Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

We like our porch. It’s a great place to sit and relax. Sadly, it also has a view of what we have called, variously, the carriage house (which sounds too snooty), the out building (too agricultural), and the out house (too scatological). It’s really a shed with a bit of ambition. It even has an annex.

The shed annex-cum-covered bus shelter really bothered Chris. If it had been on the other side of the house, he likely would not have decided to do anything about it. So, the last two-ish weeks of July (last year) were all about the shed (annex). (And yes, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for 12 months.)

June 2010

Notice the sagging roof line and jumble of tools. Off to the right are the wheel barrow and lawn mower. More of a lean-to thing with a dirt floor that is an occasional litter box for marauding felines. Not really convenient storage for the mower or bikes as they had to be tilted together in a mechanical knot to prevent avalanches. And, except for the very nice honeysuckle drifting over the roof, not a great view from the porch as one sips a mint julep of a summer’s eve.

Here is the progress of the improvement:

Annex roof removed and honeysuckle pulled back

Annex deck

The palm nailer makes the work go quickly

Nelson did most of the roofing and Gary helped with the walls, but both were camera shy (or I have lost the pictures in a file somewhere).

Bikes waiting to be stored neatly in shed

Chris and the finished annex. Still needs door and ramp.

And it could use something to cover up the gravel and landscape fabric. And a door, and some paint. But what an improvement. Nice work, boys.


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Shortly after we arrived–in fact on the first day–we asked Nelson to cut off the English ivy at the base of one of our Douglas firs.

The ivy had reached at least two thirds of the height of the tree and had the potential to completely overwhelm it. He used my secateurs and loppers, but we may need dynamite to finish off the ivy stems at the base of the tree.

At this point the leaves and vines are dead, but the rootlets that hold it to the tree are quite tenacious so the trunk is still covered in dead leaves.

This seems like a non-story, right? Bear with me. If it hadn’t been for the dead leaves acting as a passive intruder alert, I would not have heard him: the BFR, the Big Fat Raccoon.

I spent most of yesterday in the garden pruning and transplanting deer food (hostas) from the front to the back of the house. At around 9 pm I was cleaning up the tools and tubs of yard waste when I heard rustling in the top of the big fir. I stopped in time to hear a thud as something fell from the tree and bounced in the bushes. Stupidly, my first thought was, “Gee, I didn’t know we had monkeys”. I confess I was half expecting coconuts when I searched the underbrush. I found two chunks of a wasps’ nest.

As one does in such circumstances, I looked up. Can you spot him?

Sure enough, a large raccoon was looking down. Big, with a look that said Do Not Piss Me Off. And, Hands Off My Dinner.

The dogs were instantly curious, but we put them inside because a fight with a 40 lb BFR would be a nasty, bloody mess.

I kept working, with my ears open. The BFR  seemed to be working out the best way to get down, get dinner and get back up again, but the rattling dead leaves kept blowing his cover. Eventually, it worked its way to a lower limb, sprinted along the fence, hopped down, gabbed the nest, and sped back along the fence and up the tree. I was surprised by its agility: it had that low center of gravity, beamy look that made me think of it a slow, lumbering critter. But the whole maneuver took less than 30 seconds.

By this time it was quite dark, so I didn’t bother to listen to the feasting. If the BFR keeps wasps under control, it will always be welcome in our yard. As long as it keeps its paws off the dogs.

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The last two weeks have been quite the whirlwind. I took my students to camp. Report cards were written (my personal vacation in hell). The school year ended. Charlotte graduated. We moved out. We moved in. Most of those things happened over three days.

The moving out part was managed for the most part by Chris and Nelson because I was still at work and Charlotte was writing exams. Since most of our stuff is going into storage while we do drywall, lighting, painting, and other reno-y things, they took charge of ferrying the essentials to Tofino Place. Thank you, utility trailer.  ‘Essentials’ includes all the thing the movers wouldn’t take: plants, liquids, wood. And all the stuff we are using to camp inside the house with until the end of July. So it was a dump-and-run process.

