Canada Day at Boo Manor!

We finally moved in to Boo Manor at the end of May. Although, truth be told, I have yet to spend as many nights in Boo Manor as I have spent away. But I’m working on it.

Our first holiday weekend (that didn’t involve moving cats, clothes and foodstuffs) was this past weekend. Apparently, Canada Day is a big deal in Innerkip. Certainly the local events calendar would imply as much: parade, beer gardens, slow-pitch tournament, a firefighters’ breakfast and a soap box derby, to name but a few of the events on the weekend calendar. You can pretty much be busy from the time you wake to well past the time that you should have been in bed.

The long weekend was also the first weekend in a good long while for Dianne and I to just stop and unwind. Which meant that by 9:00am on Saturday morning, we had done very little indeed. I was having coffee, the cats were fed, and it was as yet unclear whether Dianne was even a wake. A few minutes later, however, the phone rang; Gene was inviting us over to watch the parade from their place. When did it start? “10:00am.” And how late can we actually get through and be able to park in their driveway? “Oh… around 5 minutes to 10 should be fine, but if you’re later you can probably just tell the cop blocking the road that you’re going to that driveway right there.”

Five minutes before the parade. The main drag is still astonishingly quiet.

Five minutes before the parade. The main drag is still astonishingly quiet.

Dianne went from zero to caffeinated with remarkable speed, and we were actually out the door at about 9:45am. Which had us pulling in Gene’s driveway at about 9:47am. It really doesn’t take long to get anywhere in this town. We were, in fact, the first ones to arrive.

It's time to get this party started.

It’s time to get this party started.

For a 10:00am parade, things were awfully laid back. People started drifting to the roadway to take up a viewing position a few minutes before the hour. The OPP officer that was there to block traffic finally pulled up to the side of the road about 2 minutes to 10:00am. And sure enough, at 10:01 am, he pulled out across the road to block traffic for the duration of the parade.

An entirely creative maple leaf, made of vegetable boxes.

An entirely creative maple leaf, made of vegetable boxes.

The parade was a delightful mix of floats, vehicles, marchers, bicycles, firetrucks, tractors and just about anything else that you could imagine wheeling or walking down the main thoroughfare. I’m not entirely sure what the criteria are to march in the parade, but I imagine they are fairly liberal. There were ancient tractors spewing exhaust. Antique cars ferrying local MPs. Local folk driving their hotrods and pickups. Kids on bicycles. Floats that ranged from the amusingly hilarious to the hilariously amusing.

He's going to be awfully tired by the end of the parade, I fear.

He’s going to be awfully tired by the end of the parade, I fear.

Impressively, Innerkip has a bagpipe and drum corps.

The local bagpipe and drum corps. With kilts and aviator shades.

The local bagpipe and drum corps. With kilts and aviator shades.

We also saw Oxford County’s Queen of the Furrow (aboard a tractor advertising the Oxford County Plowmen’s upcoming plowing match in July). And a local farm had very creatively assembled a giant maple leaf out of vegetable boxes.

The Queen of the Furrow. That would be a farming reference, just to be clear.

The Queen of the Furrow. That would be a farming reference, just to be clear.

The highlight for many of the kids along the route was the firetruck that came at the end of the parade. The local fire brigade’s pumper, it featured a member of the volunteer fire department wielding a very active fire hose. Many of the local children gleefully went out of their way to get as completely and utterly soaked as possible, and within minutes looked like drowned rats—ecstatic drowned rats that were eager for more.

A firehose, an mused fireman and eager children. What could possibly go wrong?

A firehose, an mused fireman and eager children. What could possibly go wrong?

A little while later, and the parade receded into the distance, wet pavement and the odd popsicle left in its wake. It was a pretty awesome welcome to the local community, and a hilarious way to start the weekend. Innerkip may be small, but it has a massive amount of community spirit, and it isn’t afraid to show it.

And that about wraps it up for another year. The parade recedes in the distance.

And that about wraps it up for another year. The parade recedes in the distance.

And We Have A Dining Room

The dining room has been an on-going source of uncertainty since we bought Boo Manor. Not that we didn’t know it was a dining room. Just that we weren’t sure what to do with it.

We had the cabinet from the kitchen refinished over the winter, and that would serve as an anchor for the dining room. It had been stained a rich, medium brown and had turned out fabulously. The colour fit the room well, and the cabinet had the weight and stature necessary to hold the room together.

This defined the essence of our problem: the dining room is huge. Probably about 16 feet wide and 20 feet long (and with six-and-a-half doors in it, must to complicate things a little more). Not just any dining room table was going to work here; it would need to be something of stature.

We had a dining room table and chairs, of course. But they were in storage, and had been for nearly two years. We didn’t know the dimensions of the table, all we knew was that it was oak, had four leaves and would not work in its current colouring (it was natural, unstained and far too light for the new dining room). The thinking was to wait and see how it looked in the dining room, and if it was big enough then we would get it refinished as well.

Come moving day, once we were finally reunited with our old table, the answer quickly became clear: there was no way that the table would work. It was almost embarrassingly small, sort of like it was the little kids’ table in the adult dining room. There was no amount of refinishing that would actually make it work.

So began the hunt for a new dining room table. We wanted something with a rustic feel to it, because the house—while formal—was still a farmhouse. The table needed to have presence, and it needed to be big enough not to be swallowed up by the room. Our original thought had been to search out some of the mennonite furniture builders in the area, in that their furniture was of the style we were looking for and we might be able to find something in the size we needed.

As luck would have it, however, during a trip to Toronto we happened to see a television ad for an imminent sale at Stoney Creek Furniture. We’d been there before, and had ordered a couple of chairs and both of our desks from them. They had good furniture, good service, and they were offering 40% off anything on the showroom floor.

And now we have a respectable looking dining room table.

And now we have a respectable looking dining room table.

At 8:20am that Saturday morning we walked in their front door. By 8:30am we had found our table. There were really only two prospects, and the first was still too small. The second table we saw, however, was perfect. It had a trestle base, and a hand scraped finish that reflected the rustic feel we were going for. And the chairs were immensely comfortable. Apparently, the table had only come in the previous month; in normal circumstances, it wouldn’t have been on sale. But when you put everything on your showroom floor up for sale, even the new stuff comes under the category of ‘everything’.

A table of substance! No longer the little kids' table in the big persons' dining room.

A table of substance! No longer the little kids’ table in the big persons’ dining room.

The dining room was one of the last rooms we had to finish. We’re pleased to say that it is looking well finished indeed.

My Mike Holmes Moment

Well, it finally happened. I had a ‘Mike Holmes moment’ of my very own here at Boo Manor.

You know the drill. Mike Holmes descends on a hapless couple in a helpless house that desperately needs fixing. The small problem that started it all soon leads to larger problems, and then the crowbars come out. Rip down a few walls, and the really big problems emerge. Then Mike Holmes manages a sincere look of sympathy for the camera, and says, “I’d better go talk to the homeowners.” That look is always very, very expensive.

Through much of the renovations, we have in fact been very fortunate. Sure there was the infestation of raccoons in the garage, and the rotted corpses they left behind. And there was the 10-foot wide room that managed to have a floor be three inches off level. And wallpaper was discovered under the paint in the dining room—as we started painting—meaning that the wallpaper needed to be removed, the walls needed to be skim coated and the room had to be repainted. But really, in the grand scheme of things, these are the problems you expect to encounter. Or at least, you should.

Finally, however, I found myself in the basement of the old house having a conversation that will sound very, very familiar to frequent viewers of Home & Garden TV. It started when Jason, the furnace guy (and he actually calls himself the furnace guy) was charging up the cooling system for the wine cellar. He had 15 minutes or so on his hands, and happened to hear our nearly-new furnace sounding a little unhappy, and decided to take a look. That’s when all the trouble started.

In the home inspection, this furnace was particularly singled out as being a fine example of the species. Brand new, two stage, with an awesome motor, it should give us years and years of happy service. Or so we were told. And this is not to fault the home inspection; everything that the inspector said was true, and they are generalists—they don’t specifically know everything there is to know about everything, and certainly aren’t experts in all things furnace.

Jason, however, is that guy. And what he saw concerned him. First, there was a cold-air-return grill directly installed on the ductwork leading to the furnace, which is usually an indication that the furnace is struggling to get enough air. A quick check of the ducting revealed that there were a lot of cold air return grills in the house, and many of them were no longer connected. At all. The intake in the furnace was much smaller than specified in the installation manual. Jumpers that should have been cut based upon our installation weren’t. And while the furnace might be appropriately sized if we were heating the entire house, it was entirely overkill in order to heat the half-side of the house it was responsible for. In fact, it was so overpowered that it was sucking the air filter into the motor.

I’ll stop there. It pains me to go on.

The question, then, was what to do about it. And the answer, apparently, was to keep the furnace but get rid of just about everything else. And so, on Monday of this week, Matt and Josh showed up as scheduled with their Tim Horton’s coffees, a boatload of sheet metal and looks of grim determination on their faces. So ensued two days of banging, crashing, hammering, sawing and more hammering, as our previous ductwork disappeared, and new ductwork took its place.

The furnace needed to be raised eight inches to put in an intake for a larger air filter. Two new cold air returns appeared in our floor. Useless cold air returns were covered up, rather than being gaping holes to the basement. Ducting to the outlets was upgraded to six inches. New outlets were created out of old and not-used cold air returns. And the result, two days later, was a magical transformation of the old basement from something scary and slightly hideous to a new, clean, relatively modern-looking heating system.

A few dip switch settings later, and Jason the furnace guy deemed us good to go. Our super-duty furnace had been dumbed down to a much more moderate heating unit, with appropriately sized ducting and sufficient return air for the furnace not to starve.

The moral of this story is that furnaces need to breathe, just like we do. Smother them, and they’re going to desperately try to suck air as well. If you have heating problems, that doesn’t mean that the problem is your furnace, it may be your ducting. A bigger furnace will not solve the problem, and it will likely fail faster because it has to work harder, ironically, to do the same job as a smaller furnace. You need an appropriately-sized appliance for the ducting that you have, and the ducting will tell you how big the appliance will be.

Which is really good to know, because now we’ve been told that the air conditioner in the old house has finally died as well.

Still Here

Wow. Then that happened. And that. And that. And that.

When last you heard from us, we had just finished moving day (part 1), and the repatriation of all of our stuff from storage. Some of which we remembered, some of which we did not, and some of which just plain confused us.

What has past since has been a whirlwind of unpacking, more deliveries, scratching our heads about where things should go, deciding, undeciding, business travel, more unpacking, and trying to find normal on the other side. As you might infer, I’m not sure that we are all the way there yet.

But we are still here, and so is the site. It’s now transitioning, in a way. We built it to share the story of renovating Boo Manor. But now we are in, and getting settled, and there are still lots of stories to be told. So going forward , the site will focus on living in and maintaining a 140 year old house. In a small town. While leading busy(ish) lives. And did I mention maintenance?

Stay tuned.