Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Ceiling Fan is installed!

After finishing up the installation of the solar panels I am no longer intimidated by electrical stuff. You need to treat it with respect but it’s not that hard. The ceiling fan was a bit more work than the plain switch of the fixture I did earlier. I started as I did with the solar by researching the topic and watching on line videos that explain how to do it. I also read the manual, all of it, very carefully three times before I felt I understood it all. I took out the assorted parts and examined them to make sure I could match all the parts to the diagram well before I started doing anything. Then I slept on it. There were some extra considerations.

The fan weighs 23 pounds and requires a mounting/outlet box that can take 35 pounds of force. Fortunately a bit of snooping on line and I learned that whoever wired this house a long time ago did everything the ultra sturdy old fashioned way. I already had a steel outlet box and that box was bolted to the ceiling joists on two sides and it had two secondary 2X4 pieces attached to the joists forming a full box around the outlet and then those sides were also bolted. Some on line research and I found that a properly installed steel box outlet bolted securely like mine was can take 50 pounds and so not only could it take my 35 pound fan but I had an extra 15 pounds of safety margin. I didn’t have to change the outlet box. If you have a newer home, especially one with a outlet plastic box, you have to be much more careful about that and you will need a proper outlet box designed specifically for ceiling fans.

The fan motor is installed first and, while hanging from the attached safety cable, has the wiring connected. That was a bit tricky because in my house the old wiring was red for live and black for neutral and plain copper bolted to the outlet box itself as ground. The new fan had black (fan motor) and blue (light module) wires to connect to live, white for neutral and green for ground. In order to be sure I had all that right I had to research old and new wiring and use my handy dandy volt meter but I did.

The manual offered multiple wiring options. If I were installing the fan into a new house and had easy access to the inside of the walls I would have used the configuration that allowed the thing to be attached to a fancy multi use wall plate so one could turn the lights off and on and dim them and turn the motor off and on and set it all from the wall. Since I didn’t want to tear the walls up I just installed it so the light switch provides on/off power and we have to set the fan speed, direction and lights using the pull chains. And no dimmer for the lights. They go on or off. I can live with pulling chains myself. Also as your eyes get older you enjoy dimmers less and less. I really can’t recall the last time I used a dimmer switch to do anything but turn the light on as bright as possible.

After I bolted on the decorative cover I ended up with this:


Once I had reached this point, I decided to quit and take a break.

The next day I tackled the rest. It was time consuming but not difficult with the advance planning. I attached the fan blades, then added the light mount, and then attached the light mount and put the wiring together. That was very easy. The ends were all designed to fit together with a snap and no splice and dice.

The last step was to install the glass light holders, secure them, and then put in the bulbs. And then the real test. I restored power and held my breath. No explosions, shorts or crashes. Instead the motor began turning and the lights went on. It worked perfectly. All four speeds for the fan, both directions and the lights work. No wobble, no whine and no buzz. This is a very nice fan, the quietest I have ever had. it is soundless.


And there we are. Before.


After. Cost of the fan $65 from the Renuzit Habitat for Humanity and my time, Three hours for background research on line, about one hour for the outlet box research and inspection, two hours to the first part of the installation, and an hour and half for the rest.


A thing of beauty is a joy forever, or at least as long as we live here and the fan works.

Listen to the locals

One of joys of having our own stick house again is that I can have a proper country garden. I have gardened for many many years including three years of subsistent living where the only vegetables I ate were those I grew myself. The place I did that gardening was near lake Alma Saskatchewan only a few kilometres from the American border. Lake Alma is 49.11N. Our new home is in Alonsa and it 50.79N or ten degrees more northern. It works out to about 220 or so km (120 miles further north). What a difference ten degrees makes. In Lake Alma the rule was no matter how nice the weather, you don’t put in your tomato plants until after the Victoria Day weekend which is the third weekend in May. There will be a late frost that will kill them.

I purchased my tomato plants five days after that weekend and it was a couple of more days before I actually got them in. I did ask the locals. They looked dubious about planting now and two said they wait until June 1st.  One told me she waits until she sees the big northerns leaving the area. Big northerns? You know, the really large fat Canada Geese that don’t nest around here but do hang around for a while in May and then go north.

My tomato plants were already a bit spindly and the weather was a lovely 30C and there was no forecast for cold in the long range and so I didn’t listen and I put planted the tomatoes anyway. If I still had my little portable green house I would have waited until June 1st. But that’s gone and I didn’t feel I could justify replacing it this year with all out other expenses.

The inevitable happened. We had three nights of bitter cold with the temperature going down to 0C, -4C and -2C (32F, 25F, 28F). I did my best for those poor tomato plants. I watered them thoroughly and then I covered them up late in the day before the heat had time to dissipate. They came through just fine on the first night but the deep cold was beyond a light frost and into a killing frost and covered or not they got hurt.

None are dead. The damage ranges from slight to nearly catastrophic.SAM_5584

This Plant should recover and be minimally set back. Damage was limited to the edges of some leaves but the apical meristem (budding area) is undamaged. It even had a blossom on it which was undamaged. Interestingly enough it was the old fashioned yellow boy, a heritage variety of yellow tomato.


This plant is marginal. It is not dead but it has frozen on the meristem. If I leave it, it will come back from the sides but be severely set back and lose a month or more of production in our short season. That is enough to mean it won’t produce much before the first killing frost we normally see by the end of August. I can only hope to get green tomatoes that will ripen indoors or can be converted to vegan mincemeat.


This one is most likely hopeless. All the leaves were frozen including the meristem. It was a fancy new high yield hybrid too, and so I tried it but bought only one. I prefer those good old heritage ones which always seem to do better in a northern garden. The only way it will come back is from the bottom and it will take almost as long as starting from seed which is not long enough up here in the north to get tomatoes. I will buy more tomato plants and replace the two hopeless ones and add two more to make up for the marginal ones but leave them in. To try to stay on schedule, I’ll buy some bigger plants in larger pots for the replacements. And I won’t be getting another fancy hybrid. I have been told there is a great greenhouse just a few kilometres away.

And as I was putting away all my blanketing and tarps, flocks and flocks of hundreds of big fat northern Canada geese flew over honking happily. Next year I will get a replacement for that little greenhouse I used to have and the tomatoes don’t go in until June 1st or I see the big northerns moving on.

New Kitchen Light

SAM_5580 This is the old ceiling light. As you can see it not only is ugly but it doesn’t give enough light. SAM_5579 I changed the light with Dick’s help and then he carefully and meticulously cleaned each of the thick glass panels.The long narrow clear glass above the blue is cut like a prism. SAM_5581 Our new light with two new bright LED lights that give off 400lm each and use only 7 watts. Cost $40 from the Renuzit Habitat for Humanity Store (plus $5 for each bulb) and two hours of our time. Lovely! Next job the ceiling fan for the living room area.

The Country Vet Visit – Warning RANT.

Sky rocketing veterinarian fees are a personal bugaboo of mine. When I first got my dog Trusty ten years ago we had a long time vet of many years who would do a checkup give shots and send us home with heart worm medication for about $120. When he retired a bright eyed new graduate came in and bought up his practice. I was given no warning or “heads up” about the new guy. He just walked in, announced the older guy had retired and he started examining my dog. This kind of bugged me but what can you do in such a situation? The new guy then announced we had to do a blood test to ensure that the heart worm medication had worked because if we gave heart worm medication to an infected animal it could be dangerous. He also wanted to test for lyme disease and some other stuff. He also ordered a fecal smear to check for worms. He then checked the dog’s teeth and told me she had tarter and he gave me a tube of fancy toothpaste and a brush and told me about his special food for dogs that was so much better than anything else out there.

We left and I went to pay. Imagine my stunned surprise to discover that the bill was over $400! $14 for the lyme disease blood test, $17 for the heart worm test, plus a $25 technician fee for each test and a fee for the blood draw. The tooth paste was $16 and the brush $6. The fecal smear $29 and so  it went, one charge after another. Not only that, but the charge for the rabies vaccine was more than double what the previous vet charged last year! I protested.

After I returned the tooth brush and tooth paste and protested the tech fees (come on, I did this kind of test myself as a biochemist and it’s a kit a kid in grade school could do and certainly not worth $25 of tech time) I got the bill down to $295 and that with a lot of grumbling and complaining from the new guy about the cost of veterinarian school and maintaining a practice. I left feeling like I had been cheated and I did not go back.

I wish I could say I found a great vet. I didn’t. For the next few years I had a different vet each check up and every single one of them would give me one price on the telephone call to check and then hit me with multiple additional fees for additional tests that were in my opinion of questionable value. I even walked out of one office after the guy told me the heart worm blood test (at $49) had to be done or he would not prescribe me any more heart worm meds even though I had specifically asked about skipping the test and the fee before walking in. He threatened to charge me the no show fee for walking out and called me a “bad doggie Mom”. Screw him!

I hate the term “Doggie Mom.” They are dogs, not my babies. I keep dogs for their company and for the job I require of them which is barking a warning and protecting me from strangers. I expect and demand a certain minimum level of good behaviour and I enforce that expectation. They get dog obedience training, puppy classes for socialization. They get decent food, not the corn crap from the cheap shelf, my affection and good health care at need but they are not my children! They rank somewhere below children and above my truck in my life. I simply don’t care to be a “doggie Mom” for good or bad. I absolutely detest a vet visit that feels like I’m taking my child to the paediatrician. In a world where children starve to death and die for lack of clean water, there is something positively grotesque about such a vet visit. I agree with the Pope that we spend too much on our pets.

The whole teeth cleaning thing is another huge money maker for the city vet. I foolishly agreed to let my cat have his teeth cleaned. Sure $200 for the teeth cleaning that this vet quoted me was reasonable. Imagine my surprise to find there was the $110 fee for an IV in case Klinger had complications, $130 fee for blood work up to make sure his kidneys and liver could handle the anesthetic (you’ve got to be kidding me!) and the warning that if the job turned out to be more than a simple cleaning there “might” (translate to will absolutely certainly) be additional charges. I absolutely insisted we skip the IV and blood work. I got the bad cat mommy lecture but they did go ahead anyway.

I arrived to find they had extracted a tooth (another $110) and they sent me home telling me he would be fine without extra pain meds (which I would have happily paid for). The poor cat was in agony by midnight and everything was closed except for the downtown emergency clinic. I called them but they would not let me drive over and just purchase some pain meds. They insisted Klinger had to be brought in and given a full check up ($80 for the late night visit fee, $40 for the emergency clinic charge, $40 for the vet check) and then and only then could he get pain meds. What a racket! I decided another drive and vet visit would likely be more traumatic than the pain Klinger was already in. Don’t tell me these vets care about animals before money because they certainly don’t. No pain relief for the cat unless Cat Mommy first pays hundreds of dollars extra up front.

The same vet that treated Klinger also told me Trusty, my English Bull Terrier, needed her teeth cleaned as well. I bought a tarter cleaning device and did it myself with a follow up of some big bones and some chewie things. This is why you need to train your dogs, so you can get the dog to stand still for a tooth cleaning and you don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars to rip off artists to get rid of tarter. I have paid less to get a dentist to take care of my own teeth!

A rural vet came to Alonsa last Saturday to do a rabies vaccine/parking lot visit. Oh, what a refreshing change that was! He pulled up in his car and about 100 people showed up with cats and dogs for rabies shots. His assistant asked a few questions. “Any health concerns? What shots does the animal need? How much does the animal weigh? How old is the animal? Do you want deworming? The vet had an assembly line going. Quick check of the dog, prepare the needles, stick stick, assistant passed out medication, next pet. Now THIS felt like a proper vet visit. Mostly he was pressured for time because he had to stop in to check a horse he had treated the night before and he’d had an emergency surgery in the morning and it kind of set his schedule off.

I asked about heart worm medication since I do think that is important, especially since we travel in the south in regions where heart worm is endemic. Oh wonderful news! He gives the six month shot. The six month shot is something I heard about in the USA where our friends rave about it. So cheap and easy compared to the once a month chew tab we were using. (The last city vet said that six month shot wasn’t as good protection and so he insisted on the more expensive monthly chewie treat.) The rural vet asked the weight of the dogs. I told him. He quoted me two prices for the heart worm six month shot. I told him the cat needed rabies and the other shots because even though he is in indoor cat, we travel and I need it at the border. (They have asked on three crossings.) No problem. He quoted me the price too, GST and PST included. The dogs were good for their shots.

