Merry Christmas/Happy Channukah

Many years ago in my past life with a previous husband, I was struggling very hard to cope. It was Christmas Eve and my careful plan was to have a nice Christmas dinner with turkey and all the trimmings at home, open a few presents, and then go to my in-laws for Christmas day. The reason for the two meals was there were certain dishes that were part of my family tradition and they were not served by my mother-in-law. I also loved having leftover turkey to make into a whole variety of special holiday associated dishes such as turkey curry.

At my ex-husband’s workplace they were going to stop work early and then the men would have a couple of drinks and pick up their bonus and come home. My ex-husband promised me he would come home right after work. I hoped he would but I was filled with dread anyway. A few weeks before I had started attending meetings with the friends of Bill W and I had learned a few things there already. Previously I had blamed the bosses at his company for putting out a bottle of Christmas cheer at work. Honestly didn’t they know this was a bad thing to do? With my new friends I learned that the company was not responsible for my ex-husband’s behaviour. He made his choices and he was responsible for his choices.

Inevitably, dinner rolled around and he wasn’t home. There were no cell phones in those days so I couldn’t just call him and ask where he was, not that this would have done any good. I figured I’d wait until 6:30pm and then assume the worse. At 6:25 the wife of one my husband’s workplace buddies, one he often went on long binges with, showed up looking for her husband. I invited her in with her two boys about six and eight years old. She was horribly upset because her husband was missing too. The children were hungry and started crying and the wife stalked about ranting about why oh why was did the company have to ruin every Christmas by getting the men started on drinking.

 

Holiday Depression

I called my sponsor of that time. She told me to go about enjoying the holiday. Feed the children and have a nice evening. Just because my husband was out on a bender didn’t mean I could not enjoy Christmas. And so I did. First I calmed down the poor wife by handing her some eggnog and telling her she and her children were staying for Christmas Eve dinner. I put the food on the table and the hungry crying children soon became the happy stuffed children. With a bit of quick rearranging on my part, I was able to come up with a nice gift for each child. We read the poem “Night Before Christmas” and we watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special while the children played with their new toys. We then tucked them into bed exhausted and happy. The atmosphere felt happy, wonderful and even a bit holy.

The wife and I sat enjoying a glass of red wine by the Christmas tree and we quietly contemplated the lovely lights and shared some laughs. Shortly after 3:00am our men rolled in, drunk as the skunks they were, loudly singing Christmas carols off key and staggering about. As soon they walked in the door the poor wife went from contented tree light watcher to shrieking harridan. They say you can always tell if someone in the family has a drinking problem by watching how crazy their spouse gets and she proceeded to do a very fine demonstration of that fact. Since I had only recently indulged in the same crazies, I simply watched and made some mental notes about how much my attitude had changed. There but for the grace of God went I. Meanwhile my drunk staggered off to bed and fell asleep. I helped them bundle up their weeping frightened boys and they left over my protests because her drunken husband insisted he was capable of driving. I prayed they would get home safe.

Christmas Day dawned and my ex-husband was sleeping off his drunk so the children and I enjoyed the Santa presents and opened our gifts. The drunk finally staggered out of bed about the time I was dressing the kids to go to their grandparents home. He told me he was not going. Tell them he had flu. With my new attitude about making him take responsibility for himself and not enabling him in his drunkenness, I refused but I did not fight with him about it. I did not give me usual lecture about how disappointed his mother would be or how embarrassed I would be or how much he was letting his children down. When all the assorted relatives asked where he was I simply told them he had been out drinking until 3:00am and was too hung over to join us. When they said things like “Why do you let him do that?” I answered honestly and said I had tried everything to get him to stop and nothing I did made any difference. They were free to try for themselves. I then changed the subject and concentrated on enjoying the company of my in-laws and all my little nieces and nephews. I can’t say I had a lot of fun, but my children did and that made it worth it.

I eventually left my drunk, who never did stop drinking and his family who had never stopped blaming me for it. (They now say I broke his heart and that is why he drinks.) I created a new and happy life with my happy nondrinking Jewish husband. There were so many negative memories of Christmas that it was a great relief to simply give it up. When I lit the first candle on the Menorah last night, I reflected on how many wonderful memories I have over my thirty years of celebrating Channukah with him. Virtually every Channukah has been a trauma free event for the entire eight day stretch. My daughter called to wish me a Hag Semeach. She had just come from a wonderful party with her Jewish mother-in-law and we shared some of our favourite Channukah memories. She is young enough that she does not know anything else.

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Now before you think I detest Christmas because I gave it up, let me assure you that is not the case. My neighbours have dozens of Christmas lights and now those new blow up figures that are all the rage. I love them! I attended a community Christmas party Sunday and I wore a silly blinking Christmas light necklace they gave all attendees. I laughed a lot. I enjoyed the music and the food and the wonderful sense of community real Christmas spirit brings. It’s just not my holiday anymore. One of the things I liked best about Christmas before my retirement was taking double and triple shifts so my Christian coworkers could be with their family. It was my way of sharing my blessings.

