In Hoc Signo Vinces

.... I just looked back and realized that it's been ages - 5 months since my last post. I suppose I have a lot to post about but so very little is about the lake and the house so I haven't. Five months seems like a really, really long time yet, it isn't. Life is a trip and it's amazing how much it can change in a blink. A nanosecond. A heartbeat....

So I guess I will get out what I am used to talking about in this blog... the lake. I haven't been there since my birthday in May. The lake was so high and it covered my projected homestead and I felt very sad when I was there so I haven't been back. The architect and I had a final falling out, he went back to Montreal on poor terms and I have had plenty to keep me occupied otherwise. I have decided to build the guest house though and it will be outstanding but small and super basic and up near the blueberries. This is what it will look like. 

 

My friend Laura turned me on to this young guy that has a place not far from the lake that builds horse barns and sheds and he is happy to tweak one of his standards to reflect my taste and needs. It's all good and will probably come about in the fall or spring depending on my "financial reality". I've never been good with reality, financial or otherwise... funny, I'm a Taurus and we are supposed to be wizards with the buck. Oh well.

On another note I have moved and I am living in an ancient version of a tiny house and it's really sweet. It's about 700 sf and I love it so, so much. It has a garden with brilliant and bountiful flowers and raised beds, next year I will plant an amazing garden but today it is overgrown and needs a lot of tlc. In spite, it truly feels like a precious little nest....

It has a little brass plaque on the front door that says "In Hoc Signo Vinces". Garrell looked it up for me and it is a battle cry that means "From this place, you shall conquer". I feel like I will or that at least it's possible. That's a good feeling.  

I know this post isn't as upbeat as usual and normally on a new moon I would try super hard to whistle some dixie from my ass but today I'm letting reality be.... it's been a hard year. Today I am letting it all go. This post is cathartic. 

And on that note this post is dedicated to my friends. I am so blessed to have so many. They bring me laughter, wine, impromptu coaching sessions, and sparkly unicorns when I'm in need. Sometimes they remind me that I need to update the rest of them here. Thank you, Carol....

And to my most special and lovely friends Ian and Margo, I will miss you. Every day. This year, you both showed me over and over again what it takes to live whole-hearted in grace, in pain, in love, and in life. I love you both so dearly. 

Limbo. How Low Can You Go.....

I have the blahs. The worst case of the blahs I have ever had in my life. My get up and go left a while ago and I can only assume it's in Mexico by now... it really stinks that it never asked if I wanted to go but I promise to forgive it when and if it comes back. I hope it brings me a coconut monkey man.... I haven't had anyone bring me one in years. 

Anyway, it's super hard to write a blog post right now, mostly because the project is on hold for a bit.

Ugh. I think I just located the source of my blahs... sigh.

I will post anyway. It might make me feel better and I hope it might have the cathartic effect it's had on me in the past. Here we go...

Ok, so it's been a long time since I have written and a lot has happened since. First, I decided to move the house location to the moose bed area. I hope they won't be upset but I think I dreamed up the moose frolicking and playing there. Honestly, I don't see the prints in the snow to support it. Most of the prints are in spot that Paul cleared for me so I guess I could consider it kind of a rocking fauna dance floor now. We really only cleared about 20 spindly trees, I can use the firewood and it will all grow back quickly so it's ok. Also, the critters love the tippy top branches that I laid in a pile and I think everyone from the rabbits to the deer are enjoying it. 

These are the moose prints through the old house site area. You can tell it's moose by how long the stride is.

It also seems that I have lynx. I know you can't tell but I'm amped...

This is the new area I would like to put the house. It's grassy and I think it has the potential for being damp but it has never been terrible while I was visiting and it doesn't suffer the mosquitoes like the forest area does in the summer. Also, way more sun means way more solar power. 

These are my friends Lazarus and Brent there in the summer. Believe it or not, they were actually texting each other... 

It's sunny. It's also closer to the lake and would be just past the next stand of trees from the proposed site drawing the architect supplied. 

Speaking of drawings, this is the final plan. I love it so much that it made me cry and not just because I'm not sure when I will be able to build it... it just couldn't be more perfect. 

Pretty cool, huh? Yeah, I know. The architect and I had a bit of a falling out a while ago due to our communication barriers and it really made me question his commitment to the project but once I saw these, I knew that he had my very best interest in his heart and understood what I needed emphatically. But my confidence was shaken and paired with the crummy work year I have had, I felt I had to put it on hold. I'm really bummed. 

I still go out there every chance I get and last week I was able to bring some friends for a walk out on the lake. Lori and I stayed close to shore while Garrell and Eldon headed out further. It was a perfectly beautiful day.

 

We sent Eldon out to check the ice for strength. He's the youngest, probably the lightest, and definitely spry enough to get himself out of a jam if need be. 

Garrell joined him and Lori and I stayed behind to watch and talk. 

Lori and Eldon have had a very bad year, one I can't even comprehend. She lost her son Henry and he his brother to suicide in October. Her pain is excruciating... Lori brought a bit of Henry's ashes with her and while we talked she let the wind take him across the lake... I was terribly honoured to have her entrust me with him. I hope to have a place for her and Eldon to come and spend time soon and I am moving forward in my head and heart... I pray the winter begins to fade soon... we need the sun on our faces, birdsong in our ears, and a fresh start. Spring brings hope.

Thank you for sticking with me.  I hope to have more news soon. 

Angry Bugs, Falling Trees, and Blurry Property Lines.

It's really happening! I met the architect last week to sign the contract so that in some time over the next couple of weeks we can install the piles so he's able to work over the winter. It's so strange and I feel oddly disconnected from this reality, like things are happening before I'm ready to say ok, it's ok for this to happen. Funny because mostly I wish I could blink and the house would be there, totally done and ready for my belongings to be moved in...  Sometimes the blog actually helps me to recognize everything that is unfolding, a cathartic brain purge every couple of weeks that centres me. Yeah, cathartic brain purges... I do that, I guess. 

Anyway, I spent an afternoon down there 3 weeks ago taking out the raspberry that covers the ground in the forest. It sounds like a stupid thing to do for someone who is excited about volunteer food plants but the raspberry grows on new cane every year and doesn't produce anything except the odd tart and woody berry. I will cultivate a few when I have time to focus on them in a better spot but in the mean time, bye, bye raspberries... 

 

It didn't take long and I felt very accomplished afterwards but I managed to piss off a lot of bugs... you'd think there wouldn't be many in that small space but you'd be wrong... the exodus of spiders was staggering, the ant hill uncovered was disappointing and the wasp nest I stepped in was scary, really, very scary. Thankfully I was in got-my-move-on-mode and wasn't in any one spot for long enough for revenge seeking bugs and that I'm somewhat savvy to nature sounds. The steady growing drone of angry bugs behind me grew and grew to a point that I dropped everything an ran for the hills. I reached safe distance I realized yeah, that's a big-assed cloud of angry wasps. I stood there terrified, full of adrenaline and the odd trooper was sent to check me out... they sized me up and apparently came to the conclusion that I wasn't what had caused the disturbance in the nest so I was spared from retaliation. I was comfortable bailing on my work for the day but they had blocked the path out and there were literally hundreds of them. I decided to cut a new and temporary path out and in doing so discovered a fence or the remnants of an old barbed rusty string of tetanus lying in the forest foliage and some posts, I followed them as far as they went and before I had the chance to finish the thought "hey, shit! I think I'm clearing really close to the neighbours property" a Ruffed Grouse appeared before me. Like literally RIGHT before me. Man they're dumb but I guess not as dumb as me because the one thing I didn't grab when fleeing the wasps was my phone and I couldn't take a picture of him. So I went back to the site of the "accident" (that's how I explain it to the wasps) and stealthy grabbed my phone and went to get a shot of the grouse. See him?

 

Yeah, me neither. This is what they look like, trust me. 

And interestingly he was hanging out on my moss mound that looks just like this moss mound so I expect him to return when spring does and a good place to drum up ladies is required. I will wait for him. 

Anyway as I said the found fence brought me to the realization that (and in the words of my Auntie Belle) "Mother Nature doesn't work in straight lines, we do" I really am confused about where my lakefront is and the path I have been taking to the lake might actually cross onto the neighbours at a few points so I will do a survey in the spring before I put the dock and boardwalk in. In the meantime and because my land is only 105 feet wide, I am building close to the neighbours but they have 9 acres and I hope the forest acts as a buffer and that they don't plan to put their road right next to my house. I have tried to reach them to talk but to no avail. I will keep trying. 

My friend Paul came and cleared for me because I'm terrified of chainsaws. I borrowed a reliable one from another friend Shannon and zip, zip, building site apparent and logs for burning in a pile. Jeez, it's starting to feel like something! Paul said the next day "It felt like the forest was making space for you. Too many times I have been around cut trees that were not supposed to go". It was exactly how I had felt but hadn't been able to articulate it. He's right and here he is exercising his inner Bunyan. It was a beautiful day. 

 

And the log pile and cleared site.

It's great and I really am amazed how quickly it appeared. Like magic but Paul did it and I watched. So it wasn't entirely. 

So now I am shopping and learning. Trying to figure out how to capture water and filter it for use, what solar panels to use and where to put them, and of course playing around with interior ideas... I think I have decided that the mezzanine will be open but I want to use a screen of some sort to give privacy and let the light up. Jean the architect says I can't have sky lights up there because it's not in my budget. I disagree. 

 

Only a designer would finish the interior before exterior... it's going to be great. 

I somehow missed a lot of the autumn colours there, one day they were starting and the next they were gone which kind of made me sad but I know I will see more of it next year. I did get some good shots the second last week I was there though. 

 

My intent is to be more consistent with the blog in the next few months to really get into the process. The dirt, the technical crap. Hopefully I learn something and stop referring to it as "technical crap". 

Love and bugs and thanks as always for joining me.  

 

We have a Plan!

It's been a while and it took some doing but..... WE HAVE A PLAN!!!! The latest was a total winner -as near to perfect as possible. It absolutely covers everything I need, want and will be so beautiful. This is similar to what it will look like.  

It will be peaked with a mezzanine on the second storey but the peak is offset on one side to create a covered porch. In the future I will build a second deck off of the mezzanine that will look to the lake. 

The covered portion faces south and the upper upper portion faces north towards the lake. It's really a brilliant plan that is so uncomplicated that it boggles my mind. How can something so simple can be so bloody genius? I really wanted something where the "form followed function" and here it is. So perfect. Here are Jean's actual drawings. 

 

 

And here's where it's going. Clearing starts next week and the piles go in...

 

The biggest surprise in this plan is that it's not 400 sf as we had originally aimed for... it's over 700 with the loft. OMG! WTF am I going to do with all of that space? My first thought was great! The cats can run!  And into things other than walls. Yay!!!

Like they ever do that....

 

That's a standard afternoon for Karma. I am considering a kitty sleep apnea machine...

 I spent an evening with the idea of 700 sf and I was stressed... I live daily in an area that is less than 400 sf (besides the walking back and forth between those spaces), what am I going to do with all of it? It came to me quickly.....

I'm going to share it. With the people that I love, with the friends and family that I was worried I couldn't find room for, and with the people that I wish I could be closer too. How ironic that now I have enough room to be close to the people that I want to be close to....I've said it before and it probably applies here, sometimes  my life is more complicated than need be.  I love being alone and that's partly why I'm creating this place but I am so completely fortunate to have so many people that want to share in this experience with me and I know that.  My girlfriend Shannon came and picked blueberries with me... we made a day of it... and she HATES BUGS, I think a grasshopper almost killed her. It was hot too. She's fair like the underside of all things sweet and pure - I have no places on me even slightly like that. That's a true friend and I can't wait to give her and the many other people in my life like her a cool place to sit with a gin and tonic by the lake... squeeze of lime and gobs of bug spray. We can swim in love but not the lake... good enough. That extra space feels a bit magical right now. I plan to use it well. 

