Home Restoration–Phase II

Our house in 1938. That's a chicken coop in the back, and a whooping cough quarantine sign on the door.
Our house in 1938. That's a chicken coop in the back, and a whooping cough quarantine sign on the door.

We live in a West Seattle farmhouse that was built in the 1920s.  Over the decades the fruit orchards that surrounded it were removed and replaced with houses—most of them in the 1940s, some in the 70s.  The interior suffered many bad remodels, and was restored a couple of years ago by the previous owner, just before we moved in.  He lovingly scraped away layers of paint to reveal the original grain in the thick molding of local Douglas fir.  Glued-down linoleum was peeled back, and the floors beneath it—more fir—were sanded and oiled.  The kitchen was gutted and replaced, and the exterior was painted a pleasing shade of green.

We are grateful for all this work, as none of it sounds very fun to us.  Turning to the kind of work that better suits us, we have ourselves embarked on what I like to think of as Restoration—Phase II. According to Eric Partridge’s etymological dictionary (one of my most treasured tomes), the word restore evolved from the Latin restaurare, meaning to give back something either lost or removed. How lovely!  So in that spirit we are returning a chicken coop to the back yard of this home that once produced so much food and sweet fruit.  A plum tree has been added, an Asian pear, and two little columnar apples.  A sweetgum was replaced with an apricot tree (the sweetgum went to a good home).  We’re expanding the vegetable garden, and adding cold frames for the Seattle spring.   Meanwhile, as I enjoy my  favorite pastimes–baking, knitting, sewing–I think of the women that inhabited this home in the depression years, and over the last century.

So often we think of restoration as an aesthetic endeavor, but expansively it can be so much more.  We can remember that even our small yards constitute “land,” and begin to give back to this land its “lost” innate fertility.

Many cities have archived photos of historical homes–contact your city clerk’s office for info.  In Seattle, search our city’s historical home census online.


  1. Emily

    I would love to do this at our house too, since our de-fruit-tree-ification took place in the time since we bought our house a few years ago. The original 9,000 square-foot lot had been short-platted before we bought the half that held our house, and most of the fruit trees (apple, plum) were on the other half that is now another house surrounded by wood chips and bad landscaping. We still have a fig tree but this year I’m hoping we can spend some time planning to bring some productivity back to our yard. Will look forward to pics of the chickens. 🙂

  2. lyanda

    Thanks Emily! You guys have such a great place for fruit trees. Check out Raintree Nursery–they have an informative catalog and lovely bare root trees for our “zone,” with a super-reasonable delivery fee.

  3. David Ruggiero

    It’s not often in life that one is granted undeniable evidence that they made the right choice.

    gratefully /dr/

    PS And you still need to come over and see _our_ chickens! Since Mud Bay is gouging us on feed prices (up to $20/bag now, from $11 last year) we’re thinking of starting an urban feed co-op. Let us know when you want to join in.

  4. Não sou muito de fazer comentários, só curtir mesmo mas
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    muuuito reconhecimento!Também moro no RJ, espero um dia esbarrar
    com você por aí hahaha beijo, lindaaa!

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