Upper Wellington

When I was 11 years old, my parents bought their first house. I’d lived in Hamilton’s east end on Eaton Place (read more here) my entire life. My whole world was there in that quiet idyllic neighbourhood on the edge of the city. Then we moved up on the mountain to 425 Upper Wellington Street to a small 800 sq. ft., two bedroom pink (with black trim) bungalow on a busy 4 lane street at the top of the Jolly Cut mountain access road. Our Upper Wellington Street home had a very small kitchen, a livingroom, one bathroom (much to my Dad’s pain, with three daughters), 2 bedrooms, and an unfinished basement.  My Dad got busy right away finishing a bedroom for my oldest sister Faye and a ‘rec room’ for us to hang out in.  I REALLY  More

Heat Dome

We’ve had a lot of very hot weather lately and now it’s even been given a name: a Heat Dome! This phenomena is the summertime equivalent of winter’s Polar Vortex. I need a weather dictionary to keep up with all these terms! Even though I’ve never heard of them before, apparently Heat Domes are not all that rare. What does this all mean other than it’s friggin’ hot outside?

A Heat Dome is a dome of heat (duh!) that is actually trapped in the atmosphere and becomes stationery. Atmospheric conditions have to be just right for a Heat Dome to occur. The Jet Stream of westerly winds is further north than usual – this time near James Bay. A high pressure system is parked over most of the US and parts of southern Canada. The air is apparently ‘heavier’ which causes it to sink, compress, heat up, and remain in the same place causing poor air quality. David Phillips from Environment Canada said “we are breathing in the same air as yesterday”. This re-circulation of stale air can be dangerous for certain people like babies, seniors, the chronically ill, and people with respiratory conditions.

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Temperatures have been in the 30+C degree range plus with added humidex factored in makes it feel in the high 30s/low 40Cs. There have been Heat Warnings issued in major cities in Eastern Canada. In southern Ontario, there have been about 20 days this year of temperatures over 30C degrees whereas last year there had been 2 by this time.

This morning, the temperature outside felt cool and refreshing so I opened up all the windows! I’ll shut them when it starts to feel hot out and close the curtains as the sun moves during the day – to keep the house as cool as possible. I do have air conditioning but I hate to run it in the daytime unless absolutely necessary, like on Friday. I’ve already had it running twice as much as last year (5 days). Sometimes it’s just hot and I can handle that. It’s the humidity that makes me cave and turn on the A/C because I sometimes feel that it’s hard to breathe. Usually the outside temperature cools down during the night so I turn off the A/C and open up some windows to cool the house down naturally.

For my garden, the heat has been brutal. Luckily, this heat has spawned afternoon/evening thunderstorms which water my garden and refill my rain barrels.

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.

NettlesWM

 
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/ .

Nettle2WM

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.

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.

Candied Squash

I love squash. My favourites are the winter types like Acorn, Butternut, and Buttercup but my overall, hands-down best is Butternut. During the summer, I like to BBQ sliced Zucchini squash brushed with my homemade Italian salad dressing.
I’ve roasted Butternut squash halves in my oven while I cook dinner. I’ve also made a yummy Curried Squash Soup (recipe here) that my DIL Jeanette introduced me to. Lately though, I’ve been craving for squash nearly every day – it’s probably due to my body’s need for more squash-specific nutrition. Afterall, squash is the new Superfood. It contains a huge amount of vitamins A, C, E, B6, B2, B3, K, niacin, thiamin, manganese, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, folate, omega 3 fats, magnesium, and fiber.

homegrown squash

Organic Homegrown Squash

I grow squash in my garden or purchase locally grown produce in the fall – one of the best things about squash is that it’s locally grown and available all winter long. It’s not suprising why North American Natives grew “the three sisters”, corn, squash, and beans as a dietary staple. I store it every fall in my mudroom in a basket on the floor. It’s pretty cool in there all winter and I know squash probably doesn’t like it THAT cool (45F degrees/7C) but they seem to be just fine. It’s easy to cut off a hunk from the neck or half a squash and cook it randomly inside the oven of my wood cookstove.
I decided to add a little zest to my squash and now this has become my favourite! I call it Candied Squash.  It’s not really candy but it might as well be to me!   Here’s the recipe:

1WM

 
Candied Squash Recipe

1/2 butternut squash or the neck of a butternut squash
Butter – please, please do NOT use margarine (a bucket of chemicals)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
cinnamon
Scoop out any seeds inside the squash half you are using. I cover the open end of the other piece with a leftover plastic bag and put it back in storage with the rest.
Slice into one inch pieces. Peel off the outer skin. Cut into one inch cubes.

