2014 came in like a popsicle that’s been in the freezer too long.

I’ve always relished the Canadian winter but yeesh, this year, I’m having doubts.

I hope I insulated my plants well enough!

I hope I insulated my plants well enough!

It has been a long, cold winter this year. We headed up for New Years and were surprised at the amount of snow. Our next trip I am sure will reveal more snow!

I usually don’t like to complain about the cold winters but this one might just be the exception.

Snowy side yard

We hope that the snow and ice on the back porch, that has fallen from the roof and entrenched itself, will be gone sometime in May…

Ready for armageddon—if the power stays on

Why oh why did I let Pat take the recycling down to the garbage room last week?

I guess we will have to build a shelf...

I guess we will have to build a shelf…

It appears that someone in our building tried to recycle (are they even recyclable?) all of their old VHS tapes and we hit the mother lode. We keep an old VCR at the schoolhouse and while we already had hundreds, we have just found a few hundred more.

there are more than can be seen here as well. It seems that as soon as I find a little extra room we manage to fill it back up. Though I guess it matters a little less that we don’t really get any channels anymore.

Have I moved?

Despite names on deeds for several decades it appears we have moved the schoolhouse.

Moving the old Blacksmith Shop

OK so that is a bit of an overstatement and that photo is something else entirely. The last time I was up we received a letter in the mail from Canada Post. Apparently our township in its infinite wisdom has changed our 911 numbers and removed our rural route. We have a new postal code and a new number and a new town according to our address.

It appears that Wolfe was sort of right. You can go home again but it isn’t necessarily where you left it.

Did we resolve our resolutions?


The answer to that is a resounding “meh”.

Last year I made a list of “to do’s” for 2012 for both the schoolhouse and the condo. Did we do them?


  1. Paint front door – uh no. Haven’t done this one yet.
  2. Put down flooring in vestibule. – see above
  3. Paint vestibule – I am beginning to sense a pattern here…
  4. Replace eavestrough – hey this one I can say, “sort of”. We didn’t replace but we did take them down and fix the one that moves water over the hydro meter and into a rain barrel.
  5. Complete herb garden – not really.
  6. Build nicer garden along the front of the house – again this is a “sort of”. I put in a new perennial garden at the front but we’ll see if the boiling summer of 2012 ravaged it completely. It also turned out to be a lot less sunnier than I thought so things may have to move.
  7. Clear out the back bedroom – yes and no. We started cleaning it out but managed to fill it again to make space for our winter tenant.
  8. Paint bathroom – nope.
  9. Revive the composter – let’s hope for the spring?
  10. Research and install if feasible some new lighting – Well sort of once again. Our tenant has fixed the overhead light which is great. He’s also installing a solar flood light (these exist? Who knew?)
  11. While this wasn’t on the original list I’d like to point out most of our time (and money) went to two things: Removing two fallen trees on the property and replacing just about everything you can on a well system.

Our condo

  1. Come up with a design for the living room – done! I finally have a master plan. I just have to figure out how to pay for it.
  2. paint upstairs bathroom – done! I’ll post photos soon.
  3. fix dining room chairs – less done. And by less I mean not at all.
  4. Paint kitchen – totally done! Pat painted and I got bitten by a cat in the process.
  5. Buy new living room furniture. picked out but not bought.
  6. Hide the dreadful air conditioner cord that is in the dining room – not done and it still drives me mad.
  7. Fix all the general irritations – not done and still totally irritating.
  8. Make alterations to the dining room so that the overhead light isn’t going to cause any “concussion-like symptoms” to my guests – nope.
  9. Re-organize and decorate the office and make it better accommodate my home office space (which requires space for documents, files and coffee) with our home computer (this requires space for chips, beer and other accoutrements that accompany video games and well, this blog). – mostly. This isn’t too bad.
  10. Get more frames for art and photos – some of this is done. We’ve got a couple of new things and a couple of things ordered. But they are all still in a pile…
  11. Oh and jazz up the ol’ patio. last year’s garden was a good start but we need more life out there – started. We’ve new planters and I have almost finished repainting the furniture.
  12. Again while not on the original list, I’d like to point out that we also had repairs to our dishwasher (still doesn’t totally work), washer and dryer so that is where the couch money went.

So that is where we are at. I’m not going to add anything else until we get this lot done. Fingers crossed for 2013!

This looks historically haunted

Is it just me or does the place where my old swing used to be look like we’ve been hanging people?

I think it is time to take these down or put a swing back up. I found this behind some overgrowth in a now rather unused part of the yard. Nice for Hallowe’en but that’s about it.

While I am not a member of the local historical society I suspect that none of the members could find evidence of hanging in these parts. Not a lot of suspected witches up here in the Kawarthas.

We had a good time old swing but your time is done!

Oh poop! What to plant on the septic bed?

When you have a place in the country you think about poop a lot.

Wait, let me clarify. When you aren’t attached to a municipal water system you generally have to rely on a septic system. Or outhouse if you are particularly rustic.

With a septic system comes great responsibility. You yell at people who try to park on or near it. You chuck yeast and yoghurt down the drains to keep it healthy with good bacteria. And you rue the plants with thick, virulent roots that grow nearby in the fear that one day you will have to dig up the whole stinky mess.

This is what we are dealing with now. I’ve cleared out all the vines and junk from this spot last year. Now I need to find some solid, hardy perennials that will not interfere with the septic here, cover up the general ugliness of this side and potentially high “White October” the giant submarine sized propane tank.

