WELCOME TO THE AL AND EURITHE PURDY A-FRAME
In preparation for your residency, here are a few things about the A-frame.
If you grew up on a farm, love camping, have spent lots of time on an island or have worked for an NGO in Africa you will have no problems at the A-frame. If, on the other hand, you have never been north of Bloor, you might need some guidance.
Ameliasburgh is rural. A hamlet: no stores, no post office. But it does have a library. Neat, right?
Depending on the time of year of your residency, you may find yourself chopping wood for the fireplace (not mandatory, there are space heaters), having a chat with a beaver (with instructions to leave the trees alone) or facing down a mouse in the kitchen cupboards. Be prepared for the weather!
Maintaining the A-frame
As a rich historical place of inspiration for writers, the A-frame is a culturally significant heritage property. The continued restoration and preservation of the A-frame is therefore very important to the Al Purdy A-frame Association. In that regard, the A-Frfme has some “house rules,” and in order to ensure the property is safe, clean, and well preserved for years to come, the A-frame Association asks that all visitors comply with these rules. Please be sure to read the A-frame’s liability waver, which outlines the key issues for your consideration, as well as the consequences of non-compliance. That being said, the Association is sure you will find these guidelines easy to follow and that your time spent in the A-frame will be relaxed and inspiring.
One issue not covered in the waiver is garbage disposal and recycling. Take the time to review the recycling instructions and sorting instructions below – these might be different from where you live. And please follow rules for garbage disposal (see below), because we have an ongoing challenge with squirrels, mice and raccoons!
If you have any questions or need clarification about these rules, please contact Jean Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-224-4898.
We want you to enjoy your stay, and hope that you find the experience to be productive for your work. And remember: volunteers run the A-frame project. They have spent thousands of hours maintaining this property and facilitating the writer-in-residence program. Make the place your home while you are there and care for it as such.
Please read the rest of this document with care. There are important details about the house and its care, and also about your final report.
The restoration is a work-in-progress and, given the history of the A-frame, the building has its quirks along with its many charms. Please read the attached history of architect Duncan Patterson’s involvement, as it will provide you with a good primer on the spirit of the project.
We do our best to respect your privacy during the residency, but we may (rarely) need access to the A-frame during your stay to make repairs, to inspect the property and/or in case there is an emergency. We will try to provide you with 24 hours written notice in advance of any visit, but we appreciate your understanding if this cannot be provided.
The service that does the grounds arrives as needed to cut the grass. We try to arrange grounds cleaning between residencies but if that is not possible we may need to have volunteers on the property. For the most part such occurrences are rare.
The A-frame is fitted with baseboard heaters in every room. This makes it cozy, but increases heating costs if overused. To keep costs low, please keep the temperature at 10 degrees when you’re not actively in the home.
The tap water is untreated well water, so there is a jug dispenser for drinking water. The water delivery is bi-weekly from Picton Water Co. Please leave empty jugs on back deck (the deck facing the road).
Hold down the toilet handle while flushing. We’re on a septic system so please don’t flush anything but toilet paper. Septic tanks are complex organic systems that don’t respond well to harsh chemicals or grease. Use natural cleaning products such as the vinegar and water in the spray bottle. There are some disinfecting wipes in the bathroom, if you prefer them, but these must go in the trash. Cooking grease should go in the garbage also, not down the kitchen drain. When buying toilet paper to replace what you’ve used please purchase 1-ply or 2-ply – again, because of the sensitive septic system 3-ply is a no-no. (And, on that note: please replace anything you use – if you use all the paper towels, buy more. Same with kitchen supplies, etc.).
The water runs very hot, but the tank is not large.
Fireplace and fires
The fireplace inside the A-frame is functional. Michele or Brian (our greeters) will show you the written instructions about its use and where the firewood is kept. Ashes must be removed from the fireplace and there is a container located beside the fireplace for this purpose. If the firewood starts to run low, please notify Howard White. email@example.com
Please be careful with fire and refrain from using candles. The A-frame is an old wooden building and thus very susceptible to fire. Please note the location of fire extinguishers and familiarize yourself with their use. We do not have a Burn Permit, so please: no outside bonfires.
Power outage: If there is a power outage do not run any taps or flush toilet as this will reduce pressure in the system. There is a flashlight in one of the pockets of the bag on the kitchen wall and the rechargeable lantern. Please plug lantern back in after use.
Cell phone service is best in the front (lakeside) of the cottage. There is free Wi-Fi available at the library and no password is required. It’s accessible from the parking lot and there’s a picnic table outside if the library is closed. Do go in when they are open as they will be thrilled to meet you.
45 Gibson Rd.,
Mailbox #1 at end of Gibson Rd. Compartment #6. Key is in cottage with other main keys near D.H. Lawrence bust.
The Internet connection is rural, so if you use a lot of bandwidth Jean gets a notice. It doesn’t cost extra, it just means that until the end of the billing period the Internet might be slow. If you intend to download movies to watch, you might want to do that ahead of time, or at the library. Skype, Netflix, YouTube, and other video/audio services use a lot of bandwidth; please do your best to avoid them.
All the wiring has been replaced and the outlets have a safety mechanism for preventing blown fuses and a precaution against faulty appliances. They may click off occasionally and can easily be reset by pushing the button. If you do trip the breaker, reset it at the box located behind the false wall to the right of the living room window.
There is a complete and detailed inventory of the house and its contents. We have left some of Al and Eurithe’s original items to be enjoyed by our writers-in-residence, but if you and/or your guests take these, others won’t get to enjoy these irreplaceable mementos. If you break something let us know. We understand that accidents happen, but we do need to know about breakage, or if things need to be replaced or repaired. Likewise, let us know about leaks or if things aren’t working.
Ken and Ev who live next door are wonderful neighbours. Ken also does work for the APAFA. If you need help, Ken and Ev are a good resource.
Collection is Friday morning, early, so you should put out the garbage Thursday evening.
Recyclables need to be sorted within the blue box. Quinte Waste Solutions provide an instruction sheet that you might find at the library (it’s also available online at quinterecycling.org/recycling/curbside-recycling.) Improperly sorted material may not be picked up.
No wine, spirit or beer bottles in recycling. Drop off at Beer Store in Picton or Belleville.
Garbage bags need to be tagged and cost $3 each. Tags may be purchased at the library or the gas station in Rossmore.
There is a green bin pick-up for compost. Use only provided compost bags. All kitchen waste plus meat bones.
There is a big black garbage bin with a lid. Keep a stone on top as a raccoon deterrent.
To avoid mice from moving in, it’s best to keep bread and other baked goods in a container, the fridge, or microwave. Should you see evidence of mice in the A-frame, please thoroughly clean the area where you discover droppings and let Michele know. Also, while the red squirrels may fondly remind you of Beatrix Potter, do not encourage them to make their home in the roof by feeding them. Please be sure to leave no garbage inside when you leave.
On your last day of residency you will need to vacate the house by 11 a.m. to allow for housekeeping and maintenance. Before leaving please review DEPARTURE FROM A-FRAME CHECKLIST to ensure nothing has been missed.
Parking is only permitted on the gravel driveway close to Gibson Road.
All writers-in-residence are welcome to stay at the A-frame with their spouses or significant others and with their children. We have tried to make the A-frame “family friendly” but it is still primarily designed for adults, so please ensure that your children, especially young children, are closely observed during your stay.
The TV works and gets a few channels. There is a VCR and several tapes of Purdy-related programs that you may find interesting. Many of the books in the A-frame contain notations and bits of paper and make for fascinating exploration. The books are catalogued so they need to be returned to the same spot as you found them.
Because the building sat closed and empty for several years and is closed up for the winter season, there is some dampness in the walls that will eventually dry out. Keep the ceiling and exhaust fans going in the A-frame section while you are there, but please remember to turn them off when you go out.
The lake is shallow and weedy by the shore, with very slippery rocks. For the squeamish swimmer, water shoes work well along with a flotation device – both are there for your use. There’s also good swimming at the public beach in Ameliasburgh. You and your guests do all swimming at your own risk.
There is a stacked washer/dryer unit in the hall cupboard but we do encourage you to use the length of yellow nylon rope to string between the trees and clothes pegs. The middle cedar in the front has a handy knot for leveraging the line. To use the washer the ON button needs to be held down. The unit is compact so please do not overload, especially the dryer, as this could be a fire hazard. Check that lint filter is clear before use.
No pets are allowed. No smoking inside the building.
No smoking (tobacco, marijuana products, e-cigarettes) is permitted in the A-frame or writing shed. If you need to smoke please do so at least 10 metres from any structure or tree. The possession and/or use of all illicit substances is strictly prohibited.
There are copies of The Al Purdy A-frame Anthology in the writing room. These can be sold to pilgrims, if you wish, for $20.
Please be respectful of the neighbours, many of whom live on Roblin Lake year-round. It is a fairly quiet lake and it would be a shame if they come to rue the day the A-frame became a haven for writers. The writers to date have found the neighbours to be very friendly and welcoming.
If you are hosting guests, please ensure that you and they keep noise to a minimum. For example, music played outdoors should be kept to a reasonable level. There are municipal noise limits after 11 p.m.
It is not uncommon for people to show up to have a look at the A-frame and get a feel for the place that informed so much of Al’s work. If you can spare some time, these Purdy pilgrims will reward you with their gratitude, and their dedication to Al’s work is a thing of rare beauty. There is a visitors’ book for pilgrims and guests to sign.
There is a yellow notebook to use as an A-frame Residency Log. Please contribute to the history of this project in any way you wish.
Some legal necessities
All writers-in-residence and their guests are expected to comply with all applicable federal, provincial and municipal laws.
Writers-in-residence are responsible for all damage to the A-frame caused by themselves, their spouses or significant others, their children and any other guests. This applies to any damage caused on purpose or by someone not being careful enough. This does not include damage that results from normal use over time (i.e. “wear and tear”). Writers-in-residence are also responsible for the ordinary cleanliness of the A-frame during their stay.
Writers-in-residence are responsible for their own conduct and that of their spouses or significant others, their children and any other guests, and the Association is not liable for any harm, injury, illness or death of any person occurring because of that person’s time at the A-frame.
Writers-in-residence may not assign, sublet or otherwise transfer their right to stay at the A-frame to any other person.
Please read the Al Purdy A-frame Association Statement of Principles with care, and consideration.
Failure to comply with rules can result in personal liability to you and/or guests, and/or termination of the residency.
The Residential Tenancies Act (Ontario), as amended, does not apply to the relationship between the Association and its writers-in-residence.
Notes from Jean:
A month or two after the completion of your residency I will require a final report. Our board and funders like to know about your experience, and also suggestions that might improve the experience for future residents.
For the final report that I must send to the Ontario Arts Council, I have to provide the “number of works created,” so please include that information. Previous writers-in-residence report that it is a good idea to make notes during the residency in preparation for the final report.
Your final report should also include information about events in which you participated – number of events and approximate size of audience.
As indicated above, we do encourage you to continue the A-frame legacy of hospitality. Pilgrims show up. Some of the writers-in-residence invite other writers to visit and work on projects. If other writers/artists visit, please include that information in your final report.
When work that was produced at the A-frame is published please acknowledge the residency and also the funding support of the Ontario Arts Council.
I hope your time at the A-frame is both enjoyable and productive. Please get in touch with me if you have any questions or concerns after your arrival.
I first met Al at a reading in Picton my mother took me to when I was 14. My family cottage is in Waupoos, 15 minutes from Picton and about 40 minutes from the A-frame. Al’s reading, gruff yet sensitive, made a real impact on me. I was struggling to figure out how to fit myself both into the world of ideas and the real world, and Al’s ‘the poem oughta be worth a beer’ approach gave me some solace and some guidance. Al’s poetry continued to play an important role in my life throughout my teenage years and his voice remains important to me to this day.
I had a copy of In Search of Owen Roblin, in which Al talked about resettling in the county, and so I knew that the A-frame was around, but had never found it. When Patrick White’s article in the Globe and Mail (2008) came out, about Eurithe putting the property on the market and the A-frame’s imminent demise, I decided that I needed to do a thorough documentation of the house. I was doing my professional graduate degree in architecture at the time, and over the previous 6 years of school and work had developed adequate skills to do this, plus I was very interested at that point in the houses of writers, specifically Carl Jung, Heidegger, Yeats, Neruda, etc. Gaston Bachelard had written in the 50s about the value of reading poets describing space, and I was trying to look at poets that had actually made purposeful impacts on space – here was a Canadian poet close at hand, who I also happened to be big fan of!
Jean and Howard at this point had formed that Al Purdy A-frame Trust to try and raise money to purchase the house, and so I got in contact with them, got the keys to the house, and did my best to both document and study the house. Afterwards, I wrote an essay about the house, which I sent to Jean. I knew they were compiling an anthology about the A-frame at the time, so I offered them the use of my photos and drawings for the book. I didn’t expect them also to want my essay for the book, but when Jean asked if they could use it, I was delighted, and hooked, which I suppose was the idea 🙂
Only afterwards did I think how hilarious it must have seemed to Jean and Eurithe when I approached them with the idea of studying the house from an architectural perspective! But I was convinced of the structure’s importance, not just in a specific historical way, but in a more general way as well. When I set out to find what I could learn from a poet building a house, I found all kinds of interesting things! Al wasn’t a great carpenter, and they never had much money to put into the place, so the building developed in a very haphazard manner, made from all kinds of found materials – lumber from here, beams from here, flooring from here, an old window from there, a chicken coop as a writing shed . . . the list is extensive. And I saw a resonance between this approach and Al’s approach to poetry. Al’s poems will frequently start out lyrically, catch themselves, turn into an abrupt and silly joke, jumble around in a sort of awkward and entirely quotidian way, and then soar off to a philosophical and expansive conclusion. David Bentley has referred to it as bricolage, a cobbling together of different elements. Al’s poems both frequently site classical references as well as use well worn clichés from everyday conversation. Both in building the A-frame and in writing his poetry, Al used what he found lying around him. That’s point 1.
Point 2 is that the A-frame is a house that will never be finished, as Al said over and over again. It grew organically while they were living and while he was working there. This is a very interesting way of looking at a house. Most people try and finish their spaces, because only then will they truly be able to enjoy them (or so they think)! I’m sure Al & Eurithe felt that way too, but at some point Al seems to have given up and fallen in love with the idea that the house would continue to grow and change with them, which, as I say, is very interesting from an architectural perspective.
In 2012, Jean asked me to become a member of the board of the newly founded Al Purdy A-frame Association, and asked me to manage the updates that were required for the house to be inhabitable by writers. I of course agreed! How could I pass up an opportunity like that?
It does present all kinds of interesting problems, though. It was obviously not going to be a standard residential renovation! As one of our goals was to get heritage designation (in order to ensure the preservation of the house and also to open doors for potential funding), we began by putting together a comprehensive conservation ‘plan’ – a document that spelled out exactly why the house was of historical significance in order to make decisions about how to proceed with the updates. We quickly realized that both the rustic quality of the house, its bricolage quality, and its non-static nature, were vital to its heritage significance! How does one do a good renovation of a house while maintaining these qualities? Furthermore, how does one preserve it while also leaving the door open for growth and change? What even were we to call the work that needed to be done? Was it a renovation? restoration? A couple of heritage architects I spoke to suggested ‘rehabilitation,’ but that sounded a bit off to me. Were we sending the A-frame to rehab?
We were very lucky to find the perfect contractor for the job in Matti Kopamees, who had just moved to the county from Toronto. A musician and carpenter who had worked in public broadcasting at some point in his shadowy past, Matti knew what I was talking about when I said this had to be a very careful project. I gave him a reading list, we signed a contract, and we started work on the house in the fall of 2012. Work proceeded throughout 2013, and as I write this we are just completing Phase one in preparation for our first writer’s occupancy starting on Tuesday. Our approach has been to preserve as much of the house as is reasonable, keeping original materials and form where possible. Where we needed to make changes, we have attempted to build in a similar manner to the original, but not to copy it precisely; rather to subtly indicate that something has changed. In one bedroom where we had to replace the horizontal pine panelling, for instance, we have used vertical ash boards, transitions demarcated in precise locations with metal trim. Similarly, all of the new light switches use stainless steel face plates. In a nod to the resourcefulness of the original method of construction, we have attempted to re-use and repurpose materials wherever possible. The new ash wood we have used both on the interior and exterior of the house is milled from a tree that we had to take down on the property. The concrete culverts that the Purdys had at one point intended to use as a shore well and had sat on the property for decades, were used to make a sump pit next to the house. When we had to replace part of the old limestone chimney, the new stone, like the old stone, was taken from farmers’ fields and other sundry locations.