What I’ve Been Up To

Jar from top showing pickle pebble and foam from fermentation.

Looking at the apple cider from above, lid off. Above the pickle pebble this foam appeared, and overflowed from the jars. A lot of healthy fermenting going on in there!

mason jars at the back of the lowest shelf of a trolley

In the dark! Two 1 litre jars, and one 500 ml jar of crabapples becoming hard apple cider. These needed to be checked every 3 days. The calendar on the computer was setup to sound alerts every three days, so as not to forget. And it is a good thing too, because they bubbled up and through the coffee filters, right onto the floor below the trolley.

Straining the hard apple cider into a large mason jar.

After two weeks sitting in a cool dark place, the hard apple cider was ready to be strained to remove the crabapples. The smell of alcohol was very, very, very strong! Attila and I both had a taste, whoa!

Hard apple cider bubbling in mason jar.

The hard apple cider is still bubbling away in this 1 litre mason jar. It is now being kept in the cool dark place for four to six weeks, as it slowly turns to apple cider vinegar.



Date: 1:00 PM EST Wednesday 7 November 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 9.3°C
Dew point: 2.8°C
Humidity: 64%
Wind: SW 44 gust 61 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousand of miles and all the years you have lived.”
Helen Keller
1880 – 1968

Furnace Fixed!

The oil furnace is the auxiliary heat at Mist Cottage, and it wasn’t kicking in when it needed to.

The first thing we thought of was the thermostat, but it seemed to be working as expected.

When the temperature drops 2C below the target temperature, the oil furnace is supposed to come on to bring the interior temperature up to the target. This doesn’t happen very often when the heat pump is heating the house, as it kicks in if the temperature falls by 1C. It is only when the weather throws a quick and extreme temperature drop at us that this whole sequence comes into play.

Attila had some ideas, and started with the simplest, checking all the wiring that was visible. Sure enough, one of the connectors was dislodged! He secured the connector, turned the heat up to 27C (from 21.5C) and bingo, the furnace instantly began to do what it is supposed to do! I turned the thermostat back down as soon as it was a sure thing that everything was working as it should.


This morning Attila looked very stern minutes after he got out of bed. He was pondering and worrying over the furnace issue, as well he might. That worry has now been allayed.

At some point our oil furnace will need to be replaced, but we are in no hurry to do so.  When and if the oil furnace fails, the new furnace will be a natural gas furnace, and when the natural gas supply is connected the electric hot water tank will be replaced with an on-demand hot water heater.  If we are lucky, this won’t ever be necessary.  Dollars to donuts though, at some point the heating system will need updating, even if it is only because the insurance companies refuse to cover a perfectly good oil furnace and tank.  Time to open a savings account for a new heating system, start now and hope for the best.



Date: 4:00 PM EDT Saturday 3 November 2018
Condition: Light Rainshower
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 4.8°C
Dew point: 1.7°C
Humidity: 80%
Wind: W 36 gust 46 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“Those little nimble musicians of the air, that warble forth their curious ditties, with which nature hath furnished them to the shame of art.”
Izaak Walton
1593 – 1683

Tank is Home

Tank arrived with November!

Yesterday evening, just as we were finishing our dinner, the telephone rang. It was the garage, the call display let me know before I picked up the receiver, and I was prepared for bad news. But it wasn’t bad news, it was great news. Tank was ready to come home! Even though it was after hours, they had called us and were willing to wait until we could get over there to pick her up… and pay the bill of course.

The bill was what kept my anxiety high, and Attila’s too. Tank had been at the garage for two weeks, with repeated calls regarding additional parts needed. I was afraid the bill would be so high that we would have to decline paying it, and walk away from Tank. This happened to me once before, as I’ve mentioned, and it was disastrous, there was no safety net, the children and I fell. So the drive over the garage was one of great trepidation.

Sometimes the universe directs you to what you need, and in this case that is what has happened. The garage had repeatedly told us they wanted to get it right, and get it back to us. They felt we were incredibly patient, which I inwardly smiled about, had they only known! The upshot was that the bill was the original quote, plus the extra parts. They waived any additional labour fees, and that is a big deal, they had Tank for two weeks! The credit card took care of the bill, for now. It will take at least six months to recover from this financial setback, but it could have been so much worse! The bill was thousands of dollars. Tank is running like new, and with any luck will continue to do so for a very long time. Their last words to us were, if we notice ANY problems, to bring her back in, and they will take care of it. And they mean it.

This garage has a reputation for being honest. But we weren’t sure that this “honesty” was extended equitably to all customers. So often I’ve listened to recommendations by people who must have received preferred service, because my experience was nothing like theirs, well below the standards they described. This garage, however, has lived up to its reputation. They are honest. They can be trusted to be so. If we run into a situation like this with them again, I won’t be worrying much, just trusting that it will work out just fine.

The furnace wasn’t working again this morning. The oil furnace is our auxilliary heat, and it isn’t kicking in when it is supposed to. This is the second time the heat pump has not come on when it should have. The oil furnace hasn’t come on at all, since the furnace inspection, which it passed without issue. I fiddled around with the thermostat for about a half an hour, connecting to wifi, disconnecting from wifi, turning the heat up, turning the heat down, logging into the account online, logging out, turning off the breaker in the electrical panel, turning the breaker back on… eventually the heat pump just started working I don’t know why. There are no batteries in the thermostat to change, so it isn’t a failing battery in the thermostat. Attila is going to explore the issue over the weekend, see what he can figure out.

Yesterday the hydro time-of-use algorithm changed, mid-peak now runs from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., so that it is reasonable to bake during that time of day, and to cook dinner before 5:00 p.m. when the two hour peak charges begin again. After 7:00 p.m. the least expensive off-peak prices start. I am usually far too tired at the end of the day to do a lot of cooking.

Today I decided to make biscuits. I love biscuits. Apparently I do not love all biscuits, because I did not love the biscuits I made today. The Scottish Oat Biscuits appealed to me because they didn’t use a lot of white bleached flour, were low sodium, and low fat. In my opinion that is all they have to recommend them. They are tasteless, doughy articles. I will eat them of course, because I don’t throw out failures unless they are beyond the pale. These biscuits are very healthy food, so down the hatch they will go.

Back to the drawing board!



Date: 2:00 PM EDT Friday 2 November 2018
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 100.4 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 5.3°C
Dew point: 4.3°C
Humidity: 93%
Wind: NE 19 gust 31 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.”
Henry David Thoreau
1817 – 1862

A Day At Home With Attila

“In his experience, there is a way to overcome that kind of division. “Compassion and openness is the kryptonite for terrorism and fundamentalism,” says Choudhury. “What draws young people into that process is the feeling of not belonging.”
Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/syrian-canadian-immigration-paris-attacks-1.3324291

This was always obvious. It has been obvious for hundreds and hundreds of years. Add hard work and opportunity for advancement into the mix, and you have a recipe for a healthy communities.

I grew up with “it isn’t what you know, it is who you know”, and I found that to be very true over my life span of experience in the working world, in the academy, in the corporate environments I worked in, even in the elementary schools I taught in. And that is sad.

I think we can do better.

I think that hard work, integrity, honesty, and positive human traits can be rewarded. I think that greed, avarice, contempt for others, ruthless ambition, and those ugly human traits that have been recently glorified by the perpetrators, have no place in healthy human communities. I think back to economic theories that informed policy over the last three decades in Canada, the burgeoning focus on competition and globally mobile capital, theories about society that revolve almost exclusively around money, and profit, and I shudder. And this too was always obvious, at least to those who saw a society as a community of people, of families, of friends, of mutual support.

And I still think we can do better.

And suddenly today, after having a look at the news, I feel that maybe we are beginning to move in the right direction. I suspect the 1%, who engineer all large scale change on the planet, have suddenly become aware that the planet is where they have to live. The voyage to Mars is unlikely to provide them with an easy out when their mistakes catch up with all of us. Being king of the castle isn’t much fun when the castle collapses around you. And this too was always obvious.

My Mom went in for day surgery on Saturday, and returned home feeling fine. I doubt this will slow her down for long, she is a force of nature is my Mom. Wishing you a speedy recovery Mom, ((hugs)).

Attila worked nights for the last few days, and as we go forward with this new experience of rotating 12 hour shifts, we learn, and laugh. On Saturday when Mom went in for surgery I asked my sister if she had taken time off work to accompany Mom. Sis reminded me that it was Saturday, the traditional break in the week for working people. Attila worked through Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so to me these days were “weekdays”. I had to laugh at myself! I think I need to keep a calendar displayed in a prominent location, marking Attila’s shifts in bright colours so that I can figure out at a glance just where we are in relation to those who keep traditional schedules. Eventually it will all just flow, but there is more to learn.

