There is a type of person who aspires to live in weird places.
Like, a lighthouse, say.
Or, a converted barn.
Yes me, but not just me. There are other weirdos about.
Behold the Tiny House movement.
Naturally, I would love a Tiny House.
Of course, a vintage Boler is really a kind of Tiny House.
Arlo Guthrie memorialized the cool, weird house back in the 1960s with his song, “Alice’s Restaurant” in which Alice, Ray, and Potcho the Dog lived in an old church.
My dad introduced me to the song when I was about 12. As an adult, my friend and fellow Alice’s Restaurant fan, Bamboo Guy, even owned a church that was very swoon-y. Bruce Cockburn lives there now and how cool is that?
I’ve wanted to live in a church ever since.
And, even before.
In fact, my fascination with weird houses manifested itself as a child when, with every snowstorm, I attempted to build a house made from snow.
Unfortunately, I never learned the Inuit tradition of igloos (although I tried to build one many times!)
Usually, it was just me and my sister with shovels and soggy mittens, making a hole in the snow bank at the end of our driveway and trying to pretend that the result was a cozy as a Hobbit house.
In a melty, collapse-on-your-head kind of way.
My mother was concerned (as all Canadian mothers were) that the snowplow driver would kill us, by accident, with all that gallivanting at the street side.
That meant, my other option was an old margarine container in the back yard.
I would pack the snow in the container tightly, then tip it out carefully on the ground.
Sometimes, it was that dumb sugary snow that wouldn’t hold together.
Boo, hoo, hoo.
Other times, it was close to Spring and my “bricks” had a lot of leaves and twigs in the mix.
It marred the pristine, crystalline, margarine beauty I was going for, but I tried to just pretended it was mortar.
I wonder if Frank Lloyd Wright ever had these kinds of issues?
I’d lay out the floor plan: kitchen here, library here, secret passageways there.
My projects always seemed to cover the whole back yard.
Not one able to keep to minimalism even then, no siree.
Which meant that either I got discouraged, or the snow melted before my margarine-tub-formed walls were more than about ankle height.
As an adult, I drag Practical Man around to look at every weird building I can find.
Yesterday’s schoolhouse was very fun.
Built in 1847, it counts as “very old” among buildings in Canada.
It was kind of in the boonies, of course, since that’s where country schoolhouses tend to spring up.
It still had slate chalkboards.
Be still my heart.
There were tin ceilings in what used to be the girl’s and boy’s entrance foyers. Oh yes, they were of a time:
And the original schoolhouse lights (SIX!):
Swoon-y swoon, swoon.
As you may have observed, it even had a bell tower.
Ding, ding, ding!
Minus the bell, but I’m sure we could remedy that.
Alas, it had a bidding war planned for Monday and about 10 years of hard labour involved after purchase.
Boo, hoo, hoo.
One of the things stopping me from buying some of these weird buildings (besides a usefully-practical Practical Man) is their one-room schoolhouse size.
Since we can’t usually afford the life-size ones that don’t have 10 years of hard labour, I’ve been collecting small buildings.
Fisher Price vintage ones.
I’m sure you guessed that’s what I meant, since I have no children and I’m pushing 50.
They do take up a bit of space, as you can imagine.
So far, I have a castle:
an A-frame Cottage:
and perhaps best of all,
the School house:
This Schoolhouse was the perfect price and size.
It even has a bell in the bell tower.
Today was all rusty and sweaty and full of (luckily, not too many) deer flies and one magnificent wild strawberry.
Yes indeedy, I love me a vintage junkyard.
Or, scrapyard, as Practical Man calls it.
If you are like him and call a junkyard a scrapyard, be sure to convey the word with all the enthusiasm that Practical Man uses when he utters it. My usually reserved, strong-silent type guy can barely contain his glee when it comes to scrapyards. With those mere two syllables, he manages to morph into someone who looks and sounds exactly like a 7 year-old boy on Christmas Eve.
In other words, he kind of resembles…well, ME.
Minus a little of the tra-la-la. But only just.
Not that I mind his enthusiasm for the world of auto wreckers. I am a big fan of old-school scrapyards myself.
Y’know, like most women in their middle of ages.
Well, maybe not.
Anyhoo, ever since my favourite junkyard, Minakers, closed for business, I have been somewhat bereft. Bereft of real-for-true, old-school junkyards, that is.
Minakers was even better than a regular junkyard because it had been around a long, long time and was chock-a-block with antique cars. Wanderers there were hard pressed to find anything newer than about 1970.
It was scrapyard nirvana.
There were 1940s bread vans with trees growing through the engines. Sedan deliveries and original Beetles and ’30s gangster cars with swoopy running boards. I spent most of my time there running around, stumbling over thing-a-ma-bobs from 1953 and squealing, from one wreck to the next.
What? You’ve never heard a grown woman squeal in a junk yard before?
Maybe that’s because you’ve only ever darkened the doors of a modern-day junkyard. You know the kind (or maybe you don’t, in which case I’m here to help): there is no “wandering” amid the wreckage. You have to know what you want before you go in! Then, they go and FETCH IT FOR YOU.
Junkyard Joy Stealers: that’s what they are. They rob you of every little bit of the tripping and squinting and dreaming and squealing.
There is no squealing in a modern-day junkyard. Only safety vests and liability clauses and steel-toed boots.
And, people who call you “ma’am”.
It’s tragic, really.
But, we spotted what looked like an old-school, rural junkyard on a recent trip and today was the day to go and explore. Our vintage Boler travel trailer could use a few bits and bobs and we have a derelict boat that needs a windscreen and who knows what other treasures we might find?
Yes indeedy, I love the smell of broken safety glass and grease in the mornings.
First, I put on my lucky socks. It’s very important to have lucky socks on when you are wandering and tripping and squinting and squealing.
Also, some hole-y, derelict, work boots circa 1991, which I still happen to have for occasions such as this.
When we got there–to my very own version of Canada’s Wonderland–I said hello to my first love at the gate:
After I bid my first love a tearful goodbye, we went in. We were armed with bug juice, hats, water (not nearly enough for a junkyard extravaganza, it turned out), a gigantic toolbox and an additional bag of tools (and some socket sets and a first aid kit that we left in the car “just in case”.)
I was with Practical Man, after all. Who needs safety vests and liability clauses when I have him?
Soon enough, I found my second love:
Soooo pretty, pretty.
And then, my third love:
How can my second love compete with my third love? Third love is really a Colin Firth kind of truck and you know you don’t find those trucks every old day of the week. I think our vintage Boler travel trailer really needs a vintage truck companion, don’t you? A Colin Firth kind of vintage truck companion (I hope I’m not getting above myself).
Then, there was a very exciting PILE. You have to have a heart of stone, not to love a junkyard PILE.
We were looking for trailers so that we could source a screen door (to re-make into a teeny, tiny Boler-sized screen door) and maybe even some outside cubby doors. There were lots and lots of cars. There were only a few trailers and they were scattered far and wide through the junkyard.
All the better to ensure the tripping and wandering and dreaming and squealing.
There were fallen-down trees (this junkyard was kind of in a forest) and tall grass (all the better to hide lyme-disease carrying ticks in) and lots and lots of poison ivy.
But, there were also beautiful sparkles of broken safety glass:
And lace-like patterns shining in the sun:
There were old soul vehicles: the ones that rest quietly among the trees and grass, like silent guardians over a sacred place.
We finally settled on our donor vehicles and got to work. Practical Man’s modern-day tools made short work of the harvesting of parts in this old-timey junkyard. No aching wrists from manually unscrewing scores of rusted hardware. Just a few short bursts from the cordless drill and we were victorious: two cubby doors and an RV screen door for our Boler!
And in this place where beauty and ruin are best of friends, I found the unlikeliest of treasures:
One succulent explosion of summertime flavour.
It’s strawberry season at the scrapyard.
Last week, I traded maple syrup for mold.
What, what, what?
