To DIY or not to DIY…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the yourself part of DIY.1

When we moved into the house I had grand images in my head2 of us doing all the work going forward, little by little, turning to YouTube, WikiHow, and Red Green to learn all the new skills we would need, and becoming masters in everything – from roofing to flooring to landscaping, and all the details in between.

a picture of the character red green sitting in a home made open air living-room boat, constructed primarily using duct tape
An inspiration to us all

Obviously this is not always how the last 2 years have played out,3 but overall my cheap has pretty consistently won out over my lazy. Recently though, I have found myself getting more and more:

  1. impatient
  2. unsure of my abilities
  3. really impatient

Add the fact that we have been really lucky and have steadily built a reliable list of specialists that we trust4, and I’ve noticed a marked increase over the past year in what I’m willing to outsource to a professional.

We already decided that we will have a properly trained mason come in and rebuild the chimney at some point5, but the prompting of this post was when I opted to pay a pro to come in and install my replacement pressure tank.

IT REALLY WASN’T THAT COMPLEX OF A PROJECT, AND I KNEW THAT!!!6

But still – lazy (or lack of self-confidence… or some combo of the two) won the day and I called on Nick7 to come do it for me. It didn’t even save me time8, since I hovered around in case he needed an extra set of hands. To a lesser extent, I have (over the past 14+ years) let Sergiu do all sorts of stuff that I am completely competent and able to do, because it is easier to just let him do it.9

Clear Eater Pump and Water Conditioning LLC logo

Long story short, I was thinking about my DIY dreams and why it has been so hard (some days) for me to start on a job – even when I know I have the physical and mental abilities to get it done.

With the pressure tank, the answer is pretty straightforward: it’s a super important piece of equipment, which, if left unfixed or fixed incorrectly, would lead to a much more expensive project in the too-near future. And, I happen to know a well-pump specialist who is not only incredibly good at his work, but is actually a truly interesting, friendly, intelligent, and nice guy. We all really love Nick10, his rates are completely fair, and by having him replace the pressure tank I know that it will be done right.

This particular instance is not mysterious. But that laziness is in me, and knowing so many high-quality people and professionals keep tipping the scale away from DIYing, more and more.

I’ve been trying to ‘take back’ some of my projects – to put my ‘get things done’ mental defects to better use and to actually do some of the things I keep whining never getting done. Here are some of the results (not in chronological order!!!):

  • I cleared most of the usable (but old) wood out of the courtyard and loaded it up onto the wood rack
a blue wood rack, partially filled with wood, with a large - very heavy - blue tarp half draped over the bottom half.
I don’t have an after-picture… There is a lot more old-but-reusable wood on there now
  • The kids and I installed fence posts and a few panels to expand the goats’ pasture a little bit – but really this project is thanks entirely to our awesome neighbors who secured us permission to move the temporary fence closer to the road so the goats could clear out all that overgrowth that has gone unchecked for years
  • (With Sergiu) pulled the giant tarp up and over the wood rack behind the garage
a wood rack more fully covered by a large, heavy wood rack
Fine! It’s not totally done. We have to straighten it out and pull it a little more up in the front/down in the back. But it was brutal and we’re tired.
The matching blue is a happy coincidence.
  • Planted a bunch of old bulbs (1 year? 2 years old? Not sure) and new roots in the various flower beds11
  • Built the palace of chain-link fowl-coops for the 4 chickens and 1 peacock we adopted (yeah yeah, Sergiu helped with this one, too – but I did at least half the work!)
  • Built a stone-wall raised bed in front of the porch and planted the asparagus that I’ve been wanting to plant for 2 years (which I already mentioned, but this list seemed a little short and the asparagus actually survived [so far] so I figured I’d add it in anyway)
a small asparagus sprout with a rock in the background
Two more years and you’re all mine, delicious asparagus!

Also, thanks entirely to my lifelong bff Liz, the garden beds are mostly ready for planting or have been planted now. But she is entirely to thank for that, so it can’t be included on the me-me-me list above.

my hillside tiered garden beds that have been tilled and/or planted
Garden Sorrel” is my newest arch-enemy.

And in writing this up, it suddenly hits me just how pathetic this list is; makes me feel a lot worse about my past few weeks/months. Still, I’m proud of the few things we actually got done, and the quality/success with which we completed each of them (even the ugly ones, dammit!).

But there are several (achievable, I think) things I really want to get done (soon) – whether it is Sergiu or me (or both) who is doing it, I want us to do them. And that list is a little longer (and way more complex) than the list of very minor things I actually did:

  • Finish clearing out all the garbage from the courtyard area and make it not look like a junkyard
  • Plaster/patch Westley’s future room (this one is Sergiu’s)
  • Restore the windows in Westley’s future room (this one is mine, sadly…)
  • Replace the awful rough-pine trim and door frame with the original (restored) trim and frames that have been stored on the first floor since we bought the house (probably both of us)
  • Clear out the future-library (this is a ridiculously massive undertaking – I’ll probably need Liz to come back to make it more fun!) so Sergiu can patch, plaster, paint, and install my beautiful bookshelves (this should be like 5 or more separate bullet points)
  • Finish finishing the steeple – install the lights, skim-coat the walls, and install my beautiful (imagined) reclaimed angled shelves built into the crevices within the space
  • Remove the stained glass windows and get them to someone who can repair them (I’ll DIY the removal, but I absolutely will not be attempting to restore 150 year old stained glass leading)
  • Build a little pathway (material and design tbd) down in the gully and build (or buy?) an arched trellis to serve as a portal between our and our lovely neighbors’ property
  • Also, way more gardening and landscaping maintenance tasks that eat up WAY too much of our time, but honestly are usually pretty satisfying and enjoyable
me, holding a bottle of my favorite US-available wine (Chateau Pech -Latt, Corbieres region) and contemplating my options.

Ultimately, the sparseness of the first list and complexity and length of the second will have one of three effects: I’ll get motivated and do more stuff, I’ll get demotivated and pay other people to do more stuff, or frustration and indecision will mess with my sleep over the next few weeks/months and nothing will get done.12

What to do… what to do…

1 Why yes, Virginia, I am that self-centered and egoistical. This is post is all about me.
2 Shocker, right?
3 The first septic pipe repair, the driveway, setting up the wood rack…other stuff….

4 Nick from Clearwater Pump, KC (or Casey) from Bayside Construction for just about any contracting question, Dave Thompson for all our gravel et al needs, Brian Whalen for heavy equipment stuff, Eli for our masonry, and I’m sure loads more that my brain isn’t pulling up right now. Feel free to reach out for their contact info if you are in eastern NY and need some help with anything!
5 Probably should get on that…
6 This is NOT to downplay the high-quality work that Nick does, or to imply that this work does not require great skill or expertise. This particular job I’m confident that I could have figured it out, but it would have taken me all day and I easily could have screwed it up a lot

7 Nick from Clearwater Pump is amazing.
8 It saved me a ton of time. A whole day at least. Nick got it done in a few hours, it would have taken me all day (or, easily, more!)
9 Like raise the kids, feed us, carry things, water the plants… basically anything I don’t feel like doing. I’m not fully to blame – he’s totally an enabler.

10 He’s on the short list to have over for a bbq or other outdoor feast at some point this summer.
11 Also, I redesigned the giant circle flower bed a little bit and it’s awesome.
12 I’m not claiming a diagnosis in any of these things. Just stuff I relate to and empathize with most days.

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