Monthly Archives: September 2014

Preparations for travel underway.

We have begun the process of packing for our scheduled departure from Bird’s Hill Park on October 13. A few days ago we took down out dining tent and washed it and then put it away. We have been going through the cupboards and closets and pulling out stuff we haven’t used and discarding it. (Giveaway, trash or charity). Today I began the biannual exterior maintenance the trailer requires by getting up on the roof, cleaning it, inspecting everything and putting the solar panels down in travel mode. While I was up there I also cleaned the gutters. The entire chore took me under two hours which is one of the really nice things about living in trailer. The maintenance is so trivial compared to home ownership. As always during these biannual roof inspections I found a small hole and it is patched. I will need to wash and wax the exterior before we leave and our first step on the way out of Winnipeg is to get our wheel bearings repacked with new grease, our trailer brakes checked and one bent axle with balding on the interior tires replaced. We are also adding a lockable toolbox for our batteries on the front hitch. We have not had any batteries stolen but it hasn’t been for lack of trying on the part of the human parasites. Estimated cost is about $1200 and I have the money in a savings account. Ouch but still far less than some of the prices I paid for work on my house. Travel trailers have a life expectancy of ten years. Ours is halfway there. I am wondering if it will make though because it is starting to show some signs of wear. We put a lot more miles on this thing that most people do. I have six short term savings accounts and each month I tuck a little away in each account. Car maintenance, travel health insurance, emergency savings, major health care expenses, vet savings and my favourite, travel expenses. Traveling is costly, most because is typically uses about 2/3 of a tank of gas a day and that adds up fast when you are traveling for five or six days. We take a lot longer than that to get south but we do linger a lot, stopping for two nights instead of one when the weather is cooperative and the stopover is nice.

I am beginning to get rests, ready to head out on our next adventure. It’s cold at night, The trees are almost bare now. It feels like winter is coming in and it’s time to be heading south. The only hard part is thinking about being away from my family. I will miss them a lot when I am south.

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And Snapper Makes Three

Snapper

If you ever wondered what encountering a dinosaur would be like….this bad tempered common alligator snapper was a close encounter with one. We were walking the dogs around the Lakeview trail detour and we met this critter, about one meter from head to tip of the tail, sitting on the roadway.   You can tell how big it is because it is sitting across a tire track from one of the big tractor tractors working on the Beach Lake addition.

We have now seen three species of turtle at Bird’s Hill Park. First we saw the soft-shell, then we rescued the red painted turtle from the roadway. And now we met this giant snapper. 3/3 on turtle species in Bird’s Hill Park. A fine way to end the turtle watching camping season.

PaintedPainted Turtle on Road

Painted turtle we rescued from the roadway this spring.

Fall Colours in Manitoba

DogwoodCranberry

Growing up in Quebec I was disappointed by the poor showing of fall foliage in Manitoba when I first moved here. As a child, I made an annual pilgrimage in the form of a weekend drive to the Laurentians to see the leaves each year with my family. This fall, in Bird’s Hill Park I have been able to view and understand why the Manitoba show is so poor by comparison when viewed from a car. I have also discovered that Manitoba does have all the same glorious colours as Quebec but the effect is subtler and timed differently. In the first image we see the understory of the low prairie canopy. High Bush Cranberry (also known as hobblebush) takes on the brilliant scarlet red so familiar with red maples in Quebec. Dogwoods turn deep red to purple. These red colours only appear low on the ground and out of sight unless you are walking through the woods. Most of the dogwoods and high bush cranberries barely reach shoulder height and so these lovely reds would not be visible from a car while driving down the highway.

TallTree

While the understory of the woods is in full fall colors, the upper story of tall trees like these cottonwoods are still green with only a hint of yellow. And so seeing green leaves on the trees, one would not expect to find glorious fall colours below. By the time these trees turn brilliant yellow, the understory reds will already be gone to brown. So if you wait until the trees turn to go and view the leaves,  you will be disappointed.

Lot

This picture of our lot shows how the understory is now in full display while above, the trees are still green.

Poison Ivy

The mastery of fall displays in Manitoba goes to the lowly poison ivy plant. In this image poison ivy ranges from still green to deep red and all shades in between. Poison ivy can cause severe skin irritations at all times of the year in sensitive individuals, like me. A common mistake people in Manitoba make is to gather the red poison ivy leaves as they turn brown and drop and then burn the litter. The oil which is so irritating is carried in the smoke and can cause not only skin irritation but lung, eye and throat problems. Still, viewed from a safe place, poison ivy is an eye feast this time of year. Poison ivy is a favourite food of white tail deer, especially the berries, and so wherever white tail deer are abundant, so too is poison ivy.

September 17, 2014

Sept 17

Sunday, we reconnected with our darling grandsons Noah and Luke. Noah is walking now and chasing him was great fun, if exhausting. Luke has continued growing by leaps and bounds. We played together on his iPad. The ability of this generation to effortlessly navigate computers is astounding to me. Over the course of the summer we had children who were lost stop in to ask for directions. They were between 6 and 10 and I discovered something amazing. They all knew exactly how to navigate from a map. I gave them a map of the campground and they kept it folded in a pocket and were never lost again. I often saw them stopping at an intersection, pulling out the map and consulting with each other before charging off again. I recall having to be taught in school how to read a map somewhere in grade five. For today’s kids navigating a map is something they learned, likely at Luke’s age, to get around a computer game. Certainly Luke, at just four understands maps very well. We then got to wander Ikea with Alan and Ann and they paid for lunch. It was a whole family experience. Luke went to their play land and ran himself ragged and we ate and shopped. (Luke ate before us.) Again, the new ways of doing things surprised me. A cafeteria, a free babysitting service, reasonably priced good food and shopping. It is all designed to get you to spend money and yet it was very much a “village-like” experience.

Monday I had a food processing day. Saturday we picked up a bunch of veggies cheap at the end of the farmer’s market next to where we were volunteering. (Strange to actually find a farmer at today’s farmers markets. First time it happened this year.) I made a big pot of vegetable minestrone soup, and chocolate zucchini bread. I made sweet and sour meatballs for supper. I packed two jars of soup and a third jar of the meatballs, along with a bunch of leftover bok choy, and I cooked them in the pressure cooker so they will be available for a later time. I was still left with additional soup which I froze. Plus I have a small pot in the slow cooker for tomorrow. I also have a bunch of precut veggies, zucchini, green pepper slices, for frying up with our usual breakfasts. I also have one container of Israeli salad and one of coleslaw. We can munch those over the next few days. I have been reading about living frugally and (after eating out too much) I learned that wasting food is the single biggest waste of most families money. I am pleased that none of the food from the market will be wasted. One of the nicer things about being retired and not having small children underfoot is that it is possible to do all these frugal things in spite of the time they take.

Tuesday, we worked quietly including me making two loaves of pumpernickel bread for Dick. I do love my kitchen aide. It kneads the bread so well and these loaves were my best pumpernickel loaves to date. We took a long walk along the creek crossing the pine ridge trail and checked out the progress of construction in the upgrading and expansion of beach lake. They dug out the creek bed to start this vast project, presumably in response to the heavy flooding we experienced this spring but possible as part of the long planned expansion of the beach. In any case, in spite of how the ground has been scraped to widen the creek and clean out the channel, the walk was lovely. We saw so many birds, frogs and there were many tracks of deer and other animals. I hope they decide to make this an official trail because it is an exceptionally lovely walk. We noted once back on the Riverview trail, that the dogwoods and high bush cranberries have turned a deep crimson and brilliant red respectively. Fall colour in Manitoba is a two stage affair. First the ground story turns deep red and then brown, then the upper story turns bright yellow and then it’s gone in days. There is no comparison to the brilliance of purple reds to pale yellow with every shade of fire in between seen in the east. Fall is the time I find myself missing Quebec. Perhaps we can see some of the lovely colour this fall when we get further south depending on when winter arrives and how far east we get.

