Category Archives: Rural Manitoba

My kitchen cupboard renovation.

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Sometimes I need to go back to old pictures to see how much progress I’ve made because it gets depressing to think about how much work this little house has needed. When we first bought it I could see immediately it was all cosmetic stuff. Everything about the house was solid. What it needed was all “easy” stuff. Paint, new windows, a better kitchen sink. Working our way to getting all the easy stuff for the third summer is getting exasperating.

House

So I stand back and look at the house today and think, well we have come a long way! The exterior is all repainted. The wooden decks were all given a coating of waterproofing stuff. The vegetable garden was rescued. This summer we built a nice little fence outside to create a doggy space. The garden is coming along so nicely. Tending the flower beds is cheap and gives such immediate rewards. If I only look at the outside, the house feels entirely and comfortably mine.

This summer we began tackling the inside. The kitchen is in so many ways the heart of the home. I really wanted my own kitchen space made over the way I like and want it. And so that is where I began the inside.

I went through a whole lot of internal debate about whether or not to raise the counter and whether or not it might just be better to tear out these old cabinets and buy new ones. It certainly would have been easier! (I think.) In the end we simply upgraded the old ones. We did this for three reasons. One, it is much cheaper to repair and repaint old cupboards than to buy all new ones. Two, these old plywood cupboards are far sturdier than anything you buy on the market today short of custom designed solid oak cabinets made the old fashioned way. That would likely cost more than the whole house even if you could find a real old fashioned craftsman to drive to Alonsa to do it. My drawers even have dove tails on the ends! How often do you see those these days? If you have ever lived with pressboard cupboards that start falling apart by the time they are five years old, you know exactly how nice solid plywood can be. These cupboards are as old as I am and they are still working perfectly. Third, call me old fashioned but I really felt the handmade plywood cabinets were integral to the character of this little farmhouse. That went for the lovely old fashioned counter top. I simply don’t like the granite that is so popular these days. Ripping the old cupboards and countertop out and putting in new modern cupboards and counters just would not feel “right”. I was going to raise the countertop but then one of the older residents pointed out that lower cupboards are easier as you age and need a walker or to sit while doing dishes. Since we are hoping this home will be our last until we go into the ground, we need to think of things like that.

Sink

The single most irritating thing about the kitchen was one medium size sink. I like having two sinks. Call me crazy, but a kitchen isn’t right to me without two sinks. Since it is a small kitchen, it took some time to find the right double sink that fit but Home Hardware had it. Now I have a medium sink that is the same size as the one I had before and smaller sink on the side to dump things in when I do dishes and all those other times it is great to have two sinks instead of one.

We added a spray tap that pulls out (what a great new fangled gadget that is!) and a second small faucet for drinking water. We have the most delicious well water you can imagine but it is as hard as anything and so we have a water softener in our basement. But who wants to drink that stuff? For a while we were going outside and getting drinking water from the outside tap which does not go through the water softener. This was fine in summer although I did get some weird looks going out in the morning in my nightgown to get water for my morning coffee. Last fall I then installed a basement tap that allowed us to get drinking water without going outside. It also allows us to drain the system of water before we left for the winter. That was a huge improvement for morning water runs, especially for November when we had snow on the ground. Now we have the deluxe model with a separate tap right in the kitchen.

The other addition was a much needed stove hood. Our house is small and so if you burn something or fry something the fumes fill the entire house really quickly. We also have humidity issues so a way to quickly clear the air is very handy. The new hood (again compliments of Home Hardware) turned out to be a really big job because I had to wire it in. We soon found the charcoal filter was inadequate and we needed a vent to the outside. The precise vent was hard to fine but Amazon provided what I needed to install an exterior vent. Both jobs were successful but many cuss efforts. I also discovered that not everything in my lovely handmade plywoods cupboards was perfectly square so we added “trim” to the “must have” list.

Kitchen Prep

The kitchen in our small house also has few cupboard spaces and unfortunately two perfect good cupboards were inaccessible because one of the previous three owners painted those old fashioned sliders shut. Fortunately, the application of a little superior male intellect from hubby dearest and some more plywood and a trip to RONA for just the right hinges meant the old impossible doors could be replaced with new ones that actually open and close with a touch. We made new doors for that inaccessible set of cupboards over the stove and now I have two new lovely additional cupboards on top.

