Sprung!

Yes, it’s been a while.  A few of my loyal readers (there are a few) have been asking what’s going on.  Well, I’m here to tell you.

Winter.  That’s what’s been going on.  And I believe this winter has been going on for almost 42 months.

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But as predicted in my last post, the inevitable has happened.  Spring.

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I’ve never been happier to have muddy boots.  Snow Mountain is eroding and the gardens are almost bare. We’ve been trenching some waterways for the melting snow to run.  It’s been helping keep water away from the house and our walkways somewhat clean.  Until we grade the property and seed our lawn later this year, the mud will be an ever-present companion.

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Having said that, the ground is slowly firming up – at least where we need it to be.  And more importantly, the food gardens are clearing up, too.  Hopefully, if the weather stays nice, the ground will dry out sufficiently for us to plant a few things.

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As soon as the ground is workable, we can plant out the onions and leeks we started a few weeks ago.  They’re coming along nicely under our grow lights – as are the broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, kale and kohlrabi.  Soon we’ll be starting the squash and cucumber seeds as the risk of frost will have to be completely passed before they can be planted out.

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The chickens have been enjoying some new-found-freedom since they’ve been confined in their coop for the duration of the winter.  Our effort to catch the resident weasel has been fruitless.  For the chickens protection, we kept them inside the coop until the past couple of weeks.

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With the weather warming and other food opportunities present, we’re taking our chances that the weasel will leave them alone.  While there was snow on the ground, we could see his tracks throughout the barn.  I’m sure he’s been keeping the mouse population in check and with the arrival of the migratory birds, hopefully it will have it’s choice of sparrows, starlings and pigeons – all of which have taken residence in our barn loft.

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So that’s what’s happening around the homestead.  On another note, we’re in the midst of the second work-layoff this winter.  Earlier the year, the mussel harvesters couldn’t get onto the ice because of the copious amount of snow .  Now the issue is the deteriorating ice conditions.  Ice harvesting isn’t an option now so the fishermen are just waiting for the ice to clear enough to launch the boats.

That put a halt to some of our plans this spring.  We were to visit Ontario for a friend’s wedding but had to cancel with the unexpected income interruption.  But on the other hand, it has freed up some time to do a little work around the house.

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We lifted the underlayment in the bathroom and repaired the subfloor.  Soon, I’ll be roughing in the plumbing for the fixtures and hanging some drywall.  Of course, we’ll need to get back to work soon to afford the next few steps.

But for now, we’re enjoying the time off and the milder weather.  Soon, spring will turn to summer and this record-breaking winter will be a distant memory.

Winter Preparations

We’ve just passed our one-year anniversary since making the move to our old island home.  About this time last year, we had our new well dug, the moving truck unloaded and were getting settled in for what was going to be the worst winter PEI had seen in almost fifty years.

Fast-forward a year or so and we’re making preparations for what’s going to be a milder-than-average winter for PEI – that’s if you choose to believe the Farmer’s Almanac’s winter outlook.  (I choose to believe).  With Vanessa and I both working near full-time hours now, the work around our house has slowed considerably.  Our projects are broken down into manageable, bite-sized jobs that we can tackle in the couple of daylight hours remaining after work or what we can fit into a Saturday between grocery shopping and other errands to run.

Last week it was to finish insulating and sheathing the lower exterior walls left open from raising the house for the new foundation and sill replacement from the summer.   We had the open portions enclosed with an air barrier in the interim, but with the temperatures dropping, we needed to infill with insulation and enclose it with sheathing.

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I was able to find full-dimension 1″ x 12″ rough-sawn pine boards for the same price as 3/4″ plywood.   So, in keeping with the original construction, and not needing to build out the thickness of the studs to match the old remaining sheathing, it was a simple decision.  And it made for a simple (read: quick) job.  In the spring, we’ll be building a wrap-around deck and porch, so for now this will get us through the winter.  Shingle and siding repairs to follow the porch-build.  We also managed to get our first load of firewood into the house.  Vanessa passed it through the window…

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…and I stacked it in the basement.

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We’ll go through about five of these piles this winter

No more trudging through the snow to the barn to collect our daily firewood needs.  Nosiree!  Now it’s just down to the bottom of the basement stairs to gather up what we need.  And with the season’s first snowfall in the forecast, it’s one more job off the list – and not a moment too soon.

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Thankfully, that’s not going to last.  With temperatures on the plus-side for the better part of next week, we’ll be able to do a few more things outside before winter really arrives.  Somewhere out there, there’s almost sixty pounds of carrots, onions and cabbage to harvest.  The cold temperatures are just sweetening their flavors as the plants produce natural sugars to act as their antifreeze.  For now, until the thaw, we just stoke the fire.  And I have to admit – there’s nothing nicer than wood-heat on a chilly day.

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Under pressure

Have no fear – although we’ve not posted anything in the past couple of weeks, we’re still alive and kicking.  Renovations have been running at a feverish pace now that the foundation and roof repairs are complete.  All spring we’ve been waiting for the floors to be leveled before continuing with the repair scope.

In the past two-and-a-half weeks, we’ve patched the hole in the second floor where the old chimney extended through the house.  We’ve restructured the attic floor for an eventual bonus room.  Added roof ventilation on the sloped ceilings.  Framed the partitions for the bedrooms and bathroom.  Re-wired the second floor electrical circuits.  Insulated the second floor roof and walls.  Framed the floor of the kitchen addition.   Opened up the floor and built the stairs to the basement and hung the drywall in the bedrooms.

That, with an extensive cleanup outside and maintaining the vegetable garden made for an exhausting couple of weeks.  But the rush is not without reason.  My family is visiting next week and we need more than a single room to house seven visitors.  But it’s good – the deadline has advanced the renovations further than we would have done otherwise.

And that’s where it sits right now.  We’re enjoying a much needed break this week with family as my brother is getting married this weekend.  From there, we all convoy back to Pleasant Valley to spend some time together and we get to share a part of our adventure with them.

And perhaps some of the chores, too.

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The storm passed. Everyone’s happy.

Well we survived our visit from Arthur – the first Atlantic hurricane of the season – although it was downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time it hit the island.

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We lost power last night and have been without for about twelve hours now.  (Note: I’m currently writing this blog entry in my notebook to be transferred to the computer once power is restored). 

We’ve only been without power for a few hours now, but it certainly drives home the point of how reliant we are to the grid.  Since we’re so deep into the renovations, and we’re going to rewire the house anyhow, I’ll be hardwiring a few critical circuits to run off a generator if needed – the fridge, well-pump, a few lights and plugs, etc.  Nothing extravagant, just enough “juice” to get us through a lengthy blackout if needed.  With a well, no power means no water.

Not that we had any issue with this storm – there was lots of advance notice of the impending hurricane.  We had filled a couple of water containers we use for camping with water – and the bathtub as well.

So other than the power outage, we came out of things unscathed.  The roof was finished on Friday – one day before the storm hit….

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….and thankfully we didn’t lose a single shingle.

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Not to say the house didn’t rock in the strongest wind gusts – because it certainly did – but there were no significant issues.  I’ll admit it was pretty unnerving how the house shook in the strongest gusts – probably made all the worse because the house is completely gutted on the second floor.  One gust tore off the Tyvek building wrap from the exposed area on the back of the house and it’s now M.I.A.  The way the wind was howling, I suspect someone in Prince County is picking it up from their yard today.

Before the storm came, I closed in the floor of the addition to prevent and wind from gusting through the basement.  We didn’t need the basement filling up with water before the concrete floor gets poured, either.

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So suffice to say we’ve now got our work cut out for us.  Everything we’ve been doing to date has led up to this moment.  The demolition was in anticipation of the new foundation.  The new foundation allowed us to get the roof re-sheathed and shingled, which now allows us to finally get the upstairs renovations underway.

In fact, we had a big lumber order delivery on Friday to start restructuring the attic floor, install the roof vents for the cathedral portion of the ceilings and rebuild the partition walls.  This week, we’ll be getting our clawfoot tub, shower unit and associated hardware.

But it’s not all work, no play either.  We had a surprise visit from a good friend and former co-worker, Skip and his beautiful daughter Brooke.

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Skip and Brooke. Not an accurate representation.

They had an east-coast road trip planned and paid us a totally unexpected visit.  Skip was our lead-carpenter back in my Ontario life so I was tempted to shove a hammer into his hand when he walked in our front door.

Our work days have been lengthening as of late to get as much done as possible before our family arrives in August for vacation.  I’ve been preparing them that they shouldn’t expect the Royal York Hotel here, rather more like the Hav-a-Nap motel.  Either way, it’s going to be great to see family again and show them what we’ve gotten ourselves into.

In anticipation of their visit, we’ve been exploring the island ourselves for ideas to bring them.  Murdoch on the other hand is quite happy to just go to the beach.

Insanely happy

Insanely happy

Oh yeah, and to wrap things up, my birthday came and went.  We just did a small celebration this year….

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Oh, wait.  That was Canada Day in Charlottetown.   For my birthday, we just sat in the dark.

Thanks, Arthur.

 

 

The eagle has landed!

No more bouncy-castle.  No more walking-the-plank to leave the house.  The house has its new foundation and now, we’ve nowhere to go but up!

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It’s only been a little over three weeks since the house first started to creak its way off the old stone foundation, but yesterday it completed the round-trip to its new (and last) foundation.

After the the excavation was done and footings poured, the stone-slinger arrived….

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….and we started forming the foundation walls.

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Needless to say, once the four concrete trucks pulled up to the house,we had more than our share of visitors.  Everyone came out of the woodwork to introduce themselves and see the progress we’re making.

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In no time the foundation was poured and all that was left to do was wait for the concrete to cure for a day or two, then strip the forms.

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Everything was going so well, then the skies opened up and the rains came.  And it rained.  And rained.

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Oh yes, then hail.

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Other than these couple of days, the work pretty much chugged along.  The forms were stripped and the walls damp-proofed.

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Then at long last, the jacks were reinstalled to lower the house onto the foundation.

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With the foundation work now done, the process of removing and replacing the old and rotten floor joists and carrying beams will start.

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And just like everything else we’ve done here, this seemingly enormous task will also get done – one step at a time.