A Few Thoughts About Short Fences

blog fenceShort fences.

We’ve spent a lot more time in the city this year and I have been watching the role short fences play.

Our corner lot has a short fence around our ground level deck at the front, and along the length of our backyard. We have discovered our short fence plays the role of being an invitation rather than a barrier.

Since the snow has melted we have had many discussions over the fence. We have met new neighbours and visited with ones we have known for years. We’ve talked about dogs and kids, vacations and music, yoga and knitting. We’ve heard of neighbours moving, summer construction projects, and visits to the Saturday Market.

The short fence creates an opportunity to be neighbourly. It lets neighbours talk. It creates community.

The whole experience has left me thinking a lot about neighbourhood design, building styles, and how they affect the general well being of a community. It is a well known fact that when neighbours know neighbours that it builds strong, healthy communities. People watch out for one another and communities are safer.

We live in a neighbourhood from a different era. Houses range in age from 110 years old to brand new infill housing, but it is still the old fashioned layout of big yards, boulevards and mostly detached garages. The layout of the older properties means that neighbours have the opportunity to interact. We see each other clipping hedge, mowing the lawn, building decks, pulling weeds and shoveling snow. High maintainance yards make for lots of opportunity to see your neighbours out and about.

However the few new infill houses, even though they are in the same neighbourhood, function differently, especially the ones that  have attached garages. These are “new suburban houses” houses built in an old neighbourhood; attached garages, swaths of concrete driveway, a “low maintainance” garden (token shrub and mulch), and the compulsory prison like fences. The car disappears into the garage, with the neighbour never to be seen until the car emerges again. I can’t help but think of how damaging this design model is for a community. These styles of homes don’t allow for neighbourly interaction and fragment a community.

My short fence has left me appreciating how neighbourhoods were built in the past. They were built to create community. They were built so that neighbours would know their neighbours. Perhaps it is time for city planners to rethink how they are building current neighbourhoods. We need to bring back the front porch, bring back the low fence and eliminate the attached garage. It is time to take the streets our houses are built on and turn them back into communities.

My thoughts inspired by my short fence.

Works in Progress, Finished and Things

It seems to have been another busy week that has whizzed past at break neck speed. A combination of trying to finish the order for Woods on Pender, working on Handmade in Canada, plus life, has made for a week of very late nights (well technically early mornings when you work until 3 am!).

blog painting wip_7718a

Work in progress. Acrylic on panel. 24″x24″.

I finally managed to put in a few hours painting the panel that I had started before Easter. It is still a work in progress but coming along. The piece measures 2 feet by 2 feet and continues with the Roe Islet theme. This theme seems to provide never ending material. A couple of weeks ago I shot several hundred reference images while walking the ever changing islet, including macros of spring lilies. Hopefully I will get a few of these images up on Island Home Blog sometime soon.

blog painting wipI work on panel differently to canvas in that I tend to prefer to work flat instead of on the wall easel. The upside to this is that it is a much more social way of working. Mark and I each choose our ends of the table, we turn on the “wireless”, he works on “something”, and I paint and argue with CBC radio (and their endless agendas). Sometimes it is BBC Radio 4. We fell into this habit out on the coast and it has now become a great way to spend an evening no matter where we are.

1_coffee press sweater 6x6_7642The order for Woods on Pender is complete. Knit, finished, blocked. I will do the packaging this evening and then the order will be ready to ship. The complete group of items can be viewed by clicking HERE. Each piece is completely unique except for the resort’s logo that is featured in the center panel.

blog planA few days ago I also tackled playing with cabin floor plans. We still don’t know exactly what insurance is going to do. If they can fix the situation it will be great as we won’t be without the use of our cabin for as long, but the reoccurring dreams of the cabin collapsing makes me wonder if the verdict is going to be that the cabin is a tear down. It has been full of water for so long. Common sense tells me that I need to consider all the options for how we may need to deal with this property

So in an effort to be proactive I started drafting floor plans. My goal is to shrink the actual foot print from that of our current cabin. I know this seems counter-intuitive considering the size of our family, but more land and less building makes sense to me when we are at the cabin. The plan above is the ground floor at 780 square feet, plus we would add an enclosed loft portion over part of the cabin to work as a bedroom/studio/study space. The portion not enclosed would become a covered balcony which will give lake views. We’ve learned from the house out on the island that big spaces with high ceilings are hard to heat when you aren’t there full time, so the goal is to scale it back and make heating the rooms, especially the bedrooms, easy.

