Pork n Beans

Friday, October 2, 2014

I am sitting on the back verandah at the little house in the city. It is 8:00 a.m., I have already chatted with Attila, enjoyed a cup of coffee, paid the dreaded bills (ouch!), and put the blue box out to the curb for pickup. While taking out the blue box I was struck by what a beautiful morning it was, and decided to write outside on the verandah, while the sun shines. There are no mosquitoes, no black flies. This afternoon the clouds are supposed to roll in, and stay for an extended visit. Plenty of time then for indoor pursuits.

Attila was sounding very tired this morning. He does not take enough time away from his many projects, when I am not around to insist on his spending down time. Pacing yourself is such an important part of life, the importance of which was demonstrated to me by my Grandpa. He was installing a new metal roof on his house. During his project I visited frequently, and observed that he would do a bit of work up on the ladder, high in the air, then come down and rest for a bit, read, have a cup of coffee. Back up he would go when well rested, until he tired a wee bit, and back down he would come. This went on for the entire project.

He was in his eighties at the time, and slowing down, but still spryer than most young people. Have a look at the house, that is the roof my Grandpa put on the house all those years ago, and would accept no help from me!

Here it is October already! Flocks of geese fly over the house frequently, honking farewell as they go. Some of the trees have completely shed their leaves, while others are still clothed in green. The air is fresh and clean, pushing the clouds along impatiently, nudging the trees, sighing through the Spruce beside the verandah.

Cicadas. They usually herald the end of summer, beginning sometime in August, singing at dusk. Not this year though, not a single song has been heard at the country or the city house!

Credit Cards

I have been thinking about something Terra said yesterday, when she dropped by during her lunch break. We were talking about the curse of credit cards, and she observed that “you can’t live without debt these days”. I informed her that you certainly could live without credit card debt. She informed me that no one does. I could not argue with that!

Credit card debt seems to be accepted as “normal”. Not by me. I regard it as a blight, a disease, something to be cured of. Attila and I have some debt, related to housing. Until that debt is gone we will be thinking every single purchase through, weighing the pros and cons. We make choices that others would not, and that is to be expected, variety is the spice of life. In my view everyone has the right to create their own priorities, in how to save money, how to spend it, and how to handle debt. Credit card debt is a choice.

Terra stopped by twice, once before she headed off to work, and once during her lunch break. What a welcome bit of cheer she brings. She does most of the talking, telling me about her “day” at work, funny stories, sad stories, stories that make her angry. I listen, occasionally commenting. This one sided “conversation” nourishes us both. She is heard, accepted, and I am entrusted, blameless. She seeks no action from me, no solutions, I offer none. I do throw in the odd comment to challenge her, and she usually rejects this input, in the moment. What I notice is that, much later, she has thought over what I had to say, made it her own, incorporated it into her life in her very own way, and made good use of it. This is very satisfying, and affirms my hope for the species.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cloudy skies and rain today. The temperature fell from 15C in the morning, to 11C in the afternoon. Fall weather has arrived.

The morning view from the breakfast table, dreary, and yet beautiful.

After chatting with Attila, I considered the day as I sipped my morning cup of coffee. Cooking and canning, yes, that is how I decided to spend my day.

First, a batch of basmati rice was cooked in the microwave. While that was cooking, a quart of fresh mushrooms were sliced. A generous few tablespoons of olive oil were added to a large saucepan, and when that was heated, in went the mushrooms. While the mushrooms cooked, four small onions were diced, then added to the saucepan. The mushrooms and onions cooked until there was some browning on the bottom of the saucepan, then the heat was turned off. The cooked rice was fluffed and made ready to be added to the mushrooms and onions. As the saucepan cooled, it deglazed easily, the rice was added, and all was stirred well. Into a large bowl it then went, was covered, and refrigerated for future meals. This mixture will be heated with a generous teaspoon of dried garlic and pepper herb mixture added. This is one of my favourite meals.

