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Archive for the ‘cottage maintenance’ Category

When we purchased our cottage 12 years ago it came with three outbuildings.

The smallest was on the slope on the upper part of the lot which was so ramshackle that it was really only good for storing firewood.

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When we finally knocked this down as part of our Covid-19 Isolation campaign we found some hard evidence that this was once the original ‘privy’.

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At the driveway level there is a small but functional shed that we use mainly for garden tools, firewood, hoses, etc. It is in fairly good shape but is on the list for a make over this year – new roof, repair door, mouse proofing…

The priority for a makeover was the largest outbuilding, situated just outside our side door at the deck level. It measured only 6′ x 6′ with a low sloped roof and over the years it has been our tool and miscellaneous storage depot.

Time has not been kind to this shed and it became increasingly damp as the OSB walls and untreated foundations rotted.

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The old, dilapidated shed

The plan was to remove this shed and replace it with a larger and more functional one that would provide storage space for tools, but also function as a small workshop.

The first step involved the removal of the current shed which all went into a ten cubic yard disposal bin (along with the old privy, the rear deck and other bits of old lumber.)

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The old shed 6′ x 6′ floor was to be extended to 8′ which, due to the proximity of the property line meant extending the footprint 2′ forward onto the deck area.

But first a trip to Gibsons Building Supplies (GBS) for some treated lumber and other wood.

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Then: Dig out the old foundation and reset the concrete pads.

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The treated 2x8s form the foundation frame which is then covered with 3/4 plywood.

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The two long stud walls are prefabbed on the deck.

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The walls are then man (and woman) handled over and fixed in place.

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Side story… I was dragging my feet on placing an order for a door but had resolved to do it on the very morning walk that I came across a used prehung exterior door as a freebie on the end of a driveway. It even swung the right way! Called Lisa. Bring the car!

Door installed and front/back wall started.

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The structure was then clad in 1/4 inch plywood.

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Trusses can be a little tricky so I went for this clever kit that was purchased at Lee Valley Tools. A quality product that takes the guesswork out of it. I wanted significant eaves on the sides and 12″ roof overhang front and back.

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10′ 1×4 stringers screwed to trusses.

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Roof clad with 3/8″ plywood

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Shingle processing station

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Higher, steeper and scarier than the previous shed roof

Approximately 100 square feet of roof required three bundles of Malarkey shingles plus ten feet of flexi-shingles for the ridge.

We were fortunate to have such a great run of weather for this project.

Next up was to paint (matched the cottage) install gutters and the faux window – an old window frame with glass removed and a mirror glue on.

Inside view with rear window installed and plywood panelling. Metal bench, gym lockers, wire shelving and LED overhead light all brought over from our old family home. The vinyl plank flooring was left over from past bathroom renovation. Past time to get organized!

View from the doorway with peekaboo glimpse of Shoal Channel and Keats Island.


All that’s left to do is some door trim, and then we will extend the first 4 deck planks in front of the workshop so it “nestles” into the rest of the landscape like it has been there always. A final picure still to come, when these last tasks are completed. But first, we want to take a break for a few days!

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Our lives are distilled to two realms: Inside the cottage or outside to work on projects and go for walks. Its all so simple. No need to keep track of the date, no need to plan days and movements around social events or the numerous groups we each belong to. So we go out whenever weather permits, and when we are tired, cold or wet – back in. Some other things going in and out:

The old sheds and deck went out.
And loads of new lumber came in.
Piles of weeds and other green waste went out…
And a fresh load of clean crush came in to be spread about.
This pine tree, which was getting a bit big for its britches, came out…
And a new deep planter for growing potatoes went in.

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It’s almost like we knew. We planned holiday travel for February instead of our usual May, and we blocked rentals on the cottage until late July so we could “enjoy it ourselves.”

And here we are, enjoying it as much as is possible in these unprecedented times. We can go out, work on the property until we are so tired we sleep deeply, and take a walk on the beach when we need to see a bigger piece of the sky. We are so lucky to have this option. Each day it sinks in a little deeper that this is likely to be our principle home this year. So, let the projects begin! Might as well make this time count.

We are rebuilding a shed, revamping the garden, tearing down an old deck, clearing massive amounts of overgrowth and then…well we’ll see. This may be the biggest transformation the place has seen in decades, so better document it here for our records.

A rotting and dangerous deck that predates us must go.
Ditto this shed, to be replaced with a larger and more weatherproof version.
This topsoil isn’t gonna spread itself.
But also making time (like that is hard) for health and wellness.

Hereafter: more pictures for the most part, to record our progress and our errily quiet lives at this most unusual time.

Sidebar, I’m going to learn how to drum via the internet, lose 4 pounds and reconnect with my core muscles.

These projects can’t mask the fact that the news is very distressing and I have to limit my consumption. So many people are in much more difficult circumstances than us, and the means to help are not clear as yet. Except of course, stay home.

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Fall is a favourite time at the cottage. We put a king duvet on our queen bed to avoid tussling over the covers, then open the window and sleep so well in the cool, fresh air.

We blow leaves around, drink too much coffee, then make a list of projects and jump right on it.

First on the list this year was to somehow reinforce the unmortared stone wall that runs behind the cottage. Over the 10 years we have been here, the combined forces of gravity, roots and wet weather have begun to compromise the wall’s integrity.

