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Happiness is another miraculously wonderful house project (mostly) done and ready to enjoy

The Wandering Monk visited the blog the other day. He says there aren’t enough pictures.

So here you go. Not long ago, I gave you the tale of the west wall. Now here’s the north wall and how we (but as always, mostly the Monk) solved the Dreaded Drainage problems and created beauty.

Few words, many pictures. Reduced out of mercy. Click to embiggenate.

And enjoy!

2013 …

2015. After Handyman Mike’s dreadfully botched bathroom remodel. My heart sank. This photo also gives you an idea of the way the back of the house was sunk into the bottom of a hill. Oh, the drainage issues. And rot. Do I even need to mention the rot?

2016. With your contributions, progress begins on the drainage mess.

We (but mostly the Monk) begin to make something beautiful.


Can you make lemonade out of rotted lemons?

Getting there … getting there …

Still a few details to go. A little more trim. Pavers next spring. Finishing the interior of the screen porch. Then of course more projects this winter and next summer. But it’s quite the transformation, wouldn’t you say?

Now there is this tiny patch of forest on the hill behind my newly beautiful house. Since buying the place I’ve wanted to cut a small trail up there. But now that I’ll be looking at that hill all the time, I’m thinking a future project for the Monk is “The Fern Trail.” (He hates ferns and would like them all dead; I think they’re so beautiful and so right for this part of the world that someday I want to replace my lawn with nothing but ferns, salal, knickknick and other plants that grow wild in our forests.)

When I bought this place it was nothin’ but uuuuuugggggggggggggly. Now we’ve begun to create and reveal such beauty I’m in awe that I own such a spot. The house itself will never be much: a funky one-bedroom, one-bath cottage, but cute as a button and with (as the real estate types put it) a couple of very nice “bonus rooms.” But what a setting. What a place to enjoy.

I couldn’t have done it without The Wandering Monk and all the donors to my last two fundraisers. Yikes, what would I have done without you? Special thanks to S, D, AE, V, “Rockefeller,” jw, AW, and … well, so many people who contributed so generously over the years that I’m remiss for not naming you all. Just know that you made it possible. So, dear blog donors, pat yourselves on the back for your excellent work.


  1. Wandering Monk
    Wandering Monk September 14, 2017 1:53 pm

    I will admit that the transformation is an amazing night and day difference. What first started out as a match and accelerants to remedy the issue has turned into something that makes me smile when I walk through there. From the bottom of my heart I appreciate and thank each and everyone that has helped make this transformation take place.

  2. SKSK
    SKSK September 14, 2017 2:13 pm

    Seriously nice! You’ve turned a nightmare into a HOME!

  3. Pat
    Pat September 14, 2017 2:31 pm

    I’m a fern person too – and see if you can’t find space for some violets in among the ferns, Claire – bright and “bluetiful” as you walk the trail. (BTW, I just heard today that “Bluetiful” is the name of Crayola’s new blue color, so it seemed apropos to use the word here.)

    I remember you built a bridge on the former cabin property. Is there a place for something similar on the new trail? Or just a gazebo among the ferns, as an outdoor artist’s studio – you could really get lost there.

  4. Claire
    Claire September 14, 2017 4:19 pm

    Monk — Great to see you here. That was a gracious — and very true — comment. I look forward to you making even more great things doable.

    SKSK — You summed that up, all right. There are still some minor “nightmares.” The bedroom is the big fall/winter project and right now it’s still pretty scary. But it’s nothing compared to what we’ve already done.

    Pat — I’ll happily plant anything that looks natural to the PNW and takes care of itself so I don’t have to. πŸ™‚ In fact, violets might be a good thing to plant in the holes at the top of the retaining wall. Probably no bridges, but stairways and possible a little pavilion at the top of the hill. I’m curious to know what’s up there. The hill is steeper than it looks but not very high. At the top is an impenetrable wall of blackberries. I suspect, though I’m far from certain, that if those are cut away, there might be a small view at the top of The Fern Trail.

    But that’s way off in the future somewhere.

    It broke my heart when the 2007 storm destroyed most of the trail behind Cabin Sweet Cabin. That was a magical place.

