Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Today is the first anniversary of my dear brother-in-law Joe's death. Joe has been my brother-in-law for about 45 years, and you have to admire tenacity like that. He was remarkable in so many ways. His thirst for knowledge was unquenchable, and a quick glance through his pile of certificates and diplomas illustrates that in no uncertain terms. He also coached his two sons through ten years of violin each, without actually playing the instrument himself. He was an amateur astronomer, a writer, a birder, a hiker, a reader, a computer programmer, a sometime actor and theatre hand, a newspaper correspondent, an income tax specialist, a maker of wine, a student of languages including Japanese and Russian, and a home renovator. This final skill was, in my eyes, the one for which he had the most natural advantage. Joe was tall. Standing 6 foot 5 when slouching, he rarely needed a ladder. When Joe and my sister bought their first house in the east end of Toronto, Joe decided he was going to renovate it. This was before the days of computers, but Joe's most natural habitat was the library, so he took out books on every aspect of home repair: carpentry, plumbing, electrical, bricklaying, roofing, foundations, insulation. You name it, Joe had either done it or knew how to do it. And he had the tools to prove it: often he had two of the same thing, one brand new in its original box just waiting for the first one to break down. In my opinion, Joe's specialty was insulation, and his sub-specialty was vapour barrier installation. I once dropped by their house during the reno and saw Joe taking down an entire wall of vapour barrier that he'd just installed over the insulation. His jaw was clenched and he wasn't saying much. Innocently, I asked why he'd taken down the vapour barrier. He showed me a double puncture mark made by a staple gun. Yes, he'd inadvertently placed a staple in the wrong location. He explained that cold air could get through the holes left by the errant staple so he needed to replace the vapour barrier. No masking tape over the holes would suffice. Joe was a perfectionist and his family was not going to live in a house with unnecessary cold air coming through a wall. I've always remembered that about Joe, and so when it came time to insulate the boathouse, I decided I'd wait till the first anniversary of his death to tackle the vapour barrier. Here's one of my favourite photos of Joe:
And here's the newly installed vapour barrier on the Joseph B. Memorial Vapour Barrier Wall.
More than a couple of staples were removed and reset during this installation, but I've promised my sister I'll caulk over every one of them. And I'll hold off on the installation of the interior cladding till one of Joe's sons comes over and signs off on the vapour barrier. It's the least I can do for my longest-suffering brother-in-law.

Saturday, January 16, 2021


The calendar may have flipped over to 2021, but here at Five Acres, everything is much the same. Outdoors, the land is blanketed with perfectly white snow, although I notice today there are tracks of various creatures: me, the deer, coyote, and my next door neighbour Cathy's dog, Laila. Although Cathy is my next door neighbour, it's still a one kilometre drive from her place to mine. Laila covers that distance on foot in about one hot minute when she smells that something interesting has walked over my land. She's like Sherlock Holmes in black fur with a red bell around her neck. I'm not a fan of getting cold, and most of my forays outside are to bring in more firewood from the carport, but I like to look out the window and marvel at the changing scenery. Down at the boathouse, I've started insulating, but naturally I bought the wrong size insulation batts. I plan to use them anyway but I'm going to need vapour barrier to secure them in place. There's not a lot I can do down there in winter, but I thought I'd post a couple of photos, before and after, of the boathouse interior. Once the insulation is complete, I'll probably be fine working down there, and soon I'll be able to call in the electrician to install permanent light fixtures, which will make it much easier to work, because I won't need to plug in my collection of trouble lights and can use the electric outlets for plugging in power tools. Speaking of power tools, Cathy dropped by today. She's borrowing my chain saws for the remainder of the winter. It was so strange to be talking to another human face to face. We were outside in the carport, masked, gloved and distanced, while she practised her chainsaw skills. She got the hang of it quite quickly and she plans to take down a couple of small pine trees tomorrow. She's a real outdoors person, and she and Laila pretty much hike the back forty every day. Here's a photo of the boathouse interior, facing west, taken the day I started working on it.
And here's a photo of the boathouse interior, facing east, the day before I started insulating. This may illustrate why I'm totally comfortable being in the boathouse now, and why it creeped me right out at first. Three and a half months from now, I'll have lived here for two years. It's been an excellent experience, and I was reminding my nephew Philippe the other day how I came to be here. He played a significant part in that and I'm always grateful to him for his wisdom.