A Trip in the Dark

This weekend thing is a great invention!

Friday night Attila and I made a pizza and watched Star Trek. It doesn’t sound very exciting I know, but it really does it for us.

Saturday morning we packed up Tank and headed out to the Rideau Camp. It was a cloudy day, and warm, around 20C. We had our list of things we wanted to accomplish. Attila wanted to cut the grass, which is really using the weed eater to keep the weeds low. He then used a leaf blower and cleared the area of crushed stone, and the driveway. Then he headed down to our swamp at the entrance to the property.

The swamp was formed when the cottagers association built the private road. At that time the natural drainage was blocked by the new road, and a swamp was created. The trees that had grown there died, and fell into the swamp. Other trees were bulldozed into the swamp when the driveway was created. It is quite a mess, which is lucky for us, because it made the property look undesirable at the entrance, very little curb appeal.

Attila has been slowly clearing dead wood from either side of the driveway, where it was bulldozed into piles. Having reached the edge of the swamp this weekend, he found that the water level had gone down sufficiently to allow him to begin removing waterlogged trees. He spent the rest of the day Saturday pulling dead trees out of the swamp, and piling them at the side of the driveway, where they will slowly dry.

Attila also removed quite a few wild grape plants that had grown into the dead trees that were still standing at the water’s edge. I dragged these up the driveway to the fire pit. I spent my day burning the last of the dry dead wood from earlier driveway clearances, and burning the wild grapes. The fire burned from around eight in the morning until it started to rain around six in the evening. There was also quite a bit of fallen deadwood in the forest around the perimeter of the camp site, so I collected that and burned it as well.

One thing about tending a fire all day long, you end up smelling like smoke, and any exposed skin gets gritty and salty. There are no bathing facilities at the Rideau Camp, so a basin wash is as good as it gets. The grunge factor is bearable on an overnight visit, but it can feel disgusting pretty fast on longer visits.

It is a beautiful time of year to spend time out of doors. At times leaves are gently released, floating to the ground. When the wind blows, and it did blow in great gusts all weekend, the leaves are ripped from the trees with great force, driven down, up, across, in whatever direction the wind takes them. When we took our breaks, we sat at the edge of the bush and soaked in the aroma of autumn, the fallen leaves, the damp earth.

With the coming of the rain we retreated into Grace The Trailer, to prepare a simple dinner, instant Chinese egg noodles with green beans. Then by the light of our small battery operated lanterns, we played cards. We spent the rest of our evening playing cribbage, Attila won the first game, I won the second game. We laugh a lot when we play cards together, although I can’t really say what we find funny.

It is an unusually mild mid-October. We stayed the night in Grace The Trailer quite comfortably. The clouds held the dark close, so that as we lay in our bed we could hold our hands in front of our faces, and see nothing.

I awoke at 5 a.m. and was awake for the day. It was still pitch black at that time in the morning. The night had been mild, warm enough so that I could turn on the lantern and comfortably dress, before taking myself to the living area to let Attila sleep for several more hours.

At 6 a.m. it was still very dark, and as luck would have it, I needed to visit Winnie (the outhouse). I took my little lantern, closed the door to the trailer behind me and headed towards Winnie. The morning was mild, and windy. The lantern lit the path so that my footing was sure. When I reached Winnie I hung the lantern on the nail Attila had hammered into the roof raft. The compost toilets are not left out, so each time we use them we need to set the system up. It is a simple process. The toilet paper is kept in an empty plastic coffee can with a lid, it sits at the top of the pyramid of joy. Under the toilet paper is a covered five gallon pail that contains peat moss and a scoop. Under the peat moss bucket is a very large plastic tote with a lid. Inside are the two compost toilet buckets, his n’ hers. There are no bad smells. It was quite magical really, sitting there looking out into the forest, the wind blowing in my hair, autumn leaves lying on the ground, lit and glistening with rain by the light of the lantern. A rather surprising memorable moment.

Attila arose after a few hours. It was quite a windy day, so we decided to return to Mist Cottage for lunch. Attila wanted to pull more trees out of the swamp, so he tackled that project.