Then it was time to peel apples, for another apple crisp. The recipe used is quite good, but this apple crisp is meant as a breakfast food, not as a dessert, so the sugar and fat will be reduced to half, and the salt omitted. This apple crisp also makes a healthy snack, particularly when accompanied by a cold glass of milk, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or in the evening.

After lunching on mushrooms and rice, and a small portion of the Apple Crisp, one has to try these things out while they are at their peak, it was time to ready the kitchen for a pressure canning session.

Beans in tomato sauce were on the roster for today. Using the recipe from The National Centre For Home Food Preservation, I made the sauce, filled the jars with beans and sauce and boiling water, placed the lids on finger tight, and got the pressure canner going; of course following my manual and all the necessary steps and precautions. I followed the written instructions carefully, and will for quite a while, until the process become second nature. I am one of those people who can discover almost EVERY WAY to make a mistake. This time, I made the mistake of positioning the canner to face the back of the range. It is impossible to rotate the monster once it has water and full canning jars in it. Now, this will have no ill effects on the canning process, but what it does mean is that I have crane my neck to see the reading on the gauge, and cannot watch it from a seated position at the kitchen table. Annoying, and I will not make that mistake twice!

The range at the little house offers inconsistent heat. The entire canning session demands my attention to the dial, trying to balance the pressure so that it does not fall below the required level, or rise above the required level. The heat is turned down, then the heat is turned up, the heat is turned down… you get the picture. It was a long 65 minutes!

I think I may have my siphoning problem beat. Siphoning is when some of the contents of the canning jars ends up in the water in the canner instead of in the jars. This time around, instead of lifting the weight gauge quickly off, it was eased off very slowly, a little at a time, to release the pressure by small increments. No siphoning. The jars of beans in molasses sauce are still bubbling a bit, even after four hours on the counter to cool. They won’t be touched until tomorrow morning, when I will check the seals, and if the seals are good, store the jars away in a cool dark place until we are ready to eat them. Well, I will probably sample one of them tomorrow!

Nine 500 ml jars of beans in molasses sauce, aka pork n beans without the pork. So far so good, tomorrow I check the seals, and then try some of the beans. I wonder if they cooked enough, they don’t really look like it at this point, but looks can be deceiving!

I meant to take a walk today, but was too busy with my projects in the kitchen to get away. Maybe tomorrow!

So here it is, the end of another day. Time passes quickly here at the little house in the city, not as quickly as it does when Attila and I are together, but quickly enough. As the light fades, I am happy to observe that the temperature inside the house is steady around 20C, without any heating equipment operating. I am as snug as a bug in a rug. Hmm.. I wonder where that saying comes from.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 8:00 AM EDT Friday 3 October 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 17.0°C
Dewpoint: 14.0°C
Humidity: 82%
Wind: SSE 35 gust 45 km/h

Date: 5:00 PM EDT Saturday 4 October 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.1 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 13.2°C
Dewpoint: 7.3°C
Humidity: 67%
Wind: WSW 33 gust 45 km/h


“Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.”
Italian Proverb

Three Days

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I have just arrived at the little house in the city. Attila and I pulled out of the country house driveway at the same time. At the highway junction he turned left, I turned right, and we flashed our headlights at each other. It was still dark enough to see each other’s headlights in our rearview mirrors.

My trip was an easy one, with lots of stops. I had to come to a complete stop twice on the Highway, for a school bus. I had to stop three times for construction. I stopped once for fuel. I stopped once to buy a snack because I was feeling a bit tired and needed a pick-me-up. And I stopped once at an apple store to buy a quarter bushel of Spy apples.

Just as I left the highway, and was driving through the countryside right outside of town, I passed a field with a huge tanker moving across it. The tanker was spraying liquid manure, and the smell hit me like a fist! This stuff was not composted manure, as we used on our farm, which has very little odour. No sir, the liquid coming out of that tank and spraying around was pure, fresh, liquified manure. Miles down the road, when I arrived home and stepped out of the car, the smell was less strong, but definitely being carried into town on the autumn breeze.

