Author Archives: tumbleweedstumbling

About tumbleweedstumbling

I have three blogs, embryogenesis explained, tumbleweed tumbling AND fulltimetumbleweed. I am a scientist, and my husband and I have written a book which was published by World Scientific Publishing in Nov 2016 called Embryogensis Explained. Full time tumbleweed was my first blog which I worked on during five years of living full time in a travel trailer. I have now retired that blog in favour of Tumbleweeds Tumbling since we bought a stick house in April 2015 and are no longer full-time. I have a blended family of five sons and one daughter, all grown up now. I am (step)grandmother to nine boys and one girl. My husband and I have a dog and a cat. We live in Manitoba, Canada, in a 480 square foot house on a half acre of land in the tiny town of Alonsa.

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.

 

Butler Pantry Update – 2

My butler pantry is turning out to be a major project pushing the limits of my carpentry skills but I am having such a blast! Once I got the trap door in, I spent a long time surveying the space and trying to figure out the best use for the planned shelving. I have several specific needs. One I need a place to put a variety of kitchen items that I use rarely but need to keep. This includes things like my husband’s juicer he uses to make fresh apple juice each fall from our apple trees and my lovely big red turkey roaster pan I use two or three times a year. There are quite a few of such things floating about in a disorganized mess on shelves in the basement. I decided on wide shelves around the top that I need a step stool to access but given how rarely I do need them will be fine.

My second need is for more pantry space. Because we live in the country, it is a long way to any grocery store so trips to town are trips to provision and I hardly ever buy just one of anything. I also am a die hard clearance bin and sale shopper. For example on yesterday’s doctor appointment trip I found brown rice flour at half price and I bought all five small bags. Things tend to get buried on our basement shelving. I need a whole range of sizes of shelves so I can see at a glance what I have lots of and what I am getting short on when I look at flyers and plan my shopping trips. I have planned lots of narrow shelves for holding cans and boxes and bottles.

The third need is for a place to store my vacuum and some assorted cleaning aids. They have no specific spot right now. They kind of get shoved into whatever spot they fit and then get tripped over. This is especially true for the vacuum which currently resides in front of my husband’s lab desk. I need to have designated a broom closet space.

My fourth need is a place to hang my indoor light for starting seedlings each spring. The basement is too cold and the space I used last season is now occupied by my husband’s indoor pond scum growing area. The space required is long and narrow. I will need to be able to have space to raise and lower the light. However since it will only be used a few weeks out of the year, I decided to put in a floating shelf so I can use the space the rest of the year for something else. This also means I need a plug. Fortunately the wiring we put in for a second set of outdoor plugs is right nearby so it was trivial to run a wire down through the floor and our family electrician will connect it with a junction box.

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With all those needs in mind I went on a careful measuring binge. I used a level and pencil to mark all the shelf lines I want and then measured again and again and adjusted. One thing I have to do is make sure there is no obstruction to movement up and down into the basement. The closer to the upstairs door, the higher the lowest shelf must go. I also used a nifty on line tool called a sagulator to plan supports and their placements. The result is a mess of lines and notes and crossed out lines where I adjusted the plan. Given all my storage and organizing needs, the space seems to get smaller and smaller. I do have a good plan though.

This also made me realize that I am going to need to put in some lighting so I can see. When the trap door is down and there is no daylight. that space is really dark. This led to a pause in the shelf construction to run wiring for a light. That is when I discovered that the farmer who added the the wall between the stair and the bathroom decided to do so using 2X4s and laying them flat to save space before putting on a 1/2 inch plywood layer on both sides. Very sturdy, of course, but that left me with the need to run wiring through the longer width of the 2X4. This turned what should have been a two cuss job into a seven or eight cuss job but it is done. The result (also waiting for the family electrician to do the final wiring) is in and looks very nice. I’ll be even happier when it has power!

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And I got myself another new tool. It is a fun little thing I saw on a youtube video called a “jig” it makes nifty little sideways holes which look much nicer and work much better for inserting screws sideways. It was extremely confusing to use at first because the directions made no sense to me. However I followed them faithfully step by step and it worked like magic on my very first try. I got a fine hole and used it. Such fun!

