostly at home already, I have no problem with doing my relaxing here as well. I wouldn’t go so far as to say my wanderlust days are a thing of the past, but I guess I’m at the point where I realize the grass isn’t always greener in a place that requires you to bring your passport. Being able to travel places is largely a matter of privilege; being a traveler, in the sense of being open to new experiences and willing to try new things, is largely a state of mind.
What’s more, there’s little need to travel to a far-flung land when your staycation coincides with a particularly ugly heatwave and you live in a decrepit old farmhouse with no A/C.
We turned on all the ceiling fans. They listlessly churned the hot air, turning the house into a giant convection oven. We opened all the windows, then closed some of them because not all of them had screens to keep out the bugs. We got out the portable A/C from our camper and set it up in the smallest room in the house, since it wasn’t very powerful. We put the dog in that room, went out and purchased another inexpensive window A/C and put it in our macaw room. That’s right, we gave the animals the A/C. The dog is very old and, after all, has to deal with this heat wearing a fur coat, while the macaws are fairly high maintenance in general and, after all, are wearing down jackets. K and I are middle-aged, mid-to-low maintenance on most days, and could walk around wearing very little, because if you have to live in an old farmhouse with no A/C, at least it’s out in the country where nobody can see you wandering around in your underwear and a sports bra stuffed with ice cubes.
Hot weather makes you not want to do anything, so of course we did everything. Our kitchen sink needed fixing, so K removed it. Then while it was removed we decided we might as well do our countertops in the bargain. We wanted to make concrete countertops, just because it was really cheap and went with the rustic look of the place (but mostly because it was really cheap), but even the streamlined process to make them required several layers of concrete, each of which had to be applied, smoothed, dried, and sanded before adding the next, after which point there would be sealant and waxing to do, all of which meant several days without a kitchen sink or usable countertops. We piled all our small appliances on top of the microwave so they could be plugged in and we carried our dirty dishes to the bathroom to be washed. As we’ve been saying since we moved here, it’s just like camping—but weirder.
When working indoors got too unbearable, we went outside, where it was equally scorching but at least we could get the occasional breeze, along with sunburn and bug bites. We put up a large canopy for our chickens so they could get a little more shade; they clustered under it with their beaks wide open, panting just like the dog, yet still running crazily through the heat whenever they saw me at the gate in hopes that I’d come bearing dried mealworms. K mowed the lawn, never a fun thing to do when it’s hot, even with a riding mower, because the reason we have a riding mower is our “lawn” is four acres. I meanwhile picked mulberries. We have mulberry trees that are bursting with fruit, most of which end up fermenting on the ground in big tarry piles. After I picked berries, the bottoms of my shoes would be caked with mulberry muck, which I’d then have to peel off like some icky, shoe-shaped Fruit Roll-up. When you have gallons of mulberries and it’s really hot and you’re on a staycation, naturally you turn on the stove and the oven and start Googling for recipes, because if you’re going to sweat yourself to death, you might as well have pancakes with homemade syrup as your last meal.
Oh, we did get out of our own zip code a few times during the week, to run and kayak and eat lots of food. We went back to the place where we had our first date as well as the place that catered our wedding picnic. We even went to a theater to see a relatively new movie, a rare occurrence for us, and decided that two hours in a cool, dark room watching Wonder Woman kicking ass all over the screen was well worth the loan we had to take out to afford the tickets and snacks. The country folks had a big night out on the town, by golly.
Some travelers note that you never appreciate how good you have it until you go somewhere that doesn’t have the kind of luxuries you take for granted. Others will observe that you never realize how easily you can get along without these things until you’re forced to. (Still others will say screw all that, I’m staying at a luxury resort where they fold the towels into animal shapes and the only thing I have to give up is my fear of being judged for eating three desserts.) Even though we mostly stayed home this week, it did feel a bit like we had traveled—but to another time rather than another place, back to a time before climate-controlled rooms and, given the number of times we lost satellite and internet due to storms, before we stared at screens all day. I can’t quite simplistically conclude that I appreciate “modern conveniences” more now, since I never didn’t appreciate them, or that I can easily and happily do without them—oh hell no; there’s a reason A/C was invented, and I never want to hear anyone say “everything but the kitchen sink” because kitchen sinks are pretty damned important. But I also can’t say I wish we’d gone to a luxury resort, because I don’t. This was a good week, and a very good year, for better and worse, in hot rooms and in kayaks, with mulberries and mowers and macaws.