Thursday, September 27, 2012

The house still has four walls .....just!

What happened to Spring here in Nova Scotia? Well, it just ran into Summer and forgot how to rain!  With long hot days, it has been the warmest and driest in many people’s memories. Not that we are complaining here, but when you are trying to restore an old house, the odd day below 25c would be nice. The area we are currently working is facing south, and with nothing in the way of shade it became very hot  to work.

So what has happened since May 29th, the last blog?

Very, very sad news first and foremost. Marmalade (Marmsie) our beautiful orange tabby, disappeared late on June 28th. She was outside at 10pm and refused to come in so we left her another hour. But when we went to try and coax her in she was not there. We suspect a Coyote.  We are so desperately   sad to have lost her as she was such a treasured member of this adventure. Always part of any gathering, Marmsie was so comfortable around people. She was my little helper, always investigating what I had just done, and keeping close . I am sure that, had she a thumb, she would have picked up a hammer.  So have I have included a few shots of Marmise as that is one cat we shall not forget.

However, at the end of July when we were just wondering if we should have more cats, one turned up on our doorstep. During a late-night, rare rain storm, Jenn heard a cat outside and rushed out in the hope of seeing Marmsie, when a skinny, black and grey tabby kitten, ran past her into the house.  Three tins of cat food later, she had made herself very comfortable and she is still with us.  She is about eight months old and a very gentle, long-legged elegant young lady with double paws on all four feet.  Her name is Val, short for Valley Cat.

Just before I left for the UK, Jenn went to St Anne’s University (an all French Uni) for a four week immersion course, where every student signs a contract to speak French 24/7.  Jenn enjoyed the lobster and clam dinners, the beaches and making new friends, and got an A, so her French has really improved.  This, we hope will increase her chances of retaining her long term substitute job she is in, until April next year. BREAKING NEWS September 27th - Jenn had her test earlier this week with the school board and she now is at INTERMEDIATE level, so she is very pleased.

I had a lovely two weeks in the UK and met up with some old friends and family. It was great to see my young son Andrew in his new student house in Huddersfield, and to be flown by my eldest son in a light airplane. Thank you to all for the accommodation, meals, drinks  etc.  I had a great time.

Jenn and I celebrated her birthday and our 4th wedding anniversary with a night away in Yarmouth, staying at an elegant B&B.  Jenn was still at Ste. Anne’s then, and had to get a note of permission to leave the campus and speak English!

Jenn's daughter Emily and her boyfriend Maher have bought a lovely home in Ottawa.  Jenn and her other daughter, Stephanie, enjoyed a week's visit there late August, and we are thinking of visiting there over Christmas.  Stephanie has switched her degree to Psychology, and is enjoying living in a house with friends near campus.  

House news…Bedrooms
Much work has continued to turn this place into a home which we hope will keep up warm this winter. On the inside and upstairs, the long room has now been split into two bedrooms. The stud wall was added at the beginning of June and I had a deadline of June 19th, when my Mum was due to arrive to get one half finished. That was done, and although it still needs more work it will do for the time being. The two new rooms  all have their new windows and the walls are insulated with R20 insulation batts and a high density, foil backed foam board.  This gives the rooms a cosy(we hope) R27. In an old house that should be ok against the cold winter of Nova Scotia.

The small bedroom next to the long room is ready for the pipe work to turn it into an en suite for one of the long room bedrooms. Which means that only one bedroom remains with its lathe and plaster ceilings and walls, along with its dressing room. They will be tackled in October.


Of the 25 windows, and 3 doors, one door has still to be installed along with five windows.  I have learnt how to put windows in.  The  four in Jenn’s studio, I did myself with a little help from my Mum, Marcia, Tony and Jenn. Really pleased with the results.

