Tuesday, September 19, 2023


The final frontier in home improvements here at Five Acres was to raise the well pump above ground. It's not a project you want to tackle until you have money to burn, because there's no way of predicting what it's going to cost until the job is, basically, completed. It's also surprisingly difficult to find a well company to do the work according to government regulations. It was a piece of luck that brought me to Art. One day in the library I was talking to a former colleague. She also lives on a farm property. I mentioned my well and the fact that I was looking for a reliable well company to raise the well pump. She mentioned a female police officer who occasionally drops by the library, and said that the officer's husband had taken over his family's well company. "Talk to Art", she said. "You'll get the straight goods from Art." So I called Art, and he came over. I instantly liked him and felt confident that I wasn't going to be another woman being talked down to by a man. After all, his wife wears a firearm! It took several months until Art's schedule and my finances lined up, but that day came last Wednesday. A section of the metal roof on the well shed had to be removed temporarily to get the old well pump out of there: it was eight or nine feet below ground level. It took a whole day for Art and his Dad to get the old well pump up. Once the pump was above ground, there was good news and bad news: first, it was steel, so it hadn't rusted. That was fairly essential to getting it out of the well. But it was covered in sulphur, and underneath all that sulphur was a 30 year old pump that could fail at any minute. The warranty on a new well pump is three years, so my old pump was living on borrowed time. Further, the underground cable that connects uthe well pump to the electrical panel in the house had been mended twice, so it made good sense to replace the cable at the same time.
So Art added "replace electrical cable" to his to-do list. (It wasn't easy). With the addition of a new above-ground well pump, my home improvements are now concluded. Big thanks to Art Holyoake and his Dad for putting this final piece of the puzzle in place.

Saturday, September 9, 2023


One thing that never shows up on real estate photos or videos of my property is the gigantic array of solar panels to heat the swimming pool. No need to explain why. When you see the picture, you'll understand. "Derelict" is the most diplomatic adjective I can think of. Luckily, it's hidden behind a stand of Brandon cedars - a favourite tree of mine - so I don't have to look at it unless I'm feeling self-destructive. That doesn't happen often, which explains why it's still there, four and a half years after I moved here. Two years ago, I was persuaded by the staff of the local pool company that for an investment of a few hundred dollars I could have it restored. That was my first mistake. One of my biggest character flaws is, and always has been, that I believe if I just try long enough and hard enough, I can get anything to work. This belief explains my first motorbike, my first husband, my Camaro, my Cadillac Seville, several chainsaws, and recently, my tractor. I have a nephew who also has this belief. In his case, he actually can get things to work. With me, the odds are about one in four. I should invite him over more often, eh? But I digress.
I'm sure I blogged about the solar array a couple of years back. The restoration was a failure - and I only wish it cost me a measly few hundred dollars. I've tried to move on. Swimming in a bracingly cold pool for two years has refreshed my memory. So last Wednesday I decided that I'd be using climate change to my advantage. From now on, global warming would heat the pool. I texted Casey, a guy from Orangeville who installed my farm gates last year. He was willing to come by on Friday with his tools and do the demolition. Early Friday morning, I called a dumpster rental company and ordered a 10 yard bin. I thought it would be way too big, but what the heck. I have another nephew who is an airline pilot. He had a day off yesterday, and what do airline pilots do in their days off? They go flying with their friends. Sometimes they fly over their auntie's property. Just between Casey leaving and the dumpster arriving, I heard a small plane flying low overhead. Shortly after, I got a text from the pilot nephew with this photo attached.
I've identified the scene of the demolition, so you can get a sense of how big a job it was. Thanks, nephew! I figured it would be a day's work but Casey is one of those nose-to-the grindstone type of guys. Two hours later, it was a pile of rubble.
This morning, Casey came by. Two hours later, the dumpster was full and the demolition site was pristine. And we needed every one of those 10 yards.

