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Today we have counter tops and floors. The counter tops are made from the pine flooring we have had for several weeks and the flooring de jour was vinyl plank made to look like old pine.

They were both fake. The pine flooring throughout the house is far from fake. Without the  finish on it we are all walking softly. There is red resin paper taped over the floor using blue painters tape. We are all worried about dirt, wood detritus from cutting and any manner of things. One of the dogs got into the house and bounded by us with great joy to see the house her daddy was building for us. Her foot prints go from floor to floor. Everyone working at the house was worried. I laughed and said the floor would have some character hoping that we could stand it out.

Then  I dropped a drill on the floor. Thankfully it was one of those electric ones that are lightweight. Some of them weigh a ton. Mine only weighted a half a ton. The bit stopped turning before it hit the floor but the round handle left a beautiful quarter moon pattern on the kitchen floor. I don’t think I will try to sand that one out. It has a story to tell. The dog feet do also but I will remember that one and tell it without the graphics. The floor, with its acquired history is worth more to us than it would be pristine.

The floors attended to, the kitchen counters are currently a crisis. Our kitchen budget is several constrained by choice. All of my counters were unpainted bottom feeders that I constructed a bit more and painted. They look good. They are more valuable than they cost. I had found nice thick granite left over from a hotel job and thought we could use the pieces like great big tiles. Unfortunately they are uneven in size and they have chips and fault lines. I don’t want to go to a laminate after all of the work we have done but we are flat out of money. The house has ended up costing a lot more than we planned when we commenced to build it.

We are not over budget, per se, since we were building a replacement house using the insurance money. With the replacement money tucked into our checking house checking account, we came here planning to pay cash for a house. Then we found out how much houses cost here. Housing costs in Pocatello, where our house was consumed by the hungry fire, was about 20% under the average cost of houses compared to the U.S. It was the intersection of two major freeways so building supplies and other things just naturally flowed there. Up here in the North, where the closest interstate is150 miles, it is hard to getting delivered so it cost more. We wanted to use regionally sourced things but even they had to contend with narrow and in our case, winter roads. Our log stairs were weeks delayed by a series of winter storms. Shipping crises and all we decided along the way that we wanted our insurance money in the wood of the house more than in the furniture which stood upon it. We are happy with our decision and our mortgage payment are smaller than what we had before which was quite small already.

When we were building our replacement house on the land where it had burned we had no land costs. Here we fell in love with a small parcel of land that needed everything from bringing in electricity to a well to road and a lot of careful grading to meet County septic tanks regulations. When we were through with the land we had spent close to what our old house had appraised for prior to the fire. When the fire came our insurance company paid for what it would pay to replace the house, not its appraised value. That we brought to Northwest Montana.

We also brought the majority of the money we had been given to replace our personal possessions. We replaced a lot of things, mostly clothes and kitchen and antique dishes I found piece by piece on ebay. We have some furniture including replacement desks that are nearly the sane and perhaps a little better than the ones the fire ate. We have desk chairs that are not so nice as what we had. In the kitchen we decided less was more. When we started buying the fewer but nicer quality kitchen stuff I found out just how much more was compared to less. I could have had 5 cutting boards for the cost of my large Boos board. Still, I would not have liked the 5 as much as the one.

We have some furniture. For some reason we have chairs. A lot of chairs. If you count all of them from camping to antique dining chairs we can seat 30 people. We even have two beds now, one for us and one for people who come to see how we are. We have a strong functional dining room table that was cheap and i not perfect but it is more valuable than it cost.

The furniture inventory includes a couch and an easy chair, a large and a small table. We have a beautiful narrow chest with birds painted on it. I don’t know where the designers expected it to go, maybe a hall, but it is going to be the buffet in our dining room. Where we are going to put the second one of them is beyond me. In more than one case an item we ordered arrived damaged in some way or the item sent was not what we ordered. Since I have been buying “basement rack sale” things most companies just send us another. I can usually fix the first so we have a pair.

We have a pair of these narrow bird chests. We have two pairs (n=4) of really expensive-bought-on-sale floor lamps. I ordered two, they were delayed in arriving. I called the company. They were able to track them down and for my troubles they sent an extra order. In another case we ordered a tiny pedestal sink to fit into our power room and what arrived was a generously proportioned pedestal for a master bathroom. The company arranged for the incorrectly shipped sink to be shipped back, sent us the one we wanted, and then removed all charges. We have a free sink, two rather expensive ADA shower fixtures with grab bars that were unsuccessful so both companies refunded our money and said not to worry about sending them back. The water-flow part of the sets was truly not functional but the grab bars are great.

We appreciate all of this kindness in company policy. Even so the house is way beyond what we planned to spend. The kitchen counters right now are scraps of pine flooring pieced together to emulate a counter. The floors that got put down have their pattern printed in little tiny pixels on the sheets of vinyl.  Both are encouraging. The vinyl in the bathrooms will stay and finally bathrooms are emerging from the empty rooms with pipes.

Today I realized our fake cabinets and our here-to-stay floors are like our original budget. The pine is nice and it is free off the front porch where the taMan holding half of a 48" log that will become a stair silhouetted against blank dry wall that has been taped but not texturedble saw resides. The vinyl was thoughtfully bought. It is not the cheapest out there but it is a good choice and balance from the function we want it to perform and its cost.

That is the way our house has turned out. Like our floors and kitchen counter tops, it could be fake throughout and thus cheaper. Instead it functions to give us a home that delights us with every turn through its halls and every ceiling and floor. Because people who have helped build the house developed a caring relationship with it and because the wood was produced for our house was installed by the crafts persons who made it, our house is far more valuable than it costs. It is a place where gifted people have shared their gifts with us.