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Archive for the ‘cottage’ Category

We can’t have friends to stay and we dont know when that will change. But I dream of having guests: People to cook for and with, friends whose presence justifies that extra drink that now just makes me feel guilty, and someone new with whom to play board games and cards.

This desire, along with a decision not to rent our place this year to vacationers, was ample motivation to spend a few days improving our guest room.

2019 guest room. Someone had to sleep against the wall.

This room – every room in fact – was freshly painted with a matte white when we bought the place in late 2007. So repainting was not an early priority. It has; however, become increasingly desirable over the last few years. And no excuse not to do it right now.

Benjamin Moore has a new, extra durable paint called Scuffex. It’s not outrageously expensive either. I chose a pearl finish as the room is a bit dark and would benefit from a reflective lift. As for colour, as usual I went with my gut, quickly singling out a pale grey white called White Wisp. It isn’t a warm colour, which is what one craves just now, but the cottage is principally a summer spot, so I had to put myself in summer thinking mode.

The paint went on beautifully, and floor, ceiling, 5 panel door and window trim were all given 2 coats of gloss in BM Cloud White.

We replaced a cheap ikea ceiling fixture with a lovely nickel fixture that we wrote out of our sales contract when we sold up in Port Moody. I was so glad to find a perfect place for it. We also replaced the non- functioning dimmer switch.

We reoriented the bed so there is (some) room on both sides, then edited and rehung wall decor. We also painted up some found “free” shelves with trim paint and installed them at about 2 metres from the floor, to add a splash of interest and some high storage to an otherwise bare-by-necessity wall.

A shippy light fixture and some free, high shelves are favourite touches.

I washed the duvet and mattress pad, replaced all the pillows and polished the floor.

As usual, there are a few things holding me back from declaring the job fully complete. We are hoping to refinish an old piece of furniture to double as desk and dresser for this tiny room. And the baseboard heater needs to be replaced.

But in general, I am happy everytime I walk by the room and can’t wait to welcome our first guests of 2021. Whenever that becomes possible.

Meanwhile, we use this as Break Out space for our individual activities: puzzles and crafts for me, and music and gaming sessions via Zoom for my partner.

A more inviting space, just waiting for friends.

There was about a litre of the grey white paint left, so after a few days rest, I washed, taped and painted the small hallway outside the guest room.

I followed on with the trim and other doors off this hallway. Now I can’t stop. My room next, then the livingroom and eventually, a complete redo of the bathroom.

The hallway before it got a fresh coat of paint.
In progress. Lighting is not optimal, but this photo shows the soft grey shade of BM White Wisp as I started to paint the hallway.

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This recipe came to me from a friend named Roberta. I have made a few changes, because that is what I do. They will be noted so that you can make the original recipe, if you prefer. I did not ask Roberta if I could adapt and publish this recipe, so, bygones Roberta.

This would be a great activity to do with kids because it is simple, and can be made quick-and-easy or slow-and-craftsy.

Just mix wet and dry. Easy Peasy.

It is not messy. It makes a lot of biscuits so not only will your dog love you, but you can also cozy up to the neighbourhood dogs and (not literally!) their owners – because who else do you actually SEE these days.

Makes a ton of dry dough…
…That really begs to be mixed by hand.

One more note. My dog is a super fussy eater. He is suspicious of food. Rarely accepts a treat from anyone but us and often refuses things I expect him to like. So when Roberta brought a charmingly wrapped bag of these for my dog, I anticipated a socially awkward moment when Farley turned up his nose. But he gobbled them up. In short, chances are very good your dog will like these, though they don’t include traditionally appetizing doggy ingredients except for a small amount of peanut butter.

I could prattle on for yonks, I suppose, but I am not selling anything here, and the salient facts are now stated so lets get to it.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups quick oats

1/4 cup wheat germ (I consider this optional)

1/2 tsp salt (Roberta’s recipe uses garlic powder, but garlic is not recommended for dogs)

1 + 1/4 cups water

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 large egg.

OPTIONAL GLAZE (Not part of Roberta’s recipe)

1 Tbsp (heaped) smooth peanut butter

2 Tbsp hot water

METHOD

Preheat oven to 275 degrees

Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Now, blend the wet ingredients in a blender.

Add wet to dry and mix well, first with a spatula, and eventually with your hands, as the dough is dry and stiff.

Roll out half of dough on a lightly floured board to about 1/2 cm thickness.

Cut to size-according to the size of your pooch.

You can use a fancy cookie cutter – a bone, a squirrel? – but I just trim off the rough edges, cut the sheet into rectangles of an appropriate size for my 7 kilo dog, and then use my fingers to pinch them into an approximation of a dog bone. As shown below…

1. Pinch middle of rectangle with both thumbs and both index fingers.
2. Use one index finger to press lightly on the pinch point.
3. Use both thumbs to slightly flatten and spread ends to look a bit like a bone (or a lot like a bowtie!)

Now with regard to the glaze. I have a lot of time on my hands, and I thought these biscuits would benefit from an extra burst of peanut butter flavour. So I mixed peanut butter and hot water into a thin slurry and dabbed it on the top of the cookies with a pastry brush.

A little PB and some hot water dabbed on before baking makes a tasty dry glaze.
Note use of parchment.

One hour in the oven on parchment paper, then cool and store in an airtight container for three days (immediate supply) and freeze or gift the rest. Let me know how your dog likes them please.

The finished product. One of three sheets produced from this recipe.

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When I harvested my last spuds on Canada Day (July 1st) I had a few sugar pumpkin seedlings in pots so I jammed them in the fallow potato plot – where they did very little in the 3 weeks that I remained a vigilant guardian.

Then I went away from late July until early October, camping and visiting family members and friends in limited and responsible pandemic friendly terms.

I was pretty excited, on my return to Gibsons, as to what success I might have had with them. Short answer: Very Limited.

I could see where many small tender gourds had been nipped off neatly by the deer that roam the neighbourhood. And even in October there were dozens of flowers that would never produce fruit. But there were 4 lovely pumpkins that had managed to get beyond the size deer could consume. One got stem rot and one fell to a sharp toothed small varmint and finally there were 2.

Disappointing. But then considering the complete lack of care and attention they received…bonus! Here is the story in photos

A promising beginning. The deer love them at this size!
But they did not find this one
Enthusiastic vines showed no respect for garden walkways.
Halved and cleaned
Oiled and roasted
Scooped and weighed: 1.7 kilos
Pureed in batches and divided for scones, pie and the freezer
Pumpkin scones!

So was it worth all that trouble?

Truthfully, I’m not sorry I don’t have 20 ripe sugar pumpkins. That would be a lot of work and result in more than I could use. I would have been looking for someone to take most of them off my hands.

But it was fun to grow something from a single seed and then take it through its whole lifecycle to something I can eat. It gives me a real appreciation for my ancestors, who would have had this much of their own effort invested in most of their food…and also for modern food supply chains that mean I can open a can of pumpkin puree without – until now – giving it a second thought.

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In between bigger projects, we spent half a morning making some fast improvements:

Swapped out last years worn and faded-to-pink flag with a fresh one from the dollar store. $2.50
Set up a new laundry line in a sunnier spot. PVC coated cable, 2 clamps, 1 turnbuckle and some hooks $21.
Installed a magnetic mesh screen on our seldom used “front” door for better air flow.
Installs in minutes and the only tool required is scissors. Great value at $16
These herb (and cucumber) planters looked messy sitting directly on the deck and attracted a lot of debris, woodbugs, etc.
Getting them up on wheeled planter caddies looks neater and the deck stays cleaner. $27 for 3.

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Its so interesting to me to look at photos I have taken of the garden over the past few months, so posting some here to make them easily accessible. The first three were taken in the exact same spot. This is a flower garden that has tomato, rhubarb and strawberries co-planted.

April
May
June

And then there is my lower veg garden that was previously full of gladiolus and some shrubs.

Snap peas left. Beets in the middle and carrots to the right. Back row is sugar baby melon territory and a newly planted asparagus patch that should bear next year.
Plus bush beans front and centre. Melons doing nothing weeks later.
Snow peas and snap peas starting to flower. Melons still nothing. Its too cool this June and they are only getting about 6 hours sun in this location when there is sun at all. So next year either no melons or find a better spot. Snuck a second carrot planting into the barren melon patch as consolation
Neighbours Derek and Natalie gave me some sunflowers!

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I planted 2 plots of potatoes, 20 plants in all. And so far as I can see, topside, they are a huge success. They have not been nibbled like my radishes, or consumed completely by ants as happened to a whole row of romaine. They are big and vibrantly green, and still growing aggressively. I do sometimes wonder whether all the plants’ energy is going into the leaves and there will be no tubers to speak of. That would be disappointing.

I rummaged around two days ago and came up with one perfect, ping pong ball sized red potato, so feeling optimistic. I plan to dig up one plant in the first week of July, then hopefully harvest the lot two weeks later. The cooking onions are growing similarly trouble free and make me wonder if I shouldn’t just stick to these two crops as they are so trouble free and useful.

Here are some exciting moments in my life as a spud farmer:

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The new garden with 8 seed potatoes planted 8 inches down and with a heavy seaweed mulch.

