From river to plate: catching dinner

Well I guess it’s no surprise as to what the content of today’s post will be – at least not to any of you who follow us on Facebook.

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A few weeks ago, Vanessa and I enjoyed a series of six weekly “get to know you” evenings with our pastor and a few new couples at our church. One week we were asked: if money were no object, how would you spend the “perfect” day off? I knew exactly how I’d respond: I’d be sitting by a stream – fishing rod in hand, enjoying a beautiful day in solitude, enjoying the beauty of nature around me. Actually catching fish would be optional bonus.

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With an endless array of freshwater streams rivers and ponds, there is no shortage of fishing opportunities for us in PEI.  Most of the rivers are short, spring-fed streams that originate from cool freshwater springs providing a near-constant flow of 6 to 7 degree water throughout the year.  As a result, these streams support a good trout fishery.  In particular, it’s said that brook trout can be found in nearly every stream on the island.

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In addition to the brook trout, Atlantic salmon can be found migrating on a few of the larger rivers on the island, and rainbow trout (a non-native species) have taken to a number of rivers and are now a self sustaining fishery.

We had previously fished a couple of ponds around our house without any success so we decided to try a river just minutes from our home.  On Sunday, we had scouted an area of the river when we took Murdoch for a run.  It wasn’t long before we saw big shadows just under the surface and a few fish rising.  That’s exactly where we headed on Monday morning.  And like Sunday, the fish were there to greet us.

We tried the go-to presentation for river fishing: drifting worms.  Nothing.  Then I switched to artificial trout eggs with the same success.  Perhaps a nymph fly pattern?  Nope.  And to top it all off, our presence likely spooked the fish – they were now nowhere to be seen.

The one thing about this location was the deep pool just upstream from some fast-flowing rapids.  Any fish heading upstream would take some time to rest in the slower moving water of the deep pool.  That’s what I was telling myself, anyhow.

I figured the fish were there – we just weren’t offering them what they wanted.  So, I tied on a lure I had some success with back in Ontario – a tiny streamer I tied on a 1/32 oz jig-head.  On the first cast, I had a huge trout chase it into the open.   My heart was pounding.  Another cast.  Another follow.  I could hardly believe it.  Another cast.  I saw a flash of white as it swiped after it….and missed.  Fourth cast.  BAM!  Fish on!

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My first PEI trout – a 16″ rainbow trout.  I noticed the yellow tag on it’s dorsal fin.  The University of PEI is undertaking a rainbow trout study to monitor it’s habitat and possible expansion into other watersheds.  Rainbow trout were introduced to the island accidentally when a hatchery malfunction resulted in the mass escape of a steelhead strain of rainbows.  I noted the tag number and released the fish.

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There is a UPEI hotline to call when a tagged fish is captured.  Simply note the tag number, the size if the fish and the location of the capture.  Your report is even eligible for a reward.

Fishing continued for another while, but this was the only fish that little jig would catch today.

Time to regroup.  Clearly the fish didn’t want worms or eggs.  I did get one with a minnow-imitating streamer, so let’s go with that.  I tied on a small floating Rapala plug, tossed it downstream swam it over the deep pool.  This time it only took three casts.

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My second fish – and probably the biggest river-trout I’ve ever caught – a 22″ rainbow.  I didn’t want to keep it.  Vanessa did.  We kept it, but to be honest I wrestled with that decision.  I hate the thought of keeping the big, brute, breeding-stock.

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It was a male – not a female capable of still laying thousands of eggs.  If it were, there was no question – she’d go back.  And it was a rainbow trout – a non-native species, said to be pushing out the native brook trout and Atlantic salmon residents.  So, I agreed.  It would become dinner that night.

Fishing continued again for a while and we didn’t have much more luck with any of the other lures we tried.   It was getting colder and I really wanted Vanessa to catch one before we left so I tied on a spinner with rainbow trout colors.  I figured if the fish got annoyed by a little trout buzzing around, we might get a strike out of anger.

On her very first cast with this spinner, Vanessa had her first island trout: a perfect pan-sized rainbow.

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And that’s where it ended up – in the pan.  No hesitation.  In fact, given the option, I’d rather keep six of these little guys over one of the big ones.  The big ones may be more fun to catch, but the little ones come guilt-free when eaten.

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So that’s how our fishing trip went.  A rousing success, I think.  And being only minutes from the house, a place I’m sure we’ll frequent again and again.

So once home, I cleaned both fish and the little one went right into the fry pan. We split it as a snack while I prepared supper.

Very few of you know that I really enjoy cooking.  I love it actually, so I wanted to be sure the big trout we kept was enjoyed to the fullest – the fish deserved that at least.  It can also be a real challenge when cooking for a non-fish-eater.  I’ll give credit where it’s due, though – Vanessa has eaten more fish since coming to PEI than in the previous twenty years we’ve been together.

I froze one of the two big fillets.  The other was baked with a lemon-dill butter and served with an apricot and almond pilaf.

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So just like the fishing, it too was a success.

A Change of Plans

So the demolition is underway on the back addition.  Initially, we thought we would simply remove and dispose of the structure altogether.

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What we didn’t know at the time was that the addition was near-original to the house.  A covered walkway/wood shed leading from the back door to an “indoor outhouse” was it’s original intent.  Past owners insulated and finished the space, and it’s current condition and use is not practical for our needs.

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So once we removed the interior finishes, we both had a change of heart.  We’ve decided to carefully dismantle the roof and walls to relocate and reassemble it near the rear of the property.

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I think I’ve settled on nesting it under the trees and use it as it as a woodshed/garden tool storage.  We do need (and planned on building) some garden/outdoor storage – and in using the original structure, we get to maintain it’s character and save some serious moolah since the material for the structure is already here.

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I will have to build new footings and floor, but the majority of the walls, roofing – and even sheathing – is reusable.

We’ve never wanted to just ignore the historic significance of this old home we bought.  But in the same breath, we also recognize that it’s current condition necessitates a full gut and renovation.  It will be our dream-home after all, so it still needs to meet our needs.  In relocating this structure and repurposing it for our needs, we can keep its historical ties and fill a need we have by reimagining it for another purpose.

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As part of our desire to be more self sufficient, we will eventually have laying hens for our egg needs and the new shed will be modified to incorporate a coop.  All in all, it seems like a win-win scenario for us.

Another week and another disposal bin in our driveway – although this will be the last one for a while, at least.  We spent a good part of today cleaning up around the back of the barn.  I just don’t understand how people can use their backyard as a dump.  Earlier this year (before the winter really settled in) we cleaned up as much as we could at the time.  Windows, flooring material, mattresses, a piano, wire, tarps, cans and bottles, Styrofoam and countless pieces of wood were left there over the years.  And now with the warmer weather and the grass having died back, we’re able to finally get rid of the last of the junk.  And wow – that feels good.  The only things left there is the oil-drum fire pit and the remains of an old tree trunk – now hollowed out and housing little critters for Murdoch’s enjoyment.

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In fact, while we were cleaning up, he flushed out a vole and quickly dispatched the little guy.  No, no sympathy here.

We also burnt away some of the tall, dead grass around the back yard.  The house has been though two summers without much garden care, so when we arrived in the fall, the grass was waist-high in places.

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Burning off the dead stuff seems to be the most practical option.  Either that or rent some sort of brush cutter before we put the lawnmower to it.

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We also uncovered our driveway.  We had “patches” of asphalt showing through our dirt driveway.  Turns out, our driveway is paved – just buried under years of grass, dirt and pine needles.

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Now cleared away, we have a nice, clean parking pad.  Raking up the old tall grass, we’ve also discovered a few spots of garden plants poking up.

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Looks like we’ll have at least a few beds of lilies around the house in a short while.

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And finally, fishing season opened here on Tuesday.  And yes, I did wet my line.  No, I didn’t catch any fish.  On the weekend, our temperatures soared to nearly 20 degrees and severe runoff from the snow pack thawing, combined with rain on Monday, caused quite a lot of flooding around the rivers.  All of the watersheds around our home had gone from babbling brooks to raging white-water rivers.  Needless to say it was difficult fishing.

It wasn’t all for loss though – Vanessa saw and took this beautiful picture of a heron in the river behind our house.

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We’ll give it a try again soon as things settle down in the rivers.  But I like the way my wife thinks.  She says the sooner we get the demo done, the more time we’ll have to go fishing.

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OK.  Where’s my hammer?

Distractions…..and extractions

Another week and another unexpected and unwelcomed delay.

Not that it really made much of a difference with the yesterday’s rain and all, but an stray sliver of bone in last night’s dinner resulted in an emergency trip to the dentist and an extracted tooth today.  So as per doctor’s orders, no heavy lifting, bending or straining that might cause the socket to bleed.  That puts our demo on hold again for a day or so.

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The weather has been in our favor this week otherwise and we did start demolition of the back porch.  We also got most of our storage out of the rear addition – readying it for demolition too.  I’ll have more of that to write about shortly.

