Little Chicks

Decades ago, when my children were wee, I had a close friend with three young children. She drove around town with her kids, referring to them as her “little chicks”, with great affection. One day I heard her say to them, in a VERY public spot, “OK you little peckers, get in the car!” Now, I knew what she thought she was saying, but I doubt anyone else within earshot had the inside story on that comment. I gasped. People around us gasped. She went on her merry way, driving off into her own land of language usage. I didn’t have the heart to tell her right away, I was hoping it would not happen again, but after it happened a few more times I bit the bullet and filled her in. She was shocked.

On Saturday Attila and I spent a lovely evening with Harriet, Hogan, and their daughter. The day was windy, sunny, and quite beautiful. They have a cottage on the lake, so we sat on the dock, went for a boat ride around the lake, and had a BBQ. It was a day of decadent liesure, which we seldom experience. Good company and good times.

Yesterday the weather was perfect for a drive, and so another lone trip to the little house in the city was undertaken. It was a very long drive. Several segments of the road travelled were under construction. The wait times were long, sometimes as long as 10 minutes. There were a lot of huge transport trucks on the roads. They go slow up hills, and the cars behind them have to go slow up hills too. The journey was safe and comfortable, in spite of the delays.

The car was loaded with the lumber needed to build the front porch at the little house in the city. Attila bought “second” quality wood from his workplace, at a reasonable price. The boards were long, so the back seats, and the front passenger seat were folded down so that the long boards would fit into the car. Upon arrival it took about a half an hour to unload the wood into the garage.

The primary projects for this visit are bathroom related. After removing flooring and a subfloor, there is still another layer of tiles that was underneath, and second layer of subfloor that is underneath the tiles. Four layers of flooring altogether, if one ignores the carpet that we found in there.

The tiles were wet on top when we exposed them. When I pulled up the tiles and subfloor in the bathroom this morning, the floorboards were black with mould! We will need to carefully assess the floorboards for viability, since they have been damp for a very long time. Some will need to be replaced.

On the floorboards, beneath all the multiple layers of flooring and subfloors, I also found shards of broken glass, probably a result of the original window being broken.

The bare floorboards. The black spots are mould, and were damp when I pulled out the tiles and subfloor. EWWWWWW!
DSCF2639 bathroom bare floorboards

The toilet remains perched on three layers, where it was installed. When the toilet is removed all three layers will need to be ripped up, the floorboards left to dry out, and any rotted floorboards replaced.

The other bathroom project is to cut and install insulation on the exterior bathroom wall, and then staple on vapour barrier and seal it. This job is better left for a cooler day. It is 28C today, not a good day for working in a small damp space. Tomorrow the weather will be cooler, and it will be a better day for that kind of work.

Terra stopped by to say hello, they are still very busy working on their new house. She tells me that their garden has already produced cucumbers, and that she will bring one over for me. I have taken to eating raw vegetables with a sour cream dip for most of my meals. It is just too hot to cook.

Evening is falling and the air is cooling quickly. The windows and doors are open once again, the fans are whirring, moving all that lovely cool air around the little house.

Worldly Distractions


26°C (19C at the country house)
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.2 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 25.5°C
Dewpoint: 16.5°C
Humidity: 57%
Wind: W 35 gust 52 km/h
Humidex: 30


“I have never been especially impressed by the heroics of people who are convinced they are about to change the world. I am more awed by those who struggle to make one small difference after another.”
Ellen Goodman
1941 –

Coconut Oil

The humidity is cloying. The daytime high today is predicted as 32C, the humidex will be much, much higher. In this type of heat and humidity my only option is to sit very still, not moving, not generating any additional heat. The keyboard and my eyes are my only source of distraction! Two more days, only two more days and the temperature should drop!

Little House in the City

These lilies are in the back garden, transplanted from the front porch area before the excavation to waterproof the basement. They are happy in the garden.
DSCF2472 city lilies

The visit to the little house in the city last weekend was an eventful one. It was a rare two day weekend, and began with the drive down on Friday night.

“Health is not valued till sickness comes.”
Dr. Thomas Fuller
1654 – 1734

It has been hot, and humid. Attila, in his attempt to control the effects of Hogweed, has been wearing clothing to protect his skin from the sun. This is almost unbearable, as his job is very physical, he works out of doors, and he sweats profusely during heat waves. By Saturday night the itching was so intense that sleep was impossible. Off we went to the hospital emergency, at 2:30 a.m.

After returning home to wait for the call to pick up Attila at the hospital, I fell into a fitful sleep, fully dressed and ready for action. Sometime after 4:00 a.m. Attila, who had walked home from the hospital, gently called my name. He had received a shot, had a prescription for Prednisone, and had a new diagnosis. Our GP had told him he had a yeast infection, which may be true, but none of the remedies we tried for yeast infections had the least bit of an effect on his skin.

The hospital doctor told Attila that he is suffering from Eczema. Attila slept till late in the morning; a peaceful sleep, free of that overwhelming itching. While he slept I perused the internet for remedies for Eczema. With a bit of information under my belt, I headed for the drug store to fill the prescription for Prednisone, and to search for a treatment for Attila’s irritated skin.

The solutions at the drug store were expensive! Considering the considerable spread of the rashes that were afflicting Attila, the off-the-shelf solutions would have cost a small fortune.

Undaunted, I headed for the local grocery store. There I purchased a jar of pure coconut oil, cooking grade, and a bottle of sunflower seed oil. Both of these were word of mouth recommendations for the treatment of Eczema.

As soon as Attila was up for the day, we gently washed the affected areas of his skin, and applied a generous amount of coconut oil. Within hours the rash began to look as if it was abating. Attila began the regime of applying coconut oil to the affected areas as soon as they seemed dry or flakey. By Monday night there was clear evidence of healing.

We don’t know to what extent the relief is due to Prednisone, and what is due to coconut oil. But the coconut oil is the remedy of choice for the moment, for his Eczema.

Attila faces real challenges at the moment. Skin affected by Hogweed MUST be kept away from sunlight. Eczema benefits from exposure to sunlight. He has to experiment with his clothing to try to maximize protection from (hogweed) and exposure to (eczema) the sunlight.

I can state with authority that severe itching can temporarily alter a persons personality. Attila has not been himself for a few weeks, becoming increasingly irritable as his inner resources have been worn down by the insidious itch and severe rashes. On Sunday, after the Prednisone had kicked in, and the coconut oil had relieved most of the itching, he bounced back, and became his old self again.

We cannot buy coconut oil where we live in the country. So, I returned to the grocery store, near the little house in the city, and stocked up on jars of coconut oil!

We might try the sunflower seed oil another time. But right now Attila is going to be using what works, not that he has found coconut oil.

Although Attila was suffering over the weekend, it did not slow him down! On the visit to the little house in the city he managed to cut the lawn, a big job on a double lot, and to work on the bathroom.

In order to insulate and install vapour barrier on the external wall of the bathroom, the tub had to be removed. We had thought to keep the existing tub, but once it had been lifted out of place it became obvious that its days were numbered and that our efforts would be much more rewarding if we put in a new tub.

The tub removed. In the foreground is the laminate flooring that not only covered the floor in front of the bathtub, but also completely covered the heating vent. Note the debris and tools that were under the tub. and the black mould and rotting wood that we found on the floor underneath the tub.

So, instead of attending the music festival that we had been looking forward to, we bit the bullet, and visited the nearby Home Depot to purchase a new tub. It was a challenge getting that new tub into our car, I can tell you! Attila ended up removing some of the packing materials to finally get it in. I sat knees to chest, cramped into the passenger seat, on the journey home with the tub. It was worth the discomfort to have all the materials needed to proceed with the bathroom renovation.

Attila managed to get the old tub out all by himself. I am useless when it comes to carrying heavy objects in confined spaces, too much twisting involved for my back. The old metal tub was pulled out, then dragged to the front door, thrown out onto the front lawn, and finally carried to the back porch where it will be stored until we figure out how to dispose of it.

When the old tub came out the true extent of previous failed renovations became all too evident. The layer of plywood over the floor planks, was rotted through in places and blackened with mould. It was truly disgusting. When Attila removed most of that layer of plywood, we discovered a strip of orange shag carpeting by the door, that had been underneath the plywood “subfloor”. And the original linoleum tiles were still there. But the really disgusting thing about the tiles was that their surface was WET, and had been for years! They were badly damaged and will have to be replaced.

The heating vent in the bathroom had been covered over by the laminate flooring, and was exposed when the plywood came out. Why anyone would block a heating vent is beyond my imagination!

Underneath the laminate flooring was a layer of plywood “subfloor”, still around the toilet, the rest removed in this photo. Underneath the laminate flooring we found the heating vent as seen lower right, and underneath the first plywood “subfloor” we found the original black floor tiles, which were WET, and had been for years, perhaps decades. We aren’t done yet! The tiles and possibly another “subfloor” still need to be removed, and possibly replaced, before the new tub can go in.
DSCF2535bathroomtiles black

Attila installed three new studs to support the cement board that will be installed around the tub. Drill bits for the electric drill made this task simple. On my last lone trip to the little house in the city I did not have an electric drill with me to install studs, and although Terra lent me her drill for a short while, the studs could not go in until the tub came out.

When I next return to the little house in the city by myself I will be attempting to remove the bathroom tiles and use aqueous oxygen to clean the mould left behind. I would also like to tackle the task of insulating the exterior wall and installing the vapour barrier.

There will be no tub available on my next lone visit to the little house in the city. The only functioning fixture in the bathroom is the toilet, and that is something to be grateful for!

In the meantime, the bathroom faucet still leaks constantly when the water is turned on. For the moment a large plastic tote is placed strategically underneath the tap to capture the water, which will be used to water the garden. The water is turned on only during visits to the little house in the city.

The Country House

The deck project continues at the country house. The deck was cleaned with wood cleaner last week, and is quite dry after the weekend of sunny weather. We found old oil based wood stain, and although the colour is not a perfect match, it will do. The acrylic based stains are useless, in my opinion. Within two years the acrylic product has peeled in some areas and is completely worn away in others.

The heat and humidity prevent me from exerting myself; there would be health risks for me to overdo during a heat wave, at my age. Attila is amazingly unaffected by the heat and humidity. So, he decided to begin staining the deck yesterday evening. It was after 10 p.m. when he finally called it a night, and by then had most of the first coat applied. He worked in cloud of mosquitoes. Attila plans on finishing the first coat on the deck right after he comes home from work. I will have a tall cold drink and supper waiting for him when he is finished!

I worked yesterday, a surprise offer of a six hour shift; well worth the travel time. The office where I worked is air conditioned, so the day was comfortable and passed quickly.

The country house does not have central air conditioning, nor does the little house in the city. The window air conditioner at the country house has not been installed, and thus far we are managing without it. The windows are wide open as long as the outdoor temperature is lower than the indoor temperature. When outdoor temperature rises to the same temperature as indoors, the windows and blinds are closed. The house remains relatively cool for the rest of the day. This method of temperature control is only effective when it cools down at night, which has been the case during this heat wave.

The day has been hot and humid. I sit quietly in the darkened living room, windows and blinds closed against the heat, with the fan aimed at my chair, a tall glass of water by my side, moving as little as possible so as not to overheat. I am thinking of Attila, working in the heat of the sun on such a day, and I am grateful for what little physical comfort I am able to enjoy on such day.

Worldly Distractions


Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 32.0°C
Dewpoint: 15.1°C
Humidity: 35%
Wind: W 9 km/h
Humidex: 36


“Thy modesty’s a candle to thy merit.”
Henry Fielding, Tom Thumb the Great (1730), Act I, scene 3, line 8.

Getting Ready to Wash

Yesterday was a work day at the little house in the city. I began the day by calling Attila via Skype, just after 5 a.m.,just to say good morning. The call was a little ray of sunshine, very brief, very pleasant.

Next on the agenda was a hot cup of coffee, which I sipped as I read my email and perused the news on the computer. This was followed by a light breakfast of orange juice, toast and peanut butter, which is a handy meal, lacking in imagination, but fulfilling the nutritional needs of the morning.

After changing into work cloths, an old pair of trousers and a ragged twenty year old t-shirt, I stepped into the bathroom and surveyed the project. It was my intention to begin gutting the bathroom.

It was a long, hot day. I worked hard, hauling out the debris as I dismantled the existing structures; drywall and tile board, nails and screws, all of it went out to the back porch to be piled neatly against the house, ready for a trip to the landfill site. I clean as I go along, for me that reduces the feeling of chaos, and lets me feel in control. It also means that after taking a break, I return to an organized work space to begin again. I like a clean and tidy work space when I am working in the physical world.

The bathroom at the little house in the city, the black areas on the back wall are mould! Almost there, only the insulation on the external wall to remove, then the flooring, then we rebuild.

The plumbing in the tub gave me a bit of puzzle. To remove the sheets of tile board and drywall, I needed to remove the plumbing fixtures.

I soon discovered, through my own flawed work flow, that turning the water supply OFF was a good idea. I had begun by attempting to remove the decorative plate around the hot/cold water handle. This was difficult because the screw was tucked up under the handle, which I had not thought to remove first. I used a nail file to unscrew the screw, but as I did so the screw pushed out the water handle in such a way that it turned on the water. So I turned the water supply off at that point. I later figured out that if I had removed the plastic water handle first, then I could have used a screwdriver to do the rest of the job. You live and learn. As it was, I had to research the removal of the plastic handle, which turned out to be an extremely simple thing to do, as it was shown on the video tutorial I found.

The tub tap was another mystery, which I did not solve. Why? Because the tile board and drywall were so rotten around the tap that they crumbled away as I worked. I could lift the sheets of tile board and drywall away without any impact on the tub tap.

The tile board was interesting to work with. It was glued to the drywall, and if I pulled on the edge of the sheet of tile board, slowly allowing my full weight to hang from my arms, the tile board would simply rip away, and detach entirely, from the drywall, leaving behind the dried glue. So the tile board came off first.

The only problem I had with the tile board was in the area behind the toilet. There it was a solid sheet, floor to ceiling, with a small hole drilled through it where the water supply to the toilet came through the wall. It was installed before the toilet was installed, and needed to come out in a solid piece, but was anchored into position by the water pipe coming out of the wall.

I tried pulling the top end of the tile board down, bending it down, hoping it would break, but it was amazingly flexible, so that would not work.

I talked with Terra about it and she dropped by on her way to work with her hand held saw. We tried the saw, but it burned the plastic of the tile board and made very little progress, only a few inches were cut before the blade became heated. So we abandoned the saw solution.

After Terra was off to work, I returned to the bathroom to look over the situation again. It looked pretty hopeless, getting that tileboard out from behind the toilet!

In frustration I grabbed the area we had sawed and attempted to rip it, like paper. And what do you know! It ripped, with some difficulty, but it ripped. So that is how it eventually came out, in small pieces ripped away a bit at a time. It took some doing and some time, but I got the job done. The ripped edges of the plastic were EXTREMELY sharp, and I ended up with a lot of cuts all over my arms. I had a look at the cuts this morning and they seem to be healing nicely, so no harm done.

That left the drywall. A previous renovator had replaced the drywall on the bottom half of the wall. The newer drywall was attached with screws, which I removed manually with a small, very small, screwdriver. After removing the screws it was just a matter of lifting the drywall off the wall and taking it out to deposit on my pile of debris.

The top half of the drywall was the original, and was attached to the studs with nails. This drywall was removed with a pry bar, in small pieces. The protruding nails were removed with a hammer.

I worked all day in that tiny space, taking frequent breaks. There were times when the sweat dripped from my brow like rain falling. Both my hands were engaged with the project and unavailable, so I was grateful that it was dripping to the floor, rather than into my eyes.

By late afternoon yesterday I had removed almost all of the tile board and drywall, nails and screws. I swept the floor, washed of the surfaces of the sink and toilet, reconstructed the tub tap and turned on the water supply. Although I seriously considered continuing, an inner voice said no, enough for today, “you are not as young as you used to be, stop before you begin to make errors, and possibly hurt yourself”.

I prepared an egg and cheese sandwich for my dinner, poured myself a glass of orange juice, and sat down in front of the fan. After calling Attila to say hello, I struggled to stay awake.

My repose was not peaceful, as I awoke several times in the night, feeling very oppressed by the heat and humidity. By 4:30 a.m. this morning I decided to rise and open every window in the house. Then I called Attila to say good morning, and here I am drinking my morning coffee and writing my journal entry.

Today I would like to remove the insulation from around the tub, and use aqueous oxygen to kill whatever mould and mildew that remains around the tub.

I will be needing to wash! Tonight, after 7 p.m. when the cost of hydro is greatly reduced, I will turn on the electric hot water tank and heat up the water to wash my hair and have a wee soak!

Bathroom renovations mean limited facilities for the duration!

Worldly Distractions


18°C (16C at the country house)
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 13 km
Temperature: 18.4°C
Dewpoint: 17.9°C
Humidity: 97%
Wind: SSW 11 km/h


“Pleasure is a by-product of doing something that is worth doing. Therefore, do not seek pleasure as such. Pleasure comes of seeking something else, and comes by the way.”
A. Lawrence Lowell
1856 – 1943

Day 7: Sunny!

Here is it already! It is my last full day for this lone visit to the little house in the city. I have accomplished much, and I have added more projects to my list, more added than I checked off during this visit! That is the way of things, always looking to the next activity.

Today it is sunny, as it was the day I arrived, last Monday. It is still chilly, but soon will be warm enough for me to sit on the back porch. I’ve eaten a breakfast of a toasted tomato on rye sandwich and cabbage/carrot slaw. I had my morning coffee chatting with Terra, who dropped by for an hour or so on her way home from work on the night shift. While we stood on the back porch an orange and white tabby cat was standing at the foot of the garden. Terra called to it and it came trotting over, and leapt onto the porch. It enjoyed being petted and fussed over. We didn’t feed it. We are concerned that it might have been abandoned, it had no collar, and it did appear to be well fed and healthy. Terra will be checking on in here while I am away to make sure it is OK, and she will keep an eye on local postings about missing pets. The mystery was solved when talking to Sarah, our neighbour, who told me the cat belongs to the family three doors down. Apparently they took him in when he was a feral cat, and he loves to wander. He must feel very loved, because he is friendly and gentle.

After Terra left I received an email message from Helena. Since the message was sent just minutes before it arrived, I knew she was awake. So I called via Skype! Skype is working out very well as a communication mode from the little house in the city. We had a nice chat, sharing our news and then signed off to return to our respective domestic plans for the day.

I wanted to get some sort of start on gutting the bathroom, so I decided to remove one half panel of drywall, beside the toilet. It was nailed to the studs, with finishing nails. The finishing nails were difficult to remove, but with patience and my little hammer, I managed to remove all of them. The panel of drywall was also screwed to the wall, so I took my short little screwdriver and went to work. After removing what I though were all of the screws, I discovered that some of them were cloaked by a layer of the glue used for the tileboard. I used the sharp end of one of the removed screws and my hammer to chip away the glue, then forcefully burrowed into the screw head with my screwdriver. In that way, with great patience and some time, I located and removed the remainder of the screws. Then the panel of drywall was easy enough to lift out of place and take to the back deck, to await a future trip to the dump.

The studs! Bathroom little house in the city, Sunday, June 9, 2013
Bathroom studs

I have collected all the blue box materials into a big plastic bag and placed them in the car, ready for the journey home tomorrow. I will be bringing back a bag of garbage as well. This area has grey weeks and blue weeks for recycling, with strict rules about what can be left out when, and how. In the country we just put out the blue box, once a week. I can learn how it is done at the little house in the city, but it hardly seems worthwhile considering that we are seldom here when the recyclables or garbage are picked up at the curb, and usually carry it all back to the country for disposal.

So far it has been a very pleasant day.