I noted with interest that the place we stayed at this past winter, Laughlin Nevada, is on the edge of warnings for heavy rainfall. The region was suffering horribly from drought with all the many reservoirs and marches formed on them to collect water suffering. The lake above the Hoover Dam was dangerously low. Two rounds of pacific hurricane rain will no doubt refresh the reservoirs even though the flash flooding will be terrible. I wish I could see those famous flash floods. They don’t happen in winter.

So my plan for the rest of the week is to work on writing. Today Dick has two friends coming for lunch. It’s his turn and they will eat at the Firefly Cafe in the park. And my daughter-in-law called to update me some mail and on my grandson Alex. He is in Navy cadets and working towards earning his uniform. And my son Justin got on to talk to me and thank me for his birthday present. We will probably go into town later today or tomorrow to go for a swim and pick up our mail.

Meals in Jars

This is what I have been busy with this week. Dick and I have continued with our joint book. That is moving ahead. I have also been blogging about being a full timer and handling, or better avoiding, severe weather. This got me thinking again about being stuck somewhere awful, like post hurricane, without access to a grocery store or bank. We normally keep our cupboard well stocked enough that we should be able to last for three days just on what we have. Problem is, I am concerned about what if it was longer than that? Our friend Jack got stuck for more than three days during tropical storm Deborah. I decided the smart thing to do is have a week of food for an emergency. This should be safe, easy to access food that requires a minimum of cooking, just in case.

I looked into MRE (military style ready to eat meals). I decided not for me. They are insanely expensive and don’t look very appetizing. They also seem a bit silly. Honestly, do I really need to keep dehydrated prepared military food? We will never touch them and in 25 or 10 or whatever years we will just toss them. If life as we know comes to an end then a few MREs are not going to help. We old people are the first to die. Military MREs for us are just crazy. If things get that bad I think, I would prefer dying of starvation.

I then considered making my own version of MREs. I started with menus for homemade MREs that are based on ready to eat combos of stuff like raman noodles and package entres. One look at the salt levels and the other gunk in those turned me right off. Hubby dearest pointed out that the portion sizes are also very small.

The next possibility is making my own MREs from scratch. Which begs the question of storage in what form? We live in a travel trailer. Wight and storage are always at a premium. I usually have at least one or two frozen meals for those days I just don’t feel like cooking. Problem is our freezer space is severely limited. I then did a general search and came across a bunch of recipes for “meal in a jar”. These come in two types. Type 1 is a set of dry ingredients that altogether make up a whole meal if you just add the liquids, water eggs milk ect and cook. Those are actually a great idea and I may try some yet. But what really caught my eye was home canned meals. At our elevation anything like a meat stew has to be cooked for an extended period at 10 pounds pressure or risk getting botulism. As luck would have it, it’s also canning season and Canadian Tire had a pressure cooker and canning supplies on sale.

I used to have a pressure cooker. It was big clunky thing that with an old fashioned gauge and weighed a ton. When I sold it at a garage sale to a Hutterite woman, I thought, good riddance. I do know how to use a pressure cooker. I did pressure canning years before in the days when I had a huge garden and very little money. Pressure cookers have improved a lot since those days. One nice thing it this pressure cooker is not a heavy cooker. It’s startling lightweight aluminium. I also found another nice little addition to the canning hobby during my shopping. I have a nice twelve quart stackable holding case. This will give me the stability and protection for the jars that I need so that they travel well. Overall weight is tolerable.

While shopping I found some 30% off chicken breasts on the bone in a large package. I stripped the meat off and put it in smaller portions of meat for stir fry and future dinners. All the bones and scraps I collected in one container for soup. I also searched the supper market for good quality fresh veggies in season and low priced. I walked away with green peppers, celery, spinach, carrots, and then there were a bunch of green onions from what is left of my pot garden. This morning I chopped veggies, and chopped and chopped and chopped again. One bowl of chopped veggies went back into the fridge for stir fry supper. The rest I used to make enough chicken soup with tons of fresh veggies to fill my small crock pot and a single one quart test jar. The pressure cooking is currently hissing and spitting its way through the seventy minute high pressure cycle for killing botulism. One part of chicken soup will be for eating tomorrow when the temperature is supposed to be cold. The other will be frozen for future use. And I will have one sealed quart chicken soup that will require only reheating and will keep for about one year.

The plan is I will keep making soups and stews and each time add more quart jars until I have twelve jars in my container. I will then have good food, in a convenient form, made the way I like it, in storage just in case we hit a hurricane or blizzard and we’re stuck unable to get out. And as long as I keep rotating the jars and keep making more fresh jars as I do, I will also have convenient ready meals for those days I can’t face cooking. And if “life as we know it” does come to end I will have a 12 homemade meals worth eating before the end.

Raising Boys, Lessons I was reminded about this weekend.

Balloon

Grandma how water can we get into the big balloon? Not much more than this I am afraid.

Raising boys is glorious fun. My husband and I raised five of them over the years. We have had many years of quiet since the good old days. This weekend three of my grandsons, ages 9,8 and 6 came to stay while their parents took a much deserved break from parenting for the long weekend. Raising boys is not unlike riding a bike. When you get back on after being off for a while, you’re a bit wobbly but it comes back fast, These are reminder lessons I have had this weekend.

1) Don’t sit down on the toilet without checking first. The world is so full of things and they are so busy that aiming can get forgotten. My husband is the master of the gentle reminder.

“Next time I find pee on the toilet seat I am going to pee there and make you sit in it!”

2) Mind the bacon. Our two dogs greeted the arriving children with pure joy. I suspect it partly that the boys have endless energy for walking and tossing balls. It is also certainly about food, My husband was busy cooking turkey bacon for the youngest but as fast as he cooked it, it vanished. My husband was astonished by his voracious appetite. As we neared the end of the end of package we figured out that the dogs were getting 5/6 slices.

3) Dogs are often more sensible than boys. Fred demonstrated this by refusing to be a party to a grand scheme to use supplemental dog power to achieve rocket speed on a bike using a playground slide to launch.

4) Four days worth of clean clothing lasts only two hours after a rainstorm. There is something about mud puddles that magically draws them to boys. Mud puddles leap up off the road and pathways and splatter unsuspecting boys who are just standing there doing nothing.

5) Stuff spontaneously breaks around boys. Since their arrival I have fixed a screen, two doors and took my gas detector out of the wall in order to reseat it in its holder. And the bikes have needed repairing about every hour or so. Did you know that handlebars come loose when you try to pop wheelies while going down staircases? No kidding? And please don’t tell me any more. I don’t think I want to know.

6) The best grandparents are the ones who have a well stocked refuelling station open to all boys who arrive without questioning if they are related or not. Essential equipment for such refuelling includes hot dogs, hamburgers, drinking boxes, cookies, rice crispy squares, orange and water melon slices and for the weird kid, raw broccoli. Those little cereal boxes that you can slice open and eat from are a special bonus. The cereal makes great bait for gopher traps. You don’t need to stock up on water. There are faucets all over the campground to drink from.

7) Boys are tougher than they look so if they fall, just turn the other way, count to ten and then only react if there is blood, howling, bent bones, or silence combined with lack of movement. A warning about not doing something like leaping from wet log to wet log, or using the back of a park bench to practice balance beam tricks, may or may not result in sensible behaviour. That will depend on how hard the previous landing was.

We enjoyed two “firsts” that rightfully belong to parents but we got to have them since we were acting in loco parentis. Training wheels make it very hard to bomb up and down on a campground’s gravel pathways with other kids. So the training wheel came off and after a few runs with Grandma beside the bike, and some falls, and a few tips from Grandpa on steering, the youngest is now proficient on a two wheeler, even on gravel and can easily keep up with the pack. We had a rainy day and we decided to go into the city and swim since the beach was too cold and miserable. The eldest needed only a little lesson on front crawl breathing and a lot of encouragement and he succeeded in demonstrating to the lifeguard that he could swim an entire length of the pool. This earned him an orange wrist band and access to the deep end and water slide.

It is very nice to swell up with pride as a parent again.