 

We decided to keep all the original hinges. They are sturdy and working just fine. Plus at an average cost of $5/hinge that was $180 we could use elsewhere. We did opt for all new matching handles. If you look at the picture where I am installing the sink, you can see how we had three different kinds of handles. I found these lovelies on sale very cheaply ($1.50 each) from Amazon. The ones I really wanted with lovely twinned ivy leaves and acorns were $70 each and they were just not lovely enough for that much money. What a difference a coat of paint and all new handles makes! (Thank you hubby dearest for cheerfully joining me in the effort of repainting and being ready to jump in anytime I needed another pair of hands or some brute strength.)

The four drawers turned out to be the biggest nuisance. Drawers have multiple surfaces which means many more sessions of doing a coat, then waiting then applying a coat, over and over again. The different handles meant that I also had to fill the original holes with wood putty and make new holes and then sand. That resulted in almost as many cusses as stove hood installation required.

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I have ordered new curtains in a pretty green and blue plaid to unify the teals and greens. We have a couple of men coming in maybe some time this week (depending on how much time ranching takes up first) to install the last two new windows we need, including the one in the kitchen. (I am hoping for more rain!) And I have to replace the yucky old yellowing electric outlets and face plates with fresh new white ones and then repaint the walls. The walls I am doing in “Alpine Air” the fanciful name for a near to white lightest possible teal.

Our original plan for this summer was repaint the entire interior of the house and install new flooring. I know kitchens are the biggest fussiest job there is but I am beginning to think just getting the kitchen done might be enough for this year. I don’t have an after picture yet because we aren’t at “after” yet. I still have lots of touch ups and clean ups. I can say, the cupboards are done!

“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”

 

 

 

Zucchini in containers.

My husband and I are big fans of zucchini. Our typical breakfast includes fried zucchini, lots of it, with mushrooms, onions and eggs. Naturally, zucchini plays a big role in my garden. I have tried for many years to get zucchini to grow consistently and well. It is not as easy as I thought it would be but this is the second year now we have been enjoying early and great abundant zucchini. So I think I have the knack of it now.

As my followers will recall, we live in Manitoba near the 51st parallel and so we have to adjust our gardening for late and early seasons frosts and occasionally even snow in May. Zucchini are delicate when it comes to frost, and slugs and cutworms love to eat them. After trying for years to get really good zucchini, I finally gave up on growing them in the garden and I switched to container gardening. This way, on nice spring days we can put the plants outside but if we have one of our late May frosts (or even snows) they can be carried inside to warm safety until the cold passes.

Since they are going into containers anyway, it makes sense to start them indoors under artificial lights. I started mine April 15th this year from seed I saved from the previous year’s harvest. I had both yellow and green (actually called “midnight” variety) that grew very well for me. Since we like to eat our zucchini young, that meant leaving some to grow large enough to produce mature seeds. That happened more towards the end of the season when we had so much I was actually getting sick of it.

The zucchini grow quickly. In this image they are only about three and a half weeks old. The tiny tomato plants beside them were started at the same time. Zucchini like rich soil, and they require a lot of water but they also like good drainage. This is why some successful gardeners put them on hills in the garden. I started mine out in high quality potting soil. Zucchini are subject to blossom rot (like tomatoes) so I added extra calcium powder and ground egg shells to the soil. Deeper pots work better in the early stages as the zucchini like to set deep roots fast. Zucchini also like to grow with companions so I start with about six seeds per pot and then reduce it down to two plants per pot once the first leaves are open.

Zucchini also need abundant sunshine and so as soon as possible I put them outside in my little greenhouse. At about six weeks, I repotted them into some large pots I scrounged from the local dump that were originally used for transporting trees, again using the best quality potting soil with water conserving beads and fertilizer. (Pot size is 12 inches (30cm) around and 10 inches (24cm) deep.) I topped up the calcium in the bigger pots as well. I started with six pots going. Four are yellow and two are green. I gave one to my neighbour who has also had trouble getting good zucchini in the past.

Another advantage to getting the plants outside well before it is warm enough for the garden is to let pollinators get at the blossoms. My plants had blossoms by when they went into the big pots at 6-7 weeks and they were soon full of busy bees, especially bumble bees. The plants grew and overflowed the edges of their pots. By June I didn’t have to worry about carrying them inside overnight. I moved them into their own sunny location in the back part of the lawn. The nearby trees provide shelter from the occasionally fierce prairie wind and they are near the rain barrel. Even in these pots they need watering almost every day. They do much better with soft rain water than our extremely hard iron laden tap water.

