March 14

March 14, 2010

Cloudy today and not much hope for sun.  In fact, it is now raining.  Not really raining, but that wet air state that we sometimes have here.  The rain drops are so small that it is more like mist in the air than real rain falling.

After the guests left this morning, Fernando and spent the day working on room 8.  It is at the frustrating point: lots to do still, but lots of waiting to be done- paint one side of the door and wait; stain the casing in the bathroom and wait; paint the wall and wait.  Oh well, most of it will be dry by tomorrow and we should be full steam ahead.  I am actually hoping to be done by Wednesday with any luck.

So I don’t have much to write today.  I’m a bit tired.  Never the less, we are taking Hugh out for dinner tonight.  He gave us tickets to see Mariachi de Sol last night so it is the least we can do.

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March 13

March 13, 2010

Beautiful day yesterday with lots of sun and warmth after the big rain.  And this morning is again bright and sunny.  Not warm yet, but it will be later on.  It’s going to be a beautiful day.

This is rhododendron PJM Elite, slightly past its prime, on the front steps.

Rhododendrons on the Front Step at Albion Manor in Victoria

Rhododendrons on the Front Step at Albion Manor in Victoria

Well I have got to decide if I am going to be truthful in this blog or if I am going to edit things for the sake of our guests. I guess I might as well be honest and tell the whole unsavoury truth: we have a mouse problem.  There is a mouse somewhere in the wall in room number 1 and we’re having a devil of a time getting the little bugger out.  Fortunately, Fernando has been sick for the past couple of weeks, which is not to say that it is fortunate that he has been sick, but it is fortunate that he has been sleeping in room number 1 during his illness and so he hears the little scratches in the evening when I guess they are the most active.  The thing that gets me is that I don’t know how it (they?) have gotten into the house.  When we first moved in I did a thorough inspection all around the house and fill and stuffed and caulked any crack where any little creature could get in and, luckily, we have been mouse free.  Until now.  So there must be a little crack or opening somewhere.

I am going to go out this morning to buy a video surveillance system to install around the house so that I can try to determine how it is getting in.  I will probably have to move it around each night and then watch the recording in the hope of spotting the movement.  At the same time I can use the system to watch the activities of our local racoons that are a real problem.  They will be looking for places for nesting at this time of the year and the last thing we want is a racoon family growing up underneath the studio.  In Burnaby we had a racoon family in the attic and it was not fun.  Reaching in to that small place and taking the baby racoons in my hand, one at a time, while Fernando tried to keep the mother at bay with a stick, was, shall we say, exciting.  We took them to the SPCA who assured us that they would be releasing them back into the wild when they were old enough.  I wondered if they released them in the wild wild, or in one of the local parks where they would undoubtedly make their way back to our house.

Final texture coat on the plaster today as I try to match the rough texture of the existing walls.  After years and years of coats of paint the walls in the house are anything but smooth as drywall walls are today.  These have a definite texture.  What I do is put on a light coat of plaster and they go over it with a clean paint roller to rough up the surface.  I than take a large plaster knife and go over it lightly to take the tops off the texture and soften it a bit, aiming to duplicate the texture that is there.  This has been very successful in other areas of the house.

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March 12

March 12, 2010

Holy smokes did it rain overnight.  You could hear it pounding on the roof.  I’m amazed this morning that there are any flowers left in the garden.  But already the rain is lessening and I expect that the afternoon will be sunny.   Yes another photo of another daffodil today.  These while lovelies bloom in the border on the west side of the property.  They don’t fall into the house shadow so they get all the morning sun.  Their numbers have been diminishing over the years and I suspect, again, the Narcissus Bulb Fly has been doing its destruction.  I am not yet reconciled to accepting the damage they do and will try to be conscientious about catching them if I can find a butterfly net.  If not, I will just have to accept that I will have to be planting daffodils every year.  Unfortunately they attack other bulbs as will so maybe the planting will have to be an ongoing task.

Whilte Daffodils

Whilte Daffodils

A busy day today with shopping for the bed and breakfast (we have guests tonight for the first time in 4 days) and continuing to work in room 8.  Victoria is a great place for shopping because it is a very accessible town: nothing is very far away.  You can drive from one side of the city to the other side in probably less than half and hour.  Unlike Vancouver, traffic jams are very rare, expect on the highway at rush hour and it is easy to avoid travelling at that time.

