The Weekend

Friday, February 27, 2015

Last night may have been our coldest night of the winter here at the little house in the city! This morning, early, around 6:00 a.m., around the time the temperature usually dips to its lowest point, the house gave one loud, resounding “crack”! This happens frequently at the country house, as the temperature difference between the arctic outdoors and the warm indoors causes sudden, violent contraction in the frame of the house. At the little house in the city, this was the first time I had heard that sound! Cold!

The sun came out strong and bright this morning, but I did not head out there until it managed to warm the world a bit!

My project for today is motivated by the warming temperatures. The thermometer mounted on the exterior wall of our back porch, in the sun, read -4C this afternoon. That is quite a jump, from -29c, to -4C! The heat pump is configured to heat the house when the temperature rises above -7C. It is installed along the north wall of the house, where the sun does not shine and today’s temperature did not rise above -7C. That was today. Warmer weather is on the way though, if the weather people are even close to reality in their predictions. It was time to remove the winter snow load from the heat pump.

Before removing the snow from heat pump, I had to reach it. Not an easy task. First I had to shovel through the high snow bank at the side of the driveway, to make an opening. Then the path to the front door was shovelled out, the snow below the crust was like dry sand, slippery, heavy dry sand. Clearing the path to the front porch was a big job. Then the porch itself needed to be shovelled off, which took a bit more time. Then it was time for a short break, standing looking at the blue sky, listening to a bird song, which was a real treat.

Back to work again. Using a dustpan to remove the light top layer of snow, about a foot and half deep, I scooped my way towards the north end of the house. When I stepped onto the light crust of snow that I had just exposed, my foot went into it to the top of my boot. Scooping and stepping, I slowly crossed in front of the house and down the north wall of the house to the heat pump. Again using the dustpan, the snow was removed from the top of the heat pump, and deep snow cleared well away from the base. Having accomplished this, I headed back to towards the driveway to fetch the snow shovel.

It was a hard slog, shovelling out that sand like snow from the path I have created to the heat pump. I did it though! Now it will be possible to check on the heat pump when the temperature rises above -7C.

The rest of my day consisted of working away at my genealogy book. I ran into a few more problems with the images, it took several hours to remedy that problem. The other time consuming sidetrack I followed, was doing a bit of additional research on individuals for whom no conclusive records have been found. These people are GGG Granduncles and GGG Grandaunts, for whom I have birth records from Scotland. Other researchers studying my ancestors, and theirs, have attributed identities to these individuals based on speculation about their later lives. Not a good idea. They may be correct, but then again, they may not be correct in claiming these familial connections. I decided to write about the available evidence, and suggest what further research needed to be done in order to confirm connections, or perhaps discover connections. Very time consuming, but fun.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March! This is the last month of winter! In four short weeks, which will seem long, a snow storm will be considered an outlier, an anomaly, something that will discourage those waiting for spring, but will also disappear quickly. March is my least favourite month of the year! Foolishly, Attila and I were married in the month of March, thinking that adding something to celebrate to this long difficult month would brighten it up. So far, that ambition has proven false. Usually there is some sort of ice storm, or blizzard, going on around our anniversary, so that we are hunkered down at home, trying to keep the house warm, chopping wood, and sometimes enduring a power failure. Still, we live in hope! When/if we finally move to the little house in the city, it could be that March will not be quite as harsh. I will be staying at the little house in the city for the month of March this year, so it will be interesting to watch how spring progresses, or does not progress, over the next few weeks. We will be celebrating our anniversary over FaceTime, but anticipate a modest celebration during Attila’s overnight March visit, when gets his winter “once a month” Saturday off work.

I am sitting in the kitchen and feeling relieved. I had procrastinated on pouring hot water into the heat pump, figuring that it was going to be quite cold during the night and that I would end up with more ice than I started with. Cool air is blowing over my feet as I sit here, which is what happens when the heat pump is circulating air as it warms the outdoor coil to melt any ice that may be on it. It seems to me it is working! The house is once again being heated by the heat pump.

A busy week awaits, physiotherapy, laundry at the laundromat, yoga, a trip to the pharmacy to fill a prescription… sounds dull, but in my world this is a whirlwind of activity! If I were at the country house there would be no list at all, I would be sitting in the bush dragging through the last weeks of winter, in isolation. The contrast in lifestyle between our two properties is shocking in the experience of it, although it doesn’t really sound like such a big deal, it is.

Worldly Distractions


Little House in the City

Date: 5:00 AM EST Friday 27 February 2015
Condition: Not observed
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: rising
Temperature: -23.9°C
Dewpoint: -27.2°C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: NNW 15 km/h
Wind Chill: -39

Country House

Date: 6:00 AM EST Friday 27 February 2015
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 102.9 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -31.9°C
Dewpoint: -35.2°C
Humidity: 73%
Wind: SSE 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -37

Little House in the City
Date: 6:00 AM EST Saturday 28 February 2015
Condition: Mainly Clear
Pressure: 104.1 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: -22.0°C
Dewpoint: -24.2°C
Humidity: 83%
Wind: E 3 km/h
Wind Chill: -26

Country House
Date: 7:00 AM EST Saturday 28 February 2015
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 104.0 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -28.1°C
Dewpoint: -30.9°C
Humidity: 77%
Wind: SE 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -32

Little House in the City
Date: 11:13 AM EST Sunday 1 March 2015
Condition: Light Snowshower
Pressure: 103.0 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -7.3°C
Dewpoint: -9.4°C
Humidity: 85%
Wind: S 19 km/h
Wind Chill: -14

Country House
Date: 12:00 PM EST Sunday 1 March 2015
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 102.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -5.9°C
Dewpoint: -13.4°C
Humidity: 56%
Wind: WSW 13 km/h
Wind Chill: -11


“I still need more healthy rest in order to work at my best. My health is the main capital I have and I want to administer it intelligently.”
Ernest Hemingway
1899 – 1961

Heating Bills

When the temperature at the country house hovers around -20 (-4F) first thing in the morning, the temperature at the little house in the city is often a bit colder. When the temperature at the country house dips to -30C (-22F) to -37C (-34.5F), the temperature at the little house in the city is significantly higher.

It doesn’t get as cold at the little house in the city, as it does at the country house, but it is sometimes colder at the little house in the city than at the country house.

Although the the sun shone bright this morning, by noon it was snowing again. I did not shovel the driveway after the last snow, and because Tank is a big vehicle, and I don’t anticipate having any trouble driving over the large bump at the end of the driveway left by the snow plough.

I had a restful night, and slept well. The single Tylenol tablet was very effective in taking the edge off the pain. However, I am unable to sleep on my side because the knee joint will tolerate no pressure at all, it hurts if something is touching it, such as my other knee, or part of my leg. I slept on my back to avoid pain.

Today I am wearing the knee brace, and that too helps with the pain. What is significant is that I can stand in the kitchen and do the dishes without pain, when I wear the brace. I hadn’t realized how long it has been since this has happened. Standing is very painful, but I can manage it comfortably with the knee brace. Small blessings!

Squash soup was on the menu for lunch today. On Thursday night I left two halves of a squash overnight in the crockpot, with about two cups of water. On Friday morning a spoon was used to remove the cooked squash from the tough skins, then it was mashed and refrigerated. This morning I sautéed onions and garlic in olive oil, added 2 cups of vegetable broth, ginger, and a pinch of salt, then set it to simmer for several hours. It is a delicious soup!

I have been thinking about being alone here, and have decided there are some real benefits to spending this much time alone with nothing but my own company. There is a sense of accomplishment in managing the house on my own. Of course, having a thermostat, a renovated bathroom and kitchen, and Tank in the driveway, go a long way to making this place truly comfortable. I am hardly roughing it!

The house is becoming familiar in all the right ways. The different sounds made by the physical plant, the furnace, the refrigerator, the ticking of the clock, the clunk of the plumbing… once familiar these sounds offer comfort. The street sounds too are becoming familiar. The roar of the big truck starting up across the street is recognizable, the sound of the garbage truck, the shouting of children on their way home from school. I am settling into this place in space, like a foot into an old shoe.

The mail at the country house has become less reliable due to the retirement of the post master, and the convoluted and inefficient manner of hiring that goes on as the company and the union spar. Not all of our bills are arriving in a timely manner. The hydro bill for the period of time that we spent at the little house in the city last month, and our visit during Christmas, has not arrived.

It was relatively simple to register and setup our hydro account online, which gave me access to the amount due on the current bill. It was double our usual bill, but all things considered, that wasn’t too bad. We used electric heat to heat the house because we weren’t there to fire the masonry heater. Attila estimated that due to the warm weather in December, it cost us approximately $12 a day to heat the country house. Last winter our absence at Christmas cost around $20 a day to heat the country house, as it was very, very cold during that time.

It will be interesting to see how much it will cost to heat the little house in the city this winter. So far the heat pump is doing a fine job, and ringing in at or below $1.50 a day. But that does not include the fuel oil used to supplement the heat when it gets too cold for the heat pump. We will have to wait until the tank is filled again to get a good idea how much fuel oil was used this winter. We started with 3/4 of a tank, and are down to 1/2 a tank at present.

We have a compost pile, so organic matter is put in the compost. We recycle, so cans and bottles and cardboard go into the recycling bin. In three weeks, all the other garbage I generated fit into one kitchen garbage bag. It was getting a bit odiferous, so I sealed it up, took it downstairs, and replaced the bag.

