Our attic is BIG, roughly 1600 square feet, and rises 1.5 stories above the rest of the house. When we moved in 9 years ago, it was filled with all sorts of stuff. Built-in cabinets and shelving, semi-framed walls, and lots and lots of flies. The space had served as a workshop and storage area for the former owner whose fondness for collecting left it filled to the brim. Wood was everywhere; stacked in piles, propped against surfaces, arranged on the floor. Honestly it was hard to see the forest for all the trees. Here’s what it looked like in 2009.
The Francis Waldo-Daniel Dole House
Labor and Delivery, Dole House Style!
What do you get when you cross a man, a woman, a 250 year old house, and a big green insulation machine? Labor and Delivery, Dole House Style!
Spider Village & Ladybug Land
When I was little I was deathly afraid of spiders. So much so, that when I found a big ugly one on me in the night (circa 1983), I moved into my sister’s bedroom and slept on her floor for a whole month. And no, it wasn’t the least bit comfortable.
As I’ve aged I’ve gotten past the terror a spider can induce. I’ve matured. I’ve come to realize that spiders are small creatures who for the most part mean us no harm. We are the scary big monsters THEY cower in fear from and try to avoid. Part of this is hogwash, I know, part is rationalization. But for the most part it works. I can calmly shoo a spider away when need be – or even catch it gently in a cup, paper pressed against the opening, to escort it outside. I never kill spiders – they have their purpose after all, and I much prefer them to the biting insects they call food.
Anyway, the reason I am sharing this is b/c I spend a goodly portion of each day tending to a fire which consumes vast quantities of wood. I wrote about this whole wood situation before (feel free to refresh your memories here). We keep most of our wood stacked outside, but weekly my husband & I must bring in a new stash for burning. This wood is home to many, many spiders. For safety (and peace of mind) I wear protective leather work gloves while shifting wood, lest I get bitten by a startled arachnid. But I can’t get past the paranoid fear that one day I will encounter a brown recluse and wind up losing an arm.
I know this is paranoia at its best. These little spiders are terrified of me, stomping around in my heavy snow boots, cursing audibly with each heaving wheelbarrow of wood. But it remains so firmly planted in my psyche that any time I get a tiny unexplained cut on my hand, I watch it the same way an underpaid office worker watches the clock. I check it 60 times an hour, just waiting for it to change. IS IT GETTING BIGGER?? IT’S LOOKING BIGGER!! IS IT BUBBLING??!!
All of this is nonsense, of course. I scratched my hand sweeping up debris from the floor, or caught it on [insert whatever it was] but the fear remains. It doesn’t help that all this firewood we haul inside is stored in the hearth in our kitchen. The room in which I spend most of my time. And now that this firewood is stacked inside the warm & pleasant walls of our heated home, the formerly hibernating army of spiders living inside said wood is now WAKING UP. And converting my kitchen into their Spider Village.
In the changing light you see them. The vast network of spiderwebs dangling above our heads, crisscrossing the room from the windows to the doors. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been standing at the island, chopping or kneading or simply going about my business, only to look up and find a spider dangling inches from my face. Looking at me as if to say, “What’s for Dinner?”
For the most part I don’t mind living amongst so many many-leggeds. Sure a few of them are HUGE (we’re talking inches) but for the most part they’re very small. And they do in fact seem to be helping us with the bugs. Not that you’d expect a home in the dead winter of Maine to have an insect issue, but for some odd reason we do have them. Not gross ones, no cockroaches or big scary beetles or anything. No, we have ladybugs.
We noticed them right after we moved in. It was hard not to, seeing as they’d taken over our attic. At some point in the course of The Dole House’s long and illustrious history, these ladybugs took up residence and now, 600 generations later, we’re still sheltering their kin. It was odd at first, finding we had so much company. But over the past (almost) 18 months, we’ve gotten used to each other. We no longer think it strange, the small piles of expired ladybugs trapped between the window frames and storms. The ladybug corpses littering the window sills (which must be dusted periodically) or the occasional ladybug you find clutching onto a curtain. For some reason, our younger daughter’s bedroom seems to be the ladybugs favorite room in the house. Ladybug Land. Our little girl spends her nights counting the tiny red dots on her ceiling, watching them weave their way from point to point. They’re sweet really. Perhaps if you look carefully you’ll find another world living inside your home, too.
The writing’s on the wall.
Today we’re going to continue the wall theme — w/ a tribute to Dole House graffiti. A mixture of old & new.
Upstairs in the attic, scrawled on the chimney plaster. And on the attic beams.
Downstairs in the keeping room.
And in the kitchen.
Downstairs in the basement there are signs.
And yesterday – in addition to the dead rodent, I found writing behind the wall.
The Mystery Flue.
One of the most striking things about our new (olde) house is its original heating system. Not oil, not gas, but CHIMNEYS! Downstairs in the basement you can see the bottom arches of these massive brick structures, rising from the ground like roman aqueducts. Impressive in scale and beautiful in form and function. This Book speaks at length about colonial chimneys and is a great read for anyone interested in the subject.