Now that we’ve been here for a couple of months, I’ve looked back at some things. Now I want to look forward.
I had some idea of what would need to be done here before we moved in, and not a lot has changed. Ultimately, what this house really needs is a top to bottom renovation, which would be awesome, but not affordable. We’re not in a position to physically do much of the work ourselves, plus we lack the resources, so I would want to hire someone else to do it. Someone with training, tools, safety gear and liability insurance. 😉
One of the things that has changed slightly in my original thoughts is upgrading the electrical. After talking to my oldest brother, who knows the wiring of this place better than any other living person right now, he tells me the wiring is actually good. The problem is that there’s not enough of it. Back when the new part was added on, building codes were quite different. These days, there is supposed to be an outlet for every 8 feet of wall. We’re no where near that. With the old part of the house, any outlets were added in after the place was built, since there was no electricity available in the area at all until 1951, if I remember the year correctly. Adding wiring to a building with log walls requires some creativity, too.
So on the list of things we need to do is increase the number of electrical outlets available. My parents used a lot of extension cords to make up for it. We’ve replaced most of those with power bars.
Pruning of trees. I know my dad used to do some pruning and tending of trees himself. I recall him doing some grafting, too. At one point, we even had a pear tree, if a tiny variety that can grow in our climate. I remember him telling me how, during his childhood in Poland, he remembered how they would take the hard little fruit from tress like this one, and bury them for the winter. The pears would freeze and they would dig them up later. The freezing caused the pears to be more edible and sweet.
I don’t know what happened to that tree.
We have crab apple trees, cherry trees (aside from the wild cherry trees growing in the bush, which my dad would use to make wine) and chokecherry trees (which was also used to make wine). There should still be some raspberry bushes, and there’s a big linden tree, too. I look forward to harvesting that for tea. The majority of the trees are spruce and maple. There is at least one dead spruce that needs to be taken down to ensure it doesn’t fall and potentially hit the house. Some of the maples and a Chinese elm are growing over the roof with branches actually rubbing against the shingles, and that needs to be fixed. Others are getting much closer to the power line going from the main pole to the house than they should. Plus, of course, we need to prune some back so they don’t block our satellite signals. The best time of year to prune is while the trees are dormant, so I hope that we can at least start on this next month. Ideally, we’d hire an arborist to do the job, but we can do at least some of it ourselves.
Well. Let’s be honest, here. Our daughters will end up doing most of the manual labour. My husband and I are too broken to do a lot of it.
Over the summer, I want to work towards renovating the master bedroom. Install the second bathroom that we need, and get rid of that carpet that is so stretched, it’s folding over on itself. Adding more outlets would be great. It’s one of three rooms where we have an extension cord coming through a hole in the floor to the basement. !! It has that last window that needs to be replaced, too. It has the same wood-look paneling that’s all over the house, but in this room, the paneling covers the top half of the walls, and it’s painted wood on the bottom half. I’d love to not have paneling at all, but walls we can paint. Maybe we could add a bit more insulation of some kind in the process. This room has two exterior walls that are log, and I have no idea what, if any, insulation there is between the log and the exterior siding.
The kitchen and dining rooms need new flooring pretty desperately. The original lino in the kitchen in particular is wearing through quite a lot. It’s in the front entry/laundry room, too. New flooring, however, is not likely to happen for some years. Of course, the walls all need to be done, too, but that’s going to be a real challenge. The divider shelves were added later, and they’re affixed to floor and ceiling. Which means the paneling is partly covered by these shelves in a couple of places. It’s also behind all the kitchen cupboards. In fact, I think it’s behind the kitchen counters, too! Then there’s the mural covering one wall of the dining room, adhered directly onto the paneling.
I remember helping put that up. It was quite fun.
The bathroom is another room that needs complete renovation. The flooring is the same lino as in the kitchen and dining rooms. The paneling that is made to look like tile covers all the walls, plus the ceiling. A tub surround was put on top of it, but not fully adhered to it. I sometimes think that, if it weren’t for the arm bars and towel rack (yes, there is a towel rack in there; amazingly, the towels on it don’t get wet when the shower is used, so we continue to use it) are the main reason why the tub surround is still on there as well as it is. The tub itself, old as it is, is very good. Of enameled cast iron, it gets freezing cold, but once it heats up, it stays warm for ages, and keeps bath water warm for a nice long time.
The counter and cupboard are solid; they just need to be refreshed. The toilet is one of those higher ones, installed for better mobility. It’s great, but every now and then, it seems to leak from underneath. But not always. Most likely, it just needs a new wax seal. And a cut off valve, which wasn’t installed with it, for some reason.
The upstairs needs a lot of work. There are some unique problems there, with the ceiling being directly under the roof the way that it is. There is insulation and vapour barriers, but moisture had still got in and caused some water damage. Of course, more outlets – for three pronged plugs – are needed. There’s also an attic with a window we’d like to insulate and turn into a finished, usable room.
There are doors that need replacing. Windows, too. The sun room has been allowed to get into pretty bad shape. One of the windows has a huge crack in it, and the outside door has lots of moisture damage. In the spring, I want to empty it completely, clean it thoroughly, then make it so that we can actually hang out there. It used to be my one of my dad’s favourite places to sit, and I can see why.
The old kitchen also needs to be emptied of quite a lot of things. The old wood stove will probably stay, though it can’t be used anymore. If nothing else, it’s a neat conversation piece.
Outside, there is lots of work to do. In the short term, I’d love to do something to replace the old dog houses. We are thinking of getting a dog; something like the breed my brother has, that loves the cold weather we get in the winter, maybe. The shelters would also be for any outside cats there are. They may be semi-feral, but they’re good to have around. They keep the rodent population under control. My mother’s little gardens around the house are in rough shape. One of them has a fence around it that’s in serious need or repair or replacement. Even the clothes line needs fixing up.
Then there is the main garden. This area is huge, but has not been fully used for many years. My younger brother would plow it every year, then he’d plant a few things. Why they would plant a garden here instead of planting one by their own house, I still don’t know. For us, if we garden at all, I would be looking into building accessible raised beds. There are some pretty inexpensive kits for that sort of thing these days, too. I think there are still raspberry bushes. They would need tending and pruning. Currently, we’ve got a big pile of branches in the middle of the garden area. I want to cut those down and move them over to where we have a fire pit. I look forward to late summer nights, roasting wieners and marshmallows over the fire, wrapping corn cobs or potatoes in foil and cooking them in the coals. I want to build a brick grill, too, and maybe a smoker.
There are so many other things that need to be done. We’ve got a shed with a hole in the roof that needs to be patched. Old vehicles are sitting and rusting all over the place, along with other odd things. There are a number of old log cabins that are slowly collapsing, their contents un-salvageable. The barn needs repairs and clearing out. The garage should really be replaced – with something that’s at least insulated, if not heated, would be nice.
And that doesn’t even touch the extra house we’ve got sitting in the yard. It was never intended to stay there permanently, and it is slowly rotting away.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done around the place. It will take years to do it. But that was part of the deal that came with our living here. That’s the “rent” we’ll be paying.
For now, we need to prioritize and work on the essentials. The main house takes top priority over everything else.
It should be interesting to see how it pans out over the next while.