Tuesday, December 21, 2021


Don't even ask what got into me last week. A magazine arrived in my rural mailbox (which by some miracle is still standing, having twice been hit by snowplows in recent winters). This magazine, entitled In The Hills, is a large local publication, and when I first moved here and started receiving it, I confess I rolled my eyes, thinking it would turn out to be some third-rate magazine full of spelling and grammatical errors. With some retrospective shame, I admit that nowadays I really look forward to its arrival, four times a year. The articles are interesting, spelled well, and timely, the photography is good, and it has some of my favourite things: local real estate listings, together with colour photos. Needless to say, I dropped the rest of the mail on the kitchen counter, sat down and dug right in. And about half way through the magazine, there was a photograph of a beautiful stone building. I am a sucker for stone buildings, and for buildings that don't look all residential and boring.
This one ticked all the boxes. Old, a former schoolhouse, plenty of beautiful windows, stone, red trim, a bell on the roof...this building had curb appeal, which, in my books, is right up there next to sex appeal. I could just picture myself sitting out front on a spring day with a cup of tea and a magazine called In The Hills. Eventually I obtained the address and pulled it up on the computer. It was for sale. The interior photos did not have quite the same effect on me. In fact, they made me feel a bit uneasy. Why? Let's start with the kitchen. It was a sizeable room, recently renovated, but the layout appeared to be dreamed up by someone from a far-off galaxy where the inhabitants neither cook nor eat. It had a farmhouse apron sink (another box checked) but it was located on the far right hand side of a very long counter, right in the corner, with a window on its right side. At the far left side of the counter was a fridge, and directly to the right of the fridge was a stove. Who puts a fridge and stove side by side? At midpoint on the counter was a dishwasher and a cooktop. The cupboards looked like they had been dropped into place through the ceiling by a helicopter delivering unfinished kitchen cabinets from Home Depot, and then abandoned. It was the weirdest kitchen layout I've ever seen. Another photo showed a large bathroom that had a stone woodburning fireplace in it (another box checked). The main level of the house had 14 foot ceilings (yet another box checked!) But for every positive element the house contained, there was an equal and opposite element that made me suspect that the homeowners fancied themselves amateur interior designers: a very odd spiral staircase to a loft bedroom, for example. I'm pretty sure the bedroom furniture was installed before the staircase was installed. I talked it over with a few friends, but eventually concluded that I was infatuated with the idea of living in a house with curb appeal. Now, nobody would ever accuse Five Acres of having curb appeal. It looks much better from other angles than it does from the road. In fact, when I first came to see it, I drove right by, thinking this could not possibly be the house I'd come to see. And yet here we are! So, as a punishment for indulging in this fantasy relationship, I am now painting the interior of Five Acres. It's not going well, but at this rate, spring will be here before I'm finished, and once spring is here, it'll be as though I'd been shot out of a cannon. I will neither know nor care what colour the inside is painted, because I'll be outside on those five acres having fun.

Friday, December 3, 2021


Recently, I noticed some round holes high up on the loft wall, just below the roofline. They looked as though four golf balls had perforated the wall, and slightly lower, there was a fifth hole, which may have been an oval shaped knot in the wooden exterior that had fallen out. Soon after, I was outside at dusk and happened to glance up at the wall. I was astonished to see 13 small birds fly out of one of the round holes. They were like a synchronized swimming team. I am no ornithologist, but wondered if they might be swallows. I do know it's illegal - and mean - to harm migratory birds, so I waited until they had plenty of time to abandon their nest. Meanwhile, I started to hear weird scrabbling noises in the ceiling of the loft early in the morning. It sounded like squirrels at a rave. So I called in the big guns: Wildlife Control. Ken came to the rescue, armed with a 40 foot ladder. He closed off three of the holes with metal plates and installed one way doors over the other two holes. Ken got a kick out of the Holzhausen, and joked that I had bigger problems than birds and squirrels, if the beavers had built such a big dam on my driveway. If a red squirrel has invited you to a rave tomorrow morning at Five Acres, don't bother showing up with your glowstick. It's been cancelled.