Filling the Pantry

We had a busy weekend! Having consumed all of our Christmas fare, it was time to replenish the pantry.

Attila made a big batch of Turkey Noodle Soup, with the remains of the Christmas turkey. The way he likes it includes salt, which I don’t eat anymore, so this soup will be exclusively for Attila’s consumption. Which, as it turns out, is just fine with me, because when there is no salt in Turkey Noodle Soup, it isn’t one of my favourite meals.

For my part, we were in need of baked goods, going into Attila’s first full week back at work, so baking it was. On Saturday I milled 24 cups of organic whole wheat flour. Because I wanted to use sunflower seeds in my baking, I roasted then cooled two cups of them. Then I used the freshly milled flour to bake one dozen Cranberry Chocolate Chip Muffins, one dozen Apple Raisin Nut Seed Chocolate Chip Muffins, five loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread, and when all of that was cooling I made four liters of Switchel, which Attila takes as a beverage in his lunch. Phew.

On Sunday the bread machine was put to good use baking a loaf of Cranberry Raisin Panettone. Another kitchen project was processing the dried egg shells. Whenever there are fresh egg shells, the membranes are removed, they are dried, then pulverized with a mortar and pestle. The egg shell powder is saved for sprinkling on the garden as a soil amendment. It was being stored in a glass jar, but has now been transferred to a reused spice container with a shaker lid, to make it easier to apply to the soil.

Attila spent his weekend working on the remaining fiddly bits of the basement insulation project. Some of those fiddly bits are discussed, as we need to make joint decisions about them, but most I leave to Attila’s own devices. There are still loose ends to attend to down there, for instance, the wiring has to be rerouted and installed properly, before the drywall can be installed.

So few words here describe so much activity!

I continue to enjoy my audio books. My eyes get very tired by the end of the day, and a long break from the digital screens is needed. Listening to audio books allows me some distraction while I wander around the house puttering with this and that. They are played by the iPad, so are portable, and follow me wherever my little projects take me. Right now I am listening to Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I am familiar with the book, but that does not prevent me from enjoying the story read aloud to me!

I find myself quite relieved that the intensity of the holiday season has subsided. The flurry of activity is enjoyable, but it can be tiring. Of course, with the basement in flux, the main floor of the house is cluttered with items normally stored down there: boxes of empty mason jars; boxes of mason jars full of food; boxes of storage jars with things like powdered kale and celery; and all manner of little things like tins, boxes of tea, that sort of thing. It will be spring I think, before I can begins to organize things downstairs, and then organize things upstairs. For example, yesterday I accidentally knocked over a cup of pens and pencils that was on the kitchen table, as I was trying to read a recipe from a book I had placed next to the cup. I felt so annoyed! This renovation is going as fast as it can go. Oh well, I will just have to keep my cool and carry on, time will set things right again.

Speaking of spring, it is only 73 days until the first day of spring! 73 days ago it as October 25th, which doesn’t seem so very long ago. Tempus fugit. Each one of those 73 days will be a little brighter than the day before it. But is going to get colder before it gets warmer!

Today I am spending some time contemplating a window treatment for the window in the new front door. Fun.

Worldly

Weather

1°C
Date: 9:00 AM EST Monday 6 January 2020
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 1.0°C
Dew point: -0.6°C
Humidity: 89%
Wind: WSW 21 gust 32 km/h
Visibility: 19 km

Quote
“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”
Unknown
Misattributed to Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll

Publications consulted, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland misattribution:

  1. THE MILLENNIUM FULCRUM EDITION 3.0
  2. SAM’L GABRIEL SONS & COMPANY
    NEW YORK
  3. Copyright, 1916,
    by SAM’L GABRIEL SONS & COMPANY, NEW YORK
  4. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. With a Proem by Austin Dobson
    London, William Heinemann, New York, Doubbleday
  5. Copyright A. C. McCLURG & CO. 1915
    Published December, 1915
    Rights to produce this play in all countries of the world are reserved by Alice Gerstenberg
    W. F. MAEL PRINTING COMPANY, CHICAGO
  6. The Tenniel Illustrations for Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
    by Sir John Tenniel

The West Wall

Another cloudy day here. It has been cloudy for weeks and weeks. The sun did come out yesterday, for about an hour, which was lovely. But today the skies are steely grey. And mild, it is very mild for January. I might have called it the “January thaw”, but there is nothing frozen here that needs thawing. The snow disappeared well before Christmas.

As an aside, looking out the window, it makes me wonder why the colour gray is so very popular for interior domestic decor these days. I get enough exposure to gray from the weather, I don’t need to emulate it in my home. But that is just me.

Here is the challenge the west wall of the basement presents. Water pipes, sewage pipes, electrical wiring, all within inches of the concrete wall. Attila’s solution was to rip studs to a an inch and a half thickness, build partial studs, and install inch and half inch thick rigid Roxul insulation behind the pipes and wires. It is better than nothing. There are areas, as you can see in the photo, where nothing is the only option, as there are pipes right up against the concrete wall. The area can be upgraded to thicker studs and insulation after the plumbing and wiring have been upgraded and installed properly. There is no timeline on the plumbing and wiring, it will get done if and when.

Attila has almost completed the stud walls and insulation in the basement! He has about 16 inches to go! The rim joists on the back wall will not be completed until into the summer, so we will have some heat loss there for the rest of the winter. There are lots of fiddly bits, as retrofitted improvements always reveal, that need to be done before the drywall and paint can be installed.

