St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Construction is proceeding well. We now have an entrance deck and ramp in front of the new door, and a catwalk from the back door of the mudroom around to the old deck. The doors and window have been installed.
We are waiting on several sub-contractors. One of the hazards of island life is that many things run on "island time". We are lucky that our general contractor and carpenter are reliable. The other tradespeople are just as likely to take the day off to go fishing as they are to turn up when scheduled. Work on the basement is stalled, waiting for a plumber and an electrician.
Doing laundry is now a bit more inconvenient. The sale of the little cottage at the north end of the island was completed last week. That's where we had been doing our laundry, since we don't yet have a laundry room here. So, with the loss of access to that facility, we now have to go to a laundromat in Courtenay. The sooner the basement gets completed, the better! [For comparison photos, see: 6-May and 29-April.]
We are still getting used to "island time". When we attended our first vegan pot-luck dinner, we naturally showed up at 6:30, the time posted in the newspaper. The organizer was there, a woman named "Fireweed" (no first or last name: just Fireweed), but no one else was. When she saw us walk in with our dish, she said, "Oh, I should have warned you, this usually starts on Denman time." Now, if we show up early (i.e. not late) for something, we apologize and say we re still running on city time.
One of the things I looked forward to before we moved to Denman Island was being able to see the stars. The other night, when it was clear and warm, I set up my telescope to see what I could see. This time of year, you'd have to wait until 1:00 am for the sky to be dark enough for really good viewing. However, even at 10:30 pm, the levels of air pollution and light pollution were so much lower than in the city that it was the best viewing I've ever had. <nerd>Luckily, the "seeing" (an astronomical term refering to low levels of turbulence in the upper atmosphere) was particularly good too. I had a really clear view of Jupiter and its four Galilean moons. I was able to see cloud bands on the planet, something I have never been able to see before. I have no photos to show you, unfortunately. I'll need some new hardware to be able to hook up the digital camera to the telescope.</nerd>
This has been a good week for the renovation project, with both large-scale structural progress and small-scale infrastructure progress.
The most visible change is in the front entrance. The deck boards for the entrance ramp and deck are installed, and some handrails and a pergola-type archway are starting to take shape. When complete, the pergola will consist of four posts, joined at the top by beams. We will eventually plant some kind of vine to grow up and over it.
Peter, our builder, is doing a beautiful job. The ends of all the deck boards are nicely rounded-over, and they are precision-trimmed around the handrail supports and the big posts.
The big step at the near end of the entrance ramp will be built-up with earth and rocks, so that eventually the gravel pathway coming down from the driveway will be flush with the end of the ramp.
The plumber and electrician have both been busy with rough-ins this week. Both the basement and the mudroom have electrical wires in place, and the mudroom even has a functioning light in the ceiling. (No, that's not it in the photo! That's the basement light.) The shower in the new bathroom in the basement is installed and functioning, and the rest of the plumbing is ready for fixtures. In the photo, you can see the new laundry area with the washer hookup ready to go, and the bathroom beyond it. The big gray slab at the right is the exterior side of the shower. Wendy is looking forward to the in-floor heating in the bathroom.
Peter is talking about being ready for drywall sometime next week. Yay! Then, both rooms will really start to look like rooms!
The weather has been cool and cloudy the last few days, though not terribly wet. I now have a continuous recording of the temperatures here, which is updated on the website hourly. Take a look. (If you are curious how I record the temperature, check out one of my nerdier pages.)
One of the regular events in island life is the recycling depot, which is open on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. We do have garbage pickup here, but at $2 per bag, there is motivation to reuse or recycle as much as possible. Garbage pickup, like many services here, is run by the community association, rather than by any level of government. The fee per bag allows the operation to break even, while motivating people to recycle. So sensible, really. We have greatly reduced the amount of trash we send to the garbage. Now, between composting and recycling, we don't put out any garbage most weeks.
On Saturday mornings, the recycling depot is a hub of activity. You are guaranteed to meet several people you know, so it becomes a social activity as well as a purely practical one. Right next to the recycling depot is the Free Store, where you can drop off unwanted re-usable items of clothing, housewares, etc. There are always people browsing for bargains. And they are true bargains, because, like the name suggests, everything is free.
P.S. Look what we just picked in our garden!!
