In the late 70s, I was in hospital for surgery and recovery.
My hospital stay was in city hospital. In that city there was a large residential institution for people with severe, very severe, mental deficiencies. I was one of the lucky few to have a semi-private room during my recovery, and to share it with a very nice woman.
Next door to our room was a ward room, with I think, four patients, all women. One patient from the large residential institution was in the ward room, recovering from a sterilization procedure. The other women were local residents in the city. My roommate and I could hear all that transpired in the ward room.
The woman from the residential institution was the object of much attention, none of it kind. The other women discovered that her stitches were itchy, and goaded her to scratch them, laughing uproariously when she scratched at the healing wound. She laughed too, thinking she was “one of the girls”, and was pleasing people. By the end of the day she had opened the surgical wound. The wound was stitched back up and redressed. Thankfully the hospital staff moved to her a private room.
I remember distinctly the feeling of skin-crawling disgust I felt towards those women who had tormented and abused that helpless woman from the residential institution.
That same sick feeling of disgust is what I felt towards the individual who guffawed at my face mask and shield, when I went to the grocery store, where people do not wear masks, to pick up my grocery order.
And then, when the knowledge that people behave in these ways threatens to overwhelm me, I turn my attention to what is beautiful in this world, the majority of humans and the natural world.
10°C Date: 12:33 PM EDT Friday 15 May 2020 Condition: Light Rain and Fog Pressure: 101.0 kPa Tendency: Falling Temperature: 10.0°C Dew point: 9.9°C Humidity: 99% Wind: SSE 10 km/h Visibility: 0.8 km
“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.” Ralph W. Sockman 1889 – 1970
The weather seldom gets me down, here at Mist Cottage, but Saturday morning’s snow surprise unexpectedly affected my mood. After our Friday night walk in a blizzard, which I enjoyed, the two inches of snow on the ground on Saturday morning had the opposite effect. And the continuing cold and cloudy weather is making the uphill climb a bit more difficult. I am getting there though. And warmer weather is on the way by the end of the week, albeit cloudy and raining, but warmer. The garden is bursting into many shades of green, which is beautiful, and adds cheer to the dreary light of day.
Nothing for it though, but to keep busy!
Years ago Attila gave me a dehydrator, for Christmas I think, or was it my birthday, oh well, it was a welcome gift. A project that has long been under consideration is to dehydrate carrots. So yesterday our 3 pound bag of carrots was peeled, then sliced into 1/4 inch thick medallions by the food processor. The medallions were blanched in boiling water for 3 minutes, removed from the heat, drained, then plunged into cold water, ice water is best but we don’t have ice, so cold water it was. After draining a second time, the medallions were spread in the dehydrator, and left there about 6 hours. They are tough to chew but taste great, and they don’t take up a lot of room on the shelf. They will be great for stews and soups.
The carrots were such a success that they have inspired a second project, dehydrated sweet potatoes. Last January, or February, a 10 pound bag of sweet potatoes was purchased at a greatly reduced price, less than perfect potatoes. They have made wonderful Sweet Potato Fries in the Air Fryer, but are now showing their age, so it would be best to process them before they end up in the compost bin. Tomorrow’s project.
Last week a new bread recipe was attempted: Squash Spice Raisin Bread. I began with a recipe I found online for Pumpkin Bread, and then made quite a few significant changes to the recipe. I used pureed squash instead of pumpkin, added raisins, added cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, used 100% whole wheat flour instead of white bread flour, added gluten flour, changed the sugar amount, added liquid stevia, reduced the sodium to 1/8th tsp., and used the bread machine to knead the dough. The resulting bread tasted wonderful! But my baking time and temperature were off, the centre was under cooked. We ate the whole loaf in less than two days!
Yesterday a second, revised batch of the bread was attempted. This time I divided the dough between two loaf pans instead of one, lowered the oven temperature, increased the baking time, and the results were wonderful. Attila loves this bread toasted. It really is more like a sweet bun than a bread. But it only has 3 teaspoons of sugar, and 145 mg of sodium added per loaf. The 3/4 cup of raisins that I added were just the right amount, they add additional sweetness to the loaf.
When baking I like to use half the sugar called for in a recipe, and replace the other half with liquid stevia. That way we get the flavour of sugar, and the results are just as sweet and tasty as they would be, using only sugar as a sweetener.
Attila is spending his time, when it is too wet and cold to garden, in the basement. The surface of half of the basement floor is pock marked, holes really, in the floor, where unmixed sand was trapped, the surface broke, and a depression in the cement was left. It is now being patched. Since we already have concrete paint here, from a few years ago, the patched floor will be painted when it dries. The job will be done in small squares and rectangles, as we begin to move things around down there; moving things onto the newly painted floor, and exposing more of the unfinished floor to patch and paint. This could take some time! We have time.
There has been a slight increase in the kinds of retail outlets that are allowed to be open in Ontario, significant to us are hardware stores and nurseries. This means that Canadian Tire has again changed the way they handle shopping, as they are now allowing customers into the store. However, we don’t want to go into a store where other customers do not wear masks, even though the staff at Canadian Tire do wear masks. So I ordered our concrete patch material online, and Attila was able to pick it up at the docking area door. This will work for us!
Our expenditure on this concrete patch project is $9.99, which isn’t a lot I guess, but on our new great-to-have-but-low-enough-to-cause-pause income level, it took a bit of thinking to make sure we could swing it. Food, heat, and basic shelter costs are our priority, and household improvement projects are more of a luxury than a necessity.
We are getting into a routine when buying items from the outside world. Attila has his “plague clothes” that he wears to do pickups, and he has developed a whole routine when he returns, that involves stripping down and throwing the clothes in the washing machine, sanitizing any items coming in, and washing his hands using what we now call our “medi-wash” technique, which is outlined on many websites and videos on how to wash your hands. This whole routine gets easier over time.
5°C Date: 2:00 PM EDT Monday 11 May 2020 Condition: Mostly Cloudy – Periods of rain mixed with snow ending this afternoon then cloudy. Pressure: 101.3 kPa Tendency: Rising Temperature: 4.7°C Dew point: 1.3°C Humidity: 79% Wind: NNW 20 gust 30 km/h Visibility: 24 km
“Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint on it you can.” Danny Kaye 1913 – 1987
As a kid I loved Danny Kaye, and in particular his preformance in The Court Jester.
I am sitting in my easy chair, gazing at my computer screen, where I can see my reflection as I type. There I am, sunlight and shadow playing across my face, as the branches of the tree outside the window wave in the breeze and share their delight with me. And I amazed at how rich I feel, breathing freely, smiling at myself, at my good fortune in this moment. How good it is to be alive.
Here we are, almost mid-May and a Polar Vortex has descended upon us! Tonight the temperature is supposed to dip to -6C, so it will be interesting to see if those wee radish plants make it through the night tonight. The radish plants lasted right up until mid-November last fall, but it may be harder for young seedlings to hang on through frigid temperatures, than it is for established plants. If I remember, if we don’t get the predicted snow overnight, I will mist the radish seedlings with 20C water in tomorrow morning, that might help.
Although it is quite cold, it is bright and sunny this morning, but the weather people say it will cloud over by noon. A heavy frost has encrusted the landscape, melting away at the sun’s first gentle touch. The house was 17.5C this morning, the heat has been turned off since last Sunday. This morning, since my fingers and joints were feeling quite stiff, the heat was turned on again.
I’ve just been reading (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) that we could expect the pandemic to circulate for about two more years, which was estimated by some from the very beginning. The easing of the restrictions does not mean we are free and clear, it just means that human leaders are attempting to keep our infrastructures going, and the curve flat enough, to ensure those who will survive-with-care can access care, there may be more lock-downs to come, and more severe waves of the viral infection to come. I hope they are wrong of course, that we are nearing the end, and I hope not to be one of the inevitable deaths in this pandemic.
I don’t feel optimistic about a vaccine arriving in time to save everyone. I guess we all know how it feels to wonder if we will survive this time of trouble, except children without underlying health issues, they seem to be surviving, a blessing, even though there are now concerns about the need for hospital intervention for some otherwise healthy children.
I suspect that when we think about this time, years from now, we will remember how interminable it seemed, the not knowing, the worry for loved ones, the isolation, the financial chaos, the toilet paper shortage that seemed so silly a way to usher in such changes, and yet was so very apt.
The birds are still singing merrily in the trees, perched on once bare branches, where leaves are just beginning to unfurl. Squirrels are digging furiously in the gardens. Rabbits are frolicking on the lawns and in the hedges. Small insects dance together in the early and late slanted rays of the sun. The world, the natural world, is as fresh and clean and beautiful and happy as I have seen it since I was a child. Mother earth seems to be breathing a lot easier these days, sighing with relief.
Here at Mist Cottage we are making the most of our time, focusing on the things we can do, on what we have. What we have is safety at home, adequate food, adequate shelter, and our health. We pay as little attention as possible to our greater context. Each morning we read a bit about what is going on around us, talk about it, express our fears, our hopes, our dreams. Then we put the outside world away, tuck it into a loose lidded box until the next morning comes along. The danger for us is to either grow tired, or to forget, that the pandemic is real even though we can’t see it. Our morning reviews help us to remain vigilant, and flexible. We feel we have agency while we are still healthy, so we focus on our health, and our happiness, because that is also important for good health.
We are so very lucky that we have lost only one extended family member to the virus, on Attila’s side, and no friends or loved ones. Everyone in our circle is being careful, doing their best, protecting themselves and others. We are in this for the long haul.
Stay safe dear friends.
2°C Date: 7:00 AM EDT Friday 8 May 2020 Condition: Mainly Sunny Pressure: 100.9 kPa Tendency: Falling Temperature: 1.6°C Dew point: -3.9°C Humidity: 67% Wind: W 28 gust 39 km/h Visibility: 24 km
“I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.” George Burns 1896 – 1996
Yesterday we ate the last 500-ml jar of Canned Coleslaw. We love it.
So today we made another batch. Attila chopped the vegetables. I got out all of the equipment, washed the jars, prepared the lids, and got the steam canner going. I measured out all of the ingredients for the syrup, this time reducing the sugar significantly, as Attila found the first batch a little too sweet for his taste. Me, well, it is hard for me to imagine anything with too much sugar! Now we have another six and half 500-ml jars cooling on the counter.
I am still experimenting with tattler lids with these batches of Canned Coleslaw. The first experiment was 100% successful, but I am not sure about this batch. Tomorrow I will be able to tell if the jars sealed. If the seals fail, no problem, all the jars will go into the refrigerator, and will be eaten within six days time!
I turned the heat off in the house, on Sunday afternoon, it was so lovely. It has not been turned back on, but since we are expecting snow by Friday, I think we are going to be needing it again. Last night the the outdoor temperature fell below freezing, but in Mist Cottage it only fell to 18C, which is quite comfortable for sleeping. With all the canning going on in here today, the temperature is up again to 20.5C.
Yesterday was a big event here at Mist Cottage, a turning point if you will. Attila finished the last fiddly bit to complete the third wall of the basement insulation project! What this means is that is Maggie Time! I can now begin the process of cleaning and reorganizing the basement! It felt as if we would never get here.
And what, you may ask, have I chosen to begin with on this oh-so-welcome basement project? Cleaning blinds, that have not been cleaned in about 15 years. We had open storage cupboards at the country house, that were moved here five years ago. Because they were in a living space at the country house, we installed blinds over the open areas to improve the visual, and to keep out the light. They are very dirty, and washing them is going to take some time. I have time.
Cleaning the blinds is not going to take much brain power. This will provide the perfect opportunity to spend time in the basement, to look around and begin to plan how to proceed after the cleaning phase of the project is completed. And, since we are expecting snow this Friday and Saturday, spending time in the relative warmth of the basement will seem like a very good idea.
I hope you are finding engaging and satisfying projects at your home!
At last we have a beautiful spring day! It is 15C out there, the sun was shining this morning, although it has disappeared now behind grey clouds, and there is a lovely breeze, as opposed to wind. Thursday and Friday were dismal indeed, cold, heavy rain, high winds… but today, beautiful!
Attila just came back from a visit to the home building center. Attila was again the only person wearing a mask when he went to the building center. People were properly lined up outside the store, two meters apart as required, allowed to enter one by one, and the cashier was behind her plexiglass wall. No one was wearing a mask, not the staff, not the customers. Except for Attila, he wears his mask, he changes and washes his clothes when he comes home. We hope for a vaccine for the coronavirus, and accept that it might never come. In the meantime we intend on enjoying what we do have, and that we are relatively safe as long as we avoid other humans.
Attila is just finishing off the last of the fiddly bits on the third wall of the basement. That makes three walls completely insulated, dry walled and painted. The fiddly bits today are the wiring, the ground rod outside needed to be replaced, so we ordered a new one, Attila went to pick it up, and now he is installing it.
The fourth wall is insulated, and has the vapour barrier installed, but it is a wall that will be challenging to finish with drywall, as the pipes, water and sewer, and the heating system, and the hot water tank, are all lined up along that wall, so it needs finicky, bit by bit, application of drywall, and in some areas wallboard because drywall is too thick. But the insulation is there, we have the benefit of that, the drywall is just the finishing touch that is missing.
At last I can sit on a chair in the basement, and begin to plan on how to arrange things, to organize things. I will take my time planning, as I don’t want to do this twice! We have waited 10 years to get to the point where we can begin to organize the basement for optimum storage and use. I feel rather stunned, and excited, that the day has finally arrived!
Last week I managed to find yeast to make my bread, and cocoa for baking, with the online order. Attila wanted to celebrate that we have chocolate, and initially thought of cookies. But I cannot eat cookies, the sugar content is far too high for me. We finally decided on a loaf of Whole Wheat Chocolate Bread (yeast bread), which is in the bread machine right now. It smells wonderful!
When I want to “deep clean” fabrics, such as dish cloths, or pot holders, I boil them for ten minutes in a big pot of water on the stove top. This morning it is pot holders in the pot. After boiling and then rinsing them, they will be popped into a load of laundry to be washed, then hung up to dry on the back porch clothesline.
“whoever saw old age that did not applaud the past and condemn the present?” Michel de Montaigne 1533 – 1592
Well! The thing to applaud about the past is that we survived it; it is sure thing. The thing to condemn about the present is that we may not survive it. Age brings increasing awareness of this, and the difference between past and present becomes more poignant. There are some adroit young people who are also aware, but they are usually regarded as “pessimists”.