Tag Archives: Alonsa

Little House on the Prairie Update = More New Windows!

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Does anything update a refresh an old house the way brand new windows do? I couldn’t be more excited about this bit of updating and refreshing. We left the job to the pros because some things are too much for us as do it yourselfers. Last year when we moved in one window was rotted and in terrible shape and needed immediate replacing. The others were in poor shape but we had so many expenses getting into the house that we decided to wait. One thing we are trying not to do is create any debt as we fix up this old house. This year’s new windows were a bear partly due to the need to remove and replace more rotting wood under the sill and do a lot of resealing where old calking dried up, split and fell out, but we still got three more high quality, locally made, window upgrades for under $2000. (That no doubt seems like a lot to folks from the south but we have learned from bitter cold experience not to put southern windows on a northern house!) We paid extra to get really nice windows that are designed to be unhooked and swung in so they can be cleaned from the inside, with high quality easy pop in, pop out, type screens and above all the high insulation value required for our very very cold winters. These windows will be able to handle a ferocious wind blowing in when it’s -40F/-40C without even a cool spot or frosting the even the corner of a pane. We have two windows to go, the front living room and kitchen one but we already had Mr. Terreck do the measurements and that will be next spring’s major expense.

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Yet Another Country Vet Visit.

I had previously complained about the ridiculously high cost of pet vet care.

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Saturday afternoon the same vet showed up for yet another parking lot session of shots. All three animals got all their shots and I got a certificate good for two years of border crossing from the vet for $150 total. $150 for three animals (two dogs and a cat)!

Again the same quick efficiency, no frills, get it done attitude I love about the country.

We didn’t bother with heart worm this year because I discovered you can order a big fat tube of heart worm medication for a horse for $10 from Amazon. Horses require a much larger dose than dogs and cats but since I have a degree in biochemistry I know how to do the conversion to get the right much much smaller dose. (I honestly think anyone who can double a recipe or halve it could also do that same thing. Be careful though if you do it wrong you’ll kill your pet. The drug is called ivermectin and the dog sized dose from horse medication works out to about what you can get swirling a toothpick in it. You can also order dog sized pills that even with shipping will be 1/4 to 1/2 the cost from Australia where a rip off vet prescription is not required and you aren’t lining the pockets of some crook in big pharma.)

And so the whole $60/six month heart worm in the little beef flavoured capsules is a rip off. The medication costs pennies. It’s all in the packaging and marketing. And insisting you must have the heart worm blood smear once a year is also ridiculous since if you have been using the medication faithfully the odds of killing your pet by continuing the medication are so very very low they are almost zero.

What typical small animal vets charge for vet care in the cities in my area is a crime. In 2013 I paid over $250 for each pet and even that required a lot of arguing and refusing stuff in order to keep it that low. It is a rip off. Let me say that again. IT IS A RIP OFF!!!! It is a whole series of completely unnecessary tests and procedures that are  at best worthless and at worst potentially dangerous for the purpose of filling pockets and the veterinary profession should be ashamed of themselves. If a country vet can pull into parking lot, fully vaccinate nearly 100 animals in an hour for $50 each there is no reason such a thing could not also be done in the city.

Oh, and our town has free vet housing, hospital/clinic and office space sitting empty because most vets in Canada prefer their over priced, high profit, rip off small animal city clinics instead of actually taking care of sick animals in need in rural area. That’s a double shame on them.

 

 

51st Parallel Gardening Update

It’s been hard to read in other blogs where people have begun enjoying the fruits of their garden while, poor thing in the harsh cold north, I have not yet been able to plant but finally, finally, I can write another garden update.

I have to wait at least two more weeks before I can put tender bedding plants into the garden without fear of frost. Even so, while the weather is hot and lovely I have been putting all those plants I started in my house out in the sunshine. The winter squash have long since graduated into the biggest pots I could find (scrounged at the dump) and they doing very well. Many of my tomato plants are actually blooming! I will not give into the temptation to think summer is here and plant them as I did last May 21st only to lose them to an early June frost. So I have to carefully water them every day and tend and fuss but wait I will.

Last year’s planning has gone well. The raspberry bush came through the winter bigger than ever and is about to bloom. My careful tending of the rhubarb has resulted in two much more vigorous plants than last year. I planted chives and they survived and the plant is huge. Both my horse radish plants are up and doing well. Low spots in my drive which we filled with sandy gravel are covered with creeping charlie. Our monoculture lawn, something I hate, is now well polluted with creeping charlie. I love those little purple flowers and the bees do as well. My yard is full of honey and bumble bees. My wee little apple tree that had maybe five blossoms on it last year appears to be about to burst into bloom on every branch. I still have no idea if it will have edible apples or yet another type of “throwing apple” but it looks beautiful. I have decided I like dandelions even though I have bought one of those pointy things that let you get at the roots.

I love it when nature gives you a bonus and I got several this year. Normally our winters are far too cold to let many things most southern gardeners consider perennials survive but I was delighted to discover many green onion and garlic shoot popping up and wonder of wonder, my parsley and cilantro made it! I had to bring a salad to a senior dinner and I used purchased lettuces but spiked it with my own chives, onion and garlic greens, and lots of fresh cilantro and parsley. Yum! Just before we left one of our trees came down and we simply piled the branches on the garden until we could find a better place. The result was a heavy blanket of snow and I think that is why the parsley and cilantro were spared. I will try the same thing again this year. The other nice surprise was two local flowers among the grass, the Manitoba provincial flower, the Prairie crocus. Long past its blooming but lovely to see, I have marked both plants so we can keep the grass away and not mow them.

Gardening is not just about this year, but also next and the next after that. Late  last summer I made two boxes of cedar and piled them with grass clippings and compost and then covered them with black cloth and let them bake in the August heat. This spring I was delighted to find rich peaty soil. I ordered strawberry plants, ever bearing, June and a heritage hardy one and every plant took. I am not expecting to get many strawberries this first year but next year should be the beginning of many a crop. The second bed is going to be my bean bed and I am going to put in a trellis and try growing a variety of beans including red kidney beans which I have already started from seed.

I bought five Saskatoon trees. Saskatoons are a native plant in our area that produce abundant small blueberry like fruits although it is actually a small apple tree genetically speaking and not a berry. The wild bushes are exceptionally hardy, being native to our area, and grow rapidly. Saskatoons with their sweet deep purple taste (a cross between blueberry and sweet apple) make wonderful jams and jellies and are great to eat straight from the bush by the handful. They can also be dried and then dried berries beaten into flour that when mixed with dried meat and formed into pemmican results in a 100% nutritionally balanced food that was consumed in winter when first nations people and early pioneers had to get through our winters without outside help. Saskatoons are especially rich in vitamin C and folates. The ones I ordered and planted are a cultivar with larger than wild berries, many more berries per bush, and a richer taste. It will be a few years before they grow enough to produce fruit but I am an optimist. Until they do I can always gather the wild fruit.

 

And last but certainly not least I inherited a neglected perennial garden and put a lot of effort into weeding it. The battle is far from over, as you can see, but I am proud to report more perennials than crab grass and weeds. I have tulips, Johnny Jump Ups, violets, both native Western and blue violets, already in bloom and the first Columbine opened today. This flower bed gave me so much pleasure last year bearing flowers for me all summer long. It is nice to see them back like old friends.

And finally the robins, my dear friends who vigilantly patrolled my garden ever on the alert for cutworms and beetles and slugs, have set up housekeeping once again. Every time I cultivate or weed or plant they watch me carefully and rush right in to check for edibles as soon as my back is turned. Every garden needs a robin family.

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Up here at the 51st parallel summer is short but intense. The sun rises about 4:30am and sets after 10:00pm and the plants grow by leaps and bounds racing to cram in as much growth as they can on those long days before August frosts. I know my northern garden will catch up with my southern neighbours. Two more weeks and the tomatoes can be planted. I have already put in seed for that which is frost tolerant. Soon soon I too can eat from my garden like my southern neighbours.

Home Again

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We pulled into our Manitoba home late on March 13, 2016. We got in two days ahead of schedule. We just wanted to be home so when we left Sisseton SD we just kept driving. We crossed the border into Canada at Selkirk about 4:00pm. Each time we cross they check something different. This crossing it was making sure our pet’s papers were all in order. This is why you need to be fully prepared for anything because you just never know what they will test you on. Of course our pets papers, along with all our other papers, were in order so they let us back in.

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We arrived home to winter. Even though spring has arrived further south it’s really just end of winter here. I have to admit I planned it this way on purpose. I wanted to see our Alonsa home in winter. We have been five years now without winter and in a very weird way I have sort of missed it. Plus coming home early meant we saved about $600 in out of country health insurance which also offset some of the costs of having our dollar plunge to 0.68 of the USA dollar. The other thing I was curious about is I have had three full years without a single asthma attack requiring a trip to the hospital. My allergist attributed that to being away from snow mould. I guess I wanted to test to see if my lungs have healed instead of just functioning without exposure to snow mould. So far so good! We were also worried about our little house. I must admit feeling some resentment about that. We had five years of being worry free about the stick house and now we have this anchor which also at times feels like a burden. It was a relief to back into our own driveway and see out little stick house is still standing.

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We promised ourselves we would not try to move into the house that night. We were going to just stay the night in the trailer and then move in the morning. Well that didn’t work out. We were so excited to be home we moved right in anyway even though it was almost midnight. Everything was fine. Well sort of. Houses require maintenance and when you leave for months, repairs pile up. We found our kitchen sink’s tap is leaking and will require replacement. Our furnace wasn’t working properly. The neighbours who had been so kindly watching our house for us told us it had started acting funny just two days before and since we were so close to home and the weather was above freezing, and it was making enough heat to keep it warm enough to not freeze, they would leave it for us to deal with.

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The dogs and cat acted like they knew immediately where they were. Fred in particular seemed to be quite happy to be home and the first time we turned our back, he promptly took off to tour the town. He strolled back home about two hours later after setting every dog in the town off barking at him as he came by to say hello.

Snow snow snow blanketed everything. My garden is frozen. The ground is slushy/frozen mess. We dug out winter coats first thing for our daily walks. We then spent the next few days unpacking the trailer and settling back into our stick house. We got an electrician to come and fix our furnace ($80) then the guy to drain our holding tank and check if it needed thawing ($85) and the plumber who had fixed our sump pump while we were away and drained our flooded basement dropped off his bill ($141.25). We learned how to wash dishes fetching water from the tub instead of starting the flood in the kitchen sink again. We did a temporary fix on one deadbolt that failed over the winter until we can get to town to buy a new one. We have two screen doors to fix. One will likely have to be replaced, not fixed. Wind blew them both open and ripped out the frame of one and the door pull of the other. We will make do until we get a chance to go to town and find a good deal. We will check out the “ReNuz It” store and see if they have a nice screen door for cheap. I think that kitchen faucet is as old as the house and we want one with a sprayer so I think the result will be an improvement. I did a temporary fix on that one screen door when we first moved in to try to make it do for now so fixing that properly will be an improvement too. Still, I asked my husband more than once to remind me why we bought a stick house again.

There were soon many reminders why a stick house is nice. I have room to rock in my wonderful rocking chair which was waiting right there for me. The house is warm now that the furnace is working properly. I can take a shower or a bath and use as much hot water as I care to. The “big” kitchen is lovely. I can make chile, wait for bread to rise, and make apple crisp without having to play Chinese puzzle with the limited counter space. We got the new washer in place of the old one and it works like a Maytag is supposed to. The little Panda washer spin dryer did its job but it sure is nice to throw in a load and set it and walk away instead of the infernal wash, manual wring, move wet clothing to spin, spin, rinse, manual wring, move wet clothes to spin, spin cycle. The clothesline is still sitting in the corner of the basement. It’s too cold to hang laundry outside.  It sure felt good to carry loads of laundry warm from the dryer upstairs to fold. Even so, it took a full week before I really felt at home again.

There were so many little things still to do. The trailer had to be drained and winterized. Even though it was above freezing when we got home, I knew, being March it would get cold again fast so the third day home I drained the water and put in the RV antifreeze we bought in North Dakota. We went through the whole trailer, taking out anything that might freeze solid. We left the good mattress in for a few days of subzero weather because that kills dust mites and any Florida cockroaches that might have joined us for a trip to Canada. After everything had been thoroughly frozen we changed mattresses. There have been two snowfalls since we got back and that electric blanket means we can turn the thermostat down low at night and snuggle. The trailer needs a full front to back cleaning and reorganization but it’s too cold to even think of that now.

I still have a whole lot to do over the next few weeks. The final sets of proofs for the book are here and need our attention. I started some plants from seeds. I am showing my faith it will warm up and we will have a garden again. I am looking around at the interior of this little house and thinking I need to get at fixing that again. I have promised myself I will not spend another penny on the house until everything I have material purchased for is used up. That mean painting the garage and finishing the bathroom tiles. The truck needs a full inspection, wash and wax, inside and out. There is always something to do, isn’t there?

And there are some special good things. Our internet provider contacted us with the good news that our area now has upgraded service so we can finally enjoy full LTE Wifi for a little bit less than we were paying for the slow stuff! Best of all, our assorted neighbours recognized us and every step outside of the house we are greeted with pleasantries and asked about our trip. We heard all the local news too, a new baby girl in this family, an elderly grandfather who was very ill when we left has passed on. We feel we have a community here and we really like that. And so we are home.

My House is Painted!

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Before

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After

My tiny house on the prairie is painted! Oh Happy Dance! I started in August with scrapping and then oiling the deck and then everything got a coat of primer. This was followed by two coats of paint. (In stages around the house.) We had one rotting window which we replaced this summer and we will replace the three remaining, one on the west wall and two on the south wall next spring, I hope. The front windows will be replaced after that. The garage will done next year. The exterior doors will also be done next year.

In case you are interested we used Bull’s Eye 1,2,3 by Zinsser as our primer. I really liked that primer because it went on easily and well over really badly weathered old exposed wood, with lots of peeling old paint. It’s thick almost a paste and dried very fast. It’s touch dry in 30 minutes and you can recoat in only one hour. Some of wood had some early rot. The worst spots we did with primer twice. The primer seemed to work very well soaking in deeply and really sealing that wood. In the near to rotten stuff is where we had to put two coats because the first coat basically nearly vanished it sucked in so deeply. This is REALLY GREAT stuff, for paint. It was normally about $39/can but we stocked up when Canadian Tire had sales so we only pain $26/can.

We designed our colour scheme on the Benjamin Moore’s website. Our color scheme using the Benjamin Moore colour maker was Wildflower 325 for the light yellow body, Sunbeam 328 for the dark yellow and Lighting bolt 323.  I will be doing the doors in Golden Bounty 294. That gave me a nice picture to work from.

Color Scheme

Because my daughter works as a secret shopper and she can get paint for free as part of that work, we ended up using Exterior Dulux Diamond Coat (satin). To translate the Benjamin Moore color to Dulux I used the Dulux ap Pull Color From A Photograph to match the color pdf I made with the Benjamin Moore app. My Dulux colors are Citron Ice 348 for the main color, Lemon Zest 602 for the darker yellow, and Soft Yellow 180. For the doors I will be using Tiara 587. Deluxe is doing something with their website now and promising great things. I hope Dulux can make their own site as good the Benjamin Moore site.

The Dulux paint works reasonably well but it does not give one coat coverage that Benjamin Moore promises. (To be fair, I don’t know if Benjamin Moore would deliver.) The Lemon Zest 602 went over a dark teal and even with two coats I’m not sure it is covered. I may add another coat in the spring. My daughter has super duper color vision and she can see the teal under the yellow. I can’t. We went with Dulux mainly because the price was right (i.e. free to me) even if the many reviews I read suggest Benjamin Moore is very slightly better. Both are expensive high end high quality paints. Having worked with both the cheap and the expensive varieties over the year I would have to say paint is not something you should go cheap on.

(No one paid me anything for my blog.)

Snake Migration Season

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Manitoba is famous among snake admirers for the Narcisse Snake Pits. Each spring the snakes emerge from their dens in limestone caves that reach below the frost line. They are sluggish and slow and you can handle them. The ground will have so many snakes you have to watch where you go. The town of Narcisse has turned their snake problem into a tourist attraction.

Alonsa also has migrating snakes. A couple of decades back, in an effort to get the snakes out of the local school, the Conservation District created a snake pit like the one nature made in Narcisse on a smaller scale. Each year in spring, the snakes migrate out from the “hibernaculum” and for about three weeks the town of Alonsa is full of snakes. When the fall arrives, the snakes return and for about three weeks we have snakes everywhere again. Since the migration began this fall I have been seeing snakes every day, ten to fourteen at a time, in my yard. They hang around the house and sun themselves. I have to step carefully while painting because of the snakes. The snakes are charming and lovely to me. They are nonpoisonous. You can pick them up (gently) and look at them. I usually just carefully watch them but for the picture I picked this one up and then let it go.

What I like most about these snakes is they are ferocious predators of field mice. I am phobic about mice so these snakes are my friend. During the migration I find myself dashing out onto the street to shoo the snakes off the road so the locals coming in to pick up their mail don’t run them over, accidentally or on purpose. Some of the locals react with panicky snake phobia and either run away screaming or attack these poor little creatures with shovels and rocks and do their best to kill them. I used to have to watch out for my dog Fred tormenting them. Since his tried tormenting a rattler in Florida he has developed his own phobia about snakes and he avoids them now.

Snake1The Narcisse snakes are called Red Sided Garter snakes. The ones we have in Alonsa are Yellow Sided or Prairie Garter snakes. Recent genetic evidence suggests the two are the same species and the colour difference is just a population variant.

I have really enjoyed the company of these snakes as I paint. They like to sit against the foundation of the house and absorb the heat of the sun. Each time I move my ladder the snakes scramble out of the way. I know they are just reptiles and reptiles are not supposed to be very smart, but they also act like they find my activity fascinating. When I am sitting and painting a low spot I will occasionally look up and find two or three of them, heads up, watching me. If you observe them you can see individual differences in the size of the head and width of the jaw and tiny differences in the coloured bands so I actually began to recognize curious individuals in the same area coming back to observe me again and again. Maybe activity scares up mice or bugs and they think I am about to provide them with a meal. I do know for sure that in every other rural community I have lived in, mice are a real problem. I have not even seen a single mouse in Alonsa.

And then there was the one poor little snake I accidentally painted. I was busy cleaning my brush and I turned to find a snake right next to a paint can looking up at me and it startled me so badly I leapt sideways and knocked the can of bright yellow paint over. This startled the poor snake too and it leaped sideways with a sidewinder twist right into the spilling paint. I righted the paint can and went after her but she got away, trailing yellow paint. So the poor snake ended up with a four inch wide swath of bright yellow over its middle. For the next few days I kept seeing the poor snake with yellow paint. Fortunately I used water based paint and they have scales that feel oily and water proof so each time there was less paint than the previous time and the last time I saw her, she had only the tiniest trace of yellow.

I will miss the friendly garter snakes when we head south. They have taken a lot of the boredom out of repainting my house. I like to joke I picked the yellow colour for my house to match the snakes.

A work in progress that is progressing!

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Exterior house painting is hard work. Scrapping old paint with a scrapper, then using a wire brush to get the little flakes, then a coat of primer over bare wood, a second coat of primer where stains showed through and then two coats of paint over the primer. Hours and hours of work. It is also a good workout. I have been going to be each night sore and tired. Who needs a gym?

This picture is so encouraging! You can actually see the two main yellow shades I picked coming together. I am very very pleased with the results! I started using this to visualize and it is working!

Thank you Benjamin Moore for a great website.

Color Scheme

http://www.benjaminmoore.com/en-us/for-your-home/personal-color-viewer?action=category&page=/en-us/photos/exterior