The unfinished stretch of rim joist is a dogs breakfast of jerry-rigged plumbing and electrical, which have to be fixed before insulation can effectively be installed. Attila is considering completely replacing the plumbing; we both agree it needs to be done.

The insulation in the basement is a game changer, as so many projects are here at Mist Cottage, the dilapidated mini-house that has become our home.

Lets see, I will start with what I feel as I sit here typing on the computer. The air circulates differently in the house, now that the steady breeze of cold air coming into the basement has ceased. Moisture moves around differently, cooking odours move around differently. It just feels different in here.

Attila has been vacuuming the basement as he goes along. There are corners down there that have not been cleaned in who knows how long, certainly not since we bought the place ten years ago. Finally getting to the basement project means that we are cleaning up the last of the dirt-that-came-before-us. This is kicking up a lot of dust. When the final lick of paint coats the last of the newly installed drywall, I will be running air cleaners down there for a few days, while I wash surfaces and clean. I plan on a mission to reduce dust at first opportunity.

The temperature in the unheated basement has risen to 13C (56F). In the winter it has ranged between 3C (38F) and 7C (45F), so this is distinct improvement. The basement is definitely retaining more heat than it did. This means the floors are warmer. In fact, briefly walking across the floor, in bare or sock feet, no longer leaves me chilled.

And then, where the dollars and cents of the project come into play, our hydro usage is decreasing.

Attila started the project in mid-November, and we saw results!

From October to November 2019, when the average temperature was 3C degrees colder than it was for the same period in 2018, our hydro usage declined by 9%.

From November to December 2019, our hydro usage dropped by 11%.

When the temperature outside is above -7C, our electric air source heat pump is heating the house. That means the hydro bills for November and December, since the temperature has primarily remained above -7C, reflect decreased electric heating costs.

Now all I have to do is record the decrease in hydro usage, and the average cost of hydro during that period of time, so that I can calculate how many years it will take us to save the amount of money spent on the insulation project… how soon will it pay for itself? Of course that will not take into account the oil heating costs, as our system uses the oil furnace when the temperature dips below -7C. I will have to think about how to estimate that cost saving.

Another hydro saving is in controlling the humidity in the basement. We are already finding that the dehumidifier needs emptying every three days, instead of every day, so the appliance isn’t running as much. Only about half of the insulated wall space is now covered with vapour barrier, so there is still moisture seeping in, in those areas. It will be interesting to see if the humidity is even further reduced when all of the vapour barrier is installed.

This morning I decided to pay the hydro bill online. While I was logging in the banks computers went wonky, the whole process fell apart, I was blocked form the site. I called the support team, and was glad to hear it wasn’t me, it was them. All I had to do was wait, to give them a chance to get their act together.

Then I decided to take my blood pressure. Usually five readings are taken. After the third reading the device just stopped. Dead batteries. I had a bad technology day! My blood pressure was within the normal range, nothing to worry about there.

And now darkness has fallen. Attila is home, the pizza is in the oven, The Crown is called up on Netflix, and we are having a Friday night in, pizza and a show.

Worldly

Weather

4°C
Date: 7:00 AM EST Friday 3 January 2020
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 100.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.2°C
Dew point: 2.9°C
Humidity: 91%
Wind: SSW 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts, therefore guard accordingly; and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue, and reasonable nature.”
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
121 AD – 180 AD

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.

She ain’t what she used to be…

I love sweet treats. One of my favourites has always been chocolates, particularly on special days, like Christmas. At times, over the years, I have eaten a lot of chocolate sweets! Now, I don’t indulge in them, but for special occasions.

On Christmas Day a box of chocolates sat under the tree. I had one, after a little while another, and so on, and so on, until I had eaten far too many. And I felt pretty good, great in fact. I was well pleased with myself.

I woke up on Boxing Day feeling fine. We went shopping. After walking around in the store for a little while, I began to feel sad, that intensified, then I began to feel bad as well. By the time we entered the second store, I had to curb my tongue, as irritability had also developed. By the time we headed home I had the biggest, baddest, sugar crash of my life. It was a doozy. I felt physically ill. And it did not diminish that day, or during the night. Finally on Friday morning I began to feel a little better, and my state improved steadily thereafter.

Wow, this was a first. I reckon it is all the healthy eating we are doing all the rest of the year. My body can no longer tolerate large influxes of things that are not good for me. This bout was so serious, that when I looked at the little bit of chocolate under the tree this morning, I at first thought, “oh boy”. Then I recoiled, turned, and walked away!

I still have treats. The Panettone is not loaded with sugar, nor are my Mincemeat Squares, or my Gingerbread Cookies. The homemade treats do not cause any adverse reactions. Next holiday season, I am going to stick to my own baking!

On Friday we had a lovely dinner at Terra’s house, and got to see all the beautiful Grandbabies, six of them. All have strong personalities, all of them quite different, all of them interesting and beautiful. They change so much between gatherings! There are two living in Western Canada that we have only met once. We have no contact with their mother, her choice, Attila’s daughter by another mother. I suspect they are as beautiful as they were when we met them, years ago!

Worldly

Weather

FREEZING RAIN WARNING
1°C
Date: 4:11 PM EST Sunday 29 December 2019
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 0.7°C
Dew point: -3.9°C
Humidity: 71%
Wind: NE 26 gust 39 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience.”
Henry Miller
1891 – 1980

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.””