Our Canvas (aka The Cabin)


At the end of a long, winding and incredibly rocky road, there is a little yellow cottage. It’s on .8 of an acre and is surrounded by coniferous and deciduous tress, offering privacy in the summer, colours in the fall and a wonderland in the winter. The land is varied and though small, has enough change in terrain to make it interesting. It is not waterfront but it is only a short walk to the small clearing that is labelled the beach. From the front door, there is a treed view of the stark beauty of the marsh. At the farthest corner of the property, across the access road, there is an easement trail.

But what made our minds up to buy this property was based on the fact that it was a blank canvas. The structure was sound and usable as it is now. But enough needs to be done that we can take our time to build it into our perfect cabin, the way we want it to be. There are a lot of things that we need to do. But all we see is potential.

The cottage has two distinct parts. The first part – the main living area and kitchen – is long and narrow. It has 4 window on one end that face the marshy part of the lake. There is a small wood-burning cook stove in the middle and at the other end is the kitchen. In the kitchen, there is a propane stove and fridge that no longer work, as well as ample cupboard space and a sink to run off of rain water.

The second part, added to the length of the main section, was clearly an addition.  The floors are vinyl, not wood, the walls are flimsy and it is three steps lower than the living room and kitchen.  A narrow hallway extends the length of the older section, with three bedrooms off of it.  Because the roof has been extended, it has created lower, slanted ceilings in the bedrooms. On one end of the hallway, there is the beginning of a bathroom – a compost toilet that leads to an unknown place as of right now.  (Does waste just empty out under the cottage??  Ick. We’ll have to get that figured out.) On the other end, is a storage space with hooks and hangers.
All three bedrooms are a decent size for a cottage with lots of sleeping space.  The first bedroom has very little work to be done in it.  It has a double bed and a dresser.  The middle room needs to have the walls redone as the previous owners tried only half-heartedly to get the wallpaper off the plywood walls.  It has a bunk bed that has a double-sized mattress on the bottom and a twin on the top.  The third room also has a double bed and needs the most repairs.
Apart from the fact that the previous owners left a lot of their old possessions in it, this structure has a wealth of workable space.
What we love about it:
  • The structure is sound.
  • Lots  of sleeping space.
  • Wood-burning cook stove provides off-grid heat, cooking and hot water.
  • Natural light from the skylight.
  • The capacity to connect propane to a stove, fridge and BBQ.
  • The installed (though not yet working) indoor compost toilet.
  • Lots of windows on all sides, allowing for cross breeze and heat management in the summer.
  • Basic solar panel system already in place.
  • A solid deck near the side door that can be added on to.
  • Spring-fed lake, clean enough to drink, is a source of water.
 We love this wood-burning cook stove!  And it’s in great shape. 
Lots of space to make a bigger deck. 
What we need to work on over the next few years, in no particular order of importance:
  • Build a bigger deck and eventually add roof and screens in order to be outdoors in all weather.
  • Re-do roof and add skylights to main room, kitchen and bedrooms (in the next 5 years).
  • Insulate the roof.
  • Get the cook stove safetied and certified.
  • Re-do the ceilings in the bedrooms to repair the extensive water damage.
  • Find out where the water damage came from and make sure it’s fixed.
  • Figure out what is happening with the indoor compost toilet.
  • Re-install the rain barrels and water system. (It has fallen into disrepair and the barrels were left on the ground.)
  • Build on the solar energy system.
  • Repaint the kitchen and put new, clean vinyl flooring down.
  • Repaint the outhouse (and work on controlling the smell)
  • Build an outdoor rain barrel shower.
  • Re-cover the floors in the bedrooms and hallway.
  • Clean and reposition the fire pit. (It’s very close to the access road right now.)
  • Paint the bedrooms.
  • Create and outdoor cat run.  (Otherwise, we’d have to hire a cat-sitter in the city for when we’re at the cottage.  Expensive!)
  • Add a small section of inexpensive fencing (I see a lot of things made from free pallets in our future) to make a small dog run.  We have hounds and they have no idea what recall is.
Some projects will be more extensive than others.  Painting and decorating the bedroom (left) will be a quick and easy project.  Finding and fixing the leak and then repairing the extensive water damage (right) will be a huge one. 
As you can see, there’s a lot of work to be done.  But only a few things are essential for this year (ex. figuring out if the leak in the skylight is fixed and getting the cook stove certified).  The rest will get done when we have the time and resources.  We have also decided that since this is going to be our “Tiny Home”, we need to remain true to the spirit of the Tiny House Movement and spend as little money as possible on the cottage and create as small a carbon footprint as possible.  To us, this means, we will be doing the renovations and upgrades on our own with the help of more skilled family and friends (in exchange for beer and BBQ).  We are going to be remodelling and decorating with found, free, or recycled materials, including structures made from pallets, items like quilts, handmade from material scraps I have gathered over the years and wall hangings, created by our own hearts and hands.  We will most certainly increase the value of the property but we aren’t planning on selling it.  We are planning to make it in to our own country getaway for a long time to come. 

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