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Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Clean Kitchen is a Sign of a Boring Life

Our house is only ten years old but - hoo boy - you can accumulate a lot of dirt in a farmhouse in a decade.
When I was growing up, my sister and I helped out by vacuuming and dusting on the weekend. Mom cleaned the bathrooms. Once a season or so, the kitchen floor would get washed (she’s going to want to correct this and that’s her prerogative). Every spring, Mom would wash the windows thoroughly. I’m sure myriad other deep cleaning jobs were done, but I was (thankfully) not privy to most of them because I wasn’t home to see them being done. After all, I had a part-time job at Canadian Tire and a social life to keep up.
As a young mom raising a family in the suburbs of Ottawa in the ‘90s, I had a similar housecleaning routine: vacuum, spray, wipe, done. When I was particularly agitated about one thing or another, I would take on bigger cleaning jobs, like washing the floors and windows.
But now I live in a farmhouse. I fear it will never be truly clean.
We keep an old freezer full of various sizes of rubber boots on the back porch so that if anyone wants to venture into the pasture or the barn, they’re covered. The intention is that these boots are meant to remain outside. The boots inevitably find their way indoors, however, in the winter. I find them parked inside the patio door, just to the right of the TV. Thankfully, by that time of year, the snow usually keeps them pretty clean and the mud / manure is frozen too hard to stick.
Coveralls, barn jackets and splash pants (to be worn during the lambing season, for kneeling in all sorts of questionable material) have also been restricted to hooks inside the basement staircase. I continue to find them draped over the back of the couch in the TV room.
Every Sunday without fail, we host a family dinner with an average seating of a dozen people. Our floor needs to be washed, often. The Farmer, having developed his own method for cleaning his hardwood floors, is quite adamant that his way is best. Without going into detail, I will simply say that his way is the long way. The slow way. The labour-intensive way. I am always looking for shortcuts with my cleaning, as with my cooking. The sooner the job is done, the sooner I can get back to writing my story or visiting with my lambs. That doesn’t make me a bad farmwife, does it?
This summer, while my husband was toiling away in the barn building sheep chutes and cattle gates, I took on the daunting task of washing all the windows in the house.
I found what looked like a decade’s worth (but the Farmer assures me it is not) of ladybug shells, spider webs, fly corpses and these crazy little flies that my sister calls “no-see-‘ems” in the window tracks. If you’ve never lived on a farm, then you don’t know dirt. I vacuumed the crud out of the windows and sprayed the frames with boat cleaner.
I borrowed Mom’s pressure washer, and proceeded to spray down the windows. I got halfway through one window when the washer quit on me, never to spray again. Unwilling to give up due to technical difficulties, I hopped in the car and drove to the rental place.
Twenty minutes and twenty dollars later, I was back on the job.
That industrial washer was so strong it took the paint off the side of the doghouse. I was very happy with the end result.
The next morning, I went down to the kitchen and peered out my clear window. Over night, a zillion no-see-‘ems had gathered in my spotless windowsill. Heavy sigh. It’s no use. My windows will never be truly clean.
I have decided it’s the thought that counts. I tackle a small housecleaning job every day, and someone or something comes along and reverses my efforts. I wash the floor, the dog drools all over it. I vacuum the carpet, Annie comes running in with freshly cut grass sticking to her bare feet. My car would stay clean if I could somehow get to work without having to use our potholed, muddy road.
Honestly, my house was cleaner when I was single because I clean when I am stressed. Now that I am happily ensconced in my newlywed farmwife existence, the dust bunnies are softly settling in around me. Ah, life on the farm. I wouldn’t trade it for a spotless zen-urban condo.

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