2WM

Butter lightly a baking dish or piece of tin foil. Put in the squash. Add 4-5 small pieces of butter on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover or wrap the tinfoil to completely cover it.

3WM

Bake for at least an hour at 325F degrees. I left mine in the cookstove yesterday for 4 hours because I forgot about it and it was deliciously ‘well-done’!
I usually simply pour it into a bowl and eat. Sometimes, if I’ve planned ahead, I add it as a side to my dinner meal.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and discover that squash tastes as good as it looks.

4WM

My Cancer Journey

I have skin cancer – a type called basal cell carcinoma.
I want to share my experience right from the beginning through my blog. Don’t worry, it won’t dominate this blog – there are recipes to share and other experiences to write about. Cancer does not define me. I won’t let it. It’s part of my whole life journey. It’s part of me. I own it.
One might think, whew, it’s only skin cancer….. good thing it’s not a more serious cancer. Cancer is cancer. Those mutant cells have now been identified in my body. I AM grateful that basal cell carcinoma has a very good success rate of treatment and survival rate of 95% at five years.
This kind of skin cancer is attributed to UV rays from sun exposure or tanning beds (which I’ve never used). Some scientists say that the sun’s rays were doing their damage decades ago unbeknownst to me. When I was a kid in the 1950s , we practically LIVED outside, summer and winter. Sunscreen hadn’t been invented yet and climate change wasn’t recognized. We played outside in the summer wearing as few clothes as possible with our bodies becoming browner as the summer progressed.

DaisyWM
I felt suspicious about a few spots on my face several years ago so I went to my former family Doctor. He thought they were insigificant, cosmetic spots and proceeded to do a freezing-like treatment on each one – it’s called Cryosurgery which uses liquid nitrogen to destroy the pre-cancerous cells. It didn’t help. I changed physicians to a young woman who was only 4 minutes from home – I ‘interviewed’ her and decided she was easy to communicate with, up-to-date on the latest research, and had no problem with addressing each other by our first names. Last year, I showed her my little ‘spots of concern’ on my face and asked for a dermatologist appointment to get them checked out. She suggested that first we try the freezing treatment (again). After a month, it was clear that it didn’t work (again) so a referral was made to a dermatologist. My concerns centered around one particular area on my upper lip which bled off-and-on and never healed completely. It looked almost like a roundish scar, but I had never been cut there. And it was growing in size.
Finally, my dermatologist appointment arrived after 8 months of waiting – I could have gone earlier into the city but I didn’t want to drive there as parking is a nightmare. The Doc walked in and introduced herself and her collegue, asking for my permission that he be there. She walked up to me sitting on the examining table half dressed and stated matter-of-factly “I see you have skin cancer”. Just like that. A family doctor couldn’t identify a suspicious skin anomaly? Anyone can ‘google’ my symptoms and get a probable answer. She checked me over but was focused on that one spot. She thought that it was a large basal cell carcinoma. Her and her collegue talked about various treatments and even called in the plastic surgeon from the clinic next door. They all agreed that Mohs surgery was called for: basically, at the Ottawa Hospital I will be under local anesthetic and the surgeon will scrape away layers of the cancer, testing it after each layer until no cancer remains. It’s quite successful for the treatment of this kind of cancer. The surgery will likely be in about 3 months.
While I was there, the dermatologist did a biopsy by injecting freezing into my upper lip and removing a portion of the cancer with a scalpel to send off to the lab for confirmation. I had no problem looking at the needle with freezing going in but when I saw her coming close to my face with the scalpel, I thought to myself “it’s okay to close your eyes now” hehehe. Then she proceeded to cauterize the area, which hurt because some of it had no freezing. I said that I shouldn’t be such a baby since I gave birth to seven children without as much as an aspirin for the pain.
She talked about sunscreen… calling for biopsy results in 3 weeks… the surgeon’s name… Mohs surgery… reconstruction…. and other things and I was worried that I wouldn’t remember it all. Then she handed me a sheet of paper where she kindly wrote it all down.
I’ve been thinking alot about being outside and gardening this summer and driving with the sun pouring through the window and forgetting to lather on my 60 SPF sunscreen and a whole lot of other things that never concerned me before.
Biopsy results confirmed basal cell carcinoma.
Let the journey begin

8wm

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