I have insisted that a previous city vet give me a vet certificate that is good for more than one year since the rabies shot he gave my dogs was good for THREE years. (I’ll bet that city vet doesn’t leave the box out where people like me can actually read the fine print when he turns his back ever again. That cost him two years of unnecessary vaccinations and since it was right there on the box he couldn’t argue his way out of a three year date on the certificate.) There is simply no need to vaccinate every single year except to fill city vet coffers and pay for vet school and pay rent on the fancy clinic with fine upholstery and gorgeous wall paintings and little paw prints on the linoleum and the “play area” for the waiting doggie parents and their doggie children, and the coffee machine, and the memento photo of Doggy Mommy and Doggy child with the vet’s logo on the whole wall behind you to put in your Doggie Mommy scrap book. I declined to get my “free” photo. Honestly, I have better things to do. (I wish I was kidding. I’m not. The only good thing about that stupid picture was it was “free”, though of course the colour printer was paid for by all the other stuff done to my dog and my pocket book that didn’t need doing.) The real vet, the country vet, overworked and struggling to keep up a schedule, just couldn’t be bothered with all that crap and I admire him for it.

The best part of this parking lot clinic, was once he was done, the amount I wrote on my cheque was EXACTLY, I mean to the penny, the same as the amount he first quoted me. For the first time in eight years I did not get have a vet hit me with any hidden additional charges. The total cost $180 for preventative health care for two dogs and one cat. I might even let this guy call me “Doggy Mommy” except I suspect it wouldn’t even occur to him to say that. We were done in ten minutes and he was on to the next dog. I did not get a huge curly-cued wall certificate of vaccination printed on a background that showed the vet’s office on creamy parchment (suitable for framing) to present to the border guard. I got a little hand written note on a half size page of stationary with date, time and signature, under a plain letterhead with his name and address. This country vet doesn’t even have a logo! Since he processed about 120 dogs and cats in that parking lot I suspect he actually made more money than the doggy paediatrician, sneaky extra fees for doggy mommy not withstanding.

I wondered if maybe I was being a grumpy and cheap old woman. Then CBC did a marketplace special on veterinarian rip offs in small animal practice in the cities and confirmed all my suspicions.

Recently, one of these crooked city vets made a mistake of ripping off a member of the provincial legislature and now the government of Manitoba is introducing legislation to make it illegal for them to slap people with those heavily padded “surprise”, “surprise” bills that a used car salesman would be ashamed of.

Now somewhere out there is a really smart new grad from medical school. He (or she) will open a “no frills” clinic in the city where doggy moms and doggy dads need not apply. He (or she) can tell people what will be charged when they make an appointment and add not one extra test or fee. People will pay only what they expect to pay. He (or she) will not have ten staff (including two to prepare the heavily padded bill), “free” wall logos with pictures, paw print linoleum, coffee, doggy play area, and attendant in the cute little nurse’s scrubs with the puppies and kitties print to escort the proud parents from the beautifully decorated waiting room into the “treatment centre”. I predict the no frills city vet will make a fortune with bulk processing from those us who are decidedly NOT pet parents.

Home Again, Home Again

We are home and back to work on our new stick house. It’s good to be back. The tomato plants, zucchini and herbs are planted and half the seed. It looks like a garden.



The flowers are in the flower bed.


Dick has started digging in the area where the sump pump pump dumps water twice a day or so. We hope to collect the water and have a pond.First we need a hole.


I got some more work on the tiles done. Nice warm day, Fan on almost no fumes and a lot of elbow work.


And I got the two valances rehemmed and I put all the curtain rods up, including the ones for our door windows.

The other nice thing is all the trees have greened up. The grass is think and lovely. Flowers are blooming. Temperatures 29C, (82.4F).

My Present


Well there it is. This lovely antique rocker was a silly splurge. $80 from the Mennonite Central Committee thrift store in Portage and I am in love with it. It fits like whoever made it was built the same way I am. I like to think it was carved with love and affection for a special woman. Maybe babies were rocked in it and knitting for grandchildren  was completed in front of a fire in winter. We really didn’t need to buy it since we are $3000 over budget now, but hubby dearest absolutely insisted I deserve it and how could I argue with such a wise man?