We are also thinking of putting the water tank and pump in a separate utility building and going with on demand hot water. We are determined to never have another water disaster again.

I figure if we have plans of action in place for all the different outcomes that things will be less daunting when the time comes.

handmade in canada badgeHandmade in Canada is ticking along. We spoke with another interested artisan the other day. Hopefully in a few days I will have another maker’s profile to share.

Well off to package and paint. I have a chance to actually accomplish a few things this evening as the rest of the family sits in front of the hockey on T.V. …..or plays Minecraft.

( I may have been premature in thinking everyone would be firmly parked in front of the T.V. (A.K.A. “out of my way”). Interest is now lagging as the Canucks have scored twice. Hmmmmm.)

November 23, 2014 – Trip to the cabin.

Our Trip To The Cabin

reason: Wawanesa REFUSED to do ANY exploration on our insurance claim. Wawanesa even used a reason NOT in the report (a report produced by their associates for the purpose of assessing the claim)  to deny it as did the Wawanesa Northern Alberta Ombuds Service……so WE, the ill equipped and uneducated insured, had to do this dangerous work completely ourselves. A cause was manufactured between the report being written and the denial letter being written. Manufactured out of thin air.

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time: we left home at 9 am, worked solid at the cabin, ate dinner at 9:50 pm (no lunch) and returned home at 12:17 AM (a 15 hour work day….with our children)

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temperature: below zero, freezing temperatures in an unheated building

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cast: my husband, myself, and our 5 children. One child had no feeling in their feet. One child was so cold they curled up into a ball and fell asleep. One child was panicked that the cabin would collapse on them. Wawanesa expects their insured to carry out their own exploration with their children in unsafe buildings.

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safety: four different people fell through the floor including one very bad fall and our 10 year old daughter FALLING THROUGH THE FLOOR. We were expected to deal with slicing open  walls concealing electrical and water, deal with mold, debris, falls, rusty nails, insulation, ice, water, and there was also some very old tile (that may or may not contain asbestos…it would be from “that” era). This is with 5 children roaming around in a freezing cold building. Clearly safety isn’t one of Wawanesa’s top concerns, denying claims on items NOT EVEN IN THE REPORT is their main focus.

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just for fun: Wawanesa delayed dealing with this claim until it was so late in the year that we wouldn’t have water to prove the claim because our water is seasonal (manipulative?) . They also delayed it so long that we are unable to fix the situation, claim or not, jeopardizing and compromising our investment through their petty manipulative ways. By the way, we were forced to do this NOW as the report Wawanesa accepted had LIES about when we discovered the problem. We discovered the problem on September 7, 2014….the report said “approximately 2 years ago”. I even have a blog post up showing discovery. Perhaps not “fun” but very dishonest business.

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Stay tuned…………..if Wawanesa continues to ignore us there WILL be video…..a lot of video…..

(it shows exactly what they are putting us through as they REFUSED to do exploration even though they sent out a restoration crew who on site REFUSED to look further…….I sense a lot of YouTube in my future…….if a picture is worth 1000 words, a video also adds 1000 emotions and a whole lot of context and reality)

PROBLEMS WITH WAWANESA INSURANCE?

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PS. By the way we have been told TWICE that we HAD to do our OWN EXPLORATION. The first time was by the Townsend & Leedham adjuster,hired out by Wawanesa, on September 29, 2014. The second is indicated in the letter from the Wawanesa Northern Alberta Ombuds Service that states “”If YOU are able to determine that the loss is not……” etc. ….after all the construction professionals supplied by the insurance industry refused to LOOK.

One more PS. …..two interesting things, first the letter from the Ombuds Service isn’t SIGNED by anyone, no one would take responsibility. Second, the independent adjuster didn’t forward all the clauses in our insurance policy to us, only items 7-12, concealing the rest. The independent adjuster went through our policy, tried to find a clause to get them out of the claim, even though it WAS NOT in the report, and then consciously conceals the rest of our policy from us so that we can not see what is actually covered. MANIPULATION or CORRUPT…you choose (I’m easy going).