The plastering is almost complete with one more coat today and the final tomorrow.   I took a template of the window in the door so that I could have a sealed unit made.  The template is required because the opening is not quite square.  That should be ready on Tuesday for installation which will mean that there is nothing standing in the way of completing the room.  Not that there is anything standing in the way now, but this is the one remaining job that required outside input and I am glad that that will be finished.   Unfortunately I can’t complete the casings and baseboard until the plastering is finished because some of the plaster will have to run behind the casings, so that’s a bit frustrating.  But there are, of course, lots of other bits and pieces that I can be working on.

Penultimate Coat

Penultimate Coat

Fernando is up and around today and feeling much better.  He really has had a hard time of it since he got back from Spain.  I hope this will be the end of the cold and flu season, at least for him, and us.

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March 11

March 11, 2010

Rainy and quite chilly this morning.  Nothing near freezing, but quite bracing first thing.  It’s supposed to clear later in the afternoon.

Here is a little technique that I have developed for repairing loose plaster.  Sometimes in areas around a crack you can feel the plaster move when you press on it.  This usually means that the keys have broken away on the primary layer of plaster and there is nothing holding the plaster to the lath any more.  This example that I encountered in my renovation of room 8 shows an area where the top layer of plaster has broken away; and right beside it is an area that has broken away right to the lath.  I use a 1 ½” stainless washer and a drywall screen and screw into the lath underneath.  This should pull the plaster snug up to the lath and hold it firmly in place.

Hole resulting from loose Plaster

Hole Resulting from Loose Plaster

Stainless Steel Washer and Drywall Screw

Stainless Steel Washer and Drywall Screw

Plaster it Over

Plaster it Over

Add Another washer and Screw

Add Another washer and Screw

Plaster Over the Whole Thing

Plaster Over the Whole Thing

The hole can then be filled in with plaster.  If the whole is large enough, obviously you would want to cut out all the plaster and replace it with a piece of drywall, but this area is only about 4 x 4”.  After getting some plaster into the hole, I add another washer and screw in the area that had exposed lath.  I put this through a piece of mesh tape.  You can see it in the last photo if you look carefully.  This is just to give something to hold the plaster to the lath, to give it a bit of strength so that it is no longer bouncing against the wall.

The frustrating thing about holes like this is that they take time to fill.  You have to add the plaster bit by bit and give it a change to dry before you go on to the next layer.  It takes a couple of days to get it completed.  But the process seems to work well.  I have used it in a number of places in the house and so far it is working extremely well.

Nothing in the garden for the last couple of days because my attention has been on room 8 and getting that done as quickly as possible.   Fernando is under the weather again and has been in bed for the last 3 days which doesn’t help matters at all.  He is painting the exterior door and I don’t want to hang it until he is done.  Not that I am ready to hang it at this point, but I hope he’s up and around soon so that he can get on with it.  How’s that for a sympathetic partner!

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March 10

March 10, 2010

Beautiful day today, lots of sunshine and very few clouds.  A bit nippy in the morning, but becoming very pleasant as the day goes on.

For the last few weeks, I have been doing some fixing up in room 8.  The bathroom door that was installed by the previous owner was very badly done and reflected badly, I thought, on the quality of the Manor.  And the exterior door to the patio was in very bad condition and the casing did not match the casings in the rest of the house.  So I decided to rebuild and re-hang the bathroom door and fix up the exterior door.  A couple of months ago, just before Christmas, I found 3 panels of stained glass which we bought for the purpose of installing them in room 8.  One of the panels is the correct width to go into the door and the other 2 panels will go into the bay window.

The Old Door and the New Door

The Old Door and the New Door

One side of the old bathroom door was a single flat panel; the other side is a mirror.  The mirror is fine, but the single panel was not in the style of the rest of the house so I decided to add some moulding to break it up into several panels.  I had to rely on glue alone to hold all the new work in place because I didn’t want to do any nailing because of the mirror on the other side.  The last thing I wanted was to have to replace the mirror.

Rebuilding the Bathroom Door

Rebuilding the Bathroom Door

This is a photo of me working in the living room of the cottage because it is too damp in the studio for the glue to dry in a reasonable time.  I had to lay in ¼” flat sections to create the panels and then I milled some existing mounding to get something as close to the existing mounding in the house as I could.  It is not perfect, but it is pretty close.  The one compromise that I made was with the bottom panels in the door.   Although the other doors in the house have the bottom panels running horizontally, the exterior door has vertical panels.  So, because these 2 doors will be side by side, I decided to so vertical panels in the bathroom door.

Albion Manor Room 8 Renovation

Albion Manor Room 8 Renovation

As with all projects like this, once you start, you end up re-building the whole house.  There were some cracks in the old plaster that didn’t look very nice so I thought that while I was at it, I would have a go at them as well.  Here, I have dug out the loose plaster and cleaned the crack so that I could begin to fill them.  But that will have to wait until tomorrow.

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March 9

March 9, 2010

Camellias in the Garden at Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast in Victoria

Camellias in the Garden at Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast in Victoria

Camellias.  These beautiful flowers have unfortunately become associated with death.   Most famously of course by Alexandre Dumas Jr., French playwright and novelist, illegitimate son of Alexandre Sr., whose novel La Dame aux Camélias brought him great fame in 1848.  He subsequently turned it into a play which no one wanted to produce and it didn’t have its stage debut until 1852.  Of course it has been made into about 20 different stage versions and about as many films with Sarah Bernhardt and Greta Garbo, among many others, playing the title role.  I saw a production back in the late ’70 at the Vancouver Playhouse which was sensational.

The symbolic meaning of camellia flowers is admiration, perfection, loveliness, a good luck gift for a man, gratitude, nobility of reasoning or longing.  All this depending on the colour.   Ours are red symbolizing ‘you are a flame in my heart’.   So the association with death is really unfortunate.  It is also possible that the association is only in my mind and not generally accepted.  This would hardly be surprising.

This beautiful bush is on the east side of the house.  It gets quite a bit of competition from the cedar hedge that is about 10 feet high on that side.  Nevertheless, it blooms faithfully each year.  When we were in Burnaby, we had huge camellia bushes on either side of the front door.  As much as I dislike saying it, they were a problem at all times of the year except when they were blooming.  They were so big they had become a real nuisance.  But when they flowered they were spectacular.  But then the petals fall they sure made a mess.   This one I love because it can make all the mess it wants and there is no problem.  All we have to do is enjoy the luscious flowers and the sensuous colour.

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March 8

We have 3 plum trees in the garden, a golden plum and 2 prune plums.  The Golden Plum flowers earlier than the other 2 and for the last couple of weeks it has been in full bloom.  I should have taken photos of it earlier, but didn’t get around to it for some reason.  There are always lots of ‘some reason’.  Anyway, although not golden itself, this tree produces masses of golden plums which are the most delicious things you have ever eaten.  We haven’t always had success with it: some year there are only a couple of plums, but in a good year there are so many that we don’t know what to do with them.  The same is true of the prune plums although they are much more reliable in terms of producing.  Last year we put out boxes of plums on the boulevard for neighbours to take and I ‘m glad to say they all disappeared rapidly.  Much better than having them go to waste.  There is a company, or group, that will collect your ripe fruit to take to the Food Bank.  I contacted them and after saying that they would be by to do the picking, they didn’t show.  I’m not sure what happened.  Probably they had too much fruit for the number of volunteers that they have.

The Golden Plum Tree from the Terrace of Room 6

The Golden Plum Tree from the Terrace of Room 6

This is the view of the tree from the terrace outside room number 6.  It almost looks as though it has just snowed, but believe it or not, those are all plum blossoms.  I don’t know what the proportions are, how many blossoms will turn into actual eatable plums, but I am positive that it is not one to one.   I have also noted this year that there are no bees.  Usually when you walk by the tree it sounds as though it has been electrified, it is buzzing, bees crawling and flying all over it, like the whole thing is moving.  This year, none.  Could be a very bad sign.

One of our guests from Salt Spring Island, Grace, is starting to raise her own bees this year in attempt to combat the global problem that we have with the decline of the bee population.  I should so the same and get some of those bee homes that you see around occasionally.  As with most things, any little bit helps I guess.

Golden Plum Tree through the Bathroom Window of Room 5

Golden Plum Tree through the Bathroom Window of Room 5

Here’s another view of the Golden Plum through the bathroom window of room number 5.  You can see bit of the new buds of the lilac bush pushing through.

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March 7

March 7, 2010

What’s going on here?  Blue sky completely covered over with white things.  I’m not used to this.  No rain or anything like that, but just a general cloudiness all round.  Ho hum.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

I have become a fan of Flavia de Luce!  Flavia is the protagonist is Alan Bradley’s new novel The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  She’s immensely intelligent, witty, a budding scientist, innocent, naive, energetic and to top it off, one of the most determined sleuths to come along in a long time.  Don’t let the fact that she’s only 11 years old put you off.  She also happens to love poisons and makes a few of her own in an old chemical lab in the attic of the family’s home, Buckshaw, a multi-winged, sprawling old thing somewhere in England.  I don’t remember if they locate Buckshaw in the novel, but I know there is a Buckshaw in, or around, Chorley in Lancashire.

Now, Lancashire is very important to me and to my family because that is where the paternal grandparents came from.  And Chorley is important if for no other reason than Chorley Market where you can buy some of the best sweaters in the world for about £3 which is about 5 or 6 Canadian Dollars.  I still have a couple from when I was there with the family in 1995.