It is colder now, the temperature falling below freezing at night, but not by much. We awoke to a light dusting of snow on the roof, but the roads were merely wet.

Attila has the day off and decided he wanted to spend it on small projects inside the house. To that end we decided to put shelving above the stairs to the basement, in the stairwell.

First we had to decide what would be stored in the stairwell. The items stored would have to be lightweight, as the shelves would be very high and hard to reach. They would also have to be items we seldom use, so that we would seldom need to access them in such an awkward storage space. We decided that Christmas decorations would be the appropriate items to store in the stairwell.

The next step was to gather together the scattered boxes of Christmas decorations, that had been stacked at various locations all over the house. There were boxes in the living room, boxes in the basement, and boxes in the front bedroom. Once we had gathered all the boxes we sat down and sorted through the items in each one.

We condensed the Christmas decorations from six boxes to four boxes. One box is dedicated exclusively to Christmas tree decorations. We will not have room for a Christmas tree this year, but we are optimistic that by next Christmas we will have downsized sufficiently to have available space for a Christmas tree. Another box is dedicated to Christmas lights. The other two boxes are a collection of decorations that will adorn the house this year, such as a wreath for the front door, and baubles for the windows.

Attila then tackled building the shelves. As usual, this was not a straightforward job. The wall studs on either side of the stairs are on two foot centres, which was up to code when the house was built

The linen cupboard, which was built above the stairs, opening on the other side of the wall into the central hall. It was built using 2x2s. The structure is not very sturdy.

Attila removed all the trim in the corners of the stairwell, to get at the 2x2s. That couldn’t be managed without severely damaging the drywall. Which was surprising, as the trim was secured only by the wallpaper that covered it. We do a lot of head shaking during these projects.

Attila then screwed L brackets into the 2x2s on the back wall, and ran support boards from the L brackets at the back, to the studs two feet out from the back wall. This provided a load bearing framework for the shelves.

To work on the wall above the stairwell, Attila screwed two pieces of 2x2s into the floor joists on either side of the stairs. Then he cut boards to place across the 2x2s, creating a platform for his ladder. The boards can be removed easily, and he will leave the 2x2s where they are so that we can reassemble the platform whenever we want to access the shelves. The repaired drywall, the supporting structures, and the shelves will be painted in the spring.

This little house was never a state-of-the-art architectural wonder. It was built with odd sized lumber, windows, and doors. Not only were the materials an odd size, in some cases they were recycled, which is evident because some of them were painted different colours before they were used to build the house. Despite all of that, the house is sturdy and cozy. We make improvements where we can, as we go along. It will never be a showpiece, but it is already a home. We love our little house.

The 2x2s on either side of the stairs, that hold up the boards for the platform to access the top of the stairwell. The stairs are steep and I navigate them carefully, holding on to the railing with two hands going up, and coming down. These stairs were covered with mildewed carpet when we bought the house five years ago. The carpet went into the dumpster that first autumn. We haven’t gotten around to painting the stairs yet, there are other, more pressing projects to tackle first.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 4:00 PM EST Tuesday 24 November 2015
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 3.7°C
Dewpoint: -2.5°C
Humidity: 64%
Wind: SW 8 km/h


“Ill fares the land, to hast’ning ill a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay;
Princes and Lords may flourish, or may fade:
A breath can make them, as a breath has made;
but a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroyed can never be supplied.”
Oliver Goldsmith
1730 – 1774

Oliver Goldsmith, (born Nov. 10, 1730, Kilkenny West, County Westmeath, Ire.—died April 4, 1774, London), Anglo-Irish essayist, poet, novelist, dramatist, and eccentric, made famous by such works as the series of essays The Citizen of the World, or, Letters from a Chinese Philosopher (1762), the poem The Deserted Village (1770), the novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), and the play She Stoops to Conquer (1773).

Winter Window Treatment

The days are getting shorter and shorter. This is presenting me with a new challenge!

Our bathroom is a tiny room, 5 foot by 6 foot. It has a little window, which is new and was installed during our bathroom renovation, replacing the two storm windows that served to cover the hole in the wall. The window is above the tub. The window is placed so that as I shower, I can look out the window. The window looks out onto the front yard, and across the street to the neighbouring houses. If I can see them, they can see me.

In the summer this is not an issue. A tree in the front yard is in full leaf, basically blocking the view to and from the neighbours windows, and the street. It is light early, and I have plenty of light from the window.

In the winter, the leaves have fallen, leaving the tree branches bare, and view clear. It is dark early in the morning, so that I need to turn on the light in order to shower. Oh dear, that means the neighbours can see me. I have been handling this by waiting until it is light out to have my shower. This is not a good solution for me, as I tend to get busy with my projects and find myself procrastinating on taking my shower. Sometimes I procrastinate all day long, and then it is evening again, and dark, so I have to wait until the next day to shower.

I like to shower when I first get up in the morning. Last week I put sticky tack on a piece of newspaper and attached it to the window frame, it worked well. It was ugly. I took it down for my sister’s visit. Then I didn’t want to put it up again because it was so ugly. I have been on the lookout for an alternative solution.

This morning Attila and I went to the store for milk and vegetables, and stopped in at the hardware store to begin purchasing materials to renovate the backyard shed, which is currently not functional. While there I saw a placemat that was pretty, it was silver, patterned with snowflakes, and let the light through. I bought it.

I first tried to stick it over the screen in the window using that tacky blue stuff, that is a bit like PlayDoh. That would not hold it, it kept falling off the wall. Then I tried packing tape, and that worked. The glue will be a challenge to get off the window frame come spring, but we are confident we can find a way to do the job when the time comes.

The window treatment is a work in progress. It now has the placemat over the glass, and over all is sheet of bubble wrap, which protects the window and frame from getting wet during a shower.

Eventually I will find a way to replace the bubble wrap with something a little more appealing, but for now it is doing double duty, and doing it well. The bubble wrap insulates the window, and it keeps the window dry during showers.

The current incarnation of the bathroom window treatment. A patterned placemat covering the screen and glass area, and a sheet of bubble wrap over all, protecting the frame and window during a shower.

Attila has just finished a three day “weekbreak”, which is what I am going to call his “weekends” that fall during the week. He used this time off work on our hall cupboard. It has been used as a tool cupboard for the last five years. It is where the mice came in last fall, and where I set the traps to catch them. It was rough, just studs with supports nailed into them, and boards laid across the supports. It took me quite a while to clean that closet last winter!

Attila started by moving the tools out of the closet. He secured the cupboard so that no rodents could gain entry again. Then the drywall was installed, supports were installed, shelves were lined with mahogany, and the whole interior was primed with white paint. We decided to finish the painting next spring when we can open the windows for ventilation.

As Attila slept today, I emptied four totes full of bathroom and kitchen linens into the cupboard. By the time Attila awoke, it was all organized, and the empty totes were ready to be taken down to the basement.

We gained about three square feet of clear floor space in the front bedroom. As Attila says, those three square feet are significant, in a 100 square foot room. We also gained air space, the boxes and totes are now stacked only three deep, instead of to the ceiling.

Progress, slow and steady, is being made.

The ex-tool-cupboard, now a linen cupboard. It is a welcome addition to the household! It is the only built in storage space outside the kitchen.

“The blog was independently invented by Ian Ring, in 1997. His online journaling platform was called an “e-journal”, and was written using ASP, with an ODBC Access db layer on the back end. Ring’s project was later abandoned, but was rewritten in PHP in 2006 but didn’t become popular amid the overwhelming flood of other CMS systems becoming available, including WordPress. Ring still maintains that he “invented the blog”,[6] which is technically true even though there were other projects that could make the same claim with greater authority.”
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_blogging

I found this very interesting, as I debuted my first journal entry on October 22, 1999. Encouraged by John Bailey, I have continued to write into the ether ever since then. John, who began his online journal before I did, is a former computer programmer in England, who stopped his frequent entries a few years ago. He coded his own pages, as did I, eventually converting to blogging software, then tried out twitter, before going off the air.

I switched to WordPress, from my hand coded web site format, in 2010, reluctantly, as I preferred to have my journal available to me in its entirety in text format. Now it resides in an sql file on a server, with backups on CDs and on my hard drive. I can’t just read the entries though, I have to use specialized software to access the contents of the database where the entries are stored. I hate that!

Worldly Distractions


Date: 3:00 PM EST Friday 20 November 2015
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 6.0°C
Dewpoint: -5.0°C
Humidity: 45%
Wind: W 23 gust 43 km/h


“I am a galley slave to pen and ink.”
Honore de Balzac
1799 – 1850

I share the sentiment, but bow to changes in the craft.