Worldly Distractions


Observed at: Muskoka Airport
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Sunday 9 June 2013
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 16.1°C
Dewpoint: 8.9°C
Humidity: 62%
Wind: W 8 km/h



My mother has millions of mothers
It took millions of mothers to make her
Mothers who became grandmothers
Mothers who became great-grandmothers
Of great-great-grandmothers
And on and on
Great rivers of mothers flow
Into every mother
And in every mother’s hands
Millions of hands move again, soothe again
Mothers who care, mothers who teach
Mothers who feed, who watch over you
Encouraging you
Mothers of daughters
Who grow up to have daughters
Who are mothers of sons
Who grow up to be fathers
And grandfathers
And great-grandfathers
Of great-great-grandfathers
And on and on
It took millions of fathers to make my father
Millions of hands flow into his hands
As he lifts me up to his shoulders
Your father is huge with fathers
Your mother is grand with mothers
With ancestors
It’s true
Millions of fathers and mothers
Made your father and mother
Made you

Written by Robert Priest, contemporary Canadian poet, Toronto, Ontario


Iris on a sunny day.

Big excitement here today, a large dead branch fell, from the top of a dead white birch tree, near the house. It didn’t hit anything but the ground, with a mighty thump. Mist didn’t feel the vibration, so maybe it wasn’t exactly earth shattering. But that is my news, here in the bush.

Attila has contracted a skin and eye reaction to Hogweed. Bad stuff. He will be all right, we drove for an hour last night to visit the emergency ward at the nearest hospital. We even found a drug store open to fill the prescriptions he was given. He was already feeling better this morning. I can attest to the undesirability of coming into contact with Hogweed. Attila has been having a miserable time of it. He is on the mend now though.

We visited the little house in the city again last weekend. Attila had Saturday off work. He will get another Saturday off work in July, so that is it, for getting much done this summer at the little house in the city. We accomplished a lot while we were there. We tackled the lawn and gardens, and this time round I removed about a half bushel of dandelions from around the back porch. Slow going, those dandelions seemed the size of cabbages; they had been growing there for years.

Attila finished the last few tasks, installing the new gate. He also turned over a new section in the garden for tomato plants, which we will plant next time we visit. I did my usual go-for jobs, or is it gofer, picking up new work clothes that Attila was in dire need of, while we were near stores that sell such things. He now has decent footwear for work, to keep his feet dry and safe from harm. He has had a challenging spring, with boots that leaked, with all the rain we’ve had.

We had been putting off working on the bathroom until we decided whether the tub could be salvaged, or needed to be replaced. It had a lot of those Rubbermaid sticky things on it; black and tattered and totally disgusting. If we could not remove them, we would replace the tub. Attila set to and removed them with a paint scraper and baking soda. Baking soda does an amazing job at cleaning! So we will keep the tub. Which is a relief, because they are expensive to buy new.

We have decided to proceed with removing the wallboard and drywall. Removing it will mean that we cannot use the shower until the walls are reconstructed and finished. I have decided to cut my hair short, so that I can wash it quickly under the tub tap. We will be able to take baths, so it is just hair washing that is problematic, and only for me.

I have ordered the plumbing fixtures, to replace the rusted and worn out ones that exist. The new fixtures will not arrive for several weeks. We will be working on the bathroom in dribs and drabs for the rest of the summer.

I hope to travel down to the little house in the city by myself, and stay there for several weeks, to work on the place. Of course, my pace will be very slow, so I don’t know how much I will accomplish, but at least the tomatoes will get watered!

We have Macs, so I was going to keep in touch with Attila via FaceTime. But Attila has plans of his own here at the country house, while I am away. He wants to spend his time on his projects. So, rather than force him to spend any of his precious time on computer setup, and his time is precious, I have found a less technical solution to our communication needs, while I am away.

I purchased a Skype account, which allows unlimited calling to Canadian and USA telephone numbers. This cost $30 Canadian. With this account I can call Attila on the land line in the country, from my computer, anywhere that I can find a high speed internet connection. This means Attila need not spend time setting up and configuring an account, he can answer my telephone calls by merely picking up the receiver.

We did try communicating by cell phone the last time I visited the little house in the city by myself, and went through a $100 credit before the week was out. The Skype account will see us through a whole year, for $30.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 3:00 PM EDT Tuesday 28 May 2013
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 18.2°C
Dewpoint: 6.4°C
Humidity: 46%
Wind: ESE 18 gust 37 km/h


“When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”
R. Buckminster Fuller
1895 – 1983