Monday, May 29, 2006

Country Neighbours

I have heard it said on many an occasion that nothing beats country community. Apparently country folk actually like spending time getting to know one another. At first glance, it strikes me as counter-intuitive. Why would city-dwellers, who live in dense clusters, brushing shoulders every day on the bus or at the corner store, have less to say to one another than those who find themselves entire corn fields apart? It is too early for me to speculate. However, evidence is mounting. You know how your city neighbour will spot you an egg, or a cup of milk, to support you in times of culinary need? Guess what country folk are willing to impart to you in your time of need? Their offspring and thier tractors!

This Saturday, Aidan had his first taste of country generosity. By noon, the lot work had reached a point where man power was no longer enough. They needed a big machine. Now, Aidan has serious reservations about initiating any interaction, let alone one that involves asking a stranger for the use of their $100 000 machine. It took a little coaxing, and apparently a little "hand-holding," (figuratively speaking, of course.) But in the end, he found himself standing at Mrs. Walker's door. At his request, she not only gave him the use of her tractor, but threw her 17 year-old son into the deal.

And that is how we met Ian. He worked with the guys for three hours, and the afternoon was highly productive. (Apparently Aidan instructed Ian on the detailed mechanics of the tractor. "Differential lock," or some such thing.) All of our cut oaks are now piled and ready for on-site milling. And we can move on to excavation. But of all the advances made by the boys that day, I think the real gain was made when they walked up to the Walker's front door. Our neighbours. Country or City, we all need someone to borrow an egg from. Or advice. A laugh. A good story. And every now and again, a big red tractor.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

All Angles

If our home were to look in a three-way mirror this is what it would see . . . These are some images of the house from all angles. I drew in rough details to really make it look like the home we want to build.

*The front of the house faces North-West. The porch will be 8 feet wide. We want to have a big porch swing so we can watch the sun set through the trees. Standing on the front porch, looking out, you will see the gravel driveway. Beyond that, a thin stand of trees that separates our property from the farmer's field. He isn't growing corn this year. It's bright green and grassy. Just give me a few years in the country and I will speak on these things with more authority, I'm sure. Until then, I will unashamedly identify the contents of a field using a large number of adjectives.

*The back of the house faces South-East. Because of all the windows on this side, we want the sun to shine in most of the day. We've heard the disadvantages of so many windows and so much sunshine: dust, heat, fading furniture. But you know what? I'm prepared to accept that my couch may turn a new and interesting shade, and collect a bit more dust if it comes with a little "too much sunshine." The main garden strip will be along here. It will get full sunshine all day. While I know next to nothing about gardening as of yet, I do know that full sunshine is a happy place for plants. We are hoping to make a sitting area back here with a covered fire-pit. (We are not allowed open fires without a permit.) If the bugs don't keep us house-bound at night, I'm sure there will be many evenings spent around the fire.

*The South side of the house is where the screened-inporch will be. We were told that this porch will become our safe haven from mosquitos. Apparently we will be driven insane by swarms of blood-sucking insects out in the forest. Yeah. We are thinking of building some bat houses up in the trees. (Karin, you are going to love this.) The bat population will help unpopulate the mosquitoes and black flies.

*The North corner will lie diagonally across from the garage, where Aidan's office will be. The front door and mud room will be at this end to facilitate Aidan's long and arduous "commute."

*Below is the South-West and North-East sides of the house. Our "eating nook" is off the SW side. We are putting in a big table with two benches. I imagine it will be my favourite place in the house. The NE side faces the "backyard." It will be the launch-pad for our eager children to escape into the great outdoors.

So, that's a look at our house from all angles. If only we could all look that good in a three-way mirror!

Monday, May 22, 2006

On Chippers. . .

Let's add to our homebuilders dictionary, shall we?

wood chipper

A tree chipper or wood chipper is a machine used for reducing wood (generally tree limbs or trunks) and brush to wood chips. They are often portable, being mounted on wheels on frames suitable for towing behind a truck or van.

Tree chippers are typically made of a hopper with a collar, the chipper mechanism itself, and an optional collection bin for the chips. A tree limb is inserted into the hopper (the collar serving as a partial safety mechanism to keep human body parts away from the chipping blades) and started into the chipping mechanism. The chips exit through a chute and can be directed into a truck-mounted container or onto the ground.

This might be stating the obvious, but one thing a chipper ought never be is blunt. Two weeks ago my husband came home with badly swollen hands, and a grumpy disposition.Why? Because an equipment retailer, who shall remain anonymous, rented him a blunt chipper. And this was just ono of it's undesirable characteristics. It apparently had an opening the size of tennis ball in which to insert branches. And it was loud enough to be seriously hazardous to the inner ear of it's operators.

After an entire day of having to jam twigs into the machine, and wrestle the measly specimens all the way through the hole, the only thing to show for it was a pile of wood chips that would barely be able to fill a small grocery bag. From what I have been told, that is just plain wrong. Upon returning the offending "chipper" to its nameless retailer, we were compensated most richly: 15% off the rental price.

Today was an entirely different experience. A friend of ours generously offered us the use of his own chipper for the day. Sharp blades AND a self-feeding mechanism. Aidan came home triumphant. "Now that was a good days work," he said. Mulch anyone?

Friday, May 19, 2006


We have officially completed phase one. Yesterday, we were told our permits for both the house and garage are ready for pick-up. There is another way of phrasing this: "Permission" is a commodity in the building industry. And we have successfully bought it off the City. (And did it ever come with a big price tag.) It's building time.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Little Letter; Bigger Picture

A seemingly innocuous article, in and of itself: One 8.5x11 white sheet containing three or four hand written paragraphs in black ink, with an official-looking signature and stamp at the bottom. And yet, this .25mm paper effectively held a couple of big, hammer-wielding men at bay, thus triggering fresh deliberations in the Van Dyk household over the feasibility of building a home this year. Behold the power of City beaurocracy.

This whole episode has been one drawn out, perspective-shifting, reality check.

La La La. This house-building thing is great. We'll just skip our way through the summer, have some great barbeque's, and have our feet up on the coffee table by September.
Post-letter: ...Oh.

Truly an infuriating set of circumstances. We were lied to, ignored, and forced to reconsider our entire timeline. (I have been known to sink into roiling depths of anxiety and irritation over much less.) And yet, our home has remained under a God-induced state of peace and contentment. This is most definetly worth exploring. I have gotten the distinct impression that Aidan has been watching me carefully these past few weeks, wondering when I am going to crumple into a weeping mess. Not a tear has been shed. Instead, I have felt wrapped in a sense of acceptance and trust. It is the very same sense I had when our baby boy was taken away from us so he could learn how to breathe in an incubator. And accompanying this has been an awareness of the alien quality of this strength. It does not belong to me. It has been given.

Aidan was born, it seems, with a highly efficient processing chip in his brain. He calmly and carefully assesses his circumstances and then acts or reacts in a mild and practical way. My brain chip? Faulty and prone to over-heating as far as I can tell. Growing up, I lived amid fairies. (Wow, that statement most definetly needs clarification.) The "fairies" of which I speak are of the magical, winged, fantastical ilk. In other words, I lived in la-la land. The grounded practical aspects of my parents' characters' completely eluded me, while the whimsical, hyper-romantic, less-than-grounded aspects of them both obviously conspired together and hijacked the gene pool.

I am standing in front of my bookshelf. Eighty percent of the books have the words "princess", "magic", or some other expression of whimsy imprinted upon them. For my highschool graduation, no ordinary dress would do. I sat in front of my seemstress, handed her a movie about Arthurian Legend called First Knight, and told her I wanted to look like Guinevere. And a few months later, bedecked in crimson silk and gold overlay, I did. And for years I carried a postcard of Germany's Neushwanstein Castle around with me wherever I went, just so I could look at it and be caught up in the familiar allure of otherwordly beauty.

Now, I want to make it clear at this point that, as I see it, fantasy and imagination are not the enemy. They make life colourful and deliciously full of possibilities. It is the havoc it all wrought upon my flighty mind that caused me so much grief. In the face of very real and unpleasant circumstances, my hazy, pink-tinted thoughts obscured my processing capabilities. It all felt so much worse than it was. The princess in me wanted to hold those problems close, and transform them into epic tales, in which I was the heroin. Those who are grounded, have a far more comfortable fall than those who are up in the clouds, so to speak. We fall from so much further. And hit so much harder. A kid should never have had to ache the way I did.

Skip ahead ten years to the present. How does one go from being a girl who wove her relatively small problems into hyper-dramatic tales of light and darkness, to being a woman who stares very real problems in the face, and looks past them so she can focus on her children's giggles instead? Did I just grow up? Nah. I still love a good princess story. And I still love to give in to my emotions all too often. The difference is in the grasp. How far can a young girl see? She can have a Saviour, but he meets her where she needs to be met, and shows her what she needs to get through the day. But a grown woman, perhaps a wife or a mother, she can no longer limit her grasp to the concerns of a single day. She must look ahead: Weeks. Years. A lifetime. Eternity. She must grasp the promise of glory beyond this life. And that same Saviour meets her where she needs to be met and gives her the ability to see past the inconveniences to what matters.

So, about that little letter. It might have been a long month and a half of waiting . But that one little letter encouraged some very big thinking. Our house? Might never happen. Will that break me? Nope. Will it stop me from loving my life? No way. For now, this sunny little apartment contains all of the things I hold most dear. And the dearest things of all follow you from point A to point B, wherever point B happens to be. If this new home happens to be our point B, great. But I have got to look further. And I am. I am looking so much further than John Shaw Road. And it looks awfully good.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Still Waiting . . .

The engineer has received 20-25 phone calls from my patient husband, and has yet to respond. Needless to say, we are taking our business elsewhere.