I wanted to gather together the fabrics and extra beverages and food we have in Grace The Trailer, to bring home for the winter. Mice will chew away at fabrics over the course of a winter. We found evidence on a small mouse under the kitchen cupboard, two tiny turds, and the roll of toilet paper by the door had been chewed. I have a glue trap setup under the sink, but it was empty. We wondered how the mouse gained entry, as we had diligently plugged all of the trailer’s orifices with steel wool. I discovered later in the day, that the steel wool under the slideout had been disturbed, pulled out. We surmise it was probably the red squirrel, a very aggressive little fellow, who pulled it out, although it was of no use to him. The little mouse took the opportunity to pay us a visit. Hopefully the steel wool will stay in place now, and the mice will have no entry point. We will be taking mouse traps out with us on our next visit.

I left a few cans of food there, a few cans of beverages, and the bedding for our bed. We hope to spend another weekend there before the snow flies.

This evening we had a very intense wind storm, with lots of rain. We heard a very strange sound, a bit like an airplane. It was the wind howling through the awning outside the dining area windows. We had not heard anything like it before.

The power flickered, went out, then came back, several times. Our internet service is down, but we still have power. I am writing this on a Sunday, but I won’t be able to post it until the internet service is restored, who knows when.

Worldly Distractions


No access to weather reports, internet down.


“So I weave back and
forth, forth and back,
a rug patterned of warmth
and light, and when I find
a new scarlet thread shining
to add to the design,
I smile.”
Marge Piercy, The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flasing: How I weave trouble.


Firefly: “Most species of fireflies thrive as larvae in rotting wood and forest litter at the margins of ponds and streams. And as they grow, they more or less stay where they were born.”

The weekend of July 22/23, and this past weekend July 28/29, our evenings have been enchanted by the light show in the forest around our Rideau Camp. As soon as daylight began to fade, we began to see flashes of light, high and low, near and far among the silhouettes of the tree trunks. Sitting quietly in the forest, we were surrounded by these twinkling lights. Although there were a profusion of the lights on the weekend of July 22/23, the light show on the evenings of the 28/29 were magical in their intensity. It might be that the intense rainfall in the area on July 24 optimized their breeding process, which requires moisture and rotting wood on the forest floor, which were in abundance.

On the weekend of July 22/23 I burned a very large juniper stump, the last remaining stump from the huge log pile present on the property when it was purchased. The campfire burned from noon until 2 am the next morning, before the stump was reduced to ashes.

On Saturday the weather was perfect for burning another stump. The bulldozer that created our driveway pushed over two large trees along the drive, a pine and an ash or elm tree. Early Saturday morning Attila used his chain saw separate the upturned stump from the trunk of the downed tree. I had lit a camp fire, which was quite a challenge as all of the wood in the forest, and in our collection of dead wood beside the camp fire pit, was sodden from last week’s deluge. By the time I had a good hot set of coals ready, Attila had transported the stump up the hill, to deposit it at the edge of the fire. I tended the fire all day long, and well into the evening, until sometime after 9 pm the last of it fell away as hot embers.

Pine stump burn Rideau Camp july 29 The pine stump burning in the camp fire pit on Saturday. I dragged the dead trees, that I am feeding slowly into the fire, from the area we cleared to relocate Grace The Trailer. I believe this will be the last summer where most of my time at the Rideau Camp is spent burning dead wood, felled trees, and brush. We plan on leaving the areas outside the perimeter of the occupied area in natural condition, to allow the wildlife around us to carry on as usual.

Now we have only one large stump left to burn, the last of the bulldozer’s legacy.

This morning, as Attila and I sat to take our breakfast, he gripped my arm and whispered, “look”. Not twenty feet from our window a large female wild turkey strolled into view. Her gait was slow and measured, her gaze swept the landscape, side to side, forward and backward. As she moved forward across our line of vision, poults began to appear. Among the poults a second adult female wild turkey stepped, and behind them a third large female wild turkey surveyed the rear of the group. There were twenty one poults. The windows in Grace are silvered, offering no view through the glass into the trailer, so that we could continue eating as they passed before us, and our movements caused them no distress. Slowly the passed into the swampy area of our property, eating heartily from the forest floor as they went.

