Saturday, October 12, 2019


Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends and happy fall to everybody else!  Last time we chatted I was working on a book, and this time I am working on... another renovation.  Aieee! but also, I finished the book.  Does that balance things out?  I would like to think so but at 3am most nights, as I'm lying awake and trying to play Tetris with staircases in my mind, I'm not so sure.

Let's begin with some knitting. We drove up to the cottage yesterday to admire the changing leaves and, yes, check the progress of the work being done there, and I set my car knitting down on a scarf I wove for myself a few years back.

They don't match, I know.  But the sight of them together reminded me how long it's been since I've woven anything, and made me wonder how on earth I can ever set up another scarf on my loom now that all the furniture I have is different.  Back in the day I didn't worry about leaving a dent in the back of a dining chair with the post you wrap the long strands of yarn around, because my chairs were inexpensive when new and were now very old.  The current chairs... not so much.

Okay, onto the renovation details, because I'm sure you've missed hearing about that sort of thing (not!)

As you may recall, when we did the house, it was a practical, planned, measured project that we saved up for.  That is not what happened this time.  When we went to the cottage this past July we discovered it was falling over on its piers, and needed a real foundation as quickly as possible whether we had the money to pay for it or not.  To meet code requirements the pit underneath would have to be dug down 4' or until our contractor hit rock, and since the south side of the cottage already stood about 4' off the ground, he suggested we do a whole basement.  And though we agreed because we do quite desperately need more indoor space, and it's not like we would ever go back to make the foundation deeper another time, secretly we were hoping the Canadian Shield would be our friend and spare us the cost of finishing a basement and dropping in stairs from the cottage living room.

Guess what?  Turns out the cottage was built over SAND.  There were just three rocks under there, none of them intimidating enough to have our back.

Basement it is!

Here are some before and afters.

The cottage from the driveway, nestled neatly against the ground:

The cottage raised up to allow the diggers to work underneath:

I called a neighbour to tell her we were coming up and she said, Bring a ladder.  No kidding! (actually, our electrician did want to get inside, and we did find a ladder, but the door frame is warped from being raised up, and he couldn't get the door open once he got up there with the key.)

Here's the cottage from the lake side, on a bucolic August afternoon:

And now.

I'm not even thinking about how long it will take to get the landscape it back to where it was.  I guess it'll give us something to do next summer, moving rocks and settling the soil so the local plants can stretch out their toes again?

The renovation is one of those You have to laugh or you'd cry situations, but the truth is that a few days after we found out the cottage would need a foundation to survive, my uncle (whose cottage it was for over 40 years until he sold it to me and Pete) passed away.  So I was mostly crying.

It was a really hard time and strangely, somebody on Ravelry who probably also needed a victory in that moment decided to post a bossy comment about my being wrong to have 'for personal use only' printed on my patterns.  It's the old copyright argument - does a designer have the right to dictate rules over objects made with their patterns - but jacked up (much like the cottage) with bonus hostility and a By The Way remark that she had introduced a stitch change to the ribbing of my Earbud Pouch and it was therefore now her own pattern.


Honestly I think the real question is not Does the designer have rights to the finished object, but rather, Does the knitter have the right to pass off someone else's design as their own just because they knit it? And to me, the answer is a no-brainer.  Which is why people who want to do that keep bringing up the finished object thing instead, I guess.

I had been thinking about and hesitating to do this for a while, because it seemed like a lot of work, but by the time I figured out I could block her messages I decided it was time to pull all my patterns from Ravelry and sub in a note inviting anybody who wants them to message me with an e-mail address. 

And you know what?  It's been lovely! I get to hear from all kinds of wonderful knitting people, and I find out which of my patterns make them enthusiastic about their yarn or projects for loved ones. Wish I'd done it years ago.

Doing a basement at the cottage is an overwhelmingly scary prospect. It is a three-season home with no insulation and baseboard heaters we do not use, ever, because electricity is so expensive up there.  It's a tent, basically, and we love it all summer long.  But now it's going to be a tent over a heavily insulated basement with Needs.

This is my fault.  When we started the process I wasn't interested in using cinder block for the foundation walls - too damp and cold! Instead we used styrofoam blocks you assemble into walls and pour cement into the recesses of, after roughing in pipes for future additions like furnaces and air ducts.

Let's look at some inspirational pictures of the lake to ease us through the rest of this conversation, shall we?

One of the properties of this block-foundation product is incredible insulation, and another is strength - if there is a tornado, we can hide out under the cottage kitchen and be totally safe.  But it is also flammable and gassy when lit, so we have to put something over it to allow a 15 minute fire delay while we escape in case of disaster.  And it's completely airtight, so unless the total leakiness of the upstairs and giant hole for the stairs that connect the two areas are enough to move air around in the basement, we'll need to add in a mechanical air exchanger for days when opening the windows isn't enough to switch things up.

(Can I just add that while everybody goes on now about a house's envelope and how heavy duty insulation is so awesome and essential and soundproofy - it doesn't work that way in real life?  Our new/old house has all the insulation in the world, but to breathe it also has vents.  And those vents let in ALL the cold air, or the hot air, and all the sounds of the world outside.  The only thing the insulation does perfectly is to keep the air from moving in and out, so we have to pay a machine to do it instead.)

Most people use drywall for the fire guard over the foundation blocks we bought, but I reeeeaaaaallly hate drywall.  I mean, not once it's been installed and finished and painted, ideally by somebody else on all counts.  Just when it's being prepared and sending dust all over everything, and later when it gets wet and grows mold.  To avoid the mold problem in ordinary non-flood conditions, it's helpful to heat the space, even if the furnace is just on its lowest temperature, but doing that for the space under a tent is just irresponsible. Better to insulate the tent too. Sadly if you do that and you were thinking about an addition off the tiny galley kitchen that also serves as a main thoroughfare (I do that all the time for some reason, and especially when cooking during visits from friends) you really need to do the addition first so you can wrap everything from the outside and put on siding.  And there's zero point in doing that without also fixing the pitch of roof that covers the existing cottage and will have to be built onto to jut out over the addition.

And at that point... you have a 4-season home at the bottom of a hill that is 300% unmelting snow in winter. This is not really what we want from our lakeside tent.  So I am looking into other options, eyeing the sock knitting on the shelf beside me, and thinking about how peaceful the cottage is in the fall and how nice it would be to hang out there then... which leads me back to thoughts of furnaces and insulation.

I promise not to talk about boring insulation things again.  After all, there will be lots of prettier details to discuss soon enough, like whitewashed wood walls maybe, and upgraded lazing sofas?  And that window-filled sunporch addition for the kitchen when I win the lottery?

For now, let's just admire the road back out from the cottage to the highway, and all the colourful leaves on the trees there.

And the shadows reaching across the road.

I am so grateful my aunt and uncle wanted a cottage so badly, and looked at so many for years, and drove three hours to see this one immediately after they saw an ad for it in the paper.

And I'm so thankful too that they wanted us to have it, and trusted us to look after it.  And I'm especially glad to have known my uncle, who was a truly wonderful man.  I was very fortunate to have him in my life as long as I did.

That's all from me for today, but now that the book is done and I'm only toying with ideas for another, I'm hoping to ramp up to weekly Hugs.  Think good thoughts for me on that front and I'll see you soon!