On the Cheap

These images are to share a couple of budget wise finds that were recently made, on the cheap, so to speak.

Pyrex Bowl
When out collecting garbage from the creek at the Camp, this bowl was found with other discarded items. The other items were indeed garbage, but this little bowl cleaned up well, I thought.
This handy little bowl was free for the finding, just a bit of effort was needed to get rid of the accumulation of silt and leaves.
chain mail scrubber
This stainless steel chain mail scrubber works as advertised! I cleaned the cast iron skillet with it, and then removed some burnt food from the bottom of the Instant Pot insert. It cleans both cast iron and stainless steel. I have been using steel wool, but it always tears up my fingernails, and even cuts my fingers on the really tough jobs. This scrubber has no effect on my fingernails or my skin. It is a winner. This item was described on the internet, where I heard about it for the first time, so the internet comes in handy for some things. It was $13.90 plus tax on Amazon, free delivery with Prime, and worth every penny. There were none available at the local stores.

Worldly

Weather

6°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Wednesday 24 April 2019
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 5.5°C
Dew point: 2.6°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: WNW 26 gust 39 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”
Edith Sitwell
1887 – 1964

Just watch the popular channels on youtube for a while, proof of point.




Mayflowers and Trilliums

I’ve been sitting here in the living room this morning, comfortably ensconced on my easy chair, sipping my morning coffee, and staring up into the bare tree branches just outside the window. The sky can’t make up it’s mind about the morning, bright blue sky one minute, then black overcaste cloud cover before I know it. My attention has been focused on a fat robin perched on the branches. It is a female I surmise, based on the rotund profile, and she is preening with great care. By the time she flies away, the sky has changed from blue to dark gray.

Spring is advancing, slow and steady, mostly cloudy and dreary so far. The temperatures have been around average for this time of year, which is single digit (Centigrade). Not unpleasant, but combined with the copious amounts of rain we have been receiving, not great outdoor weather either.

We had rain warnings for the Easter long weekend, Friday and Saturday saw a lot of rain here, some flooding in areas, but luckily our property was not affected by that. Yesterday, Sunday, was cloudy and cool. The temperature was supposedly going to reach 18C, but that did not happen, the high was more like 13C, and that 5C made a big difference. Neither did the sun shine yesterday.

But Thursday last was beautiful! We sat out on the back porch comfortably for the very first time this spring. The birds were feeling glorious, Blue Jays, Robins, Chickadees, Rock Doves, and in the distance Crows. The Grackles were nowhere to be seen, I guess they found a more amenable area to grace with their presence, they were not missed.

The earth turned green on Friday night, so on Saturday morning, despite the chilly, wet weather, I was out on the porch in my parka, enjoying the green grass, as were the birds. Now it really does feel like spring out there.

We have only one blooming flower in our garden, the Lungwort, the plants closest to the house are blooming. The earth would be warmer there, as the cement would warm in the sun, and heat would escape from the basement, where the interior temperature remained just above freezing all winter. The rest of the garden is beginning to awaken. The Wild Geraniums are about six inches tall, and the Heliopsis is the same. Onions and garlic are pushing their way out of the earth, and the Rhubarb is putting forth an abundance of unfurling leaves. There are buds on a few of the maple trees in the neighbourhood, but no buds on any of our trees.

Now that Attila has a dry workshop to work in, the garage with the new non-leaking roof, he is keen to get started on projects, garden projects, his favourite kind.

I decided I wanted some raised beds of my own this year, to tend. Crawling around on my arthritic knees would be madness, very painful, so the raised beds would allow me to enjoy gardening. Attila has his garden, in which he makes all the decisions, which makes it a lot of fun for him. I enjoy watching that process, but I wanted my own space. My plan was to use two large totes as raised beds, which I could do on my own, making all of my own decisions.

What ended up happening was that Attila, upon realizing I was really going to create raised beds, began to think about it. He decided to build a raised bed out of wood, one for himself, so that I could compare it with the totes. OK, I thought, he can build himself a raised bed out of wood if he wants. I continued on with my own raised bed plans. But once Attila built the raised bed out of red pine, he became enthusiastic and built another, both were offered to me, if I wanted them instead of the totes. I thanked him for this unexpected gift, and accepted the wood raised beds as my own. He is working on a third raised bed for himself, which he will work in addition to the vegetable garden. He also has plans to build a cold frame. The lovely side effect of all this is that all that wood he bought when he worked in the lumber industry is now going to a good use, and won’t need to be stored any longer!

