Little Free Library

I love reading books. When I was 11 years old, my love of reading began when my sister Betty told me to read Nancy Drew mystery stories. The rest is history. I have shelves and shelves full of books – some that I’ve read, some that are my kids, and some on a shelf to read ‘in retirement’ (whenever that is). So when I first heard about Little Free Libraries, I was intrigued and excited!
Little Free Libraries is just like a library only a ‘borrower’ can keep the book if they want or return it or another. There are over 36,000 registered LFLs all over the world. I LOVE libraries – our little library in town is barely bigger than my house but I can get any book I want through the inter-library loan system. My kids love reading books too. I wanted to bring that experience to others…. but with a twist.
I wanted my Little Free Library at the river where I live. Yes, I wanted to be able to have books available to anyone using the Rideau River whether it be in a canoe, motor boat, seadoo, kayak, and even on skates or a skidoo in the winter. I had a plan.
My late husband Chris was always making things out of wood. With some leftover pieces of pine used to make a rocking horse for our granddaughter Kalia, he crafted a mailbox that looked like our house. Unfortunately, the post office replaced our individual mailboxes with a community mailbox so this project was placed on the top shelf, unfinished, in his workshop. Fast forward 12 years – I thought it would be PERFECT to re-purpose it for my Little Free Library project! I would just have to assemble all the other parts, like the base, and figure out how to make one side of the roof ‘hinged’ to open and get books out.

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I first sketched our replica house’s doors and windows on one side then dug out my paints. Luckily I had the right colours of blue for the house and white for trim. First I painted all the blue siding then the darker blue roof. Then I painstakingly painted the windows with grids and doors. All these steps took days to dry in between coats of paint.
I didn’t have the type of piano hinge I wanted for the roof section: I wanted the back half of the roof fixed and screwed in place (yes I actually found the drill and remembered to charge up the battery). But I wanted to put a piano hinge at the peak for the two sections of roof to join. However, I didn’t want to spend any money for a new one! I’m not cheap (okay maybe I’m frugal) but I wanted this project to be sustainable and I wanted to use the materials I had on hand. Heaven knows that my Chris NEVER threw anything out and there are drawers full of screws and washers and little hinges and you name it! That’s the first place I always look and usually I find it too.
I thought about that roof for a few weeks. I had to use something that would allow opening and closing AND would keep the contents inside dry….. Finally I figured out a solution: I used two swatches of indoor/outdoor carpet and secured them to the roof peak with bolts, washers, and nuts. I couldn’t use screws because they would stick out on the underside and possibly scratch someone. Then I caulked the peak joint with flexible caulking, along with all the seams inside my Little Free Library house.

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I found a piece of previously used wood for the base that was a bit bigger than the LFL house. I used wood glue to secure it and when that was dry, I screwed it to my LFL house. It was ready to go! I put it in my wheelbarrow (it was heavy) and took it down to our dock. I had purchased a shiny hand-held windmill and a couple of Canada flags to attach to the dock and act as an attractant. I created a sign, printed it at home, and laminated it then screwed it onto the dock post. My (unofficial) Little Free Library was screwed onto the end of my dock and filled with books for little kids, teenagers, and adults – I packed each book in a plastic zipper-loc seal bag just in case. It has rained since and the inside of the LFL has remained dry.
Now, I just have to dedicate some funds to register it officially ($54) – hopefully by the end of the summer. I want to take a LFL sign down to the provincial park just down the road and speak with the administrator about it. On weekends, they have ‘events’ for campers and a free nearby water-access library might be of interest to them. There is also the local newspaper and radio (both of which have an online presence) that I’m going to contact as well.

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The other day, I watched a child with their father using the “library on the water” and I knew I had done the right thing. And on the weekend, my granddaughter Livi ‘borrowed’ a few books as well.
As far as I know, my (unofficial) Little Free Library is the only water-access library in the world. And on a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot!

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https://littlefreelibrary.org/

Nettle Tea

I love tea – yes, I’m a real ‘tea granny’. I also like iced tea. When I went to Florida a few years ago with some of my grown kids/grandkids, I learned that you had to ask for ‘hot tea’ is you did not want ice tea.

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I’ve already harvested my first batch of Stinging Nettle found growing wild around my yard near the pond, river, and (unfortunately) the playhouse, where a big bunch was leaning into the porch blocking the door just waiting to brush against bare skin, stinging it for hours. Nettle is one of those amazing plants that I love and dislike. I don’t like how the raw plant stings my skin but I just love the great, healthy tea that it makes.
I picked the leaves with heavy garden gloves on to avoid the sting. I actually cut off each leaf and put it in a bag closepinned to my pants. When I got back up to the house, I blew off each leaf and placed it in my dehydrator to dry overnight.

Drying Nettles

Nettles in the Dehydrator

The next morning it was done – shrunken, crisp and ready to crumble into a glass jar to store. But first I had to make a batch of nettle ice tea to keep in the fridge for the upcoming days of heat and humidity. I fill a large tea strainer with as much dried nettle as I can stuff in. Then I place it in a glass Mason jar and fill it with boiling water. It takes hours to cool before I put it in the fridge. I leave in the strainer for at least a day to get all the flavour and nutrients I can.
I love nettle ice tea sweetened with my own maple syrup that I made this spring and with a slice of frozen lemon (to keep it cold) – especially after I come in from working outdoors in the garden for a few hours. Usually after I’m done with a glass of nettle ice tea, I refill it with water, keeping the lemon to add a delicious tarty flavour.
I wrote about Nettles a few years ago if you want to read about it here  https://grammomsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/nettles/ .

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Dear Lawn Tractor,

 

Thank you for your 21 years of service to our family. Every time you cut the grass for me, I get to ride on you while the breeze cools me, watching the sparkling river, seeing how my garden is growing, or looking at the fish as we zoom past the pond. I’m grateful every time you start without complaint.

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I apologize for ignoring your needs especially over the past 8 years. I’m sorry for not changing your oil for 10 years. I’m so grateful that even with such inexcusable treatment, you still keep on going. Well, I did sort of have an excuse because I couldn’t get your oil plug off – it was screwed in SO tight by Chris that I didn’t have the strength to undo it. But yesterday, I was determined!

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Removing Oil Plug – it helps having the right tool!

 

Luckily, my motto is “never give up” so I put all my brute force behind it, with echos of Chris saying “give ‘er!” and reminding me in my thoughts to just ‘force it’. Well it worked! And I felt the screw budge and finally start to turn! Eureka! It helped finding the right tool that would fit in the slot (among the hundreds of options I had in Chris’ tool chest). So now your engine can bath in fresh new 5W30 oil instead of that black stuff that came pouring out – all 4 liters of it……… sorry I overfilled your oil. You don’t have to apologize to me for not wanting to keep running especially when I kept adding oil beyond the safe limit.
I know you have more energy now too! That new battery must feel like a Red Bull energy drink! I realize that when you refused to start last September you were just putting your foot down and begging me to pay attention. I’m really glad that you continued to work through the long summer without much complaint even though you had every right to quit. Thanks for going on strike so I would be forced to attend to your needs.

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Left:  old air cleaner.  Right:  new air cleaner

 

Did you notice that I put in a new air cleaner? And a new fuel filter? And a fresh new spark plug? I’m sure you did because you ran SO smoothly when I cut the grass last night I almost felt that you were dancing for joy!
I was glad to clean up around your insides of all the debrise and oily dirt. And I dusted off your outside too. I promise to give you a wash soon.
My dear lawn tractor, you have been a vital part of this family helping to maintain our property over the years. You go girl! (Of course you’re a girl with THAT much stamina)

 

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Backyard at sunrise

Fireworks!

After a long, cold winter, we’ve celebrated the beginning of summer with a neighbourhood bonfire at our place on the Victoria Day long weekend in May. The entire neighbourhood, family, and friends were invited over after supper to sit around the campfire and catch-up on the news while the kids played. There were games like tag, volleyball, frisbee, badminton or bocce. Kids and adults alike could bring their fishing rods and cast away trying to catch little sunfish or larger pike from the river. We’d start the bonfire early, before dark, to get the most out of the party. Everyone would bring snacks to share and beverages for themselves as well as some fireworks to add to the communal collection for after dark.

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Neighbourhood dogs were also welcome as they liked to play with each other too. Everyone took their pet home before the fireworks began though because they were usually terrified of the loud bangs.
As dark closed in on us just after 9:00 p.m., everyone gathered closer to the campfire to wait until it was pitch black in the sky. Then the fireworks would begin!

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The older, teenage children were allowed to be in charge of the fireworks display. It was an honour to finally be old enough to set them off instead of just watching them. We usually had 3 or 4 five gallon buckets filled with sand to put each piece of fireworks in which were set up along the waterfront. The teenage ‘pyrotechnicians’ had already organized the fireworks during the daylight and decided in which order they would be set off and who would do it. It was quite the organizational feat! While waiting for dark, the younger children got to use Sparklers, with parental supervision – mostly there were no incidents of being burned with their own or someone else’s sparkler. The burned wires were put into the bonfire pit rather than left on the grass to damage my lawn tractor or bare feet.
Once the campfire died down to low embers after dark, it was time! The dogs were all taken home (and locked inside) and the adults and younger children sat about 25+ feet away waiting in excited anticipation for the fireworks display to begin! Years ago, we had driven to community fireworks displays in small towns and even the capital of Canada, Ottawa on Canada Day , so the children could see these amazing colours in the dark sky. It was always crowded, buggy, and a traffic nightmare to get home. Our homegrown neighbourhood fireworks and bonfire was just right.

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Over the years, all the older children who were in charge of the fireworks display did an excellent job! They set them off over the river with a multitude of different types of fireworks including rockets, roman candles, cone fountains, strobes, flares, pinwheels, etc. We always concluded with my personal favourite, The Burning Schoolhouse(s) – sometimes we had several.
After fireworks, everyone gathered around the bonfire to chat, roast marshmallows, play guitar, and sing songs. One former neighbour had a talent of writing songs and sang them at our neighbourhood parties, to everyone’s delight – some of the titles were: The Firetruck Song (that’s another story of one of our bonfire events); The Trespassing Song; and Mike always did an animated recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee” to everyone’s delight in front of the glowing campfire! Other favourite campfire songs over the years include “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” and “They Built the Ship Titanic” plus I always loved it when someone played guitar and sang Gordon Lightfoot songs like “Black Day in July” or “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” or “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. And of course, my granddaughter Kalia’s favourite “Moonshadow” (by Cat Stevens in the 1970’s). It’s a good thing we love music because now my children know how to play guitar and sing my favourite tunes! The little children and babies would fall asleep in their parent’s arms and be carried home in the dark after the embers in the campfire burned down.

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These days, we usually have a family bonfire at my son Darin’s place. It’s smaller and cozier but still has all the familiar songs, Smores, and roasted marshmallows!  And besides, I have trouble staying awake until after dark for fireworks now anyway!
Happy Victoria Day Canada and Happy Memorial Day U.S.A!

fireworks set

Poison Ivy

 

It loves me. It stalks me. It finds me. Every single year. No matter how careful I am to avoid it, Poison Ivy hunts me down and infects me. “Leaves of three, let them be”. Ya, right……

I wear long sleeves and gloves and try to stay away from this monstrous plant which resides under the cedars out front. Poison Ivy releases Urushiol oil which is so potent that only one nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash. The problem is that I sweat a lot when I work, especially with long sleeves and pants, so my open pores absorb the resin deeply into my skin. I’m aware that poison ivy is out to get me so I’m careful about removing my outer clothing in the mudroom before I come in the house.

poison ivy
I wash my exposed face and neck with Sunlight laundry bar soap as soon as a get in the house to get off any Poison Ivy residue. But it LOVES me too much to let me go! I saw two plants this week while I was mulching and I didn’t touch them but covered them with about 6″ of mulch. TWO PLANTS!! Two lousy plants!
The ‘blisters’ started to come out the next day. First below my lower lip then beside my right eye. Then my forearms had tons of little spots that started to itch. Two years ago, the poison ivy was so bad on my face that my eyes were swollen shut – it was time for medical intervention. My daughter drove me to the doctors and I was prescribed Prednisone. I hated to take it but I was desperate – and it worked like a charm.
I’ve tried many remedies to reduce the itching: Calamine lotion; rubbing alcohol; hydrocortisone cream; letting Sunlight laundry soap bar dry on my skin; taking mega doses of garlic and vitamin C; you name it! But nothing really works for me – it just has to run it’s course which takes about 3-4 weeks. This year, when my right eye started to swell shut and the itchy blisters covered my forearms, I had to resign to a 5 day course of Prednisone and benadryl.😦

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Two years ago my eyes swelled shut

I made some forearm ‘sleeves’ from old socks to cover the oozing blisters and prevent me from scratching. I’m trying to avoid scratching which can be a real test.
I have tried, in the past, to eradicate each plant – vinegar; covering it with a jar or can (hopefully it would suffocate); leaving it alone and hoping it would go away. One year I was SO desperate that I even bought RoundUp to kill it. Then I couldn’t bear to use it on all of them (maybe I should have…..) because I’m a supporter of a healthy ecosystem.
Maybe all I have to do is simply stay away from that part of my garden and let the whole area run wild! I’m just a sucker for punishment I guess.

Dish Washing

I have a dishwasher. I’ve had a dishwasher almost since I became an adult when I moved out of my parents home and eloped at 18 years old. My first dishwasher was a cute, efficient little table-top model which sat on the counter and was hooked up to the tap. It was marvelous even though it took up the entire counter space. As a busy university student, I didn’t have the time or interest to do something as mundane as washing dishes.
When my first baby was born, I was even busier. I evaluated my time vs. money spent on a dishwasher. My time with my baby was the most important and I still didn’t like washing dishes. So I figured out a solution: I cloth diapered (disposable diapers where a new fad) and breastfed my baby and saved money. After doing the numbers, I concluded that I would pay for a dishwasher in 6 months with the money I saved by breastfeeding and washing the diapers. So we bought a portable dishwasher.
I have even fixed my dishwasher when it was broken. Mostly times when it was plugged or the timer was broke (I ordered a new timer). Once, after struggling to fix a plugged line, I finally gave up and called the repairman: he was there for 10 minutes, pulled out the peanut which was plugging the line and handed me a $45 bill!

