Archive for the ‘sage’ Category
Work continues at the house here in Nova Scotia. Repairs and painting of the exterior seems to have reached a tipping point. In spite of frequent interruptions by heavy rains, I do believe the job will be wrapped up by the time I’m ready to bug out of here sometime in mid to late September. Part of me continues to contemplate the day to day stuff, trying to figure out how to solve each problem as it arises. However, another part of me — maybe 45 percent (?) — is already thinking ahead to life on the road this autumn, and of the coming winter in Arizona. Which route will I take this year? What will I do differently? How can the van be made more comfortable or efficient for this year’s trip? How can I cut costs further by finding free or cheap places to boondock during my travels? What will I do once in Arizona? Will I see about doing volunteer work this winter? What about next year? Should I think more about starting a business? In case it isn’t apparent – yes, I do always have a lot on my mind even as I quietly work on this old house each day.
The past couple of weeks, I’ve made more than my usual number of trips to Annapolis Royal. In July, I made an appointment to take both dogs for their vaccinations. The veterinarian suggested that Sabrina might benefit from laser therapy for her arthritis, so I decided to give that a try. Why not? We scheduled six half-hour appointments spaced over the past two weeks. This morning was the final treatment. Although it’s difficult to be sure, I think Sabrina is getting around better and probably feels less pain. She’s been playing with Sage a lot more this week – their canine form of sumo wrestling where they push each other around the garden. She has managed to climb up on the bed in the back of the van unassisted – something she has not done in months. One thing I do know after spending the spring and summer here in Nova Scotia is that the higher humidity is playing havoc with our arthritis (mine and Sabrina’s). I can tell you that I’ll be very glad to go from the moist air of the Atlantic coast, to the arid environment of southeast Arizona. It’s been wonderful to be here by the ocean, but will be equally wonderful to be back in the desert this winter.
Yesterday, I took a break from working on the house, and spent the morning hacking a new trail down to the river. This one descends closer to the house. It’s steeper, but emerges on a section of shore with granite cobbles and a bit of coarse sand. I’ve already nicknamed the tiny sandbar, The Beach, and will walk down to it with the dogs at least once or twice a day. The uphill grade will be good for Sabrina, helping to strengthen her hind leg muscles in preparation for the walks I hope we’ll take during our travels. These weeks of hot, humid weather have sent both dogs fleeing for the shade. It’s hard to get them interested in walking anywhere, but both of them seem willing to scrape up the energy to visit the river.
But for a few conversations with neighbours, and with staff at the veterinary clinic, I’ve spent much of this summer in absolute solitude. Occasionally, I speak with people in the hardware and grocery stores, but otherwise, most days are spent silently sanding or scraping wood, or brushing on paint. However, for four days in late July, I did share my place with an unexpected visitor. About three weeks ago, I realized that my profile on couchsurfing.org was outdated and still showing me as living at my farm in Osgoode. Although I don’t have a place for anyone to stay, I thought I’d better update things a bit. Much to my surprise, a few days later, I was emailed by a young man from France who is traveling around Canada on a one year work visa. He asked if it might be okay to pitch a tent in my garden for a few days. I emailed back to say that would be fine so long as he understood that things were rather primitive at the moment. He replied to say that was okay with him and that he’d arrive in a couple of days.
As it turned out, the visit was quite fun and interesting for all concerned. Antoine was a very willing worker and a great help around the place. One morning, while on the way to the local lumber yard to buy kiln-dried pine, I asked Antoine if he had any experience building furniture. He said not much – just assembling flat-pack furniture from Ikea. When we arrived home, I asked if he’d like to try his hand at building a new bed frame for the back of my van. He was keen to give it a go, so I described the changes I would like to see. He listened intently, then went to work, creating a frame that is a little different but much nicer than what I’d had in mind. At the end of the day, we were both quite pleased with his handiwork.
Of course, it wasn’t all work. On one very hot day, I suggested that we take a break and drive down to Mavillette Beach on the south shore. We loaded both dogs into the van and took off for the entire day. The breeze off the ocean was cool and refreshing after the heat and humidity of the past week. Antoine took Sage running far down the beach, disappearing into the mist. As I watched, I could not help but think of my last trip to the beaches of the south shore in August 2007. Don and I had decided to make a trip to Nova Scotia to get away from the heat and pollen at the farm. He had been bothered by a persistent cough all summer long. We thought the ocean air would be a good change, and in fact, it did seem to help. Of course, the problem was far more serious than anything we could have imagined, but we weren’t to learn that for another three months. For us, it was one of the last truly happy times together.
Waiting for Antoine and Sage to reappear from the mist, I thought of how strange it was to be sitting on the beach with Sabrina resting beside me, watching a new dog running with a visitor, instead of Don running with Sabrina. In less than a month, it will have been two years that I’ve been alone with my dogs, and three years since I walked the beaches of the south shore with Don.
