On Resourceful Homeowners: True DIY Grit
This Old House editor Scott Omelianuk remembers a loved one who was an independent and intrepid DIYer
Editor Scott Omelianuk
My mother called early Sunday morning to tell me Grandma had passed away. It wasn't unexpected—we'd all seen her one last time the day before—but it was sad nonetheless.
If you've read Letter From This Old House for a while, you may recall a few stories about Olive. About how, well into her white-haired 80s, she would scramble out onto her roof and edge down to the gutter to scoop out leaves. Or how at age 90 she sat on the tailgate of a pickup truck corralling boulders and rolling them off so that my brother and I could use them to outline a gravel walkway.
Turns out, moving a thousand pounds of rock was no big deal for a woman who raised five children in a time before things like dishwashers and disposable diapers and all the other conveniences we so take for granted. She was tough, Olive was. In her 50s she underwent a 14-hour brain surgery to correct an aneurysm, which she shrugged off to take up golf and another four decades of life. She was independent and uncomplaining, too, and she knew stuff. When I wanted to identify a plant in the yard, know how long to cook a roast, or find out what to use to remove a stain, I called her. Up in her sewing room, she could take in a pair of trousers, make a dress, or reupholster furniture. What she was, was competent.
I think that's one of the qualities I admired most about her, and I realized as I looked at the reader remodels in this month's TOH that competence is the outstanding quality so many of you have, too. This issue was supposed to be about saving money, which is why you see me in the photo counting my pennies. And though budget-mindedness is apparent in many stories, your work isn't just about the money. What stands out most to me is how resourceful—and understandably proud of that—you all are. There's Jessica Bruno, whose four-generation family room, keeps everyone happy. There's Nikki and Caleb Grandy, who built their three little boys wall-to-wall bunk beds—with a spare one for sleepover guests. And there's Macksi and Cody Warner, whose kitchen is our cover subject. They not only ripped out the cabinets and installed the shelves but also raised the chickens whose eggs you see on the countertop.
I don't know about you, but in a world in which, more and more, we experience things by eyeballing an LCD screen in a dark room instead of with our hands in the sun, I think such accomplishments are rare and all the more impressive. It gives me hope, somehow. I'd like to think it's the way Olive would have done things, too.