Attila Wore Shorts

Today was a statutory holiday in Ontario, Canada. Attila had the day off work.

We spent our two days, Sunday and Monday, at the little house in the city. There was much to do there. The lawn needed cutting. Luckily it had not grown to the ten inch height restriction set by the municipality. If the lawn grows taller than ten inches, the municipality will step in and cut it, and charge the homeowner $250. Clearly we are walking a fine line, trying to get to the little house often enough to keep the grass from growing to a ten inch height. Because I stayed at the little house through May and June, the height of grass growing season, we have been able to keep up with it this spring and summer.

Our neighbour hailed us as we were backing out of the driveway to stock up on supplies. She handed us the promised payment for the bed she purchased from us early last May. Wonderful! Clearly our new neighbours are as good as their word. Knowing this makes a difference.

Later we greeted another neighbour, enjoyed a chat in the front yard, and asked after his lovely wife, who is not feeling very well these days. They are a retired couple, and two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet.

Sunday was sunny and hot. Attila wore shorts. It was the first time this summer that he had the opportunity to dress casually. Six days a week he wears heavy construction overalls during the day. The rest of the time he wears bug protecting work clothes as he spends his evenings and Sunday’s chopping wood and working on the country house. What a pleasure it was to see him puttering at his own pace around the place yesterday, in his shorts. He was happy as a clam, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, picking green beans, and tomatoes, and zucchini, and basil from the garden. The scarlet runner beans are beautiful, and have produced quite a few beans. We are letting those beans mature to seed, for next years planting. They are so beautiful that we plan on planting them all along the fence line next summer. The scarlet runner bean seeds were costly to purchase, but well worth the initial investment. We could eat them, but not this year, this year we will focus on seeds for future planting.

Our pumpkin plants have literally run away from the garden bed we planted them in. They now reach well into the neighbour’s yard, so we cut them back in that direction. There are some blooms on them, but so far there are no pumpkins to be seen. The squash we planted along the fence line died, it came up, did not thrive, and perished in the dry spell over the last few weeks while we were away. We will try another location next year. The swiss chard is not doing well, it needed water. The rest of the garden has managed to do well despite the sparse water supply.

We planted borage for the bees, and it is doing very well. The nasturtiums, one of my favourites, are also doing very well. Even the lavender, for which I had lost hope, has thrived and flowered.

Saturday night, we transplanted a lilac in the backyard of the little house in the city. The original plant was a Mother’s Day gift from Luna and Terra, the first year we lived at the country house, where it was planted. In the spring Attila separated the suckers from the mother plant, and on Saturday night we brought one of them with us. We planted it where we can see it from the kitchen window. When I got up on Sunday morning and looked out the kitchen window, the area where the lilac was planted was shaded, but the lilac itself was bathed in single circle of bright sunshine. Mother nature has her ways of showing her approval. Such a little thing, so much joy.

Attila found a half a dozen small wild parsnip plants in the ditch in front of the house. They keep coming back. He carefully removed them all before he mowed. We will continue to plant clover in the ditch, at intervals, to try and keep the wild parsnip under control. The wild parsnip is everywhere around this area! There are fields choked with it. The sides of the roads are crowded with it. It skirts the edges of corn fields, of bean fields, of pastures. To go for a walk across a field now requires protective clothing. This is new. It is the third significant new outdoor hazard to develop in Ontario in my lifetime. The others are the spread of Giant Hogweed into the wild, and West Nile Virus which is now carried by some mosquitoes in Ontario. There may be more that I am not yet aware of!

For dinner, a large zucchini was halved, the seeds removed and the “boats” filled with a mixture of chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. These were covered with foil and baked. BBQ’d hamburgers on whole wheat buns were served on the side.

The tomatoes have suffered from the dry weather at the little house in the city, making the skins thick, but the taste is sweet and delicious. My breakfasts and lunches for the last two days consisted of rye toast with sliced tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese.

The journey home was through the worst traffic we have encountered over the last five years of commuting to and from the little house in the city. Attila braved his way through it, stop, then go, then stop, then go, for several hours. Then we were clear of it. We didn’t mind much though, the flowing green bean fields, the waving yellow wheat fields, the distant lines of trees bending to the wind, so beautiful.

As we drove down our road, and turned into our driveway at the country house, we both thought that the house looked lovely and welcoming.

A federal election has been called in Canada, to take place on October 19, 2015. I almost dread all the hoopla. Attila and I know who we will vote for and why. We don’t need the political campaigning bombardment that is approaching.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

20°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Monday 3 August 2015
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.5 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 19.9°C
Dewpoint: 17.3°C
Humidity: 85%
Wind: WSW 14 gust 28 km/h

Quote

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
Mahatma Gandhi

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Retirement Blues

Attila had two consecutive days off work! Monday was a statutory holiday in Canada, leaving us with Sunday and Monday to spend in any way we chose.

We visited the little house in the city, leaving the country house mid-afternoon on Saturday, after Attila arrived home from eight hours at work, and arriving at the little house after dark. Sunday was consumed with catch-up shopping. Attila needed clothes. He selected some shirts and socks, while I walked about the store looking at other items. My input on clothing issues is counter-productive when it comes to Attila’s clothing choices. It is best to leave him to his own devices.

While shopping for clothing we received a call from Terra, who was at our little house in the city for a visit. So, off we went home to meet her. She had company for the weekend, and fit us into her busy schedule while her visitors were out shopping. While Terra and I visited, Attila took himself off to search for a new pair of shoes. Terra stayed until he returned to show off his spiffy new footwear, and then she was off to begin meal preparation for the crowd at her house. She returned the next day for a slightly longer visit, when her shift at work ended. Terra and Lares don’t get weekends off either.

After Terra was on her way, we went grocery shopping.

All the walking on concrete floors was challenging. I limped along without complaint, but was increasingly uncomfortable, and eventually my back began to spasm. That evening I was extremely tired, I was in pain, a dull pain, and had difficulty moving about. So, I decided to take ibuprofen, hoping to curtail the inflammation. Within twenty minutes I felt a lot better. I slept well, with respite from the pain. In the morning, I arose and began my day. About an hour into the morning routine I stopped suddenly and thought, “my knee does not hurt”! And so it was, I was walking about without pain, without the aid of painkillers.

My knee is not completely back to normal, I must still baby it a bit; no sudden moves or turns, no running, no working on ladders, etc.. I have decided to decline all work until my knee is completely healed.

The vegetable garden at the little house in the city is doing very well. We have had adequate rain to keep it healthy, without watering. We picked almost a dozen cucumbers, from our one cucumber plant. They are so very good, slightly sweet and crispy. I made a Cucumber Salad, which we both enjoyed very much. The tomatoes are growing by leaps and bounds. When we planted them they were very small seedlings, about five inches tall. Now they are waist height and bear some unripe fruit, and a lot of blossoms. We planted some “Indigo Rose” tomatoes, they are very interesting, the fruit is shiny and black. Our hot peppers are thriving, but the green peppers are slow. The rhubarb seems to have a new lease on life, which we attribute to Attila’s application of manure.

The flower gardens are thriving as well. The clematis is still blooming. The giant marigolds are a riot of brightness. The day lilies and the Hostas to either side of the front steps are in full bloom. The portulaca has spread to fill the planter in the front of the house, and there is a profusion of red blooms. Flowers are so cheerful!

On Monday, while Terra was at work, Lares dropped by to deliver a bag of beets with greens, from their garden. He was happy to give them to us, as he does not care for beets. We, on the other hand, love them. He was on his way to work, so after a short and pleasant exchange of greetings he went on his way.

Attila managed to get the lawn cut at the little house, and to weed the gardens. I am not much use these days for either of those tasks, not with a bad knee! I do like to weed the garden. The lawn mowing is very challenging for me at the best of times. Our lawn mower is the lowest end model available. There is no self-propelling about it, no easy-start, and the wheels are wobbly plastic things that fall into, and get stuck in, the crevices and unevenness of the yard. The last time I mowed the lawn with that lawn mower, last summer, I had to stop so frequently that it took almost a whole day to accomplish the task. Luckily the high growth period for the lawn is over for this year, and the lawn mowing can easily be left to Attila.

I am planning a lone visit to the little house in the city this month. There are things I would like to accomplish there, such as beginning the process of staining the front step that Attila build last year. I have my eye on parging the external concrete wall, above ground level, a cosmetic job, which will have a big impact on how the house looks from the street. While I am away there are things Attila would like to tackle, such as securing our firewood supply for winter heating, and removing some dead tree trunks (not suitable for firewood) that are visible from the house.

I learned something new while visiting the little house in the city. The first was that Wild Parsnip has invaded the area, and that it can burn the skin in a similar manner to Giant Hogweed. Terra made a point of telling us about this. We did notice the wide swaths of Wild Parsnip growing along the highway on our drive down, and we wondered what it was. Now we know! It would be a good idea to always have protective clothing in the vehicle, in case of there is ever a need to get out of the car at the side of the road.

The sun is shining, the breeze is rustling in the leaves, the birds are singing and swooping… summer is a nice time of year here at the country house!

The Canadian made soup pot we acquired last year has been very busy since we arrived home in the country. Last night I cooked pasta in it. Then I rinsed it out, half filled it with water, which I brought to boil, to cook the beet greens that we got from Terra and Lares. This morning it came back into service to cook all of the beets, both those we bought from the farm two weeks ago, and the those we received from Terra and Lares. Then the pot was rinsed, and I sautéed onions and garlic in olive oil, then added stock, raw potato cubes, and cubed cooked beets for a hearty soup for our dinner tonight. Can you love a stainless steel pot, well, if it is possible, then I do!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

20°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Tuesday 5 August 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 20.2°C
Dewpoint: 15.8°C
Humidity: 76%
Wind: N 5 km/h
Humidex: 25

Quote

“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.”
George Burns (1896 – 1996)

Heading North

We are experiencing another cold week here in the bush. The house cooled overnight, the warmest spot in the house this morning was 16C. That isn’t too bad. Today we will once again perform three firings of the masonry heater, so that tomorrow morning it should be warmer in the house.

I felt lucky though, because I looked at the weather and road conditions this morning, for those south of us in Ontario. They are much worse off, with heavy snowfall yesterday, and blowing snow to make the roads extra treacherous.

But then, at mid-morning the white stuff began to fall in large fluffy flakes; apparently we will receive our fair share, the foul weather is heading north. And the wind picked up, making for a wind chill, and cooling the house. So far, with one firing of the masonry heater, we have raised the warmest spot to 17C. Better, but still not comfy. Slowly I am beginning to look like a snowman, as I don layer after layer of warm clothing.

Still, I know that by the middle of next week it should be warmer, the worst night time lows only -17C. I am looking forward to that.

I am settling into the routines that keep me healthy while living in a few rooms for extended periods of time. Standing to work for at least two hours a day, up and about for five minutes, every thirty minutes. I am feeling better already.

Today, my mind wandered into the world of spring gardens. Where we live in the country it is way too soon to begin concrete preparations. But I can think about it! Would it not be wonderful if some long-time residents in this area, who have grown their own domestic vegetable gardens for decades, had a mentoring program, which I could join and then be guided through the processes necessary to successfully grow food in such an agriculturally hostile environment. I have searched far and wide on the internet and found no such opportunity, or anything close to it.

I am better off piecing together bits of information to suit me, rather than attending meetings and sessions that offer general information. I have tried many times before to attend an information session, and they have always focused on what they want to tell me, and rarely, almost never, gotten around to filling me in on what I want to know.

There are scads of nurseries here, but they focus on ornamental landscaping the fantasy “islands” of the affluent summer population, as perhaps they must to survive economically. The “poor woman’s” food garden isn’t something they take any interest in, as far as I can tell. Too bad, there are a lot of struggling people and families in this area, who have property and would benefit from a program focused on developing ways to grow some of their own food. Know how is mainly what is missing I think.

Of course, at the moment, we own a wonderful piece of property at our little house in the city, which is well suited to a garden. But gardens need tending, and we do not live there, so the idea of a large garden there, under current circumstances, is not practical.

Terra is planning on planting a large garden this spring. I will have to ask her if she has started her planning yet. Thinking about spring gardens is cheery business on an arctic February day!

We are completely out of bread. I should bake bread, really I should. Attila has hinted. And what do I do? Well, yesterday I decided to use heritage food that I found in the cupboard. I think I have substituted contrariness for cabin fever. This is to Attila’s benefit, as well as mine, even if it leaves us breadless for a few days.

There were two partial boxes of All Bran cereal, and some aging marshmallows that were meant for campfires with the Grandbabies. These items need to be moved around constantly in the cupboard, to access the food we are eating on a more regular basis. I searched high and low, and finally found a simple recipe for Bran Marshmallow Treats that uses both of these ingredients. As a bonus, the recipe calls for half a cup of butter, and I had some butter that needed to be consumed before expiry. The squares were really good, crunchy and full of bran. I at a few small pieces over the course of the day yesterday, and had a larger piece after dinner. Attila loves the squares, I am leaving the rest to him.

The down side of eating the kind of sugar provided by marshmallows, as opposed to that found in something like a fresh orange, is that hours later I begin to experience a mood fall. This is totally unacceptable in the winter, because I need every last molecule of good cheer I can muster to survive the isolation and challenges of the winter season in the bush. I discovered as well, that there is a down side to consuming too much bran, and perhaps too much butter. My digestive system protested for hours after I retired for the night, necessitating that I rise and preoccupy myself with projects until I could fall into an exhausted sleep.

I am not sure if this is more severe now than in my younger years. It could be that during my younger years I always had some tangible misery to contend with, and attributed any emotional distress to circumstances. Goodness knows I had an abundance of emotionally distressing challenges to deal with in those days. The sugar/fat combination may have made the whole experience much worse, although I think after life reaches a certain level of misery one fails to perceive “worse”, it is just all bad. Fortunately, these days, I lead a life of manageable challenges, surrounded by people who either love or respect me, and I have become very aware of my body’s responses to stimuli.

All that is a long way of saying, no more Bran Marshmallow Treats for me! Enjoy them Attila!

Lately I have been luxuriating in the long preparation and leisurely consumption of breakfast. I heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in the cast iron frying pan, over a low heat. I slice three or four large button mushrooms, then add them to the heated oil. When the mushrooms are cooked, I add a chopped onion, and cook that until there are caramelized bits of onion in the pan. Then I add a half cup of cooked basmati rice, turn the heat off, put a lid on the pan, and leave it for about ten minutes. After dishing it into a serving bowl, I add 1/2 teaspoon of roasted garlic and peppers, by Club House, stir and enjoy. The preparation times is about 45 minutes, as I cook everything over a very low heat. This makes a wonderful breakfast, and includes no added sugar.

I have been looking for savoury recipes for oatmeal, and have found nothing simple as yet. I prefer to eat complex carbohydrates as the basic food in all my meals, and I love oatmeal. For now, I am eating a bowel of oatmeal [bowl of oatmeal really, but this is a Freudian slip too good to cover up with an edit], cooked with whole flax seed and raisins, with 1% milk and a sprinkling of granulated sugar. It would be nice to have more options with oatmeal though, so I will continue the search for savoury oatmeal recipes.

But I really should be thinking about baking bread!

How I have gone on!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-25°C
Date: 6:00 AM EST Thursday 6 February 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.6 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -24.8°C
Dewpoint: -27.3°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: calm

Quote

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.”
George Eliot
1819 – 1880

[The temptation presented by social media has reduced the number of people qualified for this blessing, I am sure.]