Archive for the ‘sage’ Category
Please Note: The comments on my blog stopped working a couple or so months ago. I’ve been trying to repair the database – called the host’s tech support, etc… and so far, have been unable to get them working again. My workaround was to modify another blog on the same host as a “new” version of this blog. I’ll continue to put up new blog posts here, but if you want to see a version with working comments, go to http://magickcanoe.com/blog10. Sorry for the inconvenience!
It’s been a very long time since I posted anything to my blog. I had hoped to keep up with it, but then the blog was plagued with technical problems that remained unresolved. I was in Arizona for the winter with just the iPad and a limited net connection, so I abandoned any attempt to sort out the problems. Even now, this solution isn’t exactly ideal. I’ve had to resurrect an old blog and repurpose it as the new version of Journey To the Center, and hope that it will keep working right. I’ve already spent a bunch of time on the phone with the server tech support and they can’t seem to fix the problems with the original blog, so this work around will have to do until I come up with a more permanent solution.
Anyhow, enough about the technical problems. I’m going to try to pick up where I left off last autumn after finishing the fifth summer of work on the house at Round Hill.
I began the trip to Arizona around the first of November. I’m often asked what I would do if my truck broke down on the way. I’ve thought through several scenarios that include such things as renting a U-Haul van to drive the rest of the way, or even buying another van. However, I try to keep a positive mindset when I set out on my almost 4,000 mile journey. If I didn’t think positively, I’d never be able to make myself go. This trip was no different than the others. I set out with my plan to drive for eight days. I knew where I would stop at the end of each day. However, there’s that saying about the best laid plan. On the first day of travel after setting out from my Mom’s place in Ottawa, about three hours after crossing into the U.S., the truck broke down on the side of the freeway near Batavia, New York. I sized up the situation — the truck had blown a heater hose and lost a lot of coolant. I filled the rad with water as best as I could manage, and used wire and tape to attach the broken hose together (it was a broken off plastic T-fitting). In about eight very short hops to prevent the engine from overheating badly, I managed to drive the last few miles to the Batavia exit and limped into the parking lot of the Days Inn. Fortunately, I got a room for a couple of nights and the next morning, made a couple of calls and had the van towed to a shop for repair. To make a very long story short, I was back on the road within two days — not trusting the van too much — so I spent the first day back on the road, taking the scenic route on toward my next night’s stop in Pennsylvania. Emboldened by no further catastrophes, I got back on the freeway the next morning and followed the rest of my original trip plan.
This winter marked a change in my accommodations. In previous years, I rented a house in the Mule Mountains on the outskirts of Old Bisbee. This winter, I would be living in a cabin in the desert valley, just a few miles from Bisbee. Although I enjoyed all the winters at the Bisbee house, it always felt a little confining as there were steep slopes just beyond the garden. The cabin offered something completely different – a greater feeling of freedom – of being able to just walk out the door and go rambling with the dogs – no one in sight, no cars, no need for leashes. Although it was fairly spartan living, it was comfortable enough. A good bed. A convenient place to cook meals. And terrific views of mountains and incredible skies.
Those who know me well, know that I do most of my cooking outdoors spring through autumn while at the place in Round Hill. Doing so in the desert was old hat for me as I spent several autumns camping my way around Utah, California and southern Oregon. However, the winds tend to be rather challenging at times. Still, it’s not too difficult to produce excellent meals on a gas burner or in the barbecue.
The rewards for roughing it are many. A fabulous 360 view of the sky, with mountain ranges in every direction. Good weather for the most part. Almost absolute silence. The photo just below was taken through the west window while sitting on the bed.
Did I mention the sunrises and sunsets? Cooking in the outdoor kitchen was such a wonderful thing. I never missed a terrific sunset. I could look around while I cut up vegetables, or tossed a stir fry on the bbq, and see all of these amazing things happening in the sky in every direction. It was wonderful. I’ll write some more about last winter in Arizona in the next day or two – then it will be back to the present here in Round Hill.
It’s become something of a tradition for me to put together an end-of-summer post to document the work and events that happened here at Round Hill. I do this mainly for myself as it’s proven useful for me to be able to look back and see what was accomplished each summer. This year was particularly notable for the type of projects completed. I’ll get to that below.
I think it’s good to do this kind of photo documentation as I tend to forget just how much I have done each year. In fact, just looking for some representative photos for this post, I kept thinking, “Oh, yes! There was that project too! Oh, and that one as well!” I know I would otherwise forget all of this stuff in short order as the years really are running together lately.
