Mad In Pursuit Notebook

becoming one with Lake Ontario

The Lodge: One Month

Jul. 23, 2015. Today marks one month since we moved into our log house. It has been a joyful month, full of friends and family, new neighbors, and inspiring landscapes. I'm sure my Facebook friends are sick of seeing my gleeful sunsets.

So, are there real world, adults things we need to tend to, besides sitting on the porch staring into the deep blue infinity? Why, yes...

The lower level tends to be damp, so I got a dehumidifier. It has fake wood laminate flooring that I'd love to replace. The first floor great room has parquet flooring, about 95% in good repair, except it needs refinishing badly.

I hate the kitchen cabinets. They are dark inside, with unreachable corners. There is something broken under the sink, along with an apparently abandoned water purification system, but I can't bear to dig into it yet. I got a footstool to finally allow me to see what's on top of the cabinets, other than wasted space and the mousetrap I discovered so far. A job for another day.

There is no cell phone service to speak of here. And if there are old-fashioned landlines in this corner of Area 315, they are a well-kept secret. Seems like I had to brave the Time-Warner phone tree a hundred times before I finally got an internet phone. But then I realized I still really needed a cell phone, so I wound up badgering AT&T for a discounted Microcell Tower, which does  actually give me 5-bar coverage. (I hear Verizon customers must do the same.)

We had our favorite HVAC service come out to inspect the boiler and hot water heater. Both in good shape. The serviceman pointed out all the things that could go wrong with an aging boiler and instructed me what to do about them. "Can't we just preventive maintenance them away?" I pleaded. "No," he said. "Things just break. You should know what to do if you don't have heat." Christ.

Speaking of HVAC, there is no central air here, just two window a/c units downstairs in a closet. Much to my surprise, it does get hot and muggy here (on the first floor--the ground floor remains cool). But there are ceiling fans, both inside and on the porch. I've gone to bed a couple of nights feeling like I was at Castlewood in the 1950s, wondering if I'd ever feel a fresh breeze again. But that's the charm... feeling at one with the weather and the outdoors. If I want sealed-up a/c, we can go back to Penfield.

A log home means wood, outside and in. Walls have mysterious crevices and must be vacuumed. There are no conduits. The curved log on the outside is simply the reverse of the flat wood on the inside. WYSIWYG. Oddly, quite a few electrical outlets don't work. Damn. I have a friend in the electric business coming over next week to help check that out.

And I worry about bugs. It's awesome to see lightning bugs, but annoying to walk through swarms of gnats. No mosquitos to speak of but the spiders seem to own the joint, building elaborate new webs outside for gnats as soon as you can knock them down. Fruit flies are a universal summer plague, made worse because I have no garbage disposer and am trying to learn how to use the 50-gal. composter to good effect. I finally called the exterminator today when I spied the carpenter bees. The previous owners said she had a problem with them (used some kind of linseed oil concoction to combat them), but I'm not up to dealing with them myself. So bring on the professional. And maybe he will also have a teensy-weensy remedy for the house spiders that have gotten a little out of control.

Meanwhile, little trees were growing out of the gutters and rain overflowed everywhere. Took me a while to find just a no-nonsense gutter cleaner. He came and went. Little trees gone. Gutters still streaming... now the prior repairs and breaks were obvious. So... having all the gutters and downspouts replaced next week. Water belongs in the lake, not soaking into our foundation.

When we bought the place, I figured I'd xeriscape the front and back yards quickly. I see no point to lawns. There were flowers, but it took me a few days to realize that there were LOTS of flowers, in deliberate plantings aiming for new blooms every week. Shit. I am suddenly steward for a well-established, could-even-be-an-English garden. I'm learning as fast as I can.

Also bought a manual push mower, because every time I sit down to enjoy the sounds of the sea, some energetic homeowner powers up their jet mower. It's good hard work... for Jim... but damn hard work on the bowl-shaped lakeside lawn. So today I started delineating my "slope" zone and hand-pulling grass to let the various well-established clovers take over. Actual gardening on the slope (as I now pursue my ambitious cottage garden goal) will be a project for later.

But more vexing is the near vertical "bluff" between yard and lake's edge. Lakeside erosion is serious business. Residents along here who have installed bulkheads and docks have seen them destroyed handily by storms and ice. The prior owner spent $15,000 on "revetment," which amounted to a barge and crane delivering tons of large rocks and the installation of "french drains" to siphon water from the yard (incl. those gutter downspouts!) directly into the lake. I'd love to pull the ugly weeds that crowd the west side of the bluff, but am fearful of causing ruination. I'm reading... getting the right, fast growing, deep-rooted plants seems to be the answer. Another spot where I will need some experts.

Jim's son-in-law Paul had the T to take a saw to a dead lilac bush on the east side of the house. This gave me the courage to take my pruning shears to the two remaining lilacs.

I need to think big. There are moments when I wish I were a 25-year-old, well-muscled guy with a pick-up truck--the kind of guy who is simply able to remake any interior or any landscape he sets his mind to. But, alas, I'm a 66-year-old lady. Still, I bought a baby chainsaw. And today, I learned to use it on those dead lilac branches. Jim is thankful he survived the experiment intact.