Fixing My KitchenAid Mixer.

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I have allergies of all sorts and my husband is supposed to be on a no added salt diet. This means most processed food is unsafe for us. I make almost everything from scratch to accommodate this. Over the years I have found that doing it all from scratch means better quality at a lower cost, often much lower. There is the time factor, of course, but being retired, I have time. My husband bought me this KitchenAid when he found it on sale many years ago. We paid $399 at the time. I have worked it plenty hard since and purchased most of the attachments that go with it. The hardest chore is kneading my homemade breads which I make weekly. Thus, I was heartbroken when the planetary stopped spinning. It felt almost like an old friend was dead.

Rather than simply toss the machine and run out and buy a new one, I decided to try to fix it. I was delighted to find a number of excellent videos on youtube that explain how to do it. I followed the instructions and took it all apart. After some wiping away of black grease and inspecting everything, I exposed a gear that was obviously stripped. Following the instructions on line, I ordered a new gear and the grease required to repack the mechanism. I had such a ghastly time with my first ever encounter with a retaining ring that I almost gave up and had a good cry. I was finally able to get it off with two carpentry hooks.

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One of my dear friends once told me when you need a tool, buy it. That way, over time, you’ll build up a nicely equipped shop and be able to do more and more. Following his advice I also ordered the special pliers required to deal with retaining ring on the planetary shaft. The hardest part of taking it apart, after struggling with that retaining ring, was wiping away as much of the old black grease as possible. The gear that got stripped had many bits broken off. These little metal bits were embedded in the grease and some of them were sharp. Fortunately, all the other gears looked fine. I went through an entire box of tissues wiping out cruddy old black grease.

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I ordered the part from Amazon and after about three weeks of doing without my wonderful KitchenAid, the parts arrived. I then carefully followed the directions in the videos and put the thing back together with the new part and the new grease. I was relieved that the new grease was clean and white and washed off with wiping, and soap and water. Because it was clear/white it didn’t make much mess even though I ended up smearing it everywhere. I had some issues getting the gears to mesh properly but, with some fiddling and few crude words not be used in front grandchildren, eventually it worked. That part was not as easy as the video showed. I also discovered, once again, a job is much easier with the proper tool. It was ridiculously easy to get that retaining ring back in place with the special pliers. Finally, I tested the machine, except for the cover, and it spun perfectly with that old familiar hum.

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Hubby dearest helped me finish up the process. That decorative metal ring around the outside is a three hand job. He finished off the job with me by helping me clean up and he presented me with a case he had to keep all the parts of my newest tool together. My total cost was $49.86 Canadian plus taxes. The new gear was the most expensive part at $24.20. Since I have half a can of grease left I can take $10 off that. I have already used the grease on some other stuff like a super squeaky door. I did not get all new gears. If I had replaced all the new gears, it would have come to half of the cost a whole new machine. According to one video, the machine is designed so one gear goes before the rest precisely so you don’t have to redo everything.

I am very proud of myself. Replacing my machine would have cost me $500-$700 at today’s prices. Many manufacturers deliberately create circumstances so you can’t fix your machine yourself. They do their best to force you throw out the old one at the first sign of trouble and buy a new one. I was delighted to find the KitchenAid people are not among them. My wonderful durable user friendly machine is back in good working order. What’s more, I now know if it dies again, I can probably fix it myself. Today was a good day.

Choose Joy

Health Update – New Doctor and Polypharmacy

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This month we attended the Grand Ole Kinosota Opry (think Karaoke with a few professional musicians thrown in doing old country favourites) and we had a great time. I snapped this selfie sitting on my husband’s lap.

Yesterday we made yet another trip to Neepawa where, among other things, we saw the new neurologist. Mostly I came away feeling really positive. The new fellow agreed with all the reductions in medication our own family doctor has implemented. Recall my husband was on five different drugs, three of which were to lower his blood pressure. He was having some very nasty side effects. One drug a generic version of lipitor was in the cocktail even though my husband has no issues with high cholesterol or any other lipid issue. His lipid levels were normal. I’m not sure why this drug was included in the cocktail but for three months my husband suffered terrible leg cramps, especially in his thighs, that would wake him in the middle of the night with pain so bad he would literally scream. We were told to stop that drug as soon as the first neurologist heard about it. While the cramps got better right away, it was another two months before the cramps finally stopped completely.

The two extra blood pressure medications had side effects including sleepiness, swollen ankles, sudden drops where his vision would go black, dizziness, inability to tolerate heat, problems with becoming dehydrated, an inability to tolerate even the most mild exercise beyond slow walking, and “The Wall”. “The Wall” being terrible fatigue that came on without warning and required he immediately going to bed, lie down and sleep. Initially, we assumed that The Wall was purely an effect of the stroke. Now I am not so sure all of it was the stroke. Second to go on the cocktail list was a drug called amlodipene, a calcium channel blocker. First, we reduced it by half for two weeks while monitoring his blood pressure and then we got rid of it completely. For the first couple of days after the drug was reduced/removed my husband got some wonky readings including a couple of weird high ones but they soon settled. There was an immediate and very noticeable improvement in just about every measure of my husband’s alertness, ability to tolerate exercise. Plus “The Wall” rather abruptly vanished.

Third to go was the diuretic, hydrochlorothiazide. Again, the same few days of wonky readings and then the readings not only settled down nicely, in fact, they went lower than before. We are now consistently below 140/80 with the majority readings in under 130/80. And much to everyone’s surprise but mine, so did the swollen ankles. Now hydrochlorothiazide is supposed to prevent swollen ankles by draining away excess water but if you read the fine print the pharmacist gives you, it can actually cause higher blood pressure and swollen ankles in some individuals. Another very nice bonus was issues with our love life vanished. I’ll spare you the details but hydrochlorothiazide is renowned for its ability to turn vigorous healthy men into limp noodles. Some people may prefer their men in that state. I am not among them.

My husband is now back to the single blood pressure medication he has been on for the last twelve years, a drug that was prescribed to him by another metabolic specialist after a lot of tests and (I am most annoyed by this part) a trial of both another calcium channel blocker and hydrochlorothiazide. The first was ineffective and the second proved to make things worse, not better for him. So why did no one listen to me when I complained about adding drugs that we already knew didn’t work? I’m just the stupid wife with a PhD in human genetics specializing in metabolic pathways, so what could I possibly know compared to Almighty Doctor? Can you see my eyes rolling so far back in my head I can see my tenth birthday? My only regret is I caved in and let the doctors push me into putting him on these drugs and it took a lot to finally get someone, namely our family doctor, to actually listen to me and agree to try stopping them in a safe supervised way.

The new neurologist did not talk about putting my husband back on any of those drugs. (Much to my relief as I was ready for a fight.) He did explain why my husband needs the anti platelet drug clopidogrel bisulfate (generic form of Plavix.) As long as my husband has this narrowing of his carotid artery the blood is rushing through like rapids through a chasm. Blood can get caught in eddies and swirls that can cause a clot to form. A clot could trigger another stroke. Now I “get” it. However the new neurologist was also specific that when the pseudoanuerysm heals, we can stop the clopidogrel bisulfate. The neurologist says my husband will need to be on baby aspirin for the rest of his life. We’re both fine with that since he’s been on the baby aspirin since he started the high blood pressure medication and he’s tolerating the clopidogrel bisulfate very well.

The neurologist also agreed with the interventional radiologist that a 5-10% chance of having a stroke or even dying while having the stent put in for someone who has no symptoms, means the stent is a bad idea. He also agreed my husband needs to have an MRI to rule out so called “silent strokes”. Silent strokes are very tiny strokes that have a nasty cumulative effect and eventually can cause dementia. The anti platelet medicine should be preventing these silent strokes from happening. Only an MRI will tell for sure. I explained how the doctors in Brandon had decided he could not have an MRI due to some metal in his leg from a bad break many years ago. The interventional radiologist had told us that was nonsense and the new neurologist agreed. At some point, we will get the appointment to go have an MRI. Given this is now elective, that could take a while with Canadian wait times. The new neurologist asked about homocysteine since that is a key factor in many silent strokes, but the previous neurologist had already ruled out high blood homocysteine levels via the blood tests. It was nice he explained the connection between homocysteine and silent stroke as opposed to saying the equivalent of “It’s normal so don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”

I was also very happy to be able to tell the new neurologist that from our perspective, life has pretty much returned to normal. I came away feeling very positive about the longer term as well because this specialist seems to think that eventually the artery will heal and the sword of Damocles hanging over my husband’s inner carotid artery will eventually be gone. June is when we will reassess and we can do it with ultrasound. For now, we carry on as we have been, living normally.

This entire adventure got me thinking about a very common problem with the way we practice medicine. Polypharmacy is a real and dangerous problem. I’m not sure why my husband was sent home with a cornucopia of fives drugs in a messy cocktail that caused him so much trouble. Maybe he needed all that in the early days post stroke. Maybe it helped his healing and then once the healing was done, it would have been safely stopped eventually even if I had not fussed so much about it. Maybe he was ‘overmedicated” right from the beginning. We’ll never know. My personal feeling is he was given a standard cocktail of post stroke drugs appropriate for someone with multiple risk factors like diabetes, poor lipid profile, and uncontrolled high blood pressure. No one took into consideration that his stroke was not caused by any of these and two of these drugs had already failed in his past history. Rather, his stroke was that typical of a much younger person caused by an accident that tore his inner artery.

My advice is one should never just stop the drugs doctors prescribe. However you should question each and every drug as soon as it is prescribed. If you think past history means the drug is not a good idea, say so and keep saying so until the doctor listens. If the doctor won’t listen, find a new doctor. Don’t take glib explanations for the reason for taking the drug. Do take the time to read all the fine print in those sheets the pharmacists hand out. Know exactly what those side effects are and promptly report them to the doctor. Insist on a serious reconsideration of the drug with an eye to deprescribing as soon as the side effects pop up. Wave the pharmacist’s sheet in front of the doctor if you have to, to make the point. Finally, conditions change and you need to review all the drugs you take with an eye to deprescribing at least once a year and certainly whenever a change in your health happens. Always reduce the number of drugs you are on under the supervision of a doctor you are confident with. NEVER just stop taking them on your own. If your doctor is not listening, find another doctor. Doctors are human beings, not minor deities. No one sues them for over prescribing. They only get sued for under prescribing.

On a final note, to be fair, I have two dear friends with complex health issues who are seeing the first neurologist and they think the world of him. They are convinced he saved their lives and they can’t say enough good things about them. I still think the first one was competent. He just wasn’t the right one for us and part of that was his personality (he’s a ‘pat on the head you need to trust me’ type) and I directly and absolutely butted heads with my (I need to know at least as much as you and strive to learn more than you because it’s my problem) personality type. His refusal to listen to me could well be simply because I got his back up. More than one doctor has said I am a difficult patient, or in this case, a difficult wife.

And so that is our update. We are now feeling “back to normal”. Travel outside of Canada is still out of the question due to insurance issues. We are thinking about some camping trips with our travel trailer to places like the Yukon this summer since we are spending the winter here. Wonder of wonders, I am actually enjoying this winter. I think that is because I don’t have to stand and wait for a bus in the extreme cold. If it’s horrible outside I cocoon inside under my electric blanket. I have also been trying winter sports I never had time for when I was working. I discovered I really like curling. The community has been hosting a whole whack of fun events. The farmers are not as busy in winter and folks get sick of being shut inside so fun things tend to happen. We have been to multiple events including one where we won 15 pounds of pickerel. This year is off to a great start!

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Good Riddance Annus Horribilis

I sat down and wrote about the top ten things for 2019. It hasn’t been a great year for us. They say retirement comes in three phases. Phase One you are healthy so you travel and do and see things and have a blast. Phase Two something happens health wise and you slow down and enter a period of peaceful quiet living. Phase three, well that’s when you end up in a home so we won’t go there, I hope. 2019 is the year I think we transitioned from Phase One to Phase Two. I still have some hope 2020 will see us back on the road again, but not that much hope.

Here is my top ten blessings for 2019.

  1. One of my children separated from his wife but they reconciled only a few weeks later, much to my intense relief and many thankful prayers.
  2. My beautiful Misty was attacked by two pitbull dogs but she got away relatively unscathed when they turned on each other instead. She also got to swim with dolphins.

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    Misty had great fun with a friend she made at our second campsite. This little guy was actually faster than her. We don’t meet a lot of dogs who can outrun her but this boy sure could. He was also an important part of helping Misty get over being attacked.

  3. A dear friend’s daughter got married. We feel like she was almost a daughter to us and we saw her grow up so it was lovely to know she is married even though we could not make it to the wedding due to my husband’s health issues. She just recently announced she’s expecting this summer to add to the joy. Can you see me smiling?
  4. I discovered I love curling. I decided to keep active during our first winter out in the country and I joined the local senior curling group. I did it just for the exercise and the social contact so it was a real surprise to discover I really like curling. So living through winter after ten years of missing it is turning out to be not so bad.
  5. We came through the horrible storm of Canadian Thanksgiving 2019 unscathed. We were prepped and we were fine even though we had no power, no cell phone service, no land line, and no internet for nearly three days.IMG_8099
  6. We found a buyer for our precious property we could not longer manage. The buyer is going to continue to care for the property as it should be, including retaining the conservation agreement. Plus he will clean up the horrible mess left from the EF4 tornado of 2018.IMG_8189
  7. I discovered I have a lot more fix it talent than I thought after I designed and installed a new pantry space for our tiny house along with a few other projects to prepare for living here over the winter, like the new garage door opener.
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  8. My health has been great. I was really worried about my asthma acting up again since it always was worse in winter but so far I have not had any trouble at all. I credit that in part to our fresh air intake which has made our indoor air so much better.
  9. We got through the terrible flooding and disastrous storms in the south and midwest without harm and we had a nice time in our travels in spite of it.
  10. The stroke my husband had in June due to a carotid artery dissection after a seat belt accident was very minor and he has made an almost complete recovery. Plus he is finally tackling some risk factors and he’s lost 14 pounds and dropped three pant sizes just by switching to a treadmill desk. We were very fortunate.IMG_1709

 

So I say farewell to 2019 with gratitude for the blessings and thanks that it is over. Here’s hoping 2020 is better. 2019 certainly could have been a lot worse. I hope we all have the best year ever in 2020!

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The view from Riding Mountain National Park to our home some forty kilometres west.

Merry Christmas/Happy Channukah

Many years ago in my past life with a previous husband, I was struggling very hard to cope. It was Christmas Eve and my careful plan was to have a nice Christmas dinner with turkey and all the trimmings at home, open a few presents, and then go to my in-laws for Christmas day. The reason for the two meals was there were certain dishes that were part of my family tradition and they were not served by my mother-in-law. I also loved having leftover turkey to make into a whole variety of special holiday associated dishes such as turkey curry.

At my ex-husband’s workplace they were going to stop work early and then the men would have a couple of drinks and pick up their bonus and come home. My ex-husband promised me he would come home right after work. I hoped he would but I was filled with dread anyway. A few weeks before I had started attending meetings with the friends of Bill W and I had learned a few things there already. Previously I had blamed the bosses at his company for putting out a bottle of Christmas cheer at work. Honestly didn’t they know this was a bad thing to do? With my new friends I learned that the company was not responsible for my ex-husband’s behaviour. He made his choices and he was responsible for his choices.

Inevitably, dinner rolled around and he wasn’t home. There were no cell phones in those days so I couldn’t just call him and ask where he was, not that this would have done any good. I figured I’d wait until 6:30pm and then assume the worse. At 6:25 the wife of one my husband’s workplace buddies, one he often went on long binges with, showed up looking for her husband. I invited her in with her two boys about six and eight years old. She was horribly upset because her husband was missing too. The children were hungry and started crying and the wife stalked about ranting about why oh why was did the company have to ruin every Christmas by getting the men started on drinking.

 

Holiday Depression

I called my sponsor of that time. She told me to go about enjoying the holiday. Feed the children and have a nice evening. Just because my husband was out on a bender didn’t mean I could not enjoy Christmas. And so I did. First I calmed down the poor wife by handing her some eggnog and telling her she and her children were staying for Christmas Eve dinner. I put the food on the table and the hungry crying children soon became the happy stuffed children. With a bit of quick rearranging on my part, I was able to come up with a nice gift for each child. We read the poem “Night Before Christmas” and we watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special while the children played with their new toys. We then tucked them into bed exhausted and happy. The atmosphere felt happy, wonderful and even a bit holy.

The wife and I sat enjoying a glass of red wine by the Christmas tree and we quietly contemplated the lovely lights and shared some laughs. Shortly after 3:00am our men rolled in, drunk as the skunks they were, loudly singing Christmas carols off key and staggering about. As soon they walked in the door the poor wife went from contented tree light watcher to shrieking harridan. They say you can always tell if someone in the family has a drinking problem by watching how crazy their spouse gets and she proceeded to do a very fine demonstration of that fact. Since I had only recently indulged in the same crazies, I simply watched and made some mental notes about how much my attitude had changed. There but for the grace of God went I. Meanwhile my drunk staggered off to bed and fell asleep. I helped them bundle up their weeping frightened boys and they left over my protests because her drunken husband insisted he was capable of driving. I prayed they would get home safe.

Christmas Day dawned and my ex-husband was sleeping off his drunk so the children and I enjoyed the Santa presents and opened our gifts. The drunk finally staggered out of bed about the time I was dressing the kids to go to their grandparents home. He told me he was not going. Tell them he had flu. With my new attitude about making him take responsibility for himself and not enabling him in his drunkenness, I refused but I did not fight with him about it. I did not give me usual lecture about how disappointed his mother would be or how embarrassed I would be or how much he was letting his children down. When all the assorted relatives asked where he was I simply told them he had been out drinking until 3:00am and was too hung over to join us. When they said things like “Why do you let him do that?” I answered honestly and said I had tried everything to get him to stop and nothing I did made any difference. They were free to try for themselves. I then changed the subject and concentrated on enjoying the company of my in-laws and all my little nieces and nephews. I can’t say I had a lot of fun, but my children did and that made it worth it.

I eventually left my drunk, who never did stop drinking and his family who had never stopped blaming me for it. (They now say I broke his heart and that is why he drinks.) I created a new and happy life with my happy nondrinking Jewish husband. There were so many negative memories of Christmas that it was a great relief to simply give it up. When I lit the first candle on the Menorah last night, I reflected on how many wonderful memories I have over my thirty years of celebrating Channukah with him. Virtually every Channukah has been a trauma free event for the entire eight day stretch. My daughter called to wish me a Hag Semeach. She had just come from a wonderful party with her Jewish mother-in-law and we shared some of our favourite Channukah memories. She is young enough that she does not know anything else.

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Now before you think I detest Christmas because I gave it up, let me assure you that is not the case. My neighbours have dozens of Christmas lights and now those new blow up figures that are all the rage. I love them! I attended a community Christmas party Sunday and I wore a silly blinking Christmas light necklace they gave all attendees. I laughed a lot. I enjoyed the music and the food and the wonderful sense of community real Christmas spirit brings. It’s just not my holiday anymore. One of the things I liked best about Christmas before my retirement was taking double and triple shifts so my Christian coworkers could be with their family. It was my way of sharing my blessings.

Child wearing Christmas hat

About five years ago I was contacted over Facebook by one of those little boys with whom I shared that Christmas Eve long ago. He said it was the best Christmas he ever had as a child. The experience made him determined that no matter what went on in his childhood, he was going to be happy and he and his wife would have a wonderful peaceful Christmas the way I had demonstrated it should be done. He thanked me. This gave me a wonderful warm glow inside. It also showed me yet again how when a child wants to live happy and well, small acts of kindness and good examples from strangers can help overcome a lifetime of abuse and dysfunction. I can not take credit for that evening. My sponsor taught me that lesson.

The Holiday Season is a time for joy and reflection and peace. Family dysfunction can mar that holiday and the season can bring back powerful negative, even evil memories. Even if you have been blessed with mostly good memories, Christmas can also be a time to grieve a lost loved one who will not be at the table. If you are one of those who has such a Christmas issue, my wish for you is that you are able to find your own way to set aside your pain, to create a positive memory and have joy instead this year. May your days be trauma free and may all your bad memories be placed where they can no longer hurt you. May you be blessed to find thirty years of happy holidays as I have. If you are one of those fortunate enough to be born into non dysfunctional families my wish is very simple. I wish you another Merry Christmas, or another Happy Channukah, whichever applies, and my hopes for you to have the finest and best New Year ever.

Joy to the World!

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Death is so Final.

Argo

This is Argo in his prime. He was a good kitty. He had been abandoned in an apartment when his original humans moved out. It was nearly a month before the landlord arrived to clean up and found this poor frantic dehydrated starving cat. He was adopted by my daughter and her significant other. He had a year and a half of being the darling kitty of a childless couple. We got pictures and updates on every aspect of his life. We tenderly joked that he was their practice baby. They sure loved that cat.

Argo got out in the cold. His human went looking for him immediately but on his way home Argo lost an encounter with an orange Kia. His people did everything they could to save him but after a week (and more than $1000 in vet expenses) it became clear he was suffering and would never recover. They made the hard decision to give him mercy. Argo has moved on to wherever it is good cats go when they die.

For reasons I don’t really get, Argo’s death has hit me very hard. Maybe it is because we also got word this week that my mother-in-law finally lost her long hard battle with dementia and mental illness and passed on at the age of ninety seven. One of my friends who is a recent immigrant from China told me that when someone dies at ninety seven that is a cause for celebration not mourning. I kind of see it. My mother-in-law’s brain had been gone for a long time so her finally passing means death is a friend not an enemy. Now that she has passed everyone else is celebrating her life as if she were a perfect saintly mother and wife, which she certainly was not. When I die, no doubt people will celebrate me as if I were a saint too, even though I am far from it.

Our town has many feral cats. Several people in the town put food out for them. Folks try to find good homes for the ones they can catch. Locals take the babies first because if you can catch a feral cat as a baby you can handle it and get it used to people. Older feral cats cannot normally be tamed. Sometimes an adult cat will approach one of us in the cold desperate for help and then you know they are someone’s pet who was lost or abandoned. The truly feral ones just die. Each winter the feral cat population is dramatically reduced by our bitter cold. There is a lone female feral cat who has taken up residence in our neighbour’s gazebo who has resisted every attempt to catch her and get her in where it is warm. We are all afraid she is going to die soon as temperatures are going to -26C each night now. I watch those feral cats with their frozen off ear tips and they scarred faces and I think how few of them had even one single day as good as Argo had for that year and a half. Life is certainly not fair. Why does there have to be pain and suffering in the world? Does the great joy of good times in life really make up for that?

I do hope my daughter and her man take in another cat. There are so many cats that need a loving home and they have big hearts and they gave Argo so much after a really rotten start to his life. Argo is so happy and so fully cat in his memorial picture. They could give another cat the wonderful gift they gave Argo.

I think the real reason Argo’s death has left me awake all this past night is because of how close death came to taking my husband from me last June. I can’t help but think every time he hugs me or I snuggle up for a cuddle in bed “He’s still warm. He’s still with me.” I look in the mirror and I see the wrinkles and the marks of aging. Death is stalking me now too. So perhaps poor Argo’s unfortunate passing has served as a reminder I’d rather not have, the reminder of the mortality that is looking me in the face every single day that remains.

