It is cold here at the little house in the city, -22C. It is also windy. I have a thermostat. This is heavenly.

As cold as I think it is here, Attila has a full scale deep-freeze going on at the country house. It is -32C there at the moment. There are snow squall warnings, although when I talked to Attila it wasn’t snowing, it had earlier. It is after 9:00 p.m., and he has been busy since he got home from work, firing the masonry heater, and toting wood to burn in the little wood stove downstairs. He will be firing the masonry heater again during the night, and then again first thing in the morning. He eats bits of this and that when he gets short breaks from his heating obligations. He is in good spirits, which is more easily accomplished because this cold snap is due to end by the weekend.

Today I attended a Yoga class. I haven’t practised Yoga for over thirty years! This was a beginners class and geared to seniors. I really enjoyed it, and will probably attend weekly. The best part is that it is held within walking distance of the little house! I did not walk today though!

After I returned home from my class, I fixed a quick lunch. It was time to visit the laundromat again, and this time remembered to bring my soap. I brought the clean wet laundry home and hung it all over the house.

Terra and Lares dropped by for a few minutes, as they were in town. We had a pleasant little chat. They have asked Attila and I to dog sit in February, which we will do for them.

No walk today! This morning as I sat at the table eating my breakfast, gazing out the window, I spied the young girl from down the street heading for the school bus. She was clearly having trouble keeping warm, particularly her face. The wind! I had thought I might go out, but when I saw her having such a time in the wind I decided to stay indoors. Tomorrow I will walk.

Worldly Distractions


The Little House in the City
Date: 9:00 PM EST Wednesday 7 January 2015
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 102.9 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: -22.5°C
Dewpoint: -28.5°C
Humidity: 59%
Wind: NW 17 km/h
Wind Chill: -33

The Country House
Date: 9:00 PM EST Wednesday 7 January 2015
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -31.0°C
Dewpoint: -33.5°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: calm


“Hold a book in your hand and you’re a pilgrim at the gates of a new city.”
Anne Michaels

The Chimney Sweep

Today is the first day of spring as far as Attila and I are concerned! The sun is shining, and the temperature is rising above the freezing point where it landed during the night. Heating season is officially over, and the masonry heater has been allowed to rest. We will still build the occasional fire in the cast iron wood stove downstairs, to chase off any chill, but that won’t be necessary very often.

To celebrate this first day of spring, my cleaning project has begun in earnest. It begins with the role of chimney sweep. What a job!!! Five full coal buckets were filled and dumped in the ash pile outside. Each time fine ash billowed, as it came out of the heater, shovelful by shovelful. It took the removal of one whole bucket to reach the grate on which the wood sits to burn. Then two buckets were removed from the cavity above the opening for the ash dump; no wonder it was blocked. Once the ash dump was cleared, the next step was to remove a bucket of ash from each of the back clean-out, and the side clean-out. Then the shop vac picked up stray ash in the firebox and both clean-outs. By the time all of this was accomplished I was pitch black to the elbows, covered with a fine ash dust, and ready to remove my blackened clothing and hop into the shower.

The glass in the fireplace door was then cleaned with wet newspaper dipped in a wee bit of ash. This is a miracle cleaner for glass fireplace doors; it leaves the glass spotless.

With the drywall sanding done, and the fireplace cleaned, there was nothing to generate more fine dust in the living area. It was time for serious deep dusting, and cleaning the blinds. I hate cleaning blinds, and will never again use them as window treatments, no matter how much sense they make in functional terms.

The deep dusting began with the corner entertainment unit, which took several hours to disassemble and clean. The sink full of warm soapy water was black and murky by the time the job was done. Heating with wood has a real down side, and that is the ash. Then the storage unit along the wall was tackled, with a fresh sink of warm soapy water, and again that turned black and murky by the time the job was done.

Tomorrow the plan is to move along to the computer stand and window area, then to the dining room, then the kitchen, and then last, the blinds. That is my week of projects. Also on my list is sanding the deck railing, staining the deck railing, touching up the stain on the deck boards, touching up the paint on the siding along the deck, removing the huge planter from the deck, and removing the plastic window coverings from the screened in porch along with all the staples that held them on.

As I cross things off the list, more get added to the bottom of the list; it seems a bottomless list!