The problem wall.

A few stones dislodged, then a few more, and over the last year it really picked up speed. So, time to act! If not, it became clear the whole thing would come down, bit by bit, or maybe kinda fast.

I proposed using chicken wire to create a semi – molded exterior barrier, and short pieces of rebar, pounded into the embankment, to secure it. Rand feared the rebar would further disrupt the stability of the bank.

Instead he built a series of reinforcing walls from treated timber, then screwed them together to make a single wall. This contraption exterts pressure along the vertical surface of the wall, and also downwards, for stability, owing to its mass. We dug it into the ground, a few inches here and there, in the interests of leveling, and then I hand fitted the fallen rocks both into the embankment from where they had fallen, and in strategic areas to add further reinforcement. It looks nice, and when all the wild sweet peas and periwinkle push their way through in the spring, it will look even better. We hope to have forestalled any further damage, and consider this to be, potentially, a 10 year solution. Time will tell.

The finished structure. Off the list!

Total cost was about $300. Rand spent 8 – 10 hours on it, and I about 2. If the doesn’t sound fair, I also made these amazing orange scones.

We really love this kind of project: Brainstorming a solution and putting it into action, preferably with as much time spent out of doors as possible.

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Two years ago the Cottager and I made a trip to Portland for our anniversary. On the way we stopped at a Cabela’s near Olympia, and purchased a pretty bonnet ceiling light complete with seeded glass, from a clearance shelf for just under $US 12.00. And then it sat around waiting for a purpose.

Recently I found a YouTube video for a recessed light conversion kit, available from Home Depot. Together these became my solution for a truly ugly recessed light at the cottage. Here it is, as was.

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And here is the conversion kit.

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And here is the  light in its new and improved version.

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Total cost was about $50, including a rather expensive old fashioned incandescent light bulb that casts a lovely, yellow candlelight-like glow over the table.  Not task lighting, of which there is more than enough, but very atmospheric. And in my view a big improvement. Love it when I find a use for something this way.  We have a couple of recessed lights in our home which we will also now convert, including one situated between our bedroom closets that does not manage to cast any light into either one.

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The Cottager is questing on the Camino de Santiago in Spain at the moment and if inclined, you can see what he is up to on his blog where he posts a few lines and some great pictures almost daily.

I spent the better part of a week at the cottage, just catching my breath and bonding with my new friend Farley. He is a rescue from an L.A. shelter and is now permanently on vacation.

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The Urchins had a week at home without mom harassing them to clean up after themselves. And the cats were happy just to have a week without the dog, whom they do not consider a particularly good addition. And so for the price of one plane ticket to Spain, 7 winter-weary creatures had a vacation.  Told you I was frugal.

I did get a few things done.  The deck got its last ever coat of stain. Before it is due again we will rebuild and only use an oil product after that. Stain is a hassle.

unstained deck

stained deck

I also did some gardening at a relaxed pace, having decided to limit rentals and keep the cottage principally for my own enjoyment this summer. 

A few good friends came to visit. My parents came too, which was wonderful as the have only come in fall or winter before and hadn’t seen my garden to advantage or walked on the beach.

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Besides these pleasant events, the highlight of my vacation was having nine or ten blissful and uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. No doubt Cottager and the Urchins have better highlights.

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When I dug out the septic access a few weeks ago in preparation for a visit from the honeywagon, I found that the hole had last been filled with loose debris, including rotting wood and bits of foam insulation.

Digging out the septic tank access

Digging out the septic tank access

We were going to have a riser installed to make the tank easily accessible for future pumps – until we priced it out: Adapter ring: $60; two twelve inch risers: $85 EACH; a $50 lid and the labour at $50/hour PLUS the cost of the pumping and disposal – priced separately. This was going to be a $600 plus operation.

Instead, I dug it out – and Miles from Bonniebrook Services (home of the Poo Pirates marine septic service!) helped out when it turned out I hadn’t dug quite far enough. After the pump truck had gone, Cottager and I put our heads together and figured out this home made fix that cost $30 and took about 90 minutes to fabricate and install. Its just a strong wooden box, built to fit, that exactly fills the space between the tank and the gravel courtyard. Yep, that simple.

Fashioning a sturdy box to fill the gap between septic access and courtyard surface

Fashioning a sturdy box to fill the gap between septic access and courtyard surface

Next time I will just rake away the gravel and lift out the box.

Next time I will just rake away the gravel and lift the lid off the box.

The next hole to tackle was one built into the deck where bamboo had been planted long ago and gone out of control. I trimmed the bamboo down, pried away the rotten wood frame and screen it had been growing through, then cut the bamboo down to the ground and carefully applied a lethal dose of herbicide into the open stalks. Sadly, short of taking up our whole deck, there was no other way.

This bamboo has got to go.

This bamboo has got to go.

Then cottager cut some planks to fit the hole. Not a perfect fix, but once I power wash the deck and re-stain it, it will be invisible but still give us access to the space under the deck. I will put a climbing plant of some sort in a large pot in this location. The running bamboo will likely need some further intervention, but this is a start.

A necessary fix. And now I can paint that peeling wall. One thing always leads to another.

A necessary fix. And now I can paint that peeling wall. One thing always leads to another.

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