One of the little experiments I have been playing with this past week is separating the garbage. I am keeping a separate bag of garbage, and into it I put all paper that cannot be recycled, unsoiled food wrappings, and all plastic that cannot be recycled. At present this “unsoiled garbage” bag is almost full, and the regular garbage has two small items in it. Most of our garbage is unsoiled packaging! The thing about this “unsoiled garbage” bag is that it will not develop an odour or need to be thrown out quickly. I can accumulate many bags of “unsoiled garbage”, and then discard of it in one large green garbage bag, after several months. The advantage to this is that I will only need one tag for all that garbage, and tags cost money. I would prefer not to have so much in the way of unsoiled garbage. That will give me something to chew on over the winter.

Another quiet day draws to a close. I realize that it is the weekend only because the neighbours are home all day, providing me with new sounds to assimilate, and form sources of comfort.

Worldly Distractions


Little House in the City
Date: 5:00 AM ESTSaturday 17 January 2015
Feels like -30

Country House
Date: 5:00 AM EST Saturday 17 January 2015
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 102.6 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -20.2°C
Dewpoint: -22.9°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: SE 9 km/h
Wind Chill:-27


“Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.”
Edith Wharton
1862 – 1937

End of the Visit

Here it is, my last full day at the little house in the city, for this visit. There is so much to do!

After chatting with Attila, enjoying my morning coffee and slice of breakfast apple crisp, I began bottling yesterday’s cooked and cooled tomatoes. I labelled the jars and found room for them in the freezer. Then I blanched the tomatoes that I picked from our garden yesterday, peeled and chopped them, and stewed them for freezing. While they cooled I cleaned the beets, and readied the pressure canner, which I then used as a pressure cooker, to cook all the beets at one go. By 11:00 a.m. I had everything cooked and ready to package for the freezer.

Beets, cooked whole in the pressure canner, skins, tops and roots left on. They will be peeled and trimmed, quick frozen whole on a tray, then bagged for storage in the freezer.
The tomatoes from our garden, stewed and ready for the freezer. These tomatoes were very small, it was a lot of work to blanch and peel them all, and the yield was small; but oh so tasty!

The day started off with sunny skies, but by noon the sky was mostly cloudy and a stiff wind rose out of the southwest. I could hear the wind, it was sighing at the back door, trying to get in, and so caught my attention.

The heat pump has not turned itself on since Monday night, in spite of the drop in the temperature outside. I attribute this to my cooking and canning activities, which seem to be providing enough heat to heat the house. This is a good thing, but there is a drawback. It means that cooking indoors when it is hot outside needs to be avoided, as cooking easily increases the temperature indoors. I would love to have a summer kitchen, for baking and canning in the summer. Some of the old Mennonite farms, in the area where I grew up, had summer kitchens, rooms attached to the house by a walkway, a room that had many windows that would open, and was not heated during the winter months. That is my dream kitchen, two sections, one in the interior of the house for the winter months, and one separate from the house for the summer months.

I am totally against running an air conditioner to cool my home, if the need is generated solely by cooking and canning. Attila sees no problem with it, but he doesn’t like huge hydro bills either. The heat pump also acts as an air conditioner in the summer, so this is now a topic of discussion in our little universe. Attila loves to use the oven all summer long, and at the country house, but I strongly object to it. Since I am the one spending every hour of my existence in the space in question, he respects my wishes; after all he will only be in the house for a few waking hours each day. He is free to use the Nesco portable oven on the screened in porch, anytime he likes during the summer.

I spent a pleasant afternoon with Terra, we went shopping. I seldom see anything I need, even want, but Terra needed a few things, so the trip was successful. We visited two stores and did a lot of walking, which was good for us. Terra bought herself a little treat, and it looked so good I bought a little treat for myself. I regretted it though, as after eating empty calories I always feel lethargic and bloated. After shopping Terra needed to get back to her dogs, who needed to go for a walk.

After Terra dropped me off, I set to work freezing the stewed tomatoes from my garden, and peeling and freezing the cooked beets. Then the cleanup began. It is never fun cleaning up after a session cooking beets. The beets bleed into the water in the pressure canner, and that deep red water seems to end up everywhere, and it stains! Eventually though, I did get the kitchen set to rights, took all the peels and compostables out to the compost pile, and washed the pressure canner carefully. It will not fit in the sink, so I wash it as it sits on the counter.

Green tomatoes set to ripen. The tomatoes in the pan in the front are from our garden, and the tomatoes in the box in behind it are rescued from Terra’s garden.