It is important to pick the zucchini young in order to keep the plant producing more. Last year I noted that the zucchini ran roots out of the pot into the ground and seemed to halt growing for a few days when I moved them. So once they are in their place on the lawn I now try to mow around the pots rather than move the pots to mow. My final tip is that as soon as the first two plants are producing zucchini, put in more seeds near the edges. Allow two of these secondary plantings to reach maturity for a total of four plants per pot. The second pair of plants will take over peak production just as the first set are getting too old.

And we are now enjoying the rewards of my not-too-hard work. It is more about planning than work. I picked my first zucchini last week which is nine weeks after I planted the seeds. Yesterday I harvested four good sized zucchini. Two are yellow and two are green. One of the green ones I made into a layered zucchini vegetable lasagna. (Cooking tip; zucchini have a lot of moisture so I find you need to double the typical cooking time fora lasagna and leave the lid off for the last half of the cooking to make a good texture that is not watery.) The other three are in my fridge and will be consumed soon.

 

 

 

Garden Plans and Other Winter Dreams

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Oh winter, when things are cold, the ground is frozen and one can only dream of summer. (I am spending my winter in Florida so I really can’t complain too much!) And I am dreaming! Oh how I am dreaming. Since my garden last summer was such a great success and produced so much lovely food I am full of dreams of this year’s harvest. Things never come out as perfectly as the retouched garden pictures in the seed catalogues. I don’t care. I enjoy dreaming over them anyway. I made many notes for my failures and successes of last year and my plans are in full swing.  The Canadian dollar has dropped to .69 on the American with the result being all foods in our grocery stores that are imported have skyrocketed in price. And so my Canadian dollar invested in garden seed has the potential to produce food worth a lot more if it comes from the garden making a pay off even more likely.

I purchased a small greenhouse and a plant starting light. If I get even half the plants I normally buy at the nursery that investment will have paid for itself this first year. I have tried starting things from seeds before but they always got spindly and sickly and never amounted to any size worth the fuss. Maybe with lights and a mini greenhouse they will this time.

Last year I had some weed issues. We had a fellow come in with a big tractor at the beginning of the year and he did a fine job working the garden up. I could have used a second tilling before planting but I was too impatient. The garden is only as good as the soil so this year I have done two things. First I made a great big note to till twice before planting anything. I also bought myself a small tiller. I will have the man with the great big one come in to do the first till and then I will my small tiller to do a second tilling as I plant and I will have the new tiller to do the rows in between as well. That should make my life easier and the weeds less trouble.

Worms got my turnip crop last year so this year I will be putting them in a different location, sprinkling the area with diatomaceous earth after each rainfall and picking a lot earlier. I will also try the trick of planting some marigolds in among the turnips. Hopefully I won’t have maggots this year.

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I have on my list saskatoons and strawberries. Getting fruit to grow in our climate is problematic but these grow wild in our area and we love eating them. So it should be possible to have two cultivars that give big abundant fruit planted. We won’t get much this year but the future looks bright. I may have to destroy some of the bushes the previous owner planted that do nothing but look pretty before I can find room but I will. I’ll take a tree/plant that gives me something to eat over one that looks pretty anytime. I may make an exception for marigolds if they keep the root maggots away.

Last year I got sloppy about labelling rows and ended up with rows I knew were beets, turnips and kale but I couldn’t tell which was which. We ate a lot of really great green salad from when I was thinning the plants but this year rows will be properly marked. Plus I am adding some cooking greens that can be preserved in addition to spinach, collard and mustard. If I succeed I will have a little of the south in the north this summer.

Some other notes were to grow cucumbers on tomato cages like my neighbour did with hers to make picking easier, plant smaller amounts but more varieties of herbs and plant more varieties of beans. I have always had bad luck with peas but I think I will try them this year as well. If anyone has a foolproof way to avoid having them turn white and fungus filled peas, I am all ears.

My garden seed list is now at almost $250 the largest part of the seed expense being Saskatoon and strawberry plants, seed potatoes, and other larger “stuff”. Last year I kept careful track of my seed and plant costs and the garden more than paid for itself. In fact, I still have one last lonely container of frozen tomato sauce and some beet/horseradish spread. It makes me wince to think of hitting the send button on that order but spring will come, a gardener’s hope springs eternal, and the winter does end. Those cans of tomatoes look like I preserved the sunshine and warmth of summer.

I would love to hear if anyone else is planning their summer garden and what they are planning.

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50th parallel gardening in the prairies.

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Several thing happened to my garden since my last update. Ten days ago after a week of baking heat, we got nine inches of rain in 48 hours. This was followed by several more days of at least an inch of rain a day. I wish I could complain a lot about this being an unusual year but its not. This is prairie gardening. So in addition to ….long….. summer days, and a short growing season there is insane swings in temperature and water. The long hot days of no rain you can compensate for with a hose and sprinkler. There is nothing you can do about too much rain. Well not quite nothing. I deepened a preexisting trench at the bottom of the slant of the garden to get water to drain a little faster. The trench was put in by the previous owner of this garden patch indicating just how not unusual the situation is.

The result of all the wet meant that the spinach promptly up and died except for the fourth planting that went to seed when it was only five centimeters tall and had maybe four teeny tiny leaves. So the spinach is done for the year. With the staggered planting we had several meals of spinach fresh and cooked but we ate it as soon as we got it so none was put by for later. Note to self, more spinach, less staggering. Radishes, well the last of those are in the picture. And you can see what all the rain did. They split. Same note re radishes. The corn has taken on a rather sickly hue of yellow green and it may or may not recover. And one tomato plant that was standing in water for days gave up and died. It also meant I couldn’t get in to weed for nearly a week. The weeds, being prairie weeds and well adapted to this local environment, took off, well like weeds, with the wet. This is why I didn’t plant any peas. Every year I have tried one of these heavy rainstorms has started the powdery mildew and no peas.

Some thing didn’t care. The beets and carrots did just fine and today I thinned them again. The results are above and represent a meal of baby carrots and beets. The green beans seemed to absolutely love both the heat and drought and the wet. They are in full swing now and we will be enjoying green beans for a while. I don’t seem to have any yellow beans which is strange because I planted both green and yellow bean seeds. I lost quite a few baby bean plants to frost and now I am wondering if maybe it was all the yellow ones. Note to self, next year separate rows, and green beans seem spring hardier than yellow.

The tomatoes are doing very well in spite of one untimely death. They not only have lots of heavy green fruit but they also are still blossoming and we have been enjoying small yellow ones for about a week now. They are beyond delicious and I wish they would hurry up and produce more. The cucumbers took a hit but look better. I have tiny two inch cucumbers. The zucchini responded to the extremes by producing the weird looking ones you see. I think they like wet better than drought though because the weird ones started in the drought and the ones coming up behind these two look normal. The zucchinis are the only thing that has taken over and overshadowed the weeds. We had a huge wind that took out all the sunflowers so they are now lying on their sides and the heads are bent up from the talks at ninety degrees. I think they may still make nice flowers but they look very strange. The lettuce is getting close to bolting but isn’t quite there so we will have lettuce a bit longer. Surprise surprise my experimental spaghetti squash took a great leap up and are now in bloom. They seem to like rain too.

And finally the momma robin has been very busy because the rain caused a huge outbreak of white slugs. Fortunately, the robin is now on her second brood of babies and they are hungry little guys who needs lots of slugs to grow into adult robins. So the rain has been good for her.

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.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/many-veterinary-bills-include-inappropriate-costs-1.1876019

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.

http://globalnews.ca/news/2007592/manitoba-government-plans-to-legislation-to-govern-veterinarian-fees/

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.

Ikea, we love you, we hate you.

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Yesterday was a frenetic day. We left for Winnipeg after getting up at 6:00am. We went to Ikea and we bought a new bed frame, a new table and a bookshelf. The new table is now together and fits exactly right. We have a long extended narrow table that can double as my work space which still leaves room for the door and having a meal. In summer we can open door, which will be essential because the widows are almost all painted shut! The new blinds arrived and I have set them aside for now. The bookshelf is mostly assembled, as you see. It fits precisely in that corner, not blocking the one plug there, or the window. Hubby dearest has begun migrating his few books from our trailer to the house. At this point they should all fit in the one shelf along with my assorted bird and plant identification books. I am very happy with bright cheerful colours. I will leave him to set the heights of the shelves to suit the books.

Putting together the table was a snap. It took me one episode of Law and Order on Netflix. The bookshelf was a quite a bit more of a fuss. I didn’t follow my son’s rules about putting together Ikea.

Rule 1: Don’t let the kids help. That’s his rule. I have no little kids these days but that goes double for cats. If you possess one of those demon cats, do not put all the little screws and bits into a bowl and leave it on the counter. One advantage to Ikea is they give you a chart to count all the parts to make sure you have the right number of everything. This allows you to clean up spilled bits without moving the refrigerator to be certain all the pieces are present.

Rule 2: Read the directions. Read them again and make sure you really really really understand them before you actually do anything. That way you don’t have to take something apart again. Ikea is great stuff as long as you only try to put it together once. Everyone I have talked to who ever took their Ikea stuff apart to move or for some other reason ended up with broken furniture. So one must be very careful. I had to take one side apart and put it back. My own fault. I added glue.

Rule 3: Do not work with a spouse or someone else you do not have a strong stable relationship with. Ikea is a multi cuss job and while it feels really good once the thing is done, I suspect it could fracture an unstable relationship.

I also bought the last of the groceries and utensils I needed to get the kitchen functioning without having to be running back and forth to the trailer and when we pull out with the trailer we won’t need to spend a long time packing and find we have inevitably forgotten something.

I am fretting about money. We made a calculated decision to use our line of credit to finance some of the expenses of the purchase and to pay for the new furniture planning on keeping the costs low being able to pay it off the next month. The old rule about plan your expenses and then multiple by ten apparently works for this kind of situation. Well actually I am only 50% higher than we budgeted and so we will need two months instead of one to get back to debtlessness. I always pay of the credit cards in full each month because they are loan sharks with their interest rates. If I am short, I use the much more reasonable line of credit to pay them off and just spend less the next month. For the past four years we have been debt free and putting aside modest savings each month, not using the line of credit and living below our means. So this really bugs me. I just hate using the line of credit. I know that short term using it will save me money to use that line of credit because our savings are locked in and there are tax penalties if we take money out early. I still really hate owing anyone money. I decided to make due with the chairs we borrowed from the cabin and get the ones that match the table when the line of credit is paid off. That offset the cost of the big dehumidifier we pick up next week from Sears. In the meantime, I look at those ugly vinyl and chrome chairs and with the hideous floral pattern and think debt and say out loud “They are vintage!”. Thank goodness there aren’t any more major expenses coming. I have to finance planting the garden but gardens usually bring in more than they cost several times over so that is an investment not an expense.

Yesterday we closed the frenetic day by visiting with my kids and grandkids. It was wonderful. I felt very loved and matriarchy. I have wonderful kids who have grown up to be fine adults. And in addition to some thoughtful gifts, I got a big hanging basket of flowers from Superstore for spending more than $250 on groceries on Mother’s Day. One of the gifts I got was two hooks for hanging plants so we are good to go. And two kids asked me to plant kale. So kale is now on my seed list.

Thinking about utility instead of conformity.

I was visiting websites about tiny houses and I realized we had created a bad situation simply because I was not thinking about utility and lifestyle and I was thinking about conformity to some magazine standard of living. I had put the couch in the living room and the husband in an office/work space in the back bedroom. That’s very proper. But the office space in the back bedroom does not have a nice view. That’s where the trailer goes.

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There were other issues. The big futon overwhelms the tiny living room. The dogs like to be beside their master. Fred in particular hates to be stuck in the back room so he took to ignoring his bed and lying in the middle of the main room near the fridge where he can guard everything and trip anyone moving anywhere. The cat was unhappy. So after some thinking about what we actually use space for, rather than what the magazine standard is, I moved the husband to the big double window where he gets a nice view and lots of light. I changed his office space into our spare room/storage room and filled most of it up with the futon/couch. I also solved a problem of where to store my brooms and such and where to hang coats because now they go in there. What I had mentally set arise as “his” closet is now the broom closet/winter clothing storage/coat closet. I moved the table to beside the kitchen counter where I like to be anyway, and the dogs out to living area. Fred now lies near the table but not blocking traffic flow. The futon/couch is now in it’s own space and not overwhelming the living area. Since the main purpose was to be a guest bed anyway, and maybe a good place for a nap or to sit and read, it is also in a better location for that. It looks so much smaller in that room! If we decide we must have television we will put it in that room too.

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When we first got the house we walked around and I was saying, we need to repaint and put in all new flooring and we need to rip out baseboards and and and ….. until Dick put his heels down and said No! We had agreed before buying the house that we would not do any major work on the house that was simply cosmetic and thereby create cosmetic debt. We are retirees on a fixed pension income and the last thing we need is debt for cosmetic reasons. We must put in one new window and the exterior paint is peeling so that simply HAS to be done this summer. The flooring in the house is old, circa 1960s and tired looking. But it is perfectly sound with no lifting to trip over and no structural issues. The painting inside is fine, not my colour choice, but good enough, especially after some elbow grease removed most of the marks (I do love that Mr. Clean eraser!) and lightened the whole thing place by about ten shades from dingy yellow to a nice bright white/cream colour. So we decided to wait on repainting the interior and putting in the new flooring.

We have concentrated our spending on needful things instead. We have very nice screen doors but they had no safety springs or pull back thingies. The wind would catch them and slam them hard. We bought that door hardware and installed it ourselves for under $75. We have replaced one door knob, the one that half the town had a key for. Again a do-it-yourself installation meant under $80 for a hefty grade two lock. (I have to wonder if we really needed it done since half the town had a key and no one came in uninvited but being city folks that change made me feel more secure.)  There hasn’t been a key to the front door in years so it can wait.

I spared no expense on two heavy duty handrails for the bathroom/shower because that is a safety issue although I will confess those are also from the Sears Clearance catalogue at a very good price ($56 total with taxes). While preparing to install the safety bars I found a nice surprise underneath the ugly painted tub surround that is all stained and disgusting, We have lovely pearl and white bathroom tiles, I mean nice enough for Martha Stewart. I unbent on the no cosmetic only spending rule by $25 to get paint stripper and grout cleaner. With more elbow grease we should have a lovely bathtub instead of the mess we have now. Whoever put those tiles in did it right. These are old fashioned properly grouted tiles solid as rocks. I couldn’t resist doing one area just to inspire myself. That rest of that job will wait until it warms up again and we can leave windows and doors open. Even though I found a “green” nontoxic paint stripper (on a relative scale I am sure) I don’t need to induce an asthma flare when I have been doing so well.

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We are buying some new furniture (the Ikea bed for example) but we picked up our new mattress at a thift store and saved ourselves about $1000. That was a lucky break. They had just put a brand-name mattress in like new condition out for sale when we were in there. I jumped fast on that deal! I do have all new appliances, but that is because of a major store closure in Canada and they were throwing out all the floor models and they had the cords cut off to discourage thievery. My frugal daughter and her about to be laid off coworkers were permitted to take any they cared to since they were on their way to the dump anyhow. The result is I got a new combination Hoover floor cleaner/vacuum, blender, food processor, microwave, toaster/cenfection oven, Keurig, toaster, tea kettle, and crock pot for the cost of nine new electric plugs, some wiring and several hours of multiple cuss work. Even that we saved a bundle on by buying extensions cords from Dollarama and using those for most of the wiring. My daughter’s friend is an electrical engineer and he made sure we did it properly so we wouldn’t electrocute ourselves or burn down the house. I have a new skill now too.

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But I don’t want to live in a trash heap either so after much consideration I decided half the blinds are good enough and will do. Half are in need of replacement. and a valance covers a multitude of sins. The Sear Clearance clearance catalogue had pretty valances for $8.00 so I bought enough for all the windows. They make such a nice homey touch in line with the current paint job and at $8.00 each I won’t mind replacing them later when we do get to repainting. (More curtain rods on the shopping list.) The same clearance catalogue produced four new blinds for the blinds that are beyond help for $14 each. I can use the rejects for spare parts for the ones that are working. Window covering issue solved for $200 except for the four curtain rods I still need. I ordered two extra valances that I can drop the hem on and they will also fit our door windows which are currently bare. I have decided those need covering after one of neighbours peeked in while on perfectly legitimate business at the door. I was on the way to the bathroom in bra and panties. I’m not sure who was more startled but he ran away and went red as a beet when I ran into him at the post office. I acted like nothing had happened and he eventually stopped blushing.

The table we brought from the cabin is no longer a good fit. It is too big and blocks the door. Ikea has a solution we will pick up tomorrow when we go visit the grandkids, along with bookshelves and the new bed. I now have two empty spaces I didn’t have before. I will leave those empty until we determine what we need that should fill them. Meantime the dogs can use that space.

SAM_5552 SAM_5553And a funny bonus. In the middle of all this I dug out the cat toy that was still in the trailer and put it into the spare room. Lot’s of space there now, and easy to kick out of the way if we do need to be in there. The poor cat was overjoyed! I had no idea how much he loved that silly toy until I saw his reaction when I set it down. You can see him playing very happily with it. Here I had been attributing his sour mood to the change and all he wanted was his beloved play toy. Poor kitty. I now have a happy well adjusted cat (as cats go).