The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #165433   Message #4071829
Posted By: Charmion
14-Sep-20 - 09:49 AM
Thread Name: De-clutter & Fitness: House, job, life 2019 - 2020
Subject: RE: De-clutter & Fitness: House, job, life 2019 - 2020
Jon Freeman, your remarks about woodburners remind me of my aunt and uncle, who lived in a ramshackle house perched atop of a rocky outcrop in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The property was a hard-scrabble farm and bush lot that Uncle's father acquired during the Great Depression, so it was very basic when Tom got his hands on it circa 1959.

Uncle was one of those village genius types, convinced that he -- with his bachelor's degrees in history and education -- could figure out a better solution to most mechanical problems. With seven children to raise on the salary of a Montreal high school teacher, he was also committed to the DIY principle. The "country place", a holiday home when my cousins and I were kids, was where Uncle exercised his fertile imagination and questionable skills the most, conscripting his four sons as labour.

Heating did not become the primary concern until Uncle and Uunt decided to sell their suburban bungalow (seven children in a three-bedroom house -- just think!) and retire to the country. The house had no furnace, and no cellar in which to put one, so the heat source was a stove in the middle of the main room. The house was surrounded by 160 acres of bush and forest, so Uncle decided that fuel was not something he needed to spend money on. But how to get the wood up the side of the crag to the house? By that point, Uncle was 65 years old and disinclined to spend his sunset years in heavy manual labour.

Uncle's solution was a home-made funicular cog railway of his own design, with a windlass at each end. He would bring firewood out of the bush on a skid towed by a small tractor, load it into the hopper, and crank it up the slope to the landing stage at the top. Groceries and everything else heavy and/or bulky ascended the same way. When Uncle's arthritis made the stairs too risky, he would ride the hopper himself, in an adapted lawn chair.

Uncle died about five years ago, having managed to stay on the rock until the very last months of his life. Aunt, now aged 90 and living with a titanium hip, moved to a nearby village (on flat land) only last winter. The house on the rock, complete with the cog railway, is now occupied by one of the cousins and his family -- the place is uninsurable, so there's no point in trying to sell it.

I haven't been there for a few years, but the cousins inherited Uncle's village genius gene, so I assume the adaptations continue.