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Posts Tagged ‘cottage projects’

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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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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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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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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Finally the days are longer and warmer and, like every spring, we were itching to start some projects.  Since the weekend was  forecast to be dry, we decided to prioritize the deck, which is really bleached but still in good condition. Our last attempt to stain and protect the deck did not go very well – See “The Tomato Soup Deck.”

Four years have passed since I said I wouldn’t use the Thompson’s Water Seal treatment again, and having failed to find another product we liked, we reversed course and bought an ‘advanced formula’ Thompson product which did not require the deck to be bone-dry. We even chose the same cedar colour, for want of better options, since putting a transparent seal on the bleached wood wasn’t going to improve its looks enough to satisfy us.

Thompsons 'advanced' formula on the bleached deck

Back then, I read that power-washing would cause the wood to ‘bloom’ and was not advised. So I scrubbed the deck by hand.

This time, Cottager just got the power washer out.

Back then, we really didn’t get the product into the spaces between the slats.

This time we taped paint brushes to broom sticks and got much better coverage in those spaces.

Cottager with a brush taped to a broom handle

And while the product recommends you don’t use a roller – without explaining why…

We did it with a roller anyway.

Either the product has improved or we have. We shook it really, really well and it went on evenly and looks and feels great!

Nicely stained and preserved for another few years.

It didn’t take all weekend either. We also had time to: trim hedges, do some garden clean up, barbecue steaks, see a movie, walk into the village along the beach, have a weiner and marshmallow roast on the beach, fly the Angry Birds kite a recent visitor left behind for us, and have the neighbours over.  Love these longer, warmer days.

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Yes, it’s worthy of an exclamation mark (or two!) 

The need to replace our front fence loomed over us throughout the winter, and we briefly considered having someone do it for us. A very nice local handyman gave us a quote of $2800, which succeeded in inspiring us to get on with it ourselves. 

Our good buddies Doug and Jack volunteered to demolish the derelict fence. Thanks, guys. You did an awesome job! Here is some of it, crammed into the car for disposal.

Our urchins helped to set the posts in concrete.

Then, over the course of a few weekends, Cottager got to work:

He made a jig out of waste lumber to help cut the fence posts off evenly…

And then we malleted on some pre-made caps.

And here is a partial view of the finished fence, which cost a bit less than $600.

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