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 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.

Fast and furious

What a whirlwind week we’ve had.  When we last left you, the foundation repairs had started.  The steel supports were delivered and a few of the damaged sills were replaced.

That was child’s play compared to where we are now.  In fact, things are progressing so quickly, that what you’re currently reading is old news (well, to us anyhow).

Thankfully the weather has been on our side – for a change.  With an exception of one rain-day last week, it’s been non-stop progress.  So with that said, here’s how the last few days went:

After the sills were replaced, the soil was cut down around the house and stones removed from the foundation to make pockets for the big steel beams to be installed.

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Picking up one end with the excavator and slowly guiding it through the pockets in the foundation, the beam is pushed from the back of the house, with only inches to spare….

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….out through the front of the house.

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Needless to say, Elmer has done this once or twice before.  Now for the second beam.

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So that takes care of the main cape.  The kitchen ell has two smaller supports perpendicular to the two mains.  These will be jacked by hand.

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But the two main supports will be raised pneumatically.  With the cribbing and jacks in place, it’s time to start lifting.

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There she goes!

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Front-to-back, the main beams are raised and the side supports are jacked manually to keep pace.

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Murdoch’s such a trooper, too.  He’s happy just to be out with us and the guys from Moveall Structures.  Of course, anytime he gets attention, he’s happy.

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And there it is.  The house is up a couple of feet off the old foundation wall and the next step is to remove the old stone wall and excavate to a depth to accommodate the new full-height basement.

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Unfortunately, Thursday is where the week ended for the crew.  Rain came on Friday and the remaining excavation would have to wait until after the weekend.

But, in spite of the rain, Friday was just what we needed.  Our good friends, Aarno and Helena were passing through the maritimes on their way back to Ontario and paid a visit.  How awesome to see old friends and familiar faces – and to share a glimpse in what we’re doing.  We went for a quick drive along Cavendish and stopped for lunch at the Blue Mussel Cafe in North Rustico.

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Vanessa with Helena and Aarno

It was there we met Steve, the new owner of the restaurant.  He and his wife just moved to PEI last year, looking for a change of pace and had just opened the restaurant for the season only six days earlier.  And to top it off, they were originally from Ajax – practically neighbors to us in Ontario!  If you ever find yourselves in the area, I’d certainly recommend their cafe.

The day off was more than a welcome change.  It was entirely necessary.   During the week of the foundation work, we were digging and preparing the vegetable gardens.  Vanessa was raking and shoveling while I was getting dragged around the yard by the tiller we rented.  Needless to say, we took advantage of the rainy weekend and rested up.

On Monday, the guys were back to complete the excavation.  The goal was to finish in time to get the footings poured.

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I’ll hand it to them: they put in a long day to get it done, and by the end of the day, the milk truck, er, concrete truck was backing in and the footings were poured.

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What an enormous undertaking, but I’m sure well worth the investment.

Like I mentioned before, it’s all happening very fast.  But in the same breath, I can’t wait until the foundation is done and we’re back on the ground.  Vanessa says it’s like living in a bouncy-castle.  Perhaps not quite that bad, but you certainly feel every wind gust and the floors spring under your feet.

I’ll keep the posts coming as quickly as I can, but remember, find Our Old Island Home on Facebook and “like” us for real-time updates.  You’ll have already known that we’ve started forming the foundation walls today.

Until next time: keep your feet on the ground!

 

The start of something new

At long last, the foundation work is underway.  The long, cold, wet spring has put us a little behind schedule but hopefully we’ll make up some time with the nice weather as of late.

Vanessa and I were sitting at the breakfast table last week when this hauled up outside our house.

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We stopped traffic on Highway 2

The huge carrying beams had arrived, the excavator was already delivered – so it was time to get underway.

First, make a cut in the topsoil to provide access to the sills – the first to be replaced.  Once all of the old sills are removed and replaced and the walls are re-supported, the house can be lifted and the excavation can start.

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So I thought I’d take you on the grand tour of what’s under our house before it all disappears.

Go ahead....after you.

Go ahead….after you.

The original foundation is hand-cut sandstone, dry-stacked to about 5′ high.  The mortar you see in the joints was applied sometime in the past in an attempt to keep some of the moisture out.

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All of these stones will be removed and salvaged from the foundation and stored at the back of our property.

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A lot of these stones will be used in-and-around our property as part of our landscape design as garden borders, retaining walls, walkways and steps to the deck.

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The stones are beautiful – all hand shaped and fit precisely for the foundation – and will have a prominent place in our garden.  But still – that’s a lot of rock.

The whole process for the new basement will take a few weeks, but while that’s underway, we’ve kept busy building our gardens.  The plants we started inside need to be transplanted so our first job is to build the garden beds.

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The areas we’re working in have never been farmed before.  Decades of grass growing waist-high and dying back every season has made the digging difficult (to say the least) but because of this, I suspect the soil is going to be very fertile.  We’ve easily got a couple more days of digging and tilling the soil before we actually plant anything.

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There are some vegetables that should have been planted by now, but with the disagreeable weather and the house demolition monopolizing our time, we will just have to make do.

Fortunately, out seedlings have been thriving inside our grow-op.  We’ve slowly acclimated the plants to living outdoors by daily increasing their outside exposure.

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Hopefully by this time next week, the veggies will be all planted and we’ll be starting on the new shed/chicken coop.

So, things are looking up.  We’re turning that corner that we’ve been waiting for – restoration instead of demolition.  We still have a lot ahead of us, but it’s a nice feeling that we’re into a new stage.  Until then, though, we continue working in the garden and getting our beds planted.  That in itself is like therapy.

Vanessa says: "ever feel like you're being watched?"

Vanessa says: “ever feel like you’re being watched?”

"No idea what you're talking about."

“No idea what you’re talking about.”

 

The week that was….and will be

Monday.  Cold.  Rain.  Sounds like a recipe for a quick update on what’s happening at our old island home.

Last week we finished all of the outstanding little demolition projects – the rear deck is now gone and cleaned up.  Not much to show from there, but we did find a couple of old things under the deck.

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That’s kind of cool – but I have no idea how old it is.

While the weather was on our side, we also got the front porch off and cleaned up.

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We covered the areas where there is no siding to keep the weather out for the next few weeks – both on the front and the back of the house.

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Vanessa’s also been busy tending the compost piles as well – mixing the fresh manure in with all of the yard waste and grass clippings.

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The manure is too green to add to our garden at this point – it will need some time to further breakdown before use.

And finally, the last of the chimney was removed.  We had already removed the portion through the roof, the attic and the second floor level.  To remove the remainder on the main floor, we erected some dust containment in our Living Room (future Dining Room)

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and opened up the wall to expose the bricks.

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Then, like above, remove the chimney brick by brick.  Fortunately, unlike upstairs, we could just toss the bricks out the window as they came down making our cleanup and project quick and painless.

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So with that said, today the last dumpster we’ll need for a while has been taken away.  It’s nice to have our driveway back – for the first time in almost four months.  But here we are – everything done to date in anticipation of our house being supported, lifted off the old foundation and having a new foundation built underneath.  Today we rest, because later this week….

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That’s right – all of our prep work and anticipation is coming to a head.  Tomorrow we enter a new and exciting phase in our renovations.  For the next three weeks or so, we’ll be focusing on some of the outside projects because our house will be up in the air with excavation and foundation happening below.

So, that wraps up this uncommon beginning-of-the-week update, but safe to say, we’ll have much, much more to report as the next few days and weeks progress.

Excuse us while we go do our happy-dance.

"Please.  No dancing."

“Please. No dancing.”

And there she was, gone!

It’s been a while since my last post, but we’ve done so much.

And there she was....gone

And there she was….gone

I sit here trying to collect my thoughts and put something to paper, but frankly, I’m exhausted.  My body aches and my brain is foggy, so I think this post will rely heavily on pictures and quick captions to let you know what we’ve been up to the past two weeks.

We’ve really taken advantage of the beautiful weather and the longer days.  Now that it doesn’t get dark until almost 9:00, we’ve been putting in some long hours to get the last push done before the foundation starts.

Under the watchful supervision of Jill and James

Under the watchful supervision of Jill and James

My last post showed the removal of the chimney above the roof.  Since then, we’ve removed the remainder of it from inside the house.

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With a little help from the air compressor and an air-hammer, I made quick work of busting it down, brick by brick.  Vanessa sorted and stacked the bricks we were keeping for reuse elsewhere.

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Then we turned our attention to outside – the addition. We started with the roof and worked our way down.  Nothing overly complicated, just a lot of effort and grunt-work.

