June 27, 2020
After returning to Canada on June 17th, Jinhee, Megan and I packed up all of our stuff from storage into a truck (Andrew helped load the truck because I couldn’t I touch anything but our boxes and was never more than 10 feet from the truck). We then drove straight to Milhaven to catch a ferry to our new home. The featured image above is the view from the back door when we arrived. Ahhhhh. Isolation.
The previous owners left us a home that is beautiful, meticulously cared for and just enough furniture (all pre-arranged) to help us enjoy the house from day one. Of course this is amazing because buying furniture is turning out to be one of our largest challenges.
By now, most everything we own is packed away, Jinhee and Megan have offices setup and have been working as hard as ever while I work on understanding the features of the property and getting the grounds in shape. It is worth noting that this is almost six acres of beautifully manicured lawn and trees. I don’t own a lawn mower or any other equipment and I can’t leave the property!
Did I say that I can’t leave the property? Well that is true, but I have admittedly ridden my bike off of the property, but there has been zero contact with anything but the bike and the minimal population here means that I have seen about 30 cars in total in four bike rides. The key is that I can’t go shopping or introduce myself to the neighbours over a cold beverage. Funny enough, yesterday, they put Kingston on a higher level of alert because a nail salon spread COVID-19 to a bunch of people. There has also been one case at a construction site on the island and so that project (ferry terminal construction) was shut down.
Given those restrictions, much of my time has been spent unpacking, cleaning and working on the grounds. Two of the features of the property that inspired us to buy it (other than the beautiful house/garage) is the park like setting of lawn and trees, all fed by an irrigation system and the very, very well built dock.
The irrigation system covers almost the entire six acres with about 100 watering heads. The system is huge . . . it has it’s own building at the docks. After contemplating the system for a couple of days and looking at the bills to get the local guy to come in and start it up, I decided I would try to get things going myself. I am stuck here for two weeks and it’s just a pump, some plumbing and a watering controller. How hard can it be?
The photo below is me in the process of taking everything apart to make some ‘adjustments’. Megan (the only engineer in the family, I just pretend to be smart) went to the plumbing store for me to get some bits to add a priming circuit to the pump as it takes a lot to pull the water up from the lake.
In any case, after a few days of tinkering, chasing down electrical circuits and Megan’s visit to the plumbing store, I was able to start up the irrigation system and the lawn is now being watered. (The secret was that the plumbing down to the lake had to be primed. It took a lot of water, and the priming circuit made a big difference.)
When we saw the property in winter, the dock area was iced in, but there was a lot of gravel in the dock area, and it wasn’t clear how much water was in the docks during the summer. Given that water levels drop during the year, I assumed that I would have to dredge out the dock area, and turns out I am quite right. This is what it looked like in the winter . . . no water for a boat there. (You can see the irrigation building on the dock too!)
Having sent Jinhee and Megan in search of a shovel and a bucket (now it is six buckets so I don’t have to climb up and down as often), I was committed to cleaning out enough of the gravel/rocks to at least let a canoe or a kayak into the dock area. I have now moved a few hundred buckets of rock out of the way and it looks like we can fit a kayak in the dock area. Interestingly, the stormy weather over the past few days brought in a lot of algae/seaweed which has mostly been shovelled out as well. I think the next few months will provide a great deal of exercise as I remove more and more rock to make way for a boat perhaps next summer. Who needs a gym membership? A shovel, a ladder and a lot of rocks is a great workout.
We have been enjoying a lot of the residents and visitors from the animal world. The range of birds here is remarkable. Far greater than I have seen in any other place that I have lived I think (perhaps not more than on the boat though, I see a lot of variety there).
Digging out that dock area involved saving a chipmunk who has been down there a long time without any way to escape. That little guy is now happily digging holes in our lawn!
The rocks in the dock area meant that the back corner of the docks had a large pool of standing water and this was amazing for the four frogs who took up residence there and probably a few million mosquitoes. By opening up a path for water to get to that back corner, I have destroyed their happy home of fetid water and algae. As of yesterday all of them appear to have moved on.
I would like to say that the frogs moved on to a new home, but I have also discovered that these waters are being scoured by at least two Northern Watersnakes. Now for all of you who may be afraid of snakes, these snakes don’t really bite, and are so afraid of humans that I had difficulty getting a photograph from dozens of feet away.
This picture (below) shows two interesting things. First, I took this picture very, very close to where the picture of the frogs was taken; implying that the frogs may have become food for the snakes. (Nature is very unforgiving, so no, I don’t feel bad). The other thing is that in the time it took for me to take the picture below you can see the ripples in the water, but the head of the snake had already turned, underwater and was near it’s tail. That snake was gone in less than one second, once it saw me taking the picture. It really doesn’t want to be anywhere near a human, so no worries about swimming around here.
The other visitor has been made famous by Disney, it’s Bambi’s mom. Jinhee and I have seen two Bambi’s on the road (while riding the tandem) as well, but the probable mother has toured our yard twice in the past week, even stopping to examine us with great interest. This is the best I could do on photos. By the time I had a camera ready, she was long gone.
Jinhee and Megan have been carrying all of the real burden here. Shopping is a real outing, with a ferry ride (leaves the island on the hour) then a drive to Kingston, fill the car with all the things you can think of, then a ferry ride back (leaves the mainland on the half hour). I am confined here, so they work all day, then go shopping and get back, literally exhausted from shopping.
This is made worse when they have to discern my needs for gardening tools or plumbing supplies, etc. By Thursday I will be able to make these trips, but for now, they have had to shop for many basics like ingredients, kitchen implements, small appliances, and furniture among other things.
We did give away, sell or throw away almost everything we owned when we sold the Oakville house and bought the boat three years ago. This is a great opportunity to do it again, right, if not right away.
We have enough to keep us sane while COVID ravages the country, but soon we will need to buy key furniture like a couch, bedroom furniture, proper dining chairs, lamps, etc. For now, we can make toast, waffles and coffee and sit around the table or at a desk and work. And we have a fridge full of beer and a cupboard full of chips . . . what else do you need to get by?
Home Free (the boat) is put to bed in Chesapeake, VA and I will head back down there at some point during the summer (if the US gets their COVID response aligned with the rest of the world; right now it is getting more dangerous, not less). Given the increasing number of cases in the US, it looks like cruising for the summer is just a bad idea. This will bring up many other problems later in the year but for now health overrides boat issues (my UK flagged boat has to leave the US by early December).
We will keep everyone updated here throughout the summer, but for now, we are enjoying this very pleasant version of isolation.