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My current dishwasher is showing it’s age. But as long as it works, I’ll keep it. Late last year, after a family dinner, I found it plugged. After soaking up all the nasty standing water with towels, I took the draining area apart and cleaned it thoroughly, using a toothbrush to clean all screens. I even took pictures of every step just in case my memory failed me when it came time to put it all back together. Then I sprinkled a liberal amount of baking soda on the drain and soaked the bottom in vinegar – it fizzled up like the school volcano projects!  I boiled the kettle while I let it sit for 15 minutes. Instead of making tea this time, I poured the slightly cooled-down boiled water into the bottom of the dishwasher and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Then I ran it through a short cycle – and voila, it was unclogged!
Now that my dishwasher was almost as good as new, I noticed that the wire racks were really rusty in spots. I went online to research what to do and discovered that they make a special paint to repair dishwasher racks called ‘Rerack’. I figured that while I was at it, I might as well fix that too so I ordered some from my local Home Hardware store.
BUT THE MOST AMAZING THING HAPPENED WHILE I WAS ON THIS DISHWASHER ADVENTURE! I started doing dishes by hand again! And I loved it! Actually, I’ve only used my dishwasher twice since late last year. With just two people in the house, it used to take 3 days to fill the dishwasher and by then it was kind of smelly even though we rinsed off the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Every night after supper, Nellie and I take turns washing the dishes by hand. The two of us don’t use many dishes in a day anyway. I even bought a dish drying rack and tray from the dollars store. We let the dishes air-dry overnight and I put them away in the morning while waiting for the kettle to boil. Amazing! I even feel like my kitchen is cleaner too!

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I’m sure my dishwasher will get plenty of use when the family comes for dinner and I don’t mind using it then. I have to admit though, I love washing dishes the old fashioned way again!

 

 

 

Spring Is Here!

I think.  It’s beautiful and sunny and temperatures are now above seasonal! After a cold start to April with lots of snow, we’ve finally turned a corner into spring.

Last evening, I brought in the last of the maple sap and took the taps out of the trees. Maple sap runs when overnight temperatures are below 0 Celcius degrees (32F) and daytime temperatures are above zero. Those days are behind us now and the trees know it – sap production has dropped drastically in the last couple of days.

The last pot of maple sap is boiling down on my wood cookstove. I really don’t even need to make a fire these days with wake-up temperatures around zero but I want to finish up my maple syrup. This year I boiled down about 48 litres of maple sap and ended up with about 7 cups of pure, natural maple syrup and a half cup of maple taffy.

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My Lake of Shining Waters

The ice is all gone now. My pond finally melted this week and now the wild Mallard duck couple, who come back every year, enjoy swimming in it. The river broke up weeks ago. Great Blue Herons, Robins, Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, and Red Wing Blackbirds have all returned from their southerly winter homes. The little Goldfinches are changing from their winter olive colour to their summer bright yellow. Beavers swim by close to shore at dawn now too. Raccoons are up and about and I imagine the Black Bears too. Daylillies, daffodils, and tulips are poking through the ground and buds are swelling on the trees. The sun is SO bright especially when it reflects off the river and sparkles brilliant light. I’ll be glad when the leaves grow on the trees and shade my windows which will be much easier on my eyes in the morning. Thanks Robin for planting that Maple tree beside the back deck over 30 years ago!

This week, I hung some laundry outside on the line. WOW, do I ever love that fresh smell when I bring it in! The line was completely full of sheets and blankets that first day with the wind blowing them dry in just a few hours. I’ve hung laundry outside every day!

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Forsythia

Outside chores are staring me in the face. Leaves have to be scooped out of the pond and the leaf net removed. Then I have to reconnect the pump hose that I accidentally disconnected before I hook up the pump and filter. That’s my first plan of action. I hope to revitalize my garden this year with a load of rotted horse manure; plant another row of raspberries; plant the 70+ trees/bushes I ordered including some Serviceberries and Highbush Cranberries to add to my berry production; pick up all the branches that blew down from the trees during the winter; rake leaves; freshen up the house trim, porch, and garage door paint; and spread the dump truck load of wood chips sitting in my driveway. After being diagnosed with skin cancer this winter (which I’m still waiting for treatment – I was recently told it would be six months!), I was feeling somewhat reluctant to plan a lot of outside work because of the fear of sun exposure. But I can’t live my life in fear of being outside so I’ll just continue to keep on keeping on…… with sunscreen now.

I know that Spring is really here because my son Taylor left this week for his job at the hot springs in northern British Columbia. I was sad to see him go because I know I will miss him but happy for him too, knowing he’s on a fabulous cross-country drive.

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