Yep. You see, around these parts, it’s maple syrup season. I wrote about the details of this rural Canadian pastime last year. Basically, it means a whole lotta:
- gathering of sap
- obsessively clicking The Weather Network’s website to see if the conditions will be right for sap flow
- collecting sap into barrels and piling snow from around the yard against them so the sap won’t spoil
- obsessively clicking The Weather Network’s website to see if the conditions will be right for sap boiling
- spending from early morning until evening standing over a giant, homemade, sap-boiling extravaganza while sticky steam gives you a sort of reverse facial and, if you’re me, you somehow get a sunburn on your legs, even though you’re not really an outdoor girl and you probably only helped for a grand total of 15 minutes AND you were wearing two layers of clothing
- skimming and scooping and skimming and scooping and thwacking the thing that you used for skimming to get the sludge off and then some more skimming and scooping
- and so on and so on…for about 4-6 weeks
Practical Man l-o-o-oves this time of year. He is in his element. That is, out in The Nature, that I love not quite so much, and making something out of mostly nothing.
What could be better?
He looks cute in his lumberjack shirt and he smells of yummy wood smoke after a day of boiling sap, so I go along with it.
What can I say? I am weak for wood smoke and plaid clothing.
Anyway, the whole maple syrup thing, while quaint and stereotypical for some of us rural Canucks, is a LOT of work. There are many more bullet points I left out of my list above, because I thought you’d get tired of reading them (and I know I get tired just writing them) and I definitely get tired doing more than a few of them, so I am pretty much only a sporadic cheerleader, inept and inconsistent skimmer, lunch runner and such.
I’m basically maple syrup middle management.
Luckily, Practical Man is not a complainer by nature. Even though he’s married to a person who is a complainer about The Nature.
During one of the sap boils this season, I realized I had a bonafide excuse for getting out of maple syrup work and I gleefully embarked on it.
Dressed to kill, as you can see:
We have recently met some new Boler Buddies–people who are in love with the cute, vintage, marshmallow-shaped trailers known as Bolers in Canada and Scamps in the US–and we have offered to fix up their trailer a little, so they could try camping in it this summer.
Having two Bolers on our property made me as giddy as a Practical Man, boiling sap.
So giddy, that I didn’t mind at all the first job involved with the little jewel: scraping the un-adhered interior paint, applied by a previous owner, where it had been disguising some fairly extensive surface mold.
And you thought my breathing apparatus getup was just for fun.
I was scraping with a cool, rounded scraper thingy that only a Practical Man would own. It didn’t damage any of the interior insulation (called Ensolite) but it niftily scraped off the loose paint.
From outside the little Boler, it sounded as if a very large rodent was trying to claw its way out. But really, it was just a very large rodent who was not helping with the sap boil, whatsoever.
Inside the Boler, there was lots of flaking paint. Lots of surface mold. But, the definite bonus was that I could pretend I was Darth Vader with a sunburn.
I do recall he was pasty like me, when they took his mask off.
Anyway, my arms jiggly from the scraping (yep, that’s why they’re jiggly), I then got to use one of my favourite tools: the shop vac.
Wee-whoo! I love me a shop vac.
Lady Gaga and I shop vac’d the flaking paint up a storm (and chipmunk droppings accumulated during the Boler’s 14 years bravely surviving The Nature). There may have been some gyrating hips, I do confess.
What happens in the Boler, stays in the Boler.
Tra la la. It’s finally happening: the heady days of March in southern Ontario.
Oh sure, there have been blizzard warnings (and worse–actual blizzards!) the last three Wednesdays in a row, but that can’t drag me down because I know, with a cheesy song in my heart, that Spring is just around the corner.
That mythical, magical time that we collectively fool ourselves into thinking is in March–when actually, let’s face it people, it’s really May–but no matter, it’s time to start psyching ourselves up for it. Watching for any sign, no matter how teensy-weensy.
Is that an above zero Celcius breeze I feel tickling my neck?
Is that the asphalt/gravel on my driveway peeking through already?
How time flies (when one is pretending one is on vacation with the rest of the country, in the Caribbean)!
This is how we Canadians survive the winter: we pretend we live in Victoria, BC. We pretend winter only lasts from after Christmas until late February, unless of course that pesky rodent–friend to no one but The Weather Network (I mean, how can they lose?) on February 2–dooms us to what we all know is inevitable anyway:
that is, It’s Still Winter.