If you want to read more about this situation click HERE (the discovery)

and HERE (the October 5th post)

and HERE ( lies on the insurance report……..we found even more today!!!)

and HERE (and the Ombuds Service collaborates without ever seeing the property…and a real person doesn’t even sign the letter!)

Oh, and one more little thing…….if our suspicions are right, we “followed the water”, we now suspect why we only had one septic pump out this year (compared to three or four in previous years)…….just a hunch…..but then we can’t “prove” it as WAWANESA manipulated the situation so that we would have no water to prove the claim.

Can you think of any other reason it takes 3 weeks to get an adjuster out to look at an interior water claim?….and that has happened TWICE with this claim….they consciously delayed the process knowing that the water would do more and more damage ……just saying…….the calendar doesn’t lie….6 weeks of delays……for interior lying water. We couldn’t “secure” the situation because they had to “see” the water. We were forced by Wawanesa to let our property deteriorate.

Another Leisurely Weekend (not…)

I sometimes wonder if we just can’t do weekends “right”. On T.V. and in movies people seem to have these leisurely relaxed weekends of people reading books,  lounging on decks, and generally kicking back. Even people we know in real life seem to have down time. For some reason we fail at the “relaxed weekend”. If I were to look over the last few weekends, we had the “strip the house down due to a mouse invasion” weekend, followed by “drive out to the coast and work on the tub” weekend, with the next one being “plant the trees and reinforce a rotting floor” weekend. This weekend followed the trend, we shall call it “the epic pruning” weekend.

sunflower growing out of the roof

sunflower growing out of the garage roof

It all started innocently enough. Earlier in the week I started clearing tree branches away from the garage roof as I would like to have it re-roofed. Some simple branch cutting with loppers and clippers, while our youngest played in the backyard. Quite manageable, nothing too intense.

the trees before pruning

the trees before pruning

On Friday we had a child home from school sick, so we decided to spend the weekend at home instead of going out of town. We thought it was a good way to finish off the little bit of tree trimming we had left.

On Saturday everything was quite civilized. Even though the trees were quite a jumble we were still able to tackle the project with loppers and clippers. Some trimming from the ground, some from the ladder, and some from on top of the roof. We cut up the tree bits we had pruned, saved some pieces to make wooden buttons, and decided to do the “last little bit” on Sunday.

raking 6 inches of dirt off the  roof

raking 6 inches of dirt off the roof

Sunday afternoon we head out to the backyard expecting an hour or two of work. We cleared everything we could clipping by hand and stood back to see how it looked. After clearing away some branches we realized we needed to rake debris off the garage roof. My husband soon discovered that there was dirt six inches deep in spots where leaves had composted on the roof. He indicated that “it looks like really good dirt”, so into the flower bed below it went. I guess that dirt explains the sunflowers growing out of the roof!  He also mentioned that in 20 years of being in the roofing and exterior industry he had never seen a roof like ours. I guess that makes our roof “special”.

our "vintage" garage roof

our “vintage” garage roof

Once the dirt was cleared we could see there were still some large branches (some laying ON the roof) that needed to be pruned. Out came the chainsaws. This is where the pruning job transformed from a little maintenance into a very big job.

First we cleared the branches laying on the roof. Then it was the larger branches around the roof so that the roofers will have better access. Of course seeing that we had the chainsaws out we may as well take care of some of the dead wood in trees. This also gave us the opportunity to turn an old trunk into a nice flat little spot to place a drink with a slice of the chainsaw.

the garage area after being pruned

the garage area after being pruned

Once we removed the dead wood we saw there was A LOT of work to do. We realized that our trees had grown so large that they were blocking most of the sun coming in our yard. This year our yard never dried out from rain due to the shade, we have had grass and mud all summer long. It was time to fix that. We started cutting back branches here and there so that light would again filter in. Then we started thinking about problem areas if we had a heavy snowfall, after all it is better to trim now rather than sort out a mess later. We trimmed all the trees over hanging the fence, trees brushing against the house, tree branches laying on the hedge, and tree branches threatening power lines. Hours and hours of whirring chainsaws with flying wood chips everywhere. As evening approached we decided we were “done”, then we stood back and saw this…….

pruned branches in the backyard

pruned branches in the backyard

and this…………………..

pruned branches by the garage

pruned branches by the garage

Huge mounds of branches everywhere. Branches larger than a lot of trees. Even after hours and hours of cutting it still only looked as if we had tidied up the trees in the backyard, it didn’t look like a crazed afternoon of chainsaws had occurred.