Attila has a way of working his way into my plans. He “helps” at first, then slowly asserts what he thinks would work best. In the past, before “the big mistake”, I would allow this process to develop as it would, lots got done, and I didn’t really care how. His technique did not change, but now I care. Now I carefully think through what I want to do, then proceed to make it happen. If Attila offers to help, I carefully consider how that fits in with my plans. When his suggestions do not fit in with what I want, I am up front about it, and stand my ground. This surprised him at first, he didn’t like it, there was conflict. But he is resourceful, and working through plans has become more of a mutual process, which is getting easier all the time. We both like this a lot better than the way we interacted before. There is much that is positive in this “afterlife”.

Yesterday, Sunday, we suddenly decided to make a quick trip out to the Camp to check things out. I was very happy to find that there were no new mouse droppings in Grace the trailer, nor had the mouse trap caught any mice. I dare not hope that blocking the small opening, that I discovered on our last visit, will solve the mouse problem… but wouldn’t that be grand.

On the last visit the range would not work, the spark ignition was working last fall, but not this spring. Attila suggested trying to light the burners manually, and voila, they all worked perfectly. I can live with manually lighting my burners, no problem. Grace is a 2001 model trailer, which means she is 18 years old, the appliances will probably work for decades to come, if maintained, even without the spark ignition. Small things need fixing though, like the mechanism that opens one of the windows. We are also spending a bit of time during every visit to give Grace a good exterior wash.

It was cloudy and not at all warm at the Camp, jackets were needed. Attila tended a camp fire, which was challenging due to the heavy rainfall on Friday and Saturday, all the wood was soaked. We cooked grilled cheese sandwiches, which are back on the menu since my success at baking whole wheat low-sodium bread, from our own milled whole wheat.

While Attila was tending the fire, I took a bucket, and some tongs, and headed down to the small creek on the property, it drains our swamp. The swampy area around the creek was used as a dump by some of the locals. We don’t know who it was, but we do know it was quite some time ago, because some of the broken glass is old style beer bottles, as well as an older style of juice bottle. The high run off in the creek, from the rain, revealed a lot of broken glass, which I fished out of the creek with the tongs, and placed in the bucket. There were tatters of plastic bags as well, which also went into the bucket. When the bucket was full of broken glass, I was done collecting for the day. Along with the broken glass, there was a perfectly sound Pyrex mixing bowl, and a plastic hummingbird feeder, which I rescued. Once the black flies and mosquitoes start, working in the swamp is not going to be much fun, so I was glad to get some of the cleanup done. There is more to do of course, but that can wait for another day, or even another spring.

The water level in the swamp is very high, so that four mallard ducks were enjoying the temporary pond. There are a lot of frogs in the swamp, which was probably the big attraction. The first summer we owned the property we saw an otter in the temporary pond, the next summer it was completely dry, one never knows what the weather conditions will bring. I also spotted blooming Marsh Marigolds, the first wildflower find of the season.

After lunch, and after the fire had been extinguished, Attila and I went for a trek in the bush. Attila, with his pail and shovel, was after some fresh wild leeks, which grow all over our property. The terrain is very rough, and there are a lot of dead trees on the ground, so walking is challenging. It was a relief to be able to manage it though, I love walking in the bush. To my delight I spotted blooming Mayflowers, and a few small Trilliums that were budding but not yet blooming. Only two trees had visible buds, both red maples. We have some magnificent trees on the property, very old, and very tall, mostly Oaks and Beech. We had a lovely day.

After arriving home just before dark, preparations began for dinner, a pork roast in the Instant Pot, oven baked potato wedges, mixed vegetables, and sweet potato. It was a late dinner, and we enjoyed every bite after being in the outdoors for the afternoon.

Worldly

Weather

10°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Monday 22 April 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 9.8°C
Dew point: 8.5°C
Humidity: 92%
Wind: N 2 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Even on the most exalted throne in the world we are only sitting on our own bottom.”
Michel de Montaigne
1533 – 1592

“Living, as he did, in the second half of the 16th century, Montaigne bore witness to the decline of the intellectual optimism that had marked the Renaissance. The sense of immense human possibilities, stemming from the discoveries of the New World travelers, from the rediscovery of classical antiquity, and from the opening of scholarly horizons through the works of the humanists, was shattered in France when the advent of the Calvinistic Reformation was followed closely by religious persecution and by the Wars of Religion (1562–98). These conflicts, which tore the country asunder, were in fact political and civil as well as religious wars, marked by great excesses of fanaticism and cruelty. At once deeply critical of his time and deeply involved in its preoccupations and its struggles, Montaigne chose to write about himself—“I am myself the matter of my book,” he says in his opening address to the reader—in order to arrive at certain possible truths concerning man and the human condition, in a period of ideological strife and division when all possibility of truth seemed illusory and treacherous.”

