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

29 Responses to 'a milestone'

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  1. it looks incredible.
    whenever I ‘read’ you, I feel better about my own little sphere and personal levels of tolerance.


    20 Aug 11 at 6:40 pm

  2. you never cease to amaze me.. the house looks more beautiful each time you post. Just lovely!


    20 Aug 11 at 7:02 pm

  3. You’ve done such an amazing job, bev. The transition is truly inspiring. I like knowing that you showed pictures of this house to Don over the years. Just knowing that he has “seen” where you now are seems a comfort. You are making it into a truly beautiful home.

    robin andrea

    20 Aug 11 at 7:16 pm

  4. Looking good, Bev! It’s quite a project you’ve taken on, but I know from my own experience that satisfying work can be a palliative for personal loss and subsequent loneliness.

    Larry Ayers

    20 Aug 11 at 7:21 pm

  5. I’m impressed! Of course I always expect to be impressed by what you do and have never been disappointed. The place looks wonderful; you’ve done a magnificent job. You’re living your life in the way you need to live it, Bev, and I am confident that you WILL feel better and better over time. Nothing can replace what’s been lost, but the future can be, and will be, bright. That’s not me being a Pollyanna…I really believe it!


    20 Aug 11 at 7:40 pm

  6. Bev, You have accomplished a great deal this season, pat yourself on the back…. Great job! We have seen the progress that you have made on the house, Don would be very pleased I think at what you have done with it. You have turned a house into a home. Thanks for sharing the slides…it did work!


    20 Aug 11 at 8:06 pm

  7. it’s looking so good, that now one can see that the trim should be navy blue.


    20 Aug 11 at 9:06 pm

  8. megan – I am glad that it helps.

    Cindy – It feels like the place is finally coming together. I am quite pleased.

    robin – I can imagine Don laughing about howcI went ahead and bought this old place.

    Larry – So true about work being helpful. I don’t really know what I would be doing without this project.

    John – I hope you’re right. I must admit that it all wears a little thin after awhile.

    Kathy – Thanks!

    fred – Hmmm. Navy blue.

    bev wigney

    20 Aug 11 at 9:48 pm

  9. I love reading about the house, and to see how much progress has been made. I do think that the house and you have this relationship of ongoing care and companionship. Each year you return to it, ready to move forward. Ready to make that much more progress. At the end of the season you are able to sit back and reflect on the obvious progress that has been made. When you look back and can see how much life you have breathed into it, how can you now look back at yourself, and how much life you have grown from season to season.

    I had my extended family over to my house today. I prepared food for them, and for most of them, this was their first visit to my new home. I loved sharing all my work with them, and for them to comment on the beauty that I have created with it. It felt like I had made progress, and that there have been some new developments in my life that have been positive. I need to always remind myself that even though I have lived through tragedy, there is still beauty left in this world, and I can still be a part of it.


    20 Aug 11 at 9:49 pm

  10. wow – it really is quite stunning, bev! i love the slideshow. wish i could say i have done something so impressive. when do you leave for the fall/winter?


    20 Aug 11 at 10:10 pm

  11. Dan – You have put into words much of what I feel about the house. Each season’s work is not only progress in restoring the house, but also growth for me – getting to know the house and property, learning about this area, meeting my neighbours and making nre friends, pushing myself to learn new skills and also strengthen my mind and body. All tje while, I am making new memories – not ones that overwrite the past, for that will never happen – but in the same way. that my travels have changed me – giving me new experiences and knowledge of new places – the old house gives me a place that feels grounded. l I get a lot out of the work – it is the kind of work I have always enjoyed, so the rewards are great.
    So glad to hear that y ou had family over for dinner and that they got to see your new place. I am sure you are feeling a wonderful sense of accomplishment at all that yu have done since moving to SD.

    Sky – I wrap things up here as soon as the weather bdgins to turn cold at night. There is no working furnace in the place, so once it starts to get cold at night (probably late September), I will be on my way soon after.

    bev wigney

    21 Aug 11 at 9:36 am

  12. “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 than 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.”

    “It has been a hard three years – lonely, sad, tiring, challenging, sometimes infuriating.”

    “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?”

    Yes, I think there is much good in the mutual rescue and the continuity with Don and the difficult journey.

    Thank you for the link to the slide show of recent progress and old photos for comparison. That’s a lot of good work since spring!

    I love seeing the sweet face of one of your dogs (Is it Sabrina? Sage?), looking out at you as you photograph your new/old house with its late summer garden flowers.


    23 Aug 11 at 11:36 am

  13. Am – That’s Sage looking out the door. She barely takes her eyes off of me for a second, so she ends up in almost every photo!


    23 Aug 11 at 5:54 pm

  14. Hi Bev

    The house looks fantastic, I did not realize that it had that connection to Don. You have done a marvelous job I can only imagine the amount of work you have put in and how hard and sometimes frustrating it must have been with only one set of hands. I watched the way my brother in law (who often does large projects alone) approached things this summer while we were working on the cabin. It gave me a real insight of how much extra thought and problem solving is involved when you work alone. It was a really valuable skill and one that we really needed this summer. I really like the way you have stayed true to the period of the house not just slapping up dry wall or replacing rather than fixing everything with not concern for the overall look of the house. It has become a beautiful home.

    All the best.


    24 Aug 11 at 8:45 am

  15. Hi Guy – Thanks! You are quite right about the difficulties of working on a project like this by yourself. There is no extra pair of hands to steady a ladder or hold a board in place. I have a lot of sets of clamps here and use them frequently. Also ropes for tying things in place, and also often tack boards with screws and then move the other end up into place, etc… If I can ‘t figure out a safe way to do some task and I will leave it and take time to think about the problem for awhile. Eventually, I can usually figure out a work around. I agree about materials and not changing things too much. For example, upstairs, I really like the more sculptural look of plaster and also love the old doors made out of boards. They aee so wonderfully made. I would never replace them. Over the past two seasons, I think I have developed a sense for what to do with this place. I hope to arrest the deterioration and preserve as much of the character as possible, but aso do a few creative things with the interior -sort of folk art things that will gve me a chance to make use of my artistc side,

    bev wigney

    24 Aug 11 at 6:25 pm

  16. Bev, Round Hill House is beginning to look wonderful, and the change in the place since you purchased it is amazing. She (the house that is) has perked up considerably and looks happy – before she seemed forlorn and abandoned.

    Did you get the water issues worked out this summer? You has spoken about the vault and its isopods last year.


    24 Aug 11 at 6:44 pm

  17. Hi Cate – The house is definitely seeming more cheerful these days. It did look quite sad last year. I must admit that I felt quite sorry for it. There is a somewhat similar sad case just down the road from here and it is all I can do to stop myself from going over with a hammer and nails to attach a few boards in place to prevent more deterioration. Guess I’m just a softy when it comes to old houses. No, the water is not working yet. There are some other issues to take care of first – the area of the basement where the pipes come through from the well is a mess – under the old back kitchen. Fixing that will be next season’s project. The good thing is that I found a good local spring which is between here and town, so I do a water stop once or twice a week to fill up a bunch of water jugs. There are rain barrels to collect rain water for laundry, and I swim in the river all summer, so no need for a shower. (-:

    bev wigney

    24 Aug 11 at 6:55 pm

  18. Just keep on moving – I think that’s what a lot of life is about.

    I am impressed not only with what you have done but also by your willingness to do it.


    24 Aug 11 at 11:21 pm

  19. MArk – I agree about keeping on moving. just working away makes its own kind of sense.

    bev wigney

    25 Aug 11 at 12:26 am

  20. Bev,

    I have not commented in a long time , but I read you often. I find you an amazing woman full of talent and strength . I love your girls as I am a dog person myself. You have truly made that old house into a real home for you and the girls. It grows more lovely each time.


    25 Aug 11 at 9:11 am

  21. The house is just lovely looking–it exudes a wondrous charm.
    And cheers for you–for all your energy, your stick-to-it attitude.
    House and woman–well matched.


    25 Aug 11 at 5:39 pm

  22. Cherie and KGMom -Thanks! I’m feeling good about where things are at as We come to the end of another summer.

    bev wigney

    26 Aug 11 at 12:20 pm

  23. The before and after shots show in an instant that which much be harder to appreciate when you’re at the coal-face chip, chip, chipping away every day. You know Bev that we share this preoccupation… I shan’t call it an obsession… with getting an old house in better shape. Peter and I took on Ty Isaf nearly five years ago, and although the first couple of seasons were spent trying to understand the problems and taking advice from architects and a civil engineer, there have been three seasons of activity for us to date, the first two of which were gruelling and disruptive to life. (Installing a new plumbing system and re-wiring.) I have the greatest admiration for the fact that you are working single-handed to bring your old girl back from the brink, whereas we have had teams of workmen to help us. Nevertheless, the goals are clearly similar, your Round Hill House and our Ty Isaf.

    When we arrived here, so much at Ty Isaf either languished uncared for or had been insensitively modernised. Cluster flies invaded the house every Autumn. The place was perishingly cold and aesthetically grim. Nothing worked. Even the window shutters wouldn’t close properly. I began the wretched task of ripping out four storeys-worth of the fitted carpet responsible for my mostly low-level albeit persistent bout of asthma. (Getting it up and out made the asthma much worse for a time, though it was worth the suffering to see the back of the damned stuff knowing my health would be better without it.) Because Peter goes daily to his job in Aberysytwyth while I work from home, I felt overwhelmed at times by what lay ahead. But step by step, stage by stage, the progress was made, and although we’re probably still only half way through the restoration, this summer we had a big house/garden party with over a hundred guests here. As Ty Isaf opened her heart like a flower to everyone, I knew the old girl was feeling better about herself, and that all the hard work had brought back her grace and elegance. (She twinkled, basking in the many compliments.)

    Houses and gardens are artificial constructs. They need the human hand to keep them in good order or nature takes over. Pretty in a stone ruin, but catastrophic for houses like yours and ours that had been too long short of maintenance. As creatures who no longer live in caves, our lives are driven by an aesthetic that requires us to create and then maintain our dwellings and environments. To allow a beautiful old building to fall into decay is to give way to the chaos. To sensitive folk the sight of that which should be thriving, cared for and lived in falling into disrepair and ruin, feels like giving in to all the bad stuff. We can walk on by, or pick up the challenge and do something good and life-affirming. In the midst of all your sadness, you have done just that. You have picked up the challenge, nurtured the garden and brought the house back from the edge. That’s what the best of living is all about. You and your dogs have brought life and vibrancy back into the space that was abandoned. You have made it whole and beautiful again. Well done my friend. Brava. Brava. Brava.

  24. Clive – I need not tell you how much I agree with your remark on how sensitive people feelnabout letting wonderful old buildings fall into decay. When I first arrived here – pulling up into the yard at dusk to see what I had bought – I wondered if it was too late to save this old place. It looked that bad inside and out. Your description of the old carpets reminds me of the mildewed old curtains that I tore down and dragged out the door the first morning after arriving. Air quality inside the house was such that the dogs and I slept in the van for the first month after our arrival. However, little by little, the house retreated from the edge of the abyss. There is still a long way to go, but like Ty Isaf, I and everyone who has visited us this summer, can feel how the house has responded to to being cared about once more. Yesterday, while plastering the third of the upstairs rooms, I marveled over the nice way that the door sill mouldings are made – high, but planed so nicely on both sides – so that when sweeping the floors, the broom will smoothly sweep dust and debris overtop. how simple, thoughtful, and workman-like. So much in this house is constructed with that kind of thoughtfulness. It is almost inconceivable tnat such a beautiful old building could have come to such a sad state, but how good it feels to help bring it back to life. Thanks for your comments, Clive. They mean a great deal to me.


    4 Sep 11 at 6:58 am

  25. Keith and I just watched the slide show.

    We are slack-jawed with wonder.

    I swear. That house is smiling πŸ™‚


    16 Sep 11 at 10:06 pm

  26. Cathy – Ha, sometimes I think it feels happier than when I came here. when I first bought the place it seemed sort of angry, which is not at all surprising. My next door neighbour says she used to look out at it and think it look tired and sad, but that now it seems proud, especially in the moonlight over the snow last winter. This winter, it should even look a little nicer.

    bev wigney

    17 Sep 11 at 4:18 pm

  27. OK. I have a little exercise for you. Hit “Back to the top” again.
    Then scroll down through the post you made to Don’s memory.

    As you cross from that last picture of him facing into the sunshine . . . and the picture of the house emerges . . scroll back and forth . . . . Don . . . the house . . . Don . . the house . .

    Bev. It gave me goosebumps.

    He’s there. Bathed in your love and sunshine.

    A tender hug to you and the pups,


    17 Sep 11 at 4:38 pm

  28. Hmmn. Interesting. I see what you mean. As mentioned inmy comment to Mark, I often feel like he is around when I am working on the place. I never felt that much the first year I was here. Seems to be mainly when I am doing something like using the chainsaw, or outdoor work on the house. Maybe he waited until I had the place fixed up a bit! (-:

    bev wigney

    17 Sep 11 at 5:09 pm

  29. Arlteics like this just make me want to visit your website even more.


    21 Aug 14 at 9:50 pm

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