Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

I will begin by wishing you a Happy New Year! May you experience peace, joy, and good health in the year to come!

Yes, the last days of 2019 are proving to be quite unpleasant. Yesterday was freezing rain, power failures all around us, but thankfully the power supply at Mist Cottage remained strong. We had plans for the day, but upon looking out the window, instantly changed them, and stayed safe and warm inside the house, because we could. It is nice to have options!

This morning I arose to ice pellets pounding down on the roof, and accumulating. This is different than freezing rain, ice pellets maintain their integrity and collect like snow. The plow went by early this morning. Now it is snowing, heavily. The temperature is just above freezing. There was a short window of calm weather this morning, and we took that opportunity to run to the building centre to purchase additional insulation, and a few bits of needed hardware for the basement project. It was fortunate we went when we did.

Attila has spent his entire Christmas break working on the basement insulation. He has completed the studs and insulation on all but part of the back wall. There are sections that have vapour barrier, and some sections even have painted drywall installed. There is still much to be done, and another load of drywall is soon to be ordered, and more paint will also be needed to complete the project. Attila is enjoying this project, I think mostly because there are no deadlines, no pressing issues dependent on the completion of the project. He does what he can comfortably, and when he wants to he can walk away until inspired to get back to it, which, it turns out, is almost every day since he started in November.

And me, what am I up to? Yesterday I milled flour, which took most of the mid-peak hydro window during the day (11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). The Christmas baking used up every last little bit of flour that I had on hand. And that was the last of the first 25 kg bag of organic wheat berries. On Boxing Day Attila brought the second 25 kg bag out of the freezer, and yesterday it was thawed and ready for milling. The wheat berries are transferred to and stored in a 7 gallon food grade plastic bucket. The bucket sits in our tiny kitchen, as it is too heavy for me to carry up and down the basement stairs. Someday I would like to have a better place to store the bucket, but we aren’t going to be working on the kitchen in 2020.

The other project that was tackled was vegetable broth. Vegetable scraps are saved by placing them in plastic bags in the freezer. When eight or nine one liter bags accumulate, out comes the steam juicer, and they are transformed into a vitamin and mineral rich broth. Two cups were used immediately to make a Spaghetti dinner in the Instant Pot, and the three remaining cups were frozen in a plastic tub for future use. I am finding that the scraps are providing us with 100% of the vegetable broth we use for cooking meals. Not bad for stuff that is usually thrown in the garbage, or sometimes thrown in a composter.

Worldly

Weather

0°C
Date: 2:48 PM EST Tuesday 31 December 2019
Condition: Light Snow (HA! Heavy snow more like!)
Pressure: 99.9 kPa
Tendency:Falling
Temperature: 0.4°C
Dew point: -0.4°C
Humidity: 95%
Wind: WSW 23 gust 45 km/h
Visibility: 1 km

Quote

“Remember also that each man lives only the present moment:  The rest of time is either spent and gone, or is quite unknown.  It is a very little time which each man lives, and in a small corner of the earth; and the longest surviving fame is but short, and this conveyed through a succession of poor mortals, each presently a-dying; men who neither knew themselves, nor the persons long since dead.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book III, Section 10, in Francis Hutcheson and James Moor (translators), The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (1742).

For me the most significant part of this offering is that “the longest surviving fame is but short”. In a world where we are increasingly completing in a digital world for even a smidgen of interaction with other human beings, where so many people are after that “15 minutes of fame”, it seems sad that the significance of the here and now, and the with-you, has faded so badly. Will the species ever return to primarily face-to-face contact? I wonder.

Warming Up

The weather is taking a warm turn today, the predicted high temperature will be -5C. It to get even warmer in these few days before Christmas, so it is probable the little bit of snow we have on the ground will melt, and we will have a green Christmas. I now love green Christmases, after living in the north in the bush, where the snow had a definite personality of its own, a personality with a lot of attitude. Green is good.

We spend our Christmas Day with just the two of us, with a few exceptions, and have done since Terra left home in 2001. Our children and grandchildren spend their Christmas Day with the in-laws, as far as we know. At first it was distressing, after spending so many decades sharing a busy Christmas with my children. There is a lot of hype in the world, about Christmas being a happy “family” event. Really though, for tens of thousands and thousands and thousands of people, that is just not the case. And some of us, in spite of the hype, experience wonderful Christmases without a big happy family gathering.

Attila and I accepted reality, and moved on.

Now we enjoy our quiet Christmas Days. All the excitement of childhood has mellowed into a peaceful enjoyment of colourful lights and delicious food. We usually read, watch a few movies, and cook, cook, cook! And I feel peace knowing that the tradition of the warmth of animals, and the kindness of strangers, is alive and flourishing in this world, despite all that is desperately wrong with the present human condition.

It feels funny to write of these things, as I don’t know who is reading. Yes, I do know my Mom and sisters read what is written here, and some of my cherished friends read these words, many I have met here. But there are many who read these scratchings who I do not know of, and I cannot know how these words land in your world. But I do know that, no matter what you may make of this prose, I harbour goodwill towards those who are kind and compassionate.

Worldly

Weather

-12°C
Date: 8:13 AM EST Saturday 21 December 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 103.5 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -12.4°C
Dew point: -14.5°C
Humidity: 84%
Wind: NE 11 km/h
Wind Chill: -18
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“There is something about the presence of a cat…that seems to take the bite out of being alone.”
Louis J. Camuti
1893 – 1981

“Louis J. Camuti was a New York City cat veterinarian who made housecalls on cats and their people for over sixty years. He was the first veterinarian in the United States to devote his entire practice to cats.””

Wheat Berries

Attila ventured out on Monday after work to find a Christmas Tree. He likes a real tree, and so do I. There weren’t many available by the time Attila started looking, but he eventually found one, for $40. It is our Christmas indulgence, well one of them, food is the other. I am lucky in that he will do all the decorating, and enjoys doing it. I just have to be careful not to supervise, although the temptation is great at times! I have to content myself with sitting in my easy chair and playing the part of the great admirer… I’ve got this!

I milled flour earlier this week, and used the last of the bag of wheat berries. That bag lasted for four months, as we purchased it early in August. It provided us with all of our wheat related products, which are primarily breads and muffins. We have two more bags in the freezer, which should last until early August, at which time another journey to the supplier will be in order.

Whole wheat flour will go rancid. We used to purchase large bags of it, when I was working, and we lived in the country. But the intermittent and unpredictable hours that I worked interfered with bread baking, and as a result I did not use all of the flour in time, we lost some of it. So I knew I needed to come up with a better supply flow model. Wheat berries will remain viable far longer than ground flour, so I turned my attention to wheat berries, and a grain mill. Freezing the wheat berries further extends their freshness, so that I can keep a year’s supply without losing quality in my whole wheat flour. Domestic grain mills are readily available on the internet.

Now that I mill my own flour, I use it for everything, bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, squares, if it calls for flour, I use whole wheat. This can be challenging at times, but I am learning how to tweak recipes for optimal results. I enjoy doing this, it is a hobby with benefits. If I didn’t enjoy it, it would be a tedious and frustrating job!

Finding the wheat berries was the challenge. There are no locally grown grain products to be had. There are a few farmers selling wheat berries locally, but they are not interested in selling to individuals, as they focus on sales to specialty bakeries and small artisan food processors. They fail to respond to my inquiries. I think it is a matter of “if you have to ask the price you cannot afford it”, so why waste time talking to me. I am keeping an eye on organic producers in Western Canada, and ways to ship their product here at a reasonable cost. So far, so bad, I haven’t found a feasible way to do it. But I haven’t given up, in my imagination there is someone returning to Ontario with an empty truck!

Worldly

Weather

-7°C
Date: 7:00 AM EST Wednesday 11 December 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -7.0°C
Dew point: -9.7°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: ESE 11 km/h
Wind Chill: -12
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
John Wooden
1910 – 2010

The invisible thread that keeps our species viable on planet earth, despite our weaknesses.

I’ve Got This! Or Maybe This Got Me.

Chocolates have always been my favourite treat at Christmas time. But now, being older and experiencing the inevitable consequence of time, chocolates are something I no longer indulge in. What to do!

I think I have found my solution. Sweet yeast breads! I made loaf of Panettone number four yesterday, and it is so, so good! I eat it plain, and sometimes I spread a wee bit of butter on it. And I enjoy every single bite. This bread has me on the hook.

Here is the nutritional information on my loaf of Panettone bread. Instead of raisins (I can’t find them!) I used 1/2 cup of dried apples, and 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. The bread is a little high in cholesterol, but since I don’t consume many food with cholesterol, this won’t be an issue.
The real benefit of this bread, is that for me, it is a great substitute for rich Christmas desserts, pies, cakes, cookies, and worst of all chocolates. When compared to the usual dessert roster, this bread is clearly health food.

We are having a quiet weekend here at home, as usual. Attila is working on the insulating the basement. He now has the stud walls built, and the insulation installed, for about 50% of the total area to be covered. It is slow going but oh so satisfying. The difference can be felt when standing in the area of the basement that is now insulated, then moving to an area yet to be insulated. The chill in the area that has no insulation is unmistakable. This is a good winter project, as most of the work is indoors, with only a bit of lumber to be cut in the garage.

I’ve asked Attila to build me a coat rack at the bottom of the basement stairs. Until now I’ve donned my winter wear at the top of the stairs, but have decided that I want to struggle with my winter boots at the bottom of the stairs, where I can place a chair. We use the basement entry exclusively in the winter, and do not clear a path to our official front door. So the basement is where I would prefer to don my winter garb. He not only prepared, painted, and installed a coat rack for me, he also painted the wall behind it, and the wall in the stairwell beside it.

Slowly but surely it is becoming easier to live in Mist Cottage.

Worldly

Weather

4°C
Date: 7:00 PM EST Sunday 8 December 2019
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.0°C
Dew point: -0.6°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: S 45 gust 62 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.”
Hugh Macleod
1965 –

Blogmas Day 23: Bug

Somehow I’ve caught a tummy bug, with accompanying cramps and chills. I have been bundled up under my crocheted blanket, cozy on my easy chair, all morning.

Another cloudy, dreary day out there. It is so warm and welcoming in Mist Cottage. When I am not feeling well I love the sounds the house makes. The ticking of the clock, the dull roar as the furnace fires up, the sound of the furnace fan as it blows warm air all over the place, and the muffled sounds of Attila’s activities, as he putters around doing his thing. There is snow on the ground here, and sounds out there are muffled and muted, barely perceptible.

I don’t like feeling ill, but it does slow one down enough to “smell the roses”.

Hoping this thing passes quickly, there is a lot of good eating coming up!

Worldly

Weather

-7°C
Date: 11:00 AM EST Sunday 23 December 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -6.5°C
Dew point: -9.7°C
Humidity: 78%
Wind: E 5 km/h
Wind Chill: -9
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”
Will Rogers
1879 – 1935