The final space is actually starting to look like a real pantry. I tried my vacuum and it sits perfectly in the new space I made for it. I even have one high shelf in place and it is now in use for storing my electric cord. I have a long way to go before the pantry is done but I am beginning to see some real results. I’m looking forward to getting a lot of stuff in my basement off the floor and some walking space and organization created. I must say though, I would not want to make my living doing this stuff. No one would hire me at an hourly wage and if I did it as a contractor I’d starve to death. I don’t move fast.

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Health Recovery Update

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Dick walking at his treadmill desk while speaking to a colleague via Skype. He is now walking one full mile each day and he has lost three inches from his waist. (The painting is one his mother did of him at age 19.)

Last week we drove to Dauphin Manitoba and hubby dearest has his fourth CT scan. He had two while in hospital in June right after his inner right carotid artery dissection with a mild stroke, one Sept 16 and then this new one October 16, exactly one month later as the interventional radiologist wanted. Today we saw our family doctor to hear the news and update on how things are doing.

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The CT scan shows no change in the last month. We were hoping to hear healing but we got stable. However stable is good because stable means we continue on the current course. No risky stent procedure unless he develops symptoms. Nothing getting worse. This leaves us in a holding pattern for now. Most watchful waiting, or as the new buzzword is, “active surveillance”.

We also went over the medications my husband is on and the doctor suggested waiting an additional month before trying to remove another of the three high blood pressure medications he was on after leaving the hospital. The worst side effects Dick had (swollen ankles, being sleepy, sudden exhaustion, sudden scary drops in blood pressure) are mostly (not completely) gone but there have been some up and down fluctuations while tracking his blood pressure. The doctor does not want us to change anything until we have a better idea how getting rid of the third blood pressure med is going by giving his bodya chance to settle down before trying to remove the second one. The blood thinners continue at least until one year past the stroke or the artery has healed.

We are also being referred to another neurologist on an elective basis, just a check in so there is a neurologist in the loop, not because we need anything from him. We will be seeing the same doctor who makes regular trips from Winnipeg out to rural communities. This will save us some long drives into either Brandon or Winnipeg. If we do need to go to Winnipeg for stenting we will have a neurologist there who knows what is going on.

There we are. STABLE. Nothing changes. Nothing better but more important nothing worse. Life will go on as it is. Stable is fine by me. Maybe we’ll get healing next time.

Manitoba Storm

We knew the storm was coming. We knew it was going to be a bad one. We thought we were prepared. It was far worse than anyone thought it would be. I took a video from inside my front door once the storm started. I thought it was bad then. We were soon dealing with 100km/hr wind gusts (62mi/hr) and 100mm (4 inches) of water, mostly in the form of heavy wet snow. It was like a tropical storm with snow instead of rain. Being near to Lake Manitoba certainly didn’t help. Lake effect snow dramatically increased the amount of snow we saw. The flat open lake also meant those north winds came through unabated. It was brutal. We later learned that almost every power pole near the open water was knocked down.

At first it was kind of exciting and fun. When the very solid little house began making a heavy thump noise with the wind blasts, it stopped being fun. The power soon began flickering. It would go off and then come back on over and over again. We could tell the power would soon be going off for real soon so we got ready. I braved the blasting wind and got the generator out and set it up on the porch. Dick is not supposed to lift anything over 9 kilos (20 pounds) so meanwhile he went around unplugging appliances and moving as many things as possible onto one of three back up battery power systems with surge protectors. We fell asleep Friday night to the sound of the wind howling, and snow hitting the window.

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Dick woke me just before 7:00am. The power had gone off at 5:24am. The basement was filling with water. We have a home low on the water table and for a few months each year we live with the sump pump kicking in as often as every hour or so to once or twice a week. During this long dry summer our basement dried out completely. Once the heavy fall rains hit with their multi day/multi inch soaking, the pump started going about every two hours. It was so wet that the Red River Floodway was opened for the first time in fall since they built it in the 60s and that was before the storm. Now with snow falling and temperatures running about freezing, the ground already saturated and more melting adding water each minute we had water was coming in at a steady trickle. We fired up the generator and the pump went to work. We had to keep the pump running at least once every hour or face basement flooding. Our sump pump system is dual pumps. If one broke down we had a back up. I took comfort from that but I worried about what would happen if the generator stopped working. Even as I thought that the generator died. It took me a while to figure out the cap has to be set to “open” so some air can get in to allow gas to drain down. I knew that but not having used the generator since the 2018 tornado I had to figure it out all over again.

