Little things…

Attila and I headed for the little house over the Thanksgiving weekend.  We took the scenic route, thinking that the sunny day would enhance the colours of the fall leaves.  The sunny day was breathtaking, but most of the leaves had fallen.  No matter, we enjoyed our drive, even if it took an extra hour.

The second bedroom at the little house has been such a mess that we have just shut the door and forgotten about it.  The smell in that little room has been awful.  Now that the forced air furnace is working the smell is not confined to that room.  On Sunday morning Attila managed to remove the last of the tiles from the floor, a job that Lares had done much of the weekend we took possession of the house, they were all covered with mildewed carpet backing.  Attila removed the bits and dust from the gluey sub-floor and put down a new mahogany sub-floor.  He then applied a primer coat of paint to the walls and finally applied primer to the new mahogany sub-floor.  The paint smell was awful, but superior by far to the smell of mildew! There are still holes in the walls, punched right through the drywall, but that is for another day.

Second Bedroom Mahogany Subfloor

Second Bedroom Mahogany Subfloor

Sunday the girls and grandchildren spent with their husband’s families.  Their first turkey dinners of the weekend!

On Monday the painted floor in the second bedroom was dry and we moved a lot of items onto it to be stored.  I washed the window frame and storm window screen and put up a curtain.  The room is still very rough, but a huge improvement.  We can leave the door open!

Monday morning, right after breakfast, Attila began assembling the ingredients for his turkey dressing.  By 9 a.m. he had the turkey in the oven.  In no time the house was filled with the aroma of roasting turkey!  Terra, who worked all night, slept a few short hours and rose at 2 p.m., and she and Lares arrived shortly thereafter.  Soon Luna and Imp and Elf and Tink arrived.  It is a small house, and quite frankly I like that.  Everyone was together, moving, talking, laughing, crying (Tink fell trying to walk and bruised her cheek on the table leg).  Imp and Elf dragged the kitchen table from the tiny dining room to the middle of the living room, where there would be enough space for everyone to sit around the table for our turkey dinner.  Imp, Elf and Tink took over Grandma’s bedroom and played for happy hours with Lego.  I bought them each a HoolaHoop, one pink for Imp, blue for Elf and pink and green for Tink.  Not one of the assembled party was able to successfully suspend the HoolaHoop, but they were put to good use in other ways, rolling across the floor and tossing over stools.

After dinner talk and activity continued non-stop.  Terra, tired from shift work, perhaps a little bit irritable, was teased by Lares, who found a stick outside, which he smuggled in to poke at her;  she laughed so hard she couldn’t breath!!  I’ve never seen her laugh so hard.  We all laughed till we cried.  Lares has a real sense of humour and, although very impish, the love behind it is always there.

Luna kept an eye on three little balls of energy and helped me with the dishes in the kitchen after dinner.  We enjoyed chatting to the point that we weren’t sure whether I was drying dishes, setting them on the counter, then picking them up thinking them dirty and handing them back to her to wash again.

Later Janus arrived, coming straight to ours from work in Montreal.  Imp and Elf and Tink were ecstatic to see him.  He picked up the twins to hug them as he came in the door, and as I was holding Tink at the time, I put her in the middle of the twins, where she latched onto his neck for a super big hug.

Grandpa showed the kids how to use the HoolaHoop, sort of.  Grandma held Tink as she tried to grab Grandma’s glasses; Auntie Terra took a video of that, which was hilarious and looked as if Tink was walloping Grandma in the head!  Uncle Lares showed Imp, Elf and Tink the interior of his service truck, and let them wipe the ceiling with rags.

A good time was had by all.

We didn’t get away till later than usual, almost 7 p.m., arriving home just after 11:30 p.m.  We unloaded the car, Attila took a hot bath, I puttered and we were in bed within an hour of arriving home.  Mist was unhappy with our absence, and let us know, loudly.  The house was cold, but it was too late at night to put a fire on, so we just went to bed.  We slept soundly, as we always do when the house is cold.  Mist, she slept soundly too, with two heating units under the covers of the bed where she slept.

Agency

My Grandfather fought in the First World War, as did many men from his rural community. When the Second World War came along he was married with children (the middle child my mother). Luckily he was employed and living in a vibrant and supportive rural community. He was the Post Master in his community. My Grandmother took care of the Post Office most of the time while my Grandfather worked at a variety of other jobs. My Grandparents also ran the local General Store and Gas Station, and again my Grandmother “manned” the business counter for both. They were wonderful people, honest, hard-working, intelligent, kind… They represent everything I admire in human beings.

Most of what I value about being alive has been learned either directly from them or from their daughter, my mother, and her sisters. As a small child I seriously confused their home and community with heaven.

One of the things I remember quite vividly was my Grandparent’s garden. It was a good sized garden, growing a variety of vegetables. The land surrounding my Grandparent’s house had little topsoil covering the granite below, so their gardens were planted on family property down the road. It was a treat to accompany my Grandmother to the garden every day, to gather the vegetables we would eat for dinner the same evening.

My Grandparent’s also harvested wild edibles to supplement their diet. Lovely days spent picking wild strawberries, or raspberries, or blackberries, or blueberries are mine to remember. Often after an outing to pick berries, my Grandmother would bake a berry upside down cake, in the oven of her wood stove.

My reminiscences are a direct result of poking around the Internet this morning before I left for work. I was looking at sites related to sustainability, moved on to urban farming and from there ended up viewing World War II videos about Victory Gardens. And that is how I came to be thinking about my Granny’s garden.

The promotion of Victory Gardens wasn’t just hype, it wasn’t royal commissions, or expensive research to establish simple concepts; it simply promoted agency and self-sufficiency in the general population.

My how things have changed!!!!! Instead of promoting growing healthy food for victory, leaders are being forced to descend into a nightmarish conflict with corporate capital to save the population from empty calories, in the form of “addictive” sugary drinks.

“New York expanded its anti-obesity campaign on Thursday with a proposal to ban the use of food stamps to buy sugary drinks, drawing beverage industry complaints that it is another government attempt to tell people how to behave.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Governor David Paterson asked the U.S. government to ban the purchase of soda pop and sweetened fruit drinks with food stamps — the federal vouchers used by 42 million low-income Americans buy food.
They called sugar-sweetened beverages the largest single contributor to the obesity epidemic.”
Source: Reuters

Telomeres

red geranium

My area of expertise is not molecular biology.  Such cannot be said for Elizabeth Blackburn.  I recently watched a documentary called Immortal?, aired on The Passionate Eye, which included some footage of Liz Blackburn.  The documentary discussed the “science” of telomeres, it did not delve into the politics of science.  I found the documentary very interesting from a layman’s perspective and very biased from an analytical perspective.

From where I see things science is not unbiased.  This perspective made my years in the academy politically challenging.  I think the answers you find are dependent on the questions you ask.  Science asks very specific questions, questions mediated by research funding and academic politics.  That is where the research begins; in the questions asked.  To these specific questions science finds very specific answers, that are often fascinating and often of benefit to humans and too often detrimental to human existence.  I feel that bias begins with the formation of questions asked, and continues during the process of answering the questions.  My point is not that all bias is bad; it is that all knowledge is biased. Informed decision making must include acknowledgement and consideration of bias.

Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres explores the life of Elizabeth Blackburn, the story of telomeres and the nature of the scientific community.

I stayed up late last night to watch the documentary Immortal?, something I don’t do very often.  Attila didn’t wait up for me though, he went to bed as soon as the fire in the little wood stove died down and he could close the damper.

If Attila is awake he is moving.  Atilla is a “doer”.  He is happiest when he has a project on the go, a project requiring physical activity.  At the end of the day Attila is ready to sleep.

I am a different sort of “doer”.  I am happiest when I have several projects on the go, some requiring physical activity and some requiring intense mental focus.  If the balance tips towards mental focus my sleep requirement shortens, if it tips towards physical activity my sleep requirement lengthens.  Lately, the balance has tipped towards physical activity, so I have needed more sleep.  Watching a thought provoking documentary tipped the balance towards mental focus, so last night I went to bed later and this morning I woke up earlier, thinking about what I had seen the night before.

Both Attila and I have the capacity for the third focus, that is emotional/imaginative/creative.  However, at this point in our lives there is little opportunity to indulge this sort of focus; we are too involved surviving our respective jobs (places where emotions, imagination and creativity are not welcome) and enjoying our responsibilities for our two homes.  It is our dream that at some point in our lives here on earth, we will be able to include a healthy element of our emotional/imaginative/creative energies in our day-to-day lives.  It could happen.

We had a wonderful weekend at the little house.

Lares got the heating system up and running, we are so lucky he is a member of our family!  After working for a week solid, Terra had Sunday off and took the time to show me her new Blackberry phone.  An amazing device!  Terra is on 24/7 call, and needs an extremely reliable device to make sure her employer can contact her when needed; the Blackberry does a fine job of it.  I really enjoyed going for a long walk with Terra, I love walking and it is a treat to have such good company at the same time.

Sunday afternoon Luna stopped by with Imp and Elf and Tink.  They brought cookies for us, cookies that they made that morning.  I’m glad they only brought one each, because those cookies are so good that I’d eat every last one.   What fun we had!  The grandkids enjoyed peering down into the basement through the partially constructed cold air return grate.  Grandpa chatted with them, and they kept trying to catch a glimpse of their hard-working uncle.  I took Imp and Elf down to the basement several times to see what Grandpa and Uncle were doing.  It was a real work zone though, so we didn’t stay down there very long.  Tink is amazingly aware of everything!  She has a quick and adorable smile, and a very determined idea of what she wants.  This girl is no pushover!  Imp and Elf and Tink and I all played on my bed, rolling around like a barrel of monkeys.  It was great fun.

Today is overcast, and warmer than it it has been.  I’m hoping the sun will come out and warm the house up!  Next week I’ll cure the masonry heater, then it will be charged and ready to heat the house for the winter.  Wood heat is a lot of work.  I love sitting in front of the cozy fires with Attila and I miss Attila when he has to spend hours of his free time working on the wood supply and building the fires.  We cannot have it both ways though, so for now we are going to stay with wood heat.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

4 C
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 4.0°C
Dewpoint: 3.0°C
Humidity: 93 %
Wind: NNW 8 km/h

Quote

Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
Robert Bresson

Moving through time slowly.

Attila and I enjoyed the month of September, in which we went on a working holiday at the little house and then returned to work and chores at the country house.

I’ve spent much of the last two weeks catching up with paying bills and working through all the paperwork generated by our two weeks of work at the little house.  That was one expensive holiday.  Also, there was a very high pile of bills and documents waiting for my attention when I arrived home, and they have taken up almost all of my free time since.  I have almost caught up with all these fiddly bits!

Our next project at the little house is to get the furnace working.  Cold weather is on the way!  The furnace needs a bit of attention, even though it is only a few years old.  Actually, it is the duct work  that needs all the attention.  Previous renovators installed a new bathroom floor, which completely covered the heating vent.  One has to wonder what they were thinking.  We will have to cut through the floor in the bathroom to release the heat into the room.  Also, the cold air return was almost completely blocked (don’t ask!) and now needs to be taken to bits and rebuilt.

At our country house Attila is working steadily to bring all our wood into the wood shed.  He has made real headway on the project; it is a lot of hard work.  I am working six days next week, and so will wait to the following week when I have more time off, to begin charging the masonry heater for the winter.  In the meantime Attila is building evening fires in the little wood stove in the basement, which is keeping the house at a comfortable temperature.

I brought the geraniums into the house this evening, as the temperature could drop to zero over the weekend.  These are my first geraniums. I’m hoping to put them in a dark place for the winter and bring them back out in the spring.  I won’t be putting a garden in pots on the deck at the country house next summer, although I may plant some tomatoes and such at the little house.  That is a big maybe, because gardens need regular attention and I may not be able to supply it.

Attila and I sit in our chairs at the end of our long, satisfying days, and most evenings we are waiting for bedtime!  Aren’t we exciting!  To go to bed too early is disastrous, as we wake up far too early in the morning and then are tired anew when we toddle off to work.

I haven’t been taking all that many pictures of late, and they take quite a while to prepare for Internet publication. Tonight I fear that if I try to find and edit a photo, this entry won’t make it to the server at all. So I’ve forgone my usual image, for the sake of expediency.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

12 C
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 12.0°C
Dewpoint: 4.3°C
Humidity: 59 %
Wind: NW 13 km/h

Quote

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
1896 – 1940

Catching our breath…

Attila and I are catching our breath.  We took our vacation over the first two weeks of September.  It was a working vacation.  The day we left two Realtors took prospective buyers through our country house, the second one came in after we left for our little house in the city.  It was extremely hectic, trying to plan, pack, load the car, prepare Mist for her maiden voyage to the little house and make sure all would be secure while we were away.

