Friday, November 23, 2007

Musing in Ottawa

Well, I've been back in Ottawa for about 6 weeks now so perhaps it's time for some random jotting - although I've discovered that my random jottings tend to upset some of my relatives. So let's clear up what I was saying way back on September 14th.

I made the mistake of saying there was such a thing as too much company - this comment had absolutely nothing to do with the particular company I had this summer, but rather, with my own failings.

When we first purchased our house in Lockeport, many of the locals asked us whether or not we would continue running a bed-and-breakfast. We did actually consider it - looked into provincial regulations, insurance etc. This was for a couple of reasons: firstly, Lockeport needs all the tourist business it can muster which means accommodations are needed for these tourists, and, secondly, we thought it might be interesting in retirement to meet people from all over the place and see fresh faces. We had enjoyed (mostly) the 10 years we rented out rooms at Pleasant Park - tenants like Andrew, Norm, Fred, Kim, Bryce, Toby, Mary Ann, Nandeesh and Jag were almost family by the time they left us. However, given the number of family and friends we expected to visit us, we decided a bed-and-breakfast wouldn't be very practical since our company would want to visit in the same brief window of time as we could expect any B&B clients - as I have said to several people "who wants to visit Lockeport in February?".

This summer proved we made the right decision - several nights we had all our guest rooms occupied and for an entire month there was always someone visiting. Unfortunately, Wayne wasn't there for a lot of the time (since he has yet to retire) which left me to"entertain" lots of guests, clean rooms, wash linens etc. All of this made me realize I could not have run a B&B anymore - I get tired and grumpy too easily and I feel responsible for my guests enjoying themselves which can be difficult with wildly disparate groups, ages, interests etc.

Some of my guests after reading my blog felt that I meant I didn't want them visiting any more - far from my intention! The comment was "me" centered - the realization that I am slowing down very rapidly and unable to function nearly as well as I could a few short years ago, a fact that becomes brutally evident when I am faced with lots of stair-climbing, late hours or a host of other problems. I often wonder how I managed to take sailing lessons (only 4 years ago!) when the thought of even getting my deteriorating body into a Lazer now seems impossible.

Anyway, guests who have come (and those of you who keep saying you are coming to visit), please be reassured that you are welcome. Our sleepy little town, simple lifestyle and beautiful province aren't to everyone's taste, but I hope you will come and see for yourselves.

Monday, September 17, 2007

How Much is Exercise worth?

In my Universal Truths, I forgot a very important one - going to a gym is not worth driving 128 km round-trip. That's what I've been doing twice a week all summer to go to Curves in Liverpool.

It's my own fault - last winter when I was looking for an exercise programme which my poor old knees could handle, I thought it would be good to find something which I could continue here in Nova Scotia during the summer. I looked at Good Life, but the Super Stores here don't have any included (and the nearest SuperStore is in Liverpool too for that matter even if it had a gym).

Curves seemed like a good solution - all female, good variety of machines, 10,000+ facilities world-wide and your membership is portable - you can have a visitor's pass to take along for up to a month and if you are somewhere longer than that you can simply switch your membership over to the new facility. In Ottawa, I was going 4 times a week (they recommend 3 times) and found it mostly fun and an opportunity to chat to lots of women, many of whom I knew from various activities over the years. I had to drive about 4 km each way. No sweat - except at the gym.

Here in Nova Scotia, I switched my membership to the Curves in Liverpool which is 64 km away. I have been going twice a week and having to force myself to make the drive every time.

During 6 weeks in July and August, I had a friend, Kathy, from Ottawa to share the driving. I would drive to the car pool parking in Sable River (18 km) to meet her and from there we would take one of our cars - someone to share gas costs and chat with. Those weeks were easy. But since Kathy returned to Ottawa and the sun is coming up later, I am finding it harder and harder to make the trip. The cost of Curves is now $55.36/month for the membership plus about $120/month for gas, and I'm not going 3 times a week! So, when my year's membership is up, or at least when we come back down here next spring/summer, I will have to quit Curves and find another exercise solution.

Or go broke.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

More Universal Truths

A few items I forgot yesterday:

you can't help those who won't help themselves

I REALLY don't like dogs!

creativity begets creativity

Nova Scotia is an extremely friendly place

I kind of like genealogy, frustrating though it can be - here's my great-grandpa, James Spencer Hoodless

you can only boil a kettle dry 5-6 times before you need a new kettle :)

being retired is hard work so far!

loneliness is a cancerous growth

There are likely others I have missed, but I'm going to go lose some more Scrabble games for a while.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Universal Truths

At least for my universe.

The last four months I have had lots of time to be introspective since I have spent several weeks all by myself (except for the cat who tends to sleep much more than he converses). The following are some of my universal truths I have discovered:

the most important thing in my life is my family

updating an old house is a lot of work

there is such a thing as TOO much company (not a non-sequitor - there were times when I had 7 other people here, none of them my husband)

immediate family make great guests 'cause you don't have to "entertain" them

28 windows is a LOT of caulking

caulking inside a built-in bookcase is impossible (Christine might be small enough to do it!)

I'm not anywhere near as good at Scrabble as I thought I was

lawyers can be great chefs / don't judge a restaurant by its bowling alley

Nerd Test Results

After seeing this on Kev's blog, I thought I should try it. Disappointingly middle of the road, I would say. says I'm a Cool High Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Let the Games Begin!

Today we will start doing some of the serious renovation work for our energy improvements.

Yesterday, Wayne arrived back from Ottawa and cut a hole in the ceiling of the north parlour so we could examine the condition of the walls above the dropped ceiling. Surprise! The wall is bare studs above both windows in the north wall and there is also a small strip where you can see the lathe above the east window. This means that when the blown-in insulation arrives, it will fill the entire ceiling cavity - rather expensive and messy if we ever want to fix up that room.

So, we need to move all the junk out of the way - if you've seen the room you know that that in itself is a major job. Then tear out the ceiling along the wall, install new wall board and hope it's tight enough. No problem - except the insulation firm called last evening to say they would be here on Monday.

A busy weekend ahead. Oh yes, the results of our energy audit - on a scale of 0 to 100 our house made a resounding 6 - our target is 57 in the next 18 (17 now) months.

On the plus side, the original ceiling above the acoustic tile one looks to be in very good shape.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I think we failed!

Well! Our energy audit was very enlightening. It took 3 1/2 hours for the engineer to poke into all the corners of our house and measure everything. On the plus side our windows (replaced in 2002) were great as were our choice of low flush toilets, the appliances we have replaced and our programmable thermostat.

The last step was to do a partial vacuum test for drafts. This our poor old house failed miserably - partially because of all our mid-construction projects so there are air leaks from open walls and ceilings sucking in air from the attic and the uncovered original floor boards at the back of the house and in the library let air in from the basement. Since we have R0 (except in a couple of spots we have renovated), there is lots of air flow through the walls and attics. It was so bad that I don't think we got a valid base reading from which to improve.

We did discover lots of small leaks that we can fix (in addition to the obvious ones mentioned above). We need to caulk all our baseboards and around the trim on a couple of windows. We need to spray foam insulation around all the electrical breaks in the attic (before the insulation is blown in). We need to put the little foam sheets in our electrical outlets and switches and Dave also recommended using the child-proofing electrical plugs for outlets not in frequent use. None of our 3 fireplaces have dampers - we planned to do something with the living room one (either block it off or put in an insert if one can be found) but the surprise was the other 2 in the dining room and north parlour - neither is functioning but there sure was lots of air coming out of them when we thought they were closed off. Yet another project.

We also found a couple of holes - in the back of our clothes closet in our bedroom is an old stove pipe circle which is cemented over, however the wall is far enough from the chimney that a gale blows down from the attic. In Will's room, there is a vertical shaft in the closet wall (very strange construction seems to be the problem - probably using whatever pieces of wood were around) which had another gale blowing down it.

Besides the insulation of the attic and walls, he also recommended insulating the basement walls in the header spaces and partially down the wall - this is feasible for part of the basement anyway; there is a several hundred pound metal cistern in the way for one corner - how we get that out of the way I don't know. He also wants us to insulate the crawl space, either from the outside (doable but an expense we can't afford), from the inside (completely un-doable since most of the crawl space is inaccessible) or insulating the underside of the floors above the crawl space (also un-doable due to the access problems).

We also got about 5 pounds of literature to help us save energy, do these projects and/or cure any insomnia we may have. There is info on lots of topics including grey water recycling, all types of heat sources, how-to books and lots of little tips. There are government grants for many of the improvements that one can make and we'll qualify for a few of them is we can get the work done within 18 months. Anyone who wants to help out with the work is welcome to volunteer!

In a few weeks, we'll get the written report on our home and an energy guide rating for the present condition of the house and a target we should be aiming for based on the construction, age etc. of the building. I'm wondering how high we will be.

Lots of work to do!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Energy Efficiency in 1848

Our house was built in 1848 (plus lots of additions with unknown dates). Today the house will have an energy audit by a government approved company called S.H.E. Consultants - Sustainable Housing and Education Consultants - the only company in Nova Scotia which can determine if you qualify for government grants to improve your energy use. Since our only insulation is in the 2 bathrooms and the library, which Wayne has put in, it will be interesting to see what the consultant says. The process costs a couple of hundred dollars (for which I think we get an actual written report) and then we have 18 months to do any grant eligible work and get an auditor back (that's the hard part with only one firm in the province) to check that it was indeed done.

We have the insulation firm (Alstar from Bridgewater) on hold awaiting this audit - we're going with blown in cellulose, R40 in the attic and whatever the exterior walls will hold. The firm guarantees that it won't settle (how I don't know) and they will return during the winter with infra-red equipment to make sure they didn't miss any areas. So at least we should be much warmer next year on cool days and if we are here all year we shouldn't go broke paying for oil - the bill this year was $2400 to keep the temperature at 5C all winter, and the last year the previous owners were here (2001-02) they spent $6000 on heat, so it won't take long for insulation to pay for itself.

It will be interesting to see what other recommendations we get.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Canada Day

Our annual Canada Day decoration.

The 1907 car leading the parade (it's Lockeport's 100th anniversary as a town)

My Rug!!

As promised, here is a picture of my 4 year project - now a fire-screen.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Canada Day Week (+)

The celebration of Canada Day began last Thursday here in Lockeport. So far we have had 2 crib tournaments,, a pancake breakfast, an outdoor market, a Hit, Run and Throw contest (for the kids), a Soap-box Derby (for the kids), a community variety show, a bake sale, 3 dances for kids, teens and seniors (the latter with a live country band), and a pet show. In addition, today is high-school graduation and prom - lots of kelly green mortar boards and grad robes (school colours) at lunch time while pictures were being taken. There's another dance tonight (but it doesn't even start until 10:00PM - probably because of the prom.

Tomorrow is the BIG DAY - it doesn't matter that it's not July 1st - the important thing is it isn't a SUNDAY. So the park has food and craft booths, face painting, games, tattoos (temporary only of course), raffles etc. There is a greased pole contest in the harbour, international dory races, strawberry shortcake festival (out of one of the churches - couldn't do that on Sunday), a children's parade, a Grand Street Parade (including 100 cars since this is Lockeport's 100th anniversary as a town), 2 concerts - one free on the waterfront in the afternoon and an evening one with 4 bands (one of them a blues band - the Hupman Brothers -which we've heard before and they are excellent) and a beer garden.

On Sunday, there is an official opening (flag raising and cake cutting) - perhaps it's a little late but oh well. Then a Bake Walk(?) , a Poker Walk(?), a sidewalk chalk contest, a community church service and gospel concert, a community picnic, another dance with the fireworks inserted at 10:00PM. The fireworks is usually 30 minutes long - quite an expense for a very small town.

Monday we all rest.

Canada Day here is more action-packed and well-planned than Kristina's Birthday Week. She'll have to do some serious upgrading for next year to compete.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Company Worth Knowing

Three years ago, we bought a shower stall in Ottawa from Home Depot - it was a Maax product and seemed nice and roomy (38") and came in a nice flat box which we could easily transport to Lockeport. At that time, we were just about to begin renovating our downstairs bathroom. Due to the awkward shape of that room we finally decided it would be better to put the shower upstairs when we got around to doing the second bath.

That renovation began last summer and required much shoring up of old floor beams that had been cut into various times over the years for other bathroom work by other owners. By the end of last summer, we had wallboard up and tile on the floor but no plumbing done. 2 weeks ago our plumber, Jerry, finally hooked everything up and with his helper (another Gerry) installed the 3 year-old never-used shower stall. It was then necessary for me to patch the drywall around the shower and sand, paint etc.