Upon arrival at the little house in the city, I unlocked the door and immediately called Attila to let him know I had arrived safely. Then I turned on the water supply, and checked to see if we had caught any mice in the mouse traps set as we left over a week ago. One was set in the basement, and it was still empty. Another was set in the tool cupboard, and it was not empty. The dead mouse was just beginning smell bad. I got that job over with as quickly as possible, carrying the mouse trap to the compost pile, digging a hole, and burying the mouse in the hole. I will spray the trap with bleach, reset it and place it back in the tool cupboard.

It took about an hour to carry all the luggage and items in from the car. Then I took a long rest, with a tall glass of water, and a handy pen and paper for the inevitable supply list.

The new kitchen curtains; enjoying the open windows!

Then it was time to pick up a few supplies; a quick trip to the local grocery store was in order. When I got back Terra was waiting form me, she stopped by on her way home from work. We had a nice chat, short and nice. She was going to go home to sleep, because she had to be back at work within eight hours, to work the night shift.

The rest of the day disappeared into cleaning and cooking activities, and ended with a brief conversation with Attila, via Skype.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I do not know how I turned off my cell phone, but I did. The result was that I slept in, until 7:14 a.m., a truly rare event in my life, and as a consequence, was too late to chat with Attila before he left for work. I felt very well rested. I slept deeply my first night here at the little house.

We receive free delivered newspapers here at the little house in the city, and they are stuffed full of flyers. I noticed that turkeys were on sale, and decided to purchase a few for the freezer. We generally eat between four and six turkeys every winter. We roast the turkey, prepare all the trimmings, mashed potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, etc. Then we eat leftovers for many days, and then Attila makes his turkey soup with whatever is left of the turkey.

So far, during this visit to the little house in the city, time seems to be getting away from me! It is passing so quickly, I hardly notice, and wonder where the day went.

On the agenda for the day was a large pot of chili, for quick meals while I am here alone. I tend to forget about preparing a meal until I feel hungry. Once I am hungry I do not want to wait until a full meal is prepared. My solution, make a big pot of chili, and a large quantity of fried mushrooms with rice. That provides me with two healthy, instant meals. I used two jars of my pressure canned Chili Beans to make my pot of chili.

Thankfully, the mouse traps were empty this morning!

The dehumidifier in the basement was full this morning. It has been emptied, and is ready to be turned on again when the electricity prices go down tonight.

During the afternoon, while the chili was being assembled, a flock of wild geese could be heard flying overhead, heading south.

I picked about four quarts of tomatoes from the garden. The squirrels have been busy raiding, and some very nice tomatoes were lying on the ground half eaten. In order to beat the squirrels to the food, I harvested the largest green tomatoes, and will ripen them on the windowsills.

Green tomatoes and hot peppers; beating the squirrels to harvest.

The last of the cucumbers were peeled and chopped today. I boiled them in a pot, let them cool, put them through the blender, and froze them to use as an ingredient in a future Stone Soup.

I am snacking on Coronation Grapes, I love them. They taste like Concord Grapes, but are seedless, and grown in Niagara. I bought them at NoFrills, a grocery chain, for anyone in Ontario who might be interested in finding them. I also chopped one of the Spy apples into my oatmeal this morning, and added a bit of cinnamon, yum.

When I talked to Attila at 9:00 p.m. last night, he had only been home for about an hour and half, he had worked until 7:30 p.m., no breaks, no lunch break. He came home and chopped wood until 8:30 in the evening. When I talked to him he was preparing his evening meal. They are very busy where he works, and they appreciate what he does for them.

