Archive for January, 2008


 I did a little guerrilla gardening last weekend; ripping out dessicated fern fronds, blackberry brambles and excessive quantities of Oregon grape. I barely made a dint. Though only a quarter acre, the bio-mass surrounding our little place is astonishing.

Behind us are some very old and parlous alders and birches that will have to come out this year. Beyond them, a half-dozen old firs and cedars tower on the hill side. A thorny thicket worthy of a frightening children’s tale separates us from neighbours to the West.

But it is clear that some years ago, someone loved this garden. They laid out these meandering paths, carefully interspersed flowering shrubs and perennials, built the now-derelict bench positioned in a quiet corner with a view of the sea, and trussed up as-yet-unidentified ornamental trees to contort their limbs into the spectacular shapes I now admire.

This is the sort of garden, I flatter myself, that I can work with. I don’t have much artistic vision, but I have lots of energy for trimming and tidying, and I can see that with some hard work, this garden can be beautiful again. Warmly dressed, with my ratchet clippers holstered on my hip and a shiny red Lee Valley tote tub waiting to be filled, I can imagine this garden’s summer offerings; the warm, damp-earth smells of morning, the cool relief of late afternoon shady corners.

One of the plants I am able to identify in the garden is bamboo. My first thought when I saw it was “That will have to go.”

Bamboo, after all, is invasive. That can’t be good. And it was occupying a spot where I fancied a clematis. 

But now it is my bamboo, and I am feeling a bit protective of it. I have done a bit of reading on the Bamboo World website (http://www.bambooworld.com/index.html) and discovered that there are two kinds of bamboo: Running and Clumping. Each cane is called a ‘culm’ and you can cut them off at any height and that culm will never grow taller, though it may live 10 years.

It appears that we have at least two species, and I am reasonably certain that one of them is a clumping variety called “Gold Stem.” One clump is growing out of a purpose built grate in the deck, while two others bracket a pathway just behind. At the moment, these are shedding leaves and much of the remaining foliage is brown at the ends and a bit raggedy-looking. The other variety is green and healthy looking, but may be a running variant, in which case I am still inclined to remove it. Have a look at the pictures and do please let me know if you can confidently identify either type, or have some thoughts or advice on the subject of bamboo.

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 The boys had a Pro-D this past Friday, so we had the weekend earmarked for the cottage. Once again, the van was full to the brim with lots of odds and ends plus a lovely old desk made for my mom, when a little girl, by my carpenter grandfather. It was a cold day, but it didn’t take long to warm the place up, with the sun shining full on our south-facing windows and the boys feeding the fire. Cottager had pre-cut and painted the components for our built in shelves, but there were a few hiccups in the assembly and install that ended up taking most of the afternoon. Meanwhile, I scooted off to Benjamin Moore for some paint.

I was certain I would choose a sunny yellow, but in the end, it was the cool soothing summer tones of “Tealight” green that called out to me. I expected, by now, I would have a whole-house colour strategy in mind, but the truth is that the white is really growing on me. It is so clean and expansive feeling.

I felt pretty certain, however, that the scarred orange-toned walls inside the closet could only be improved with generous scoops of filler and some green paint.  So that is where I splashed it, leaving the rest of the room white while I think a little further. Behold the photos which show the room as it started out, after moving our bed into the closet, and with the ‘closet repurposing’ now in process.

On Saturday my parents came over for a first look at the new place and were pleasingly enthusiastic about it. We had lunch and played several rounds of Mexican Train (dominos) while Cottager fitted a sheet of drywall into the hole where we had torn a jerrybuilt cupboard out of the wall. As with the previous day’s shelving project, this was not without some unexpected twists, but the result looks promising.

With lots of snow forecast for early Sunday, we took my folk’s advice and caught the last ferry home on Saturday evening. Woke Sunday to no snow, but by midday there was 6 inches, and we were happy to have erred on the side of caution.

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New furniture in placeThe past week was one of the wettest I can remember, and my winter boots had been left at the cottage, so I suffered. On the positive side, it gave me an excuse to get back there sooner than planned, since there is no shortage of dirty weather in the forecast. Cottager and I pushed off at 6 am, leaving the kids in bed. By the time they woke up after 8, we had repaired a flat, had a coffee, caught our ferry with minutes to spare, and arrived safe under our small roof to coax a fire. We brought with us a new sofa and chair – new to us that is – a vilas maple and distressed brown leather sofa and matching chair found on Craigslist and bargained down to a stupifying deal. It really fits well with the other bits and pieces we have dug out of storage to furnish the place while we are whipping it into shape. Comfort and durability is all I really aspire to at this early stage, though I have visions of either navy, white and taupe  or blues, yellows and white further down the road. 

