Hello family and friends,
What a year! I don’t think it has gone as any of us imagined it might and here we find ourselves still in the confusion of COVID for another Christmas. However, the unusual circumstances highlighted for us how very lucky - and privileged – we are, and how very grateful we are for all we have, including all the wonderful people in our lives.
Andrew quite happily transitioned into full-time retirement and seems to be almost as busy now as when he was working. His big project has been his continued work on the garage. Over the winter he finished the north and west walls. Then in the spring he started on the storage closets along the east wall. Before the closets, however, part of the ceiling had to be done. This became the prototype for the rest of the ceiling. Finishing that section of ceiling, building the closets, hanging doors, and adding closet lights took much of the summer. The last project for this year was to recycle the 40-year-old work bench and add a new bench top. Now that the storage is done there may be a chance to tackle some of the messes in those closets!
This year was also the time to refresh the back yard gardens. During garage construction, we had dug out the weed-infested soil in the east, south, and west gardens, then moved the shed to the west garden. In the spring, we started on the east and south gardens. We made 12" edging from strips of liner material bought from Andrew's old employer. Then we laid newspaper down and filled the beds with fresh topsoil. Karen planted mostly native perennials in the east bed and shade tolerant perennials in the south bed (it's shaded by the garage). Once the garage closets were done, we demolished the garden shed and started on the west bed. This took a bit longer as the brick sidewalk had to be rebuilt. Once Andrew finished the sidewalk and the garden bed was filled with topsoil, Karen added perennials including a weeping caragana and a weeping spruce for an oriental themed bed. We also added a fountain, but since we finished the bed late in the fall, we haven't filled it with water yet.
In retirement Andrew added some activities such as weekly golf in the summer and curling in the fall. He also ran a virtual tour for the Eco-Solar Home Tour in June, preparing over 20 hours of online video interviews on 31 energy-efficient homes. At church Andrew was elected treasurer in the spring and this fall he took the lead organizing the audio-visual tech team to broadcast online church services. All that and he’s doing the cooking at home too!
Karen has been very busy with work at the school board. She has been in the middle of the division's plans as they deal with the uncertainty of COVID and has put in a lot of long days. It was also the end of the term for the Board, and so a lot of "hurry up and finish" on projects that had begun earlier in their term. In October, seven new trustees were elected and two were re-elected, so now there's a new enthusiasm and Karen is busy delivering training about the division and how to fulfil their roles.
It wasn't quite all work and no play for Karen though. She still managed to get a weekly golf game in with her friends from April to October, and even fit in some weekend games. She and Andrew also took lessons – with varying degrees of success. It’s amazing how little tweaks can make such a big difference and how what works on the driving range somehow doesn't always transfer to the fairway!
Karen also remained very involved on the Chronos Vocal Ensemble and Telus World of Science Edmonton (TWOSE) boards. It has been a very interesting experience for both organizations to adapt to the ever shifting and unpredictable pandemic conditions, and both have managed to pivot and innovate very successfully. The TWOSE board is now embarking on the search for a new CEO as the current one has announced his wish to retire, so that will be a new adventure.
And, in the "saving the best for last" style, we've recently had two very happy occurrences. Both the German men's choir, Leiderkranz, and our church choir, Chorealis, have started in-person rehearsals again. Both are taking precautions (shorter, physically distanced rehearsals, fully masked). It's definitely different, but it's wonderful to be singing again.
Best of all, on November 16, we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. We're writing this letter from a lovely condo in Canmore where we've snuck away for a few days to celebrate and hope for many more wonderful years ahead.
We look forward to continuing to share those wonderful years with all of you. May we and our world enjoy health, kindness, and peace together. All the best of the holidays to you,
Andrew and Karen
See our year in pictures below
Over the winter Andrew worked on the finishing of the garage. Here he is finishing the plywood on the north and west walls.
There are the walls all insulated and complete.
The next project was closets along the east wall for storage. Before the closets could be built the ceiling had to be finished over that area. This is the finished ceiling. It is lower over the area where the garage door opens but then opens up to provide a bit more space above the rafters. This ceiling detail will be carried across the entire garage but for now is just over the closets.
Here are the closets under construction. They come out just underneath the garage door.
Here is how close the closet top is to the garage door.
The view from the north shows the first closet that will hold all of our garden tools. It is just inside these north doors that open right into the garden.
The other closet doors are sliding doors so that they can be opened when the car is parked in the garage.
We ordered new living room furniture in May and by September it still wasn't delivered. So we took the time to refinish the hardwood in the living room. Used a no-sanding type of finish as the hardwood had been sanded too many times in the past for another sanding. Its not perfect but looks better than it did.
Then finally the furniture arrived in November! Now Karen wants new end tables...
On to the back yard gardens. Here is the east garden. We had all the old weed-infested soil hauled off during garage construction. Then we placed plastic edging. This particular edging was cut from a liner material that Andrew developed when he was working. He got a small roll from work and cut it up into 12" wide strips. So this lawn edging is 12" wide when most lawn edging is only 4".
Edging done. Then we removed the old sod from the areas damaged during garage construction.
In each of the beds we first put down newspaper and then fill the bed with clean new garden mix. This is the south bed up against the garage.
Then Karen got busy and planted the bed. This particular bed is planted with mostly native perennials. You can see where the rest of the sod was removed. This was then leveled out and new sod placed.
Then it was on to the west garden bed. After we had dug this bed out we put our garden shed here during garage construction. The shed ended up being there for 2 years. Now that the closets in the garage were completed there was a place to put the garden shed stuff so it could finally be taken down.
This bed was a bit more difficult. First we took out the brick sidewalk. Then used stakes to hold the edging right up against the west edge of the brick sidewalk. We kept the prepared gravel base from the old sidewalk.
Once the bed was filled with garden mix Karen got to planting. In this bed the features are a weeping carigana and a weeping spruce. Then the rest of the bed is perennials.
Then to replace the brick sidewalk. The board sets the width of the edging at the correct width for the sidewalk. The board also is the right height from the top of the edging to where the top of the sand needs to be.
This time we used a foam underlayment for the bricks. We had trouble with ants in the old sidewalk so using this layer of foam should help.
There is the foam completed and the sod replaced. Ready for the bricks. You can see the plantings better in this view.
Bricks placed and ready to add the cut pieces to finish.
Here is the new fountain for this bed. It was October when we got to this point so we won't fill the fountain until next year.
Back into the garage to rebuild the workbench. Here is the old workbench. This bench is 40 years old. The top is just 2 x 6 boards that have been replaced over the years but the legs are made from an old oak futon.
Stayed with spruce 2 x 6s for the bench top but this time they are glued together.
Then hung a 4 x 4 from the rafters and used that to line up the new bench. The cross pieces are the oak legs from the old bench.
The new bench legs are cut from the old 2 x 6 boards that were on the old bench top. The entire bench is bolted back into the wall studs.
Here is the finished workbench with the tool boxes put underneath.
Net zero day! In September our electric meter reads the same for electricity Delivered (DEL) and Received (REC). That means that we generated as much electricity as we purchased in a year. In effect our electricity use is net zero. The solar is working well.
Here is a view from the mezzanine at the church where we have a new sound and video system set up. Andrew's been helping set up the streaming of church services using the new equipment.