Looking Back, and Forward

I have entertained myself during the last few dreary gray weeks by watching The 1940s House. I enjoyed it a great deal, and loved the practicality, and the attention to the truly important aspects of family, the glue of society, during that awful war experience. Life was shown to be very difficult for those who maintained domestic stability during that era. So many times I have heard balanced historians describing survival during “pioneering” or “unstable” social periods, to be centered around the ability of families or small social units to maintain the basic necessities of life… human connection, shelter, food, and clothing. Too often, I think, “history” focuses on the wealthy and the violent, ignoring the vital role played by the provision of basic human needs.

A delightful aspects of the series were the appearances of Marguerite Patten OBE (1915 – 2015), who was one of the consultants for the series.

“The Ministry Food Advice Division employed dieticians and many home economists, to help people throughout the country. Our role, for I was one of the food advisers, was to conduct cookery demonstrations and talks to show what interesting things could be made with the rationed and unrationed foods available.”
Marguerite Patten, Victory Cookbook: Nostalgic Food and Fact from 1940 – 1954, In association with Imperial War Museum, 2002 Edition, Forward.”

This book arrived on my doorstep a few months ago, and I am enjoying it. The first degree I studied for was Home Economics, with an emphasis on Food and Nutrition, three years. I loved it, and I taught Home Economics in the public school system in Ontario. So this book is right up my alley.

Two of the things I have been thinking about and researching, in relation to my interest in domestic science, are the head scarf, and aprons.

I’ve never worn head scarves, as my head has rejected them within minutes. I must have a very animated head, because not even hats will stay on properly, unless they are tied on. So you would think a head scarf would work right… nope. But Lyn, in the 1940s House series, is ever so briefly shown tying on a head scarf as she prepared to do housework. The technique was new to me; I was hooked. I had to try it! The only scarves I have are over 30 years old, and are 40 inches square, a little too large for the project I think. The result is supposed to have either a little bow top front, or the ends tucked in neatly. I can accomplish neither, and end up with a great wad of fabric just above my forehead. A smaller scarf is called for, something to think about.

Attila likes the look, and so do I. But the what I like most is that it stays on my head! And that it prevents my ever so cleverly errant hair from escaping into my eyes, my nose, and my mouth.


So, here I am with my great edifice on the top of my head, which should be a wee bow, but you get the drift. It is a project in process. Fair dues, I took over a dozen photos of myself before I finally settled on this one, I don’t consider myself to be photogenic, and only take selfies when I want to demonstrate something, I am a free model. Photos are great in that all the blemishes are sort of pixelated out, so I end up looking a lot younger than I do in real life! I get the same effect when I take off my glasses and look in the mirror; that is when I look most like the “myself” I had become so accustomed to seeing over the decades of adulthood. I do miss the way I used to look. Oh well, been there, done that, doing this now.

I made an apron some years ago, that I wear almost every day. I want to make another apron, but haven’t yet decided on the pattern. The closest I have come to a pattern that I think will work for me is a pattern for a doll apron. And, well, the pattern needs a few alterations if it is going fit me! I am thinking of making a “template” apron, from an old sheet, to see how I like it before committing valuable fabrics to the style.

Attila continues to spend his evenings working on the basement insulation project. It is coming along really, really well. The whole wall-with-exterior-exposed, has been framed, the insulation, the vapour barrier, and taping finished off. Just the drywall, and paint to go now for that section. Some of the drywall even got installed last night!

I am really looking forward to the completion of this project! Not because it is particularly intrusive, but so that I can begin to organize the storage in the basement. Organizing the basement has been on hold for 10 years now, four of those years we have actually lived here full time. We will be able to unpack the last boxes, and put things where we can easily find them.

The first drywall has been installed! Attila installed this last night. This is mold resistant drywall, because this is a basement application, and although the basement has no moisture issues now, the air is moist because it is a basement, where cool air settles and moisture condenses. We are painting the drywall white, which will make it area much brighter.

When we bought the house there were two dismal rooms down here. One was a bedroom, with a broken window, with a piece of plywood nailed over it. It had carpet over the concrete. Everything was covered with mold and mildew. The other room was a “rec room”, in similar condition to the bedroom. Everything smelled awful from the mold and mildew, and mice and chipmunk colonies that lived there.
That first year we removed the window in the basement, the one you see in the image, and Attila tore everything out, gutted the basement completely. It was all removed through the window opening, and thrown into the large rented dumpster. We also put a new roof on that first summer, so the large dumpster was full of debris from the house. The renovations had begun, and we are still at it, but not quite to so hard at it anymore, thank goodness.

Worldly

Weather

4°C
Date: 9:00 AM EST Wednesday 27 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.2°C
Dew point: 2.5°C
Humidity: 89%
Wind: NE 24 gust 34 km/h
Visibility: 13 km

Wind warning in effect
Southwesterly wind with gusts near 90 km/h tonight.
Very strong southwesterly winds with gusts near 90 km/h are expected to develop early this evening as a sharp cold front blasts through. These damaging winds will persist into the overnight hours before before veering to the west and diminishing.
The highest wind gusts will be along exposed areas of the Lake Ontario shoreline.
Power outages are possible.
Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur. Loose objects may be tossed by the wind and cause injury or damage. Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions due to high winds.

Quote

“My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?”
Charles M. Schulz
1922 – 2000

There are many cartoonists, that I read and wonder, “so?” I feel I’ve missed the point somehow. They must be using a set of experiences for a frame of reference, a set of experiences I did not have, and haven’t even observed.

BUT Charles M. Schulz is one of the cartoonists I actually “got”, there have been a few.

The Last Harvest

Saturday! Since retirement, the days of the week aren’t the focus of my life, as they were when I had to be at a specific spot at a specific time. I like retirement. I was sitting here just minding my own business, and Saturday night snuck up on me!

Yesterday I milled flour, it took me quite a while, the supply was down to two cups of flour. I only mill about eight cups of flour at one time, then I let the equipment cool down before milling again. I ended up with about 44 cups of freshly milled whole-wheat flour.

Today I used the flour I had just milled to bake five loaves of bread. We were completely out of bread. No, wait, there was one partial loaf left in the breadbox, Chocolate Bread. Not really suitable for savory sandwiches.

This evening I made Hamburger Gravy with potatoes in the Instant Pot. I sauteed ground beef in the Pot, then added chopped onion and sauteed it all, adding a few herbs, Rosemary, Pepper, Garlic. Two cups of homemade vegetable broth were then added. A metal steam basket was set over the meat mixture, and the peeled potatoes were placed on top. The potatoes would be removed from the pot, and a gravy made with the meat, broth, and onions. Three minutes of cooking and dinner was prepared. Of course there is the time it took to heat up the Instant Pot, and then the time it took for it to cool down again, so the process was more than three minutes. While I was preparing the meat and potatoes, Attila prepared the very last harvest from the garden, carrots and beets. They were tiny and sweet, only about a cup all told, so good! So that is the garden done for this year.

Attila has been very busy with his insulation project. About a third of our basement is above ground, and that third was bare concrete blocks, outside and inside. When it got cold outside, it got cold inside too. By bedtime tonight he will have built stud walls and installed insulation and vapour barrier over the concrete blocks in that third of the basement. There is a noticeable difference down there already. I used to feel chilled every time I went to the basement during the heating season, and now I don’t. Not really a scientific measurement, but good enough for me.

Attila is moving along on this insulation project at lightning speed. Just dry wall and paint to go in this corner.
It is a no-stress project, compared to all the other renovations that have been undertaken at Mist Cottage. Attila only has to set his equipment and materials up once, in the now wonderfully dry garage. When he is finished for the day, he can just shut the door and walk away, and it will all be waiting for him just as he left it when he returns to take up the task again. This is a real luxury. Also, there is no deadline with this project, it will be completed whenever that happens, no rush, no pressure. Unless of course I get a bit concerned when it gets too close to Christmas and I want the basement things that are stacked in the living room taken back downstairs. But really, the project is far enough along even now, that this could be accomplished.

I’ve just bagged my five loaves of bread, and tucked them into the freezer. Baking bread is a very satisfying activity, I like it a lot. The bread I just put in the freezer is sandwich bread, it is wonderful. It took me ever so long to get a good loaf of 100% whole-wheat bread, but finally the loaves are light and airy and delicious.

I have been experimenting with 100% whole-wheat sweet breads, and am not satisfied with the results thus far. The loaves taste wonderful, but the bread is dense and a bit dry. So far I’ve made Raisin Apple Bread, and Chocolate Bread. I have to keep trying, practice makes perfect!

Worldly

Weather

2°C
Date: 6:00 PM EST Saturday 23 November 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 2.2°C
Dew point: -1.1°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: SW 13 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure.”
Michel de Montaigne
1533 – 1592

The Last Big Garden Push

Here it is, the last significant harvest out of our garden!
The quart jar gives you an idea of the volume of the harvest. These ten Brussel Sprout plants were harvested Thursday afternoon, rescued from the snowy garden, and you can see some of the snow still clinging to the leaves on the plant furthest left. The first step in processing these plants was to remove the leaves and the Brussel Sprouts from the stalk of the plant. That was Attila’s job!
Attila handed the leaves off to me, so that I could begin the long process of dehydrating them. While I started on that element of the job, Attila sorted through the Brussel Sprouts, cleaned them, blanched them, and we bagged them for the freezer, in 2 cup portions. As you can see, we ended up with 8 good sized packages for the freezer, a meal’s worth in each one. In additon, we served fresh from the garden Brussel Sprouts for one late night snack, and two meals. So 22 cups of Brussel Sprouts harvested from the ten plants in our garden. That is about two servings per plant.
Because the freezer space is full, we were forced to thaw a frozen turkey to make space for these Brussel Sprouts. This weekend we enjoyed a full course turkey dinner, with leftovers for the week, diced meat in the freezer for casseroles, and a big pot of soup from the bones.
Our winter greens.
You could see how many leaves there were on the ten Brussel Sprout plants. Brussel Sprout leaves are tough and chewy. The taste is good, but the texture is undesirable, at least that is how we feel about them.
For two days the house was filled with the aroma of Brussel Sprout leaves roasting in the oven. It was surprising how these tough, chewy leaves shriveled to almost nothing when roasted at 250F for about forty five minutes. They smelled delicious, and tasted wonderful. After drying, the leaves were crumbled into a bowl, the midribs discarded. Then the crumbled leaves were put into the blender and powdered. That huge tote full of Brussel Sprout leaves yielded this much powder. It doesn’t seem like a big yield for two days work, but a teaspoon of this delicious powder in a soup will be plenty to enhance the flavour.
I ask you, where can you buy powdered organic roasted Brussel Sprout leaves, at any price?

Worldly

Weather

7°C
Date: 1:00 PM EST Sunday 10 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 7.1°C
Dew point: 1.6°C
Humidity: 68%
Wind: WSW 28 gust 41 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.”
Emo Phillips

First Snow!

I think this is the first video clip I have ever created to post on this site! I am a complete beginner when it comes to videos, and this is the result of taking a video with the iPad this morning, then using iMovie to edit it a bit, save it, upload it, and place in this entry. I watched about 45 minutes of videos on how to use iMovie before getting this result. The beginner iMovie youtube videos move way too fast and don’t cover the basics very well. I will be searching for a video made by someone with a bit of instructional ability, not just technical ability! Baby steps!
ANYWAY, this was our snow this morning, so pretty.

It is snowing here this morning, lots and lots of snow. It is melting too, but enough is falling out the sky to accumulate significantly on the branches of the tree branches outside my windows, about 4 inches so far.

I love the first snowfall of the season! It is pretty. But beyond the visual is the feel of the soft white blanket that now surrounds my little house. The busy brashness of late autumn sounds has been muted. White brings sharp visual contrast to the landscape. I can see paths in the snow, where squirrels and rabbits have made their way in our yard. That is on the outside of me.

On the inside of me is a deep feeling of containment and contentment. I am cozy here in my little house, warm enough, well fed enough (understatement), and peacefully occupied enough to love where I am. The first snow always brings into sharp focus how wonderful it is to have a peaceful home to live in. I stepped out onto the back porch this morning, to take out the compost bucket, and to bring in some washed and dried plastic bags that were hanging on the clothesline, and oh what a pleasure to breath deeply that air, so sharp and crisp and biting. And then, what a delight to retreat back into the warmth of this little house.

These feelings of wonder at the first snow never get old. They return every year in late autumn, when the world first turns white. It is amazing to me that I feel this way every year, despite having experienced late winter impatience for it to melt away.

The first snow marks a turning point in the seasons, a natural turning point, dictated by mother nature herself, and it is delightful.

There is another turning point at this time of year however, that is not so delightful, nor is it natural in any way. It is a corporate interest turning point that occurs here in Ontario, where we have Time-Of-Use monitoring and billing for the electricity we use. It is the perfect opportunity to increase prices, and inflict restrictions on the domestic population of Ontario, Canada.

On November first we were switched to winter rates and time schedules. The rates have increased of course. And what this also means is that I must do my daily tasks that use electricity either before 7:00 a.m. in the morning, or after 7:00 p.m. in the evening. In other words, the most economical hydro is largely available overnight, when I sleep. This is very, very inconvenient, and changes the way my whole day is structured.

There is a period of mid-peak pricing from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., when I will undertake tasks that I feel just cannot be done during the 12 nighttime hours when the electricity is least expensive. But I try to avoid doing that, because it will affect our monthly billing.

It seems Hydro One is determined to make the short cold winter days as dark and dreary as they possibly can.

Heating is our priority, and it is a service I do not want to cut back on significantly, despite the government urging seniors to turn their heat down! The government paid for ads a few years ago, showing an elderly woman wrapped in a blanket, turning down her thermostat, like that was the RIGHT thing to do. I hope the genius who thought up that ad, and the one who chose to run with it, have severe arthritis in their older years, and find themselves wrapped in blankets in chilly homes, doing the RIGHT thing. Heartless campaign.

I’ve been busy. One of the things that has come to my attention is that I experience significant pain if I try to get down on the floor, or back up from the floor. Arthritis is not my friend. All of my life I have been physically nimble, hale and hearty. Age is having none of it! So I did a bunch of research on techniques for getting down on the floor, and up from the floor, and have been practicing. And the practice is paying off, after a few days of cleaning shelves that can only be reached if one is down on the floor, I can now get down, and up again, without experiencing pain. I still forget I am not young anymore, and without thinking try to get down, or up, as I had whole life through, for decades and decades. But pain is a determined reminder that adaptation is required.

On Tuesday I made a loaf of 100% whole-wheat low-sodium bread in the bread machine. The whole loaf contained only 1200 mg of sodium. I added dried mango and dried cranberries to it. Wow, it was so good. I love bread with dried fruit in it.

When I was a single Mom on a tight time and financial budget, a loaf of bread with mixed fruit in it was my only special treat. I even dreamed about that loaf of bread at night, watching the slices fall as I opened the bag. I love breads and pastries. Yesterday, I could not resist having my homemade bread with butter for breakfast, again for lunch, and as a bedtime snack. And I had it for breakfast again this morning, and again at lunch. I know I will not want to eat anything else until that loaf of bread is all gone, and it won’t be long. Well, it is best fresh, right?

I was so in love with the bread I made, that I decided I needed more dried fruit in the house, with which to make it. Out came the dehydrator, to dry the Gala apples purchased at the grocery store this past week. They are Ontario apples, and on sale at the moment for $1.00 a pound. They were peeled, cored, sliced thin, then spread out on the racks. I ran the dehydrator at 140F last night after 7:00 p.m. when the hydro cost dropped to off-peak pricing, and turned the heat down to 90F for the night, to let it run overnight. It seemed best to keep the temperature down when the unit was not being supervised. It was turned off this morning at 6:58 a.m.. The apples are not dry yet, a little rubbery, so they aren’t done. Tonight the dehydrator will be turned on to 140F again at 7::00 p.m. and will run again all night if need be.

The apples cores and peels are now in the crock turning themselves into Apple Cider Vinegar, which needs to be stirred daily to prevent mold.

Last Friday the pressure canner was put into service again, this time to can six 500-ml jars of Taco Soup. These are intended for my lunches, on those days when I am suddenly hungry and just can’t figure out what to eat. Since there were no empty jars left, the pressure canner was cleaned and back into storage it went. But Attila, upon finding out that the jars were all in service, picked up another dozen jars when he was out and about. So there will be more canned instant meals on the way soon.

Six jars of Taco Soup canned, ready for quick lunches.
On the plate are seeds from our Jack-O-Lantern, a pie pumpkin, drying for spring planting.
Pie Pumpkins are amazing, who knew!
I have always purchased field pumpkins for Jack-O-Lanterns, and then cooked, pureed, froze, and baked with them. They were perfectly acceptable. BUT why use a field pumpkin if you can have a Pie Pumpkin. This was the first Pie Pumpkin I had ever had, and wow, the cooked puree is sweet and not in the least bit watery. It is significantly superior to any commercially canned pumpkin pie filling I have ever purchased.

The cabbages were first harvested in September. Each stem that was left started to grow new little cabbages. Attila harvested them on the weekend, and now we have a 1 liter jar of sauerkraut fermenting in the basement. Hopefully this batch will be a success!

These small cabbages, on one stem, were harvested from our garden over the weekend. They sure don’t look like much, do they! These all grew from the “stump” left when the first crop was harvested, a second crop on the same plants.
Here is what the little cabbages looked like when the outer leaves had been removed. they look pretty good!
The cabbages have been cut into thin slices and are now ready to be made into sauerkraut. This cabbage is sweet and crunchy, so good. Not really what might be expected based on their appearance when harvested.

Worldly

-1°C
Date: 11:47 AM EST Thursday 7 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.3 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -1.3°C
Dew point: -3.5°C
Humidity: 85%
Wind: NNW 14 km/h
Wind Chill: -6
Visibility: 16 km

Weather

Quote

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Marcel Proust
1871 – 1922

Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds have been a big part of day-to-day life during the winter months, as long as I can remember. Indoor air during the winter is dryer than indoor air during the spring, summer, and fall. My nosebleeds begin as soon as conventional heating methods begin in the fall. At first it was a natural gas furnace, then wood heat, and now fuel oil heat. It isn’t just the constant movement of air, because the air source heat pump delivers heat that has no effect on my nosebleeds at all. I never get nosebleeds when the house is heated with the air source heat pump, which shuts down when the exterior temperature falls below -7C.

Now that I have a Nurse Practitioner, it was possible to get a referral to an ENT. So last week I finally had the problem diagnosed and remedied by cauterization. I had thought it was only the right nostril, but he checked and recommended both nostrils be cauterized. Of course anaesthetic was out of the question, so none was used. To be honest, there was no pain during the procedure, it wasn’t the least bit unpleasant.

However, the 24 hours following the procedure weren’t all that comfortable! Clear fluid flowed from my nostrils in abundance, requiring a tissue to be held to the nose constantly. A feeling of pressure was intense in the nostrils, like cotton balls had been jammed in there. It was very uncomfortable, and there was a mild pain in my nose, radiating to my eyes and upper lip. No pain medications were needed. I could still breathe easily through my nose.

I took it easy for a few days, not lifting anything heavy or bending down. It didn’t keep me awake at night either, slept soundly every night after the procedure.

Now it is just a matter of giving it some time to heal and seeing if I still get nosebleeds.

It has been frigidly cold! The weather is warming up now though, I can tell without looking at a thermometer because the air source heat pump has taken over heating the house, which only occurs above the temperature of -7C.

Now that canning season is over for 2018, focus has shifted to getting the kitchen back to normal. Canning takes up a lot of space, produce everywhere, at different stages of processing, and equipment everywhere. Someday I might have an outdoor kitchen space for canning, I would like that. There is no hurry, no urgency, it is only daydreaming.

I am old enough now that I know, intellectually, that I might not be around long enough to see many more changes around Mist Cottage. However, the rest of me, the part that doesn’t operate by logic alone, enjoys looking forward to possibilities, and really doesn’t get this old age thing at all. I am still me, doing me things, and plan on continuing that way while I am living this life of mine.

Attila is tackling the basement. It is too cold to work on the garage, it is not heated. Most of the basement is as it was in September 2015, when we moved from the Country House to Mist Cottage. Dirty doesn’t really cover the depth of filth in some areas of the basement. Now that some items are removed to the garage, it is possible to move things around and tackle the dirt. That is what Attila is doing. After washing a small surface area down there, the water is pitch black. I continue to spray aqueous oxygen down there where he is working, to kill mold, mildew, and spores. Eventually it will be relatively clean.

Attila’s goal is to get things cleaned up in the basement. He is working on an area beneath the kitchen, for the very first time since we purchased Mist Cottage. The plan is to insulate the rim joists along that wall, which is under the kitchen. The kitchen floor is always extremely cold, colder than any other floor in the house. All the floors are cold of course, because the basement is unheated, but the kitchen floor is much colder than the rest. It is hoped that insulating the rim joists along that wall will help to keep the kitchen floor warmer during the winter months.

I just checked my Crabapple Vinegar project. The alcohol smell is almost gone, and the vinegar is free of mold, so I think it is going well. No signs of a scoby though, but it has to spend weeks on the shelf yet.

Worldly

Weather

-6°C
Date: 8:00 AM EST Friday 23 November 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 103.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -6.0°C
Dew point: -10.2°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: S 34 km/h
Wind Chill: -15
Visibility: 24 km

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