Early in the afternoon I heard their distressed calls, and I was distressed, that a predator might be attacking the young ones. Attila headed into the bush to investigate. He put my mind at ease, saying that they had all flown into the trees, and that there were adult males with them as well. I sighed with relief.

We are enjoying Grace The Trailer! Attila has restless leg syndrome, which kept me awake, and/or awakened me multiple times during the night, for over twenty years. Then we bought twin beds and I have slept well every since. But, Grace The Trailer has only a queen size bed. I expected to suffer through the nights again. However, such has not been the case. The queen size mattress in Grace The Trailer rests on solid wood, the movement we found with a box spring just does not exist with a solid base. The other strategy we adopted was separate bedding, each of us uses a twin flat sheet and comforter, we don’t share, again reducing the intrusions of each other’s nocturnal movements. I have slept soundly every night that we have spent in Grace The Trailer. I feel very lucky!

Worldly Distractions


Partly Cloudy
Date: 7:00 PM EDT Sunday 30 July 2017
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 22.7°C
Dew point: 20.3°C
Humidity: 86%
Wind: SSW 14 km/h
Humidex: 31
Visibility:24 km


“During [these] periods of relaxation after concentrated intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and can produce the sudden clarifying insights which give so much joy and delight.”
Fritjof Capra

A Sunny Day

Today arrived sunny and cool, it was 8C predawn. We continue to turn the thermostat down at night, to 18C this year, a little warmer for my night wandering partner Attila. During the day I set it to 21.5C, which I find comfortable if I wear warm footwear. We do not heat the basement, so that the floors can be quite cool. There was frost everywhere this morning, sparkling in the sunshine.

High Blood Pressure: The Ongoing Saga

Sometimes I write things down in this journal because I know I won’t remember them otherwise. This little tidbit is just such a reminder to myself. Today I halved the quadrupled high blood pressure medication. Instead of 300 mg I am now going to take 150 mg, which is double the dose I was originally taking.

It isn’t logic I am using to do this, it is a fight or flight reaction to the addition of a second medication when the first one is not working. I might have accepted a switch to another medication, but I am balking at the addition of yet another.

There is some logic involved as well, but it is not the deciding factor in my decision, so if it is flawed it doesn’t matter for practical purposes. Here is it anyway. When I found the medication I was taking no longer worked to lower my blood pressure, the doctor doubled the dosage. That had no effect, it did not lower my blood pressure. Since that didn’t work, the doctor doubled the dosage again, quadruple of what I had been taking. That had no effect, it did not lower my blood pressure. So, since this medication does not work, and I don’t want to try adding a second medication unless I absolutely have to, it makes sense to me to get rid of the medication that does not work.

Rather than stop taking the current medication cold turkey, I am going to halve the dosage for a week, then halve it again for another week, then discontinue it. That is the plan if my blood pressure remains relatively stable as I reduce the medication. I will be monitoring my blood pressure twice daily. I take it five consecutive times at one sitting, one to two minutes apart, and average the result. This method was described by a doctor who uses it to try to mediate the rise in blood pressure some people experience due to “white coat syndrome”. I have taken my readings in this manner three times now, and sure enough the initial reading is higher than the subsequent readings.

Yesterday Attila and I drove out to the Rideau Camp for the day. Attila brought along his chain saw and fuel. His project for the visit was to fell the trees we had marked with orange tape. Five of those trees were dead, one was dying, some others had been damaged when the great log pile had been bulldozed into the edge of the bush, and still others shaded out trees we want to flourish.

We are encouraging oak, maple, and pine trees around the perimeter of the Camp.

Attila felled the trees, sectioning them so that I could burn the brush from the branches. The dead wood burned quickly, and the green wood burned slowly, that is the way of it.

I am avoiding bread at the moment, in my quest to reduce sodium in my diet. Bread is very high sodium, a sandwich takes up most of my daily allowance. Attila brought cheese and crackers for his lunch, and I brought RyVita crackers, peanut butter, and fruit spread for my lunch. Lunch wasn’t nearly as exciting as it is when we have grilled cheese sandwiches. But those sandwiches, with two slices of bread, and a couple of cheese slices consumed my entire sodium allowance for the day.

The day was sunny, and the breeze was quite chilly. We were prepared! We had both chosen layers of clothing to wear. The sun became quite hot by early afternoon, so we both found ourselves removing layers down to our shirts by lunch time. Attila warmed by the sun and a lot of exertion; me warmed by the sun, moderate exertion, and the camp fire I was tending. At no point did we feel cold. We stayed until the sun was low on the horizon. As we packed up we did a tour of the Camp, making sure that everything was winter ready. At this time of year we want to leave the Camp in a condition so that if we find we do not return until spring, there will be nothing to worry about.

A few images from the Rideau Camp, taken yesterday.

Stumps, old and blackened, the work of a long ago fire.
Charred Stump with Beech and Oak.
This magnficent little Oak tree is under special consideration. In the early summer it was attacked by army worms, which we dilligently killed around the Camp perimeter. Then yesterday, Attila assessed the lean on one of the dead trees we had decided to fell, and determined that it would severly damage this little Oak as it fell. We made the decision to let the dead tree rot in place, rather than risk damaging the Oak.
Attila sectioning a small tree which was felled across the camp fire pit. The tree chipped a flake off one of the granite perimeter rocks.
Attila taking a break to enjoy his surroundings.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 7:00 PM EST Monday 7 November 2016
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 7.3°C
Dew point: 6.1°C
Humidity: 92%
Wind: SSW 7 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“The really frightening thing about middle age is that you know you’ll grow out of it.”
Doris Day
1924 –

The Perfect Summer Day At Last

We enjoyed a lovely weekend.

On Friday night Attila suggested we go to the lake shore (Lake Ontario) to watch the Full Harvest Moon rise. So we drove down to the lake and found a nice spot in a park, setting up our folding chairs on a platform overlooking the water. The moonrise was spectacular! It came up over the horizon a bright orange, it seemed so very large. We stayed for an hour or so, chatting and watching the moon ascend the sky, its light reflected across the water. We missed the eclipse though. We were the only ones at the park, no one else seemed to have the same idea. Attila and I had a wonderful time, a great Friday night out.

Harvest Full Moon, Lake Ontario, September 16, 2016. Below the moon the trees are in silhouette along the shoreline.
Harvest full moon

Saturday was humid, cloudy, and raining, we we decided not to go camping, and to stay home. Our morning was spent shopping, it was a bit of a spree. We had received a $100 gift credit card when we purchased our dishwasher, it arrived in the mail last week. It was burning a hole in our pockets! We stocked up on lots of lovely things.

It is harvest season in Ontario, our spree focused on buying fresh vegetables. We purchased a ten pound bag of onions, a ten pound bag of carrots, and a twenty pound bag of potatoes. I find the carrots go black awfully fast, it must be the variety they grow, it doesn’t store well. I decided to roast the whole ten pounds of carrots, which I did, they were delicious. I cooled and packaged them, two meals worth in a bag, and put them into the chest freezer. I am considering trying to make individual serving Cream of Carrot soup this winter for my lunch, using thawed roasted carrots, 1% milk, and an appropriate herb, which I haven’t figured out yet.

Attila has almost finished the garden shed! It is full of construction materials and not ready for use yet, but by next week he should have it cleaned out and ready to organize. Thank goodness! One step left to go, ensuring it stays dry!

This morning we arose to a foggy, humid world. The weather report predicted sunny warm weather at the Rideau Camp, so we packed our cooler, filled our water bottles, loaded up some of the wood scraps we still need to burn, and were on the road shortly after 9 a.m. The weather just got better and better all day. It was the nicest day we have had all summer, a perfect summer day, and we were very grateful to be at the camp to enjoy it.

Attila brought brush and set it near the camp fire pit, it was the dead wood we had cleared from under the hydro lines. There was a lot of it, it took me all day to burn it. I enjoyed breaking the dead wood into small pieces to burn it, sitting in the shade far from the heat of the fire, venturing near it only to add fuel. One of the things I love about my all day camp fires is cooking meals over the open fire. Today’s lunch was grilled cheese sandwiches, with sweet onion slices cooked in the sandwich. They were so good!

There was the most wonderful breeze that blew across the camp all day long, it was so refreshing. I love the Rideau Camp because there are few people sounds there, and I can hear the wind as it sings a duet with the trees, it is such a musical sound, it reaches into me like a lullaby.

Attila was very busy. After some discussion this summer, we decided that two of the trees at the edge of the camp would be removed, stumps and all. Their removal will allow easier maneuvering when we have Iris the trailer with us. Today was removal day. Attila used a winch, chain, maul, and the sweat of his brow to remove those trees; quite literally the trees were removed by the sweat of Attila’s brow, he was soaked to the skin by the time the job was done.

We decided to construct a French Drain to guide water away from our new garden shed. We need gravel to do this. We also need gravel to level the low areas at the camp, which make pulling the trailer very tricky. The decision was made to order two loads of gravel from a local business near the Rideau Camp. In preparation for that delivery, Attila pounded stakes in the two areas that we decided we wanted the gravel loads dumped. I tied orange tape to each stake so that they could be easily located by the delivery person. Then we needed to put a sign at the entrance to the property, to identify it for the delivery person. We don’t have a 911 number, because it is a vacant lot. A piece of plywood with the street number painted on it was nailed to a stake, and the stake was driven into the ground under the pine tree at our entrance, making it very easy to find our property. Attila will order the gravel this week.

After the gravel is delivered, we will make several trips to the Rideau Camp during the week, after Attila gets home from work, to bring back loads of gravel to construct the French Drain. That will be the last step for the garden shed project.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 9:00 PM EDT Sunday 18 September 2016
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 21.1°C
Dewpoint: 19.1°C
Humidity: 88%
Wind: S 12 km/h
Humidex: 28


“It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
1884 – 1962

That is how our mother raised us!


Sometimes a change is as good as a rest. The past weekend was one of those times.

On Thursday night of last week, Attila and I loaded Iris the trailer with our belongings, and hooked her up to Tank the FJ Cruiser. When Attila got home from work on Friday, it took us less than an hour to get out the door, and be on our way to the Rideau Camp. We thought that since it was the Labour Day long weekend, that the roads would be busy. It seems though, that very few people consider the area where our Rideau Camp is located a holiday destination. Perfect! The roads were no busier than they have been all summer.

We arrived at the Rideau Camp relatively early, got Iris set up, a camp fire started, the kitchen tent erected, and dinner on the stove. And then it was dark. We sat for a few hours staring into the flickering flames of the camp fire, then watching the twinkling embers when the fire burned itself out. But the stars, the real pleasure of the evening was the starry heaven above us. There are no towns or villages near our camp, so there is little in the way of artificial light to fade the heavens. Just before we turned in for the night, a shooting star caught my eye. It was an omen, the weekend was to be perfect.

We are still working out a few wrinkles in the camping department. One thing I really miss on the three day camping trip is a refrigerator. A cooler just will not stay cold over the course of three hot days. Next year I am hoping we can come up with a way to power our Koolatron, perhaps a battery with a solar trickle charger. Water is another issue, we bring it in in 4 litre bottles, but we need quite a bit for cooking, washing up, and putting out camp fires. I would like a rain barrel catchment system of some kind, at least for the purposes of putting out camp fires. Another issue is our beds. The old cushions in Iris are not comfortable. Having new cushions made runs into more than $1000, not going to happen. I haven’t found a good place to get replacement foam yet, I am still looking, and haven’t yet decided what type of foam I want, or how to cover it when I get it. In the meantime, the beds just aren’t comfortable for our old bones. All of these things are minor, it is fun to think about these little non-problems though, trying to come up with solutions.

The composting toilet with the humanure composting system is working out very well so far. No smell, no flies. We have yet to do our first bucket dump though, so it isn’t fully tested yet.