One project I did not get to, on this visit, was sewing curtains for the dining area of the kitchen. The ones that are already there work well, so I do not feel concerned about it. I also meant to do a thorough cleaning of the house, but didn’t manage to get that started either. These projects can easily wait for another visit.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 10:00 AM EDT Wednesday 8 October 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.5 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 14.5°C
Dewpoint: 10.6°C
Humidity: 77%
Wind: WSW 25 gust 43 km/h


“Assuming either the Left Wing or the Right Wing gained control of the country, it would probably fly around in circles.”
Pat Paulsen

Little Bits

Congratulations are in order for Rymal, who recently took possession of a new apartment. Sending good wishes for you in your new home!

During our renovation vacation we managed one recreational day. We sort of blew it though. We started out with a picnic lunch, heading for a provincial park for a hike. However, I just wanted to peek at the fabric store as we passed by, as there are NO fabric stores close to our country house, and we would be driving right by one, an opportunity not to be missed. We took the scenic route, after making a wrong turn, and enjoyed passing farms and forest.

A farm with a long driveway, along our route to the fabric store.

Well, while I was selecting the fabric for the curtains in the kitchen and dining room, Attila was out exploring the shopping plaza. When all was said and done at the fabric store, Attila hastened me over to a discount store he had found. Wow, we found a great Christmas gift for Terra and Lares, and a few items for ourselves too. By the time we left the discount store it was too late in the day to head to a provincial park.

We were hungry, so we found a park close to the shopping area and headed over there to eat our picnic lunch. It was lovely, we managed to walk for several hours on the paths, by the shore of Lake Ontario. We did not reach our original destination, but we had a lovely time at the park anyway.

We came across this lovely spot, the bench overlooks Lake Ontario.

Last Saturday I worked, an hour away from home. When I got back after 1 p.m. Attila loaded the car with some wood for Terra and Lares dining room, and our luggage, and off we drove to the little house in the city.

When we arrived Lares was there, and had been there all day. He installed a heat pump for us, and finished the job around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Lares is fully qualified to install furnaces and air conditioners. What a whirlwind he is! We did not expect to have the unit in for weeks, working on it a bit at a time at each overnight visit. And there we have it, one overnight visit and the installation is complete!

We now have a dual heating system: an oil furnace and a heat pump. The heat pump will also provide air conditioning. It works like a charm AND we can monitor the interior temperature and humidity of the little house, from the country house! That will come in handy, keeping an eye on things during the times when we are not there.

Of course, we won’t need to use the heat pump for a while yet. Without the aid of the heating system, the interior temperature of the little house is holding steady at 20C, which is perfect. The heat pump will operate when the temperature falls a bit, and heat is needed, but not a lot. In the dead of winter the oil furnace will be providing the heat, but it need not come on at all until it gets very cold outside. We will be monitoring our use of hydro carefully, to assess the hoped for savings. The price of electricity to run the heat pump compression chamber and fan is the only cost involved in heating the house with the heat pump. Electricity costs a lot, but then so does fuel oil, so it remains to be seen how much this will keep our bills down.

We arrived home last night, after 10 p.m., it was an awfully long drive in the dark, and the heavy rain. Attila called out to me from the country house, as he unlocked the door, that the power was out. We have no idea how long it had been out, and it was still out when I went to bed. Attila stayed up late to burn a small fire in the little wood stove, just to take the chill out of the air in the interior of the house. He said the power came back on around midnight.

While we were at the little house I did the usual stocking up on food supplies. This time I bought ten pound bags of vegetables. Three ten pound bags could be had for $5.00, a very reasonable price. I bought three bags of onions for $5.00, three bags of potatoes for $5.00, and two bags of carrots and one bag of beets for $5.00.

The vegetables from the store where I made this purchase are often near the end of their best shelf life, so they need to be dealt with quickly, so as not lose any to spoilage. So today I used my 21 1/2 quart pressure canner to cook ten pounds of beets, and ten pound of carrots. All of the cooked vegetables were flash frozen, and bagged, for winter meals.

This is a lot of work. The cost of the vegetables is about 37 cents a kilogram, and because we already own the freezer, and the pressure canner, and I have enough time to devote to processing the vegetables, we are saving a pretty penny. It doesn’t cost much to process the vegetables, the beets took 15 minutes, the carrots took 4 minutes, and the cost of freezing is negligible, as the fuller the freezer, the more efficiently it runs.

I still have another ten pounds of carrots to process. After that I will be ready to can some more Chili Beans for Attila. The Chili Beans are a great success! Attila eats them with hot peppers, for a snack. He has already eaten two one litre jars of the canned beans, so I will be kept busy keeping up with his appetite!

Worldly Distractions


Date: 3:00 PM EDT Monday 22 September 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 10.6°C
Dewpoint: 3.3°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: WNW 18 gust 37 km/h


“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950