So while sidelined, we distracted ourselves by starting some more of our vegetable seeds.

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We’ve been germinating our seeds in trays set up on shelving in our kitchen.  A space heater on low below the shelving provides the perfect temperature to get the seeds started and the newspaper pots reduces the stress of transplanting later – the pot and all will be planted.

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Most seeds don’t require light to germinate, but once they’ve broken through the soil, the energy stored in the seeds is used up and the small plants start reaching for light – this is when we move them to our “grow-op”.

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Upstairs and out of the way, we have another set of shelves equipped with fluorescent lights on a timer to provide 15-16 hours of light to the newly germinated seedlings per day.

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The seedlings need sufficient light to keep them from becoming too leggy and spindly.  We have the lights suspended from short chains and are able to raise the lights as the plants grow upwards.

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Ideally, you’d want to keep the lights to within one or two inches from the seedlings.  The lights are timed to turn off around 9:00 in the evening – and it’s quite a sight to see the upper level of the house lit-up like a greenhouse at dusk.

In addition to the asparagus and peppers started a couple of weeks ago, we’ve now started two flats of onions and the remainder of our tomato seeds – five varieties, totalling about 80 plants.

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As spring approaches we will also be starting some of our other plants – squash, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce.  And with the majority of the snow gone from our garden area, we’ll soon start preparing the beds for planting by the end of May or beginning of June.  That will be around the time our foundation is underway, so we’ll have time to tend the garden.

The spring thaw couldn’t have happened soon enough.  Next week, fishing season opens and I’ve already told Vanessa, regardless of the weather, I’ll be wetting a line when it does.

Until then, demo will resume as planned tomorrow.  And a little free advice:  be careful of little bone fragments when eating ribs.  You’re welcome.

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‘Weather’ or not – it’s time to start outdoors

It’s been one of those weeks.  You know the ones: you start with great intentions to get lots done, then something happens out of your control, derailing your plans –  and before you know it, you did half of what you planned and some things you didn’t plan.

For example....

For example….

Between my last post and this one, we had some more severe winter-weather: an ice storm, to be exact.  Close to an inch of ice accumulated on everything:  the cars, trees, the house – everything.  Well, the east side of everything anyhow.

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I have to say it was pretty spectacular to look at.  It reminded me of the prehistoric insects that got entombed in amber – only there were no insects.  Or amber.  Well, you get my drift.

Not pictured: insect in amber

Not pictured: insect in amber

Anyhow, regardless of the weather now, we’re under the gun to get several things done before the new foundation is installed.  The rear addition (that we’ve used as a temporary storage area) has to be removed – which means we’ve been moving all of our unpacked boxes and items into the barn or the upper level of the house.

The chimney has to be taken down.  I’m just waiting on a nice, warm, ice-free day to venture onto the roof to get the upper portion removed – the rest can be done from inside the house.  I’ll have to patch-in the opening somewhat – but nothing too fancy right now.

And lastly, the front porch needs to come off.  I’ve already stripped the trim, soffit and fascia from the roof structure and removed the deck railing.  I figure the roof can stay on until we’re ready to start the foundation since it’s providing some protection from the weather as we come and go from the house.

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The weather has taken a turn this week: it’s been quite mild the past few days – and the long term forecast remains the same.  The snow is quickly melting which is good for us in hopes of getting the excavation underway for the foundation – but it’s making for a terrible muddy mess around the house.  Not unexpected – just another source of aggravation.

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The plan is to have the rear addition mostly removed this week.  A pretty ambitious plan I admit, but hey, even if it takes twice that long, we’ll still be ahead of schedule.  And I really want the garbage dumpster gone before the ground softens too much.  At least the weather looks to be on our side for a change.

 

Well there’s something you don’t see everyday. Thank God.

Well, I guess I had that coming.

Shame on me for jumping the gun last week and started singing the praises of the spring-like weather.  That’ll teach me.  Call it karma, Murphy’s Law or just dumb luck, we got walloped with the biggest storm the Maritimes has seen in 10 years.

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More of a hurricane disguised as a blizzard, I think.  A blizzicane.  Or snownado.

I thought it would be fun to document the day with a series of photos showing the progression of the storm.

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After three sets of pics, I changed my mind and thought I’d leave it to your imagination.  There was no way I was going out in that mess unless I absolutely had to.   And I only had to twice: once to collect our airborne garbage bins (thought to be securely fastened to our front porch) and once to let Murdoch do his “business”.

Such a sad picture

Such a sad picture

It was after that trip that Murdoch said he wouldn’t go out there again unless he absolutely had to.  He didn’t.

