In March 2010, Nic and Stef bought some land in Pemberton. And in October 2011 they found they were expecting a baby. Now they just have to build a house... and a home!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Best Christmas Present Ever

While we're spending all this time building a house, we've also, behind the scenes, been planning to fill our family home with a little more family. After 2 years of 'trying' we've finally got me up the duff :) We're expecting a baby to join us in July! This is extremely exciting (obviously!) and also provides a handy new deadline for the move in date. Stef keeps wandering around the house with a whole new perspective, he says: things look different when you imagine a little kiddie running around inside. We'll need a protective fence or something around the stove. And kiddie locks on the sliding doors. And it's going to be wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Merry Christmas everyone!

This is us practicing parenthood with the cat, Floosie.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Our 'spark' has come around to walk us through where all the light switches, electrical outlets, cable, and light fixtures should go. Basically I have very little idea about any of this so just kept agreeing with him. But he's got great ideas and a lot of experience, so I don't feel anxious about it. He's going to put an outdoor light shining up into the main eaves that you can switch on from the front door (that will be gorgeous) and a plug outside for christmas lights (good thinking!). Here's the first installed socket, in the suite's kitchen. Very exciting.

Getting all cozy for winter...

Stef has the stove installed! This is excellent news. Not only does it look great and throw a lot of heat on his frozen fingers, but Oni says you can also make really nice coffee on it.

Here's Oni, our friend from paragliding circles, who's been Stef's right-hand-man for the past few months. Not only is he good with a hammer, but he has also equipped the house with a bar fridge, temporary dining table, 2 chairs, and a host of other comforts. That was probably my job. Thanks Oni!

Most of the windows are now in (a few are still being repaired by the company; they had broken 'flanges' -- the bits that hold the window to the walls -- so the company is replacing them).

The doors have been ordered, though they're not here yet. The sliding doors for the balconies (all 3 of them) are coming from Builders' Doors, stained the colour 'autumn gold'. This should roughly match, or at least go with, the colour of the front posts (which is Rona Stain Exterior, semi transparent, traditional cedar CD037-851... colourants S-red oxide 040; X-brown oxide 040; Y-yellow ochre 080). We decided that would be nicer than having them match the dark 'architectural brown' of the windows, especially since they're the same colour on the inside as the outside. The front door, and the door to the suite, are coming from Wood Doors Vancouver, and are shown to the left. We'll have to stain them to match too.

Finally, you can also see in these pictures some white stuff that the house has been wrapped in. This is not frost, nor Christmas wrapping paper. It's a gore-tex-like layer that allows moisture out but stops moisture from getting in. I've been contemplating making a poncho out of it for rainy days. Notice the fantastic Dupont slogan on it :)

The funny thing about the progress at this point is that everything (plumbing, wiring, window installation, exterior painting, wrapping, a few last interior walls, etc etc etc) is getting done in bits and pieces instead of batched. This is for logical reasons -- you do the work that you can reach from the scaffolding wherever it happens to be before you move it. And you can't install windows that haven't arrived yet. But it makes for somewhat frustrating work, as nothing ever gets ticked off the to-do list. It will be nice when we hit 'lock up' stage -- when all the windows and doors are in. Not only will it be warmer inside (and more secure, though that doesn't seem to have mattered at all so far - only in Pemberton can you leave tools lying around on site!) but it will also be a really nice landmark of progress.

In the meantime we have to train our cat Floosie not to munch on door frames, as she has recently taken to doing. That's fine for a rental suite, but not for the new house.

Monday, November 7, 2011

First snow

We've had our first snow flurry in Pembie today, leaving Stef anxious about the bits he won't be able to do... but I reckon there's a few weeks yet of rain mixed in with the snow. It'll get done.

Monday, October 31, 2011


We're invited to a Halloween party 3 doors down from the new build, so have decided this is the perfect time to spend a night under our new roof. We park the car in our driveway with sleeping mats and bags, then stumble over (as a witch and 1980s ski bum, guess who was who) to the party. Our hosts went all out -- a graveyard out front, spooky noises and dry ice fog. The dips were served out of cauliflower heads (looks remarkably like brains) and the punch held bobbing apples carved to look like skulls. Seriously. After energy ran low we wandered by foot back 'home' and spent the night curled up in winter bags, toasty warm. It's probably the last night we could have managed to do that -- it's just going to get colder now. Listening to the rain pour down on the roof was magic.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wood, wood, and more wood

Stef has bought a trailer for the car and a chainsaw, and has been having fun playing lumberjack in the woods, collecting firewood for our soon-to-be-installed stove. He reckons he has gathered four 'cords' over about a month, and is very, very proud of his woodpile (as men tend to be). This photo was taken in November, but it gives you an idea of it... this is about half of the total I think.

Turns out that wood gathering is a fine art. You have to know where to go (Stef aimed for abandoned logging sites, where the companies have left logs lying on the ground or in piles), and what sort of wood to get (I think fir was best? I'll have to ask Stef to remind me). Green wood won't burn, wet wood will hiss. Some wood burns too fast, some too slow. Some of it coats your chimney with soot, so you have to burn a different sort afterwards to clean out the pipes. All unexpectedly complicated.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First window

The first window has been installed! Apparently this is a difficult thing to figure out how to do. BC has a new 'rain screening' rule and regulation, which requires that a house hold up to the rain a little better than previously required. But every company that sells products for rain screening has a different methods for doing it, and they only advise you to use their products (surprise), most of which you can't even buy in BC.

Stef decided in the end to (surprise) use common sense. He's refusing to tell me the details because he wants to relax... admitedly well deserved :) The important thing is that our suite's bathroom now has a window in it. Nice!

It will also shortly have a toilet... for obvious reasons, there's a desire by the workmen (aka Stef) to have a toilet on site.

Friday, October 7, 2011


The roof is finished! Well, I say it's finished. It looks finished. Stef says it isn't, but I suspect he'll keep saying that till we move in, and possibly afterwards. The tiles are on, the skylight installed, and when it rains it stays dry inside. So that's done :)

In this pic: Eric Jandciu visiting for the weekend.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Devil in the details

All the little bits that make the project special...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stef on a hot asphalt roof

The weather has got stinking hot just in time for Stef's longest days up on the roof with black asphalt shingles under him... fun!

Here's progress as of 26 August.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Raise the roof

Roofing has begun! The asphalt tiles have arrived, and the scaffolding, and Stef is up on the roof with our friend Oni hammering it on. It should only take... a while. I guess 2 months. Stef says less than one. Any bets?

Whale of a time

We have just come back from the most ridiculously good holiday -- 10 days kayaking in the Johnstone Strait and Broughton Archipeligo. I can highly, highly recommend it.

We were sung to sleep one night by humpback whales, foraged a dinner of kelp and fish and sea asparagus, nearly had lunch on an island with a bear on it, nearly camped on an island with a bear on it, paddled past an island with an unseen but very loud cougar on it, frolicked with seals and otters and dolphins and dall's porpoises and minke whales, and saw so many eagles we got bored of pointing them out. We had cloud in the mornings to keep us cool, and sun in the afternoons to dry out our kit. One day of rain to make the rest of it seem that much better. And a frightening, awe-enspiring encounter with killer whales -- twice. I know you're suposed to stay 100 metres away, but there's little you can do when a whale decides to visit you. At 5km/hr I really cannot out-run a whale. At one point a whale swam under the back of our boats, turning sideways to check us out underwater... seriously. Another time a juvenile actually came inside a kelp bed (where it is very, very shallow) to say hello. We are told the first batch at least were resident whales (A4 pod, apparently), and they only eat fish, so that's reassuring.

Random note: the grand old matriarch of the A1 pod, one of the first whales named in the area, was called... Nicola.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Parental supervision

Mom and Dad at the site, telling us what we're doing wrong (just kidding).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cedar planks

So Stef made dinner last night, and it was awesome: new potatoes, curly kale, mange-tout, and salmon. As I'm doing dishes, I realize the salmon was BBQ'd on a cedar plank -- from the lot. What a fantastic use of spare lumber. Highly recommended.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Change of plans

A funny thing about the build that I hadn't expected -- things change. All the time. We have plans, and the builders are following the plans, and yet one closet is smaller than expected, one wall is further back. Fascinating.

Some niggles have caused problems -- a post on the back deck that didn't fit. A window where the deck railing overlapped with the glass. A roof-supporting beam that doesn't quite meet up with the roof. Some of these things are framing mistakes. Some mistakes with the building of the roof-bits. Some even with the plans themselves. None, Stef promises me, will make the building fall down. And none, to be honest, are really noticable to a non-builder like me.

One thing that has happened for the better is that the landing on the top floor became much bigger. Since this space doesn't have a window, it seemed a waste to have it languishing in as a landing. So Stef suggested we move the walls around and make the master suite bigger. So we did. As a result, there are now TWO walk-in closets (both a bit smaller than the original one, but still plenty big enough), a fractionally smaller bathroom, but a much bigger bedroom, with space for a 'sitting area' AND a place for me to do yoga. Score.

3rd floor

The third floor is up, and some of the roof! It's really shaping up now.

This video is made from 1 photo a day, from 6 June till 14 July.

And here's a still...

Window shopping

We both worked a Sunday so we could take Monday July 10th off to go window shopping... by which I really mean shopping for windows. We drove the long haul to Langley (about 3 hours from home) to see the AllWeather windows we were aiming to buy (they don't have any showrooms closer to us, and I refused to spend $15,000 without actually seeing what I'm buying. Bizarrely, the salesman tells us many people don't do this - they rely on the brochures.) It was a tiny little place, filled with windows (their own windows were of the industrial sort; not their own. Ironic). In decreasing order of fancyness, here's wood with metal cladding on the outside, vinyl with metal cladding on the outside, and plain old vinyl. We took the middle road. 'Architectural brown' on the outside, 'wicker' on the inside. They open and shut with a little windy handle. Fancy. This sort of window - the kind that opens outwards, rather than the kind that slides - seals better, so it's better for heat loss. We're getting a 'sunstop' coating put on the inside of the outer piece of glass, and a second coating on the inside of the inner piece of glass - together they'll again help with heat loss in winter, and heat protection in summer. All very complicated.

The doors, however, at AllWeather, were not as nice as we'd hoped. The ones that open outwards don't end up lying flat against the wall, and there's a giant, strange post in the centre that attaches to one of the doors. The sliding door had a vinyl track, so it looks that 'wicker' colour from the outside as well as the inside, regardless of the colour you choose. And both were just... not great.

So we went on a mission looking for doors. We tried GieNow in Richmond, then a little place (don't know what it's called, but it advertises Doors Doors Doors outside; maybe Trayler, Michael Designs Ltd?) near Ikea. They had a warehouse full of... doors (as promised; the pic shows Stef wandering through the options)... but no sliding doors. They passed us on to a place in Burnaby (name TK) that we sprinted for at the end of the day (made it there with literally 3 minutes to spare). And they have LOVELY doors. I mean, really, really nice ones. Wood. The sliding ones glide like magic. The handles are nice. Everything is nice. Even the mozzie netting is nice.

We've ordered the windows. Now we just have to decide whether we want sliding doors (lockable in multiple locations, space saving, convenient mozzie screens) or French opening ones (somehow a bit fancier, but they'll blow in the wind, you have to have them entirely open or closed, and the mozzie netting is a pain). We keep changing our minds. At $2000 a pop, you don't want to get it wrong!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


We've had plenty of visitors these past few weeks... my best friend Stacey, in town from Singapore, with her baby Calyn. Mom and Dad. And even my brother, his wife and their little girl (my niece). It's been interesting to see their reactions... people generally gulp and stare with their mouths open and don't know what to say, other than things like: uh, it took us a few months to renovate our kitchen. I think they're slightly shocked by the size of the project (and/or the house). But of course they all think it's beautiful too :) I've started asking everyone to sign the entry wall. It will get plastered over one day, but I can take a photo before that happens. Interestingly, Arnold Shwartzenager seems to have signed it too. Not sure how that happened.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pemberton at a glance

On the weekend we hiked up past the waterfall to the top of the cliff (Pemberton's local version of the Grouse Grind. Stef suggests we call it the Pemberton Plod).

Here's the view from up there, to help you find your way around.

2nd floor

Is up! Apparently the roof will be on by Friday (!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Floor plans

So you can get a feel for the 'guts' of the place, here are the floor plans.

And an artist's impression of what it might look like. But we won't have such fussy windows or siding - it's going to be a simpler, cleaner look in the end. But it's this shape!

Friday, June 10, 2011

One floor, two days

This movie shows the ground floor going up, in a record 2 days...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Movie madness

Not sure if this will work... here's a video made up of one shot per day, from when we started in late April, to early June. Basically it shows some blasting and the creation of a very nice gravel driveway!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A room with a view

The walls have now been put up on the ground floor, and the concrete flooring has been poured (this was delayed a few times because of rain). Now it really is starting to look like a house. You can go inside (the concrete dries in just a few hours, so you can walk on it surprisingly soon) and wander around, pretending to wash dishes at the sink or sit on a sofa. And the view, though of course it has always been there, looks different now that it's framed by a window (here is Stef looking through the window of the smaller suite bedroom).

I still haven't seen Ricardo's team actually at work. I imagine there must be a thousand small elves to make it all happen so quickly. Every time we swing by the site in the evening Ricardo is there with his wife, swinging a hammer or knocking out a bit of cement. I'm not sure why. Perhaps he has too much work on at the moment so has to work nights.

The concrete floor was poured over two days. On Tuesday they poured the bit in the suite. But because the forecast called for rain, Stef asked them to delay pouring in the garage. This is because the rain can ruin the 'fine finish' (if concrete can be thought to have a fine finish) on the surface of the concrete. This doesn't matter for the suite, where we'll be putting cheap flooring on top of the concrete anyway. But it matters for the garage, where the concrete is the floor, period. Stef says that practically everyone on the street has cracks in their garage floor, so he's trying hard to prevent that (not that it really matters) by compacting the gravel underneath "like a crazy person". Turns out that the pour is slightly thin at the back end of the garage, where Stef's workshop will be. It's still level, so I didn't understand why 'thin' was a problem -- turns out that thin concrete is more likely to crack. I'll keep you posted if any cracks appear.

A truck also came and delivered some huge, scary looking metal beams, of the sort you see in office-block construction. These will hold up the next two floors, and could be installed within a week or two.

Meanwhile the interior walls of the ground floor still need to be put in. When they poured the concrete foundations, they stuck metal screws in the concrete, so the wood for the walls slots onto that and gets bolted on. That's how it all hangs together. Just like meccano.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Going up...

The ground floor is being framed! Ricardo's boys did this in one day.

Here's the view from the street, showing off our 'bouldering wall' and newly constructed wall for planters.

And here's our front yard, and view, on a sunny June evening... (7pm). You can just see the waterfall on the far right.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Striking gold

Our neighbour is convinced that we have gold nuggets on our property. Cool. Stef is equally convinced that it's fool's gold, which is a shame, but at least means the building can continue uninterrupted.

The sewage piping is done and tested for leaks (Stef stuck an inflatable bladder in the pipe and filled it with water, and then you watch and make sure the water level doesn't go down, which it didn't. I'm not sure how he gets the bladder back out again though...). They filled in the foundations with gravel, and moved all the big boulders down to street level to make planters for us, levelling out the front yard. So you can now really see what the lot is going to look like when it's finished. The gardens are surprisingly big (yay). It's just gorgeous.

The plan is to lay concrete for the ground-level floor on Friday, and then the framing -- ie putting up the wooden walls -- starts on Monday. It's all happening so quickly, it's astonishing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Waterfall walk

Here are some photos, taken by Sony Falardeau, from our walk up to the waterfall above our house. It takes about 30 min from our house to get here:

You can see our lot from the falls.

And here we are at the top, trying not to fall off the slippy rocks.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Working weekend

Stef spent the weekend plumbing in the sewage for the suite. Is this a sign of things to come? (Working weekends, I mean, not sewage).

I spent Saturday 'suporting' him by doing the crossword on the lot and taking pictures. It is lovely up there... sunny and with the gentle rush of a waterfall in the background... wonderful.

Stef the plumber hard at work carrying pipes up the driveway, as seen from our soon-to-be-front-lawn.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pre-building traumatic stress disorder (PBTSD)

I have just realized that I am emerging from a bout of what I will hence-forth think of as Pre-building traumatic stress disorder (PBTSD) (otherwise known as Post-planning traumatic stress disorder – same thing). I realized this when Stef picked up the phone over lunch today and said ‘Hi Ricardo’, and mentioned something about I-beams or frames or concrete, and I experienced only a tiny upwards lurching of my intestines. This felt like a very minor reaction, for which I congratulated myself. It was only then I realized just how antsy the anticipation to the build had made me, and why, exactly, this blog sat dormant for over an ENTIRE YEAR with nary an update. It is, you see, because I was in the grips of trauma. All the unknowns, the sheer, gigantic, incomprehensible size of the task ahead, with a basically-pretend budget and no to-do-lists in sight, was giving me absolute conniption fits. Every time Stef said ‘we really should discuss the house’ my guts did a summersault and all I heard in my head was a very loud voice (mine) going ‘LA LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!’, after which my flight-or-fight instinct kicked in and sent me fleeing to the bathtub, door locked, where I could curl into a small ball, whimper, suck my thumb and wait for it to pass.

Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad. But nearly.

Now, however, I feel pretty hunky dory. Like when a door slams and a Vietnam vet just experiences a slight tightening of the shoulders, rather than flattening onto the floor. I can express my feelings without having a panic attack, and even write about it in my blog.

I don’t know why. There is still a nearly-pretend budget and a massive task ahead. But now I can see things actually getting done, as if by magic so far as I’m concerned, with some minor hiccups but nothing major, and it all feels more human and manageable. When I give talks in front of hundreds of people, my guts similarly seize the night before. But once on stage, once the words come out, I gain confidence and feel fine. Indeed, one might argue, I gain hubris and feel invincible… which isn’t necessarily a good thing for the project (either a lecture or a build), but it’s better for my state of health. And requires less self-medication through alcohol.

All that said, I have a nagging feeling that Stef might be about to come down with a case of Building Traumatic Stress Disorder. Obviously he’s the one on site, making things happen ‘as if by magic’ which of course is actually ‘as thanks to all his hard work’. I hope he can celebrate the milestones as they pass, and feel proud of all the groundwork he has done to make it all happen so smoothly. But the stress will mount for him. So I hereby declare that I will do my utmost to support him and prevent a full-on bout of conniptions, which I can testify aren’t nice.

Many people told us to make sure we had room in our budget for marriage counselling (ha! No really, they meant it). During the planning, we did have argument-like-debates about whether we really needed a designer or could do it ourselves, or how big the house should be, etc. But now that’s all settled, I’m happy to trust Stef with all the decisions, and the argument-like-events have disappeared. Perhaps they will reappear once we have to settle on kitchen cabinets. But I’m going to bet that we’re the first couple ever for whom the planning was stressful but the build was fine. Until we run out of money, anyway :) (no, really)

Friday, May 20, 2011

A penny for luck

The foundations were poured today [Friday 20th], and I have managed to convince Stef to press a Canadian penny, minted 2011, into the concrete. He put it just under the front door – a lovely touch, I thought. This should bring us good fortune for years to come, according to my vague memories of Chinese tradition (read: according to something I just made up). It sounds good, anyway.

Foundations, for those who don’t know, are the concrete bits that underlie all the important, load-bearing walls. I had imagined that they would pour a giant slab in the shape of the house, but instead they went around building wooden forms in the exact shape of all the walls, so you end up with a mini concrete model of your house plan, all dug a foot or two into the gravelly ground. I’m not sure if this is done for structural reasons or because it saves on money for concrete… perhaps both.

All has gone well except for two small things. Well, maybe three. Four?

Stef noticed (before the concrete was poured) that some of the walls were a bit out, by a quarter of an inch here, but 3.5 inches over there… He pointed it out and asked Ricardo to change it, which Ricardo very pleasantly did. No harm no foul. But after a few such incidents Ricardo started having second thoughts about the project, saying that maybe he had too much work on after all to take on the framing of our house; maybe he doesn’t want to do it.

But, with builders as with ex-es, never start dishing dirt until you know it’s well and truly over. Come Monday Ricardo was still on site, and he’s now full-throttle towards framing. This is good, because it will get done quickly and cheaply and by someone who comes with great references. But it’s also awkward, because Stef is perhaps more of a perfectionist than him, and rushing doesn’t fit well with that. We’ll see how it all pans out.

Problem number two is a leftover from the naughty excavators – turns out there was a hole in the sewage pipe (eeeeew). It’s not connected to anything yet, obviously, but a leak under the house would have been very bad news. Stef checked it on advice from our next door neighbours, and had them come and fix it. Sorted. Good thing that happened before the next phase, which is filling in the concrete frame with gravel and then pouring a slab of concrete flooring on top. Imagine trying to fix something lying under all that…

Problem three is a ‘big unknown’. On the weekend we went for a hike up to our local, un-named waterfall (we found an even better viewpoint than one we had seen before. It’s astonishing what’s in our backyard), and ran into local Pembertonian and paraglider Sony up there. That’s the second time, coincidentally, that I have run into Sony on a hike. Anyway, we could see the lot from our perch high on the cliff, and Sony mentioned that when he was round at our neighbours’ the other day (for Bible class apparently), his landlord, friend and former building inspector, who was also there, started clucking and sighing and making all manner of noises. “At this point, we should be taking pictures, because they have the makings of a lawsuit on their hands,” he said, apparently. This has us confused, unless he means the shoddy work of the excavators (previously mentioned). So it is a mystery hanging over us till we manage to get him on the phone. It’s probably nothing. Just a fun reminder that everyone loves to gossip about a big build.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fast forward to foundations

Things are progressing at an astonishing pace and with very few hiccups, leaving me open-mouthed and very happily excited. Stef actually said in the car the other day that he’d have us living in our own rental suite “by the end of the year”. Astonishing.

We got our final ‘approval to build’ from the Benchlands’ aesthetics committee on Thursday 5 May (maybe the 18 months starts then?). Horrah! They were previously disturbed by the lurid colour of green that Stef had used on the digital plans (it was one of the 6 greens offered by his paint programme; not exactly what we plan to paint the house), but quickly put to ease.

In the meantime, the digger and blaster boys did a good job giving us a driveway area and excavating where we’re going to build, though a bit more of the nice featury bluff of boulders at the front got taken away than Stef was hoping/expecting. (“I kept saying: ‘to here. No further.’ Then I’d come back and more would be gone!”) But this is a minor issue, and it has left us with lots of nice chunky boulders to scatter around the yard or at the front, to prop up little landscaping beds. They also managed to: overcharge for the use of machinery, by doing stupid things like having a digger and only one truck to take stuff away one day (so the digger had to wait while the truck drove) and then a digger and three trucks the next (so the trucks sat around with nothing to do); nick some of our precious trees by sorting the rubble into different size classes (not sure why they did that) and piling them up too close to said trees; install a too-small water pipe, though thankfully our neighbour Roger pointed out that this wasn’t to code and they fixed it. So things weren’t perfect, but basically this just gave Stef something to do and made him feel needed (kidding), and in the end the final product is fine, which is what counts.

Stef has hired a framer (who he has variously been calling Eduardo and Ricardo for the past week, totally not knowing what his name was and both of us finding this hilarious. Turns out he is Ricardo and his son is Eduardo, and he doesn’t care what we call him so long as we pay). He worked on the house down the street and comes with good recommendations, and had the cheapest quote by far, so that was one of those easy decisions that we need to cherish (though it left Stef in agonies for a while over whether he should have done the framing himself. This is silly, though, as just hiring a few helpers would have cost as much and wouldn’t come with the same tools or expertise). Ricardo/Eduardo is going to work solidly through the weekend and Stef should be pouring foundations by next week. Astonishing.

We keep having silly moments of angst about the plans (Stef: will the deck be big enough? Is it unfair that one of the ‘kiddie’ bedrooms is so much nicer than the other, with vaulted ceiling and south-facing view and a mini balcony? What if the kids fall off the balcony? Me: Is there room for the dining table? Is there enough kitchen storage area? Will I be okay sharing a closet with Stef?). These, of course, are stupid questions. It will be a lovely house, and all will be well. Stef has decided to move the front balcony out by two feet (bigger is always better for decks in my view). But it’s not all angst. We also have sweet dreams of a picnic table on the front lawn, and a fire pit in the back, and a pile of wood under the deck stairs, and a cold-frame for plants on the front deck, and a veggie garden by the driveway, and a little wooden seat out on the rock with the waterfall view…

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A year later: Permission to build

Apologies for the (extremely long) hiatus. After blowing our June deadline last year (that's when we had optimistically thought we could submit our plans for our permit) we decided to put it off until the next spring (otherwise, if you start building too late in the summer, you end up with snow falling on your house before you have the roof on). The delay was a good idea. Stef got a job on a crew building someone else's house from the ground up, which means he got actual experience in putting in foundations, framing, and everything else, before doing it 'for real'. So that was good. And it gave us time to hash out the final details on the plan.

To be honest, I have had very little to do with it all for a while now. I've left the nitty gritty details in Stef's hands, and since I don't really know what an I-beam is or how trusses work, it's just frustrating for everyone involved if Stef tries to explain it to me. But this is good. Stef has a full time job working it all out, and I can avoid the stress by just avoiding it entirely. Eventually this is bound to catch up with us (like when I realize that the plans have changed and the house is missing a room, or something, and it's too late to pipe up.) But for now it seems to work.

So come March (2011) Stef had the plans all finalized, and submitted to the city for permission to build. Then I jetted off to Tanzania for 2 weeks on my own (work bought the ticket) leaving Stef to do some soapstone carving (he's amazingly talented at this - I reckon it's our gravy train) and fret about starting the build. Just when I got back the permit arrived (on Tuesday, 19 April, for the record). And immediately (the very next day) the blasters arrived to start blowing back the rock, so Stef can put in a driveway and the foundations. How exciting!

Stef has bought a wildlife camera - a digital camera, fed by a pack of AAs, that can be strapped to a tree and has a camoflagued, locked casing, and which can be programmed to take pictures either when it senses movement or, in our case, every 5 minutes or so (we thought about this one and this one, but got this one). In this way we'll get a stop-frame photo montage of the house being built! I argued for one picture an hour, but Stef convinced me that more is better. If this takes 18 months, we'll have about 80,000 photos to contend with. Golly.

But there's plenty to do in the meantime. Though we have a building permit from the city, we still don't technically have permission from the people who own the development, who need to approve our design for general issues of style and taste. We don't anticipate this will be a problem. But they're asking us what colour we want it to be (apparently 'green' wasn't specific enough. We've settled now on 'cushing green', which my computer screen shows as grey, but really it's green). Not sure what colour the roof, windows, doors and garage will be... but do they really, really care? Amazing.

Over Easter weekend we went ski touring - the Spearhead traverse, from Blackcomb to Whistler in 3 days - which was a great way to forget about the build for a bit (no time to think, at all, during the grueling uphill hikes, sun-baked glacial views, and general exhaustion!). Between that, the arrival of spring (including frogs at night and hummingbirds by day), my recent African safari and the Big Build, I can't decide what to think about in any given moment. My brain flits from one adventure to the next, and I definitely can't keep my mind on work...