Wednesday, April 21, 2021


Temporarily, I've had to suspend operations on the interior of Bleak House. There's a pandemic raging. (You may have heard about it). With most stores being closed, I'm unable to go and select the lumber I need to finish the job, and I'm far too untrusting to purchase lumber sight unseen. When I went outside yesterday morning, it was a delightful spring day. I could've gone for a boat ride, or gone over to the island to finish chainsawing a beaver-damaged beech tree, or I could've gone down to the boathouse and repositioned an electrical outlet. By the time I'd walked down to the boathouse, I'd changed my mind. I was going to tear down the screened-in porch. Not much of it was still screened in, because birds used to fly in there and be unable to fly out again due to the screens. I found it distressing having to remove deceased birds, so I'd ripped out the screens to give them a fighting chance at regaining their freedom. Bleak House may be looking pretty good inside, but outside it still needs a lot of work, and the porch wasn't contributing anything to its appearance. The roof of the porch was starting to cave in and I accepted that the rest of it was likely beyond repair.
In addition to the square footage (it's about half the size of the entire boathouse) it is also incredibly heavy. The thick wooden roof is covered with at least three layers of asphalt shingles. I started by bringing a ladder and trying to remove some of the shingles but the size of the roof quickly made that impossible.
Realizing I'd have to bring the roof down to ground level before I could remove the shingles, I took my larger chainsaw and cut through the pillars supporting the roof. At first glance, it looked like I'd proven gravity was a hoax. The roof held firm and the top half of the pillars hung there like stalactites in a cave. Occasionally, when I'm working alone on a physically demanding project, I wonder if I've reached the point where I ought to call someone to come over and spot me, in case I get into difficulty. This was one of those points. However, there were a couple of two-by-fours bracing the roof from inside the porch, and they were holding firm. I decided to proceed on my own.
The most expedient solution was to chainsaw through about 80 percent of each two-by-four, then get the heck out of the porch. Nervewracking? A bit. Once safely outside, I picked up a length of scrap lumber and used it as a battering ram, to hit each of the partially sawed through two-by-fours in turn. As soon as they began to buckle where they'd been cut, I knew it was time to reach for my phone and start to videotape the collapse of the roof. I wasn't fast enough. The roof uttered a soft groan, and wafted gently toward the ground, like a leaf descending gracefully from a tree in autumn.
Cutting it up and removing the asphalt shingles was the easiest thing I'd had to do all day.
And cleaning up the debris field will be a task I'll leave for the next warm day. But I'm thrilled with how much I prefer the look of Bleak House without the screamed-in porch. It's got a sweet little patio outside and lots more light gets in the windows.
All in all, it was a good day's work.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


It's embarrassing to admit that although I've lived here for over two years, there's a part of my property that I've never explored. It's at the eastern boundary and from my property it's only accessible by boat. Dick, a neighbour who owns the land to the north of mine, once walked me there, crossing over his land, soon after I moved here. He pointed out the orange survey stakes showing the northeast and southeast corners of my property, but since then I've never been back. I'd hoped to walk across the Group of Seven Pond while it was frozen, but I managed to talk myself out of it as I hate getting cold. So I contented myself with waving my arm in the general direction of that piece of land whenever people visited, saying nonchalantly, "Yeah, I own the land over there, too" and hoping they wouldn't inquire further. But last week my neighbour to the south, Cathy, mentioned that there is a white chair on top of the highest elevation of that land, and from that chair it is possible to survey the entirety of the Group of Seven Pond. It's a huge pond that Dick, Cathy and I share. I'm the only one that calls it the Group of Seven Pond. Cathy calls it The Wetland. Cathy and Dick both have dogs and they and the dogs sometimes hike back there. They also cut trails and it's a generally accepted principle that we share use of the land, which is great. I went out in the boat last week and saw the white chair, and that got me curious. Cathy offered to go and get some trail tape, and she kindly marked two trails to guide me as I explored. One was an ascent not unlike Mount Everest; the other was a gentle, meandering climb. So I put on my hip waders, rowed over in the Good Ship Louise, found the Mount Everest Trail, tied up the boat, and began my climb. It went surprisingly well, and I'm glad I did it on a warm April day because it would have been less fun with mosquitoes acting as Sherpa guides. Sure enough, at the highest elevation there was the white chair. It was a humble white plastic chair, and Cathy had kindly marked it with some trail tape. The view from the chair was quite remarkable. Next day, I resolved to go back over to the Far Side and explore the land more thoroughly. I rowed over to where the southeasterly corner of my land is marked by a survey stake, and found that Cathy had marked that area with trail tape also. I tied up the Good Ship Louise, climbed out and headed up a much more gentle incline. By the time I got to a road that had been cut, I'd seen some very unusual looking trees and was amazed at not having known that this excellent place existed and that I owned it. Suddenly I was aware that someone else was walking in the distance. I caught the flash of a blue jacket on a tall, spare person. It wasn't Cathy or Dick. I kept on walking and again caught sight of the person, walking with two dogs who came over to greet me. I'm not really a dog person, but I do know four neighbour dogs: Jem, Sunny, Laila, and Trixie. These dogs were none of the usual suspects. I called out hello, and stopped to introduce myself to a woman named Karen who lives on the next street over, behind Cathy's place, and who regularly walks the trails with her dogs. We parted company after a friendly chat and I started walking again. It took me a while to realize I was lost. I could no longer see the pond, but I was on the road, so I knew if I just stayed on the road I'd either end up at Cathy's or at Dick's, depending on which direction I was headed in. Suddenly, up ahead I spied Cathy's tennis court. It's so huge, you could see it from space. So that meant that I was headed south. I looped down and around, crossed a little bridge and in a short time I could see the pond again and there in the middle distance was the Good Ship Louise. I gratefully clambered back down the hill, got back into the boat and headed for home, feeling not unlike The Great Gatsby, "come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens".