Sunday, August 23, 2009

Our secret weapon in cottage maintenance

We always arrive at our hundred-year-or so old cottage in May with great ambitions about how much we're going to accomplish that summer.

And we do. But we always forget that when you're working on this old a wood-frame house, with old plumbing, old electrical, old everything, it's often two steps forward, one step back.

But we have a secret weapon in our arsenal.

Cousin Brett.

Thank God for us that Brett has an equal affection for the old place -- and capabilities to match.

When my good friend Beth Tucker came in four years ago to help me sort through my mom's things and make a space for us to live, Brett helped us (or rather, we helped him) remodel the downstairs bathroom, encouraging us to use as many hand-me-downs and scavenged materials as possible.

That's why the bathroom vanity is an old porcelain covered cast iron sink we discovered sitting outside the local recycle store, which he cut into an enamel covered baker's helper cabinet that we discovered down in our cellar. (The cellar is another story).

When Brett pulled the old paneling from one wall in the bathroom, we discovered the original window between what is now the cellar stairs and the 'new' bathroom (and what used to be a porch). No need to cover up the window, he thought. Just do something with glass and we can use it as ambient light at night.

So that sent me hustling off to Corning (of Corning Glass fame) to work with a glass artist, who helped me locate a close-to-exact old window which I covered with glass pieces to create a flower with vase night light.

This Sunday, when someone tried to put their foot (followed by the rest of them) through the rotted wood hatch that covers our 1,000 gallon water cistern under the dining room floor, we had Brett on our 911 speed dial.


As usual, he had a perfect piece of old cherry wood that he nabbed when someone was throwing out an old cherry table. Within days, we had a new, improved, beautiful hatch over the cistern, complete with a brass lift-ring so we no longer have to pry the hatch open with a screwdriver.

How perfect!

It even matches the multi-colored green cabinet that has been sitting next to the cistern for decades, something that my grandfather built to use as a tool cabinet.

(For those of you who are hoping to capitalize on Brett's carpentry expertise, sorry. He's a professional musician, The Brett Beardslee Trio, and values his digits too much to continue working with Very Sharp Objects).

The biggest project for us and greatest satisfaction this year was opening up the view in front of the house, something we had been hoping to do for years. We clear cut a dozen trees that had cropped up between us and the lake. Now we can just about see to Geneva, more than 20 miles north of us.

We're heading home to California this week, back to the university to refill the bank accounts and share our wisdom and expertise with our students.

In the meantime, we've asked Arnold the Wonder Dog to stay in the house and guard it for us. He's agreed, so he and Brad will be on sentry duty starting this week. We can rest assured the house will be safe from all woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks and skunks for the duration.

Thanks, Arnold!

No comments: