Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Back Story

Peace Flag House has a back story that Pascal and I love to tell. 

Before the Peace Flag this house had a little bit of a hoarding problem. We bought it without actually being able to see the interior. It was closed to viewing because of liability issues but the bones looked good and I trusted my partner.

We gutted the entire interior (I say this in past tense but in reality the process continues two years in). During the first few months the rickety kitchen cabinets came down and the taped-shut toilets were removed. We held demolition parties to pull down the lathe and plaster walls. Friends, brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters all came with amazing fortitude and helped. Three false ceiling came out of the kitchen, numerous wiring mistakes were beheld (nails through stove wire - yikes!) and we discovered that the dip in the kitchen ceiling was the result of a floor joist under the upstairs bathtub being removed to make way for plumbing.

When we moved in February 1st, 2010 we had exactly one functioning toilet, one sink that drained into a bucket, half of the insulation, a hot plate, a fridge, and a microwave. We had no shower, no kitchen sink, no walls around the toilet and no table. It was urban camping complete with one spoon and one bowl each.

It was rough but livable, especially after we managed to purchase a small fire pit for the backyard. After spending so much time looking at houses we couldn't kick the open-house habit. A couple of weeks after we moved in we visited an open-house down the street. It had teal green walls and soft-core porn for decoration. The real estate agent looked embarrassed just standing in the living room. But the seller was moving to Mexico and willing to part with his portable fire pit. Suddenly all of that 100 year old hickory lathe stacked in the backyard looked very useful. We spent the rest of the winter eating a lot of sausages cooked over a hickory fire, wrapped in old sleeping bags, and keeping our beer chilling in the snow banks.

The work on the house continued non-stop all winter, spring and summer. Many wonderful friends came to help us. We paid them in food, drink and a chance to learn some new skills. Many wonderful family members came to teach us the details of plumbing, wiring, drywalling, mudding and more. We paid them in food, drink and sometimes the 'family rate'.

That first summer I did the dishes in the bathtub, in the shower, on the back porch with a garden hose, throwing the dishwater over the new garden. Pascal worked incredibly hard on the main floor until 8 months later we installed a working kitchen sink.

Throughout all of this work our door was open to community. Our first weekend in the house hosted out-of-towners in sleeping bags. It was difficult at times to organize privacy in the bathroom (holler before you go upstairs!) and to do all the dishes with a garden hose, especially when larger crowds arrived for the G20 protests. But no one really seemed to mind the lack of couches or coffee tables. And late night campfires and back porches full of sleepy heads in sleeping bags made it worthwhile.

It's the beginning of 2012 now, the main floor is done (complete with dishwasher and couch!) and the second floor continues to be open studs. We're working on the basement where there will be a lovely two-bedroom apartment hopefully ready for (late) spring. I'm typing this on a computer that is increasingly covered in drywall dust. In just a moment I'll put this down to help Pascal hang a large piece of drywall.

Peace Flag House continues to grow.

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