Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Using a coal oil lamp to see the keyboard. Now isn't that hi tech. We had a huge snow dump over the last four days. No Hydro, No Telephone, and no plowed driveway.

No one around here can remember such a snow storm in October. By the time it was finished, presuming it's finished for now, there was close to four feet of snow on the ground. The fence line around the place only has the top strand showing. The highways were closed down for a couple of days and Savory road, our connector to Highway 16, was just plowed one lane wide. Don't know what would happen if two vehicles had to pass. I guess it's fortunate that not many people are up and about.

We have to wait for a snow plow and don't know how long that will be. It could be a week. I put the off road chains on our Toyota and made it the kilometre down our driveway to Savory Road. I was pushing snow all the way. Fortunatly it was down hill. I had to stop every 100 feet or so and cut trees off the road. The heavy, wet snow has pulled a lot of them down. I managed to fuel up and get some groceries. Actually the groceries were even getting scarce. The Hydro outage caused the freezers in the local Safeway to pack it in when it came back on. They were throwing out all the thawed frozen foods. Even staples like eggs and milk were in short supply.

Getting out was tough going, coming back, uphill was almost a no go. The engine was running at 6000 rpm in first all the way. The problem is that I get highcentered. So I won't be doing that again untill were plowed out.

We were luckier than a lot of the folks in town. They got the power back on yesterday, but while it was off, a lot of them didn't have heat or water. No flushing toilets.

We have a gravity fed water system, and the house is heated with wood, which I have been stockpiling. We also have a small generator which we are very grateful for. Especially to keep the fridge and freezer cold. Saves having to take all the stuff outside and stick it in the snow. We don't have the power or phones back up and our satelite phone has packed it in. Fortunatily I was able to plug in the computer and get email and update our Blogs. We are kinda rationing the fueltho. We just don't know when the power or phones will be back up.

I was looking around the kitchen wondering if I could put a wood cookstove in. In the meantime we have a Coleman camp fuel stove, and today I pulled out the propane one. It's nicer and we can use it indoors. Of course we also have the barbeque and have been manageing to exist on some T bones and rib eyes. Roughing it.

But you know, it brings the kid out in us. It's so peaceful here. It's Xena's first snow and she just loves it. Doggie snowplow. The temperature now is -10, mild for winter. The furnace and fireplace is on and we're snug as two bugs in a rug.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What? Me worry?...

Found this beauty in the Barn. I think they were all dead but just to make sure I treated them to a taste of chemicals that will ensure I will never get my organic gardening certificate. For like the next hundred years. The hornets have been out in droves this year. My daughter Treena found out the hard way that Hornets have a nasty disposition. That nest is no longer habitable.

Today I continued cleaning out the pole barn.

Getting my shit together, as it were, and putting it with the pig poop.

Another couple of hours Ok five or six and I should have it pretty spicky span, ready for a bunch of lumber and barnwood. And then onto the shop for wiring, lighting and making storm windows for the main house.

It was Jo-Ann's day off so I suckered her into helping me. She spent the day removing catches and hinges from a pile of old cabinet doors and storm windows. Some more valuable free stuff!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It Came From Beneath The Earth!!!

Actually it was growing in a clod of dirt on top of the Garden. Looks like I beheaded an alien with my new alien head chopper. ( a large skinning knife Jo-Ann brought me.)

It has been tentativly identified as a mangalore:

Weirdest turnip I have ever seen. Have a large crop of them still to dig up, also some parsnips, beets and brussels sprouts. Alas, the Yukon Gold potatoes are no more. Next year I will have enough to make it through till Spring.

Still dunging out one of the pole barns to make a lumber and barnwood storage area. the one was used for horses and had a couple of inches of horse manure mixed with straw over the hand hewn floor. I am packing that all out and mixing it with some well composted piggy poop. The garden will love that stuff. It will be snow soon and I don't want to leave several stacks of rough wood and barnwood out over the winter. One of my projects is to build a solar kiln to dry the wood down to 9 or 10 percent. Basically it's really just a green house.

I almost have accumulated enough glass now to build a green house but I think I will start out with a hot box for growing some lettuce over the winter. Now thats another thing I learnt about gardening, lettuce is surprisingly tolerent of the cold temperatures up here - it is still growing. Planted way too much of that. How much lettuce can two people and the occasional guests eat?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cracked under Pressure

I have decided to try out home canning. Ever since I canned a jar of crabapple jelly ( er..crabapple syrup) I decided to learn more about it. Low acid, High acid, my, my, there's a lot of ways to get botulisim. But I am going to try and avoid that. Hence the pressure canner. What a heavy duty, precision ground apparatus. I just love the idea behind canning. Making your own food and keeping it. I was wondering how much of our food just gets stored in the fridge a while and then thrown out. Just seems like a big waste of resources. And besides I get to decide what goes in the cans. Like a lot less salt. Next year: bigger garden, cold storage, and a place to store canning.

Somethings happening to me lately. I guess the idea has been lurking around my head for quite a while. About using resources more responsibly. This redneck is a born again Hippie. Jo-Ann actually caught me perusing a web space called tree hugger. I was looking for information on our wood furnace. Honest. Haven't hugged a tree. Don't want to. Use a pickeroon. But I do want to use them efficiently. Carol Browne calls me the king of reduce, recycle and reuse. I know earlier in my life I wouldn't have thought that was a compliment. I sure do now!

It only takes a couple of trips to the woods around here to see the huge burn piles left after logging. Enough wood going to waste to heat and light our homes for decades.. Most every one here I know has at least a fireplace to keep fueled. We depend on wood almost entirely - only using the electric side of the furnace when we go away. Makes a huge difference in stretching pension dollars.

I am in wood gathering mode for the winter right now. I am fortunate in that I can get a lot of our wood prebarked and cut up from my brother Tiny's log home building. Some of it comes in smaller pieces and odd shapes, so it's hard to stack. Hence the new addition to our home: the wood bin.

I made it out of recycled shipping pallets, a couple of old recycled railroad ties and some chicken wire which I bought from the local hardware store. Makes storing all the odd stuff a lot more convenient.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Frost on the Pumpkins

Well OK, we don't have any pumpkins this year. But we do have frost. Yesterday a huge black cloud moved in from the West. I was watching it, the wind rising, which is a sure sign of a storm and I decided to cut the weeks kindling supply under cover of the veranda. In the nick of time. First came a hailstorm which turned the ground white, then it snowed - which didn't stick. And then out came the sun, for a brilliant but cold,well 4C day.

I am in the process of getting in the winters wood. Fortunatly I have lots of wood on the property and my brother's log home business creates lot's of first class, debarked, pine.All of it Bug Killed Great for using in the house - no fuss no muss.

But it has to be split. I overdid it yesterday, my zeal increased by Mother's display, and by the end of the day my arms felt like rubber. I have a number of different tools for splitting, axes, splitting axes, and a sledgehammer and splitting wedge. the wedge is the one that gets used the most to split the big 16" logs into quarters. Anything smaller than about 12" can just go right in the furnace, but I need smaller stuff for the fireplace upstairs and to get the furnace going. The other great tool I have for working with logs is a pickeroon. It's like an axe but just has a pick on one end. Great for lifting and moving log ends.

I learned a neat trick about starting fires - from the internet. I was starting fires the traditional way, balled up paper, kindling, larger stuff, and then the bigger pieces. Well it works way better if you reverse the process, put the big logs in first, then the 3 and 4 inch stuff, then the 1 and 2 inch stuff, then the newspaper and then kindling - and set the paper on fire. Way more efficient. What happens is that the burning kindling maked coals which sets the bigger stuff off. No having to keep tending the fire to put the bigger stuff on top of the traditional kindling teepee.

I also had trouble getting the glass clean in the upstairs airtight fireplace. Looked all over the place. Windex doesn't cut it. All kinds of places willing to sell me special, high priced chemicals to do it. Then I found the easiest way is to just dampen some newspaper, dip it in the fireplace ashes and scour the glass with that. Works like a charm. I was thinking of marketing it. Uncle Arts, down home, fireplace glass cleaner, on special for $9.99 a litre. But that just wouldn't be right, would it?

Woke up this morning to a full hard frost. It went down to -7C last night. Guess I had better clean out the Garden, at least the spuds and beets.

I think the turnips and carrots are still OK for now. My neighbor says to leave the brussel sprouts in untill after the snow flies. She has had some at Christmas, fresh out of the snow pack.

But first I need to go to my brothers and get some more wood. If it's a mild winter, and the pundits say it is, I will need about six or seven cords of wood. A cord is a pile 4' X 4' X 8' - so that's a fair bit of wood. Probably take me the rest of the week. Next year I think I will save up for a hydraulic wood splitter. But it's probably not as much excercise.