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About five years ago I was contacted over Facebook by one of those little boys with whom I shared that Christmas Eve long ago. He said it was the best Christmas he ever had as a child. The experience made him determined that no matter what went on in his childhood, he was going to be happy and he and his wife would have a wonderful peaceful Christmas the way I had demonstrated it should be done. He thanked me. This gave me a wonderful warm glow inside. It also showed me yet again how when a child wants to live happy and well, small acts of kindness and good examples from strangers can help overcome a lifetime of abuse and dysfunction. I can not take credit for that evening. My sponsor taught me that lesson.

The Holiday Season is a time for joy and reflection and peace. Family dysfunction can mar that holiday and the season can bring back powerful negative, even evil memories. Even if you have been blessed with mostly good memories, Christmas can also be a time to grieve a lost loved one who will not be at the table. If you are one of those who has such a Christmas issue, my wish for you is that you are able to find your own way to set aside your pain, to create a positive memory and have joy instead this year. May your days be trauma free and may all your bad memories be placed where they can no longer hurt you. May you be blessed to find thirty years of happy holidays as I have. If you are one of those fortunate enough to be born into non dysfunctional families my wish is very simple. I wish you another Merry Christmas, or another Happy Channukah, whichever applies, and my hopes for you to have the finest and best New Year ever.

Joy to the World!

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Death is so Final.

Argo

This is Argo in his prime. He was a good kitty. He had been abandoned in an apartment when his original humans moved out. It was nearly a month before the landlord arrived to clean up and found this poor frantic dehydrated starving cat. He was adopted by my daughter and her significant other. He had a year and a half of being the darling kitty of a childless couple. We got pictures and updates on every aspect of his life. We tenderly joked that he was their practice baby. They sure loved that cat.

Argo got out in the cold. His human went looking for him immediately but on his way home Argo lost an encounter with an orange Kia. His people did everything they could to save him but after a week (and more than $1000 in vet expenses) it became clear he was suffering and would never recover. They made the hard decision to give him mercy. Argo has moved on to wherever it is good cats go when they die.

For reasons I don’t really get, Argo’s death has hit me very hard. Maybe it is because we also got word this week that my mother-in-law finally lost her long hard battle with dementia and mental illness and passed on at the age of ninety seven. One of my friends who is a recent immigrant from China told me that when someone dies at ninety seven that is a cause for celebration not mourning. I kind of see it. My mother-in-law’s brain had been gone for a long time so her finally passing means death is a friend not an enemy. Now that she has passed everyone else is celebrating her life as if she were a perfect saintly mother and wife, which she certainly was not. When I die, no doubt people will celebrate me as if I were a saint too, even though I am far from it.

Our town has many feral cats. Several people in the town put food out for them. Folks try to find good homes for the ones they can catch. Locals take the babies first because if you can catch a feral cat as a baby you can handle it and get it used to people. Older feral cats cannot normally be tamed. Sometimes an adult cat will approach one of us in the cold desperate for help and then you know they are someone’s pet who was lost or abandoned. The truly feral ones just die. Each winter the feral cat population is dramatically reduced by our bitter cold. There is a lone female feral cat who has taken up residence in our neighbour’s gazebo who has resisted every attempt to catch her and get her in where it is warm. We are all afraid she is going to die soon as temperatures are going to -26C each night now. I watch those feral cats with their frozen off ear tips and they scarred faces and I think how few of them had even one single day as good as Argo had for that year and a half. Life is certainly not fair. Why does there have to be pain and suffering in the world? Does the great joy of good times in life really make up for that?

I do hope my daughter and her man take in another cat. There are so many cats that need a loving home and they have big hearts and they gave Argo so much after a really rotten start to his life. Argo is so happy and so fully cat in his memorial picture. They could give another cat the wonderful gift they gave Argo.

I think the real reason Argo’s death has left me awake all this past night is because of how close death came to taking my husband from me last June. I can’t help but think every time he hugs me or I snuggle up for a cuddle in bed “He’s still warm. He’s still with me.” I look in the mirror and I see the wrinkles and the marks of aging. Death is stalking me now too. So perhaps poor Argo’s unfortunate passing has served as a reminder I’d rather not have, the reminder of the mortality that is looking me in the face every single day that remains.

God has much to answer for. I have just enough faith to believe that at some point He will, at some point I will understand why.  In the meantime there is nothing to do but embrace the joy that comes with being alive while I can.

Rest in peace kitty. You actually were a perfect little furry saint. We don’t have to make things up about how truly wonderful you were, for a cat.

Then we cross the Rainbow Bridge together….. – GLOBAL SAFARI

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.

 

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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