Such a Pretty Ugly

Don’t get me wrong; I love living here. I love living here year-round and appreciate all the modifications necessary for a warm winter. But that doesn’t mean I see it all through rose-colored glasses.

And the truth is, it gets ugly around here in winter. Here is what it is like in an 1909 summer cabin in a winter with regular lows around negative fifteen:

For one, we have this pink Styrofoam insulation up along several of the walls. There is no way for us to put insulation inside the walls themselves without extensive work (drilling holes & adding foam insulation is not an option without further knowledge of the wiring).

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I don’t really mind the pink panels. I do think they are ugly, but for the most part I optically tune them out. The biggest pain is the physical space they take up. It’s only an inch or so here and there but on our front porch, where it is narrow and we need it the most, it adds up.

The front porch in general gets the brunt of ugly in the winter, which is a shame because it is the room with the best views and the most views. Looking out at Meta Lake, the porch is walled on three sides by huge windows. Even with the pink panels and the vinyl/shrink wrap over the glass, it’s too cold to stay out here to enjoy the view. The front porch is also the default area to store items that may be kept outside at other times of the year. It used to be, back when this was a “summer” cabin, that EVERYTHING got stored here. You couldn’t move around until you started hauling things out. Now we try and store much of the outdoor furniture under the house.

Besides the panels, the other all-around home ugliness is the vinyl or plastic over all the windows. We have a hard time getting the sticky-tape that comes with conventional window plastic kits to stick over the length of our windows and for the duration of winter. So instead Tom buys bulk vinyl and/or window plastic (depending on sales, availability, etc.) and tacks it up with wood lathing and penny nails. On the porch windows that do not have storm windows, he hangs vinyl on the outside as well. Very ugly. But very effective.

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The hope is that with the vinyl…and maybe some of the thicker plastic?…we can take it down carefully and reuse it next year. Last year I spent a few hours pounding penny nails out of wood lathing so those could be salvaged.

I would love to not have to put up the plastic and I hate the idea of putting nail holes in the house year after year. But the alternative is to re-do all the porch windows. Too expensive even at it’s cheapest for us right now.

Another necessity, for another year or so at least, is this cement board smack dab in the middle of our living room. The original hearth is technically illegal for even the fireplace itself, let alone the cast iron stove that protrudes almost a foot. We will, in time, cut part of the floor away and inlay a decorative piece of metal for a permanent solution. But the fireplace will be in jeopardy whenever the house is lifted for the basement addition. So until we know the final outcome, the cement board stays. We have wanted exactly zero inside fires during the summer so at least we get a seasonal reprieve from this eyesore and foot hazard when it can be stored away.


While not exactly ugly, the “staging” area for our wood pile is not pretty either. It’s also a space hog. Again on a narrow porch, the back porch this time, we put down one of those shallow tubs a washing machine rests in. When wood is dragged over from the wood pile (we use a small sled and often then pull the sled up into the house), wood gets stacked here first for snow to melt away.


Very few of these uglies will be rectified by a basement addition.  That would be like a tummy tuck fixing your drooping eye lids.  There is the hope that the additional heat insulation a basement provides would mean not everything pictured here is 100% necessary for winter survival.  But I’m not holding my breath.

When these ugly ducklings make their appearance in fall, I am dismayed but also a little excited.  It is a sign of change and a thrill to batten down the hatches.  It is us against the elements and we will win!

But now, five months later, I am tired of them.  I wish for different changes.

Remind of that when my car gets stuck in the spring mud pit that is our driveway.

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