Heading North

We are experiencing another cold week here in the bush. The house cooled overnight, the warmest spot in the house this morning was 16C. That isn’t too bad. Today we will once again perform three firings of the masonry heater, so that tomorrow morning it should be warmer in the house.

I felt lucky though, because I looked at the weather and road conditions this morning, for those south of us in Ontario. They are much worse off, with heavy snowfall yesterday, and blowing snow to make the roads extra treacherous.

But then, at mid-morning the white stuff began to fall in large fluffy flakes; apparently we will receive our fair share, the foul weather is heading north. And the wind picked up, making for a wind chill, and cooling the house. So far, with one firing of the masonry heater, we have raised the warmest spot to 17C. Better, but still not comfy. Slowly I am beginning to look like a snowman, as I don layer after layer of warm clothing.

Still, I know that by the middle of next week it should be warmer, the worst night time lows only -17C. I am looking forward to that.

I am settling into the routines that keep me healthy while living in a few rooms for extended periods of time. Standing to work for at least two hours a day, up and about for five minutes, every thirty minutes. I am feeling better already.

Today, my mind wandered into the world of spring gardens. Where we live in the country it is way too soon to begin concrete preparations. But I can think about it! Would it not be wonderful if some long-time residents in this area, who have grown their own domestic vegetable gardens for decades, had a mentoring program, which I could join and then be guided through the processes necessary to successfully grow food in such an agriculturally hostile environment. I have searched far and wide on the internet and found no such opportunity, or anything close to it.

I am better off piecing together bits of information to suit me, rather than attending meetings and sessions that offer general information. I have tried many times before to attend an information session, and they have always focused on what they want to tell me, and rarely, almost never, gotten around to filling me in on what I want to know.

There are scads of nurseries here, but they focus on ornamental landscaping the fantasy “islands” of the affluent summer population, as perhaps they must to survive economically. The “poor woman’s” food garden isn’t something they take any interest in, as far as I can tell. Too bad, there are a lot of struggling people and families in this area, who have property and would benefit from a program focused on developing ways to grow some of their own food. Know how is mainly what is missing I think.

Of course, at the moment, we own a wonderful piece of property at our little house in the city, which is well suited to a garden. But gardens need tending, and we do not live there, so the idea of a large garden there, under current circumstances, is not practical.

Terra is planning on planting a large garden this spring. I will have to ask her if she has started her planning yet. Thinking about spring gardens is cheery business on an arctic February day!

We are completely out of bread. I should bake bread, really I should. Attila has hinted. And what do I do? Well, yesterday I decided to use heritage food that I found in the cupboard. I think I have substituted contrariness for cabin fever. This is to Attila’s benefit, as well as mine, even if it leaves us breadless for a few days.

There were two partial boxes of All Bran cereal, and some aging marshmallows that were meant for campfires with the Grandbabies. These items need to be moved around constantly in the cupboard, to access the food we are eating on a more regular basis. I searched high and low, and finally found a simple recipe for Bran Marshmallow Treats that uses both of these ingredients. As a bonus, the recipe calls for half a cup of butter, and I had some butter that needed to be consumed before expiry. The squares were really good, crunchy and full of bran. I at a few small pieces over the course of the day yesterday, and had a larger piece after dinner. Attila loves the squares, I am leaving the rest to him.

The down side of eating the kind of sugar provided by marshmallows, as opposed to that found in something like a fresh orange, is that hours later I begin to experience a mood fall. This is totally unacceptable in the winter, because I need every last molecule of good cheer I can muster to survive the isolation and challenges of the winter season in the bush. I discovered as well, that there is a down side to consuming too much bran, and perhaps too much butter. My digestive system protested for hours after I retired for the night, necessitating that I rise and preoccupy myself with projects until I could fall into an exhausted sleep.

I am not sure if this is more severe now than in my younger years. It could be that during my younger years I always had some tangible misery to contend with, and attributed any emotional distress to circumstances. Goodness knows I had an abundance of emotionally distressing challenges to deal with in those days. The sugar/fat combination may have made the whole experience much worse, although I think after life reaches a certain level of misery one fails to perceive “worse”, it is just all bad. Fortunately, these days, I lead a life of manageable challenges, surrounded by people who either love or respect me, and I have become very aware of my body’s responses to stimuli.

All that is a long way of saying, no more Bran Marshmallow Treats for me! Enjoy them Attila!

Lately I have been luxuriating in the long preparation and leisurely consumption of breakfast. I heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in the cast iron frying pan, over a low heat. I slice three or four large button mushrooms, then add them to the heated oil. When the mushrooms are cooked, I add a chopped onion, and cook that until there are caramelized bits of onion in the pan. Then I add a half cup of cooked basmati rice, turn the heat off, put a lid on the pan, and leave it for about ten minutes. After dishing it into a serving bowl, I add 1/2 teaspoon of roasted garlic and peppers, by Club House, stir and enjoy. The preparation times is about 45 minutes, as I cook everything over a very low heat. This makes a wonderful breakfast, and includes no added sugar.

I have been looking for savoury recipes for oatmeal, and have found nothing simple as yet. I prefer to eat complex carbohydrates as the basic food in all my meals, and I love oatmeal. For now, I am eating a bowel of oatmeal [bowl of oatmeal really, but this is a Freudian slip too good to cover up with an edit], cooked with whole flax seed and raisins, with 1% milk and a sprinkling of granulated sugar. It would be nice to have more options with oatmeal though, so I will continue the search for savoury oatmeal recipes.

But I really should be thinking about baking bread!

How I have gone on!

Worldly Distractions


Date: 6:00 AM EST Thursday 6 February 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.6 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -24.8°C
Dewpoint: -27.3°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: calm


“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.”
George Eliot
1819 – 1880

[The temptation presented by social media has reduced the number of people qualified for this blessing, I am sure.]

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Tom McCubbin

Your stories of survival in the arctic weather are fascinating. I guess it’s because it’s a rare experience these days. I’ve had to alter what I can eat too. Some of the things that used to slide down so easily, just don’t do that any more, so I’m always experimenting. Buying a high-powered Vitamix blender and chainsawing my vegetables has helped a bunch to get them down. Stay warm.

Reenie Beanie

Ditto to what Tom said about your artic survival skills. I admire your lifestyle and ways of thinking and delighting.