Where There’s a Will…from Dream to Dream Cottage
Some people call it the “white house”—white walls, white floors, white bedding, white dishes. Who knew, given what we started with, that it would turn into the beautiful property we have now?
When I was working the backshift at the Michelin plant after high school, one of the things that got me though the night was imagining what I could do to earn enough money to buy a lakefront property. It seemed like a far off and unattainable dream—but I’ve since learned to be careful what I wish for.
That was the late ’70s. Fast forward to 1990: I’m married to the great girl I met in high school; we’ve borrowed a friend’s canoe and packed some cheese and crackers, a bottle of red wine and a map. We’re paddling down Shortt’s Lake, near our home in central Nova Scotia, looking for our dream.
Every time we spot an empty lot, we put an “X” on the map. There are four or five marks on the map by the time we return home.
I track down the names of the owners and start making phone calls. Finally, I call a nice couple in Bridgewater and ask the big question: “I was wondering if you would consider selling your lot on Shortt’s Lake?”
There is a pause on the phone. I wait, and after a few minutes of unintelligible conversation on the other end, the answer comes back: “Yes, we’ll sell it to you.”
We had the most important piece of our dream—the land.
We sat on the lot for almost 10 years, saving our money. Occasionally, we would look at small buildings we could relocate and renovate; on winter nights we’d look at cottage plans on the internet and wait for the lottery win. Once, I talked my wife into standing on a step ladder on the barely-cleared lot. I wanted her to get a feel for the view from our imaginary master bedroom.
Finally, a surprise call came from my sister-in-law. She was building a new pharmacy in Chester, and the land she had purchased had a home on it that had to be moved. Eureka!
Enter Sheldon Rushton, home-moving expert from Abercrombie, and all-around great guy. He and his wife took a drive to Chester the following weekend and then called us at home. Yes, he said, he could move it.
The house was actually two houses attached by a breezeway, and we had to separate the two buildings with a reciprocating saw before we could move it. We even sawed the deck in half so it would fit in the living room for transport.
Quite a few people stepped up very quickly to make this move happen—our cement contractor, for example, who put footings and frost walls up on our land in a week. Building permits were quickly granted, and our very expensive septic system was installed in a jiffy.
Finally, we received an early-morning call from Sheldon.
The team had brought our cottage up from Chester during the night. We jumped out of bed and made the 15-minute drive from Truro to the lake. As we turned the corner onto the Shortt’s Lake West Road we could see the cottage just starting to edge down our new driveway. What a sight!
Sheldon and his crew were terrific. They were careful, and managed to save a lot of trees by gently bending back small white birches as the cottage inched slowly down the 300-foot (91-metre) curved driveway. Within a few hours, the cottage was sitting on its new foundation, unscathed. It was amazing!
We plugged everything back in that had been unplugged in Chester, cleaned up the end of the house that we had sawed off, and went at cleaning it with a vengeance.
Finally, we had our cottage. One evening, as we were enjoying dinner there with friends, the conversation turned to our plans for the place. We cleaned off the table and rolled out a set of drawings that had been stored under the bed.
Twenty years before, we had rented a cottage outside Lunenburg. We had liked it so much that we’d had a local draftsman draw up something similar for us. The blueprints on the table were for a space about five feet longer and 18 inches narrower than the cottage we were in now. We decided at that moment to translate those designs to our present cottage.
In the winter of 2001, we took all the walls down and replaced them with walls conforming to our drawings. We asked our electrician to pre-wire the upstairs that we hoped eventually to build. We passed building inspection and hung all our new drywall downstairs, knowing that we wouldn’t have to wreck it later on, in order to wire the upstairs renovation.
In the summer of 2003, we completed the second renovation. The electrician simply continued on where he had left off, and the cottage became what it is today.
As for what’s next—eventually our son will go off to university and we’ll probably do phase three on our little piece of heaven.
For now, our cottage sits quietly, waiting for spring and another season of memories, campfires, and margaritas.
Maybe I’ll get out my graph paper and do a little drawing…