This is lovely Shannon by the lake. It was one of the best days that I had this summer.  

     

 

 

I'm feeling very nostalgic right now as an old friend died suddenly last week and I am sad. Roger was my sister's ex husband, the father of my niece Katie and nephew Aaron and one of the first men that I remember in my life being significant other than fatherly-types. He was a very good man and a great dad. My niece and nephew are beautiful people and I know that he had as much to do with that as my sister. I'm glad that he and the family stayed close and never took the estranged roles that they could have with divorce. He left behind a beautiful wife and step children who loved him as much as his own did and that's a testament to his strength and kindness. I feel lucky to have had him in my life growing up and he was very excited about Spirit Moose when we last talked this summer... I am inviting him to come by anytime. I hope that the people that he loved that are still in this life can join him.  

 

Thanks as always for joining me on this adventure. Bugs and love to all of you....

 

Blueberries and Creative Standstills...August 1, 2016

I feel a bit behind in posts and know that I'm at least one behind as I really should have written about the day my family came out to see Spirit Moose, my Auntie Anne, Uncle Brian, Auntie Suzanne, Uncle Dan, cousin Katie, her partner Bruce Virgin (best name ever) and my sweet mom who couldn't get down to the lake but came out of excitement and support for me and how much I love that place. I actually locked my keys in the car because I was so excited when they got there and my mom noted later that I totally blew off the disaster and impending 2.5 hour wait for the AMA. She thinks it's because I'm at peace there and she's completely right. Another couple of hours of birdwatching? OK! 

Anyway here are some shots from the day and my big blonde adventure...

 

The lake was beautiful and alive with birds that day.

Team family that accompanied me to the lake, two of them in flip flops... very brave. 

My new neighbours, they are quite friendly but don't smoke. I asked.

Some crazy assed fungus that was growing on a fallen log that looks like icicles. Pretty damn cool - there's lots to see when you have a couple hours to kill!

 

So mini post within a post and I hope it's not the most interesting part of this post but could well be... 

At this moment there is no definitive plan. My architect has sent me 3 plans and I have not been on board with any of them... I love them all for how innovative and interesting they are and this one actually got me the most excited once I gave it another chance. 

 

And though it floated my boat a bit more buoyantly than the others, it wasn't perfect. I liked the second storey loft and bathroom but really want a larger living area, the space tucked away in the back felt wasted to me and with a full loft upstairs, I didn't feel it was necessary so I tweaked it a bit and came up with a plan that I really loved. Super simple but by the time I plotted it out on my 3D planner, I was ready to move in. It was completely furnished by the time I was done so why not?

 

That plan is based on the same square footage and ceiling line as my architect had planned but I just tucked the bathroom back a bit and gave myself a decent sized storage room for water tanks, solar panel electrics, the composter for the toilet, etc.  Yes, I picked tile out already...

I suggested the tweak to my architect and I don't think he was quite as excited as I was... he really wants it to be more unique and innovative which I understand and is the original reason that I connected with him, he is uber talented and I want something of a signature of his because one day he is going to be a rockstar architect -I know we can get to where we both need to be. So in speaking we have both came to the conclusion that we have a significant language barrier... he speaks better english than most of the people that I know (he uses words like verbose and phrases like "restrained by constraints") but of course, I don't speak french and I might use those words occasionally but not in real life so he's going to come up in the next couple of weeks so we can hash it out. I'm sure he would be lost completely if I described the meet as that.

In the meantime, I HAVE BLUEBERRIES! Gobs of them! As far as the eye can see! I went up the other day to daydream and smudge and this is what met me.

 

 

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I picked...

I made wild blueberry creme brullee yesterday and I have to say it was one of the best things I have ever eaten. That's French right? Maybe I will make more for the architect...