Monday, I finally tried out the new shower - alas we had a leak which turned out to be a lack of sealing putty in the drain - fixed by Jerry the next day. I also managed to knock out one of the pieces of plastic ribbon on the bottom of the shower door (the stuff that keeps the water IN the shower). Of course I broke it trying to reinsert it - it was only about 1 1/2 inches long but I still should have removed the door for correct installation. Later that morning, I was in Liverpool at Curves so I went to Home Hardware with my broken piece - nope, none there but a very helpful clerk looked up Mr. Plumber in Wileville (inland from Bridgewater) and suggested I try them since calling the manufacturer would be such a long protracted method of dealing with my problem.

I returned home and rather than call Mr. Plumber, I perversely dug out the installation manual for the shower and low and behold, there was an "after sales service" number. I called and got an actual human being and asked if I could order the part (the part number was on the installation directions). She said I had to speak to a technician. This gentleman was willing to help me figure out what model I had and therefore what exact part I needed - since I knew those, he took my name and address and said the part would be sent Tuesday and I'd have it before the end of the week. There was no question of me paying for it or how old the shower was - just "we'll send one".

This morning (Thursday), the part arrived at the post office - Express Post for a free part.

If you need to purchase any sort of bathroom fixtures, take a look at what Maax has to offer - best service I can remember from any company when I've had a problem.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Let's change the name to Lockeport Meltings!

It's now 31C with a humidex of 38C - still not as bad as Ottawa (41C) but certainly the hottest I've ever felt here.

Fog returns; Fish are DONE!!

After no fog since June 16th, it returned with a vengeance yesterday evening - within about 10 minutes we went from bright and clear to pea soup. It was still around this morning but quickly burned off as we are having a HOT day - the humidex is 31 or 32C - not very hot for those in Ontario but debilitating for the Lockeport population. Of course it's making the bugs multiply exponentially and the grass grow similarly. Tomorrow is supposed to be the same.

The momentous news is that I have finished my fish rug (over 3 years - almost 4, I think). It was originally intended to hang over the fireplace in the living room but Heather V. painted us a great picture of our house here which has claimed that spot. I was looking for a place to prop up my rug to look at it (modestly admiring all my hard work)and I draped it on the fireplace screen - it looks wonderful there so it's found a home. Picture will follow when Wayne gets here with the digital camera. Now I need a new project - I'm thinking of doing our red cottage in Maine.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Technology rears its ugly head

Well! I failed Technology 101 already. Chris has just let me know that my blog was displaying in Webdings (huh?) - at least the text body - the rest looked fine. It all looked fine to me on my computer. I have attempted to edit the font and it should be Verdana or some such thing now. (Actually this is all a plot to try and post something as confusing for Chris as his Mozilla posts are to me!!!)

I'm now working on links - I should be able to do lots of things incorrectly there.

Deer me!

As I was washing the breakfast dishes this morning, looking out the kitchen window, suddenly a doe came crashing up the hill through all the grass and wildflowers I haven't yet got around to cutting. She was moving very quickly, leaping high in the way a deer in full flight moves. She disappeared along the north side of the house and by the time I ran to the front windows she was gone. Did she sail over the front wall and down the drop of 8 feet or so to the street? Then what or where?

How did she get into Lockeport? - perhaps an early morning stroll on the beach ending in paved roads and confusion. The actual access to town is very narrow for an animal to stumble onto it. There is certainly enough space in town for a deer to graze quite successfully but I think the poor thing will likely be venison steaks within a few hours - it's just going to be too hard for her to avoid being hit in such an alien environment.And we certainly aren't used to seeing deer right in town, although they are everywhere else in rural Nova Scotia.

I hope she survives.

Moving into the 21st Century

In an effort to connect to my former lives, I have decided it is time I embraced a wee bit more technology and attempted to get connected in a more meaningful way that just using email.

So here it is - my first attempt at blogging - hopefully there will be the occasional valid comment for me to make on the state of my world (or the greater world outside of Lockeport).

!'m glad I have so many competent family members to consult when I have problems doing this. Stand by with the life boats, please!