"Outside?  Nope, I can hold it."

“Outside? Nope, I can hold it.”

Kidding aside, it was pretty intense.  Par for the course for local islanders, I’m told.  But with a half-gutted, one-hundred-and-thirty-year-old house, we felt every wind gust.  And we didn’t get away unscathed.

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We lost quite a lot of shingles on the north side.  The shingles were quite sparse on that slope to start, but now there are even less.  Oh well, it will make stripping them off in the spring much easier now that they’ve all been deposited in our yard.

Probably the highlight of the day was seeing our neighbor and his snow blower backing into our driveway.

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God bless you, Orville.  I don’t think I’d have the strength to do the driveway today – after shovelling the snow out of our second floor.

Wait.  What?

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Have to admit – I didn’t see this coming.

 

Yep.  With all the wall and ceiling finishes removed from the second floor – and with the 100 km/h wind and snow – and with more shingles blown off, well….

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Come on – you got to laugh.  Or cry.  I laughed and thankfully, so did Vanessa.  After the storm, this was a cake-walk.  And with our neighbors help, we hardly had any snow to shovel anyhow.  It was a breeze (a gale-force breeze, mind you, but a breeze nonetheless).

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But enough of that.  You’ve seen the footage, I’m sure, and we survived.  That’s the main thing, right?

As far as the house goes, until yesterday, our weather has been beautiful – sunny and clear – but really cold and windy, so needless to say, we didn’t do any of the demo I last spoke about: removal of the porch and rear addition.  They say the next couple of weeks will be milder, but wet.  Whatever the forecast holds, we’ll need to buckle down and get this done in anticipation of the foundation to start in May (or sooner, hopefully).

We haven’t been idle though.  We started a number of vegetable plants inside in preparation for the planting season.

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Leeks, asparagus, peppers (sweet and hot), and some tomato seeds have been sown – and are starting to germinate.  We’ll move them to our grow-lights shortly and start the next round of plants after that.

For now, I’ll bite my tongue about spring.  We know it’s coming.  When it’s ready.

It’s official – spring is here! Time to start the garden plans

Well, Vanessa and I have been enjoying a few days off from working on the house.  After a bit of a snow/ice storm last week, the past few days have been beautiful.  It’s been sunny and clear – albeit a little cold – so we’ve been enjoying some time outside.

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We’re just back from a long two-hour walk with Murdoch on the Confederation Trail

Murdoch discovers the sunroof

Murdoch discovers the sunroof

and with a quick coffee-to-go, a drive up to Cavendish and along the shoreline.

....to see the sights

….to see the sights

....and a little wildlife.

….and a little wildlife.

And with the official first day of spring on us, we’ve been thinking planning dreaming of the planting season and the gardens.

We went to town over the weekend and got all of our vegetable seeds from Veseys for the spring.  One of my earlier posts (https://ouroldislandhome.com/2014/01/18/spring-dreaming/) outlined all of the vegetables we would be trying – and that hasn’t changed much.   I know it all sounds very ambitious – and it probably is – but we have nothing to lose.  It’s not like we’re pressed for space and don’t have the time to tend the garden.  We’ve settled on the back south-east corner for the garden – it’s a clear and wide-open area that receives sun all day.  The space around the house is being reserved for flower beds, patios, BBQ and entertainment area – and around the barn is the driveway, shop and (eventually) greenhouse area.

So with the location of the veggie beds determined, we now need the snow to go (who doesn’t, amiright?) and we’ll prep the area.  We have two huge rolls of black poly (plastic) to roll out over the bed areas.  We’re planning on eight beds – each measuring 10′ x 25′.  The black poly serves two purposes: first, it will inhibit any grass and weeds from starting to grow as the weather warms, and secondly, it warms the soil in anticipation of planting.  A number of our plants need warmer conditions: sweet potato, corn, tomatoes and peppers don’t like their feet cold.  Other crops are less fussy and can be planted as soon as the soil is workable.

We’ve planned an eight crop rotation.  Different vegetables can be grouped together in similar families.  Utilizing crop rotation, you change the location of each vegetable group from year to year.  This reduces the likelihood of a pest or disease problem overwintering and attacking the same crop in the same location of the following year.  For example tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes all belong to the same family and, as such, are susceptible to the same pests and diseases.  Because these plants all belong to the solanaceous or nightshade family, you wouldn’t plant tomatoes in the same plot that potatoes were planted in the previous year.  The goal is to have at least three to four years before the same crop-family is planted in the same location again.

