Monthly Archives: November 2019

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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Full Winter Has Arrived

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Full Winter requires a definition for non winter people. Full Winter means that outdoor temperatures stay below freezing at all times. Snow that falls stays on the ground except when it is really cold and it starts sublimating. We actually don’t get a lot of snow in midwinter when it is really cold because it is just too cold to snow. We get the most snow in fall and spring. It’s dark when we wake up and dark when we sit to eat dinner. I bought artificial lights for my poor houseplants or they just won’t make it.

Full Winter means you do not go outside without first donning a heavy insulated winter coat, winter boots, mittens, hat, and something to pull up over your face when the wind blows. The hat is the most important. I like face warmers myself but lots of people use scarves or balaclavas. Exposed skin can freeze in minutes, even seconds in real cold. Indoors, multiple layers, especially long johns and undershirts are required. I add a fleece vest. Most people from the south don’t realize this but jeans are very poor winter gear. The cotton is thin. The wind goes right through and jeans wick off heat when they get wet. I only have jeans on over thermal long underwear. Full Winter means before you come inside you stomp your feet and bang your toes against a door jam to get the snow to fall off. If you track it inside it melts and makes puddles. Also the sweat from your feet makes the inside of your boots damp so you have to make sure they can dry out before the next use. You can always spot a fake winter scene in a movie or TV show by exposed necks, no hat and no pause to stomp away snow in the door. John Snow and his family was not well dressed for winter in spite of the furs.

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Full Winter with small children can be amusing. I recall it taking me twenty minutes to get three little ones dressed, out into the car, safely strapped into safety seats not designed for bulky winter outwear. That’s actually a good thing because full winter also means you start the vehicle and let it warm up for ten or fifteen minutes before you drive anywhere. So you dress yourself, run out, start the vehicle, run back inside and get one child and carry that child to the vehicle, strap the child in, run back and get the next one, strap them in and then get the last one. Whoever invented the remote start deserves sainthood. Oh and I learned it is very important to make little kids use the washroom before you start winter dressing. I recommend delaying toilet training until spring. An accident in a snowsuit is a disaster.

Full Winter means safety in the cold. You do not drive somewhere unless you first make sure someone knows you are going and that someone will notice and miss you if you don’t get where you are supposed to get to. This is especially important on rural roads with low traffic because it is all too easy to disappear into a snow covered ditch and get stuck. Obviously, one also has a fully charged cell phone but some areas where I live have no service. Full Winter also means checking your winter emergency kit for you vehicle in case you get stuck overnight. Aside from some obvious things like a shovel and a scrapper for your window, a good safety kit also includes extra blankets to stay warmer than just your winter gear. (Winter gear is designed for when you are moving about and will not be warm enough to sleep in.) Also a heat source is required. A couple of candles provide enough heat to keep you alive if you have proper winter gear and blankets. Those nifty little chemical break and heat packs for hands and feet are in my safety kit. Also some high energy snacks will help keep away the hypothermic stupids. Hypothermia clouds the brain and results in stupid decisions like trying to walk to get help. In the cold, never leave your stranded vehicle. That is how people die. Cars are easy to spot by passerby searching for you. A person just walks until they get cold and then sits down for a rest and some farmer finds you the following spring when it is time to plow.

Full Winter means your food preferences change. Instead of salads and spicy heat that actually cools, hearty soups and stews sit better. Cold drinks are not as appealing. Tea and coffee are favoured. When you are cold, you have an urge to eat, especially fatty and sweet. Plus it’s such a nuisance to go through the whole procedure of getting dressed that you just do not get out for a walk as easily. The result is you put on weight if you are not careful. Extra vitamin D to chase away the winter blues is a good addition to your life. The sun shines a lot in winter during that very short day and it is lovely but doesn’t warm and most of your skin is covered so you just can’t make enough vitamin D.

Full Winter is not all bad. My cat seeks my company, my lap, my warm bed and he rarely goes outside. In summer he is outside for hours at a time and I can almost forget I have a cat except for making sure he comes in each evening before dark when the coyotes roam the town. He gets bored indoors and so he even invites me to play with him like he’s a kitten again. The dog stays closer as well and actually plays with her ball inside instead of barking at nothing outside. The animals sleep curled in balls often with their tail over their nose.

Full winter is when you can really get to know the wildlife in the area because you can find tracks. This morning I found my deck covered with fresh snow and dozens of bird tracks. I had no idea birds like to walk on my deck. Because the trees are bare you can see the deer and bunnies and catch a glimpse of an illusive cougar or moose. And you don’t need to worry about bears in the bush. The bears all go to sleep. There is a cold beauty to winter. The snow sparkles. The ice tinkles. The night sky is spectacular in a way it never is in summer. The stars twinkle more and the aurora flashes and dances more in the cold. There is a blanket of quiet over everything.

Full Winter is when things are slower on the ranches and farms. The land is asleep. The cattle are nearby and need regular tending twice a day but in between chores, there is time to go to town and sit over coffee and visit or play a game of whist or do some curling. Social life really picks up in the winter. You go to the arena or community centre and hear that stomping to clear the snow away and look over and there is an old friend you did not see all busy summer who can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a long chat.

Full Winter means cocooning. You wrap yourself in a warm throw and sit in a rocking chair (assuming the cat lets you take his seat) to watch TV or do a little handicraft. I like to read the seed catalogue. My garden is never so perfect as when the seed catalogue arrives and I am planning for spring. There is a special pleasure that comes from being warm under your blankets in bed. You fall asleep to the sound of the furnace kicking in while outside the wind is howling. Cozy is the word I think of then. Cozy can be very nice.

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Old Lamp Shade Now New Light

This was fun and easy project! It was well worth taking a break on our pantry. The problem we were facing is the there is no light over our kitchen table. This is not an issue during the summer because enough natural light comes in that we don’t need extra lighting. However in November and December, the days get really short and after daylight savings it is dark by supper time. It will remain dark well in January. We decided we needed another light.

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There were problems to solve. There is no way to get a new fixture put in there. That meant the only feasible way to hang a light was a swag lamp. I love Tiffany style lamps. They are unbearably expensive though. I was overjoyed when I spotted a Tiffany style lamp for my kitchen in a second hand shop the summer we bought the house. I replaced the old bare bulb with this pretty lamp and it has brought me joy ever since. (Hubby dearest helped and then he cleaned it up for me.) We decided to try the second hand shop again.

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Two Tiffany style lamps was too much to be true. We did not find another one. We did find something else fun and different. It was an old lamp shade made with brass and green glass. The glass was etched with a tall grass design that reminded us of the big blue stem of the tall grass prairies. The brass and the shape of the glass makes it blend with the ceiling fan in the living room area and the glass panes and chain makes it blend with the Tiffany style lamp in the kitchen so it feels like it fits right in. The total cost was under $30 with the hardware we bought. IMG_1849

I ordered a swag lamp conversion kit from Amazon and it took a couple of hours of fiddling but we soon had our new swag lamp for our kitchen table. I left the chain long and looped it twice so that if we are working on something that needs lots of lighting we can lower the light and get it. Otherwise it nicely shines on the table when we eat. Tomorrow is the switch back to standard time. That means sunset by 5:00pm and darkness at supper. We have our new/old light just in time.