I'm also very happy to say that the moose skull has resurfaced! It looks like it was dragged about 10 feet and picked pretty clean. I will move it to the entry when I am completely satisfied that it's empty. I think it will make a poignant land marker and isn't really far enough from the rest of him to make me feel guilty. I say that now but will undoubtedly panic the moment I realize I have done it and am now back in the city and unable to reverse it for a few weeks. My life is sometime more exciting than need be but it's good to be me. 

Here's part of his jaw... it makes me think he was hit by a truck... being broken in half, the other part is also about 10 feet away from the majority of him. 

I'm hoping that by the next post I have something truly exciting to write about but I have to admit that everything seems pretty massive there... which is technically strange as it couldn't be more simple. Sometimes I think that I couldn't be more lucky but in reality, I know that I couldn't be more deserving - simply because I see that. What a fantastic dichotomy. 

Thanks, as always for coming along with me.  

Where the Bugs Are...

Everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. But mostly, right where I am putting my house on the edge of the forest. Mosquitos have never been particularly fond of me but unless I have a decoy i.e. a  friend that doesn't run quickly enough, I will suffice. I went to the property this week to clean up the already existing but ragged and sometimes confusing path and arrived about 2 hours before the storm did. I expected them to be worse than they were with all of the rain we have gotten but surprisingly they weren't that bad. I suppose it was because it was already a bit blustery and I was freshly covered in a layer of citronella but then the weather started to change and by the time I got down to the lake the lightening was right above me. When I turned around to assess how badly I was about to be soaked, I was greeted by this

Which made a bit nervous but I stuck with the program.... within 5 minutes it looked more like this

 

This is where I learned something about Spirit Moose, it's so dense and thickly treed that when you are in those trees you can't see what's going on outside of them so I put down my tools and headed up to the road to look around. 

 

Storm in Field.JPG

Daunting, but I've seen worse so I kept at it and headed back down to the bog. Within 10 minutes it started to pour, badly. There was another lesson in this and that is if you think it's going to rain and you don't want to get soaked, don't go down to the bog because it takes 5 minutes to get back up to the road where the car is. By the time I did make it back up I was drenched. Totally drenched. So I mopped off a bit with a napkin from my lunch kit and turned on the air. I get really good reception on my phone so I decided to go over the first plan that my architect had sent the day before. 

It wasn't what I was expecting but I liked it. Most of it. I loved the floor plan, loved the size of it (it's about 450 sf), love the green roof that will capture some rain and send it into the filters and then water tanks and I really love the panels that will deflect the snow but still allow light to get to whatever I plant up there but I didn't like the vestibule much. I worry about unused space in such a small house and although I like how it adds to the look of the house from the outside... I wasn't fond of it and felt the floor plan needed to be tweaked a bit to reflect how I expected to live there so I made some scribbles on the plan and sent it back to Montreal where my architect friend is visiting his family.

I plan to have a garden east of the path where a lot of sun gets through the trees so it made sense (at the time - more on that in my next post) to move the living area to that side and the bedroom to the other, as well as swapping the kitchen and bath east and west and moving it north so I could get rid of the wall between the entrances and open the area up a bit. I like the idea of a vestibule to save heat etc in colder months but I really don't like walls much.

Once I dried off a bit, ate and delivered my email it had stopped raining so I headed back out to the bog to finish clearing, the frogs were out and singing a bit... it was really nice and smelled so insanely fresh. I took a deep breath and... that's when they descended on me. Hundreds of them, oh god, it was awful. I threw my head to toe rain poncho on and tried to work faster but the harder I worked, the harder my breath became and well... you know how that goes. I was slapping and jumping and swearing up and down the path trying to find a place that was less heavily populated but to no avail. I finished earlier than I wanted to and the wetland area could still use thinning but there is also a nest with a nervous mother bird that goes into the "SAVE THE BABIES/OH DEAR GOD, I HAVE A BROKEN WING, LOOK AT HOW VULNERABLE I AM!!!" panic mode when I get too close so I figure that can wait for a couple more weeks. 

In the end the path looks really good and you can make it all of the way to the beginning of the wetland without getting poked in the eye or stabbed in the head by wayward branches. I made it through almost 500 ft and felt so very pleased with myself, itchy and exhausted. Pauline says she's going to find me some bat houses to put in the trees around the house which I think I will put up on a hot and sunny day for obvious reasons.  

Here is the path through the Horsetail and to the opening of the birch forest - it's become one of my favourite places at Spirit Moose and it's about the only photo I took of the finished path that isn't a blur from mosquito slapping and jumping. I'll take more the next time I'm there. 

 

My Precious Nest at Spirit Moose....Coming Soon!

I'm so excited! As most of you already know, I have started the planning phase of my little nest at Majeau Lake in Lac St. Anne county. 

That's my new view and for those who don't know Majeau Lake, it's a very large and shallow bodied lake that is fed by Lac St. Anne and is about a 15 minute drive from Alberta Beach. It is home to so many different species of wildlife and the lake itself has wildlife preserve designation and is protected by the provincial government. That means no power boats ... yay! It is very peaceful there and on beautiful sun-soaked days like today I imagine how amazing it will be to walk out on the pier with my tea ..er... lets get real - wine, and just sit and watch and hear the birds on the lake. I am so very excited. 

The lot is just under one acre and is astoundingly unique - that is if bogs, frogs and wild blueberries astound you. It is three different ecosystems on one plot, boreal forest, bog, and wetland, it was named Spirit Moose by my good friend Pauline while I struggled with the knowledge that an adolescent male moose was found dead near the entry while I was deciding if I wanted to buy it. I tend not to worry about "bad signs" but this felt very troubling because what I planned to enjoy here was now lying dead in my soon to be driveway... but thankfully I also think that things happen for a reason and I could not for the life of me find him, no matter how hard I tried during my 2 visits pre purchase. I actually sent the agent an email telling her the county must have come out and taken him away because there was no way in hell that he was anywhere on the property... I had searched. Hard! She was thrilled and told me what a pain it usually was to deal with them and hoped this was a sign of a shift in their response to emergencies. I'm certain she was just as disappointed as I was when the next viewer texted her 2 minutes after exiting his vehicle with the message "there is a totally dead moose here, does it come with the property?" In the end, it did come with the property and I couldn't be more fine with it. I have left him where he lays and the "stink eaters" are doing their job of removing him bit by bit. The last time I was there his head was gone and although I was sort of hoping that of all his parts, the head would be there forever, I'm also sure that a coyote made off with a "pay dirt" kind of reward for foraging that day. I hope he or she ate well and there are so many moose beds in the bog area that I know this will not be the last moose at Spirit Moose, in spite of the potentially moose daunting name.   

The house will be built on the edge of the forest on stilts just in case the water table fluctuates and will be completely off-grid. Solar panels, a wood stove, propane heater, and composting toilet will provide the necesities and water for showers and washing will be filtered rainwater. The house will be approximately 400 sf (including the loft) with a small utility room underneath it. I plan also to have a tiny guest house down the road with an outdoor shower and it's own wood stove but guests will sofa surf or tent it - (if they like) in the meantime. 

The house will be built by the architect that is helping me to design it. He lives in Calgary and it will be shipped here prefabricated. Piece by piece we will assemble it on site beginning in September and although we haven't completely nailed down the design, we have a similar vision of it and I trust his taste and sensibilites emphatically. He is very talented and on a post in the near future, I will share his past works... for now these are some photos we have been sharing back and forth for inspiration:

 

And this is the initial sketch he came up with:

 

Simple but I am in love with it! That's a boardwalk to the lake, past the garden with the tilting solar panels (that exist only in my head right now) and I can see myself walking it every morning, tea in hand. He is elaborating on it now and once the plans are more complete I will post them. Heck, I will probably post even the most rough drawings as I have already done! Stick with me, it's a dream that is slowly coming true and I hope that my enthusiasm makes up for my grammar and punctuation. 

Thanks for coming along and I can't wait to share more. 

Rhonda

@preciousnest