Dec. 27, 2015

How It All Started

A lifetime ago, I got a new job and decided to move from Brampton to Markham, to make the commute easier.   I would go house hunting at lunch time, by myself... I distinctly remember an early Spring day, would have been 2002, when the temperature was a balmy 15 degrees and I could drive with my window down.   That's when I saw it.   

I had been dreaming about a Century Home and this little cottage had a For Sale sign on it! Yes, it was a cottage, and not the grandiose Century Home that you might envision.  In fact, it was quite ramshackle and in need of a lot of work.   

Sitting on almost half an acre, and next to a creek, with huge trees alongside the water, it was humble yet idyllic, and seemed to be the perfect country property, complete with a flock of chickens, a rooster, and pair of mallards, and a pair of puddle ducks!  

I fell in love...and by June of that year, it was mine.   There were going to be drawbacks, I knew that going in, with eyes wide open as they say, but I didn't care, I was somehow going to make it work.   No garage, an unusable basement as it was fieldstone and prone to getting wet in the Spring, limited storage space, a tiny kitchen, well water with no filtration system, an electrical panel with only 60 amps available, an antiquated air conditioner, an unsafe wood stove, a sagging roof, and rotten eaves, soffit and fascia.

When you see a home and it is filled with peoples' furniture and looks lived in, it is easy to overlook (or not even see) what's missing, or what's wrong with the place.  We did have a full inspection, but I wasn't ready for the feeling of absolute despair when we got there on moving day and the former owners were not even moved out yet, having left many items behind, including bushels of dirt and dust.  

I cried, wondering if I'd made a huge mistake.  It did not look idyllic any more, but instead looked like a mountain of work, and a money pit to boot.  The weeding alone would take me days and days, and I was fortunate to have a good friend come over one afternoon who helped me make a huge dent in it.  Thanks Karen Cade!

The first thing I set about doing was to order a shed which would become outdoor storage. (The other storage shed on the property was a dilapidated metal shed that the doors didn't even close properly on, and it seemed to have a rat for an occupant because the smell was unbearable.  That would be for the lawn mower and gardent tools, but the other one would be for more valuable items such as sports gear.)  

Of second (but possibly greater) importance was to upgrade the electrical so I brought in my special friend Ben McFarlane to do this job.  The house did not even have a proper mast to bring the power in from the road, so this was an upgrade as well.  The electrical panel was upgraded at the same time as the new AC unit was put in.   It sure didn't hurt that I had a Project Management background in Facilities!

Next was to set about making the basement a little more usable.  Wooden skids were brought down to ensure that items weren't sitting on the cement floor.  The amount of mildew on the stones was terrible, and what paint that was there, was peeling and flaking off badly.  I set about to scrub it all off, and to repaint the stones, and the cement floor.(Have you ever painted a stone wall?  It's not fun, as it's all uneven so it must be done by hand.)   

The oil furnace had two indoor tanks in that basement, and I'm recalling now how we had to cut them in half to remove them, as the smell of oil that had leaked in the basement was unacceptable.  They were pulled out and a new tank was installed outside.

The tears on that first day were compounded not only by the dust and dirt and items left behind that had to be thrown out, but by an overwhelming smell, which I knew was cat poop.   I couldn't figure out where it was coming from though, until I discovered that the front of the house was sitting on a crawl space about 2'-0" high, and that the cats who lived there before had been somehow using it as a litter box, climbing over the wall from the basement.   I donned a ball cap, coveralls, gloves, steel toed boots and a mask (I am not a fan of spiders) and crawled in, scooping as much of it up as I could.  The wood beams holding the house up were impressive!  But the sawed off tree trunks that were supporting the beams kind of gave me pause.

My ex and I lived there for almost three years, making small improvements but never really tackling the big stuff.   When we split up just about exactly three years later, there was a lower bathroom that was under renovation, almost completed.  It would be a little while before a new man in my life would come in and finish it up.