Back to Flavia. Flavia will win you heart.  She lives with her sisters Daphne and Ophelia and their reclusive Father (her Mother was killed in a climbing accident when Flavia was only one-year-old).   One day, Flavia finds a dead body in the cucumber patch.  To the normal person, this would be quite a traumatic experience, but as she says, ‘I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t.  Quite the contrary.  This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.’

What follows is a great read as Flavia goes about trying to discover the identity of the dead person and why he has ended up dead in her garden.  Alan Bradley does a masterful job in finding the voice of an 11-year-old.  While bumbling along and making lots of mistakes, she is at the same time extremely insightful and you know that this young lady is going to have a very successful career at whatever she decides to do.  And I hope that Alan Bradley will give her a long career as an unofficial sleuth.

Even when it's cloudy there are bright things in the Garcen

Even when it's cloudy there are bright things in the Garden

With this dreadful weather we’re having, there won’t be much work in the garden today so I am back to the renovations in room 8 which I have given myself a deadline of Sunday coming to have completed.  So I’ve got casings to make, one door to rebuild, stained glass to put into the door, sealed glass unit to get for the door, hang the stained glass in the bay window, finish the moulding around the Jacuzzi, re-hang the door to the patio, and a couple more things that I am sure will make themselves obvious once I get to them.  Makes for a busy week.

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Breakfast and the ‘Other’

There is nothing like breakfast to start the day. Especially if it is a nice gourmet specialty like the one that Don prepares. Also breakfast can help you to know about culture. About how groups of people that we call nations reflect their idiosyncrasy in the way they prepare and eat their breakfast.

In my first visit to Japan many years ago I felt in my skin. or I should say in my taste. a cultural shock when I encountered my first real truly Japanese breakfast in the wonderful city of Nikko. I don’t remember now what did I have but I do remember that after I finished I have to run to find a bakery and buy a nice sweet something. That is how unsophisticated I was at the time and I am glad to say that that would not be my reaction if I happen to experience the same situation today.

This is another example. In a few days I will make for breakfast a “tortilla española” (Spanish omelet). To be sure that I did a good job I phoned my mother for proper directions. I explained the situation and the very first question that came out of the other side of the wire is “A tortilla for breakfast?! You have been too long in Canada son!” (That is a first experience for her in breakfast cultural differences).

I pointed to her that here in Victoria in a Bed and Breakfast it is ‘normal’ to have this kind of food to start the day and that for a change I wanted to do something Spanish for my guests. Then she replied, “If you want to do something Spanish why don’t you made nice toasts with olive oil and rub some garlic on top with a pinch of salt?” (And that would be the first breakfast cultural difference for my guests!)

The situation can get very picky with this issue. Asparagus and lettuces I can use in my ‘tour de force’ dishes. What about Broccoli? Or carrots? Definitely not! What makes a vegetable a breakfast friendly vegetable?

So it can be an important issue especially if ones noted that we are talking about the first meal of the day and we want to start nicely the day. Don’t we? But to me the most interesting thing about culinary differences is that actually it happens and it makes this world a bit more interesting to live and experience.

March 6

March 6, 2010

What’s with the sun?  There’s more of it today.  A person could get used to this.  Fernando and I did a big spring cleaning on the yard today, getting rid of a lot of rubbish.  Not the general kind of rubbish, but just the kind that a big garden can generate.  And it is amazing how quickly it can generate it.  Why do things grow like that?  Can’t they just grow to the size that I want and then stop?  Why should I have to prune the willow tree 3 times a year?  And the mock orange, and the buddleia, and the wisteria, and the grapes and the… and the… oh, I’m tired.   Three trips to the recycling depot.  Thank goodness it’s free on Saturday.   And I did manage to get the wisteria pruned.  And some other odd bits of cleaning.

And Fernando continues his ceiling painting.  We may become the Sistine Chapel yet.

River of Muscari?

River of Muscari?

This was a bag of bulbs labelled ‘A River of Muscari’ and contained about 50 bulbs.  However, I think that to create a river you would want to have about 250 bulbs.  Chalk this up to experience and things you have to know when you have big garden.  I have known for some that there is no point planting just one of anything.  You need at least a dozen of anything, except perhaps bushes and trees.   Tulips are better by the hundred.  Day lilies by the trio, minimum.  At least a dozen lilies of whatever variety.  Hostas, peonies, all those things.  I bought only one of each of the tree peonies last week.  Hopefully they will grow to a sufficient size to justify their oneness.  However, I usually get multiples of rhododendrons and even roses.

It’s a big garden!

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