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A smaller patch, mulched with dried leaves, sword ferns…

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A third layer of timothy went on top, then lots of seaweed on top of that

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New garden looking more tamed all the time, and potatoes coming up

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I’ve kept putting fresh seaweed on top, as this is a no-hill method. In future years, I will theoretically peel back this layer of mulch and plant under it again with fewer additions of fresh mulch on top

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So green and healthy in the early part of June

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This potato is hopefully a harbinger of many to come.

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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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I’ve been tearing out plants and shrubs that I haven’t found sufficiently rewarding.

A small pine has been replaced by a spud patch, a fern and a mystery plant with two rhubarbs, and an unsuccessful attempt at a moss garden proved too sunny, so now I have shade tolerant veggies like lettuce and radish growing there.

The rose has been a hassle since day one. It grows like a weed, overwhelms the trellis, needs constant cutting back, and always leaves us bleeding. But its an old, old rose….so it stays, right? Not any more.

In an exchange of marital confidences, it recently emerged that we both loathe the rose. So I dug it out.

Just about to begin its massive spring growth.

Already beginning to mangle the trellis, again.

But now its in the trailer for its last ride to the green waste.

The rose occupied a premium spot, with lots of sun and well drained soil. There is some over spray from the watering system, and a trellis.

Vegetable seeds are scarce, but with some effort I finally tracked down some scarlet runner bean seeds. They have bright red flowers to attract hummingbirds, are heat tolerant, grow indeterminately and the more you pick the more they produce.

They should love this spot. Plus my opponents, the deer, would literally have to approach from the road to get to them, which they never have.

Rand built a quickie planter at the bottom of the trellis to tidy things up a bit, and hold some soil. And now we have more food on the way. They should be fun to watch grow as they are aggressive climbers.

Scarlet Emperor bean seedlings, each in a wreath of seaweed.

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Garden is in better shape than any previous year.
Social distancing enforced in the garden, before the big growth explosion next month
Soldiers and Sailors, a gift from my old neighbour Elaine.
Just learned that primroses need to be divided from time to time. Oops!
Trilliums. A protected flower in BC.

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What was under that deck? Lots of ferns, salal and blackberries…and some flat land!

A peek up at the former deck, from cottage level.

Quick, lets plant something!. I had 8 seed potatoes left, so in they went. Since big, bold deer are frequent visitors from the adjoining park, it will be tricky to fend them off.

Looking in the window.

For a start, I’m mulching my plants heavily with seaweed from the nearby beach. When I go for a walk with the dog, I take a 5 gallon pail and selectively fill it, being careful to not take too much from any one area of the beach, as it is an important part of the ecosystem.

A quick rinse and into the garden.

Opinions are split as to whether the seaweed needs rinsing or not. I give it one quick fresh water rinse to take off the surface salt. I have read that deer don’t like to eat seaweed. But I also know they love salt…Stand by for my report in the months ahead.

Rand picked up a faucet splitter that allows us to run a hose up to the new garden area. This will also allow me to keep the composter wetted. Big improvement.

There are 8 potatoes under those piles of seaweed. that mess in the background is the “door to Narnia” before I attacked it.

Behind the new spud patch, there is an area that was a hole in the now-demolished deck. My kids called it the door to Narnia.

And Rand used to sweep leaves into the hole. So now, under a stump, more blackberries and ivy vines, what do I discover but about 12 inches of dark rich compost!. So I spent the whole afternoon with a heavy maddock, chopping out huge roots.

Rand came up and sawed down an acacia (weed) tree that would impact the light. And I hauled a half ton of debris down to the utility trailer for next weeks trip to the Green Waste.

Nasty blackberry roots.
The door to Narnia is ready to plant.

I will keep collecting, rinsing and distributing seaweed, both up top, and as a mulch for the lower garden. Here are some advantages:

Its free, and plentiful

It has dozens of trace minerals and is touted as a perfect, balanced fertilizer.

It rehydrates with each rain fall or watering, and delivers its goodness to the roots by leaching seaweed ‘tea’.

It prevents evaporation of water by shielding the ground surrounding plants.

It is attractive to helpful critters like worms and pillbugs.

But slugs don’t like it because it has sharp edges when it dries, and is a bit salty.

It doesn’t contain seeds or other plant bits that can take hold in your garden. Other mulches can hide surprises like…foxtails!

Like peat moss, it aerates the soil. Unlike manure, it doesnt need to decompose before using. Pile it on, 4-6 inches deep. Or more. This stuff is gold.

The only question is, will the deer scarf it up as quickly as I can lay it down?

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