The first thing to mention is that the old house sustained some fairly extensive damage to the roof during the late winter blizzard that hit Nova Scotia in March. Upon my arrival here in early May, I was dismayed to find torn up shingles strewn throughout the front garden. Even before going indoors for the first time, I wandered around the property inspecting the roof from different vantage points. I soon spotted a couple of badly ripped up sections where the roof planking was exposed. This did not bode well for the old place. Upon entering, I went straight upstairs and, not too surprisingly, found some areas of major water damage where the plaster ceilings and walls had been become soaked. These were sections of rooms that I had already finished replastering during past summers. Big mushy heaps of plaster lay on the floors or slopped over objects directly below the spots where water had entered the attic and come down through the ceilings. I wasn’t much amused. However, I’ve become quite adept at dealing with chaos and disappointment, so I wasn’t overly upset by the sight.
The weather didn’t give me much of a break upon arrival. There was a heavy rain within a day or two. Water immediately seeped through many areas of the upstairs ceilings – including two spots in my bedroom. Armed with about a dozen buckets and plastic trays, I climbed up a ladder and through the attic hatch and set to work locating the worst of the holes in the roof. I did this during a heavy rain. Quite a depressing sight to watch streams of water splashing down onto the attic floor. However, it was also the best way to locate the hot spots that required a bucket to catch the flow. I soon realized that finding a good roofing company was job #1 on my list. As it happened, I spotted some fellows working on a roof up the road from my place. I liked what I saw (they were meticulously cleaning up the ground after completing the job). I emailed them and arranged to have someone come out to inspect the roof and give me a rough estimate. I already knew it was going to be an expensive job as I’d checked the planking while up in the attic and many of the heavy planks on the east side were soggy and rotten. We agreed on a price and then I went into “waiting mode”. Unfortunately, this area got hit with the tropical storm tail end of Hurricane Arthur, so the roof sustained even more damage. Fortunately, one of the roofers had done some minor patching to see things through until they could begin the job, so things weren’t quite as terrible as they might otherwise have been.
Finally work began. The roofers ripped off all the old shingles and replaced about 20 big planks. There was one nasty surprise — the wood siding on one of the gables was a water-soaked mess from improperly installed flashing at some point in the distant past. That added a lot of extra cost to the job. Ho hum.
From 3 to 5 fellows worked on the roof for almost a week. The house is high enough and the roof steep enough, that scaffolding was needed in order to work safely. The work was done well and looks quite neat. I spoke to the roofing team fellows a couple of times a day. The fellow who did the pyramid-shaped tower roof told me that he was pretty nervous when he started the first side. The angle is quite steep, so even with a wide plank on roof jacks, he didn’t feel very secure. By the time he got to the fourth side, he said he was hopping around without any trouble. Anyhow, at last it was completed. They had to remove the whale from its perch for a couple of hours, but it’s back in its familiar spot now and spinning freely to indicate the wind direction.
As most of you probably know, almost all of the work on this house has been done with my own two hands. However, when it came to the roof project, that was totally out of the question as I am pretty much terrified of heights. That said, I did take on one “high project” this summer. The entire 30 foot soffit and fascia of the west side of the house was totally rotten and needed to be replaced before the roof could be done. I got an estimate for the work, but decided that I could handle it myself during the time while I waited for the roofers to begin the job. It was, to be quite frank, a rather shitty kind of job as I don’t own scaffolding and the section of the roof was about 12 feet above the ground, so at just about the very limit of my comfort zone for working off the top of a ladder. However I managed to get it all done. The wood itself did not cost all that much, so this was a job well worth having done. It turned out well and I didn’t fall and kill myself. I should mention that when one of the roofers found out that I would be doing this alone, he asked if I wasn’t nervous in case I fell. After all, who would know and come to my rescue. I showed him where I set my cellphone while working — down on the ground right below wherever I was up on the ladder!
I finally got around to another job that I’ve long thought of doing — and that was to tile the front entrance hall. I bought a carton of tiles that were about the colour of a sandy beach with streaking through it. The idea I had in mind was that the hall floor would be painted to resemble an ancient mariner’s ocean map with fanciful sea creatures and a compass rose – and the tiles would be the beach overlooking all this. The tile turned out quite nice, although shortly after it was finished, I dropped a heavy piece of metal on one of the tiles and cracked it. I have a spare tile that I will insert there — some day!
A lot of other things happened this summer. It wasn’t always work and no play. As some of you may remember, my poor trusty van sort of blew apart on the highway back in early August — one of the front ball joints gave out and the van suffered some damage. Fortunately, it could be repaired, but it was out of commission for several weeks. To tide me over, I bought a rather long-in-the-tooth little Jeep for not too much cash. The whole story of the van’s breakdown and the Jeep’s serendipitous acquisition may be found here. At first, I found the Jeep to be quite skittish and I thought, “Whoa! What I have gotten into!” but in time, we bonded and get along extremely well now. I have actually grown to love my little Jeep which wore a canoe hat all through August and September. It’s been fairly trustworthy and got me around – almost happily – while the van was being overhauled. And speaking of the canoe, it is finally “home” after being stored and used by good friends back in Ottawa. I brought it here this spring and its maiden voyage in Nova Scotia was made particularly memorable as I took Arizona friends, Tom and Helen, for a small canoe trip on an upper branch of Round Hill Brook (up on Barry’s Stillwater). I guess I should have included a photo from that trip, but I see that I already have more than enough photos for a blog post. I would have written this as a two-parter, but know I would never have gotten around to part two.
As you might guess, there was a hell of a lot of plaster repair work to be done upstairs in the wake of the terribly leaking roof. I used up several buckets of plaster, but all is pretty much back to where it was before the disaster. I also managed to get going on plastering the final room of the upstairs — yet another gargantuan job — but it’s almost finished! Not sure if I will get it done before I leave, but if not, I will surely finish it next spring. The above photo is of one corner of that room.
One of the really neat projects of this summer was the installation of a wood stove. Yet again, this was something I had hoped to see done some day. Don and I installed the wood stove in our farm house back in Ontario, so I had contemplated doing an installation on my own. However, the roof on this house is pretty high, so I decided that might be risky and stupid. As it happened, one of the roofers said that he could do the stove installation as he had done many in the past. He said that if I got absolutely everything assembled in advance, he would come and install the stove on a day off from roofing. It was a lot of running around, but the day finally arrived and the stove got installed. I love it! It’s beautiful and it has made such a difference to the comfort of the house. Should have done this ages ago.
Of course, with such a nice wood stove in the living room, I had to find some way of enjoying watching the flickering flames at night. I decided to move a bed in here and start sleeping in this part of the house. Hell, who cares if it’s the living room? I’m at the point that I just do what I like and this made sense, so I fixed up a little sleeping area and it’s really rather nice. I can look down on the river through the windows by day, and watch the wood fire by night.
This proved to be the summer of reawakening creativity for me. As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with a general lack for a very long time. It has been hard to feel very creative when I felt like I was barely keeping my life strung together with invisible duct tape. Anyhow, I began work on more painted floor projects — the above image is one of the figures on the ancient mariner’s map in the front entrance hall. I managed to finish painting all the rest of the downstairs rooms this summer. That felt pretty good.
I also made my first folk art carving in many years. I used to do lots of carvings each year and had studio shows and sales back at my cordwood studio building in Ontario before my world fell apart. I have decided to try to get back into art again. When I return here next spring, I intend to start making pieces once more. I’m really looking forward to it.
Another project was to start accumulating chairs for painted chair projects which I’ll sell along with folk art and other painted furniture. I watch for them at yard sales and thrift shops. These were the first three. Now there are a bunch of others – a veritable stable of them awaiting my attention when I return in the spring.
Of course, no summer here has been complete without a garden. The vegetable garden did wildly well. I grew watermelons that did really well — a first for me! This autumn, I planted a bunch of new seed garlic purchased from Rasa Creek Farm in British Columbia. I have always wanted to grow specialty garlic after buying a half-dozen wonderful bulbs from a grower at a farmer’s market in Grants Pass, Oregon, during one of my autumn trips long ago. That garlic made such an addition to many meals during my month long camping trip in the redwoods of northern California. I’ve long dreamed of growing such garlic here. Now it’s all planted and will hopefully be coming up when I return in the spring.
The sunflower patch did really well too, as did the gladiola patch that I plant and tend for my nearest neighbours who are not able to grow a garden anymore. I was able to keep vases of cut flowers going for them for several weeks.
Throughout all of the above, I’ve made time for some fun. I’ve played a lot of music, made many new friends, and enjoyed plenty of pilgimages to the terrific Saturday morning market in Annapolis Royal. In spite of the steady pace of work around here, it’s all been kind of idyllic. Sage and Shelby and I had a lot of fun playing around together between all the daily tasks of mowing lawns, weed whacking with the weed trimmer, cutting and hauling firewood, and all the other stuff that goes into life here at Round Hill. I am so thankful to have such a great place to live, work and play. In spite of some of the problems – like the roof – all in all, I would have to say it has been a wonderful summer.