So, here’s our rotation plan – the eight beds will be:

  1. Legumes: beans and peas
  2. Brassacas: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip
  3. Nightshades: tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, tomatillos
  4. Umbeliferae: carrot, parsnip, parsley, celery
  5. Lettuce and sweet potato
  6. Cucurbits: cucumbers, squash, pumpkin
  7. Goosefoot: beet, chard, spinach and Alliums: onion, garlic, leeks, chive
  8. Corn

And in addition to these eight beds, we’ll have permanent locations for the perennial plants: asparagus, rhubarb and berries.

Yup – that’s a lot of produce.  But think about this: one seed packet of broccoli costs $3.00.  A packet of 1000 carrot seeds cost about $4.00 and for $8.00 we bought 1000 corn seeds.  The list goes on and on.  For what we would spend on groceries in one week, we bought the potential for the same grown by ourselves – one hundred times over!

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We realize that’s far more than we’ll ever need – even canning, freezing and preserving as much as we’re able.  So we’ve already decided the surplus would be donated to needy families or a food bank.  Either way, our needs will be met and others will be blessed with the surplus.

Over the next short while, we’ll be starting some of the plants inside in anticipation of the last frost – transplanting around the end of May.  I’ll show you how we’re geminating and growing the plants before transplanting – and how we prepare the beds.

I’d love to hear what you grow in your home gardens – and any helpful tips you might have.  Until then, enjoy your spring!

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Spring is in the air….man, I hope so

Well, we’ve completely finished the demolition on the second floor.

Awesome

Awesome

That is other than the stairwell.  I’m debating whether or not to gut this area – as it’s adjacent to our living space on the main floor.  It would be easy enough to demo this little area when we tackle the entry/hall on the main floor when the time comes.

Master Bedroom: before

Master Bedroom: before

The Master Bedroom was previously gutted as part of an older renovation so when the first swing of the hammer revealed drywall instead of lath and plaster, I knew this room would be quickly gutted.   And it was.

Master Bedroom: after

Master Bedroom: after

In one day, we had this room stripped and cleaned up – whereas the rest of the second floor took about three weeks!  It was just nice to wind up the demo with a relatively easy job.

When we took up the laminate floor to uncover the original plank floors, we discovered an area that appears to have been a secondary stairwell.  Lath and plaster runs continuously down the exterior wall and a section of the floor has been patched-in.

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Right under the window….

When we gut the kitchen ceiling below, it will undoubtedly show us what was originally there.

For now, it’s just really nice to have the demolition phase done inside the house – at least until the new foundation is in place.

We’ll be meeting with our foundation guy next week. I want to show him what we’ve done to date and see what his timeframe is like to getting things underway.   At this point, I just want to get this house in the air and start excavating for the new basement.  Our repairs will be on-hold until the house is back on a firm foundation.

Vanessa and I went to the PEI Provincial Home Show last weekend.  It’s funny that we already knew a couple of the vendors there.   We also made contact with a spray-foam insulation guy.  Without a doubt, I’d like to foam the house: there’s no need for vapour barrier, it will plug up any holes, it maintains continuity of the insulation/vapour barrier around the balloon framing and it will essentially “glue” the frame together giving some rigidity.

I also had a chance to chat with the owner of the local Winmar in Charlottetown.  Winmar would have been the competition to the company I worked for in Ontario – CRCS Disaster Kleenup.  With my certification and experience, I’m sure I wouldn’t have any issue picking up some work with any of the local restoration contractors on the island.  Ultimately though, I’d want to pursue my own renovation company – or perhaps “freelance” my restoration experience.  Although for now, all I can think about is the house.

So with the demo finished upstairs, where do we go from here?  Well, to lift the house, we’ll also have to remove the front porch – so we’ll start there.

Got to go....

Got to go….

The small addition and deck on the back of the house will also have to come off, and we’ll carry on with that.

This too.

This too.

That will bring us very close to the time to start the foundation, I imagine.  I’m just hoping and praying for decent spring weather until then.

We took a bit of a mental break last week too and went ice fishing.  I promised pictures if we caught anything, so….

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Nothing spectacular.  Half a dozen smelt – which we kept, cleaned and fried up.  Vanessa (who is not much of a fish-eater) tried them and liked them.  We’ll give it another go in the next week or two, but really, it’s only a month until trout and salmon season opens, so given the option, smelt will soon be off my radar.

We got our last load of firewood this week – and I’m counting that it will be the last for the year.

I have no idea where it's all going....

I have no idea where it’s all going….

Finally, we’re getting the odd spring-like day and it feels like winter is slowly departing.  I’m not too optimistic that yesterday was the last winter storm we’ve seen, but it is nice to see the days lengthening   We had another beautiful day here in the valley – so with that, here’s how our day ended.

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View from our Bedroom

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Spring-wreath and the new Lee Valley catalogue

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The moon rising over Pleasant Valley

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Almost full

Small victories (and sore backs)

Whew!

I mentioned briefly in my last post that we’ve finished gutting the second floor of the main cape.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to get that completed.

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At times it felt like the demo-that-wouldn’t-end (much like our winter) and frankly, it’s been very tiring – and extremely rewarding at the same time.

We started in the Spare Bedroom.  The ceilings were already falling down, so it seemed like the obvious place to start.

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From there we went into the Bathroom….

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Then the Den/Office/Bedroom….

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And finally the Hallway.

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I figure we removed approximately 18000-20000 pounds of drywall, lath and plaster from the second floor in the last few weeks.  That’s if you believe Google’s opinion that lath and plaster weighs about 8-10 pounds per square foot.  My back is telling me that sounds about right.

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And that doesn’t count the lumber and framing materials removed – nor the trim, doors, hardware, nails and 64 contractor-sized garbage bags of loose-fill insulation either.  All in all, we filled three 20 yard dumpsters to date – although to be fair, the first dumpster was mostly filled with junk left behind from the previous owner.

With the main cape now complete, we’ll move into the Master Bedroom to start removing the wall finishes.

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A previous owner at some point in the past had attempted some renovations/repairs.  From what I can tell, the Master Bedroom was previously gutted, insulated with fibreglass batts and drywalled.  That’s going to make our job of demolition exceedingly easier in this room.  We should have that done by next week, easy.

Once the bedroom is done, I’ll frame in a temporary platform and remove the last of the lath and plaster in the stairwell.  That will complete the demolition of the second floor.

I also mentioned previously that the partitions on the second floor were built under the original lath and plaster.

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Once the finishes were removed, the stud wall had no top support since the plate sat almost 1-1/2″ below the ceiling joists.

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Simple enough to reframe the partitions, so we removed the walls, too.  That affords us an opportunity to tweak that layout slightly, too (add a closet here, move the wall there, etc).

Unfortunately with the floors out of level and some sagging here and there, we won’t be starting any reconstruction or repairs until the house is raised and on it’s new foundation in the spring.  Not that we’ll be short of things to do.  We’ll finish gutting upstairs then move outside:  I have to remove the front porch and small rear addition before the house can be lifted.  That will be our next big step.

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For now, I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished.  Vanessa’s been solid help with the demolition.  Aside from a few aches and pains, we’re still smiling and having a good time.  Although the winter is wearing on our nerves, we realize spring will be on us in no time, so we keep pressing on.

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I think we earned a day-off, so the plan is to go ice fishing on Friday.  That’s part of the reason in making the move we did – having time to spend together and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.  We’ve talked about going fishing for a while now, but with the windchill in the -20 to -30 degree range for the past few weeks, we kindly postponed those plans.  It’s supposed to warm up (to near-zero) on Friday, so that looks like the day.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

The view from our Bathroom window

The view from our Bathroom window

For those of you who have “Liked” our Facebook page, you’ve seen some of the posts Vanessa has shared from Reclaimed Wood Blog and other design sites.  RWB has a great website with lots of design and project ideas using old wood reclaimed from different locales.  I’ve got quite a collection now of old reclaimed wood from our demolition and lots of ideas.

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For now though it will go into the barn for storage.

Once again, I just want to thank everyone for the great feedback and comments.  I really do enjoy reading each of them.  We’re also approaching 1500 page views on our little blog.  That’s exciting!  And from all over the world: Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and throughout Canada and the US.  Amazing!

Hope you all have a good remainder of the week and a fantastic weekend.

Why PEI? Why now?

“The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

Two questions have been coming up over and over again:  Why PEI? and Why now?

Murdoch and his Mom - in Cavendish

Murdoch and his Mom – in Cavendish

Let me start this post by saying that writing a blog isn’t easy.  Not for me anyhow.  The words just don’t come easy with me – and when I do write something, I read it over, and over, and over, rewrite my thoughts and reread it, and edit it further, erase it, rewrite it, obsess over it – blargetty, blarg, blarg.   And then, I delete half of what I wrote before I hit the “Publish” button.  It’s all very tiring.  And this is probably the more difficult type of post for me: more personal, less technical.

I find it relatively easy to write about the business of what we’re doing in PEI:  plaster and lath!  framing!  cut-nails!  demolition!  repair!  renovate!  Construction is the language I speak.   But ask me why we’re doing it, and it’s much more difficult to convey.

About two years ago, Vanessa and I started talking about moving away from the city into a more rural setting, simplifying our life, slowing our pace and, in doing so, making the time for the things we see important and enjoying our time together.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  There was nothing wrong with the life we had living in Whitby, Ontario.  In fact, we had it pretty good: decent jobs, a beautiful home on a big lot with flower and vegetable gardens and fruit trees.  We were comfortable and what we had was nice.

But it wasn’t our dream.

Ever since we met, we talked about our love for old homes and country life.  I remember our first dates were spent walking the streets in downtown Unionville – going in and out of the old shops and admiring the homes.  We thought: someday we’d love to have an old house.

Unionville, ON

Unionville, ON

Then life happens – I was finishing school and we were working towards getting married.  There were family stresses, too – my dad was sick during our engagement and passed away just a few months after we were married.  We carried on the way newly married people are expected to – we landed jobs, tried (unsuccessfully) to have kids and eventually bought our first home.  Life rolled on, as it does, and before we knew it, fifteen years had passed.

We had built a lifestyle that, while comfortable, wasn’t fulfilling.  With Vanessa working for a charitable organization, the hours available for her to work were directly reflective of the donations received.  I found myself taking on more responsibility and working more hours than I wanted but not seeing a return in my income.  We were working more but earning less, but our cost of living wasn’t declining, either.  Our jobs had become a sort of paradox – a necessary evil – we were working harder and harder to maintain a lifestyle that wasn’t what we really wanted.

So what options did we discuss?

  1. We could continue with the status quo – work hard, pay down our mortgage and, in time, save enough to buy that old farmhouse with acreage in Southern Ontario.  PROS: it’s status quo, friends and family are close and it’s familiar, comfortable.  CONS: it’s status quo, work is becoming a source of dissatisfaction, tired of the city and the rat-race, it’s a long term plan – fifteen years easy, or increase debt load/mortgage.
  2. We could sell our house now while the market is hot and move to a location where the old farmhouse dream can be realized.  PROS: mortgage-free at 40, able to spend quality time in the outdoors, start being more self-sufficient in our food requirements, no rat-race, improved quality of life, fulfilling a twenty-year dream, enjoying it now while we’re young – who knows how long we have here.  CONS: moving away from family and friends, unknown job-market.

Well, if you’re a reader of this blog, you already know our decision.  We would sell now and start a new life elsewhere.  The question was “where”?

Two minutes from our house - hundreds of kilometers of hiking, trails, bike paths and rivers

Two minutes from our house – hundreds of kilometers of hiking, trails, bike paths and rivers

We looked at Northern Ontario.  We went so far as to order catalogues of remote acreage parcels on which to build a homestead.  And there were some beautiful properties in the northern wilderness: 200+ acres with lakes and rivers surrounded by crown land – a hunter/fisherman’s paradise.   The land was affordable – but not entirely workable.  Farming is part of the dream and we want to grow as much produce as possible to meet our needs for the year.  That’s hard to do on bedrock and in the cold north climate.

Another option was replanting my roots in Newfoundland.  That’s my ultimate dream.  It certainly meets my need of having access to the great outdoors.  Farming would be difficult, though and housing prices there were still relatively higher than we wanted to go.  The beauty would be having distant family closer again.

Our new neighbors

Our new neighbors

How we started considering Prince Edward Island is still not entirely clear.  I remember looking at the housing market and asking Vanessa what she thought.  She’d never been to PEI – but loved Anne of Green Gables, so….sure!   We could have our pick of old farmhouses and farming is a tried-and-true industry here, so we shouldn’t have much issue.  The more we talked and prayed about it, the more it seemed that we were being led here.  Everything seemed to fit the bill, so in September we came to look for an old island home and by mid-November the moving truck was packed and we were eastbound.

U-Haul, U-pack, U-unpack

U-Haul, U-pack, U-unpack

The rest, as they say, is history.  Or at least history being written.

If you’re reading this now and wondering how the house renovations are coming along, you’ll be happy to hear that we reached a milestone this week:  we now have the main cape of the house completely gutted.  I’ve already started to write that post and you’ll be seeing it in the next few days – so don’t worry, we’ll get technical again real soon.

For now, I’m glad to get this post over with.  It’s taken a lot longer to write this one than the others – and I’m tired and I want to go to bed.  I hope you enjoyed reading it, none the less.

Dark windows, Snow-chi olympics and moving walls

I’ll apologize in advance for some of the pictures in today’s post.  Until today, the pictures of our renovation were taken in the daytime so we had the benefit of natural daylight.  Today’s pictures were taken tonight, so the lighting is a bit….shall we say….creepy.

Nah - nothing creepy here.

Nah – nothing creepy here.

The truth is, something spooked me so I took the pictures and got out of there as quick as I could (I’ll show you later).  So, on that note:

Production has been a bit slow on the home-front this week.  Although we want to spend as much time as possible as we can with demolition while we await spring’s thaw, we’ve been pulled away from the house a couple of times this week.

As you read in our last post, Sunday was a snow day.  The snow didn’t stop until late in the evening so Monday became our day to dig out.  And dig we did.  I’d say if snow shovelling were an Olympic event, I’d be a contender this year.  Forty centimeters of the white stuff fell, but drifted to almost three feet in our driveway.

There was grass here last week

There was grass here last week

I thank the good Lord for our neighbor….and his tractor-mounted snowblower.  In three quick passes, he cleared the snow from our driveway and we only had the side-yard and back-yard deal with.

Seriously - gold medal contender

Seriously – gold medal contender

Mind you, Monday was also a holiday here in Prince Edward Island.  I expected to be shovelling for the better part of the day, but with Orville’s help, that was cut down to less than three hours.

I call it "Mount Russmore"

I call it “Mount Russmore”

And since it was a holiday, we just enjoyed the rest day off and watched some of the Olympic coverage (go, Canada!).  Then there was the bird.

A starling, in an attempt to escape Sunday’s storm, made it’s way into our attic – only to get trapped there.  I was tempted to lock our two cats up there with it and let nature take it’s course, but Vanessa wasn’t agreeable to that.   So, garbage bags in hand, we headed upstairs.  No, we weren’t going to try to catch the bird – the bags were to blackout the windows – except one, which was opened to the outside.  Within minutes, the bird was out, and I’m presuming warning it’s friends and family about the old white house with bird carcasses in the attic.

Tuesday on the other hand was a typical demolition-day.  The main cape of the house is almost completely gutted now – just a little lath and insulation to remove from the front bedroom and we’ll move into the hallway and Master Bedroom.

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Curiously enough, I was surprised with the order of the construction of the house.  In today’s construction, the house would be framed completely and the wall finishes (typically drywall) applied.  Here’s the order I see in our house:

  1. Exterior walls and roof framed complete
  2. Lath applied to the exterior walls and ceiling
  3. Frame the interior walls
  4. Apply lath to the interior walls
  5. Plaster complete

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Not a big deal, right?  Right.  Except the top plate of the interior walls were only fastened to the ceiling lath – so, as we remove the lath, the tops of our interior partitions have no connection to the ceiling joists -and with the lath and strapping removed, the stud wall is about 1-1/4″ shorter than height of the ceiling joists.

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What does that mean for us?  The easiest thing to do is simply re-frame the interior walls.  We were going to make some small changes to the spare bedroom closet and introduce a linen closet anyhow – so replacing the remaining walls will be actually be easier than working around the existing framing.

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The beauty of it is this – there are no interior load-bearing walls in the main cape, so we have the freedom to move or relocate the walls as we see fit.  We likely wouldn’t change the layout much from what’s currently there – although adding an additional 12″ to the width of the bathroom would make a huge difference.

It’s not surprising to find some remnants of the previous owner’s life here in the house.  Removing the ceiling and insulation from the attic has left a small pile of someone’s history.  No, nothing exceptional, and no buried treasure map either – but it’s still pretty neat to look at.

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The funny one was a Radio Shack flyer from the ’80s.  A mobile cellular phone for $1000, a 40MB hard drive, and a $800 VCR.

Technology.

Technology.

So, there you have it.  Aside from the snow – and another 20 centimeters of snow forecasted for tonight, it’s been a good week.  Oh yes, you’re wondering what spooked me upstairs tonight, correct?  Remember, the light was dim – and it is a bit creepy up there at night – when something caught my eye in the window:

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Seriously!  Wouldn’t this guy staring at you from outside your window frighten you, too?

BOO!

BOO!

Now something to cleanse your palate: Monday was Islander’s Day here in PEI – Family Day in Ontario.  So with the snow, holiday, demolition, freeing trapped birds and old discoveries in the attic, what was the highlight of our week so far?

Drummer, #1 Mom, Model, Best Brother, (soon-to-be) Sis-in-law

Family