But, let’s not go there.
Surely, Spring is on its way. Just around the corner. Past that eight-foot high pile of dirty snow in the parking lot.
I can tell that Spring is nearly here by the way the complaining from my fellow Ontarians gets louder around this time in March. Even though we’ve barely had three weeks of real winter this year, it’s already begun with a vengeance. Yes indeedy, we love us some complaining about the weather.
It’s too CO-O-O-O-L-D! (Only Rolling Up The Rim appears to provoke any joy when it’s cold outside.)
Too much S-N-O-W-W-W-W-W!
Then, a few short months later:
It’s too HO-T-T-T-T!
It’s so H-U-U-U-U-MID!
No wonder Mother Nature is confused.
I can also tell it’s nearly Spring by the way the light changes. The changing light signals my urge to compulsively start sewing things for our vintage Boler travel trailer and our vintage, Fiat 500.
Useful things, like bunting and flowery pillow head rests.
I’m like a pregnant woman in her third trimester (or a Canadian on the brink of March).
I’m nesting, yep. God knows there are no birds doing that yet, even though, it’s practically (insert hysterical giggle here) Spring!
And, lest you think this is some sort of vintage-inspired female hysteria, men are not immune, either. Practical Man has been sniffing the air for weeks now. Air sniffing and more recently, hole drilling. Nary a maple tree in these parts is safe from his scrutiny.
It’s March after all. The season of joy, the season of nature’s bounty, the season of MAPLE SYRUP!
Oh sure, you need an ideal temperature of 3-4 degrees above zero during the day and 3-4 degrees below zero at night to produce the sap flow necessary for nature’s bounty.
No matter that it’s still -9 plus a windchill.
That doesn’t stop Practical Man from obsessively clicking over to The Weather Network and wielding his trusty tools until there is a tidy sap line just poised for a thaw.
Tra la la Spring: we are READY for you.
See you in May.
We were camping last weekend in the Boler.
It needs a paint job on the outside but we re-did the inside a few years ago.
The owner of the mega-apartment-building-sized, it’s got walk-in-closets-kind-of-slide-outs trailer parked next to us last weekend came over for a little chat. He was all “oh, isn’t that just too cute” and “you don’t see many of these anymore”.
In other words, J-E-A-L-OUS.
Even though he has a walk-in closet and on board shower and a/c facilities.
The Boler has that effect on people.
I fall hard for the Boler every time I see it, too.
I love the wind-out windows that you can keep fully open during a hot night’s rain.
Pitter patter, pitter patter.
I love the original avocado green stove.
And range hood.
Very vintage, 70s – tra, la, la!
Practical Man and my dad made the doors from ash trees on our property.
They added the flowers with a minimal amount of sighing.
Before I go to sleep in the Boler, I like to wiggle my toes while lying on the dinette/bed and stare in wonderment around the little marshmallow-shaped interior.
Y’know, just for maybe an hour or so.
Wiggle, wiggle. Giggle, giggle.
Ditto for the mornings.
Wiggle, wiggle. Giggle, giggle.
Practical Man just smiles (and sometimes rolls his eyes the teeniest bit) while I’m doing this.
But, he loves the Boler, too.
I can tell by the way he doesn’t really complain about the (optimistically-named) “double” bed being slightly squishy even though he has to share it with someone who tends towards active dreaming (about buying more Bolers) and snoring and stealing the covers.
I can tell by the way he keeps a running list of “stuff the Boler needs”.
I can tell by the way he agrees to pay for camping, even though he’s a northern Ontario boy who defines camping as “parking on Crown land because why oh why would you ever pay for camping?”
And then, when I twirl happily to the creek side on our (NOT free) campsite, wearing my snazzy new trailer/Boler pants (check out the ankle ruffles!) that my aunt, Heather-the-Feather, gave me:
Okay, there might be a little more eye rolling but that quickly turns into twinkles.
Twinkles are the universal sign for “I love you, even though you’re fairly kooky”.