Saturday, July 29, 2023


Last week, my nephew Benjamin was visiting. Ben is eight. He's stayed here several times before, and by now he pretty much runs the place. But he hadn't been here since last November, and there have been a lot of changes since his last visit, so one evening he and I were strolling around outside. I was pointing out the changes to the property. We stopped by the boathouse. I showed him the bird's nest positioned in the eaves, just above the boathouse door. I'd been watching the nest for some weeks. I couldn't see inside without disturbing it, but I had the impression it was empty, as it had that dried-out appearance. Ben and I decided to lift it down from the eaves, using a wide blade paint scraper and a hand-held broom to secure it. As we detached it and lowered it to the ground, the nest started to fall apart. Inside were four very newly hatched birds. We put the nest on the patio and while Ben guarded it, I ran back up to the garden shed and brought down two empty bowl-shaped plastic flower pots. I nailed the first one to the doorframe, at eye level. Then we swept up the broken nest and all four hatchlings, put them in the other flowerpot and set it inside the one attached to the doorframe. I had little hope they'd survive the night, being so small, and I felt guilty for disrupting the nest.
Next morning, all four birds were still in their new surroundings and still alive. It felt like a miracle. Once a day Ben and I would go and check on them. And each day they were a big bigger and more mature. I was feeling a bit better about myself, but still unsure they'd survive.
The last day of Ben's visit was Tuesday. I was careful not to draw his attention to the birds, and as he had just learned to swim and dive the previous day, he spent as much time as possible at the pool, showing off his new aquatic skills to his grandfather, who had swung by for a visit. Mid-afternoon, we drove Ben back to meet his mother. Immediately on returning home, I went down to the boathouse, somehow fearing the worst. There was no worst: all four birds had grown new wing feathers and a fair amount of confidence, as they had repositioned themselves in their new spacious abode. Today I took my phone down there to photograph them. As soon as I got in front of the nest and called out, "Hello, friends", it was suddenly like a Hitchcock movie and I was Tippi Hedren. All four rose up in unison on their new wings and flew right at me. They kind of remind me of Ben, only they have a grumpy expression on their faces. Ben is always thrilled to show off his newest skills but, at least when he's at Auntie's, he is never grumpy.

Friday, June 30, 2023


At three a.m., I was grumpily half awake, thanks to an intermittent knocking sound coming from the front of the house. I was pretty sure it wasn't the police, and I wasn't alert enough to contemplate who else might be at my door, For an hour, I ignored it. By four a.m., I thought I'd better get up and investigate, since I clearly wasn't going to be able to fall asleep again. I had a memory of a similar night, a year or two ago, when just before bedtime I'd heard what sounded like a motor running just outside my front door. So I had a sense of what I'd be confronted with. First, I knocked hard on the doorframe, wondering if that would startle any unwelcome nocturnal guest. No dice. Then I turned on the porch light. The knocking sound stopped, briefly, and then resumed. I opened the door an inch or two, with my foot poised to prevent it being pushed open any farther. Peering through the gap in the door, I spied an intruder. It was the same sort of intruder I remembered from my previous encounter, and it appeared to be chewing its way into my house. "Hey!" I shouted. No reaction. So I closed the door, went to the kitchen for a saucepan, filled it with cold water, returned to the front door and poured the water over the porcupine. That succeeded in making it back up, try and squeeze itself through the iron porch railing and climb down onto the garden that borders the entrance to the house. It deposited a few dozen quills as a parting gift. It will take me quite a bit of sanding, priming and painting to repair the scene of the crime. People tell me they're actually looking for salt. This is one of the reasons I don't salt the porch or driveway in winter. Personally I think it had heard breakfasts are pretty good here at Five Acres and it didn't want to be late to the party.

Thursday, June 29, 2023


Ever since I'd finished restoring the little boathouse, I'd been joking that I'd pay a thousand dollars to anyone who agreed to spend the night in it. Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with the boathouse....during daylight. But who knows what it's like in there at night? No one ever goes there after dark. My policy is: during daylight the land is mine. Once night falls, it belongs to the creatures of the night. I am not a creature of the night. The boathouse has electricity. It even has a space heater. There's a chair, a coffee table, and a chaise longue to lie on. The windows are newly screened. In a rustic way, it's slightly charming. I'd been reading a book about a young woman who lived in a lighthouse in the 1830s. I've always been very attracted to lighthouses and I'm sure I'd be the ideal person to live in one. And so on June 22nd while I was weeding the vegetable garden, I asked myself why I hadn't slept in the boathouse yet. I had no good reason not to. I could make myself a thermos of tea, bring my wind-up radio and a blanket, a can of insect repellent, my book about living in a lighthouse, and my phone, just in case. I headed down to the boathouse about eight-thirty p.m., turned on the lights, and arranged my supplies on the coffee table. I dispatched three mosquitoes to wherever mosquitoes go. Then I closed the door behind me. In the four years and three months I've lived here, I've never noticed that there is no lock on the boathouse door. Even if there were, two-thirds of the door is glass, so no lock is likely to be of much use. So I settled in for the evening, turned my radio on, spread out a coverlet on the chaise longue, took off my rubber boots, put them by the door so any burglar who broke in would trip over them, and crawled under the covers.
Neighbours texted to ask if I could hear the coyotes howling. Actually I couldn't. I heard the occasional bullfrog, but just in case, I googled, "Do coyotes have opposable thumbs?" They don't. They probably couldn't open the boathouse door even if they did. It's pretty stiff. After a while it felt a bit damp and stuffy in the boathouse. I didn't want to get up and open the windows, so I reached over and turned on the space heater. That's when the electrical circuit breaker switches blew and I was plunged into darkness. I began to wonder what I was doing. I wouldn't have minded a snack, but I hadn't brought anything to eat as I'd already brushed my teeth. As darkness settled in, the fireflies appeared outside the windows. They looked rather festive, and surprisingly large. But you can't read by the light of a firefly, so I turned the radio down to low and lay uncomfortably on the chaise longue. Normally, it's a comfortable spot to relax for a couple of hours on a hot day. This was not daytime, nor hot, and I wasn't the least bit relaxed. Eventually I fell into a shallow sleep, and the hours crept by, very slowly. At first light (5:45 a.m. if you must know), I was up, gathering my belongings into a bag and jamming my feet into my rubber boots. I didn't even bother to reset the circuit breakers. I practically ran up to the house, unlocked the door and ran myself a warm, fragrant bath. And then I fell asleep on my massive green leather sofa. There is, truly, no place like home. And, in case you care, I spent my thousand dollar winnings on a new one horsepower electric pump for the swimming pool.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023


Last week I was really busy chainsawing pine logs into fireplace-sized pieces and whacking the tall grass and weeds at the south end of the property with my trusty weedwhacker. By the time I got back to the house, I was so exhausted that I barely had time to eat a snack and brush my teeth before I dumped my grimy clothes into the laundry basket and dove into bed. I remember the precise time - ten p.m. - because of what was on the radio at that time, when I suddenly felt a sharp stinging sensation on my backside. Damn! A mosquito! I thought, and decided to roll over onto my back, crush it to death, and deal with the corpse in the morning. As it turned out, I never made it to morning, because I felt so restless and unsettled that by three a.m. I was up again, in my dressing gown, cleaning the living room. That's never a good sign. Once the living room was polished and dusted within an inch of its life, I wondered if I could fall asleep again. I decided a hot bath might help. So I ran a fragrant bath, took off my dressing gown - and that's when I remembered that we're supposed to regularly check our skin for the presence of ticks. And that's when I remembered the "mosquito bite" of the night before. If you've never seen an insect half embedded in your skin before, let me assure you that the sight of it is not conducive to sleep. My sister in Kingston is an avid hiker, and she's had a tick bite before. She mentioned that if it's still alive, rubbing a dab of dishwashing liquid on it will cause it to back out of your skin in a hurry. Mine appeared to be deceased, so I got the tweezers, grasped it firmly as close to my skin as possible, and pulled it out, hoping to get it out all in one piece. I succeeded. After photographing it, I did what any normal person would do: I posted it to Twitter, asking for a firm identification, ASAP. Results came in immediately. Deer Tick. It might carry Lyme Disease. Get antibiotics. I had a hot bath and slept until the pharmacy in our little village was open. Within an hour, I had my antibiotics and was safely home again. I've been incredibly low-energy since than, but the pharmacist has been very attentive, following up with me to ensure I'm okay. Tomorrow I'm going in to the city for my last haircut before my beloved hairdresser, Tania, gives birth. I won't regale her with any descriptions, or any photos. But I'll show you, because you're not likely to go into labour.
And because I'm there, I'm also going to have lunch with my favourite airline pilot. In a restaurant. Far removed from other people. And insects. Thank you for watching my Tick Talk.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Hattie McBinkey is a nickname I bestowed on the 8 year old daughter of my very close cousin, Marian, about 20 years ago, when they were visiting us from Scotland. Her name's not Hattie, it's Heather. And McBinkey was the surname of our dear old cat Pinky. But Heather became Hattie McBinkey that summer and to be honest I still think of her by that name. Hattie has a brother, Jamie, who I'd nicknamed James Corbett Junior, but honestly there's not much creativity in that, seeing as his name is, actually, James Corbett Junior. There's been a lot of water flowing under the bridge since that happy holiday at our house on Portland Street. It was a pretty terrific house to have visitors, because it was small but stretched over three storeys. So you were crammed together but spread out at the same time. And we were family, so being together was the main thing. We had a concert during their stay, and James Corbett Junior was the Master of Ceremonies. Hattie McBinkey sang a song. She has a lovely singing voice, as does her Mum, but she was nervous all the same. James Corbett Junior was a superb and encouraging MC and the audience enjoyed the concert immensely. Time passes. In the intervening years, Hattie met Kieran at school and they really clicked. She and Kieran went off to university and before too long they were engaged. Hattie graduated in Social Work, and she quickly secured professional employment in Elgin, our family's home town. Meanwhile, James Corbett Junior has been pretty busy. He met Karina, they fell in love, and I barely had time to blink my eyes before our Master of Ceremonies became a Dad - three times over! And Hattie and Kieran haven't exactly been letting the grass grow under their feet. They've been planning their May 27th wedding. I've already told Marian that even if her married name is Heather Anthony (it is), she'll always be Hattie McBinkey to me. She was a lovely, radiant bride. Here she is with her parents, Marian and Jim:
And here's James Corbett Junior, with Karina, and their three beautiful children, David, Alexander, and Klara:
Did I happen to mention we're a good looking family? Here down below is the bridegroom, Kieran Anthony, with his new father-in-law, the original, James Corbett Senior, more commonly known and loved by all as Jim.
Warmest congratulations to our lovely family on this spectacular day.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023


One home improvement I've really been looking forward to is having a green metal roof installed on Moss Bank, my little boathouse. That work was completed this morning, and I'm pretty thrilled. A minor disaster was averted, as insufficient metal had been ordered to cover the entire roof. Fortunately, the excellent Trevor, who works at McKinnon Timbermart, had used the exact same profile and colour of metal on the roof of one of his outbuildings (he and his wife own and operate a bed and breakfast in a neighbouring village). Trevor had some metal left over from his roofing job - just enough to finish up Moss Bank - and he kindly contributed it to my job. So here's Moss Bank, looking like she needs a quick paint touch-up but otherwise ready for a hot, sunny summer ahead. All I want now is a tiny metal mailbox to hang outside.

Sunday, May 7, 2023


Last week, two exciting events occurred: I got the loft and foyer painted, and I got my kitchen backsplash installed. Due to the height of the ceilings in the loft and foyer, neither had been painted for a really long time. The rest of the house is now painted a soothing white, with the smaller bedrooms and the bathrooms painted Cambridge Blue. I decided to go with the same soothing white for the loft and foyer, and it looks fantastic. It's hard to photograph because the ceilings are angular and high, but here's a couple of shots.
And here's the kitchen backsplash.
All in all, a satisfying week. I still need a new enclosure for the washer and dryer, but that can wait. Tomorrow, a new green metal roof is being installed on the boathouse. Stand by.

