Watercolour classes

River's Edge
Watercolour river scene

Sarah & I signed up to take an evening watercolour class. We had the first class 3 1/2 weeks ago. Due to a power outage & an unspecified reason the next two classes were cancelled. We’ll catch up on those by having a couple extra classes after the end of the regular class schedule.

Prior to the first class I had never painted with watercolour. I’ve been trying painting something each weekend. I’ve been trying lots of techniques & experimenting with different brushes.

The painting above is what I did this weekend. The green around the edge is tape which I have since removed. Adding the tape gives you a nice crisp border.

I’m not anywhere near being an expert yet but I am really enjoying it. It will serve me well as a “away from the computer” hobby each week 🙂

Home again

January went by fast. Part of the reason for that was that both Andrea & I had a nasty cold that lasted two weeks between the two of us. In my last post I mentioned we had rented a space big enough for all of us. I didn’t mention that it was barely big enough for all of us in that it’s the upper floor of a small house.

We went from 19 rooms in Lakeville to six here. The kitchen which is an okay size for a kitchen serves as both a kitchen and laundry room. The living room is serving triple duty as a workspace/office, dining & living room. Our bedroom had a dresser serving double duty as a standup desk for my development server & as a small sewing area for Andrea.

Needless to say we didn’t rent it with the intention of staying longer than the one year. In addition to being quite cramped we picked the area which would give Meaghan the best access to potential jobs vs a location more suited to Andrea & I.

When we were looking for places to rent last year, many of the places that sounded better (size, location, etc.) for us were being listed anywhere up to six months in advance. Once we were through Christmas, I started checking for rentals that were for an entire house and in locations where we would feel more at home. Within a few days I found three houses that all looked like they might fit the bill. We signed a lease on one of them about two weeks later.

Down river

We got our keys on Thursday night and will be moving on Monday. Andrea uploaded a few pics of some of the interior. Except the last eight months, Andrea & I have had a water view of either a lake or river since 2001. Our new back yard has waterfront on the Saint John River. The two pics on the right are up & down river.

Up river

One of the things I’ve been doing over the last year has been sketching out plans for eventually building a new house. Interestingly, this house has roughly the same floor space as many of those sketches. We both expect that living in roughly the same square footage will help us with morphing those sketches into plans.

We’re both very excited to feel at home again.

2012 in Reverse

‘Tis the season for year in review posts. I didn’t write one of these last year. I thought I would change things up and cover the highlights of our year in reverse.

25th Christmas

25 roses for 25 Christmases
This Christmas was number 25 for Andrea & I. We had officially met 2-3 weeks before Christmas 1988. I gave her roses that year. This year I surprised her with 2 dozen long stemmed roses for the 24th anniversary of officially meeting.


I had a second romantic surprise for her on Christmas Day which was a sterling silver pendant with a birth stone for each of the children and grandchildren. Click through for the rest of our Christmas fun.


Sans Teenagers

In 1990, Addison turned 13 years old. This year Meaghan turned 20. We have another year or so until Emma turns 13. Time flies when you are having fun. It’s amazing for us to see our oldest three all adults, all working & seeing their lives unfold 🙂

WordPress Community Summit

In October, Andrea & I attended the WordPress Community Summit on Tybee Island, Georgia. It was our first WP community event since WordCamp Toronto in 2011. It was awesome to get together (again in many cases) with folks that we work with online in the WP Community.


Early in the year Meaghan let us know that she wanted to move to Fredericton to look for work. We rented a place for her so that she would be within walking/bus distance to business/retail areas of the city. She’s been enjoying a job at Costco for about 3 months.


We were right on hand for welcoming our second grandchild Ayla this summer. We did lots of Izzy babysitting while Mom had doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, etc. We’ve gotten used to seeing them a couple times a week. The next best thing to being a parent is being a grandparent 🙂


bannerOnce Meaghan let us know that she was planning on moving out we started thinking about 3 of us living in a five bedroom, three bathroom house with two stairways and when it would be time for us to put it on the market. We decided we wanted to start the final renovations right away. We rented a storage locker and started working our way through all of our stuff. We ended up splitting our possessions into three categories: need to keep with us, want to keep but don’t need right away & we can part with this. Moving the things we wanted to keep but didn’t need right away to a storage locker made things easier for us in a few ways. First, those items were the easiest to pick out (ex. Christmas decorations). Second, it gave us space for both renovations and sorting through the remaining stuff. Finally, it helped crystalize the line between this is something we want to keep and this is something we can part with.


One of the renovation items that had been on the list since we bought the house was cleaning up and painting six tin ceilings. Tin ceilings need an initial coat of metal paint before being painted with regular house paint. Because metal paint is solvent based, it’s not safe for breathing. That meant that we would need to vacate the house while the metal paint in each room was curing. Given that we work at home that was going to be rather disruptive. We decided that a workable solution was to rent a place for Meaghan that was big enough for all of us.

We rented the place we have now in Fredericton and had fiber optic Internet installed. Within a couple weeks we realized that the speed of our Internet connection significantly improved our work environment. By the end of June we had pretty much switched over to spending the entire work week in Fredericton.

South by Southwest

In March we went to our first SxSW and met the rest of our Copyblogger co-workers. both andrea & I love the autonomy of working for a distributed company but there is no substitute for meeting up the people you work with. We have already booked our flight and hotel for SxSW 2013.

That kinda covers the highlights of the year. We did have a setback or two, but overall a very positive year for us 🙂

Snowy Walking Trail

Yesterday morning I took the car to get winter tires installed. It started snowing around 8:30. By the time I got there they had a few hours booked so I walked back home instead of waiting. When I went back I decided to go through the walking trails in Odell park.

One down

Three coats of paint later

Today I finished the first tin ceiling. I wanted to get the one in the hallway done first because our carpenter neighbor (Vince) is doing some reno work for us. The 2x10s that I was using for staging were destined to be a carrying beam in the dining room. the span across the dining room is 18 feet and the second floor joists are 2x8s.

Office ceiling
Vince built and installed the carrying beam on Monday

Just primed (2 weeks ago)

I have two more tin ceilings partially done. Both have their coat of metal primer. The ceiling in the lower picture now has two coats of white on about 2/3 of it. The remaining 1/3 has one coat. The third ceiling looks pretty much like the lower picture except there is a ceiling fan in the center of the room.

The good news is that the latex paint goes on much faster than the metal primer. So much faster that two coats of the latex takes less time to apply than the coat of primer does. I’m hoping that by the end of next weekend I’ll have primer on a fourth ceiling and the other two ceilings completely done.

Tin ceilings

Our house has six tin ceilings circa 1900 or so. The house had been left unheated the two winters before we bought it. The combination of cold and moisture separated some of the paint from the tin ceilings.

When there were five of us living in the house it was a bit difficult to free up a room to scrape the ceiling. After Sarah moved out about 3 years ago we had been able to cycle things around and empty a room at a time. While the room was empty, we painted, repaired walls & scraped the ceiling if it was tin. One of the six rooms is one of the upstairs hallway (and stairs). To do that ceiling I needed to block off the stairs plus put some type of staging over the stairs so that I could get the ceiling above them.

In addition to picking a time to block the stairs I’ve been waiting for warm weather where we could leave the upstairs windows open for a couple days at a time. The exposed tin cannot be directly painted with latex paint. The tin needs a coat of metal primer paint. The grey areas are the areas with metal primer.

Had to prime the whole ceiling

Metal primer is solvent based so when I’m painting it gives off quite a bit of fumes. I have a respirator mask so I’m protected but that doesn’t protect anyone else in the house. Every time I paint a ceiling we vacate the house for 1-2 days while the fumes dissipate through the open windows. I’m hoping to get five of the six ceilings primed and painted this month. It is going to make for some busy weekends and few days away from home each week.

Of the six ceilings, almost all of the paint on two of them had mostly separated from the metal. I have one of those primed. It took about 5 hours with a brush. We can write a couple hours of that off to education & learning what techniques do and do not work.

Cleaning out

A week ago, Andrea wrote in her blog

Meaghan is moving out and going to Fredericton for work, so we are cleaning out all kinds of crap that I’d been keeping “just in case” When you’re down to one kid, there’s a lot you suddenly realize you don’t need any more. We’re motivated to finish up a few things on our house too, with room to shuffle around.

This weekend was a long weekend & we had a two-day yard sale. Interestingly, the most appropriate post shows up in that post’s related post list.

I never want to move all my crap again.

After that last move I had said I didn’t want to move again until the kids had all moved out. When Meaghan told us earlier this year that she was planning on moving out we started giving thought to the day where we would put our house on the market.

Even though we had had a few clean out sessions we still had (and have) quite a bit of stuff that we were mostly hanging onto just in case. This is a big house and we have lots more room than we need. Keeping most of that extra stuff wasn’t inconveniencing us much at all. So, there wasn’t a great deal of urgency in trimming it down.

What we decided to do was work our way through the house and put everything into one of five categories: things to keep that we are currently using, things to keep that we won’t need for six months (ex. winter tires), things to sell (hence the yard sale), things to donate to charity, and things to toss.

A couple months ago we rented storage space for six months. As we’ve been working our way through the house, we’ve accumulated stacks of each category. Once we get a carload of charity items or storage items we load up the car & off it goes. Now that we had the yard sale, Andrea has a list of the “to sell” items that are going to go to charity.

It’s been really good for us to go through and decide on the things that we really want to keep and the things that we can let go of. I’m glad we decided to do this now rather than wait until Emma was in the range of thinking about moving out.

A side benefit to this is that once Meaghan moves we’re going to have enough empty space that it’s going to be relatively easy to empty some rooms to do some renovations that we’ve been postponing. To date we haven’t applied a fresh coat of paint to any of the tin ceilings. With just the three of us here we’ll be able to move sleeping quarters to one half of the house or the other and keep the fumes out of the half we are sleeping in.

First Snow

We woke this morning to a winter wonderland. The forecast yesterday said we were going to get a bit of rain. The temperature is hovering around freezing. Combined with the snowfall it makes for a pretty landscape.

Well, well, well

Our summer was derailed one Sunday night in the middle of August. I was in the kitchen getting a snack or drink & I heard the water pump shut off in the basement. Unless things are really quiet and you listen carefully, you don’t hear the pump running. The loudest noise it makes is the pressure switch turning on or off. Since it was quiet, I heard it shut off. About 5 minutes later, I heard it click back on. The thing was that everyone else was in bed & I hadn’t used any water.

I went down to the basement and shut the pump off for the night. A few minutes later, I turned on the tap in the upstairs bathroom and only got air. I thought, “Well, this isn’t good.” On Monday, I took the cap off the well and checked for water with a flashlight and was somewhat relieved to see light reflecting back. I spent the entire day Monday trying to get the pump primed. I succeeded in getting about 15 gallons of quite dirty water but had no luck on getting the pump to hold it’s prime.

On Tuesday I checked out the local rental places to see if I could rent a video camera to lower into the well to see what I was up against. The population is low enough here that there isn’t enough people to rent one on a frequent basis, so none of the rental shops had one. After a couple phone calls I found a plumber/well-drill company that had one.

On Wednesday afternoon, the well/plumbing guys came by and lowered the camera into the well. The good thing that we saw was that we found there were several feet of water in the well. The not so good part was that the bottom of the well didn’t look like the bottom of a well. It looked like a pile of mud & rubble. Just below the bottom of the well casing there was a fair sized pocket that was quite a bit wider than the rest of the well. The casing only went about 10-12 feet into the ground. The guys said it looked like the well had collapsed. That sounded like what I saw.

Since there was water in the well, we moved on to trying to get the pump primed. The guys did get it primed a couple times but as soon as the pump shut off, it was back to square one. Either something had happened to the line between the house and well, or something had happened to the line in the well. My guess was that the last collapse had damaged the foot valve. At that point the alternatives we had were

  • Dig out and replace the line between the house & well (and hope for the best).
  • Drill a new well.

The catch was that the old well is inside a carriage house converted into a garage and the water line goes under about 30 feet of asphalt driveway. Even though it might be less expensive than drilling a new well, it wasn’t going to be pocket change. Andrea & I didn’t have much trouble opting for a new well. The prospect of doing the repair and then having the well collapse again in a year or two wasn’t worth whatever price difference there might be.

Since we didn’t have a few thousand lying around in the middle of August, I set up a temporary water system. I moved the pump to the garage & ran new pipe down the well and too the house. You can see the water line in this picture (in front of the car):

I should emphasize temporary. Winter comes early in Canada. We’ve already had a couple nights where the temperatures have hovered around the freezing mark. We have had the pellet stove on a few times. Once I had the temporary water system hooked up, I scheduled having the well drilled this week.

Today was that day. I’d never been up close on a well being drilled before so I wandered out a few times to check on how things were going & watch the whole process. Once the well casing was in, I was surprised at how fast the the drill went down and how much water came up. This particular drill was one that pounded (like a jackhammer but slower) while constantly spinning. It blew steam and compressed air through the bottom of the drill to blow the broken rock out the top of the well. Here’s a pic from the first hour before hitting bedrock .

I also keep a rough track of the time. The first 30 feet of well & installing the well casing took about an hour & cost about $1500. After that, drilling ran at about $1700/hour (if you don’t include setup and take down time). The actual cost is based on the length of the casing needed & well depth vs time, so that’s just an interesting comparison.

When the drill hits water, they don’t immediately stop. They drill down a bit further to ensure that there is a bit of a reservoir there. On my last trip out, there was a lot more water coming out of the top of the well than there had been in my previous trips. I took that as a good sign. The guy who owns the rig said he’d found water. Then, “I don’t think you’ll be able to pump this one dry.” Later he estimated the flow to be in the range of 12-15 (imperial) gallons per minute. I looked up pumps tonight and they seem to be in the range of 4-6 gallons per minute (so even if the pump ran constantly it couldn’t keep up).

Even though this was an expensive day for us, it was memorable in another way. Well drilling is probably not a popular career choice. There isn’t a lot of fame or fortune in it. I could tell that he was really pleased with the result. Pleased in the sense that he had nailed it. If you’re going to work, you should want to do good work. And, rightly so, should be pleased when you do do good work.