God has much to answer for. I have just enough faith to believe that at some point He will, at some point I will understand why.  In the meantime there is nothing to do but embrace the joy that comes with being alive while I can.

Rest in peace kitty. You actually were a perfect little furry saint. We don’t have to make things up about how truly wonderful you were, for a cat.

Then we cross the Rainbow Bridge together….. – GLOBAL SAFARI

My Panty is Finished! Update #3

 

I couldn’t be happier with how this has worked out. I just have to say thank you again for a brilliant idea to these folks. Their idea allowed me to use an empty space driving me crazy in a tiny (480sqm) house where empty space is worse than a waste. Now if you have been following along you’ll have seen how I started the project and a progress report when things got really going. I am actually using the space now as designed and I only have a few minor additions to finish it.

We live in a rural area with a 250km drive to a big city with all those discount shopping places and access to bulk stuff. My little pantry has solved many issues for me. I designed the shelves to be short and shallow for stuff I need to access often and that I need to keep track of as far as quantities go. I can now tell at a glance exactly how much I have of things like my rice crackers. I also had no broom closet before so I designed one into the pantry space and it sure is nice to get the vacuum out of my husband’s workspace.

So what is left? I intend to install a grow light on the empty shelf with the removable shelf space and start seedlings in this spring. I plan have a go at growing some greens and sprouts in the meantime. The trap door needs another coat of paint and maybe a layer of some kind of flooring. Stick on tiles might work well. I haven’t decided on that yet. I was going to put in a pneumatic hinge lift but the door is so light and easy to move I’m not sure I should be bother. That might be more nuisance than it’s worth.

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The absolute worst part of this was painting it. The space is so narrow it was impossible to paint both sides at once. Also all those shelves and supports had to be done with a brush and it was painstakingly slow. The painting took a lot longer than the carpentry and was a lot less satisfying. Fortunately Hubby Dearest doesn’t mind painting and he did several hours of it for me.

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I have only one regret. This was supposed to be my winter project and it’s only November. Hm….maybe I could do something with that disorganized disaster that passes for my work bench in the basement.

Cleaning out the Cabin.

In 2001 we had the rare good fortune to purchase a piece of land near our present home in Alonsa. Every spring, summer and fall we spent as many weekends as possible on our property. Almost every weekend we took a few building materials out and added to our little off grid cabin. By the time we stopped, we had a neat 12 X 8 cabin with an outhouse, a loft bed, a wood stove, a small kitchen, solar powered lighting, and thousands of wonderful memories. We put a formal conservation agreement on the land to protect it for future generations. Because of the fire hazard in letting the prairie land just build up material, in year six we let a neighbour start running their cattle on it. The cattle also preserved the wonderful unbroken original tall grass prairie plants flourishing there. Without cattle, we would have been letting the open space be overtaken by aspen.

We had so much fun at the cabin. Campfires in summer, long hikes, watching the seasons change. Every weekend different wildflowers would be in bloom. We got to experience cycles of nature, drought, and flood, and waves of insect infestations that you just don’t experience when you visit a campground. We discovered miracles like an outbreak of tent caterpillars means a good year for bald faced hornets and limited tree damage in a complete ecosystem. Meanwhile in the city, we observed how the urban forest without bald faced hornets was totally devastated. Northern lights shone many a night and the stars were beyond magnificent in the rural dark. We learned so much about nature, evolution, ecosystems and diversity by living almost every weekend on that land. We also got to know the people in Alonsa.

In 2010 our lives changed dramatically when we sold our city house and moved into a travel trailer. Living in the travel trailer meant we spent less and less time at our tiny cabin. We eventually ended up visiting it once or twice a year to inspect it and check, always intending to go back, but never quite getting around to doing it. We were aging and it was getting harder and harder to do without electricity and walk to an outhouse in the night especially the year a bear took up residence in our yard. There was a savage outbreak of ticks three springs in a row. Much as we loved the place we just kind of stopped using it. We did continue to go out and walk it. We planted trees and we tended to it, but we were just not staying overnight anymore. When we were ready to settle down and give up the travel trailer lifestyle, we first planned on building on that land. Buying our house in town turned out to be a mere fraction of what building would cost. Why should we stay in a rough cabin when we have a nice house 6km away?

