Archive for the ‘old buildings’ Category

a milestone   29 comments

It’s been awhile since my last post. It seems that summer has been slipping by rapidly. I’ve been working pretty hard most days, trying to get as much done as possible before packing up to head back to Ontario, and later on, to head southwest to Bisbee. When I arrived here this spring, I had it in mind to try to finish repairing and painting the exterior of the house. However, the weather pattern here this summer has been such – a couple of sunny days followed by a day or two of showers – that finishing up seemed out of reach. This week, the pattern seems to have broken and I got a window of about five hot, sunny days. Determined to make the best of things, I got back to work on the front of the house.

Now, as some of you may recall, I have been stuck at the just-above-half-way point since last summer. Part of that was due to weather and running out of time, but part was due to my inability to figure out a way to work quite a few feet above my comfort zone. You see, I have never really liked working much over 10 feet above the ground. Anything above that starts to push my personal tolerance levels – so I was stuck at the point where I could not advance without coming up with a method to go higher. Indeed, I finally did figure out a way – using an extension pole with paintbrush taped to the end, and wielded while standing near the top of my tallest step ladder. It was a little awkward, but the work went surprisingly well. The front of the house is now finished, and I have just a part of the east side to complete and I will be done – not counting the north facing side with the ashphalt shingle siding which – hopefully – will be replaced next season.

In any case, finishing up the front feels like some kind of milestone. The house finally seems more like a house and less like an abandoned wreck. I have posted the above and next photos as reminders for all of you who have been following this sometimes crazy project. Yes, the house really did look this bad when I rolled into the yard for the first time in April 2010. As some may recall, I bought the property “sight unseen” except for photos and video clips. What I may or may not have mentioned is that Don and I had seen this house whenever it appeared in the MLS listings from time to time going back several years before. I would show it to him and he would always scowl and say the place looked too wrecky. My decision to buy the place was made all that much more difficult knowing that he would probably have thought it would be too much work – perhaps more than I could manage. However, if he could be here now, and see how beautiful the property is looking after this season of trail clearing, and how nice the house is looking as I have finished plastering and painting more han half the upstairs this summer – and now finishing up most of the exterior – well, I believe he would feel pleased and glad that I gave the old place a chance. True, I am a long way from done. The basement is still such a mess – it looks like an old mineshaft down there – but I will work at it next season – the same way I have worked at the other parts – with a sort of patient determination.

I suspect that most of you have lost track of how long I have been alone now. On September 6th, it will have been three years. It has been a hard three years – lonely, sad, tiring, challenging, sometimes infuriating. I am not much for keeping track of dates or even the time. To be quite honest, these days, I don’t really care much about time, or what is happening outside of the little sphere in which the dogs and I exist. I just work away every day, trying to get by as best as I can. I know that friends and family hope that things will be better some day. In many ways, I guess they are – mostly because I just keep on moving and try not to think too much about life. Mainly I just work on the old house. To me, it seems sort of like a rescue mission – rescuing this old place from the oblivion that has taken a few other noble old houses along this road. And in return, maybe the old house is doing its best to rescue me. There must be some good in that, don’t you think?

Note: I have put up a little slideshow of photos of recent progress on the old place – mostly having to do with the plaster work upstairs. If you are interested, you should be able to find it here. Hope the link works.

Written by bev wigney on August 20th, 2011

a taste of summer   29 comments

It seems that summer has arrived here in Round Hill. Nights are still quite cool, but days have been warm and this week threatens to be quite hot. I continue to work away at things here – both indoors and out. Instead of writing much in this post, I thought it would be fun to share some photos taken over the past week or so (click on all photos for larger views).

To begin, the above photo was taken down by the river. As you may recall, I have been cutting trails through the property and have cleared four access points to the shoreline. This is the one that I can see from my bedroom window. The photo was taken about three-quarters of the way down the hill. From my room, the chair looks quite tiny. Anyhow, there is now a steep but walkable trail from the house to the river. It’s a nice view. One of these days, when I actually take some time off work around here, I may actually go down and sit in that chair.

This photo is of a rusty cast iron tripod that I found while clearing trails back in the woods. As I work my way through the property, I constantly unearth objects. This is the largest as yet. Mostly, I find glass bottles, tin cans, metal pans, and occasionally reams of the most horrid looking “barbed tape” fence wire which I carefully remove and wind into hoops to be stowed in a safe place. The history of this property has something to do with the stuff that I unearth. Behind the old house, there was once a barn, and on the hillside down to the river, an old cooper’s shed where barrels were once made for shipping apples from this region. Down by the river, on a lot which is now severed from this property and owned by a neighbour, there were once two large factory buildings for the Round Hill Woodworks. Only one building remains. It was the general store for the village for many years, before eventually closing down and being sold off. In any case, with so much activity on this property, it is really no surprise that objects are unearthed almost everywhere I look. Kind of fascinating.

If you are on Facebook, you’ll already know that I spent last Sunday removing three large windows from the second floor level of the house. Last summer, I made an unsuccessful attempt to remove the rotten old storm windows from the upper level. I soon discovered that the windows were not only attached by the regular screw bolts, but that they had also been nailed to the sashes using huge common nails (ggrrrrhhhhh!!!!).

There was no way that I could get proper leverage to extract the nails while standing at the top of a ladder, so I decided to leave the job for the winter and figure out a different way to get the old windows off the house. This time, I tackled the job from the inside, first removing the inner windows which all need some repair work anyhow. Then, I used a crow bar to partially pry each window away from the sash. Once there was a crack of open space, I threaded some cord around each window and tied it to a nail I hammered up above the inside window frame. Then I finished prying the windows out, catching them as they swung out and down, but stopped from crashing to the ground by the cord. With the windows now out of the way, I can do some repairs to the sashes and the upper siding and finish painting the upper level exterior before summer’s end.

My modus operandi for working on this place is to tackle several jobs at a time. I know that probably bothers some of you. Why not start one job and just work at it until the very end? Well, that wouldn’t suit my personality too well. I like to have several irons in the fire at all times. There are practical reasons as well. Sometimes it is too hot to be working on the trail building project, or it’s been raining and the exterior walls are too saturated to paint, so I need an indoors job. That’s what the above and the next few photos are all about. As some of you may remember from last year’s work program, I repaired and painted the downstairs but stopped about half way up the staircase. Now I am carrying on into the upper level. The above photo is of the long room with two windows that look out onto the front garden (the same window openings featured in the photo further up this page). I like this room very much and intend to turn it into a studio at some point – maybe around the same time that I go down to sit in the chair by the river.

Anyhow, the condition of the walls in this room are not too terrible, other than at one end where the plaster is off the lath on the sloped ceiling, and there are planks that were covered with wallpaper which frames a rather spooky closet. The rest of the ceiling is peeling and requires scraping – all similar to the Room of the Scary Wallpaper which I worked on last summer.

There is a square tower room as well, and it is almost ready for painting. There are two more bedrooms and a long hall on the back side of the upper floor. They are in rather dreadful condition and will require *a lot* of work. I don’t think I will get to them this summer.

Anyhow, here is the same view of the *proposed studio* after most of the wallpaper has been scraped away and the first coat of plaster applied. It is already looking much nicer and brighter in the room and my imagination is busily creating visions of a nice studio with a work table, easel, cabinet for paints and brushes……… Well, I shall get there eventually.

Now, lest anyone think that I don’t take the odd day off, The above photo will prove you wrong. On Saturday mornings, I usually tear myself away from work for an hour or two to visit the Annapolis Royal farmers’ market. Generally, I buy a couple of soft pretzels and fruit turnovers, then poke around looking at everyone’s stuff. The above insulators were acquired over a couple of weekly visits to one of the vendor’s tables. At some point, I hope to build a little glass shelf upon which they will sit at the top of the now-absent windows of the partially-plastered studio room. Do you get how all of this works? It’s all about building up a series of carrots leading from one job to the next. Somewhere at the end of the string of carrots, there is a chair by the river and several colorful insulators displayed on a glass shelf.

Okay, I know what you are thinking. What on earth is this photo about? Well, this is a photo of the next major town north of here – as depicted on a postcard dated circa 1900. It is one of about two dozen neat old postcards in a scrapbook owned by my next door neighbour. In my *spare* time (what’s that?), I have been scanning the cards, along with an old post office register book that was kept by her uncle from 1894 to 1931. The point of this activity is to preserve these relics for posterity. Once I get a bit more *spare* time, I hope to contact the local historical society to find a safe, permanent home for the old postal register – where it might prove rather useful to genealogists and historians of this region. For those who are interested, I have put .jpegs of all the postcard scans in an online gallery here. Hope that link works.

Now, believe it or not, I do manage to remember to stop and eat occasionally. Of course, by the time that happens it is usually around 7 or 8 in the evening. A week or so ago, I decided it would be nice to cook the odd meal on a barbecue. Only one problem – no barbecue – as I gave the old one away when I sold the farm. However, I had noticed a small kettle type barbecue on sale at the local grocery store, so I stopped by and bought it, a bag of chunk charcoal, and a bunch of vegetables. The barbecue came -unassembled – in a large box weighing 25 pounds. At first, I thought to leave assembly until later in the afternoon – after all, the instructions said it would take just 10 to 15 minutes to assemble the unit. However, some rational part of my brain quickly deduced that there was no way that 25 pounds of barbecue parts were going to fit together and be ready to cook in 15 minutes. About 1 hour and 15 minutes later, the barbecue was ready for charcoal. The asparagus and the long strips of a sweet red banana peppers proved to be especially good.

Of course, no long, busy day of work would be quite complete without turning on the UV lamp and firing up the camera gear for an evening of mothing. Listening to Loons calling, Barred owls hooting, coyote howling, raccoons fighting over vegetable scraps back at the compost bin while you photograph moths can be so relaxing. With any luck, I get a few nice moths like the Pachysphinx modesta in the final photo. It’s a good way to wrap up the day before catching a few hours of sleep in preparation to start all over again in the morning.

Written by bev wigney on July 17th, 2011