A month has passed since our arrival here at the house in Round Hill, Nova Scotia. The weather hasn’t always been pleasant, but I’ve worked away at the place, mainly trying to get the yard in order, and assessing which projects to tackle this season. The goals that I set have to be realistic. I’m one person working alone. If I push myself too hard, I’ll risk injury and it just wouldn’t be as pleasant here. This is a wonderful area and it’s good to remind myself of that from time to time so that I’ll make time to get out and about occasionally.
Sage and Sabrina have begun to settle in. There was one bad scare after Sabrina wandered off the second morning here. I found her walking along the far side of the highway just a minute after turning my back to move something from the van into the house. Sage was standing by the van with a rather shocked and “oh no!” look on her face. My spider senses told me Sabrina must have gone to the road so I ran straight there to look for her. Sure enough, she was ambling along as though she knew where she was going. I felt sick at the thought of how she could have been hit by a car. Sabrina used to be great about staying around the house, but over the past couple of years, she’s developed an odd tendency toward going off exploring on her own. I’m not sure if it’s an old dog thing, or if it’s that we’ve traveled so much that she feels all the world is her oyster and its calling her name. Whatever, it’s become a problem. That afternoon, I paid my first of many visits to the local lumber yard to buy materials for construction of a “dog fence”. It’s a work in progress, but the main section is up now – and visible in the above photo. Also visible are some perennial flowers which I bought from a woman who was reducing the size of her cut flower operation. I suppose that digging up new garden beds for flowers is about the last thing I needed to be doing over the past couple of weeks, but the work will seem worth it once the flowers begin to bloom later this spring.
Outdoors, I’ve been cutting back tree branches and brush that was pressing on one side of the house, making a couple of trails through the wilder parts of the property to allow river access, and generally just keeping the yard tidy.
As for the house – what can I say? There is a ton of work to be done. So many things calling to be taken care of, that it’s difficult to know where to begin. My priority for this season is to get the outside of the house closed in — and by that I mean, to repair and paint all of the siding and wood trim so that things won’t deteriorate any farther than they already have. On sunny days, I can be found scraping, repairing, renailing and painting the old shiplap siding. The house will be painted with something more colorful, but for now, it’s gradually acquiring an expanding layer of white primer. I’m beginning with all that I can reach from the ground and will set up some scaffolding when it’s time to work on the higher sections.
I’ll be the first to admit that there have been some “SHRIEK” moments as I’ve uncovered or opened certain things around the house. The outside basement stairwell is probably about the scariest thing so far. They are a crumbling mess of boulders and cement. I’m sure that most people would be cursing at some of the things I’ve seen over the past four weeks of getting to know this place, but most of the time I just laugh. In fact, last week, I told my nearest neighbour that if he hears me laughing, it’s probably because I’ve discovered some new disaster. I suppose the strange part is that I really don’t mind these small catastrophes. After all of the things I’ve been through in recent years, it takes so much to faze me that it’s pretty hard to take any of this too seriously. I will deal with each thing in time – when I have the time, inclination, and energy. That’s the only way I know how to operate anymore.
Of course, a place as old as this (c. 1867) has plenty of small surprises lying in wait. I’ve set up a couple of “museum” areas in the yard – atop old stumps – where I display the most recent treasures unearthed while digging up perennial beds or clearing the yard of old chunks of wood and other detritus. There’s so much of this stuff all over the place on the hillsides that it’s sure to be almost like an archaeological dig as I gradually work my way over the whole property. So far, no treasure chests have been found – but plenty of square-headed nails and odd bits of hand-forged iron. I’ll try to remember to post more photos sometime soon. The shell was a bit of a surprise, but I found other fragments of shells around the same area of the yard and can only surmise that someone had collected shells and they were then tossed out onto the hillside.
Over the past week or so, I’ve spent rainy days running errands, or working on the Room of the Scary Athletic Wallpaper. There’s something about it that reminds me of those rooms at Pompeii, or the Etruscan tombs, which are named after some motif found on the walls. With hammer, chisel, scrapers, and crowbar, I’ve been gradually removing the old chunks of plaster from the lath. Of course, that process has revealed other horrors – no insulation in the walls (no great surprise in a house of this age), and being able to see the grass growing outside through some of the cracks in the shiplap siding. Needless to say, my decision to prioritize fixing the siding and getting the house properly weatherproof has already been vindicated.
So, that’s how things have been going for the past month. I may be biased, but I’d say that things are already looking a little nicer around here. If I don’t lose too much momentum over the summer, the place should be at least half-way respectable looking by autumn. As for me, I’m doing okay. It’s difficult being here alone, wishing that Don were here too. This is the future that we had worked toward. Last week, I drove over the central highland area of Nova Scotia on my way over to Bridgewater. There are lakes and rivers scattered all along that route – most with a nice access point for canoes and kayaks. If Don were here, I know that by now, we would have put down our tools and loaded up the canoe to go out tripping around at least once or twice already. However, I’m here alone and the canoe is back in Ottawa. At some point this summer, I’ll make a trip back to Ottawa to pick it up. It would be nice to get out on the water at least a time or two this season.