One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

April 23, 2012

Do It Yourself Genes

When Hannah draws pictures of her future house, she also draws piles of wood and windows and the tools she’ll use to build it.

The other day, as were driving home from some garden- or home-center excursion, Hannah lay her head back in her carseat and said, “Dad, I’m looking very carefully at houses in our neighbourhood. I want to pick a very nice one for me to live in when I grow up. …But it also has to be one that doesn’t have people in it already.”

* * *

I’ve been researching ways to cut costs on home-cooling. So, as a good, basic first step, I’ve sewn some curtains for our big south-facing window.

We had a very long, very productive weekend that ended with my finishing these curtains around 10:00 Sunday night. Hanging them required putting up curtain rods, so I didn’t bother hanging them right away.

But then I woke up today and noted that today’s forecast predicted it was probably going to be our first spring day with outside temperatures hotter than you’d want your inside temperatures. And as I was moving around making my morning coffee, I thought, “it’s already muggy in here.” So I started my day mounting curtain rods.

Then I went to my front-window and cranked it wide-open to let the shady north-facing air in all morning. And so I spent my morning working next to a breezy window with the Robins and the Chickadees singing and chattering outside it.

Then I finished my work at the end of the morning and then took Hannah to meet Ian for a picnic lunch.

* * *

Ian has been told that he has a week and a half of holidays that he should take before the end of May, so he’s taking every Friday off for a couple of weeks. This weekend was our second Friday like that – and it’s nice. Like an extra weekend day.

In spite of working from home, on whatever I choose, at my own pace, etc, etc, the weekends are still a sweet spot in my life. It’s just so nice to have all the family at home. It’s nice to engage in projects with Ian.

I had coffee with a former coworker recently and she said, “do you miss having a team? Or someone to pair with?” And I admitted that, yes, some days it is lonely plodding through tasks on your own and with only your own motivation and judgments at stake. Having Ian at home and working on projects with him means I have a weekend team, which is nice for social reasons but also because things seem to move along faster when there’s two of you.

On the other hand, we have so much to do around the house, that these holiday Fridays aren’t terribly relaxing for him.

* * *

These days, I rather regularly ponder an idea for a project and then sigh, “I need more free time. I quit my job and there’s still not enough.”

That’s facetious of me because obviously quitting my job didn’t remove all my obligations, it just replaced them with new entrepreneurial and parental obligations, but I have been repeatedly dumbfounded at how little time I seem to have. Many days I feel more run off my legs than I did when I was working full time.

But I had this epiphany last week. It’s not that I have less time – it’s that I have even more ideas. Who know that was possible?

“Turns out,” I pondered to Ian, “that one of the advantages in working for the man is that it keeps your brain busy with banalities like meetings and  profitability reports so it won’t be constantly taxing you with amazing ideas.

* * *

Remember our project to re-build our basement stairs after they were demolished for the project to replace our sewer line? Well we still aren’t technically done. In a manner typical of most household renos, we got it to a usable state and then turned to something else that hadn’t spent the last month boring and stressing us to death.

What remains is to build the final stair at the bottom (right now you step down off a final double-height stair) and to add a handrail.

What was holding those up is that we had planned to cut back one of the beams in the basement in order to make head-room for the last stair. But obviously, in order to do that, you have to be prepared to erect a bunch of support posts and put some bracing in place so that, by cutting away a floor beam, you aren’t compromising the structure of your entire house. And as to the hand-rail, we need to build a post at the bottom of the stairs in order to attach the hand-rail, but in order to build the post we needed the last stair in place.

Oh yes, and also, cutting back that beam meant rerouting some duct-work that was going to be in the way of the bracing we wanted to do and also re-routing our water-line.

This is the project that won’t die.

Anyhow, Ian spent the last couple of weekends on ductwork and the water-line and then was finally able to get on with cutting the beams. Then we braced some floorboards and very scientifically tested it by sending one of us to jump up and down on them while the other person watched from the basement, and then braced some more until we were satisfied that nothing was moving.

Much…

It is a very old house…

* * *

We’ve been reclaiming a bunch of wood and are looking at our options for projects with it. One of the interesting facts I learned about working with reclaimed wood is that you should construct your piece in a way that will allow the wood to swell and shrink. Old wood, having never been kiln-dried, has cells that remain fairly permeable to ambient moisture and so furniture built of old wood “breathes” in a way that pieces built from new wood don’t.

I thought about that as we worked with the wood beams and joists in our house. Finding some joists that had barely been attached to beams and consequently sagged over the years, Ian decided to jack them up and secure them with screws. Sitting in the basement with him as he did so, I felt like I was listening to our house heave great creaking sighs as he jacked corners of our floor up.

* * *

We’ve planted three tower poplars in our back yard.

Those who know me in real life might have had to listen to occasional tirades about Neighbours Who Cut Down Trees. Last summer we had a neighbour to the East who just wantonly cut down three trees in his yard and pruned all the rest to within an inch of their lives. It was absolutely his legal right, but it just made me want to weep. Both of our lots are smallish, but the fence between our yards is short and both yards were maturely landscaped so they complemented each-other, giving each yard the illusion of being twice as big – with the trade-off that occasionally you would glance your neighbour over the fence.

He also persuaded his neighbour on the other side that they should raze the grand hedges that served as a fence between their properties. So we went from having this cozy, lush, forest-glade back-yard to having a tiny exposed oasis amid barren back-yards that stretched all the way to the side-street. On the west side of us, we have an apartment building, but it’s behind a tall fence and we had a magnificent Black Poplar at that side of the yard that spread out so far that it shaded us all along the western side of the yard. Early in the summer, the manager asked us to trim back some low-hanging branches on our Black Poplar. We agreed that they were low enough to be irritating to people parking their vehicles under it and obliged. Later that summer, we returned home from a three day camping trip to find the tree sheared right down the property line. Practically in half. Which was, again, their legal right. But made me want to weep. Why wouldn’t you tell us? Warn us? Let us offer to hire a professional who could give you whatever space you were looking for while also cutting back the limbs to natural joints and preserving the look and health of the tree?

Shortly after that we were visiting Ian’s aunt in his hometown, sitting outside in her large, beautifully treed lot. I admired her very tall, narrow Tower Poplars and commented, “now there’s a tree that neighbours would be hard-pressed to legally prune.” And she practically giggled, “Oh yeah, my neighbour makes grumpy statements like, ‘when are you going to chop those trees down, they’re getting ridiculous.’ And I just shrug.”

That might pretty much have decided us.

We planted them 3-4 ft in from the fence-line – so they really shouldn’t ever get in any parking-lot-user’s space. But we also planted them strategically so that when they get some height they’ll fill in the space over our fence that used to be shaded by our magnificent black poplar.

* * *

At lunch I told Ian, “this morning I looked at the forecast and decided I couldn’t wear jeans. But all my capris are dirty. And then I remembered that I planned to spend the summer only wearing sundresses. So I opened my closet and there were so many. I couldn’t pick which one to wear first, so I decided to just start at the front and work my way back.”

And he said, “Well it sounds like you have your entire summer planned out.”

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  1. Deborah

     /  2012-04-23

    When I read the title to this post, my (somewhat tired) mind interpreted it as making one’s own genes. And that seemed to me like it wouldn’t work, but I couldn’t pinpoint why, exactly.

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