I handed in my last paper to complete the course work for my masters on May 2. Since then, Kim has put me to work on The List. By work, I mean hard, physical labour that leaves us both exhausted and wishing for nine o’clock to roll around so we can call it a day and go to sleep. Last night I was even too tired to watch Mad Men.
I had no idea this was her master plan when I set off to the reference library in late April and returned to mayhem. Kim had begun on a sub-section of Job One on The List—Paint the House. She had ripped out the front porch deck and privacy wall. “That’s great,” I thought. “What a good idea.” I knew we were going to paint the front of the house this spring. Neither one of us ever liked the colours we chose 13 years ago, but we couldn’t face the job again. Until now. I also knew there would be a lot of prep involved. I just hadn’t envisioned quite how much. In the meantime, Kim also began a project in the back, raising an interlocking brick pathway so that it wouldn’t be submerged in spring. In order to do that, she reasoned, she needed to get to the sand under our front porch. And in order to access the sand, we had to unearth the 14 years of scrap wood we’d stashed there. That was one trip to the dump in a rented van. There would be more. The picture doesn’t do justice to the Everest of crap we sent to the tip. Kim then muled at least 10 buckets of sand out from under the front porch to the back. I was still blissfully unable to help much, working on a 20+ page paper on the importance of the Toronto Bath raids to the gay rights movement. Lucky me. Kim endured spider bites and all things icky that lurk under porches. She pretty much built the sucker on her own.
Then she decided the limestone in the back garden also needed a lift. That required gravel, and lots of it. By then, my paper was done and I was on call. There were 14 bags of gravel in total. Thankfully, we have a dolly. “No problem,” I thought. And even, “This is kind of fun!” as I emerged from my academic lair, a pale and podgy thing, blinking into the light. Mel joked that after my year buried in books, I shouldn’t stand too close to an open window or I’d burn up. She wasn’t far off. Helping move gravel was strangely satisfying. I looked forward to the next job—power washing. It’s addictive. We power washed everything, all day long. An old orchard ladder even got blasted. As you can see, I was quite happy to be power washing, in my Home Depot swag. It was still early days.
Moving on, or more accurately, up. Years ago, when we put deck boards on the balcony we never use, we neglected to factor in the effects of maple keys and leaves. They fell between the boards, and over time, formed a layer of deck-rotting humus. Time to pull them all up, clear out the guck, and re-secure the boards with no gaps in between. Sounds easy, right? Only we couldn’t just whir up the new power drill and effortlessly whiz out the screws, because I had stripped so many of them during installation. Out came the crowbar and much grunting and cursing from me. (I sounded like a character from Deadwood.) And then, we had to re-cut the boards that fit around the house because the angles all changed after we closed the gaps. (Geometry was never my strong suit). Also, we installed heavy planters after we built the deck, so out came the circular saw. Kim cut the boards in order to lift them there. In short, this job was a bitch. It took us all day, and we still haven’t finished. We bought some sheet metal to fit under the planters but haven’t quite got around to it yet. Here’s the precipitous view from the edge of our never-used balcony. The railing still needs to be reconstructed, but it can bloody-well wait until after we paint.
Speaking of paint, the job that began it all—it turns out the dark green we found so enchanting in 2000 is now outlawed by the environmental powers that be. In order to get any kind of paint to stick to it, we have to sand it all down. Another day-long task to look forward to. Somewhere in there, we also built the privacy wall in the front and in so doing, entombed an electrical cord used for Christmas lights. Kim says we’ll rescue it, but I’m calling it a goner. Because by now, clearly, I’m fed up with all of this HGTV bullshit.
“Will this ever end?” is what I sincerely wanted to know at the beginning of the long weekend. Kim answered the way I knew she would. “We’re getting there.”
We still had “build fence” on The List. The neighbour put one up and we told him we’d do our section ourselves, to save Kim’s beloved plants from his guy who was clueless about stomping living things into green sludge. That was two years ago. It was time. Kim ripped down the existing section of listing old pressure-treated while I sulked.
I did help. I even managed to heave this great hulking beast of a concrete footing out of the ground. I don’t think I ruptured anything, which is a small miracle. Once the hole was dug, we mixed cement. I have early memories of helping my father mix cement. They aren’t particularly fond memories. But the post was in by late Saturday afternoon. Then, Kim promised, came the fun part.
The fun part took all day yesterday, from the moment it was decent to swing a hammer on a Sunday morning until about 7, when I was more than a little bit cranky. But we are, as Kim would say, “getting there.” We still have to recycle the former fence into privacy screens in the back and put up a few finishing touches (nothing is open today—thank god.) It’s also frustrating that 75% of the hard work we’ve done is imperceptible. Who can tell when a crawl space is cleared out, walkways are raised or deck boards on a never-used balcony have been refitted? Still, there has been some payoff. The wisteria flowered through it all, for the first time since Kim planted it 13 years ago, and the quince survived the construction as well. But we still have to cross off the first item on The List—Paint the House. That’s next weekend.