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Good thing we had our generator! (Note the chain and lock which turned out to be a good thing to have!) It worked just fine sitting on the deck by the back door. We made one mistake though. I thought we had about three days worth of fuel. I was wrong. We had only about 24 hours of steady running time. We began to worry about running out of gas and we cut down our time to once every two hours. We would empty the sump pit, let the fridge and freezer run until they stopped, run the space heater and make sure my cell phone and Dick’s iPad were charged up and then run the sump again and then shut down. This kept the house temperature at about 14C (57F) and the basement dry. We dressed in several layers and most important, our hats on. You lose the most heat from your head so a hat is an absolute necessity if you are trying to stay warm.

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Initially we had internet but soon that was cut off. The local tower has propane back up for twelve hours but after that, the tower shuts down. Cell service vanished and then the land line was gone. It was scary. The roads were closed all over the province, travel not recommended and my truck was stuck in the garage. I worried a lot about what it would mean if Dick’s artery decided to blow during the storm. There was no way to call for help and no way to drive out. Fortunately he was perfectly fine. Even so, I went outside and shovelled off the front and back steps three times to keep them open. I wouldn’t let him do any shovelling. He did not endear himself to me by pointing out that I am also of an age to have a heart attack shovelling snow. Note to husbands, not something to say, ever! I did heed his words and took only small shovelfuls of the stuff.

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By Saturday midday the worst was over. By evening the snowplow made it through opening the highway. Shortly after that the two front end loaders that clean the town and work for the RM arrived to finish the job in the town proper. We took a walk to look for damage and we saw trees down. We watched the snow removal crews. The snow was so deep even the big front end loaders were getting stuck and having to rock their out of the deep stuff. We checked on our neighbours and they checked on us. Everyone was safe and had a way to keep warm. The snow had the strangest bluish tint to it. I have only seen that color in glaciers before. It was lovely and eery at the same time.

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While we were out walking some strangers drove into town behind the plow. I saw a stranger go into our yard and stop and check out our deck. Good thing the generator was chained up! I had Misty with me so we raced home and the stranger saw me returning with the dog and he took off. I found out later that someone had stolen gas from a neighbour in town. Yes, it was an emergency. Yes, people needed help. However it is not right to just steal from your better prepared neighbours. I was glad I had my dog. She’s a sweet girl but she can look very intimidating. It seems when things go bad, bad people come out as well as the good ones. Was he up to no good or was he just curious? I’ll never know for sure.

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That evening, we settled in happier because the snow had just about stopped even if the wind was still blasting us. I felt frustrated with the lack of power, cell phone service and land lines. We wondered what was going on in the rest of the world. I think Misty picked up on our concerns because she was both much more alert and much more demanding of our affection. Between puppy hugs, I got to finish a novel. I started on the crewel embroidery picture I bought over the summer to have something to do with my hands just in case we had a storm. The cat was also unusually grumpy and demanding. The house was cold so that night he slept under the covers in my bed snuggled up against my backside.

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Sunday morning we got up to find we still had no power. Even in the tornado of 2018 we had not gone without power for as long. Through the night we had taken turns starting up the generator and running the sump pump. The house was cold when we got up and we felt miserable because we hadn’t showered in two days. With the generator we were able to have a hot breakfast with hot tea and coffee and that helped a lot. We then went out to join our neighbours as they started the clean up. Was there a lot of clean up!

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First thing was to get the truck out. It was Canadian Thanksgiving and I was supposed to meet my children and grandchildren at one of my sons’ homes and bring the turkey. My husband said we wouldn’t make it. I got my little electric snow blower to work off the generator and I cleared the drive. The Snow Joe is a brand new toy I had only got on the  previous Friday. I was very happy with how well it worked. Just before we left, we gave the last of our gas to our neighbours who had run out.

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We left for Neepawa and we had our Thanksgiving dinner. We also showered and got cleaned up while the turkey roasted. We bought two 20L jugs for gas and refilled our four 5L jugs and all the jugs the neighbours sent with us. As it turned out, the gas refills could have waited. The power came on just before we got home. Life is returning to normal now. The power is on. The house is warm. Cell phone service (which was never great to start with) is back to its semi reliable state. My landline makes a comforting dial tone when I pick up the handset. A few hours after that, the internet came back. As of this writing, some 18,271 homes are still without power. Crews from Saskatchewan, Ontario and our American neighbours in Minnesota are pitching in to help with the reconnection. 145 homes in the Rural Municipality of Alonsa, my neighbours, are still in the black.

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I learned some important lessons getting through this storm. Mostly we did very well but we did learn of a few holes in our survival plans. We need a lot more gas than I estimated. We weren’t the only ones who got caught without enough gas. Our little space heater is just enough in around freezing weather. For anything colder we will need to have that wood stove burning. We will be bringing in some wood and kindling and collecting newspaper and have the stove cleared and ready to be reattached and start burning now, not before we need it. We ran out of water and if the sump hole hadn’t been filling would have had a problem. As it was, we had no lack of water for the toilet but in winter the water doesn’t run. We also have to be wary of strangers. Some are up to no good. However most people are good. And the real heroes are the people who run the snowplows and get out there to fix those downed utility lines and clear the highways in terrible storms. There are crews of them who are being fed at our town’s senior centre with the kitchen. I have volunteered to help feed these heroes tomorrow. It’s the least I can do.

Update: In spite of the apparent ferocity of this particular storm it turned out to not be a record breaker for our area. Storms with higher winds and more snow have occurred in 1947 and three times in the 1960s. There have probably been other more severe storms prior to that that didn’t make it into the weather records because Manitoba was not really settled by White record keepers until the 1900s. This makes it all the more important to be prepared for extreme weather events because Manitoba is a place of extreme weather, especially extreme winter weather.

Butler Pantry – Part 1

This was not my idea. I got the idea (and the name) from this blog here. A Butler’s Pantry is traditionally a space off the main door preparation area where precious or expensive things are stored and kept under lock and key with the Butler holding the key. I have long chaffed at the empty space above our basement stairs. It was bland, dirty and impossible to reach to clean. Over all, just an enormous irritant in a tiny house where every spot is precious. I decided to try to make my own Butler’s Pantry and make this space useful.

In some ways I had an easier time than the people I got the idea from because that floor level ledge is right beside the outer wall of my little house and three 2X10″ inch wood beams. I used extra long wood screws and four hinges to attach a carefully trimmed chunk of 3/4″ plywood to the outer wall. I then created two 2X4″ supports on the opposite side into another pair of 2X10″ beams using heavy duty lag bolts. The result was almost immediately workable, much to my delight.

The board can go up out of the way to access the basement, or be relatively easily lowered to cover the staircase opening.

The very first thing I did once I had a floor that felt solid enough to walk on, was to finally finally finally clean the entire space. It was dusty and awful and filthy and I had not been able to safely get at it since we moved in. In the process of walking back and forth to scrub the walls and ceiling walls I could feel the 3/4″ plywood board creaking a bit. My next job was to start adding some reinforcements and additional supports. I added some extra 2X4″ supports so the board rests on those instead of all the weight on the hinges. I also added a top rail and a wood blocking bit so it can’t accidentally fall onto our heads while we go up or down. This got rid of the slightly wobbly feel and stopped any creaking. I am going to add some additional cross supports at the ends of the plywood to further stabilize it and maybe add a couple of more in the middle similar to how the original looks but without disturbing my hinges that work just beautifully. I also want to figure out some kind of pneumatic lift hinge support so I don’t have to squat and pull to lift floor out of the way.

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A few things became immediately apparent. I now need to plan the best way to put in shelving for my pantry. I can put shelves into all the spaces above head height as one goes up and down stairs and in that back section. I need to plan what height and depth of shelves will work best for what I want to put in this newly accessible space. I have quite a few items that I need to keep but rarely use. These include my big red turkey roasting pan for company dinners, my pot distiller and my pressure canner and boiling water bath canner. Those can go up high on top. I’d like box for my recycle sorting bag instead of leaving it hanging on the wall. I could really use a broom closet and a dedicated spot for my vacuum.

I also need to add a light. With the board down, the new space is really dark. I am going to add at least one electric plug when I put in the light. I have been thinking this space might work very well for my seedlings in the spring if I set aside one shelf dedicated to that purpose and install my grow light above it. If I do that, I definitely need at least one plug. And of course the entire thing needs priming and painting to match my kitchen. The plywood floor will need some nice cover, maybe some pretty linoleum with tiny flowers or something.

I fell asleep last night planning my shelves and plotting the best path for wiring. I want to have it all figured out by the time we have to make our next trip to a city with a hardware store. That way I can walk in with a list of supplies, stock up, and drive home ready to start. The garden is under the snow now, but I have a brand new project to keep busy with. What fun!