I want to keep that Orange Blossom shrub but I’ve got an empty canvas other than that.

I found this great resource from Purdue University. I think I will use a lot of their advice. Of course I will listen to any advice from anyone out there as well.

Landscaping Over Septic Systems with Native Plants

That’s some good poop to ponder.

Growing with hydro (not that hydro): What to plant near powerlines

Our entire front yard is graced with powerlines (or hydro lines as we say up yonder).

While this isn’t the front of our house, it might as well be. Between oak, spruce and pine, there are a lot of powerline/tree interactions.

So we get power but that also means every few years we get the folks from Ontario’s largest power distributor visiting with their chain saws and aerial devices to trim our trees back that grow directly underneath the powerlines. And while arborists are trained and skilled folk that know just how to cut a tree so that it remains healthy and vibrant without interfering with the lines, due to a lack of time no doubt, they seem to just lop the tops off of my lovely trees or cut great gaping holes in their branch systems.

It’s not really our fault. When the property was still a school, I have been told the students would plant trees around the property in honour of Arbor day, which has meant our house is surrounded. Weird since we don’t seem to celebrate it here in  Canada. Let’s see what Wikipedia says about this:

In Canada, Maple Leaf Day falls on the last Wednesday in September during National Forest Week. Ontario celebrates Arbor Week from the last Friday in April to the first Sunday in May. Nova Scotia celebrates Arbour Day on the Thursday during National Forest Week, which is the first full week in May. Prince Edward Island celebrates Arbour Day on the 3rd Friday in May during Arbour Week.

I knew absolutely none of that. Is that true? Anyway I am digressing here…

I understand that lilac are useful in these situations as they aren’t too tall and we certainly see they remain after the cutting crews are done. There’s a snowball bush as well and a couple of apple trees but they seem to be an acceptable height.

The folks at BC Hydro have provided this information for homeowners which I found useful:

Planting near power lines

I am fortunate to work with a lot of folks who know about these sorts of things and have been able to glean a lot of information on this stuff. Generally, just don’t go anywhere near powerlines whether they are above you or below you in the case of underground electrical plant. If there is underground, like in a subdivision, hire someone to conduct a locate. If your trees are too tall and anywhere close to the lines, just don’t touch them. Let the professionals handle it.

If you are going to plant anything near them think about the eventual height of the plants. Trees like lilac, dogwood and dwarf spruce seemed to be the key items during my informal Twitter poll I conducted last week.

Does anyone else have any suggestions? I am going to look at syringa reticulata as I have heard it is hardy to zone 3 and within the limits of the powerlines. In the end this all comes down to the need to have privacy at the front of the house so  passersby aren’t shocked by nude sunbathing and other potential shenanigans. Just thinking of the neighbours!

The value of change

A lot of people don’t like change. I might be one of the those people.


I don’t like new Star Wars movies (despite the Ewan McGregor Factor), I hate most cover songs (OK Catherine Wheel and Cartman from South Park, you’ve done some good ones) and I especially don’t like thinking about making drastic changes to my historic summer home.

It’s a tough idea to get your head around. How can the rooster jug we bought at an antique shop in Northern Ireland in 1979 go on the window sill when we buy new windows? I still look at the blank living room wall to fix my hair because a few years back Pat moved the “awesome” flamingo mirror that adorned the wall for as long as I can remember.

But I guess if we are going to do it right, we should do it, right? Though these days we are merely patching the holes in the boat, so to speak, eventually we will have to move onto larger projects and make sure we are getting our money’s worth. And though we won’t sell the schoolhouse (read introductory paragraph about my thoughts on change) we should make sure the place is worth more than when we started.

I found this infographic that explains some of the more important renovations you can make. It covers all of the basics and seems to make a lot of sense.

I like this. It sort of sets out a plan for the future big jobs.

The bathroom and kitchen are definite jobs at some point. The basement is sort of a no go as we only have a root cellar as you all know. Windows will be tricky for us and would have to be custom but in the end I think they would be worth it.

What would you consider renovating at your home?

New Orleans I like your style

This has little to do with Ontario, historical homes or their renovation.

Over the winter it’s nice to dream about what we want to do at the schoolhouse. Looking at catalogs and empty walls is okay but we needed a restorative kick in the pants to get excited again. That kick came in the form of an Easter trip down south. Damn New Orleans has some fine homes.

I'm not saying I'm going to put columns on the schoolhouse but in New Orleans it works.

We recently visited the Big Easy on a recent trip for a friend’s wedding.

Yes visiting here is all about hurricanes (the drink and the weather phenomenon of same name) and having fun, but if you get a chance to take your face from out of a frosty glass and look around, you can see what beauty it holds in terms of preservation of specific styles of architecture. There are shotgun homes, creole cottages, and buildings influenced by their French and Spanish visitors of years past. A good bit of history in a few blocks by foot or streetcar.

The French Quarter is one thing but the Garden District is where historical home buffs find heaven.

According to the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans there are many programs and resources available to homeowners interested in maintaining or repairing buildings in the style of their former glory.

I don't know if a vampire could live here but I could.

We strolled through the garden district (mostly to find Anne Rice’s old house and Trent Reznor’s place) and were pretty awestruck. The buildings just want you to sit on their porches and sip mint julep while waving lacy fans.

Now that is a porch I could sit upon.

All in all this trip was an excellent source of inspiration for us. If you are planning a trip to New Orleans, here is a list of historic homes you might want to visit. Now pass me that mint.