Tonic

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.
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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.
DSCF9455

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

Weather

22°C
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

Quote

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

Kettles and Coolers

Part 1

So here it is, December!

I am writing this from the little house in the city. We drove down on Friday night, got here just before midnight. Mist will spend two nights on her own. We turned on the electric heat before we left, so the temperature will not drop to freezing no matter how cold it gets outside. If the power went out, she would still be warm enough, just not cozy, with the heat from the masonry heater. The cost of electric heat for a two night absence will probably be over $50 but hopefully under $100. We will not be doing that very often, or without careful consideration. That is one of the two huge difficulties we face in regard to winter mobility. The other is driving conditions.

Attila turned on the hot water heater, and a few hours later we had a lot of water spreading over the basement floor. Toast. The hot water heater is toast. It is old, really old and it came with the house. We were pleased to have it, although it was a real energy hog from the dark ages. Now we have a beautiful new shower in our bathroom and no hot water. That’s life. We cannot afford a new hot water heater right now, and certainly would never rent one from the companies in Canada. They try to lock you into contracts for life, with stiff fees to get out, no thank you. When we can afford a new hot water heater, we will purchase it outright and Attila will install it. In the meantime, when we need hot water we fill up and plug in the electric kettle.

Earlier this autumn our used refrigerator gave up the ghost. It is still in the kitchen, unplugged, with the doors held ajar with a broomstick. We use it as a storage cupboard. To keep our milk and eggs and cheese and perishables cold we use a cooler. It isn’t so bad. We have a Koolatron and we plug it in while we are visiting the house, and unplug it when we leave. Next summer we will probably resort to a regular cooler and make ice in our basement freezer to keep our perishables fresh.

So it is back to kettles and coolers at the little house in the city. I look at is as a luxurious winter camping experience. You can usually, barring evil, find a comforting perspective for less than perfect circumstances. Life is generally a less than perfect experience, for the majority anyway.

Attila has been working on the wiring. He has removed countless yards of dead electrical wires. He is now removing wiring that was ill conceived, replacing and rerouting it correctly. We have decided that over the winter that is what he will work on, and it is slow going. And the before and after pictures look almost the same!

When we arrived at the little house in the city, there was snow on the ground. We expected to be forced to park on the street, blocked by the snow banked across the end of the driveway by the snow plow. However, one of our neighbours had ploughed our driveway. We do not know who it was, but what a wonderful thing to do! There are very good reasons I prefer the little house in the city to the beautiful country house. All that glitters is not gold.

Because our little house in the city is in such a friendly little neighbourhood, I decided to put up a few Christmas decorations, just to make the house seem friendly too. I spent $3.00 on Christmas balls and a big red ribbon for the front door, all plastic, all made in the third world. It looks cheery from a distance, which is what I wanted it to do.

I felt bad, and so I should, buying these cheap goods made by people who are underpaid and probably not treated all that well either. I couldn’t find any Canadian made baubles to buy. I will handle my $3.00 worth of cheap baubles with care, and reuse them year after year, and send my Christmas goodwill energy to those workers around the world who are making poverty wages. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”. And I will watch for opportunities to buy Canadian made goods whenever I can.

Part 2

We left for home about noon today. The day was overcast with intermittent rain. At least rain is what we started out with. As we travelled north the rain became more robust, until it became wet snow. The roads were wet, but there was no ice because the temperature remained above 0C. We arrived home at dusk, and so avoided having to drive after dark through snow, and dropping temperatures.

The country house was cool, 9C when I came up the stairs with the first load of belongings. Mist was sleeping in my chair. While she was still sleeping I began to build a fire in the masonry heater. She did not waken until the flames were well under way. Since she is stone deaf, I could make a racket setting the fire and not disturb her sleep. However, the bit of heat that began to emanate from the heater caused her to wake suddenly. She thought about berating me for our absence, and the lack of heat, but just as she got started she was distracted by the flickering fire, and sat before the heater staring, or should I say worshipping, the flames.

The first firing of the masonry heater brought the temperature up to 14C, which is not quite warm enough, Mist and I agree. Attila chopped more wood, and has started a fire in the little wood stove downstairs, to supplement the heat until the masonry heater is fully charged again.

This was the first visit this autumn, to the little house in the city, that we have had to concern ourselves with heating while we are away. What a pain the patootie! Mist agrees.

Tonight it is “warm” outside, hovering above freezing. I can tell because the accumulated snow on the roof is sliding down, falling, and landing with great whoooomfs on the deck!

According to the weather people, we will have freezing drizzle tomorrow. Lucky us, to have missed travelling in freezing drizzle!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

0°C
Date: 7:23 PM EST Sunday 1 December 2013
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Visibility: 2 km
Temperature: 0.3°C
Dewpoint: 0.2°C
Humidity: 99%
Wind: calm

Quote

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”
Dorothy Parker
1893 – 1967

New Refrigerator

There are times when you know an event is coming, and you decide to put off doing anything about it until it actually happens. It might happen today, it could happen years from today.

For us, it happened today. Our 17 year old refrigerator has sounded louder and louder as the years have gone by. Today it stopped making that awful racket, but it also stopped working, completely.

The first thing I did this morning was shop for a refrigerator. I went online and found several acceptable models that I could order, and we would have them within a week. Then I called the only local appliance store and asked them what they had in stock, and they had a Frigidaire, a comparative model at a competitive price, which was around $700.00. This is a relatively low priced model, although there were much cheaper ones available, which reviewers pointed out were extremely loud. We live in an open plan, a loud refrigerator is very intrusive, so those less expensive models would have been difficult to live with. They couldn’t deliver till Monday. That would be a long wait without a refrigerator. So I called Attila, who talked to his boss, who lent us the truck, that picked up the local new refrigerator, and delivered the refrigerator to our house before 3:00 p.m. today. And took the old fridge out to the yard! Whew!

So, the new refrigerator is sitting on the deck, waiting for Attila to come home and bring it into the house, level it and plug it in. Then I will go to work getting all our food into it.

My day was spent emptying and cleaning the old refrigerator. I filled the Koolatron, with the most perishable items, like milk, and turned it on. My first attempt set the Koolatron to heat, but luckily I remembered to look at the manual and corrected that within minutes. Then I filled two coolers with the contents of the freezer, and filled three boxes with the rest of our food. Then the old refrigerator was cleaned and ready to go out the door.

We had been saving vegetable scraps in the freezer, to make broth. Those scraps went into a pot, were covered with water, and set to simmer on the stove. Also saved were organic orange peels, which went into another pot, and set to simmer on the stove. A few items in the refrigerator were beyond saving, so out they went to the garbage can.

There are worse ways to spend a day, as I found out earlier this week with the preparation for the colonoscopy! So there are no complaints here!

Just to note, the refrigerator I REALLY wanted, but did not need, and could not afford, was a Leibherr CS 1400, which rings in it at about $3600.00. Many happy owners report that they are very, very quiet, which is what I consider most appealing about it. I can dream.

Here it is, just after midnight and I finally got the last of the frozen food into the new freezer! Tired and happy, I think it is time to turn in for the night.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

14°C
Date: 11:00 PM EDT Thursday 8 August 2013
Condition: Mainly Clear
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Visibility: 11 km
Temperature: 14.4°C
Dewpoint: 13.8°C
Humidity: 96%
Wind: WNW 5 km/h

Quote

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
Helen Keller
1880 – 1968