After carting in the new things, we piled the green sofa brought over in our first ‘lift’ one month ago back into the van and drove it to the Sally Ann thrift store, where they were happy to have it.  Then I shortened by half and cleaned the blind in the bathroom, and we mounted a new blind over the kitchen sink. Cottager pulled a crude cupboard – built right into the studs – off the wall and we decided the best way to repair the hole. He also fixed the table, repositioned a lock and changed the fridge and freezer doors to open correctly. And then we started planning the bedroom closet transformation.

The plan is to transform the closet opening into an alcove that has built-in shelves, a window, and, overhead, a fluted translucent resin ceiling through which LED lights will twinkle on demand.  Cottager is sceptical, but here is my reasoning: Total cost for this treatment, with the exception of the window (which falls into the category of ‘Part II’ and will be scheduled for a warm dry summer weekend) will be under $200. If the translucent ceiling is not effective and fun, something more predictable can easily be subbed in. Either way, we save nearly all the finicky drywall repair needed in the current closet, and if the translucent ceiling is a success, we transform an inconveniently small room into a funky and amusing inconveniently small room with high romance potential.  And isn’t that what we all like to think about when we are on our holidays? 

After sweating a kitchen reno in our suburban home, feeling that every one of a million small decisions would either work for or against the over-all look I wanted, it is very freeing to think that I can explore more offbeat ideas at this second home. At some point down the road, we may yet decide that the closet has to come out and the bed has to go up against that wall, but before we undertake that big job, we will try it this way. We have got our plan, and work on the shelving units may start as soon as this weekend.  

Caught the 4:30 ferry for home, tired but happy with our progress.

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The ‘Great’ RoomI have inadvertently stumbled a degree further into blog compentency with the result that apostrophes and question marks now do my bidding. On we go.

Here are a few basic facts about the cottage, with some pictures to follow as soon as I can figure out how to ‘optimize’ them. The original building was one room dating from about the 1940’s, with several subsequent additions. Even so, floorspace measures a little less than 800 sf.  The living room and kitchen occupy all the front of the house, which is studded with 5 identical windows and a French door. A deck runs the length of the house ( approx. 30 ft.) with about half covered over, making for an excellent all-weather workshop. The bathroom, while small, has been recently renovated to include a claw-foot tub and cork flooring. It has quite a bit of built-in storage that needs interior finishing.  The kitchen will eventually need an overhaul, but is perfectly adequate for now. 

The bedrooms are particularly small, each measuring just 8’x11′. In the one that we have designated as the ‘master bedroom,’ some well-meaning individual framed in a closet, reducing the size of the room further. Having no particular need for a closet, owing to our jeans-oriented wardrobes and a spacious storage room, the first thing we did was remove the mirrored slider closet doors and all of the haphazard organizers inside.  

We are a tall, and (in some cases) robust people, and there is little likelihood of us happily sharing a bed smaller than a queen. After considering the location of door and window, it appeared certain we would be compelled to unframe the closet and tuck the bed up against the far wall. But who would sleep trapped against the wall? The person who gets up in the night, or the person who likes to rise early? 

Cottager’s Boyhood Chum (B’Chum), who lives aboard in the local marina and was kind enough to help us move some furniture in, suggested that, for the time being at least, we tuck our headboard into the gaping closet, and so we did. This has led me to an idea that only time will prove the brilliance or the folly of.  Cottager seems prepared to go along. Details to follow.

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A few weeks ago we picked up the keys to our new cottage property. It won’t be difficult to guess, over time, where it is, since I plan to be quite indiscreet. My husband – hereafter Cottager – was much keener on this particular property than I was, and I let him make the call, if you can imagine anything so bizarre or dangerous. 

To be fair, I am now nearly equally smitten. The place has some innate charm that we hope to further exploit, both for our own pleasure, and with an eye to earning some rental income in the summer months. 

But my purpose here is not to lure you in as a tenant. For who would knowingly wish to be so dreadfully exposed on this page?

If you have landed on this page in your search for fellow devotees of over-the-top cottage-style decor you had best look elsewhere. There will be no Laura Ashley here. Nor yet do I intend to festoon the place with hempen ropes and fishing floats. So what is the plan? You will have to check in frequently to find out.

I invite you to follow along as we plan and implement our improvement scheme for the building and the ‘park.’ You can laugh at my inept efforts or coach me along, according to your own whims.

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