It was a beautiful sunny day today. It was a stinker though, because somewhere near the periphery of the city, fields were being sprayed with liquified manure again. The smell was eye watering at times. This is one of the disadvantages of having farmland nearby. When city folk move to the country they are often horrified by the smells. We do not live in a Fisher Price or Lego world, where everything is made of plastic, and can be sterilized before use. No, real life includes smells, all kinds of them, including manure, and the flowers that grow because of it.

Today I didn’t accomplish any of the bigger projects on my list. I puttered about, and did a lot of little things that needed doing. Lots of time left during this visit for the big projects, to pressure can beans, mow the lawn, and sew the dining room curtains. I may, or may not, get around to all of these projects, as none of them are urgent.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I have completed the database work for the first draft of my next genealogy book. It was a tough slog! I am sure I will find errors as I go forward, but that is to be expected.

Now I am looking for photos to include, which is tricky. Old photos are no longer under copyright, but I have few of those, as the family history I am writing starts in the late 1700s, and will end in the early 1900s. My biggest challenge is defining parameters, the size and resolution of the photos and charts is where I am starting, and there is a sea of too-much-information out there!

I am beginning to narrow it down though, and am looking for online publishers who provide a lot of step-by-step written guidance on how to prepare for publication. I could publish manually, as I am a registered Publisher in Canada, but I probably will not go that route, as I have to distribute the books myself. The last book I published sold many more copies than I expected, which meant trip after trip back to the printers. Choosing an online publisher should mean that I don’t have to do the legwork myself.

This morning I awoke at 3:30 a.m., and could not get back to sleep. I was worried that I would sleep in, and miss my chat with Attila before he left for work. It was an early start to the day!

After chatting with Attila, which was challenging because Skype was suffering from feedback, I made a cup of coffee and reviewed my plans for the day. There are so many projects to choose from.

But first, time to have a little breakfast. I peeled six Spy apples, sliced them into a saucepan, added a little water, a little cranberry juice, a little sugar, and a generous teaspoon of cinnamon. Then I prepared the oatmeal crust for the apple crisp. The recipe called for baking soda, but I am trying to limit my salt intake to a healthy daily limit, and so used baking power instead. While the apple crisp was baking I hopped into the shower while the water was still hot. I had turned on the hot water heater after 7:00 p.m., and turned it off in the morning before 7:00 a.m., to take advantage of the almost half price electricity rates. Taking a shower takes a bit of planning.

Because the weather was predicted to be fair, it seemed a good opportunity to tackle mowing the lawn, so that was the project I chose for the day. I checked the back yard, and all of the leaves had come down from the big tree, covering the lawn in a thick blanket of leaves. Time to put the new mulching lawn mower to the test!

The lawn after mowing; the thick blanket of leaves is no more!

It took me about two hours to complete the task, I didn’t hurry, and only stopped doing a second pass because I ran out of gas. It was just as well that I stopped, I think I had reached my physical limit. The lawn looks pretty good I think, and the mulching was a great success. I have decided I like mulching the leaves rather than raking them up. The area mowed was about one quarter of our lawn, we have a double lot, and we really know it, when it comes time to mow it.

After taking a break, I wandered into the garden with a big plate and picked a dozen or so hot peppers, and a few dozen tomatoes showing just a hint of red. I am determined to beat the squirrels to the harvest!

And happily, they have stopped spraying liquid manure, the air today was fresh and fragrant!

I wasn’t the only one harvesting and enjoying the last of the warm weather today!

Worldly Distractions


Date: 1:00 PM EDT Tuesday 30 September 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 13 km
Temperature: 17.4°C
Dewpoint: 12.6°C
Humidity: 73%
Wind: NE 19 km/h

Date: 2:00 PM EDT Wednesday 1 October 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 13 km
Temperature: 17.1°C
Dewpoint: 13.3°C
Humidity: 78%
Wind: N 21 km/h

Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 2 October 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 18.9°C
Dewpoint: 13.6°C
Humidity: 71%
Wind: SSE 8 km/h


“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross