Will this be the year that the renovation gets started?

Is that not a handsome Manse? The house looking its best, May 2012.

Is that not a handsome Manse? The house looking its best, May 2012.

Welcome to Meanwhile, at the Manse’s first anniversary!

Growing up at the Manse: Dad (Wendell), Mum (Lorna) and left to right me, Melanie, John and Ken.

Growing up at the Manse: Dad (Wendell), Mum (Lorna) and, from left, me, Melanie, John and Ken, circa 1967.

I began this blog a year ago today, the day that my husband, Raymond, and I became the owners of the former United Church manse in tiny Queensborough, Ont., north of Highway 7 and on the edge of the Canadian Shield. It is the house in which I spent what I consider the formative years of my life – from age 4 to age 15 – because my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was the minister of the United Church of Canada‘s Queensborough Pastoral Charge and the job came with, well, a manse to live and raise your young family in. You can read my very first post, explaining the whole thing, here.

And if you read the “About” post at the top of this page, you’ll see that Raymond and I had great visions of getting the interior renovation/restoration that the Manse needs under way. One year later, what have we accomplished? Not so much.

Will this be the year?

Raymond with our new clothesline, put in by our friend and neighbour Ed.

Raymond with our new clothesline, put in by our friend and neighbour Ed Couperus.

Mind you, it’s not like we haven’t done any property improvements since January 2012. We have done something that we are very proud of, planted two trees – an elm and a maple. (And in the process removed the huge sad stump that was all that remained of the great big maple that shaded our front yard when I was a kid at the Manse.) We have had the rotted old clothesline post replaced and now have a brand new clothesline.

Newly painted red oil tank and new (to us) red truck.

Newly painted red oil tank (in the background) and matching new (to us) red truck.

We have done a lot of grounds cleanup, with help from our friend and neighbour John Barry. We’ve had the eavestroughs repaired, and installed ice guards on the roof. We have done a little bit of gardening. We have cleaned out the garage. We have pulled up old (dating from my childhood) carpeting. We have painted the oil tank bright red. And we have done battle with the ladybugs (indoors) and the wasps (outdoors and, sometimes, indoors – and Raymond is very allergic).

But we’ve also done a lot of just enjoying our quiet place in Queensborough, sitting out on the front porch in the nice weather and taking in the view and the birdsong. We’ve identified birds. We’ve cooked meals, both for ourselves and for a few visitors. We’ve taken lots of drives along the quiet country roads throughout the area, exploring places both familiar (to me, at least) and new. We’ve met lots of great people, and learned a lot about the history of – and current events in – our little neck of the woods.

We’ve been soaking it all in.

The other day Raymond and I were discussing what might be at the root of our not having got started on the renovation. (Aside, that is, from not having a spare couple of hundred thousand dollars.) The thing seems to be that everything is connected to everything else. For instance: the house needs electrical work: outlets are few, three-prong outlets even fewer, and there are some wonky switches. But it doesn’t make any sense to have an electrician go into the walls until we’ve made a decision on the insulation and the plaster. The insulation is: sawdust. Vintage (very), and funky, and environmentally friendly, and not inefficient. But is it really sufficient? It will have settled since it was installed when the house was built in 1888. Do we top it up with something? Do we remove and replace it? And if we remove and replace it, can we do that without trashing the original plaster walls, which I do not want to do? But are the original plaster walls in good enough shape to keep? Some are; some (now covered with wallpaper or panelling) may not be. But even if they’re not in good shape, should we replaster them or replace them with drywall? And – what was that about the electrical work again?

You see what I mean? It feels like it has to be a whole-house project, one thing at a time, and – very importantly – everything done in the right order. You can’t be going back and replacing insulation after you’ve got final interior wall finishes in place. Or, well, you can, but it’s stupid and it’s costly.

You know what it is? Intimidating.

It’s so much easier to just sit in the sunshine on the front porch watching Queensborough go by…

10 thoughts on “Will this be the year that the renovation gets started?

  1. Happy Anniversary friends. What a lot you’ve accomplished in one year!
    The rest will come…remember it’s the process, not the product 🙂

    • Words to remember, Lindi. Thank you so much! Your encouragement on our project and infectious enthusiasm for Hastings County’s history and architecture have been a very big reason why this has been such a great year. I am so happy we found each other!

  2. I applaud your choice to soak up the environs and explore, rather than madly renovate. Renovating is overrated. It causes financial anxiety and spiritual emptiness because it’s essentially a materialistic pursuit. Taking the time to assess and re-assess your needs and wants is a great process and will result in way better decisions, I think.
    What I don’t applaud is your lack of a friggin’ microwave to warm up my coffee. Maybe start there.

    • Thank you so much for the encouraging words for our slo-mo renovation work, John. As for the microwave, well – I’m afraid that’s one appliance that is never high on my list of priorities. And besides, as fellow part-time Queensborough resident and blogger Jo-Ann Blondin has pointed out (go down to the comments here), a steam oven might be even better. But I will find some way to get your coffee warmed up!

  3. Your posts are making me terribly homesick for a Madoc summer. The picture you posted last summer with the tiger lilies in bloom has officially kicked off my winter blues and a countdown to July! I’m really enjoying your blog, and look forward to reading more over the coming months.

    • Thank you so much, Sarah! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading. I know what you mean about being ready for a Madoc summmer. When I was posting photos from the Manse (and area) from last spring and summer over the past couple of days, I got that exact same feeling. I hope we will see you come July!

  4. I agree with John. We have worked on our place for 18 years now and we still have so much to do. But we take it in stride which has left us with good finance and much spiritual gain. We have accomplished allot when I look back on photos from how it came to us. Enjoy your time making the change. You will be very proud once you have accomplished it. Whats that saying… Wake up and smell the roses! All in good time.

  5. Hard to tell from the photo if it’s a double walled brick structure which would be more energy efficient. Like the widow maker door on the second. Was there once a veranda? I recommend the Old House Journal .

    • It is actually a frame house masquerading as brick, Gordon – it’s brick veneer. I did a post about that door on the second floor. In my time there was never a verandah there, but one has to think that there once was. And thank you for yet another good tip, this one on the Old House Journal! I can see from their website that there is an anormous mount of useful information there. Because old wooden windows are on my mind, I clicked on the section on windows and found an interesting Q&A with a veteran window-restorer. I like this bit: “To me, the strangest problem is how many old-house owners have been persuaded to throw away all their fine old windows and replace them with plastic counterparts that will last only 5 to 20 years. A well-built old window can be maintained and repaired to last for centuries and can also be upgraded to meet current energy-saving goals with simple, low-cost treatments like exterior storms, interior air panels, or even ordinary roller shades.”

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