Posts tagged home

Dreams DO Come True

A hot tub.  For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to have a nightly soak in a hot tub, in my backyard, under the stars with my FM. I have dropped hints, both subtle and flamboyant, but a hot tub never seemed to be high on the priority list. This desire began long before the Queendom was a twinkle in our eyes. In fact, my first suggestion of a hot tub came over 10 years ago when we first bought our home in Delta. Having chosen a house with no hot tub, I thought that the addition of one would be a fantastic 10th Wedding Anniversary gift to ourselves. But our nuptials that year were celebrated in high style with a running adventure across Peru and no funds were left for a backyard  tub.

It has become a bit of an inside joke between FM and me. We allude to it as we do our ‘five year plan’ or other future improbabilities (like raising goats, acquiring a back-hoe or taking a hot-air balloon ride). But when we moved to the Queendom, suddenly a hot tub became a real possibility. Our home has a lovely wrap-around deck, under the eaves of the roof, where we can chicken-watch, barbeque and admire the pond, but it cries out for a more expansive deck where we could dine and lounge in our spare time (haha!). But more than anything, it NEEDS a hot tub.

Imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, FM directed my attention to a hot tub website. Alumi-Tubs are wood-fired hot tubs. The tubs are made of aluminium and have a deep firebox which is set in the water with heat-exchanger tubes, a safety fence and a chimney. It has cedar panelling around the exterior, giving it the look of a cedar tub but with none of the maintenance. It requires no electricity and, best of all, it is made in Sechelt, BC – only about 90 minutes drive and two ferry rides away from us.

This is not our place but it is the type of tub we just acquired!

By the end of the day, it was decided. We would pick up our new tub two weeks later, during our weekend adventure in that area, and bring it home with us on our flat-bed trailer. Eric and Wendy, the owners and manufacturers of the tubs, greeted us at their home and gave us a quick tutorial on setting up and using the tub. Together we rolled it onto the trailer and were on our way.

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A perfect fit! Homeward Bound!

When we got home, we simply rolled it off the trailer onto our driveway and filled it up with water. About halfway full, our water shut off and we realized that we had completely emptied our well (oops!). Giving barely a second thought to the repercussions of that problem, we soldiered on with the task at hand. We managed to fill the rest of the tub with water from our pond. (And now we know that our well holds approximately 250 gallons of water) By the end of the day, we were soaking in its luxurious warmth! (we only managed to raise the water temperature to about 97F so it wasn’t really very warm!)

Right now, it is sitting where we first placed it, in our driveway, since we have not quite built the fabulous deck I spoke of earlier in this post. We also have not put on the cedar-panelling or made a proper, insulated cover. These things will take time and our design ideas are numerous. Perhaps next summer?? Luckily it is quite portable and we can simply empty it and roll it anywhere we fancy. We purchased a submersible pump and water filter so that we can easily use our pond water to fill it, rather than our precious drinking water from our now replete well.

With a hand-crafted log step and a garden obelisk towel hanger, we are ready to soak.

With a hand-crafted log step and a garden obelisk towel hanger, we are ready to soak.

We are willing to push the 'trailer trash' look a bit in order to make use of our tub now. Besides, it is away from the deck project area so that construction can take place any time.

We are willing to push the ‘trailer trash’ look a bit in order to make use of our tub now. Besides, it is away from the deck project area so that construction can take place any time.

We have used the hot tub every day since we got it, save one day of terribly inclement weather. We have almost mastered getting the water to reach 104F in the late evening after lighting the fire upon coming home from work. We have even had a few nights where it was too hot! FM has expressed his surprise at how much he enjoys our evening star-gazing sessions. It took twenty years to convince him but now the fun begins!

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The Pros and Cons – Reflecting on the Year

April 1st marks our first anniversary of moving to the Queendom. I still catch myself telling people that we just moved here but, like newly-weds, that status only lasts 365 days. In that mysterious way of time, this year feels like it has passed in both a blink of an eye and a lifetime. So long ago, we were staring wide-eyed at the immensity of it all – the pond, the acreage, the too-large house, the space, the wildlife, the quiet – and now we continue to stare widely at it but in a more understanding way. Now we have figured out what things need to be done regularly and we fall into step with our unwritten after-work chores and weekend tasks. When we look out across the pond or walk the property, we expect to find something new and exciting.

The point of this blog has been to help us remember the events of our new-found life. But, there have been more events than time permitted to sit at a computer and write. Here is the reader’s digest version of the pros and cons we discovered here:

Pros

unbelievable peace and quiet

we discover something new around here almost everyday

easy access to multiple trailheads

endless trail systems to explore (see alongapath)

short commutes to work

surrounded by trees – not a building in sight

easy access to delicious real farm food – veggies, fruit, meat, seafood, cheese, eggs, etc.

ducks, deer, birds, mink, bears, owls and frogs live here and are sighted often

new chicks and the hope of our own fresh eggs by summer’s end

a regular feeling of satisfaction from completing projects

the brewery is almost complete and the taps will be running soon

groceries, hardware and all other shopping is less than 10 minutes away

endless  possibilities for the Queendom – more so than we ever imagined

Cons

unpacking – it seems to go on and on! So much space and distractions have allowed us to be lazy on that front

the landscape project is huge, very long-term and often daunting

our landscaping crew from last summer did a merely passable job and charged too much money

invasive and unwanted plants are difficult to deal with and chronic, it seems

often a big effort results in a minuscule difference (such as digging out thistles and alders)

the property is wet, marshy, swampy and ugly in places

drainage issues have had us on high alarm a few times (not yet documented!)

our list of potential construction projects is long and very involved (deck, hot tub, garage, chicken coop, island bridge and pergola, etc.)

we are far, far away from our friends and we haven’t really connected with people here

time does not move slower out here.  We need more of it

Not surprisingly, the Pros out-count and out-weigh the Cons. There have been many things happen that we didn’t expect and a few true surprises, both positive and negative.  But we seem to have struck a balance with managing it all and are trying to keep our to-do list short and within reason. Neither of us would go back to our previous life. This smaller town/bigger space lifestyle suits us both so well and our only wish is that we had started on this rural path long, long ago.

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The Tale of the Reluctant Landlords

Once upon a time, FM and I lived in a big city far, far away called Delta, BC. Our castle was a beautiful place in a convenient location with easy access to highways, shopping and reputed schools.

Our Home; Our Castle

Our Home; Our Castle

When we first acquired this castle, we could see that he had good bones but the sponge-painted walls and thick shag carpet gave a window to the neglect he had endured through the previous inhabitants.

The Castle before we updated all the windows, doors, roof and exterior colour

The Castle before we updated all the windows, doors, roof and exterior colour

Not afraid of dust nor hard work, during our first year, FM and I took on the challenge of repainting his entire interior, putting in birch hardwood floors and swapping out old appliances for modern ones with new-fangled gizmos.

We installed birch hardwood floors, a pellet stove,a  maple mantle and a stone hearth

We installed the birch hardwood floors, pellet stove and stone hearth and had the maple mantel custom-designed

We had help redesigning the kitchen layout with cork flooring, maple cabinets and glass backsplash

Our kitchen renovation included redesigning the kitchen layout, putting in cork flooring, maple cabinets and glass back splash

We gutted this bathroom, put in all new fixtures, custom tiled the walls and added a glass wall

We gutted this bathroom, put in all new fixtures, custom-tiled the shower and added a glass wall

This type of modernification carried on for the entire 9 year span that we were keepers of the castle. From new bathroom fixtures to a redesigned kitchen, from a new 50 year roof to a new exterior paint scheme, from an English Country garden to productive raised veggie beds, we did it all – with minimal help from professionals. The castle had entered the 21st Century with all the bells and whistles and he truly shone.

Corn, beans, potatoes, chard, kale, garlic, spinach, etc....

Corn, beans, potatoes, chard, kale, garlic, spinach, etc….

Broccoli, cauliflower, beets, kohlrabi, and the occasional self-seeded sunflower

But, about a year ago, FM and I got the itch and we decided that city living was not meeting our dreams. Despite our love of the castle, we could no longer suppress our need for space, quiet and endless puttering. Sooner than you can say “You better think this through a bit more thoroughly”, we jumped ship and headed off to the Queendom, in search of a simpler, quieter life on a remote island.

The life we imagined -  sipping a G&T on the Queendom's pond

The life we imagined – sipping a G&T on the Queendom’s pond

But what about the castle, you ask.

Sadly, he was left behind. He was left decorated with a ‘for sale’ sign out front and nothing more. His halls were bare, his appliances turned off and his gardens left fallow. He patiently awaited new keepers but none came. A few slightly interested folk came to admire his perennial gardens and his updates, and a few even proposed tearing him down to build a more modern mansion, but no one fell in love with him enough to make an offer. Months went by. Spring became summer, summer turned to fall and finally winter set in.

Don’t think for a minute that FM and I abandoned the castle during this long period. The truth is that we visited regularly, about once each month, to upkeep the gardens, polish the doorknobs and sweep up after the potential new residents. We even reglazed a bathtub, repainted the interior in a (boring) neutral tone and had staging furniture brought in for a few months. But our efforts made no difference to the fate of the castle.

Surprising as this may seem, FM and I do not have endless riches, even though we lived in a castle and now reside at the Queendom. The costs of holding the castle in limbo were weighing heavily upon us and causing each of us to spend long nights walking the halls in search of enlightenment. Finally we decided that the real estate market had plateaued to such a degree that we would be fools of the court to continue waiting for someone to pay our asking price. It was time to take action and the action to take was to find tenants for the castle.

But the action of renting can be a scary thing. I witnessed my parents struggle as landlords of a quadraplex at Whistler. I still have vivid memories of my dad coming home from a long day at work and heading straight out the door again to drive two hours to the cabin to deal with a clogged toilet or some such nonsense. I was raised on fearful stories of rental houses being turned into brothels and landowners being unable to evict the tenants. But our lack of endless riches forced me to downplay these stories and embrace the idea of bills being paid and cheques coming in.

On New Year’s Day, the ‘for sale’ sign was taken down and the ‘for rent’ listing was put up on craigslist. In no time at all, renters were lining up with references in hand, hoping to be the chosen ones – the stewards of the castle. Interviews were held and the selection made.

A hard-working, reliable, middle-aged couple with both a college-aged daughter and a mother-in-law were found to be the most worthy. Their obvious admiration for the finer details of the castle were noted and their references seemingly glowed. They wished to be deemed stewards for at least three years and even made mention that they may possibly want to be full-fledged keepers of the castle at some point in the future. That is a story yet untold and much of that story will depend on the recovery of the lower mainland real estate market and our financial security.

Until then, FM and I can rest more easily with fewer late night walks in our halls, although I am sure they will still occur. The honour of being the keepers of the castle resides strongly with us and its obligations weigh heavily on us still, but the decision to find renters was the wisest choice in light of the options we were given.

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Wishing You Tidings of Frenzy, Noise and Materialism

I am a procrastinator when it comes to Christmas. Every year, I hide the idea of Christmas away in a closet and refuse to listen to its protestations. Next thing you know, it breaks down the door and then runs me over like a steam roller. And I end up looking like this little guy by the time Boxing Day rolls around.

This is how I felt

…except for the smile.

Every year in about October, I rebel against the materialism that surrounds the holiday by refusing to think about it, shop for it or plan for it in any way. It used to be that Remembrance Day was observed first and Christmas preparations followed. When the shift in commercialism came on strong about 10 years ago, I also shifted.

Nowadays, it can easily be Dec 20th before I start considering putting up a tree or thinking about maybe playing one or two Christmas songs (and even then only certain classics are permitted). When school is let out for the break, I suddenly become overwhelmed with panic. What gifts will I get for family and friends? How will Canada Post ever get these packages to distant family in time? (they never do, btw) Didn’t I resolve to send out timely Christmas cards last year?

And, as if by surprise, the big day arrives and I have managed to get the bare necessities done in the half-ass slap-dash job that has sadly become my new tradition.

Oh!  Christmas Tree!

Oh! Christmas Tree!

This year was no different, except in that FM and I left our recently holiday-decorated rural home, complete with forest-found Christmas tree, and spent the five days surrounding Christmas back in the big city we had so recently fled. We shuttled ourselves from friend to friend to family to family, trying to see everyone and sleeping in a different bed most nights. As we drove like madmen back and forth across the multiple cities which make up MetroVancouver, I felt completely over-stimulated by lights, noise and traffic. By the end of it, when Boxing Day rolled around, I was numb.

On our return to the island, as we approached the Queendom, we were greeted with about a foot of new snow and the house, despite being only 16 C inside, was pleasingly lit up with amber Christmas lights (on a timer, don’t ya know?). Once we got the woodstove going and settled down on the couch with a home-crafted brew, we focussed on reacquainting our brains to the sound of silence and adjusting to the lack of pressure to be somewhere soon.

Peace, Comfort and Joy!

Peace, Comfort and Joy!

The funny part of this whole situation is that driving all over the city to be with our families over Christmas is nothing new.  We have been doing this same Christmas routine for almost 20 years.  The change this year is only in ourselves. It is almost as if moving to the Queendom has slowed down our metabolism and heightened our senses.

Our family traditions of this holiday season will not be changing for many, many years. So we will learn to embrace the frenzy of the season with our dear friends and families and know that Peace and Joy will be waiting for us at the Queendom for the 360 other days of the year!

Happy New Year to you and thank you for visiting!

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