Friday, May 29, 2009

Working With Whatcha Got

This barren little backyard of our rental suite when we lived in Burnaby was lovingly transformed over the years we resided there. The property across the street was all trees so it never felt like we were living in the 'burbs'.

Sometimes reaching a goal requires sacrifice. As city dwellers living in boxed housing (apartment living), we knew our dream of owning a home was obtainable at a high dollar price. We even considered buying a condo but the leaky condo crisis was looming just around the corner and we were glad we opted out.

Instead, we decided to live below our means and save for a home in the country. We rented a suite in the home of an elderly couple, the in-laws of a friend, and worked towards obtaining our goal. We lived there for SIX years and turned a plain back yard into a pleasant retreat.

I'm so thankful I'm not a material girl. That said, I have expensive tastes but I learned at an early age how to separate my needs from my wants. I also loathe the thought of having any debt whatsoever. My sweetie and I have this in common and we both share the thrill of taking something not so great and turning it into something we can enjoy.

It's not about what have so much as it's about what you do with it. We find it quite satisfying to take something that appears to be nothing and putting life back into it. The porch of our country home was in pretty sad shape when we moved in and now we have some measure of curb appeal.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Blind Guy, Colby

Colby is our adopted special needs dog. He's a purebred Australian Cattle Dog (ACD for short) who has completely turned our lives upside down but it's completely and wonderfully acceptable.

He started out as a working dog in Virginia so he was no pet by any means. It's anybody's guess what happened to him but, somehow, he lost most of his vision and ended up in a high-kill pound. Then, along comes some wonderful doggie rescue folks who work diligently to save these sweet animals and place them in good homes.

An awesome lady who lives on a farm in Ontario takes these dogs and works with them, learning their temperaments, then finds them suitable homes. He was shipped to her by bus along with other rescue dogs and the driver reported that our Colby appeared to be rather aggressive, not realizing his loss of site was new to him. He must have been so terrified but this kind lady knew right away that his condition was recent and he didn't quite know how to deal with all that was going on in his dark world. Poor little guy.

She had him for six months and worked at helping him get accustomed to his handicap. It was discovered that some of his vision was restored but not enough to prevent him from bumping into things on occasion. When I came across his photo on her website, I read her description of his character and decided he was to be ours. I really felt he deserved a good life and we could offer him that. She told me several people who took an interest in him quickly changed their minds about owning a blind dog.

We made all the necessary arrangements and he arrived by plane in November of 2007. He's quite a handful, so full of energy but there's hardly a day that goes by where he's not making us laugh. He has some vision in one eye and can navigate quite well in the house and the backyard. Beyond our property lies a big field where he can romp and run without fear of bumping into things. It's doggie heaven.

He's a very happy guy now but I sometimes think we're the ones who are blessed. He is buddies with gentle Mike, although a bit too rambunctious for him at times. When we brought a new kitty home last summer, my fears were quickly put to rest as he was so gentle with her (even when I watched in horror as he put his entire mouth over her tiny head)! The only time she has to watch her back is when he's running to the kitchen for food and she's scrambling to get out of his path. It's all working out rather well... a bit crazy at times and certainly not dull.

A Perfect Spring Day...

My work day ends at noon (for the time being) and I'm relishing the time I have for enjoying my incredible surroundings. I'm keenly aware and accepting of the fact that renos and such don't happen the way you hope nor in the time frame you set up in your mind. Sometimes, just getting to one task can mean a series of other things preceding it and instead of getting discouraged and impatient, I've grown to appreciate what's been done to date. In fact, many of the completed renos have exceeded my expectations. I am grateful.

Last summer, we added a screened room (I call it my sunroom) behind the house where the view of the river is best. Without this little haven, we are hard pressed to enjoy the outdoor beauty where we are blessed beyond measure. A horsefly bite last summer on my inner arm had me contemplating a trip to Emergency. My entire arm down to my hand and left side of my body was painfully affected. I live to tell about it, but still...

Normal arm (kinda pasty looking, though). The left arm, below, is 24 hrs after being bitten.

Nasty... hot, itchy and VERY swollen! Looks like a Popeye arm.

There are still finishing touches being done to our sunroom. The vinyl windows that were put in place for winter are still serving to keep out cool east and north winds. The frames are needing paint but, no worries.... 'fresh' pressure treated wood should not be painted right away (so I've been told).

These soft yellow sheers were a steal at just $7 per panel. I added four panels for extra privacy on the east side that faces the neighbour's house. A perfect solution! We're still on the fence about what kind of flooring will suit this room. Dogs, moisture and the likes means it has to be durable to such conditions.

Today was heaven. I hung clothes on the line to dry (I must be more diligent to do this, really, I must), set up all our planted seedlings on the "expanded" sunroom deck to drink up the warmth and comfort offered by the sun, pulled out a chair and settled down to soaking up some vitamin D with a good book and the companionship of my faithful dogs. The dishes weren't going anywhere and I wasn't going to spend another moment indoors wasting a beautiful spring day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Pets We Love

When we were city dwellers, we thought it would be nice to have a cat. Well, truth be told, I didn't think I wanted a cat but went along with my man's wishes. I made one request... purebred... Persian. I'm so naive - little did I know that their long gorgeous fur gets into and onto everything! No matter, Sasha was such a sweet thing. I loved her so much that the fur issue just faded to black. No wait... you know what I mean. Never, ever wear black to my house.

We felt a bit guilty for leaving her home alone while we both worked full-time jobs so we got her a companion. Half Persian and half domestic, pure white and the cutest thing. We named him Corky but he had attitude and that kind of pet just ends up owning a nickname. His was to be Beans, meaning he was full of them.

It was two years ago that Sasha was diagnosed with bowel cancer. I had another 2 months after the bad news to treasure my sweet gift and the decision to have her put down before she suffered too badly was the hardest thing I ever had to do. And, exactly one year later, my Bean was diagnosed with diabetes but he didn't respond well to the insulin and he passed away in his sleep at the kitty hospital. I was supposed to bring him home the next day. Poor little guy must have felt that I abandoned him. He was my little shadow, following me everywhere.

They both lived 12 years and had very good lives. I miss them terribly.

Now, what's country living without a dog? Seems natural, don't it? So, naturally we just had to get us a dog. Yup, country folk have dogs. Enter gentle Mike.

We opted to search for our doggie friend at the SPCA and I had not a clue what we were looking for, but my man was sure that he'd know the dog for us when we found him. "Come here," he says, "check out this dog. He's the one." I am ashamed to admit I was a dog snob, looking for the pretty/handsome purebred. He was a mix of Australian Cattle Dog and whatever else is anybody's guess. He turned his back on my man but when I walked over he greeted me with warm, gentle brown eyes. This dog? Why this one? "Because," he said, "I see in him something that I once related to. He's been abandoned and appears to have given up but there's a tenderness about him and we need to give him a good home and a reason for living." Good enough for me. He's such a good dog and we introduced him to our two cats without a problem. Well, Beans would give him a bit of grief but tolerated Mike pretty well. Life with our pets was good. After the loss of my Sasha, we decided on another dog. Why not? We're country folk and it's natural. After researching the breed Australian Cattle Dog, we began our search for a purebred ACD and rescued a special needs dog from Ontario. We had NO idea what we were getting ourselves into! What a bundle of energy. I'm going to save his story for my next entry as I could be here for a very long time telling about life with a blind dog named Colby.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blessing in strange packages

So, the story goes like this.... I will try to make it brief because it stirs me up to go back and recall the details and then I start rambling. Not gonna go there. I'll keep it light. Here goes... ahem.

Lawyer didn't do his job well and charged big bucks. Homeowner had a lien on the property and couldn't secure a loan to close the deal. House was a money pit. Paid for an inspection and had a family member (my sweetie's sister) go through the house and gave us a good report. We were not impressed with what we saw. Told the lawyer we want out but we gave homeowner time to get money so now he can sue us. I laughed.