Source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Michel-de-Montaigne

Sunny And “Warm” At Last

The crochet project I decided upon is a market bag. One of my Christmas presents was two skeins of yarn, Bernat Maker, which is a cotton polyester blend, and quite nice to work with. It has been more than a year since I followed a pattern, so it wasn’t surprising that I got boggled reading the pattern. I misread SK for SC, and that makes a huge difference. SK is skip a stitch, and SC is a single crochet. The error resulted in what looked like a giant doilie, and it was hard to imagine what kind of a market bag it was going to produce. I knew something was wrong, but what? Luckily some experienced pattern readers pointed out the error, the incorrect stitches were ripped out, and the bag now progresses as it should.

Every day there is a list of interesting things to do. Yesterday it was paying bills, with some dazzling footwork on my part, as I robbed Peter to pay Paul, as they say. Earlier in the week it was milling flour. Then there was some online consulting work, which I do pro-bono for a church from time to time. And of course, the best fun of all, online research. I am still looking into local sources for wheat berries, so far no luck. There is a local farm that says on their web site that they sell wheat berries, but they don’t answer the telephone, and they don’t respond to email messages, so really, how interested are they in selling to the public. I’ve given up on them. But I am confident that the right supplier will eventually materialize.

The wasp situation has improved since Attila sprayed Wasp Killer into the cavity behind the porch light fixture. Only two wasps have been found since then, both on the exterior of the house. I don’t miss them inside the house at all, and it is a relief to be able to step outside the door and not encounter a lot of them. It is warmer today, and I’ve found three around the exterior of the front door, so far. Attila has a theory that they have a nest in the Crab Apple tree in the front yard. I wonder what the attraction is to our front door and porch!

Now that the snow is gone, Attila and I will be out and about more. We NEVER eat out, literally never, due to my anaphylaxis. This means that we must carry all of our food and beverage with us, wherever we go. It is time to get back into preparing foods that travel well. During the winter this is seldom an issue, but as soon as spring rolls around life changes with the weather. The thing is, by the time the snow melts, I’ve lost touch with what foods work and what foods don’t. This blog is handy for me in this situation, I can always look back to see what delectable solutions were on previous menus. And now that I am thinking about it, since I am once again making low-sodium homemade bread, grilled cheese sandwiches over an open fire are back on the menu!

Our seeds arrived this week! We ordered from William Dam Seeds, and from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. Seeds from William Dam Seeds are great, and have always germinated and grown healthy, productive plants. Baker Creek seeds are an experiment, we have not purchased seeds from them before, their heirloom varieties are open pollinated, so seed saving can be practiced, a real bonus in my view.

Egg shells used to go into the compost pile, but no more. Now they are rinsed, the inner membrane is removed, they are dried, and then reduced to powder with a mortar and pestle. The result is a quart of calcium to use for soil amendment. If it is sprinkled around our tomato plants it prevents end rot, which I discovered last summer, to my delight.

Mortar and pestle, with dired egg shell.
Dried egg shells in the mortor, pestle at the ready. My stash of calcium rich egg shell soil supplement in the jar, on the right.

Worldly

Weather

9°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Friday 12 April 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 9.1°C
Dew point: 4.7°C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: SE 19 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”
Mark Twain
1835 – 1910

Nothing like a good cussing session to bring balance back into life. No audience needed.

I Love Weekends!

The weather this past weekend was wonderful. The sun shone all day Saturday. It was difficult to decide just how to spend such a wondrous day, but finally we decided to head out to the Camp to check things out.

Our neighbours watch our place pretty closely. One of our neighbours, a friendly fellow who travels past our place many times in a day, in his pickup truck, on his ATV, on his tractor, or on foot, keeps a special eye out for us. This past winter he plowed a short way into our driveway, so that if we came to the property in the winter, we could get our vehicle off the road. When we arrived on Saturday the snow bank, that had built up across the driveway as a result, was still high enough to scrape the bottom of the car as we drove in.

We were pleased to find that the only unwelcome visitors in our little patch were the mice in Grace the trailer. The dry trap we left there did not catch one mouse, and it was full of mouse droppings. The peppermint oil soaked cotton balls were either missing, or scattered around the floor, not much of a deterrent it seems. The mice had chewed wood from somewhere, we still don’t know where, and there were wood chips all over the kitchen counter. They came up through the heating duct, which I had covered with a pine board, and it was moved. Next fall I’ll use the same pine board, and will place a heavy rock on it, so that it cannot be moved aside for entry. It seems that no matter what we do, the mice are going to come in. Travel trailers are large mouse houses. I think that, had I realized that it is impossible to keep mice out of a travel trailer, I would have opted for a small sleeping shed on the property instead. It could have been mouse proof, we would have seen to that. Too late now though, we cannot spend money twice. We made our decision and will have to make the best of it. We won’t be wasting time or money on commercial products though, they don’t work. Preventing the mice from entering is our only goal now, although I don’t know what further steps we can take. Something for us to ponder anyway.

Attila cleaned the mouse droppings and debris out of the boot of Grace, and we left the mouse mess in the trailer for a future visit. One of my tasks while we were there, was to setup the 5 gallon bucket mouse trap, with ramp, water, and the smear of peanut butter just above the water line.

With the unpleasant jobs out of the way, we enjoyed the rest of the day immensely. Winter winds had brought down a lot of branches in the forest surrounding the camping area, so we spent our day gathering them and burning them in the fire pit. Sitting around a crackling fire, getting up from time to time to collect fuel, to feed the fire, is such a relaxing activity. We also burn all our discarded personal papers in the fire pit at the Camp, so it was good to get that job done too.

This spring we noticed many birds. Crows of course, and Turkey Vultures, who always check us out when we have a camp fire. There were small birds that move lightning fast, so we never get a good look at them. Chickadees and Jays called off and on through the trees.

Our wetlands were still covered with ice. We have two significant wetlands on the property, one of which has dried up every summer over the last three years. The larger of the two dried up for a period of time last summer, which would have been a perfect time to get in there to remove large fallen trees… but last summer the garage roof was replaced and it took every ounce of Attila’s energy to get that job done, so not much got done at the Camp. There will be other years.

When we built the fire pit three years ago, to municipal code, it had a perimeter of sand laid down around it. The sand has virtually disappeared into the clay soil. But, as luck would have it, one of our misfortunes at Mist Cottage had a silver lining. At Mist Cottage the new paved road leads all the runoff from the road to our driveway and dumps it there. Because of the construction trucks and equipment that now dominate our little street, there is a lot of sand and grit that washes down onto our driveway from the road. Over the winter it built up, and Attila shoveled it into buckets, filling two five gallon buckets. I also swept up all the sand we had put down on the ice over the winter, ice caused by the freeze/thaw on the road, it all ran down into our driveway to freeze/thaw there. So that amounted to a three gallon bucket of sand. Now we get to take all that sand out to the camp and spread it around the perimeter of our camp fire pit. The first bucket came out with us on Saturday, and it works a treat!

Sunday was a completely different kind of day.

Attila had the kitchen for the morning, he finished making his Turkey Soup from the turkey bones from last weekend’s Turkey Dinner, and he made a batch of Hummus, using the chick peas I had cooked in the Instant Pot, earlier in the week.

The sky was overcast all day long. It was warm enough however, to apply paint to the exterior of the house. So Attila spent the afternoon scraping peeling paint off two sides of the house, and then painting the bare spots. It looks like the house was just painted. He did a great job. There is more to be done, and the bit above the front garden is the priority now, as the perennials are beginning to come up.

When we bought Mist Cottage the paint on the siding was peeling off and fist sized flakes were hanging from the wood, blowing in the wind. In the autumn of 2011 I began to scrape the paint off the siding, layers and layers of it. I did my best, but could not get every last big off. When I was done, we sanded it and painted it. This past winter, seven years later, the paint began to peel again. The peeling occurred where the original paint had not come off, so it was the original paint that peeled, not the paint we applied, except where it was applied over the original paint.

Scraping and painting, in my imagination, was a daunting job. But Attila said this time it wouldn’t take long, because we did such a good job the last time, this would only be a touch up. By golly, he was right! The rest of the job will only take one or two more days to complete.

While Attila was spending his afternoon working on the house siding, I got busy in the kitchen. Two loaves of bread were baked, cooled, packaged, and frozen for the coming week. A batch of muffins were baked, cooled, individually wrapped, and frozen. A Pork Roast was seasoned, seared, and cooked in the Instant Pot, Attila’s all-time favourite Instant Pot meal, maybe even his favourite meal altogether. Laundry was washed and hung out to dry on the back porch. This was a big deal for me, it isn’t really spring around here until the laundry can be hung out to dry on the back porch. Dishes were washed, dried, and put away. I even had time to begin yard clean up, picking up fallen branches from the front yard.