We then embarked on the task of sorting out the branches. We saved the larger pieces for “projects”, one pile for me and the other for my dad. I should be able to make a lifetime supply of wooden buttons while my dad can turn a lifetime’s supply of pens. We clipped the branches into manageable pieces until 10:00 pm when we decided to leave the rest until the next day. There are still several more hours of sorting branches ahead of us.

The motivation for doing all this is a little bit more than just putting a new roof on the garage, even though it is in dire need of needing one. We have decided to tackle the garage as a “project”.

garage

garage before painting after a quick fascia board replacement

The garage is 1946 or older. A classic specimen. For years we talked about tearing it down and replacing it, mostly because that is what people “do” with old buildings. The more we thought about this the less it made sense to us, I personally could not send all that good wood to the landfill. We also have the situation of having to conform to current city rules on placement and such if we rebuild which gets very tricky on a non-conforming lot; old neighborhoods and new city rules generally don’t get along too well. We aren’t exactly “park your car in the garage” people, so we started to think about what function we wanted the garage to fill. We determined we needed storage, and a workshop space would be nice. A studio space away from the house would also be a bonus. After a lot of thinking and discussions we have decided to renovate the garage.

garage after a quick paint job

garage after a quick paint job

This is going to be a BIG project over a few years. I gave the front a quick paint job with left over paint a few weeks ago just to get the ball rolling. The roof will hopefully be replaced soon. After the roof is done we will replace the doors. The plan for the new doors is a sliding barn door style on a track; we think this will function better in the winter when we are dealing with piles of snow.

Something is eating our door!

Something is eating our door!

After the doors are replaced, which really need to be done as some critter has decided to EAT them (we’ve never seen that before!), we will then begin to evict the squirrels and start framing it in. It is a massive job, yet bound to be interesting. I like the idea of renovating rather than bulldozing.

 

My $53 bathroom update.

Life has been interesting and busy which probably explains why I haven’t been putting out a flurry of blog posts. I have been busy with a bit of photography, continuing to work on the naturally dyed bracelets, updating the website, and an unexpected illustrating project.

On Monday I walked into the upstairs bathroom and I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was time for an update. Spontaneous paint jobs and renos are nothing new in our house, sometimes it is something minor like painting an accent wall, while others are more major like a late night decision to take out a wall (true story……..we decided if we put a sledge hammer through the wall we had to commit to the project!).

The bathroom was looking very uninspired. Five children create a lot of wear and tear. The plain white looked…well….just plain. The bathroom needed a change.

bathroom - before

before

before

before

Now the bathroom is a pretty unremarkable space. It is 67 years old and it measures 5.5 feet by 6 feet. The remarkable thing about the bathroom is we managed to get a 5 foot long tub installed in it a few years ago, and even better the tub is 20 inches deep. This tub had to be squeezed through a doorway that is 22.5 inches wide. If you ever want to see a plumber sweat this was the perfect scenario, with only 2.5 inches to spare getting through the doorway and six inches to spare once inside the bathroom. To make things even better, once they managed to get the tub in (and they swore it wouldn’t go) they realized the floor was no where near level; let’s just say this wasn’t the plumber’s best day ever at work.

Anyways, back to my $53 update.

I decided that maybe we should try a grown up color, but painting all the walls would be just too dark. I decided on painting two of the walls with a shower curtain in a similar, but not matching, tone. The darker color really defines the space and makes it a much nicer space to be in. The bathroom will never be huge, but it is definitely a lot more pleasant.

after

after

after

after

Painting of the lake by our cabin. A relaxing scene to look at while soaking in the bath.

Painting of the lake by our cabin. A relaxing scene to look at while soaking in the bath.