When you don’t tend to a cabin, it starts falling apart. Each time we went back we would find something had happened. There were several break ins and each time the result was broken windows, missing stuff and damage. Not all the break ins were humans. Three years ago we arrived to find the body of a poor racoon who had broken in but could not get back out again. His little corpse had rotted and then dehydrated in one corner leaving nothing for us to find but fur and bones. I felt horrible about that. Before he died, he did considerable damage to the ceilings and walls trying to get out. poor raccoon. The following year the 2018 Alonsa tornado barely missed the cabin but did take down all the mature trees around and laid several on the cabin making the area a walking hazard and absolutely ruining any possibility we’d ever want to go back. Astonishingly enough, we discovered the tornado’s edge effect had not only knocked down all the trees, it had picked up and scattered our woodpile.

This spring we decided it was time to admit what was obvious to everyone, and clear out the cabin of all valuables and give up on it. Our plan was to take off the door and let it slowly decompose while acting as a haven for birds and wildlife like so many of the old farm buildings around here. Usually carpenter ants will move in and slowly eat the old building to nothing until if falls into dust after a decade or two of being home to birds and bats and other wildlife. It was a bad year for ticks, again, so we decided to wait for summer. The stroke happened. It was too wet in fall after the big storm and all the rain. This week, the ground frozen and the weather not too bad, we finally started. We are clearing the cabin.

It hurts. So many fond memories. Over the years that we used the place we moved all the silly undignified things I love but weren’t magazine decor for my home out there. Some of the stuff I carried out included a gift of a nameplate in Hebrew my daughter bought us while she was in Israel. There was a canvas with three handprints of one set of my grandchildren. The youngest was a baby that Grandma’s day. The boys are all taller than me now. I found and bought an old plaster wall plaque at a garage sale because it reminded me of a sweet elderly woman from my childhood who showered me with grandmotherly affection. She had an identical matched set on her kitchen walls which I admired as I sat at her table eating homemade cookies and absorbing normality. I put this treasure up on the wall of the cabin because it was an old piece of junk to be ashamed of no matter how many fine memories and good feelings it brought me. There were special books I had put there to read and reread and reread again on hot summer afternoons. (Human thieves never took our books.) There were nature guides for animal tracks and identifying wildflowers. There was also an entire kitchen I used to cook over the fire or on the wood stove. All of it loaded into our truck and hauled home. The work is slow because my husband can’t carry heavy stuff and walking around the downed trees is awkward for both of us. The awkwardness emphasizes how much we have both aged the last thirty years.

Misty loves this job. She spends her time racing about the cabin, sniffing everything. She is reliable off leash, never going further away then 25 metres or so and coming when we call. She accompanies us on each trip back to the truck. She runs the place, leaping over the logs using her canine four wheel drive and exuberant youth with the grace of a white tail deer. Her puppy joy eases the hurt of this change. Coming home to our snug little house we have stuff to sort. Keep, wash, discard, recycle, give away. A box in the basement is filling for our next trip to town and the Salvation Army. Keep, wash, discard, recycle, give away.

I found a special spot for that old plaster bit of junk laden with sweet memory. It’s on my teal cupboard above the joy giving teapot with the butterfly top I found at a thrift shop, with the matching sugar bowl and creamer my daughter gave me, opposite the little bird on my curtain rod and beside the winter scene on a plate I bought on our travels south. Every time I look at that bit of plaster junk I remember that kind woman and I feel like someone just gave me a big comforting hug. I find myself thinking about how nice my life with my husband has been during three fine decades full of joy and exploration and personal growth. Now that I am the old lady, I no longer care about what people think of my home decor. Change is inevitable as life moves on. I have learned that what is important is how you respond to it when it comes and that you really need to accept hugs when you can no matter what a visitor might think of your decor.

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