03 August 20XX
My Dear Lucilius:
My last missive was depressing: depressing for me to author and undoubtedly depressing for you to read. To perhaps lighten the mood, let me tell you something I promised in an earlier letter: the remodel.
The Cabin, as you might recall, had been in my family since before my birth, an initially unfinished fishing cabin that my grandfather and grandmother finished. It was primitive at the time – originally there was only water for the kitchen and even in my own memory I can remember the outhouse being the only bathroom at the time – but was slowly upgraded to include an actual bathroom (complete with shower and bathtub AND toilet) and a hot water heater. The only thing it lacked was the ability to live in it in any time other than summer – as it was only built as a summer cabin, it was never prepared for winter and thus a rather complex set of instructions (known for years in the family as The List) had to completed by whomever closed it down for the season.
As my wife and I were speaking of what we wanted to do after we retired (how long ago that all seems now), I wanted to try living there for greater parts of the year. She was not initially keen, but insisted if we were going to do anything the Cabin would have to be made ready for some kind of winter.
And so, The Remodel started.
My conditions when I met with contractor was that the Cabin had to be winterized, had to be firmly insulated, had to have a small wood stove installed (a very small one), and that the outer shell of the building was to remain intact. And if I could get it, slightly higher ceilings (to prevent my practice swords from digging in). Plans were drawn and redrawn based on what could be seen without entering the walls, and approved. One day a large “Pod” showed up in the middle of nowhere, where everything inside was carefully packaged and packed inside.
And then, the adventures began.
The piping in the house was simple (one run to the kitchen, one to the hot water tank, one to the bathroom) and so insulating it proved to be not a serious issue. The water from the pump approximately 10 feet from the house proved to another matter, of course: The pipe was excavated, pulled out, dropped down to a three foot depth, and then brought up to the house (insulated as it came to the more shallower regions).
The electric was all run by my grandfather many, many years ago and (perhaps not surprisingly) not up to code. This was all discovered after all the walls had been torn out of course (to add insulation), so that had to be completely redone. I had them add a few more outlets as we are now much more dependent on electricity than we were. As you can imagine, that was a great deal more than I had intended to spend.
Insulation of the walls and replacement of the windows was planned for. I perhaps insulated more than I needed to as I insisted that the highest level they could find be used both in the walls and in the attic, but I would rather pay now than freeze later.
The additional wood stove was a bit of an adventure as finding the smallest one I could turned out to be a bigger one than I had anticipated, both for heat output as well as footprint. I ended up with a very small soapstone and cast iron unit with a minimal loss of floor space.
The floor was left as was, a combination of the tile squares of colors from last mid century and unfinished boards. It gave the continuity I needed to the project. The ceiling, unfortunately, could not be lifted up so I was left with figuring out another way to complete my Iai practice.
The water pump was an issue, as the pressure tank that lived in the shed where the mower and some tools were stored. The resolution here was to tear down the shed and build an insulated pump house to house the pressure tank. The shed was relocated and slightly modified to become a very small workshop.
The only new addition I requested was a water and power line run out to where I anticipated putting another building (it was going to be a shop, but ended up being the greenhouse and the quail run). They were each trenched down to three feet and then brought over.
At the end of the process, we ended up with a cabin that looked (from the outside) exactly as it always had. The inside appeared much as it had always looked, except the temperature was much better controlled and overall our power bill dropped.
Did we overspend? Perhaps. It was certainly more than I had anticipated. But I was certain that we had many wonderful years of spending time into the early Autumn there to observe the changing of the scenery.
Of course, this discounted my wife's passing a few years later. Our summer and fall home suddenly turned into a place to retreat from the world and, initially, to prepare the next steps. What I found was the next steps led here and then the trail died off.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca