Thursday, November 19, 2020

BLEAK HOUSE: The Laws of Subtraction and Gravity

 I'm pleased to report that the extension to Bleak House is history.

If you've been following along, my last post showed the peaked roof was the last remnant of the bump-out still in place, and removing it was turning out to be a lot of work.  Four layers of asphalt shingles adds a lot of weight. A few days ago, I laboriously removed one side of the roof and discovered three field mice huddled inside the remaining side.  I decided to give them a one-day Stay of Eviction so they could find a new home, but cold weather set in and my heart is not so hard as to evict someone on a cold day.  Also, cold weather makes me lazy. 

Mother Nature has rewarded my kindness with two warm days, today and tomorrow, so this morning I went down to see if the tenants had vacated the roof.  They had.  As an added bonus, gravity had assisted me by loosening the rusty nails holding the remainder of the little peaked roof to the outside wall of Bleak House.  I gave it a few mighty pulls and the entire thing, wood, nails and asphalt shingles, crashed to the ground.  The wood is going in the fire pit. The shingles are going into yard waste bags, after which they'll be hauled up to the Belwood Transfer Station for disposal.

Here's Bleak House without the bump-out:

I'm  pretty excited by this progress.  It was more work than I imagined it would be.  I really like that it has a house number on the right side of the doorway.  I think it would be funny to close off the doorway permanently but ask my brother to paint a trompe l'oeil door there instead.  But the smart money says I should get a roofer to re-do the asphalt shingles before it snows again. We'll see how I feel in the morning.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

BLEAK HOUSE: Back To The 80s.

Five days ago, I was contacted via social media by someone who told me she has a family connection to my property. It turns out her late father owned this property for about 35 years, right up until the date of his death in 2010.

I still have no idea how she came to be in touch with me. I'm guessing she must have done a Google search on the names of members of her family and hit upon my blog, which mentions the names of former owners.  From there, it's a hop, skip and jump to social media, and thence to me.

I was glad to hear from her, because I'm inquisitive by nature, and very curious about this property.

She searched through her old photographs and came up with several photos that were taken on the property. Some were particularly fascinating.  First, her Dad looked exactly as I imagined he would look.

Two photos were of Bleak House.  The first she dates at approximately 1980.  Can you see it there, on the far side of Pond One?  This is before the bump-out was added on.  Also absent is the screamed-in porch, though close inspection shows pillars in front of the door, so the entrance must have been partly sheltered.

The second photo dates from 1984.  It shows the extension and the full-size screened in porch.

The third photo that really caught my attention was one of the big house on the hill.  I would not have recognized it.

You see what looks like a separate little building on the right side of the photo?  That is no longer there.  In 2005 a very striking two-storey addition was built onto the house. Like the whitish-looking house you see in the photo above, the board-and-batten exterior is now stained dove grey, but the very tall second storey has a sharply angled roof, huge windows and tons of skylights, making it both modern and rustic at the same time. 

A picture is worth a thousand words

 And yet from the street, you'd scarcely notice it behind the tall Brandon Cedars that line the west wall.

As for Bleak House, I now know what I'm planning to do: I'll take it right back to its original sweet glory, with the pillars out front narrowly sheltering the entrance. 1980 was a good year. 

I'm really grateful to SRW, the family member who contacted me.  I look forward to speaking with her at length in the near future.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

BLEAK HOUSE: Going Back In Time

 On November 4th, everything changed.  By everything, I mean the weather.  We'd already had snow twice, I was back to wearing my motorcycle jacket all day and everywhere.  But on November 4th, summer returned, and it still hasn't left.  Let me tell you, it was like I'd been shot out of a cannon: every minute from crack of dawn till the sun abruptly set at five p.m., I was outside doing heavy stuff.  

I finished sawing up an apple tree on the north property line.  I  put my motorcycle away in the basement.  I moved all my piles of firewood from around the property to the carport.  I split logs.  I gathered and bagged twigs for kindling.  I had a bonfire on the island.  I cleared the entire south property line.  I put away my gardening tools.  I painted the eaves on the south side of the house. I brought in the boat and put it away in a newly-swept-out shed.  I cleaned the carport.  I sharpened my chainsaw multiple times.  I even had a sunny afternoon with a large cup of coffee and a date square sitting on the bench on the island.  There was no stopping me.

And every so often, I'd go over to Bleak House and do a little more work on demolishing the walls of the little bump-out. It was tough sledding.  It was impossible to get a secure footing and even more impossible to avoid all the nails.

It's been a glorious week: the kind of week I'll look back on in February with huge delight.  

I think tomorrow is the last of the warm days, so I'm pleased to tell you that I finally finished demolishing the three walls of the bump-out on Bleak House. All that remains is for me to take down the little peaked roof.

You see that little opening just below the point of the peaked roof?  I cut that out so I could see if the exterior wall of Bleak House had been left in place.  Luckily, it has.  But this little peaked roof has been home to squirrels or chipmunks or something.  They've made a nest in the fibreglass insulation and left a ton of droppings up there.  Tomorrow I'll start removing the four layers of asphalt shingles and take a chainsaw to the wood underneath.

Remember, a few posts ago, I was saying how horrifying it was for me to go inside Bleak House?  It's actually quite comforting to be in there now.  Best of all, for a reason I'll explain in my next post, I'm feeling quite confident in what I'm doing to this little building.  I now know for certain that I'm bringing it back to its original form.  Stay tuned, if you're curious to learn how I can be sure of this.