Yippee! We have drywall! Finally, the basement is starting to look like a room. The drywall is always the best part of a construction project, because it starts to look the way you envisioned it. The bad news is that it means that next week will be messy: plastering and sanding. Oh, well. It has to be done.
The other major change this week is a new staircase to the basement. By taking out the landing at the top and replacing it with two "winder" steps, Peter has reduced the slope from 100% to 77%. That, and widening the stairs to a full 36 inches, with enough room on the sides for proper handrails, means that they will now be much more user-friendly. That is an important factor, considering that we intend to live here well into our senior years.
We also had the new eavestroughs installed. With the amount of water that we have seen torrenting off the roof during showers, that is a good thing. Of course, Murphy's Law being what it is, the installation of the eavestroughs probably ensures that we get no more rain until October!
The other major development this week is the grading of the path from the driveway to the new entrance. Over two days, I hauled a ton or so of gravel by wheelbarrow and levelled it with a rake to form the shape of the new walkway. We have another half truckload of "nice" gravel on order for next week that I will have to spread on top of it to finish it off. My back isn't looking forward to that!
This weekend is the annual garden tour, one of the major events on Denman Island. We bought our tickets early, as it always sells out. Proceeds from ticket sales support the local nature conservancy society. People come from all over the region, not just the island.
One of the highlights of the tour is the garden of Des Kennedy, a well-known writer and gardener. His garden is the stuff of legend, or so we hear, since it is not visible from the road. Luckily for us, he lives only two driveways down the road from us, so it will be an easy walk to get there. It is just as well, since traffic is apparently expected to be so heavy that they temporarily turn our quiet little street into a one-way road. We are even considering parking our car out on the main road, a couple of hundred metres away, just to be able to come and go and get to the rest of the garden tour.
A friend of ours from Calgary happened to be going past our old house with his camera and sent us this picture. Actually, it is the place where our old house used to stand. The new owners are building a big fancy duplex on the site. It looks like they have the forms in place for pouring the basement concrete. We are glad to see that they are keeping some of the trees. (Thanks to Run Hunter for the picture.)
Another week, and the renovations are coming along nicely. Indoors, the plasterer is taping and mudding all the nails and joints in the drywall, while outdoors, the crew are putting up cedar board-and-batten siding. The cedar is delivered fresh-sawn from a backyard sawmill only a block from here and smells heavenly. Board-and-batten cedar is a very west-coast style, and a major design element in "Denman architecture".
One of my contributions to the work this week was to rebuild the rainwater collection system for the eavestroughs on the north side of the house. With a new roofline, the gutters had to be removed and rebuilt, plus the old collection system was in the way of part of the deck. Now it is neatly tucked in out of the way, and we are back to collecting rainwater from three-quarters of the roof area. Because of the new shape of the house, it is impractical to collect from the fourth quarter.
My other chores this week were building some rustic steps at the front pathway and finishing the door that will separate the new mudroom from the living room. The door is a lot of work (remind me never to work with oil-based polyurethane again!), but it will look good once it's done.
We had a good opportunity to see some real Denman architecture up close this weekend, on the annual home and garden tour. Silly me, I forgot to take pictures, but you'll have to believe me that both the houses and the gardens were spectacular. The houses range from swanky, architect-designed, craftsman-built and very modern to owner-built, hand-hewn and quirky. All shared the typical Denman love of light, stone, natural wood and outdoor views. The gardens tended to be informal, but with an abundance of roses, grapevines, clematis, fruit trees (including figs and kiwis!), and many flowers that I didn't recognize. It was interesting to see the different approaches to weed control. Some obviously did laborious hand-weeding, while others used labour-saving mulches, including grass clippings and even newspapers. Next year, we plan to get our garden under control, though it will be more of a vegetable garden than a flower garden.
Just about every day, there are deer in the yard. They are quite calm and don't mind if we are out working or if the carpenters are making a lot of noise. They just happily go on munching in the meadow.
The male hummingbirds must be fueling up for their migration south - they apparently will depart for Mexico within a week or two, followed by the females and young sometime in August or September. Right now, the males are constantly fighting for access to the feeder. It's common enough for one to chase off another, but this week, they've been going crazy. I've seen large numbers of them - six or eight at a time - all swooping, darting, chasing and squeaking at each other. It's like watching the dogfighting scenes from a Battle of Britain movie! In the photo, I've got two perched on the feeder, and a third hovering below.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013