Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert has opened up about living on a budget and her fixer-upper in the Catskills, saying the cabin was filled with rotting deer heads, porn, and holy water when she moved in.
The actress, 58, and her third husband, actor Timothy Busfield, 64, bought the 14-acre property in upstate New York in 2018 for $98,000 and spent about a year renovating it.
‘Tim found this place on Zillow, and it looked cute in the pictures and the price was certainly right,’ she told Next Avenue. ‘We went to take a look at it. From the outside the house looked like it was carrying a lot of weight. Not literally sagging; it seemed like it was sort of sad.’
Melissa Gilbert, 58, and her third husband, Timothy Busfield, 64, bought their 14-acre property in the Catskill mounts in upstate New York in 2018 for $98,000
The actress told Next Avenue that the ‘house looked like it was carrying a lot of weight’ and ‘seemed like it was sort of sad’ when they first toured it
Inside, the seasonal hunting cabin was a dilapidated mess with a terrible smell.
‘When we walked in the front door — I’ve smelled musty places, [but] I’ve never smelled anything like the smell that came from this house. It was overwhelming,’ she recalled.
The cabin was also full of belongings from the previous owners that they had to clean out themselves before moving in.
‘There were boxes of cereal in the pantry, shampoo and bars of soap in the shower, and rotting deer heads on the walls. Every corner had something in it,’ she explained.
‘Bottles of holy water everywhere, which I don’t know if I want to understand. Then in tearing it down and moving things around, we found porn, we found hidden bottles of booze — of course, to go with the holy water. Gotta have balance!
The home was filled with belongings from the previous owners that they had to clean out before moving in, including rotting deer heads
Gilbert explained that they also found hidden bottles of booze, porn, and holy water scattered throughout the house
‘But through all of that, Tim and I were grinning the whole time because the more we stood in that musty, stinky, crowded place, the more I started to see past all of that stuff, and to see that this place had the potential for being something incredibly special.’
After cleaning out the home and scrubbing it down, they put in a boiler, a propane tank, and all new plumbing. They were ready to move in by Christmas 2019, which she noted was just ‘in the nick of time.’
They spent the height of the COVID-19 pandemic locked down in their new rural home, where they keep chickens and a garden.
The space is filled with personal touches, including the old couch and loveseat that they refurbished with burgundy slipcovers, Gilbert and Busfield told The New York Times.
They built floating shelves out of recycled bowling alley wood and sprayed a piece of tin roofing with vinegar to give a unique look before they mounted the piece in the kitchen and hung their collection of cast iron pans.
Gilbert said they could see ‘this place had the potential for being something incredibly special’
After cleaning out the home and scrubbing it down, they put in a boiler, a propane tank, and all new plumbing
The star (pictured with her son) spent about a year renovating the dilapidated property before she and Busfield moved into the home in late 2019
The couple also hung up family photos and a 1960s puzzle they did together and framed.
Now the actress spends her days cleaning out the chicken coop, building window boxes with her husband until dinnertime, and tending to her garden, where she grows strawberries.
She’s relearning her love for nature, which she briefly got to experience on the Little House set as a child.
Gilbert wrote about her life with Busfield and their move to the Catskills mountains in her new memoir, Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade, A Life Rediscovered, which was published earlier this month.
She also opened up about their finances in the book, explaining that they aren’t as wealthy as people assume them to be.
Gilbert and Busfield spent the height of the COVID-19 pandemic locked down in their newly renovated rural home
Gilbert is relearning her love for nature, which she briefly got to experience on the Little House set as a child
She spends her days cleaning out the chicken coop, building window boxes with her husband until dinnertime, and tending to her garden, where she grows strawberries
Gilbert is best known for her role as Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie, which ran from 1974 to 1983, while Busfield appeared on the series Thirtysomething and The West Wing.
‘We live on a budget like [most] people do. We are gig workers,’ she told Next Avenue. ‘Neither one of us is on a long-running series right now. I was —50 years ago. I don’t know where people think that money’s gone.
‘And the concept the outside world has of what residuals are is just so far from the reality,’ she added. ‘I mean, I just got a check for 20 cents. The stamp costs more! I’m not poo-pooing my experience on Little House on the Prairie, but that salary is long gone.’
Gilbert, who grew up in Los Angeles, explained that they live job-to-job and have bills to pay. She can no longer waste her money on frivolous things.
Gilbert wrote about her life with Busfield and their move to the Catskills mountains in her new memoir, Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade, A Life Rediscovered
Gilbert (left) and Busfield (right) are enjoying living the simple life in the Catskills after leaving Hollywood behind
Gilbert’s rustic cabin is far cry from her $1.19 million home in Los Angeles (pictured), which featured a large backyard pool
She has two children, a son Dakota Brinkman, 33, with her first husband, Bo Brinkman, and a son Michael Boxleitner, 26, with her second husband, Bruce Boxleitne.
‘We have college loans to pay off and an ex-wife on his side and taxes,’ she said. ‘We have to be realistic, like everybody else does.
‘It’s different from what I was accustomed to for a good chunk of my life, where I was reckless in my spending habits, because the assumption was that it would never go away, and then it started to go away.
‘I have learned to be very mindful of my expenses and to prioritize what really matters. I thought I was doing that and then the pandemic hit, and then I realized what really matters. And it isn’t shoes.’
Gilbert, who had three nose jobs by the age of 20, also explained how living a simple life in the Catskills helped her ditch Hollywood expectations for the freedom of being in her own skin.
Gilbert (far left) played Laura Ingalls on the hit NBC television series Little House on the Prairie, which aired from 1974 to 1983
Gilbert noted that she and Busfield are both gig workers and have to live on a budget, saying her Little House on the Prairie money is ‘long gone’
Moving to the Catskills has also helped Gilbeert ditch Hollywood expectations for the freedom of being in her own skin. ‘I’ve got too much to do to worry about this line here,’ she said
‘Fighting a natural process is exhausting. The appointments and the working out and the skin care takes up too much time,’ she said. ‘I’ve got too much to do to worry about this line here and rubbing this lotion there.
‘Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t take care of myself or my skin. I do. But not with a goal of stopping time, just with the goal of nourishing and embracing what I have.’
After years in Hollywood, she said she is finally ‘at this gleeful aging place.’
‘Yeah, I have bad days where I look in the mirror and go, “Blech! What happened?” But I wouldn’t change any of it,’ she insisted. ‘I love being a Nana. I love that my children are competent, compassionate, loving, funny, talented people.
‘I’m married to a man who loves me no matter what,’ she added. ‘So, I’m good. I don’t need any other validation from anywhere else.’