Posts Tagged With: West Galt

House For Sale…Ours

Please spread widely and wildly.

We’re for sale. Will you be the next caretaker of history?

Suggestion: pour a potent cup of coffee (add cream and sugar as desired) or fill a glass with your favourite South African red. Get into the West Galt groove and imagine life untethered. Why be mortgage broke? Why believe that a backyard the size of a cat’s litter box is acceptable?

In West Galt you can find balance, restorative perennial gardens and a non-intrusive urban lifestyle in the historical downtown Galt. In a 15 minute walking radius there’s a farmer’s market (one of the oldest in Canada), a chocolatier, cheese boutique, Monigrams Coffee Roasters (best Americanos going), Crumb + Bean (tops for ginger molasses cookies as big as frisbees), Dee’s Bakery (gooey butter tarts just like your favourite Aunt made), Tiny Cakes (Elvis peanut butter and banana cupcakes!), Bricks + Mortar (like a micro Whole Foods), Thai food and a serious line-up of Ontario craft beers at the notorious Cafe 13 pub.

You’ll find the city pleasures you’re familiar with in the TIFF Cineseries sponsored by the local library, the Idea Exchange, just a few blocks away. In 2017, the former Galt post office will open its doors as the nation’s first all-digital library with a resto on the terrace, tablets, podcast recording studio and 3D printers in the maker’s lab.

The Trans Canada Trail cuts through Cambridge and the old electric rail line winds its way through Glen Morris, Paris and onward to Brantford. Hop on a bike and ride for miles in either direction in the company of willow trees, indigo buntings and monarchs. The Grand Trunk Trail will gently guide you to five diamond dining and the sweetest suites around at Langdon Hall Country Hotel and Spa (a Relais and Chateaux property). The 900-acre urban land trust that the adjoining RARE conservation group owns is popular for its community programming. Join naturalists at the Slit Barn for a tromp in the wetlands to find salamanders, sign up for an owl prowl, or snowshoeing, or check out their off-grid sustainable North House project where writers and artists can apply for residency programs.

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In Cambridge, you are in the epicentre of day tripping: St. Jacobs, Stratford, the Kissing Bridge at West Montrose, Elora Gorge and the lavender farms of North Dumfries are all less than an hour away. Be in downtown Toronto in an hour–or at YYZ in 45.

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We have bragging rights to Canada’s Heritage River–the Grand which makes its way from Elora to Lake Erie in Dunnville (299km). Drop in a canoe or kayak and see the underbelly of the river up close and personal. Did you know we have our own independent brewery here too? The Grand River Brewing Company offers tasting classes through the winter so you can earn a self-proclaimed PhD in Stouts.

Interior design mavens will be pulled in many directions. Southworks Antique Mall is one of the largest in Canada with a 30,000 square foot warehouse. At Cornerstone, the former Woolco offers two floors of contemporary finds (danger danger!). At The Art of Home, Blair House Gifts and Chair, Table, Lamp you’ll find whimsy, artwork, pillows and the unexpected.

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If you’re looking for a career jump, the University of Waterloo’s Architecture School is a 10 minute walk away. Want hand-pressed juices? Galt Juice Co. sells shelves of it and it’s like drinking a garden in a glass. Need a massage? The therapists at PUR Balance on Water Street will turn you into fondue.

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If you need an oyster fix, there’s buck-a-shuck nights at the historic Cambridge Mill (cocktails have never been lovelier–the cantilevered glass dining room leaves you perched right above the river at the Parkhill dam).

Here’s what you don’t know: Orioles do fly-bys in our backyard. You can pick strawberries nearby and buy local maple syrup from Diane just up the road.We grow lemon balm–you could make your own teas! Our house and gardens have been featured in Grand magazine, on the Galt Horticultural Tour and the annual Holly Jolly Christmas Tour (a local fundraising effort that supports women and children). You can hear church bells–on a still wintry night, there’s nothing as remarkable as that.

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It’s the bewildering kindness of this town that will amaze you. If you are looking for a home that is a sanctuary, a private backyard to reintroduce yourself to nature (and a few paperbacks), access to trails, exquisite dining, fun shops and something a little less hectic than the 416, this is it. This house isn’t generic, it’s oozing personality through its mortar and heart pine shake roof.

Come take a look inside our 155-year-old stone home and fall in love with it all, just as we did on the most miserable day in November, four years ago. Happiness lives here.

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Fine Print:

$439,900

2 bed/2 bath (carriage house had Murphy bed for possible 3rd bedroom)

Lot size: 82.04 x 133.58
Property taxes: $3,100
Square footage: 1556
Kitchen highlights reel: Black Fire Clay farm sink, Perrin & Rowe faucet, Cosmos black leather-finished granite counter, cathedral and tray ceilings in kitchen and carriage house (with exposed stone), frosted sycamore glass between rooms, built-in pantry, maple cabinets, dishwasher (all LG appliances included), custom 2″ black walnut breadboard table with custom fabricated metal legs
Main floor laundry (stackables in main bathroom), original stained glass window in main bath, hickory flooring (kitchen), original pine and oak floors 
Hot water gas boiler and radiators
Carriage house could be used as 3rd bedroom (has murphy bed) or office/studio space with exposed stone and Venetian plaster walls.
Crown moulding throughout, 10″ ceilings, 12″ baseboards, updated lighting, electrical and plumbing
Heart pine shake roof, cedar deck, outdoor stone table, storage shed
Aggregate stone driveway (2 parking spaces)
Rented equipment: hot water heater, Culligan water softener
Contact us at jtorti7@yahoo.ca

 

 

 

 

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Toronto Expats: Leaving the 416, 519–and onward to the 613

When you write, there is a literal paper trail that recounts a ticking heart, forgotten impulse and mindset. I was digging through emails, retracing our stone cottage purchase back in November of 2012. I wrote something about leaving my “beloved 416” area code sometime soon after that for Toronto Life magazine, though it went to a slush pile. All of it rings largely true (including the church bells in West Galt that sound off every hour). It reads like familiar, dog-eared diary pages–all that I still boast about is here.

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It’s no big secret that we want to pull our mini tap root here and plant ourselves in the clay loam of Prince Edward County. After reading Geoff Heinricks A Fool and Forty Acres, I kind of want to grow pinot noir grapes too.

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Everyday begins with a coffee and a scan of properties in the County. I cruise a little north to Meyers Island and Hastings, a little east to Napanee and Amherst Island, but, the County has a firm grip on us. Who knows? We might secure a woodsy plot of land and build something dynamic. We might just find that perfect church or abandoned school house or barn conversion. If it’s a water tower, a silo or a lighthouse or something off the cuff, or off the grid–we’re interested.

photo credit: realtor.ca

photo credit: realtor.ca

But in the meantime, come back to that ticking heart, impulse and frenetic mindset of 2012, when we boxed up our Toronto lives and became expats in a place with dew worm vending machines.

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It’s been two years (*three now at time of printing) since the U-Haul trundled down Spadina and pointed due west for the 519. I was leaving Toronto and my safety net of Banh Mi subs, Jimmy’s Coffee, utopian bookstores and Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. I looked at the gauzy skyline in the rear view mirror with equal parts trepidation and elation.

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I had somehow convinced my partner that our dream home was a 150-year-old stone cottage located in West Galt, Ontario. Despite being the handy, power tool-skilled one in the relationship, Kim had only lived in brand new suburban builds in commuter bedrooms like Oakville and Burlington. On the flip side, I was like a heat-seeking missile for “urban rentals with personality” in Cabbagetown and the Annex. I fawned over brownstones with Murphy beds, Victorians with claw foot tubs and beat-up hardwood floors. Places that needed work, and power tools.

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The stone cottage needed a little cosmetic love and affection, but not a reality show gut job. Painting wasn’t daunting for us; Kim and I have painted the equivalent of the Great Wall of China at a combined thirty-six addresses. We could do cosmetics. Maybe we’d replace the en suite shower in time and build a deck come summer. When the house inspector gave the structure an A+ and fawned over the repointing of the mortar and underpinning, we said yes.

In turn, Kim gave up the convenience of a garage and storage for her golf clubs and hockey bag. Her workshop had to move to the bedrock basement (at a height designed for Smurfs). I agreed to walking 8km to work while Kim would brave a 4:30am alarm to drive 45 minutes to the steel mill in Hamilton for a 12-hour shift. Negotiations were seamless.

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How West Galt became the marriage of both our needs and wants no longer puzzles our city circle of friends. In fact, they come to us—seeking somewhat of an organic internship (or, that’s what we deem it). We arm them with axes and wheelbarrows and push them into the jungle foray of perennials. Our property is like an all-inclusive experience for condo dwellers limited to growing cat grass and oregano in a window sill.

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We have become caretakers of history (with a little help from our friends) in buying the limestone and granite house that stonemason William Webster cobbled together on the Grand River in 1861. The carriage house still has a rusty hitch on the side wall where his horses would have been tied. The black walnut trees wouldn’t have been tall enough to provide any shade then. Webster probably planted them.

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My urban skin shed so quickly in Galt that I worried that I was in denial. What about those Banh Mi subs and pork-stuffed sticky buns on Dundas? Didn’t I miss the bleary-eyed chatter with the hung-over baristas at Jimmy’s about where and when we spent Saturday night?

I knew what I didn’t miss immediately—living in 700-square-feet with an upstairs tenant who apparently had cinder blocks for feet. Now I could fry up crab cakes and not climb into a bed under a duvet that smelled like the Atlantic Ocean due to the proximity to the kitchen. When you make butter chicken in close quarters, even the towels in the bathroom smell like curry. And Irish Spring.

We now have space to make curries without a trace, and a patch of terra firma that sees the shadows of trees, not high rises. Everything I thought I would miss was quickly replaced by exploring our adopted hometown. I felt like a modern day Chris Colombus when I “discovered” the stiff Americanos at Monigram’s Coffee Roasters. We’re just minutes from a microbrewery where we can grab growlers for under fifteen bucks and attend beer classes on stouts and porters. There is a tiny cheese shop, a Jamaican take-away and the library regularly screens selections from tiff.

All my boxes have been ticked.

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Kim and I eased into the groove of small town like chameleons. After the 24-hour neon rhythm of the Annex, it was initially odd to see downtown stores closed at 6pm, or shuttered on Sundays. In exchange we can slip into the Carolinian woods on the rail trail to our coveted picnic spot by the remains of the old German woolen mill at the river’s edge. If we ever decided to take up fishing, we even have a dew worm vending machine at the intersection of Parkhill and George.

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I thought we’d be back to the city bi-weekly, like boomerangs, desperate to fill the culture and gastronomy gap. However, more often, we are driving directly to the airport, not downtown at all. It’s difficult to leave this soundtrack. From the back deck we have front rows seats to a steady flight path of orioles, osprey and chatty cedar waxwings. Our yard vibrates with bumblebees and hummingbirds. Church bells sound on the hour and the haunting echo carries along the storied Grand.

Of course, I still pick up back issues of Toronto Life as a tether to the 416 I know and love, but, I’ve become a full-time ambassador for the 519 now.

(*Editor’s addition: that is, until we adopt 613).

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Garage Sale Psychology

Put up a Garage Sale sign and watch all the local skinflints emerge.

With pockets full of quarters, the world’s greatest barterers quickly turned our street into a hotbed of haggling—the kind best witnessed in Moroccan markets, Turkish bazaars, roadside stands in Uganda, with beach vendors in ___________ (insert tropical getaway here) and the souks of Cairo.

We had a garage sale this past weekend, mostly to offer prime driveway real estate to Kim’s rural sister who had expressed a dire need to declutter. In West Galt we have heavy foot traffic and are located on both a bus and bike route—we were the best target zone.

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I was reminded of a vintage Herman comic, when Herman stops to tell a woman that there’s a spelling mistake on her sign. She is dumbfounded, standing in her yard in front of her unwanted wares. Her sign says “Garage Sale.” Herman goes on to say, “I think you meant to say GARBAGE Sale.”

We too had garbage for sale—and, this will be the last of my moaning about the former owner of this house. We heaved the remaining junk he kindly left us to the curb—this time with price tags. There were old school air conditioning units, 1980s phone sets with transcriber head gear (maybe he was a phone sex operator?), enough cables to wire our entire neighbourhood for phone, internet and dorm-room stereo systems, heaps of cassette tapes—half of them homemade tributes to his wife (Stray Cats, John Hooker anyone?) and a box of yellowing (but still in plastic) 1979-1981 Twilight Zone and Star Wars-esque comics. (*After our sale I read about a home owner who discovered a 1938 Action comics #1 in the walls of the house he was gutting in Elbow Lake, Minn.—worth over $100K. That is, until he had a physical squabble with a relative and they ripped the cover, negating the value. I have yet to see headlines in the Cambridge Times or The Waterloo Record regarding a woman finding a comic cache at a garage sale and cashing the suckers in for a villa in Tuscany, so, whew. But, I’m sure she found a steal at $10 for the box load. I was ready to give her a tenner to take them away.)

Selling the previous owners crap netted us over $160. Though, it still cost us $220 to buy a Bagster to haul the other 3,000 pounds of crap away, PLUS two trips to the dump with 56 paint cans, etc., but, back to the focus: garage sales.

I think gay people just have less stuff. Gays tend to have more partners (in general terms) and move more frequently. The gays I have personally experienced also have an unusual way of seeking closure. “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” has been the norm. Revenge comes in the form of keeping your things. Even if they didn’t even drink gin, ever. Or, make a pizza—ever. Now they want your bottles of gin and pizza trays? And the gifts from their friends that were intended for you? And, the lowest of the low—taking ownership of the Guinness beer glasses that you personally stole from the pub in Ireland.

To these individuals, I have to say, thank you! I have fewer belongings because of you.

My parents contributed to the weekend sale by offering up my old broomball equipment that my dad had hung on to for Torti Hall of Fame purposes. My dad also found five clock radios that were a pure donation on his part—we could pocket the proceeds. I don’t think I’ve owned five clock radios in my life, so I was amazed that he had such a collection. Which, led to our first “refund” at the garage sale.

Apparently the huffy old bird lives just down the street from us, and she was rather chuffed to find out that when she got home and plugged her “new” two dollar clock radio in, the radio frequency was lacking. She marched back with hands slightly on hips, ready to rumble. We said she could pick out another one of the clocks, but she was wise to us this time. “I wanna plug it in.” We agreed that this was the best idea and were alarmed to find that another one of my dad’s clock radios had zero reception. “I only listen to FM radio, I don’t care about AM stations,” she stamped. Kim was in charge of tuning the third radio which picked up Michael Bolton or someone to that effect, and she was instantly pleased.

As she strutted away in her pastel polyester pants, Kim and I laughed at the irony. The woman that buys a $2 clock radio comes back and seeks out a replacement—and a guarantee that it works. The guy that buys the $60 air conditioner buys it without asking to plug it in at all.

The morning was peppered with strange. Another elderly customer pressed a toonie into my palm as she walked past me with a flowerpot under her arm (marked at $3). “You’ll take this toonie, because that’s what you do.”
Better still—the Dutch man with a twitchy mustache and his wife (or mother?) on his heels, inquiring about how everything worked. He held up two picture frame vices priced at $3 for the set. Kim explained the mechanics to him when he asked. His reply? “Well, I have no use for these so, I’ll give you two dollars.”

Others went straight in for the kill, without pleasantries or questioning. A Honeywell air purifier (retail value: $100+) was marked for $25. Mint condition. “I’ll give you $4 for it,” a woman barked. FOUR dollars?? I was reminded of a previous Craigslist experience when I posted my Sidekick for sale. Even though I had asked for $3,500 firm, a single mother of two emailed me to ask whether I would consider donating my Sidekick to her, for free, so she could get around the city easier. As much as I’d love to extend Oprah’s generosity—yeah, hell no!

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Kim’s sister moved burlap sacks and old boat rope in a flash. A wok from the 1970s and a questionable crepe maker was also pawned off. Somebody scooped up her study Bible (Kim was skeptical about it ever being used) and books on emotional healing. Velcro ankle weights went like hotcakes. Which, could also be made in that As Seen on TV crepe maker.

However, Lynne’s Daisywheel Electric Typewriter garnered no attention, except from me. I had to razz her about it being the world’s first laptop. She had several items from the era—“the historical section of our garage sale” as I told others. Lynne had Dorothy Hamill period figure skates, still in the box. Motivational CASSETTE tapes. Sweaters with…wait for it…shoulder pads! I’m surprised she even unboxed those in my presence, seeing how I was at full force mockery with her Christmas sweater collection.

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Nosy neighbours poked around. Some introduced themselves after hibernating all winter, curious as to where we’d come from. Even Mr. Cheezy (not his real name, but, how we reference him) from Cheezy’s Variety across the road took a time-out to peruse. He probably wanted to ensure that we weren’t infringing on his convenience store inventory (which includes everything from eyelash curlers to pumice stones to crock pots to bongs to homemade jewellery and Lays chips).

In the end we sold over $1,000 worth of gently and aggressively used items. Though, Lynne nearly burned the entire sale down to the ground when her braided garlic and hot pepper ornament started to smoulder and smoke inside a stainless steel bowl in the sun. See, garage sales are dangerous!

Lessons learned? We are glad to have our one-and-only sale behind us and remind others not to hoard. Or buy a house from an owner flirting with clutter–you might inherit it by symbiosis! Just because you have the space doesn’t mean you should fill it. Donate! Re-evaluate, repurpose. Shed. Be gay and break up more frequently and you won’t ever have to entertain the idea of a garage sale at all!

Most importantly, remember, the only thing you should collect is your thoughts.

Categories: Home Sweet Home, The Kitchen Sink | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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