"GRUNT"

“GRUNT”

Strip off the roof, remove the roof boards, wall sheathing and framing.  The demo took longer than we originally anticipated because we did decide to salvage as much of the material as possible.

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Rather than “grip-and-rip”, we dismantled everything, cleaned, sorted, denailed and stacked the material for our new garden shed/chicken coop that we’ll be building later this spring.

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Minus the rot

Minus the rot

We’ve also been cleaning up the yard in anticipation of our vegetable beds and gardens.  We picked up several wood pallets from the building supply store for free (the best kind) and built a couple of garden composters.

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We’ll still have a few more to build around the garden, but it’s a start.  Our neighbor was kind enough to give us some poop, too.  Well, his cow’s poop to be exact.

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We’ve got our blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes, as well as two cherry trees, a pear tree, three cherry bushes.

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Our Honey Crisp apple trees should be arriving soon as well.  Our little grow-op has been a tremendous success this spring – the best ever, actually.  The only problem we’ll have is deciding how many of these little guys make it into the garden.

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As you can tell, I haven’t the energy to put into this tonight – my apologies – but I also didn’t want any longer to pass before updating you on our progress.  So before I face-plant into the keyboard, I wish you al. bjhbsk rch p ccczzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Jokes.

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Today I ate a worm

I thought that would get your attention.

There it is.  Up on the roof.

There it is. Up on the roof.

Now before anyone calls PETW (People for the Ethical Treatment of Worms), I didn’t actually consume an earthworm.  It’s a metaphor (or a simile….or is it an onomatopoeia).  Sorry, English class was never my strong subject.

No – it’s a metaphor.  Imagine you’re on a long journey and you’ve reached a point where the only way you can progress any further is to eat a worm.  That’s where we found ourselves this week.  I had a worm to eat and there was no putting it off any longer.

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With our foundation guy ready to start in the next couple of weeks, I need to get the old chimney torn down – and that means starting at the top.  I haven’t been looking forward to this.  Not by a long-shot.  And excuses have been easy: “too cold”, “too windy”, “too much snow”, “still lots of time”, “I’m too hungry”, “I’m too full”, “my nose is itchy”.  You know how it is – lots of reason to not eat this worm, but it needed to be done.

So far, so good

So far, so good

Today was the day.  The sun was out, the roof was dry and the winds were calm.  The weatherman is calling for rain for the next few days – so here we go.

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I had to build some “steps” just to get some traction on the steep roof.  I tried a few times to just scramble up to the ridge but couldn’t get any grip.  These cleats gave me something to climb on, but needless to say, a 13/12 roof slope is still hard to get up.  That’s more than 45 degrees.

"Yeah - that's not too bad", said no one ever

“Yeah – that’s not too bad”, said no one ever

I’ll be honest, it’s not the heights that bother me – it’s the risk of falling.  Duh, right?  Seriously though, I’ve never had an issue with heights – bridges, buildings, CN Tower – no sweat.  There’s no risk of actually slipping overboard.  But perched up on the roof, swinging a hammer with nothing but the chimney you’re knocking down to hold onto?

Not pictured: a happy guy

Not pictured: a happy guy

Here’s the part where I say: it’s now done, I’m safe.  The chimney is down below the roof line and the hole is patched in until the foundation is done, then the roofer can do his thing.   I didn’t mention previously that I’d be doing this this week – my Mom’s reading this post afterall, but needless to say, I’ll be grounded on terra firma for the next while.

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Just ignore the missing shingles

Quite a view, though

Quite a view, though

With the roof now enclosed, we’ll be spending the next couple of rainy days taking the remaining chimney down from inside the house.

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We’ve got the rear addition completely gutted now and the shingle siding and trim removed.

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So the plan is to remove the chimney when it’s raining, and when the weather’s good, we’ll dismantle the remaining portion of the addition.

And only 1,823,522 nails to pull

And only 1,823,522 nails to pull

Vanessa’s been busy cleaning up the yard – raking up the old dead grass and straw – and burning whatever we can – including the cedar shingles from the addition.

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Murdoch’s been enjoying hanging out with us while we’re outside, too.  It’s been a long winter for him as well.

Enjoying the shade of the barn

Enjoying the shade of the barn

So, back to my original point: how do you eat a worm?  You just close your eyes and swallow.  Unless your “worm” means getting up on your roof.  In that case, I’d suggest keeping your eyes open.

Not so tough now are you, chimney?

Not so tough now are you, chimney?