Unexpected Opportunity

Our pace has slowed here at Mist Cottage, as winter deepens. It isn’t the cold, because the weather was mild over the weekend, and is mild again today. The eves are dripping, the snow is compacting as it melts, the roads are clear and dry in places, and the skies are gray, as they usually are these days. Of course, the cold weather is not done with us yet, not by any means. We will be well into March before we can regard a cold snap as unusual in any way.

I have been listening to Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. I am only an hour into the novel, and I am pierced by sadness and grief, that humans could ever create social structures that caused so much pain and suffering. But humans do just that, and to that I will never be fully reconciled. I think humans may be the cruelest conscious living beings on planet earth, and no culture that I have ever read about, or been exposed to, is an exception. They all harbour their own sad stories.

I am also now listening to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and have just been introduced to Mrs. Benet, and her obtuse husband, Mr. Benet.

What a contrast in worlds between the novels I am listening to. On one side of the world, and closer to our own time, there is great suffering in the underbelly of an unbalanced socal system. On the other side of the world, there is the struggle with the rigid artifice of the class system, on the peaks of an unbalanced social system. And all of it rings true, the descriptions of the human condition, the lows and the highs, and everything in between.

Another world wide alert about a virus is in the news. This time it is the Wuhan Coronavirus. One hopes that the powers that be will be successful in containing the spread of this virus, which has already killed many people, and has potential to kill even more. In my time there have been world wide threats posed by SARS and MERS and Ebola, and there may be others that I was not aware of at the time, the news of which didn’t penetrate into my everyday life. It seems greater mobility of people and things bring greater risks.

On the weekend I baked Squash Chocolate Chip muffins for snacks. I experimented with a sweetener consisting of stevia and erythritol. I’ve used other granulated sugar substitutes, and I am happy to report that this combination of sweeteners yielded great results. This sweetener might even have some health benefits. Certainly, it is unlikely that it won’t be any worse for me than sugar. I’ve looked at other stevia mixes, usually using maltodextrin or xylitol, and decided erythritol seems the least likely to be harmful. The stevia/erythritol combo is a lot more expensive than the other blends with stevia, and it is more difficult to find. The muffins are a great success. I had one for breakfast this morning and enjoyed it very much.

Today I am busy milling flour. It takes me quite a while, because I mill a little over two gallons of flour, and let the mill cool completely between sessions. I mill the flour in four sessions, producing a half a gallon of flour at once. I measure in gallons because my glass canister jars are one gallon jars.

And last, but not least for today, is our Christmas Tree. I think I mentioned that it was in very good condition, not losing needles as all of our previous real Christmas Trees have done. Well, it has gone one step further. It is growing new needles, there are buds emerging all over the tree. If it keeps up like this we will have try planting it in the yard come spring. In the meantime, I think we will take this unexpected opportunity to remove the Christmas Ornaments, leave the lights on it, and decorate it with Valentines, then later replace those with Shamrocks. This is a lot of fun!

Worldly

Weather

2°C
Date: 12:00 PM EST Monday 27 January 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 2.0°C
Dew point: -1.4°C
Humidity: 78%
Wind: WNW 17 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1807 – 1882

Forest Floor Muffins

The ice storm arrived here after midnight, so we awoke to a sparkling world. The sparkle was brief though, because very soon the snow began to fall, making everything white, and surprisingly, not all that slippery. We did not lose power at any point. Today was another gray day.

Having baked bread last weekend, there was no need to do it again this weekend. Actually, there were no plans to bake today. But mid-afternoon I was looking for a snack and couldn’t settle on anything. So I made muffins, a go-to recipe. I don’t read the recipe anymore, I just use this recipe’s base ingredients, and then mix and match the rest of the ingredients.

The base ingredients are divided into two categories, dry and wet. Extras are usually added to the basic dry ingredients, but also sometimes to the wet.

The dry ingredients in my base recipes are:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup of quick cooking oats
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder (aluminum free)
  • 4 tablespoons of brown sugar

The wet ingredients, in a two cup measuring up are:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • liquid to make ABOUT 1 1/2 to 2 cups (milk, applesauce, pureed pumpkin, pureed any fruit).
    NOTE: the liquid is the tricky bit in my muffin baking. When I add a cup of applesauce or pumpkin puree to the liquid measure, the mixture is quite thick, and needs a bit more thin liquid (like milk) to moisten the batter adequately. And muffins can easily be over stirred, so getting the liquid to dry ratio just right, without stirring too much can be tricky.

The rest of the ingredients are discretionary. My mixing and matching was ambitious today. To my muffins I added: chopped walnuts; chocolate chips; shredded coconut; roasted sunflower seeds; flax seeds; raisins; and applesauce. When describing my choices to Attila, he laughed and called the muffins, Forest Floor Muffins. He figures my choice of ingredients was the equivalent of going for a walk in the forest and picking up whatever interesting things I could find on the ground, then throwing them into a recipe. The process was a bit like that, I have to admit. The muffins are delicious.

I use the basic dry and wet ingredient measurements to make all my muffins. I end up with low-sodium, low-sugar muffins that taste good to us. I can vary the recipe depending on what is on hand, or in season. Currently Attila favours Cranberry Chocolate Chip Muffins for his lunches. I mix a cup of whole fresh or thawed cranberries into the dry ingredients just before adding the wet ingredients, AND I add a few drops of liquid stevia to the wet ingredients, because the cranberries demand it.

Attila spent the weekend making soup for weekday snacks, and applying vapour barrier on the newly insulated walls in the basement. He is down to working on the fiddly bits of vapour barriers, behind pipes, the furnace, and the hot water heater. I snuck in a mention of my new kitchen shelf today, providing him with the height and width specifications that I have decided on. Fingers crossed for that project!

So not exactly a busy day, not exactly an exciting day (excitement is highly overrated), but certainly a pleasant day.

Worldly

Weather

-7°C (we are getting down into oil furnace temperatures!)
Date: 8:00 PM EST Sunday 12 January 2020
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 103.3 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -7.1°C
Dew point: -9.7°C
Humidity: 82%
Wind: NE 8 km/h
Wind Chill: -11
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“What is important is to keep learning, to enjoy challenge, and to tolerate ambiguity. In the end there are no certain answers.”
Martina Horner

The Very Long Wait

Last fall I began a bit of a journey, and I have been waiting for its conclusion.

I had two health issues (well three, but this entry is about two of them). One was my upcoming colonoscopy. The second was a largish lump on the inside of my mouth, which did not heal or go away.

The colonoscopy is troubling for me on five levels. In order of severity they are: dealing with the hospital staff re: anaphylaxis; the procedure itself, which is very unpleasant; the preparation, which is horrendous for me, I don’t tolerate the purge chemicals well; the fear of human error resulting in my death, due to my anaphylaxis; and last but certainly not least, the fear that cancer will be found, and many more colonoscopies will populate my last years on earth.

About four weeks before a colonoscopy, my stress levels begin to increase. The colonoscopy was booked for early December.

The result of the colonoscopy was a polyp, which was removed and biopsied. The surgeon left the country just after the procedure, so my wait to hear the results dragged on until the middle of January. The results were benign, but the surgeon wasn’t satisfied with the thoroughness of the procedure, and I was then booked for a further test, a colonography. That is when my blood pressure really started to rise. That procedure was done, with the horrendous preparation again, in early January. The results were that there was no problem.

Now ordinarily I would have felt considerable relief! But, the other health issue was also in play. I had seen an ENT specialist, early in the fall, about the growth in my mouth, and he recommended it be removed. When I went to that appointment, he wasn’t prepared for my anaphylaxis, and could not perform the procedure. He left it that he would research a safe anesthetic, and call me to schedule the procedure again. I did not hear from his office. I called every few weeks to see what was going on, they kept saying they would call me… they did not.

I finally had an appointment with the Nurse Practitioner, and told her about the situation. She wrote to the ENT and within a week and a half I received a call from the ENT’s office to schedule the procedure. I found this whole process stressful.

After the lump was removed, it was time to wait for the biopsy results. Today I got the results, benign. The lip is healing nicely, so I am hoping I can just forget about this now.

So, since last fall I’ve had these biopsies and procedures at the back of my mind. I don’t dwell on these kinds of things, but they do create a stressful backstory to life.

During the fall and winter, my blood pressure has been rising, which is not surprising. I am working with my Nurse Practitioner to address the issue. My hope is that now that all of these procedures are completed, and the much awaited results have arrived, stress levels will decrease as will blood pressure readings. This remains to be seen however, high blood pressure is in my family health history, and I am genetically prone to it, so I just might have to consider new treatment strategies.

Winter continues to exert its influence, this last day of February. The sun is shining brightly on this morning’s snowfall, and it is cold out there. It isn’t as cold as the Polar Vortex, but it is cold enough that a hat and scarf are very much needed. It seems this cold weather will persist for at least the first week of March. The sun getting stronger every day, and the snow melts away more quickly than it did even a few weeks ago. Spring is coming.

Tank is having difficulties again. She goes into the garage again tomorrow. With a little luck the fix will be easy, and the bill won’t be debilitating. We haven’t quite recovered from the last repair bill for Tank!

Well, here I am then. Full of good news, with a sprinkling of annoyances, the spice of life.

Worldly

Weather

-11°C
Date: 1:00 PM EST Thursday 28 February 2019
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.7 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -11.1°C
Dew point: -17.5°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: S 14 km/h
Wind Chill: -18
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Words that soak into your ears are whispered… not yelled.”

Old farmer.

No Heat – Heat

It is really winter now!

This morning I was puttering around and feeling kind of chilly. I ignored the feeling and carried on with my projects. But the feeling persisted, and then began to be more and more insistent on getting my attention. A quick look at the thermometer alerted me to the fact that the temperature in the house was plummeting. Neither the furnace, nor the heat pump, were able to get going. There was no heat.

With a wind chill factor of -22 outside, I was going to have to do something, and quickly. I realized that although we own several electric heaters, Attila had stored them somewhere, and I could not find them. So that option was not available. I dressed warmly and headed out to the side of the house to inspect the air source heat pump. I cleared the snow from it, quite a bit actually, we are experiencing snow squalls. I banged it on the side a bit, thinking maybe it would get going. No. Back into the house I went.

My next attempt was to turn the temperature up substantially on the thermostat, hoping that would inspire the system to leap into action. No.

My next attempt was to turn off the thermostat, and leave it for several minutes before turning it back on. Nothing. So back down to the basement I went to look for the electric heaters, they had to be down there somewhere! No luck finding them. But while I was down there rummaging through the piles of stuff, I heard a noise, and bingo, the furnace kicked in and began to run!

So I was in business, the house began to warm up, and after about a half an hour I could remove my toque and parka. I spent some time down in the basement and finally remembered where the electric heaters were stashed. I found them.

An electric heater won’t keep the house comfortable, but it will keep the pipes from freezing. I also need to know where the antifreeze is, so I can winterize the house if the power goes out. We have all that is needed here to survive a no heat situation, but I have to be able to find the materials needed if I am going to implement the plan.

With any luck the furnace will keep working for the rest of the winter!

Worldly

Weather

-15°C
Date: 9:00 AM EST Wednesday 30 January 2019
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -15.0°C
Dew point: -17.7°C
Humidity: 80%
Wind: NW 12 km/h
Wind Chill: -22
Visibility: 16 km

Quote

“Good order is the foundation of all things.”
Edmund Burke
1729 – 1797


The Quiet Life

The weather has brought us another cold snap, which is supposed to be short lived. Since my knee seizes up when the temperature dips below freezing, there is no chance I will be going for walks in the great outdoors. Oh well, at least I have the elliptical machine.

Since Attila and I have been together we have always waited until the last week of January to take down the Christmas Tree. Last weekend we slowly removed the ornaments, and lights, and carried our much enjoyed tree out the front door and around to the back yard. The tree will be used as part of the hugelkulture raised bed, which will be built this spring. I am sentimental about trees, and cried this year when the tree was being disrobed for its journey out the door. I miss the tree, and the lights, but am happy to have more floor space in the house. The tree meant walking sideways and stepping over furniture to get around, the house is that small.

My birthday falls in the winter months. There aren’t a lot of things that I can do out of doors in the winter, so celebrations focus on indoor activities. This year I asked for, and received, a flour mill for my birthday. It is an extravagance, a toy, a hobby type item for the kitchen. It is brilliant. All I have done so far is to run long grain rice through it to clean it, the rice flour looked amazing, but was discarded as there were traces of metal and oil in it. The machine is clean now and ready for action. I am currently trying to source wheat berries, and other grains, at reasonable prices. No luck so far, but the search has just begun.

I think my writing has changed over the last year. There has been little in the way of whimsy in my existence during 2018, and my confidence in the future has been at an all time low. I think this is reflected in my thoughts, feelings and writing. Change, sudden and drastic, was the order of my days in 2018.

2019 however has begun on a much more positive and hopeful note. My health is excellent, that is such a blessing. My relationship with Attila is steadily improving, which I did not expect. Attila is in good health, another blessing. My children are healthy, and my Grandchildren, which is also a blessing. My Mom, and siblings, and their children, are all doing well, another blessing. I enjoy my friendships online, and even occasionally get to see people face-to-face. The ability to pursue interests and hobbies continues, which keeps me endlessly entertained. And although I know the world out there seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket, I have no intention of following the public furor into hysteria. It is best not to lose perspective during a time of crisis. Here at Mist Cottage Attila and I carry on, occasionally struggling through a day, but mostly enjoying what good fortune we do have.

Worldly

Weather

Snowfall Warning
-18°C
Date: 1:00 PM EST Monday 28 January 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -18.0°C
Dew point: -26.3°C
Humidity: 49%
Wind: NE 27 km/h
Wind Chill: -29
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
1749 – 1832