Attila has felled a dozen or more trees and is in the process of sectioning the logs and stacking them as firewood. He is also installing new trim in the recently drywalled hallway, and around the four doorways in the hallway. Also on his list for tonight is leaf blowing, removing the dead leaves from the front garden and around the woodpile. When it gets dark outside he will be back in to have a nice hot bath before turning in for the night.

My second cousin ML, who lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, is coming to Ontario. It is a sad journey that she will be making, to a funeral, with her partner who lost his sister. His sister and her husband lived on a river island in Northern Ontario, and were travelling back to their home from the Marina after Christmas shopping, by small boat in November, when she and her husband went missing. They were found in March, in their boat with their Christmas shopping, frozen in the ice. No one knows the details of what happened, but at least the family can grieve, knowing what became of their loved ones. Our thoughts are with the family members this weekend, as they gather to say their farewells.

Harriet and Hogan visited on Sunday, to drop off our annual supply of maple syrup. We try to purchase it from a farm near London, Ontario, as we like their syrup, and they are reasonably priced. The maple syrup where we live is very expensive, costing about 50% more, and not nearly so nice, in our opinion.

We had a nice visit. They were up to drop off their ATVs, and to do a spring check up on their cottage. All is well at the cottage, it is always nice when there are no surprises. They even had a chance to drive by our new camp, which we will have possession of in two weeks time (just in time for the beginning of black fly season, I have my nets ready, LOL!).

Worldly Distractions


Date: 5:00 PM EDT Monday 5 May 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 12.5°C
Dewpoint: 0.7°C
Humidity: 44%
Wind: W 17 gust 30 km/h


“You have to accept the plan and realize that if you slip, and you might, you can’t use that as a reason to give up or stop.”
Jennifer Hudson

Black But Not Blue

This morning I am black to the elbows. It is chimney cleaning day. This year the chimney is getting a good cleaning just a few days after the end of the heating season; after the embers have all died. The whole setup is now clean, glass and all, and ready for the curing ritual, at the beginning of the next heating season in October.

It came as quite a surprise this week, to relearn a lesson that I had learned as a teenager. Lost in the details of survival, this lesson was lost to me, until this week. And where did I come to learn this lesson a second time? I learned it on Facebook, to my astonishment.

When I was a teenager I attended an outdoor music festival in Toronto. It was the sixties. Peace and love and making a better world, were the supposed agenda of the young. I was seated on the grass, about half way to the back of the audience area. The crown was too close to the stage, it was a problem, and the singer of the band asked the crowd, the peace and love crowd, to please stand up and all take a few steps back. There were two of us that stood up. There was no moving back, because not one other person in the crowd was giving any ground. That is when I learned the lesson that the better world that most of those people were looking for was a wholly personal better world. Me and mine, that is what “we” meant to a great many of those “flower children”.

After that experience I did a lot of observing. I found few real world examples where people who talked of the “we” actually meant anyone other than “me and mine”.

There is a sort of flip side to what I have observed. It consists of people who claim that everyone is completely selfish, that human nature is violent and aggressive, and that there is no other motivation in the world other than self-interest. I do not buy it, as a package. Sure, the people who talk a good “we” seem to be consistently self-referencing, and self-serving. But then there are those that spend no time flapping their lips, and a great deal of time exercising their freedom to be kind and compassionate. They are all around, if you watch you can find them. If you merely listen, you will miss them though, they are not frequently out there shouting over the crowd for attention. They are busy working towards a better world.

Facebook facilitates a quick grab for attention, but does not seem to offer any concrete ways in which to enhance our lives, or for us to enhance the lives of others. Clicking “like” is not a social movement. A series of unrelated comments do not constitute a strategy building discussion. Facebook is an empty vessel, in my opinion.

I am going to try and teach myself to watch Facebook for instances of people exercising their freedom to be kind and compassionate in concrete and meaningful ways. I don’t know if it is possible in an environment based on being visible and popular. Maybe not, but I am going to watch anyway.

Ontario Barns April 21, 2013 [Taken at 90 km an hour, through a closed car window.]
Web 007 red white

Today’s Snack

Nuts and Berries: roasted whole almonds and dried cranberries.

Worldly Distractions


Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 17.4°C
Dewpoint: 5.6°C
Humidity: 46%
Wind: SE 9 km/h


“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Abraham Lincoln
1809 – 1865

“The Lone Ranger and Tonto were ambushed by Indians. Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and says, “looks like we’re in trouble here.” Tonto says, “What mean we, white man?”
Who knows where this came from, good call though.


The days are beginning to blend. With no regularly scheduled activities in the outside world the days begin to run into each other, broken only by Attila’s occasional day off work. It reminds me of summers during my childhood, when weeks passed without any contact with the outside world, and days grew slowly along with the trees, uncluttered by human agendas. How glorious, some of those days, spent with siblings, bonded by time and place. Little wonder I became a geographer.

Today is sunny and gloriously yellow. Most of the leaves around our home turned a shade of yellow or orange this year, there has been very little red in this autumn’s palette.

I baked bread yesterday and put the loaves in the freezer for the coming week. Today I cooked black eyed peas in the pressure cooker and have used them to prepare Mexican Bean Casserole in the crockpot. Upon reading the manufacturers instructions, I added a tablespoon of oil to the water in the pressure cooker before sealing it and cooking the peas. The seal is a bit wonky, and was leaking the first time I tried to heat the cooker to pressure. I let it cool down, removed the lid, adjusted the rubber seal and made a second attempt, which worked perfectly. The black eyed peas cooked in four minutes.

Caveat: Cook beans in a crockpot at your own risk, do it the right way. “Dried beans, especially kidney, contain a natural toxin. These toxins are easily destroyed by boiling. Safe steps for preparing would include soaking the beans for 12 hours, rinsing, and then boiling for at least 10 minutes, before adding the beans to a slow cooker.” University of Minnesota Extension

I took a trip to the dump this morning, to dispose of our microwave oven. It is about two years old and is quite a disappointment. It popped loudly when Attila pressed the start button on Tuesday evening and let forth a terrible stench. Then it stopped working altogether. I delivered it to the e-waste centre. Of course, not having been there before, I drove past the weigh scale and shouldn’t have. The young man at the gate came out to find out what I was up to, which is in everyone’s best interest I think. I promised I would check in properly next time I brought something to the dump, so we parted with a smile.

We are able to burn full fires in the masonry heater now, and to close the damper when the flames have burned themselves out. It is cosy and warm in the house. Mist is in her glory, sleeping sprawled across the floor, or pillows, or a chair, or wherever she happens to find herself when she begins yawning.

Now that we have wood heat, it is dry in the living area. I have dragged out my clothes rack and am drying a load of laundry in front of the heater.

I found a bit of mould growing in one of the used maple syrup containers I had saved, so I spent some time cleaning it out with aqueous oxygen. Which led to cleaning the kitchen sinks as well, and the burners on the range. It all needed doing, and so was not time wasted. Although why I am even thinking in terms of time wasted I do not know!

I am de-cluttering the living area this afternoon, objects have a way of piling up in corners when we aren’t looking. My goal is to get things straightened away in here, then to create a floor plan and move the furniture around in a winter arrangement. The masonry fireplace, ignored during the most of the year, becomes the central point of the house during the heating season. We like to sit and watch it, and we like to warm our toes in front of a roaring fire as well. The seating needs to be re-arranged to accommodate the shift in focus.

I find my mind meandering today. It flies from one thought to another, touching only briefly on each one. On days like this I have to make myself focus on each particular task, so that I complete each one successfully.

We heard George play last weekend, hearing him play live is really something to look forward to, and he is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He writes beautiful love songs, or perhaps they are hymns, if there is a difference. We have one of his CDs and listen to it over and over…

Worldly Distractions


7 °C
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 7.4°C
Dewpoint: 0.2°C
Humidity: 60 %
Wind: W 8 km/h


“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.”
Matt Groening (1954 – )
[I just HATE ice weasels!!)

Chimney Sweep, among other things…

Attila and I had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. Attila worked Saturday, as usual. After he arrived home we packed a few belongings into the car and headed for the little house in the city. The drive was wonderful! The leaves on the Canadian Shield are at their peak of colour, and it was quite a show, what with white clouds floating in the blue sky above and brilliant greens, oranges, yellows and reds below. We enjoyed the trip immensely.

We made a few stops along the way. One at a frozen food discount store, where we purchased some frozen Jamaican patties as a treat (we had them for dinner Saturday night and they were dreadful!). We also made a quick stop at an apple store along the way. The apples were local and fresh, also a reasonable price. We purchased a half bushel of Spy (my favorite for eating and cooking) and of Mutsu (Attila’s choice), as well as locally grown garlic. All the garlic available in our grocery stores here is from China, we prefer to buy locally grown garlic but it is very difficult to find. I was thrilled to find a stainless steel wide mouthed funnel for canning. I have been looking for more than a decade for one of these funnels. I have several plastic wide mouthed funnels, but will not use them for hot food, as I don’t trust plastic at all in terms of chemical exposure. Now that I have the stainless steel funnel I will discard the plastic funnels. In my dreams I am buying a pressure canner, metal on metal seal. I checked the price on them, and right now getting this particular pressure canner is only a dream.

Sunday morning I awoke at 2:30 a.m. and could not get back to sleep. I waited until 5:30 to awake Attila. I had a surprise for him, giant oven pancake and freshly homemade applesauce, made from the Spy apples. We had a leisurely breakfast, a cozy chat over coffee and then set about getting ready to perform the tasks we had allocated for ourselves that day.

Attila replaced the bathroom “window” with a new, energy efficient window.

For some reason a previous renovator had installed a storm window as an inside window, opening from the inside, and a second storm window on the outside, opening from the inside. Neither of these windows were particularly well sealed, and they certainly were not energy efficient. To boot, they were coated with mildew, inside and out. Attila stripped the trim and removed the inner storm window during our wait for 9 a.m., when we could reasonably begin using power tools that could be heard in the outdoors.

The inside of the bathroom window is finished, but for the trim.

The outside of the new bathroom window, thinking about putting additional trim around it, haven’t decided yet.

I was waiting for the stores to open. Attila had forgotten to bring Vycor for the window job, so I needed to search for and purchase either Vycor or a suitable substitution. I also had a few things on our grocery list to pick up, as Terra and Lares were coming for brunch on Monday morning. While waiting for the rest of the world to wake up and get going, I tidied the kitchen and did some organizing of materials.

By Sunday night Attila had the new window in and ready for interior trim. I had the construction debris under control.

Monday morning we had a lovely brunch with Terra and Lares, consisting of sausages, French Toast, pancakes, real maple syrup and freshly homemade applesauce. We had a lovely visit, although Terra was increasingly tired, since she had worked the night shift and had not yet had any sleep. After Terra and Lares headed home, Attila and I packed up our things and headed home ourselves. This trip we left the furnace running, at 7C, just in case it gets really cold before we can get back for another visit. It was nice to have the new energy efficient window installed in the bathroom before heating season began.

The country house was 12C when we got home. Mist was not impressed, and did not mind letting us know how she felt. Attila built a fire downstair immediately, which mollified Mist somewhat.

This morning I’ve been tending a downstairs fire started by Attila before he left for work this morning. The temperature upstairs is now 22C and I am quite comfortable in my old t-shirt, work pants and bare feet. Mist is luxuriously stretched out near the wood stove downstairs, dreaming cat dreams in her now perfect world.

I’ve had a few things I wanted to accomplish this morning. One was to finish filling the last of the 4 litre jars that I had purchased last week, for food storage. The last two jars received their contents of chick peas and dried basil respectively. Now all of the dozen jars are filled, with flours and beans and other dried goods. Now I have sufficient supplies in the kitchen to cook properly, without having to rummage through bags in the cupboard. Also, these jars are mouse proof, and insect proof and safe from a chemical/hormone leaching point of view. Perfect for us.

Heating season is upon us and it is time to cure the masonry heater. BUT it hadn’t been cleaned after the last heating season. We brought home our shop vac to accomplish the task of cleaning the wood heater. I removed several small garbage bags of ash by hand, with a small scoop. Dirty, dirty work is chimney cleaning. I was black to the shoulder on one arm from reaching in to dislodge small bits of creosote and oodles of grey ash from the deep interior of the heater. The shop vac helped, but could not reach the nooks and crannies the way I could with my scoop. It took a few hours, but the job is done! Tomorrow I begin to cure the masonry heater for the heating season.

Cleaning the masonry heater chimney; a dirty, dirty, dirty job!

Worldly Distractions


11 °C
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 11.0°C
Dewpoint: 4.7°C
Humidity: 65 %
Wind: S 28 gust 42 km/h


“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”
Thomas Jefferson
1743 – 1826