Fixerupperitis (with photos this time)

bloom where you're planted!!

Another fixer-upper, I think as I survey the mess beyond the deck. A vast expanse of dirt, quickly turning to mud. Muddy paw prints in the house. Muddy boot prints on the stairs coming up from the garden. Two machines, one called a Ditch Witch. Mounds of overturned grass to the side.

Snapping photos, I wonder about our propensity for fixer-uppers.

12 moves in 34 years. So many houses, so many renovations. Tiling floors on July long weekends. Painting until midnight. Filling dumpsters. Clearly it’s an addiction. Or, better yet, a disease. Let’s call it fixerupperitis.

Here in Vernon it takes us a mere 4 months to buy a second property, a bi-level on 13th St, putting us close to the renovation on 20th St. We buy it because so little is needed inside. Just a few tweaks: move the fridge, build a wall and a pantry, and bookshelves, buy new appliances, some blackout blinds. Compared to other houses, this one is a snap to fix-up. It only takes two months.

Once the snow melts we see how very much is needed outside. Consisting mostly of grass damaged by 5 years of Rover relieving himself, it is lumpy, weedy, patchy and brown. No trees. No shrubs. No shade. No privacy. We count 27 neighbours visible from our property.

Anticipating that the heat of the summer sun blazing all day will be unbearable, we rush to the nearest garden store and buy as many trees as can be stuffed into the back of the VW.

(Yes the VW is back on the road after two trips to Partly Dave’s neighbourhood garage and a chunk of change later.)

The size of the yard is alarming. At 1/3 acre it feels ginormous to a couple of city folk more accustomed to 33ft wide lots. Craig, of course, sees himself as a nascent market gardener and has big plans for the space. He figures that his post-virus skills as the jolly green giant will be more lucrative than the ones as a lawyer. We’ll see.

You’d think we’d be more accustomed to the many irritations of renovating by now. Or we’d just stop buying fixeruppers.

“Down the hill” – as house #1 will be come to be known – at 20th St, the guts come out. The furnace and ducts, old wiring, old plumbing, and a pile of 2x4s are helter-skelter in the driveway. The place looks like a tornado hit. The garage is filled with doors, venetian blinds, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures and other items we hope to put back in the house.

Demolition. I feel like the Hindu god Shiva. Shiva the destroyer, destroying the universe at the end of each life cycle, allowing for a new creation. Shiva, the benevolent deity with a dark side. Mirroring my mixed feelings about the good we are doing by improving the house and the bad we are doing by discarding much of it.

We stop in daily (and often more often) to check on the progress, in the beginning covering our noses to keep the asbestos and other toxins at bay. The house seems shrunken. Rooms look smaller than we remember.

Past the point of no return now, well past, in fact, it is both stressful and enjoyable. Daunting for sure. Even a bit bewildering. Like renovation inconvenience, you’d think we’d become accustomed to the disorientation of change. And I guess we are. Otherwise we would not have endured the past two years, ones of so much bewildering change.

But, like a phoenix, the new structure rises from the detritus of the old. Our vision for a gathering place for family and friends is coming to life. Our dream of a retirement home in the Okanagan is being realized.

Very soon we will pack up our belongings and move again. In the meantime we continue to enhance our little bi-level with more plantings and paint, improved plumbing and electricity. When we leave, it will be with fond memories of a home that sheltered us for a while. Maybe because we travel, we seem to be able to bloom where we’re planted.


  1. Jan MacLellan says:

    WOW! Wish I could say more, but I’m blown away and more than a little jealous… it will be just fabulous. You have that team work down pat. Keep up the good work, guys?
    Stay safe, love you both

  2. Very impressive. Time, energy, brain cramps and money well spent.
    I do agree with the addiction call!

  3. Craig and Bev, my you are ambitious with your building! Good to see you are making and enjoying the process. Air conditioners ready to place?
    Hope to see you sometime this summer if we haven’t all melted by then.

  4. Charlotte Sutcliffe says:

    I don’t know where you both get all your energy from. The final results are going to be fabulous. You can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

  5. Bianca Scheirer says:

    I have to say, the first few photos (deep delapitation?) made me feel a little queasy and had me thinking, first “how” and even more so, “WHY”. I got a headache just looking at the enormity of the project. I persevered nonetheless and, by the end of the photo sequence, although the “how” remained a secret (and that’s just where I want it to stay), the answer to the big “why” question was, to my amazement, astonishingly clear. Great job, guys! I especially love the trees coming through the raised deck, that’s brilliant.

    • Bianca, hello! How are you? Ever come this way? Would be great to have a visit. After the heat, fires and smoke are gone!

  6. Ray and Sharon Brubacher says:

    Amazing! Your vision and patience and persistence wins out once again. That is one huge project and it is looking wonderful. ‘Can’t wait to see the cladding and finished product. Remarkable! The whole disease of “fixerupperitis” starts with a creative thought of “wouldn’t it look great if we did . . .”, and you two have SO much creativity it has to spill out somewhere. It always looks awesome – and I can see by the progress photos that it will again. Congratulations . . . Ray and Sharon

  7. Hi Bev and Craig. I am so very happy for you both, and the house looks amazing! wow.
    It is very special that you have fulfilled your dream of retiring in the Okanagan.
    Great job on the garden Craig. I tried my hand at planters this year. It is an art for sure! Glad to see life is is great!
    Think of you lots. Lena

    • Lena, we too think of you often and soon plan to get back to the local dance studio. Would love to see you and your family here sometime. Heat, smoke and fires currently keeping tourists away. Maybe next summer?!?!?

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