I continue to battle the wasps. It seems as if they have a nest in the wall cavity behind the exterior front porch light, that is the only place they have been seen crawling out of. At least three a day are killed, last night two were found crawling on the living room curtains. There are many outside as well, usually somewhere on the front door, or crawling somewhere around it.

Mist Cottage had serious animal and insect issues when we purchased it. There were communities of Chipmunks living in the finished ceiling in the basement, it took over three years to successfully evict them. Mice were everywhere, it took another two years before we managed to keep them out of the house. Grackles nested behind the roof facia, where the wood had rotted, and continue still to attempt to return to that much loved nesting location, which is not covered with sheet metal, as they peck through two inch thick wood. And there wasps everywhere, with large hanging nests in the trees surrounding the house. We have not yet achieved a comfortable balance with the wasps, they continue to infiltrate weak points in the Cottage exterior to build nests. The struggle continues. In the meantime, I listen daily to the Grackles pecking on sheet metal just outside the window, and kill every single wasp I find, indoors and outdoors.

And that is what we did on our weekend. Best ever!

Worldly

Weather

5°C
Date: 11:31 AM EDT Monday 8 April 2019
Condition: Light Drizzle
Pressure: 100.4 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.5°C
Dew point: 4.5°C
Humidity: 100%
Wind: NNW 11 km/h
Visibility: 2 km

Quote

“Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.”
Rene Descartes
1596 – 1650


A Wonderful Sight

For decades now I’ve received telephone calls, the caller says nothing, then, after a few minutes, the caller hangs up. Sometimes there is breathing at the other end of the line, sometimes not. This caller has followed me around through all of the places I’ve lived, calling all of the different telephone numbers I’ve had. Although it upset me at first, when I was first a single Mom I worried a lot about my kid’s safety, it is now part of the landscape of life, the mysterious caller letting me know he/she/they are there. Who is it? I couldn’t say, it began just after my divorce, the persistence is striking, and the caller’s number is always masked. Someone looking for attention, here you go.

We ordered our seeds online this year, and the first shipment is scheduled to arrive this week! It won’t be long now before we are out in the garden again! I am looking forward to working in my modest raised beds. If they are a success, I’ll be setting up more permanent structures for them in the future, but best to test the concept without much expense, before contemplating any significant investment. Who knows, the modest plastic tub beds might be a great success, to be continued indefinitely.

Today is bread baking day. I have enough flour milled for today’s loaves, then more flour will need to be milled. The 25 kg bag of hard wheat berries arrived this week, and are stored in the freezer. Eventually they will be moved from the paper sack in which they came, to food grade 5 gallon buckets, and returned to the freezer. The 25 kg bag is estimated to last us for 6 months. It cost $98.00, minus a 10% discount, plus tax, so the cost for our homemade bread is about the same as store bought bread, the lowest quality store bought bread available. If the cost is compared to high quality bread, the homemade will be much cheaper.

The bills are piling up, and we are not quite in a position to pay them all. Juggling is required, and thankfully juggling will suffice. Hopefully we will be back on track by the summer, after the huge repair bills for Tank over the last months. 2018 was quite a year if ever there was one, in so many ways, and the bills are just one aspect of that challenging year. Most of the expense was related to home improvement, new windows, new attic insulation, new garage roof, and some kitchen equipment to make life a whole lot easier (e.g. an Instant Pot). There are no major home improvements coming up this summer, some exterior painting, installing waterproofing to the north side of the garage foundation wall, organizing the garage, there are no big price tags on any of these projects. Perhaps we will catch up financially. I have no regrets about the 2018 expenditures.

Every day I kill several wasps, more on the exterior of the house, around the front door, and at least one every day inside the house. They are coming in around the front door, so we surmise there must be a nest somewhere near there. I do not feel bad about killing wasps, I hate them. When I was a kid I was stung on the tip of my nose by an angry wasp, and I’ve not forgotten it! I also remember my sister’s distress when one had crawled under the covers of the bed and stung her. They don’t belong on my doorstep, or in my house! We have had two very large nests here over the years, in the trees, both destroyed, but obviously they haven’t given up on this prime location.

The sun comes out occasionally, but right now the sky is completely overcast. The wind is roaring again, perhaps heralding the April showers we are expecting. There is a tinge of green in the yard, a wonderful sight.

Worldly

Weather

6°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Wednesday 3 April 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 6.4°C
Dew point: 1.7°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: WSW 29 gust 41 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Seeing ourselves as others see us would probably confirm our worst suspicions about them.”
Franklin P. Adams
1881 – 1960