We were holed up in a tiny, hot bedroom at sister-in-law's house for three weeks. One single bed and a skinny cot, a litter box, two unhappy cats and a resident yappy dog.... it was hot and stuffy. My poor kitties. We get another agent and she gets the homeowner to sign a release cause he probably thinks we can sue him. He's happy to sign. We are free! We are homeless, but then we are shown this house and I remember seeing it online in Vancouver but thought it was sold. It was a good price, a fixer-upper and a view to die for. We buy it and for a whole year (at least) I said these words out loud "It's so beautiful here. Can you believe this view? I love it!" My husband never complained about me repeating myself so often.

Looking back, I would say that God had our backs and gave us more than our expectations. Now, the house is older, as I mentioned, a fixer-upper but it was what we wanted. A few surprises and LOTS of elbow grease needed but it's coming along and I couldn't be more pleased. Allow me to show you the house as when purchased. It was kinda in need of some TLC but I'll share the updates in bits and chunks. And check out the view!

Pretty sad roof and the porch was quite the eye sore. I see potential.

A little better, no? But wait.... the view is the best part.

From my dining room window (if I'm up early enough). Would anyone get tired of this?

Morning mist... I cheated and cloned out the poles and lines. They were ruining the photo.

And the back yard has some lovely sunsets as well. We are blessed.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Farewell, city life. I don't miss you.

I thought I'd forever be a city girl. I wasn't raised in the city but chose city life after being raised in PMQs (private married quarters). Sounds romantic, doesn't it?

After tiring of bouncing Canada-wide from one city to another for eight years, leaving home at the tender age of 17, I landed in Vancouver and stayed fairly stationary for 25 years. I married, had a good job as a tradesperson in the print industry, but then things started to change for the two of us. We were becoming quite dissatisfied with city life so we set about making our dream of a home in the country a reality.

It's funny how things work when goal setting. Sometimes, a little birdie has to be pushed out of the nest. Uh-huh. I got laid off from my good paying job (yippeee!) in January of that year of major change. When it happened, I told my sweetie that I was going to pack one box per day and come summer, we were outta here. Come May, I had a tidy stash of boxes stacked up against a wall in the dining area of our apartment. So, my man calls me from work and asks me if I'm really serious about doing this (the plan was to move clear across the country to rural Maritimes) and I'm looking at the wall of packed boxes, saying "Duh! Yea, I'm really, really sure." That pretty much sealed the deal.

We packed a container to be shipped, ditched most of our furniture, clung tightly to everything vintage that we (I) collected over the years and prepared to make a cross-country trip in a van stuffed with things I wouldn't dare ship.... namely my computer/peripherals and our two cats (and a vacuum cleaner, cause ya never know when you'll get the urge to do a little cleaning while on the road) and hit the dusty trail. I remember thinking, "Whatever you do, don't look back." In looking forward, I saw only a big, blank slate. gasp! No looking back.

It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I was very enthusiactic about taking pictures of our entire journey which was great through BC and a portion of Alberta but then things got real flat for a real long time and it was really, really boring. The mountains were fabulous and all photos were taken from the van. There would be no stopping for sight-seeing. This was business. We ate in the van, slept in the van, keeping our hygiene up at road-side gas stations (which was at times a bit scary). We were determined to get there in record time. An aside... those little boxes of baby wipes do wonders when there are no other options.

We were fortunate to spend a day with my sister in Ontario for a much needed shower and rest but with a loaded van and two cats, we had to limit our time there. It was while visiting with her that we found out the house we bought was not exactly our house, meaning we had no place to come 'home' to and our lawyer apparently knew this before we left for parts unknown. When his secretary told us to call while on the road, I raised a red flag and questioned why. All she would say was, "Well, you never know....". It was a red flag I had no time to ponder over since we were in the midst of loading the container that was to be picked up at a given time. But, I'll save that story for my next entry. It certainly was not an uneventful journey but this is life. No?

A whole lotta flat nothingness.

Me and the bearded wonder.


Somewhere in Northern Ontario. No photos while travelling through Montreal. It was a horrific experience and a miracle we got through in one piece. Montreal drivers are insane!