I had thought that Attila would use this long weekend to tackle the huge pile of cedar logs, stacking them into neat rows. However, Saturday morning he needed to bring me more brush to burn in the campfire, which led him to tackle one of the large brush piles left by the bulldozer when the driveway was put in. That got him started on clearing brush piles. There are about a dozen of them, piles of dirt and gravel, and stumps, and trees, and branches. The piles make the terrain on the south end of the camp rough and almost impassable. Over the course of three days Attila dug up and removed three brush piles. I burned most of it Saturday, as it was a lovely cool day. A half a dozen large stumps with roots were burned, several trees, and dozens and dozens of branches. Sunday was a much warmer day, and I found it just too hot to be anywhere near a campfire. Attila took over feeding the fire, and I kept watch over it when he headed back to his brush piles to bring back more wood. We spent a second evening watching our fire, but letting it burn out as the light of day died, watching only the embers for hours before bedtime. The lovely thing about watching the embers, is that they emit little light, and allow for wonderful star gazing. Again, I spotted a falling star just before we turned in for the night.

This morning we decided to forego a camp fire, partly because it was such a warm day, and partly because we prefer to stay the night after putting out a camp fire, to make sure it is well and truly out by the time we leave the property. Attila finished working on the brush pile at the entry to the property, under the hydro line. The hydro had clear cut the area beneath the lines, and left the trees and brush where they fell, years ago. The pile of brush was several feet thick. Attila dragged out large branches and piled them up, so that I could drag them further into the property and stack them where they would stay dry next spring for burning. When the brush was removed from under the hydro lines, Attila took the weed whacker and demolished the chest high growth of weeds. It looked very nice, but we have a lot of frontage, so it was but a drop in the bucket of the total job. We might get to the rest some other year, then again, maybe not.

As we were sitting down to eat our lunch, a healthy looking fox approached the camp. Attila yelled at him, but he was very bold and kept on coming. I waved a stick at him, but he wasn’t phased by that at all. We realized that he was the culprit who had come into our camp while we were sleeping and overturned our water bottles, which were thankfully sealed. He was probably searching for food. We both rushed at him waving sticks, and he finally retreated. I saw him sitting a few hundred feet off in the bush, then watched him try to climb a tall oak tree to get at whatever was in a hollow in the trunk, but he couldn’t reach it and gave up. Then he came back to the camp. We couldn’t believe it! We chased him again, and he would only retreat a few feet at a time. Finally Attila threw a rock towards him, not hitting him but hitting the ground near him and off he went at a quick trot. I don’t mind wild foxes, but I don’t want them approaching me in my kitchen! We talked to our neighbours later in the day and they told us that the people down the road feed the wild foxes. People! No wonder the fox was approaching us, he has learned to beg.

A wild fox. This enterprising fellow was not ten feet from me, he knew I was there and he didn’t care. He was looking for food, and begging. We are very careful with food around our campsite. It is never left out, and is locked away in the vehicle every night. We eat only at the picnic table, so there are no food droppings around the camp, and our dishwater, which might contain bits of food, is poured onto the campfire at night to put it out, burning the small food particles instantly. This fox has been given no reason to believe there is any food at our campsite. And yet here he is, sniffing around, boldly refusing to leave. We finally chased him away, and found out later that some of the cottagers have been feeding the wild foxes in the area, thinking it great fun.
The wild fox finally decided to leave, as we became more aggressive in our request that he depart. I imagine he returned as soon as we left, but he wouldn’t find any food. We are hoping he eventually loses interest, after repeated failures to find anything edible at the site. Of course, he can eat as many mice and chipmunks as he can find around our campsite, we would not miss either of those little foragers.

As the heat of the day set in, we decided to head home. It took a few hours to get everything packed up and ready to go, and by the time we left we were grateful to be sitting in an air conditioned vehicle.

We had turned off the air conditioning at Mist Cottage, and closed all the curtains for the weekend, since we would not be here, and it was lovely and cool in the house when we arrived home.

The weekend acted as a tonic, I feel much better for having sat in the bush by camp fires and star light.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 8:00 PM EDT Monday 5 September 2016
Condition: Mainly Clear
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 22.3°C
Dewpoint: 16.7°C
Humidity: 70%
Wind: S 12 km/h
Humidex: 27


“That’s who you really like. The people you can think out loud in front of.”
John Green