The second week of “Phase I” as I call it, the hardcore, make-it-livable part of the “reform” (i.e., renovation) work, wasn’t quite as visually dramatic as the first, but progress was nonetheless made.
The most noteworthy developments involve the former genkan passageway-future dining room and former stable-future annex bedroom, each of which had some water damage to their respective ceilings. Once those were removed I began to think how much nicer each of those rooms might look with the high ceilings retained, especially as they exposed additional long ceiling beams running the length of the house.
My pal Jeff Flugel paid a visit to the Hanase minka for the first time, and while he was there we tried climbing the long ladder in the doma 18 feet up to the small sliding door that leads to the loft area. But even stalwart Jeff confessed to being a little nervous so high up, and having to squirm into the tiny space up there.
But a long piece of floor bracing, leaning against the futon closet in the bedroom annex got me thinking: Why not put a much shorter ladder to the loft right there? The climb up into the loft would be a much less daunting seven feet instead of eighteen. Further, a simple collapsable step-stair of the sort associated with attics could be hidden out of sight in the futon closet.
Big, strapping Masutani-san – he must be around six feet, five inches tall – continued his work with the flooring, adding insulation between the original beams before nailing the flat wood base that will rest under the hardwood flooring, and full sheets of insulation where the tatami rooms will be. For much of this, he used a red laser to reposition and ensure a completely level floor. What would the original builders in 1810 have made of such a device?
Meanwhile, I did what little I could to save the crew a little time and trouble. Monday was a national holiday so Yukiyo, Sadie and I drove over to barbecue. Later in the week, I cleared several hundred pounds of muck that had through the years been building up behind the house, almost all of which consisted of endless rocks, roots, muck and mire. Soon after I began work on a multi-stepped gravel pathway, an intended shortcut for the crew (and, later, us) from the secondary parking directly to the doma, but my efforts were so pathetic I’m not ready to post any images just yet.
We also made a final decision about which stove company to hire for the purchase and installation of our wood-burning stove. It was an agonizing decision. We got three estimates, and each company a) came up with a plan completely different from the other two, and b) insisted the other two plans were totally unsafe. We went with the plan that made the most logical sense in terms of safety and, naturally, it was also the most expensive.
We also found a place to send our two dogs, Maisie (a 15-year-old Papillion) and Edie (a six-year-old Boston Terrier), to for a little remedial education. Much as we really want them to be able to run around the area without a leash and have the time of their lives, Edie particularly is so stupid it’s easy to imagine her running off merrily into the mountains, never to be seen again, or Maisie latching onto a snake that turned out to be poisonous.
Each day on my way to Hanase I’d pass a dog-training center, and finally we stopped by and said hello. Turns out the owner-trainer, Fujii-san, knew exactly where we lived in town from my annual Halloween Haunted House shows. And it turned out he’s training a German Shepherd two blocks away and also trained Oscar, the dog that lived in our house in town before we did. Small world, this.
The real fun came on Sunday. With most of the house’s interior looking like the inside of a Brontosaurus skeleton, I thought it would be fun to take Yukiyo and Sadie out exploring the countryside near our minka in the mountains. First we stopped by a big summer festival at the public campgrounds about five minutes from our minka. Farmers brought produce from at least three local communities: Hanase, Hirogawara, and Momoi, and we feasted on grilled ears of corn, and Yukiyo and Sadie enjoyed some barbecued squid. My American eyes latched onto a booth selling burgers but it was only after I ordered, “Hitotsu, onegaishimasu!” (“One, please”) that I was to be given a choice: wild boar or deer. I opted for the wild boar, and I must admit it was the best burger of any type I’d had in a long while.
Later, we drove through the mountains past some really spectacular scenery to Miyama, a medium-sized town to the northwest famous for its little sub-hamlet of restored straw-thatched minka. During the long drive back into Kyoto both Sadie and Yukiyo, as they always do, fell into a deep sleep. Must be all that fresh air.