What a week it has been! We have spent the entire week running and shopping. I hate shopping. I do enjoy a good bargain. We went to the local Habitat for Humanity centre because I am cheap. I also like recycling and repurposing more than retail, partly because it satisfies the cheap in me and partly for the earth. We found to lights for the kitchen and living room/work area because the lighting is very poor there in our house. One is a lovely Tiffany style stained glass with double the wattage of our current light ($40) and the other is a ceiling fan still in the box ($65) for the living space. I love ceiling fans because the slow turning is soothing and the movement of air gets rid of hot spots in summer and cold spots in winter. While we were there we also found shelving, a second doorknob for the front door with a set of keys, and assortment of odds and ends at less than half of retail for resolving various small issues. We also picked up the heavy duty 70 pint, can be set to autodrain to the sump pit, dehumidifier ($235 on sale from the Sears Clearance catalogue). We have a small one for the trailer but it can’t even begin to keep up in our basement and we still need it for the trailer anyway. I got more curtain rods, storage containers, shelf organizers for the kitchen, electrical stuff, tape, tools, ect.

I had a box of stuff left at one son’s house of assorted knick knacks of no value except sentimental that I could not bear to part with when we downsized and had no place for in the trailer. The box is now in the truck waiting for the trip home. I also reclaimed a small corner china cabinet that once belonged to my grandmother that my daughter got, and then sold to me a few years ago when she moved to Israel and then agreed to store for me when she moved back and I downsized. The knick knacks can go in there and it can take up one empty corner of my new home. We picked up a painting we had in storage, currently riding on the trailer futon still wrapped. (See the rocking chair picture.)

Yesterday, we rounded out the shopping with a trip to some garden centres. I now have all the plants I need for my garden and seeds, a rake, a hoe, some small tools, and fertilizer and tomato cages. I also bought three flats of annuals for my flower bed and a raspberry bush. Hubby dearest has some plans of his own for the mess the sump pump makes in the yard and we got supplies for those. I closed off the garden sales with an on line purchase of a horseradish root which I simply could find anywhere else.

I also got a visit in with all the grandkids except for the baby who is sick and could land me in hospital again with pneumonia with his baby cold. I got a special big hug from our eldest on a five minute fly by between stores that was heart warming. Spontaneous displays of affection when startled are really the very best. Today is a pause day with nothing special before we head back to Alonsa and home with all our treasures. I plan on sunning a lot and maybe taking a bike ride around the lake. On the way out, we will stop and get two new tires for the trailer and go by Superstore to stock up on a lot of food because we don’t intend to be back in the city until August long weekend.

My trailer is still home but how I miss my little house! It will be good to have the trailer home parked in the stick house home’s drive again. And then back to work. So much to do! Strange how in retirement you end up busier than while working.

Uncle Sam’s Revenge

Snow A favorite topic of American weather forecasters is assorted names applied to weather from Canada. They include “cold arctic air from Canada” (like Alaska isn’t up there too), the Manitoba Mauler, and the Alberta Clipper. Well Uncle Sam occasionally delivers his own wallop to get even and like most things Uncle Sam does, it is go big or go home. The Colorado Low is a perfect example. Here it is lovely May weather in Manitoba and the trees are blooming and the grass is green and the birds are singing happily and preparing their nests. Little goslings faithfully follow mother goose. And then along comes Uncle Sam with his Colorado low to remind us all why Winnipeg is often referred to as “Winterpeg”. So the incoming Colorado low brought us two days of bitter cold, high winds, power outages, road closures, travel advisories, and 10-15cm of heavy wet snow, freezing rain, ice pellets and general misery for man and beast and plant. (That’s 4-6 inches of snow for you Americans who threw out the English King 200+ years ago but insist on keeping his silly measurements system the rest of us discarded decades ago.) My birthday is Tuesday and my granddaughter has hers a few days later so it has become a kind of family tradition to celebrate the Victoria Day weekend with a family picnic and joint birthday party. I cancelled for this year. This is very disappointing for me but inevitable. At least we had a get together with almost all of us for Mother’s Day. I guess Uncle Sam wants to make sure we don’t give up our plans for spending the winters in the southern USA. Snowball

Hubby Dearest prepares to throw a May snowball.