Mist HATES car rides, and she spent a great part of the journey verbalizing her opinions.  However, within five minutes of arriving at the little house, she was sprawled out on our bed and making herself right at home.  She loves the little house!

Our first task was to try and evict the chipmunks.  It took three days, but we managed to block their entry and keep them from reentering the building.  The dumpster arrived in our driveway on Tuesday morning of the first week, it was 20 feet long and 8 feet wide.  Attila spent Tuesday gutting the basement.  What a job!  He removed drywall, studs, vapour barrier, insulation, doors, closets, ceiling boards, all stained with animal waste and covered with mildew.  For this job Attila wore a disposable coverall with hood and a face mask during the entire project.  Once all the materials had been removed from the basement the bad smells in the house began to dissipate.  I also sprayed an alcohol solution on all the surfaces in the basement to kill mildew and spores and any viruses that may  have been left behind by the evicted animal residents.

The basement remains damp, as it has moisture issues that still need to be resolved.  We purchased a large dehumidifier which has removed much of the dampness temporarily.  However, we must dig around the foundation and put in proper drainage and water barriers before thinking about finishing off the basement.

On Wednesday morning of the first week Attila tore the rotted decking off the back deck, and the frame that held it up, which was cobbled together and quite dangerous.  All of the wood he tore out went into the dumpster.

On Thursday morning of the first week Attila began removing shingles from the roof, which took all day Thursday and Friday.  Saturday Lares arrived to help Attila shingle the roof, and they managed to get about a third of the job completed.  Then Attila worked all day every day until the following Thursday to finish the job.  I hope he never has to do that again, it is very, very  hard work!

Attila worked on cleaning up the roofing job on Thursday morning and then took the afternoon off, as there were torrential rains. How lucky we were that the rain started after the roofing job was completed!  We drove through the countryside in the area, in the rain, and enjoyed ourselves.  While on our drive we passed a pick-your-own apple farm, but it was too wet to consider picking apples on Thursday.

The final Friday of our holiday, our first day of rest, we returned to the apple farm and picked ourselves a bushel of rosy red apples to take home with us.  Then we headed to the city to shop.  Our idea of shopping is to visit the ReStore, and other second hand shops, to look for building materials for our little house.  We did buy a few small things, a curtain rod and a doorstop.  Then we took ourselves out for dinner.

We were so lucky that during our visit granddaughter Tink turned one year old, the twins Imp and Elf turned four years old, and Imp and Elf attended their very first day of school.  It was great to see them.  Attila and I agree, being a grandparent is just plain wonderful.

So, while Attila was doing all his strenuous work on gutting the basement, dismantling the deck and putting a new roof on the house, what was I doing?

Plenty!  First I went shopping and bought a stove for the house.  I wanted to buy a used stove, but without a vehicle to transport it home it just didn’t work.  So, off I went to a chain store and bought the cheapest stove they had, which was delivered the first Tuesday of our two week holiday.  And then I cooked!  We ate like royalty the whole two weeks.  Attila really needed to, with all the physical labour he was doing each day.  The stove, although inexpensive, works very well.

I shopped for several days, running to the building centre for Attila to pick up things he needed for his projects.   I purchased small things from the dollar store, and larger things from the second hand stores.  The role of chief cook and bottle washer was mine alone.  I cleaned, cleaned, cleaned. Slowly I outfitted the house for comfort.  I did small “repairs” such as my fix for the bathroom faucet rot in the photos; which was very successful and we were thus able to take showers.

Bathtub at the Little House July 2010

Bathtub at the Little House, September18, 2010

On Monday and Tuesday of the second week Luna accompanied Janus on a business trip, and I stayed with Imp and Elf and Tink.  What a great time we had!  We stayed indoors, as the yard was being excavated for a new septic system.  Elf had endless hours of entertainment there, as we moved a stool to the bedroom window so that he could stand and observe the excavation and the installation of the septic system.  Imp enjoyed reading books with Gramma, and Tink just enjoyed everything!  We all had a wonderful time.

An added bonus of the holiday was that we got to see Terra and Lares almost every day.  It was great to spend time, share meals and chat together.  We look forward to moving to our little house, it will be so nice to have them near all the time.

Terra is enjoying her new job, I believe she has found her true calling.  The shift work is difficult to get used to, and being on call 24/7 is very wearing, and she is holding up very well.

We arrived home Sunday last, tired and ready to go back to our jobs for a little rest and relaxation!