The first month at Forest House

Edit six months later: Once upon a time, I thought I’d be able to catalog the work we are doing at Forest House, that I could write a weekly list so I didn’t forget all the good and bad. How very naive. I know better now, but left this post here as a reminder of best intentions and hard work.

Everything about Forest House is so soothing – even the drive. From right near Interstate 5, turning left onto what was called Firetrail Road when I was a kid (and was at that time unpaved) has you heading due west up the slopes of several steep rolling hills. You can tell who is a longtime local here by what they call it – 146th is what it says on the map, but those of us who drove it years ago pulling a fishing boat, or in a car full of teens looking for the ghost in the mists at midnight, know it as Firetrail.

Despite its new pavement and housing developments and too many cars going too fast, it seems immediately more rural than it’s proximity to the interstate would make you think. There are glimpses of small lakes and directions to state parks; small farms with hand-painted signs for eggs and happy-looking alpacas behind white rail fences.

Our road approaches fast and is easy to miss – the wide shoulder tells of the many who took the turn too late or too fast for comfort. The road narrows immediately and easily brings to mind the lanes of Ireland, winding and narrow with no lines to keep you on track. That alone is magical, making you slow down and give the off-the-steering-wheel finger-lift or wave to a passing car, each of you halfway on the dirt shoulder. A deep, lush forest remains on your left for most of the drive, filled with big leaf maples, cedars and a few doug fir, all likely over 100 years old. A camping club owns much of the land on the right, and the reminder that others seek weekend refuge here makes me even more grateful that this will be my full-time home soon. The road then dips and turns past an alder grove lit in sliver and green; past a horse farm, past the neighbors we haven’t met, then you are there.

The driveway of Forest House sneaks up on you – and the rainbow pinwheel I placed as a marker gets mysteriously moved around so it may not be visible on any given day. It’s a dirt road, not much more than a wide path, heavy with a tall ceiling of cedar branches and framed in sword fern and cascara. The chainlink fence runs on your left, punctured in a few places from previous fallen trees. This past weekend, we heard another fall, though didn’t realize it was one of ours. The entire forest sighed before the thump like a great foot stamping, the small snaps and swooshing of branches closing like stage curtains at the end. Later, when I discovered it, it was confusing to see – my brain knowing it hadn’t been lying there before, but it looked as if it always had been. Both in and out of place. Only the smashed ferns told the tale.

Forest House lies at the end, newly washed and not so shabby with its new plantings and hum of activity. It you are lucky, you’ll hear the owl (most likely a barred owl), or catch the quick yellow flit of a goldfinch leaving the feeder. Maybe you’ll get buzzed by one of the hummingbirds that are coming to know us. But for sure, you will breathe deep as you step to the door. You will sigh, like I do, shoulders releasing, eyes softening. It is so lush; the silence and damp green a sweep of soft blanket over your soul.

It’s home, for all the mess and hard work. We both love it so.

As if I wasn’t already thrown off by Covid Time and working from home, the days the days are even more run together. The schedule looks something like this:


  • 7:30 drive to Forest House to work
  • 10:00 Leave Forest House to drive to drive to Everett
  • 11:00-6 work (Saturdays we get off at 4:00 so go to FH earlier)
  • 6:30 back to Forest House
  • 10:00 drive back to Everett

Sunday & Monday – At Forest House from 7:30-10pm – lunch of cheese and crackers and dinners are whatever can be heated quickly. We spent $70 on gas last week and I wonder if I should factor gas into my budget?

There are other costs too – my arms are so scratched up from demolition I look like I’ve gotten in a fight with multiple cats, mysterious bruises have appeared and my new gloves made it less than one day before they were blood-stained by something I don’t even remember doing. We both wake with creaking joints – or more creaky than they were before. We’ve both gotten out of shape in the past couple of years -Covid rendered us less enthusiastic about activity and age is creaking in.

But, I also notice that I am getting stronger and have more endurance – both destroyed by the last few years of my second round of cancer and ongoing fibromyalgia. Working hard to get to a specific goal makes everything easier and we both wake early and eager to go.

There’s lots to celebrate including that we filled the 30 year dumpster!

Some of the stuff we did:

  • removed all trim from drywall seams, doorways, walls
  • removed tacks from floor where carpet pad was stapled
  • removed MORE mouse damaged insulation with sho vac
  • trimmed flowering shrubs and started transplanting from home
  • cut trees impeding on new driveway
  • finalized exterior paint colors
  • plumbing fixes in both bathrooms & laundry
  • phase one of excavation started with leveling the back of the property and starting on the garage site
  • took down the antennae, old dish hookup, did some more roof patching
  • removed all bathroom and vanity fixtures
  • planned out, and began, ordering replacement and additional vinyl windows
  • framed in a larger bathroom window
  • removed rotten decking to expose side of house
  • removed all drywall or wood paneling where new windows and/or new electrical boxes will go (most walls)
  • removed kitchen cabinets and wall
  • kitchen cabinet planning and meeting with contractor
  • pressure washed
  • picked more staples out of the floor and studs

Only a few problems:

An ongoing laundry water valve leak created a mold problem in the wall between the kitchen and laundry room so the entire wall – including the pantry – came out. Not in the plan, but easy enough to fix.

Also, the sill* the north kitchen and dining room walls are build on is rotten, as are the bottom foot or so of the wall studs. We had a suspicion as the siding was rotten to the point of having holes and exposing insulation on the outside. This was likely do to a lack of a moisture barrier between the deck and the walls and a constantly overflowing gutter (filled with leaves)splashing a lot of water onto the siding.

*the sill is the long board that the 2X6 studs that frame in our wall are attached too. The sill is attached to the subfloor and sheet rock is attached to the 2X6’s to make the wall.

We removed the cabinets, sheetrock and insulation, knocked out the wall and nailed up a temporary wall until we can get to it. The fix is to build another wall and tilt it into place alongside the existing damaged wall to provide support/become the new wall. There will be new vapor barrier and new siding, new insulation and sheetrock. Not hard to do – and not unexpected, but it’d easily be intimidating if you didn’t understand how a house was built. It was exciting to see it come down – this wall will eventually have 3 50″ windows above kitchen counters, cooktop and sink so will always be mostly open to the back.

This coming week, the rest of the landscape excavating gets done so I can start planting in the terraces. And put up a deer fence….and…and….and…..

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