This is what you get when you dump and run:

It’s a good thing our living room is so big. But really, we can find everything we need, so it’s all good.

There. Doesn’t that seem more organized? Not so chaotic?

We actually do clean up quite well. Here is a shot of the four of us outside the Old House Hotel just before Charlotte’s graduation.

Pretty special day.

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A place with good karma

We took possession yesterday.  That sounds very chest-thumpy: really, becoming the owners of Tofino Place feels more like continuing a legacy than “taking” the house. Marilee, the previous owner, left a welcoming house plant and lovely note:

Welcome to your new home. I will miss this house. It holds a lot of good memories for us. I hope you enjoy it and make many new good memories. All the best wishes for you and your family.

We are really looking forward to making great memories here. Yes, we want to update the house and make some changes, but it’s very clear that this home was well loved and is loaded with good karma.

We celebrated our arrival with champagne & OJ and a delicious breakfast shared with Catherine and Carla.

We chatted with our new neighbours on both sides, met some of the neighbourhood dogs, and saw a deer march down the cul de sac. Gary and Barb leaned over the fence in a very Wilson-esque (Home Improvement) manner and brought us up to speed on where to borrow tools. Did I say they have a pool?

I brought over the stone bird and tucked it in the garden.

We sat on the deck enjoying the backyard, and then we got to work.

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Saturday morning we take possession of Tofino Place. Think we’ll open the front door and start the celebration with a little breakfast. Maybe bagels & smoked salmon, some fruit salad….and champagne and orange juice to top it off. And then we’ll start making lists.

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I wonder about the design of the chest freezer. Is there anyone anywhere who hasn’t cursed it? To me it seems more like a garbage can for frozen things. Or a simulator for those wishing to experience an archeological dig north of 60°. Because I am barely 5’1″ tall,  I can reach only a foot into our freezer, so forget that frozen turkey on the bottom. Most of the contents are just shelving for the stuff on top. To be honest, I don’t go into the freezer anymore. No one wants to put up with my complaining, so the taller people in the family (that’s all of them) grudgingly do it.

So I am excited about the new freezer. No more lost food or squashed bread. No more hammering chunks of ice off the sides. This Kenmore 16.7 cu. ft. upright is an Energy Star, has an open door alarm, and will let you know if the internal temperature has dropped after a power failure. Other sensible things: frost free, interior light (our chest doesn’t have one), and a rapid freeze setting. Apparently, the one drawback to this model is that it is a noisy thing. It will live in the garage, so it can make as much noise as it wants!

Delivery sometime after we take possession this Saturday.

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Idea Factory

Actually, I’m not the sort to generate ideas. I am more of a recycler. And I haven’t got a clue about home decor, style, renovations, or interior design. I’ve got a lot to learn.

I have, however, been on the hunt for inspiration. I’ve spent some time looking through a few blogs, and people seem to be doing amazing things with older houses with character and good bones (see Renovation links).  No one seems to be blogging about houses with that 70’s diagonal cedar thing going on and really, really bad drywall, but I will keep looking.

There’s the library, too, that ultimate recycler. I’ve been looking through magazines and books for ideas about kitchen renos in particular, and inspiration on updating a home in general. I’ve seen some pretty weird, non-functional, too expensive, and just plain ugly designs, but there are some brilliant ideas too, and yes, many of those great ideas are beyond our snack bracket.

So, I have been doing back-of-the-envelope-type sketches (on Post-it notes) and chewing Chris’s ear as I try to figure out how to handle the island in the kitchen and ensure counter-height heating seating is still comfortable for the shortest person in the house (me), and that we still get a view of the back yard when we are eating.

Of course, I am way ahead of things as the structural stuff like vapour barriers, floor leveling, and pony walls (whatever they are) come first. Oh, and we have to move in.

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