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.

LawnTractorWM

 

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!

OilPlugWM

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.

AirFiltersOldNewWM

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)

 

backyardWM

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.😦

WM

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!

repairWM

 
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!

SudsWM

 
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.

SparklingWater

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!

Forsythia

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.

My TV

I like to watch television especially during cold winter evenings. For decades now, we have subscribed to a satellite TV company and have a small 3 foot satellite dish mounted on our roof. I remember the time before satellite TV was available that the options were a TV antenna or a monstrous, spaceship-looking 10 foot diameter satellite dish. The small TV antenna could simply be mounted on a roof or an antenna tower. However, those huge old school vintage satellite dishes required ground mounting and were an eye sore. My husband Chris wanted badly to get one of those huge monstrosities but I put my foot down and said no way I’m gonna look at that thing! When the new small satellite dishes came on the market, he convinced me that it would look unobtrusive mounted on the garage roof and I wouldn’t even notice! Besides, he said, I would get to watch crystal clear TV instead of the ‘snowy’ pictures I was used to and the signal wouldn’t cut out at 10 p.m. near the end of a good show. Okay, SOLD!
The dish was mounted and hooked up by cable to the indoor receiver (which was an additional cost). And now, instead of free, albiet fuzzy at times, TV we had a monthly bill! It started out as a reasonable $30 and stayed that way for quite a long time. Then in the last decade, the price kept creeping up. I promised myself that when it got to $50, I was going to cancel it, then $70, but I kept it anyway – it’s now $77 plus over $10 in tax. I calculated that we’ve probably spent nearly $10,000 on satellite TV over the years – crazy!   I think I was addicted to satellite TV – I now LOVED watching the Home and Garden TV (HGTV), the Women’s Network, and the History channel!
In the past few years, my grown kids kept telling me that there was a better way now. There was online streaming, Netfix, Project FreeTV….. I learned also that a few years ago, the industry changed the way TV signals over-the-air were delivered from analog to digital High Definition to TV antennas. My son Darin even made me a “coat-hanger antenna” (which I mounted on to our telescope at the window) so I could watch non-satellite, over-the-air (old fashioned way) high definition local TV programs on our new flat screen TV. It was SO much clearer than the satellite TV reception! I wrote about watching the Olympics (here). Oh yes, you can pay the satellite provider more money for high definition after you also purchase from them a high definition receiver.

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Home made antenna

I’d been getting “all my ducks in a row” over the past six months anticipating making a change. It was a bonus to me when the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) announced last fall that service providers must offer basic TV packages for $25 or less by March 1, 2016. I began taking note of the TV channels that I watch the most. I already knew that I usually watched only about a dozen channels of the 225 in the package that I subscribed to. There wasn’t much choice – it was the ‘Package’ or nothing.
I shocked myself when I realized that I was ‘addicted’ to satellite TV. But once that happened, I was determined to do something about it. My family will tell you that I’m a bit of a ‘control freak’ and I didn’t feel that I had any control over my satellite TV programming. I knew I had to make changes in stages. I had to find an amicable balance that worked for ME.
The first week of March, I went online to check out the new $25 “Skinny” Basic TV packages with my satellite provider, Shaw Direct, but was very disappointed that their website did not have these up and running yet. So this week, I went online again and the ‘Limited’ package was finally available! They sure know how to use marketing skills calling it ‘Limited’ and making customers feel that they are getting something sub-standard or limiting. I found that it was exactly what I wanted! I had already decided the amount of money I would pay for my television entertainment: maximum $50. The Limited plan gave me all my local stations (most of which I could also watch in high definition on my homemade over-the-air antenna as long as the weather was good) and a few others plus the Weather Network (a must for me) – up to 50 channels. Then there were several bundles which you could add: 5 more channels for $15 and another 5 for five bucks more. Luckily, the channels that I had already determined that I wanted were in the cheapest bundle. Not only that, several channels were bundled along with another similar channel like HGTV with the DIY channel (which I didn’t have before), both Women’s Network East and West, and History channel East and West. I ended up with all those channels plus CTV News Channel and Cottage Life channel (which I had watched at my sister Faye’s house). So basically I got MORE for LESS $$! And I came in under budget. AND I GOT TO CHOOSE.
I found our old TV antenna in the loft of the playhouse – I want to mount it on the roof again and see what reception I can get with it before I spend money on a new TV antenna. I like to BE the chooser of how I spend MY time. I don’t want it imposed on me when I decide to watch television. I can pick whether I want to watch TV shows or movies via my chosen satellite programming or over-the-air antenna in high definition or stream via my computer hooked up to the HDMI to my TV.
I’ve been beaming all week.

The Holleford Crater

Yesterday my son Taylor and I went on a road trip to the site where a meteorite crashed 550 million years ago: the Holleford Crater. I never even knew it existed so close to home until Taylor told me about it last year. We intended to go and see it then but never got around to it before he had to leave for work in the far north. It dawned sunny and above zero so we decided to make the two hour trek about 40 minutes north of Kingston. ROAD TRIP!!
We drove along country roads which followed the river, then climbed windy hills passing frozen lakes and rock-cuts while listening to Beatles music, at first – Taylor thoughtfully loaded a bunch of my favourite music. The last stretch of our journey to the crater passed by hilly farmland on backroads directed by the GPS app on his phone. We pulled over in front of Crater Farm and low and behold there was an official Ontario landmark sign for “The Holleford Crater”!

Holleford Crater

The Holliford Crater aerial photo

The plaque at the site tells the story of a 90 meter in diameter meteorite, traveling 55,000 kilometres per hour, smashed into the earth here eons ago, blasting a hole 244 metres deep and 2.5 kilometres wide. When the crater hit the surface it would have sent up a cloud of debris 2-5 miles into the Earth’s atmosphere.
In 1955, aerial photographs revealed the crater. Canadian scientists from the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa confirmed it was indeed a meteorite crater from a series of four geophysical studies: magnetic observations, seismic studies, gravity studies, and a diamond drilling program. The crater contains a thick layer of Palaeozoic sediments but still has the remnant of a rim, rising 100 feet. At first the depression filled with water, becoming a circular lake. Later Palaeozoic seas swept in sediments, filling the crater to its present depth of about 30 metres. The explosive impact of the meteorite is still evident in the hundreds of feet of shattered rock that drilling has detected beneath the original crater floor.
At the time of impact, the landscape was devoid of any kind of vegetation or animals except the odd algae life form. The North America continent was slowly drifting away from South America. It was a LONG time ago!

TaylorWM

Taylor at the Holleford Crater

We enjoyed our packed lunch while gazing over the countryside towards the impact area which looked ordinarily like most of the landscape. We spent 15 minutes there then left for home. We continued our journey on another road taking a circuitous route towards home along narrow country roads.
Both of us were very pleased that we finally visited the crater and got to spend a pleasant day together on this road trip.
The Holleford Crater is N 44° 27.511 W 076° 37.985 about 27 km north-north-west of Kingston, Ontario.

Meteorite 550 Million Years Agometeroite550millionYearsAgo

 

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