  5. Comrade X
    Comrade X September 15, 2017 8:45 am

    Job well done!

  6. bud
    bud September 15, 2017 9:21 am

    When you get around to cleaning out the blackberries, nature is best. If you have a neighbor with goats, borrow one, but, failing that, a 4’x2′ bottomless metal cage and a rabbit wil do wonders. Rabbits love blackberrirs and will happily eat berries, leaves, stems and thorns right down to the ground. Place the cage (to protect the bunny from hawks, cats, dogs other rabbits, etc) over the bush at the edge, push it to ground level (a concrete block on top helps) insert bunny. A little water in there, too. Come back every couple of hours to move the cage, and bring him or her in at night. It took a few weeks, but I saw a friend’s kid’s pet clean up an 80×200 ft lot that was a solid tangle.

  7. Joel
    Joel September 15, 2017 11:07 am

    Great work. Wonderful to see how far you came, faced with such a wreck. Impressive.

  8. deLaune
    deLaune September 15, 2017 1:22 pm

    That was a lot of work–pat yourself on the back!
    BTW, I got power back 45 minutes ago. The temperature inside the house is down to 85 degrees. Luxury!
    In a couple of hours I will find out if ice cubes still exist.

  9. just waiting
    just waiting September 15, 2017 1:47 pm

    Wow Claire, what an amazing transformation! And even more amazing is the story behind how you got this far.

    One of the lessons my Grandpa taught me was “work smart, not hard”, so the Redneck Rake story really resonated to me. So many back saving inventions of old have been completely forgotten once replaced by a machine. It’s really refreshing to see someone in Monk’s generation had the ingenuity to come up with the rake, analytical problem solving being in such lack these days.

    (Side note to Monk: Thank you for all you’ve done for Claire. Judging by the pics and narrative, you’re obviously a craftsman and should be proud of the work you’ve done!)

  10. mike
    mike September 15, 2017 5:29 pm

    See no Claire….

  11. free.and.true
    free.and.true September 15, 2017 6:53 pm

    Fantastic transformation. Worthy of extra enjoyment after all the hassles and hard work. Bravo!

    I could envision a little Japanese-style rock and shrub garden — maybe with some bonsai perched seasonally on flat rock slabs — on that slope among the ferns. A curving set of stepping stones, perhaps a small bridge or arbor or even a moongate somewhere in there… hey, a girl can dream…

  12. Claire
    Claire September 15, 2017 7:06 pm

    free.and.true — Great minds! A Japanese-style garden is exactly what I have planned, not for right under those ferns, but very nearby in a corner above the retaining wall. The corner of the retaining wall (not shown in any of these pix) is still unfinished and was originally planned to have a curved staircase going up to that little garden. Now it may be a staircase … or, even better a waterfall with the Japanese garden above and at the bottom of it.

    (I owe the idea of a waterfall to someone in the Commentariat; I just can’t recall now who made that suggestion, but you and that person may share a mind. πŸ™‚ )

    I’ve always wanted a small stone statue of Kwan Yin. Never mind that she’s Chinese. Someday I want her in my Japanese rock garden.

  13. just waiting
    just waiting September 15, 2017 10:47 pm

    I’m a big advocate for water features, especially now that you can put one right outside your screened porch. Nothing like the sound of water to truly bring serenity to a place.

  14. Claire
    Claire September 16, 2017 5:27 am

    jw — Wonderful (and apt) compliment to the Monk. One of the great things about him is how he can think outside the box to solve problems.

    And water features — oh yeah. I also brought two pond forms with me from the flatlands house, where they’d been installed by the former owners. They’ve been sitting upside down in the yard for four years now, and it’ll probably still be at least two more years before we get to them. But a water garden (or series of small water gardens) is in the plan. Partly because they’re wonderful; partly just to help handle the TOO MUCH WATER that flows around here in winter.

  15. firstdouglas
    firstdouglas September 16, 2017 8:55 am

    I may have said this already, but your house story seems sufficient proof that strong intention + follow through make -anything- possible. Congratulations on the accomplishments so far and thanks for the pictures! ..And I’ll be curious to learn what plants you eventually decide to install across your property.

  16. AG
    AG September 19, 2017 1:54 am


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