Jenn’s Studio

The old summer kitchen now has all the insulation added and the gyproc (plasterboard) is almost finished. Again the construction is to R27 with batts and foiled backed foam board. I have now finished plastering (mudding as they call it here), and the walls are painted. Skirting boards have been installed, which just leaves the floor to be painted.  On the outside it all now has the house wrap added along with new facias and trim around the windows. The here also requires a lattice work cover before the weather board to added and that has also been done. The weather board will be added as and when I have time.

We move on to the East side of the house in September which include the remaining three rooms in the house.   

The Wall Bulge

On the East side ground floor a bulge appeared after the house was lifted and after taking off the lathe and plaster, the problem was revealed. Nothing was holding the wall in place at floor level (see picture) which means two thirds of wall can be moved with your hand!! With  the advice of Paul Uhlman, I should be able to make it secure.

The Taxi 

The company which I started is going well - Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown Taxi.  There have been some very interesting customers and journeys . The car is performing well but it suffered some damage just over a week ago when I hit and sadly killed a large dog, that had not been tied up by the owner.  You are always on the lookout at night for deer, racoons, coyotes, and porcupines but it was bad luck to hit the one animal that should have been tied up!

Thanks for my friend in Sweden, Sabine, for reminding me about the blog or the lack of one. Pictures found below!

Marmsie inspecting our contractor's work

Resting in the Valley House
Marmsie making sure the window will fit

Mum working on Summer Kitchen south wall


All windows in and lattice work added. This was not something I wanted, the building inspector insisted

Val, our new cat

The long room wall about to revel the problem with the wall

The clear space between posts and the world outside!!

The bottom of the east wall showing the problem

 More of the same. The light coloured timber at the bottom is the new sill

7 1/4' railway is about an hour away from home. It good to see some running trains

Trecothic Creek and Windsor Railway. At last some real steam engines 

The gathering clouds last night, from our back steps - Winter is approaching

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's Spring...........

 Ok, so it’s been several weeks since we updated the blog, but it’s been  one of those very busy times. You know the sort of time that seems to rush through your fingers like sand and two months feels like two minutes.

Jenn is now really enjoying teaching at both Champlain School in Granville Ferry and Clark Rutherford in Cornwallis.  To help her keep the position of teaching French, she is going into immersion for all of July at nearby University Ste. Anne.  She's hoping I will bring friends and family down to visit her and celebrate her birthday and our 4th wedding anniversary.

I have just completed a seven week stint with a company called Peopleworx. They provide training courses for those having difficulty in getting work with great hands on experience and job readiness skills to give them every opportunity at meaningful employment. It was a great challenge which I thoroughly enjoyed. For my leaving party, I was made to wear a pair of shorts with "I'm sexy and I know it" written on the seat, and we all played a game of footie (soccer) in the pouring rain for about 40 minutes.  Great fun!

So..what about the house?  Well our trusty contractor, Paul Uhlman, has been hard at work putting in ten windows and two doors in about two weeks. In addition, after we took down the lathe and plaster walls and ceilings in the upstairs long room, he  divided the room, added stud walls and framed out walls and ceiling. One of the new bathrooms, which used to be a small bedroom, has also been gutted and the other partially cleared in readiness for the two new baths.
Paul had to call a halt to the work as he was going quicker putting in windows than we were in clearing the room that needed doing. After that there is just two rooms that need to be gutted, windows added, framed, wired, insulated and had gyproc placed on walls and ceilings. Not much if you say it quickly.

During all this the front of the house need to have clapboard added. The eastern side needs all the rotten boards and clapboard removed, windows added………and the list goes on.

So as you can see we have been busy. We also have some new inhabitants just outside the house - swallows who are nesting in their house for the first time in many years. It was very dramatic to see two male swallows fighting on the grass with jabbing beaks and thumping wings to win the favours of the female, who teetered on the power line chattering encouragement.  She and the victor have settled down and are busy nest building. We are also pleased to see hummingbirds back at our feeder.  

The House undergoing work on the west side. New main boards,  house wrap and clapboard

The inside of the west wall with one of the window openings and the walls framed ready for insulation

The edge of the big double fireplace that is about to go. The room is now divided into two
Jenn enjoying a read on our new steps to the back door

The amateur, but learning fast
The professionals, Paul Uhlman and Chad
The west room with one of the four windows in place, insulation next

The west wall and north front. All the doors and windows have now been replaced
One of the Holy Lord (HL) hinges that are part of the original internal doors. These will remain in place

Our new well head, finally above ground to comply with well regulations

The Swallows that have taken up resident in the bird house, close to our back door. Mum seems to spend alot of the time looking out the door
Mum, with Dad on the roof. Send in your captions

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


 As we are now into March 2012, I can only apologise for the lack of a blog since January. Jenn has been working almost full time with substitute teaching in Bridgetown, Annapolis Royal and Cornwallis, as well as running art lessons for children at weekends. Thankfully, she now has a job that will take her through to the end of the school term, covering for a teacher on maternity leave. It’s a great relief and has come just at the right time.

Winter is not yet over here just yet, so we expect to have some very cold days, but the days are getting longer.  We have got through our first winter, which we are told was not especially harsh. That we are grateful for! There have been times when even with the wood stove belching out heat and two insulated rooms cannot keep us warm with a howling gale outside and -15c with the wind chill bringing the temperature to -30c. So that’s when you just head for bed with the electric blanket on 9 and watch TV!  The wood stove has done a marvellous job and its working almost 24/7 at the present. The wood pile in the basement and the barn is holding up and unless we get a sustained cold period we should be OK until the spring arrives.

The house is a great place, but don’t expect grand staircases, lofty rooms and servant quarters. This was a dwelling for the Loyalist settlers from New England area of the USA. They built it themselves from the forest that surrounds the North Mountain. It is simple, functional and was the Georgian style house of the time. Other than the handmade nails this house is made entirely of timber. Not just the average 4x2 but huge beams vertically and horizontally. For example the horizontal beams are 25ft long and 9 inches square. We also have two beams that are 33 feet long.

March was always going to be the resumption of physical work on the place, but before I can do this we have had to involve the services of a Building Inspector, whose job it is to make sure that the improvements and changes we make to the property are within that stated code. This applies to almost anything, from the thickness of insulation in the walls, new stud walls, electrics, plumbing, and building material. It also applies to the size of windows in bedrooms, where we have had to order larger windows that the house originally had to comply with fire regulations. To make sure all the work is done to code a set of comprehensive drawings has had to be made. These have now been completed and within the next two weeks we will meet with the Building Inspector to agree to the way forward.  

In the meantime I have taken out the ceiling from the long bedroom (25ft x 12ft), plus all the walls etc. These were of lathe and plaster construction and had 250 years of accumulated rubbish above and behind them. Once down the plaster was bagged up (around 750kgs or 1600lbs) they were moved by our car to the tip. The lathe makes great kindling so that was taken to the barn for storage. Then there is the matter of removing thousands of handmade nails from the beams and generally cleaning up the mess.

Next job is to build out any walls that are not the regulation thickness with 6x2 studs. There will also be a small shower, bath and toilet so I need to start the stud work for as well but only after the Inspector has given the OK. To save on the physical nature I have also bought an electric mitre saw, which is going to help a lot and with any luck will allow my arms to repair themselves (I was diagnosed with both tennis and golf elbow from too much sawing and hammering!).

The house from the river bank

Another wonderful sunset

A Blue Jay visits the bread table

Plaster was already coming off in large chunks

The compound mitre saw - It will save Brian's arm

The ceiling now on the floor

The beams, hidden for 250 years and all in fantastic condition
Brian with the plaster bagged up - filthy job. He had a beer or two that night.

Amongst all the rubbish, these are corn husks taken to the attic years ago by racoons for snacks!  They also came down with the ceiling!

Sunset on a very cold day

Jenn is in there somewhere!

The railway bridge that once carried a railway in Annapolis Royal