our days   24 comments

Sabrina and Sage in the front yard with the new “dog fence” in the background

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.

work progresses on scraping, re-nailing, repairing, and priming the shiplap siding on the house

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.

small artifacts found while cleaning the yard and digging up a new garden — but the sundial is new – a present from my brother, Randy

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.

work begins on the Room of the Scary Athletic Wallpaper

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.

Written by bev on May 22nd, 2010