dig dig dig dig dig dig

Another mud-puddle day in the trenches! (As I sit here warm and dry indoors). Our corner of Dunbar holds a striking resemblance to Vimy Ridge.

vimy ridge

We even lacked flush-able toilets this morning! That was interesting.  But all this is in the name of progress.  We’re very close to having the sewer line trench coming up to the main street. Then it’s up to the City to connect us.  Fingers crossed it doesn’t take a ‘coon’s age for them to go down their list to get to us.

The old-things/antiques nerd in me that has been showing up more prominently these days was very excited to see what the guys found in the muck this morning.

lydia e. pinkham's vegetable compound, patented in 1876

It didn’t take long to find out that this empty bottle of Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound is likely around 100 years old. Who knows what the story is behind this little gem, and how and why it landed 10 feet underground on the property, but I think it’s a pretty neat little souvenir to have on display in the new house to remember the days and days of digging, and how far things have come (both in our little world of the laneway house, and the world of medicine for that matter!) Lydia Pinkham died in 1883 and never saw the full success of her medicinal empire, but her Vegetable Compound made the family fortune, grossing $300, 000 annually by her death and peaking in 1925 to $3.8 million.

An interesting and rather frightening  side note:  the same year as the Vegetable Compound was patented, a prominent American physician was urging the removal of healthy ovaries as a treatment for menstrual cramps. Yikes!! I’d rather go with the Lydia’s medicine “for the female discomforts” thank you.  I think it can go without saying that I’m  glad to be living in 2012…

Well, enough about history I suppose.  Back to the present: The roof is on, the windows and doors are in, and the electrical and plumbing will be going in shortly as well.  Excitement abounds in our little corner of the world! More photos to come soon.

In keeping with the theme of history, I thought I’d share this video passed on to me the other day. It’s footage from 1907, going through the streets of downtown Vancouver.  Probably around the same time that Lydia E. Pinkham’s bottle landed on our little street corner and got buried. Pretty neat.

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darn that flying time…

Okay, it’s been far too long since our last update. Between a computer keyboard breaking (not at ALL because of me being clumsy and spilling water on it), Christmas holidays, and being sick through the new year, it’s been tough to find time or feel motivated to write something. Today was particularly exciting though, because the walls are going up! So… no more being lazy. Time to share some stuff.

Everything has been going well, except for a *minor* issue of the main house on the lot being old, and the soil around it very loose and weak. As the excavators were digging along south side of the house for the sewer line, they found it was probably risky to just fill it in normally, since the old foundation and weak soil wasn’t going to be so good for keeping the house stable. Things would start slipping over time. An unfortunate slight increase in the budget that couldn’t be avoided. My parents would rather not have their house start leaning like the Tower of Pisa for some reason. To remedy this, some concrete reinforcement will be put in place before filling in with the usual stuff.

To summarize what’s happened since the last post, It seems best to share photos rather than describe. The following are highlights from December before the holidays.

Initial digging of the foundation pit.

Taking down the hedges to make way for the sewer line.

The beginnings of framing for the foundation.

Digging the sewer line trench.

Bringing in more wood for the framing.

Pouring the concrete into the foundation framing.

There’s a lot more that I’ll put in a separate post. I shall leave you with our silly Christmas joke. Gotta pretty up the front yard somehow, right?

exposed and framed

My parents have had their house for 26 years. There has been a large cedar hedge sheltering the front yard for longer than that. Today was its final day on this earth, to make way for the sewer line digging. It’s pretty strange to see, and feels so exposed out there now! On the up side though, there will be a lot more light and space for a variety of plants to live where the hedge once was, and also less maintenance in terms off no annual hedge trimming. A lattice style fence is planned for the front and side of the house which will no doubt look quite  nice once things are grown in again. I feel a bit conflicted about removing greenery like this – probably the thing I feel the worst about (after the back garden) when it come to the whole plan. I hope mother nature can forgive us! We’ll do our best to replace what’s been lost and it’ll be beautiful again one day in the not too distant  future.

that used to be wall of green.


Those wil be gone in a couple of hours. The tree in front is staying.


As of Thursday, the digging in the back yard has been complete and the framing  for the foundation is starting to be placed. It’s the weekend and work is still being done. Now I really understand how Smallworks can get their homes up so quickly! It’s kind of neat to see this going in, as it gives a bit of an idea of the size already.

The front of the house is at the left side of the photo.


With all the work plowing ahead at full speed, I’m sure I’ll have something  to share again soon!

there’s some hoeing goin’ on back here..

Bright and early yesterday morning we awoke to a rumbling sound outside our window. The sound of new beginnings! Otherwise known as a backhoe digging up the yard.

When I left that morning, I saw that the gas line was wrapped in the old tree roots of a pine tree that once grew in the garden but was killed by a bad winter of heavy snow a couple years ago. The first surprise of the project, within a couple hours of work! Oh dear. Let’s hope that means we’re getting the worst stuff out of the way first. When I got home from work it looked like the guys were able to get the gas line out safely. It looked like pretty delicate work though – between gingerly prying off cunks of stump with the backhoe and manually chipping at it with a shovel. Talk about patience.

Digging out the old roots around the gas line

The hole is getting bigger this morning as Smallworks continues to plod ahead. That’s all to report now.

The vehicle rests after a day's work.

it begins

We’re still about a month away from breaking ground, but the garden couldn’t look more ready. Yesterday, the arborists from Bartlett Tree Experts to remove and replant trees around the garden. My parents have hired Bartlett for many projects and they always do a good job. It looks a bit like the Battle of the Somme around here right now (as my dad would say), but we just have to think ahead to the attractive home and revamped landscaping we’ll have in the spring again. Of course, it will take a couple of years for the plants to really fill in again. Maybe it won’t feel so easy to look ahead when we have a sewer line being dug up next month though.. eek.

My dad took some more pictures of the process of the tree removal/planting but here are a couple I took yesterday at the end of it all. It’s a bit shocking and sad at first sight.

Back yard after tree removal

the yard looks a lot bigger without all the vegetation in there... I guess a laneway house will change that though.

new plantings in the front

The trees and plants from the back have a new home in the front yard. It looks quite nice already. There was a cedar tree on the right but we took it out to make more room for a variety of plants. I'll get the names from my mom and post them.

a time for new beginnings

The sad part of building our laneway house is the inevitable loss of garden space. We don’t just have any old yard either. It’s had years of dedication from my mom and dad, making it into a lush sanctuary for the birds and bees. I admire my parents for their willingness to accept such a big change to their space and routine.  Their love and kindness to me growing up and into my adult life has always been amazing, and this laneway house project is more proof of that. I know we’ll have a new and lovely garden and patio once it’s all done – but I’ll always remember the little Dunbar oasis that my mom created here. I took some photos in August to document it before things had to start being taken out and moved into pots. This post is a little tribute to the beauty and the care that was poured into the garden. Gardens are classic symbols of growth and change, so it almost seems appropriate that now that I’m seeing my parent’s garden being taken apart, I can feel our new beginning is on it’s way.

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