Thursday, March 9, 2023


I'm sure winter isn't helping, dragging on the way it has been doing. At the start of every winter, I assign myself a wide range of indoor tasks that are (a) necessary; and (b) guaranteed to make me glad they're done once spring arrives. This winter, I've upped the choreography by choosing tasks that can be done by other people. Honestly, it's been going great. The farm gates at the south entrance, the metal roof on the well shed, the new windows, the new sliding doors, the attic insulation, the painting of the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallways, and one more bedroom, plus the furnishing of three guest rooms...it's used up most of the winter and quite a bit of money as well. One thing I've never been completely happy with is the kitchen. It's spacious, quite well laid out with lots of drawers for storage. But the colour, the counters, the sinks, the faucets didn't give me any pleasure, especially since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Impulsively, I decided that I should have a better kitchen. There's a local business on the outskirts of town that specializes in higher-end kitchen cabinetry. I didn't need those. I could live with the existing cabinets. I needed new counters, a new sink, a new faucet, and a new backsplash. Today, three out of four of my needs were met. The crew from the higher-end company arrived at 9:15 a.m. and in eight hours the place was transformed. We went from beat-up butcher block counters to navy blue Corian. We went from a double bowl black granite sink, also beat up by my incessant scrubbing, to a massive single bowl white granite farmhouse sink. You could use it as a baptismal font. We went from a brushed nickel faucet to a black architectural-looking high quality faucet.
I'll be waiting for the installation of the backsplash for a while (got the tiles, just need the installer) but this was a satisfying day.

Sunday, February 5, 2023


About 18 months ago, I received an email from a one-time acquaintance of Ivaan's and mine named Tom. We'd engaged him as an eBay trader in 2005 to help us sell Ivaan's massive vintage camera collection. Once the camera equipment was sold, our contact with Tom ended. He was an entrepreneur, and he moved on to other activities. Following Ivaan's death, there were lots of changes in my life, and I was just glad that over 700 vintage cameras were not accompanying me on my journey. I continued with my university studies, continued Ivaan's jewellery work, bought and sold some real estate, and eventually found myself living in this rural paradise. That's when I heard from Tom. His wife was interested in learning jewellery making and he thought I might be willing to help her. That was a short conversation. I also don't teach people to drive, so....nope. A few months later, we were once again in touch, as Tom was interested in buying some of my jewellery making equipment for his wife. During the transaction, Tom asked if I would be willing to sell Ivaan's entire inventory to him. Initially I had no interest. How does one even do a valuation of an artist's life's work? What would Ivaan's family think? Tom persisted. He wanted to buy the rights to Ivaan's name, his website, this blog, all the inventory, the masters, the rubber moulds, the photographs, everything. 40 years of work. I consulted Ivaan's family; with some reservations, they agreed that it would in theory be a good idea to have someone continue his work. Tom and his wife came over, looked over all the inventory, photographed it, and went away to discuss it with their family. Eventually, we agreed that Tom would bring a monetary offer. He asked if he needed a lawyer. I equivocated: he didn't need a lawyer to make a without-prejudice verbal offer, but he was free to consult a lawyer before putting an offer in writing. Meanwhile, a longtime Toronto jewellery shop we'd worked happily with in the past expressed an interest in taking over Ivaan's work. I waited, not able to decide what to do. Time passed. Nothing from Tom. Eventually I emailed Tom and said if he planned to make an offer, he should do so. He did. He made an offer by email. I was so shocked, I couldn't even bring myself to respond. So I didn't. Weeks passed. Tom got in touch again. He reiterated the same offer. I felt as though I'd been spat on. A pair of wedding bands by Ivaan would cost more than he was offering for Ivaan's life's work. The jewellery shop's offer will have to wait. Several people have come wanting to buy jewellery by Ivaan since then. They'll have to wait too. It will be a long time till I'm able to look at Ivaan's art without feeling revulsion that I might have entrusted his life's work to the wrong hands.