Covid-19 Pandemic

You can’t see it. Or smell it. Or taste it. Or hear it. Or feel it. But make no mistake. Covid-19 disease has changed the world as we knew it. Nobody alive has ever seen anything like this before. We are living in unprecedented history. THIS virus does not discriminate – it’s an equal opportunity killer.

I have been following this novel (new) coronavirus since I first heard about it at the end of December 2019 in a brief news clip from China.  By January, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Health Emergency because there were SO many people in China infected and dying…..and it was spreading rapidly. The DNA was sequenced and discovered that this novel coronavirus was similar to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – another type of coronavirus) of 2003 BUT different/new. This virus was named SARS-CoV-2 (SARS, Coronaviris 2) and the disease it causes is now known as Covid-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019, the year it was discovered).

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared Covid-19 a global Pandemic.

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SARS-CoV with corona

 

It’s an impossible scenario to comprehend. Covid-19 has now spread from China to the rest of the world infecting OVER 1.3 MILLION people and killing 71,000+ humans (as of this writing). The United States, our neighbour to the south, is the new epicenter of the world.

Almost a month ago, the Canadian Prime Minister asked all citizens abroad to please return home NOW. The government and health authorities then asked people to
* not travel outside the country
* use “social distancing”, a new buzz word for keeping 6 feet apart from each other
* STAY HOME ~ now indefinitely. No visiting relatives or friends.  Social Isolation
* No gatherings of over 50 people ~ now 5 people
* No school
* Parks and recreation closed
* Restaurants closed down
* work from home if they were lucky enough.

Others got laid off or lost their jobs because their workplace had to adapt/close. My province of Ontario declared a State of Emergency followed by almost every other province and territory in the country.

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Spring is still spring

 

Panic shopping ensued with manic people buying excessive amounts of toilet paper (don’t ask me why) and cleaning out shelves of canned goods and disinfecting supplies.
It was insane.

The Canadian Government prohibited travelers outside the country from coming here; then they closed the border with the United States (except for Canadian citizens arriving home, for now) and trucking with essential goods like food and medical supplies.

What does all this mean? People are going to die. Some people STILL believe that it’s all media hype. Others refuse to STAY HOME and instead, use their down time to socialize and shop. A couple of weeks ago, online pictures appeared of throngs of people packed tightly on beaches in Vancouver and shopping center parking lots full of cars. Now drone footage shows empty streets in our biggest cities. And people can now be fined for gathering or not “social-distancing” in some cities. The province of Quebec is turning back vehicles of non-residents.

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Tomato Seedlings

 

As usual, I’m staying home. I’m not even ‘allowed’ to do the grocery shopping anymore! We’re even being extra careful with the mail: it gets quarantined in the garage for a day before we open it. I’ve started my tomato plants for this summer’s garden and plan to start squash and zucchini inside soon. I’ve tapped my Sugar Maple trees and I’m boiling the sap on my cookstove daily like I do every year. These little things seem like the only things that are normal! I grieve that I’m unable to visit my kids, grandchildren, and my sisters Faye and Betty any time soon. I AM thankful that I have grown children still living here – we’re taking care of each other. The whole country, in fact the whole world, has come to a halt. Many families are re-discovering each other again.

I could never have fathomed the magnitude of this pandemic! Now we are all living it – making history that future generations will read about and study forever. I remember exactly what I was doing when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated; I’ll never forget my Mom dying; I remember when the Space Shuttle blew up; I’ll always remember September 11, 2001; and now I’ll never forget the Covid-19 Pandemic and the ensuing “Greatest Depression” that is on the horizon.

Take care everyone and for now, STAY HOME!

Okay

Growing Up in the 1950s

 

I’m living in my 7th decade of life: the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and now 2010s. I was born in the early 1950s and I’d like to share what it was like living in each of these decades.

 
The 1950s were an amazing time to be born – they call us ‘baby boomers’ now. Children born in the decade following World War ll were born into a world which was changing at a dizzying rate. Before this World War, my parents lived through the Great Depression which was a time of depravity and challenge. Then after WWll, life seemed less of a struggle and even richer for my parent’s generation. Many of our parents wanted to give their children everything they didn’t have themselves when they were growing up:  a decent home, a family car, a job, and enough food. My parents chose to move from their small home town on the east coast to the big city in Ontario after my oldest sister Faye was born. I was born in the city of Hamilton in 1953. Soon afterwards, we moved to our first home on Eaton Place where all my memories begin…. My very first memory is of someone taking a picture of me when I was two years old and the sun was shining in my face.

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First Picture Grammom 1955

 

Ahhh, the 50’s. The very thought brings a feeling of joy, simplicity, peace, and ….. ROCK ‘N ROLL! After a generation of waltzes during the 1930s and 40s, MY generation was ready to shake things up! My memories only take me back to the late 1950s – Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n Roll; Buddy Holly’s “Great Balls of Fire”; Bill Haley and the Comets “Rock Around the Clock” ; Chuck Berry (who performed at our high school in 1971 ~ I’ll never forget how we all roared when he sang “My Ding-a-ling”!). Back in the 50s, music was recorded on vinyl records in speeds (RPM = rotations per minute) of 45 and 33 (78s were old school from the ‘olden days’ of our parents). 45s were the small, 7″ singles with one song per side and 33s were the record albums. Cassette tapes, CDs, and MP3 hadn’t even been thought of back then! We collected LOTS of records and albums over the years.

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First house – Eaton Place 1955

 

Our parents were great! Every year we went on vacation somewhere – Timmins to see the gold mine and my Auntie Marlene and Uncle Jim; Ottawa to see the Parliament Buildings and camp in Gatineau Park; local camping at Lambert Park; Santa’s Village in Bracebridge; and my favourite place of all, New Carlisle, Quebec lovingly known as down home where most of my relatives lived. It took us 3 days to drive the 1000 miles (1650 kms) on two lane highways in our ’50s Ford sedan, packed to the hilt with everything from baskets of fruit to bathroom sink/toilet and always a neighbour along for the holiday! We always stayed at my grandparents farm. We went in July, just in time for haying too. In the 1950s, my grandparents didn’t own any machinery to help with the farming, just Queen and Gyp, huge draft horses. They did the haying all by hand, pitching it up onto horse-drawn wooden wagons where us kids would ‘help’ by sitting on the top of the pile as we went around the field. Then back at the barn, the loose hay would be pitched up into the hay loft. We spent many fun days playing in that hayloft, hiding in the hay or just daydreaming. Other days were spent at the beach on Chaleur Bay on the Atlantic Ocean playing with our cousins in the freezing cold salt water.

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Uncle Lloyd farming 1950s

 

When we were at home, we’d spend the summer outdoors all the time. Our neighbourhood was void of backyard fences so we had a huge yard where we’d play baseball, football, tag, kick-the-can, or hide and seek. One street over was an undeveloped area where we’d explore and play using our imaginations (called “the Field” and “the Creek”). My favourite was to pretend I was riding a horse, either on my bike or running while slapping my leg to make the sound of galloping. I’d even tie up my pretend horse at the back porch when I came in for lunch. In the 1950s, there were no video games – heck many folks didn’t even have televisions! Us kids PLAYED! We used our IMAGINATION! TV shows I DID watch included Hockey Night in Canada (we were staunch Toronto Maple Leaf fans) on Saturday nights (I laid on my mother’s lap until I fell asleep), Roy Rogers Show and Lassie on Saturday morning. We got 6 channels, mostly from the U.S. During the summer, all the neighbours flocked to our front porch after supper. The adults would sit on the cement steps and talk while the kids played until dark.

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Eaton Place families on our front porch

 

In the winter, my Dad made us a skating rink beside the house and a sliding hill out back on our slightly inclining backyard hill. The whole neighbourhood came over to skate and slide after school and on weekends! It was the best childhood a kid could dream of.

Winter Fun

Winter fun

 

We didn’t use plastics for everything like today. I recall that our first refrigerator was an ice box – the ice man came around the neighbourhood with blocks of ice to sell to people. The ‘bread man’ came around weekdays to deliver bread and other goods right to your door – all our mother had to do was pick out what she wanted. And the milkman came daily with glass quart jars of milk – mothers simply left the washed empties out on the porch and the milkman would exchange them for full bottles of milk, leaving them outside, unrefrigerated. Nobody ever got sick either. All these businessmen (yes it was always men) were paid by their customers once a week – the honour system was alive and well in the 1950s.

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Grammom 4 yrs old with friend Ricky, 1957

 

In the 1950s, 99.9% of Mothers stayed home to raise the children and the Dads worked outside the home, sometimes two or three jobs like my Dad. That’s just the way it was. Many women were expected to quit their jobs when they married, anticipating a family would soon follow. When I was around ten years old, my mother got a job with some other neighbourhood ladies, cleaning offices for Ernie. My oldest sister Faye, babysat us for the few hours in the evening. I will always cherish my mother’s presence during the day in the summertime, during lunchtime, and before/after school. Moms back then cooked all the meals and did all the laundry. There were no ‘fast food’ places in the 1950s that I can recall ~ we did go to Stoney Creek Dairy for ice cream cones a couple of times in the summer. But I don’t EVER remember going out to eat hamburgers at a restaurant.

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Santa’s Village 1959

 

My first school was Parkdale Public School where I went from Kindergarten to grade 5. We walked to school with all the neighbourhood kids in those days, skipping, talking, and singing along the way. At lunchtime, we walked back home where our mothers had lunch waiting for us. Then back to school. I vividly recall kindergarten – fingerpainting, playing instruments, and afternoon napping. We went to Kindergarten either in the morning OR the afternoon. Not all day like today. There was no Junior Kindergarten either. When we turned 5 years old, we were eligible for kindergarten.

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Grammom 5 years old 1958

 

When I was very young, I remember hearing that our Prime Minister was John Diefenbaker and I couldn’t help but wonder why a baker would be a Prime Minister…… ? I pictured this person all dressed in white wearing a baker’s hat! Oh the innocence of youth!

I have to say, life was simpler back in the 1950s – at least to a young kid like me.

Ten Years Later ….

Yes it’s been 10 years since Chris died at home on March 2, 2008 around 5:30 p.m. as the setting sun streamed through the window onto his face, surrounded by the loving embrace of our family. At times, it feels raw just like yesterday and other times it seems like a lifetime ago.

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Chris, Nellie, & Melvin 1999

 

We’re okay. We’re just fine. It’s hard to comprehend all the life that has occurred in these last ten years – life that Chris has missed. Life that we’ve been blessed with.

Ten years ago, the five oldest children were grown up and off on their own. Only 13 year old Melvin and 16 year old Nellie still lived at home. Our darling grandchildren, Kalia and Olivia, were SO small ~ now they are teenagers AND have been joined by SIX MORE cousins! My life has been enriched with joy and pride beyond measure.

I’ve learned, painfully at the beginning, to be me. Not part of a couple any more. Finding ‘me’ has been an amazing journey that is still evolving.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve watched 3 Olympic Winter games, jumping for joy over Canada’s gold medals in hockey. Chris would have loved that. Ten springs, summers, falls, and winters.

Not too much has changed around the house. A few years ago, my grown kids fixed the mudroom door and built a new deck out back. I still have my pond that Chris built for me – and I look after it faithfully, bringing in the goldfish every fall with the help of Kalia.

 

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Until recently, nothing much changed inside the house. I wanted things to stay just as they were: the paint that Chris put on the walls has been comforting. Recently though, with Nellie’s encouragement and support, I’m ready for change. I’m ready for fresh paint now! And Nellie’s started painting – her Daddy would be proud of her because she’s pretty darn good at it! We started with my bedroom because I had mold growing in the corners – Nellie and Taylor ripped out the drywall right down to the studs and replaced the insulation and drywall. Then Nellie and I taped and mudded it. Now Nellie is painting the entire room, door, and trim. Thanks Nellie! And for the first time in my entire life, I have my very own new bedroom furniture! I don’t have to share it with my sister (love you Bet even though you used to kick me out of our bed for breathing too loud when we were growing up, hehe) or husband or wee ones or anyone ~ just for me! It only took 65 years. It’s beautiful!

Next is the livingroom painting and finishing up a few jobs (like the floor) that Chris was too sick to do – Nellie is on a roll.

Every day we think of Chris and miss him.

Moving forward, crawling at times, but definitely moving forward.

 

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Homemade Turkey Dressing Recipe

 

I’ve always made my own turkey dressing (or stuffing as some folks say).  I believe my mother made it this way and so did her mother.  With Christmas just around the corner, I think it’s fitting to post this recipe.  There’s no rocket science to this and the amounts of ingredients vary so don’t worry about being exact.

 

IngredientsWM

 

Turkey Dressing/Stuffing

 
1 loaf Bread (stale is best. I use Whole Wheat and it’s usually fresh) – break or cut into small pieces.

 
1 small Onion diced very small

 
several white Potatoes, diced and boiled.

 
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Salt

 
little Pepper

 
Ground Sage – about a teaspoon, more or less to taste

 
Dried Summer Savory – to taste (I never measure but I must add several tablespoons).  I usually grow or buy a bunch of local Summer Savory.

 

Dressing is the kind of food that I taste-test as I’m adding the Sage and Savory spices. I just keep adding them, a little at a time, until I achieve the taste I’m looking for.

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Mix everything together and add it by the handful to the inside of the turkey before you put it in the oven. Pack it in well to make it all fit. You can even stuff both ‘ends’.   The juices of the turkey mingle with the dressing as it’s cooking and make it nice and moist with a hint of turkey flavour.

When the turkey is done, remove the dressing right away – don’t leave it inside the turkey.

 

Serve with homemade Mashed Potatoes, homemade Gravy, baked Carrots, and boiled, mashed Turnip.  And don’t forget to follow with Christmas treats (recipes here)!
Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Grammom!

Outdoor Cat Shelters

It’s beginning to get cold around here – temperatures are now below 0 degrees celsius most days and even colder at night. Almost two years ago, a family of feral cats ~ mother cat and her three kittens ~ showed up around here. You can read more about the “Kittens” here.
Now we’ve adopted two of the feral ‘outside’ cats: brother Mandu and his sister Mochi (mother of our kittens). We managed to capture Mochi and get her spayed along with all her kittens last year. Even though the kittens have become inside cats, Mochi and Mandu remain our ‘outside’ cats. It was clear that they needed a better shelter arrangement so Nellie and I created two shelters for them last fall.
We chose plastic Rubbermaid containers to keep them dry and warm: 2 large and 2 smaller ones which fit inside the bigger ones.

First, we laid a piece of leftover hard styrofoam insulation on the bottom to add increased thermal factor on cold winter days.

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Then we lined the inside with environmentally friendly Roxul insulation.

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We carefully slipped the small Rubbermaid container inside the larger insulated one trying to keep the insulation along the inside intact.

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Then we placed the lids on both inner and outer containers. Nellie drew a circle on one end, big enough for our outside cats to fit through without letting in any unnecessary cold. Then she cut out the hole of the outside container with a box cutter, removed the circle of insulation, then cut the same size hole on the inside container.

 

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We used Tuck Tape to seal up the entrance hole area between the two buckets to keep the insulation intact and dry.   It may not be pretty but it’s effective!

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We removed the lids and proceeded to use old polyester pillow stuffing to line the insides and bottom. In one, we used some old foam insulation we had lying around.

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We tacked the lids back on with caulking (which we scraped off later because it was ineffective) and placed them where Mochi and Mandu liked to sit on the deck and look inside through the sliding glass door (and we could watch them 😉 ). Within hours, both cats tried out their new abode! Later, after the snow fell, I ‘wrapped’ the back and sides of both shelters with an old shower curtain to add to their warmth and dryness.

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Both Mochi and Mandu used their outside shelters all last winter, keeping safe and warm and often sleeping together in one bed on the coldest nights. We continue to feed them and even warm them up some homemade chicken broth every morning to help take the chill off and get something warm inside them.
Late this summer, we took off the lids and replaced the inside lining with fresh pillow stuffing.
Nellie and I feel comforted knowing that we are doing the best we can to take care of these two innocent creatures who have become our outside pets. Mandu has always remained quite feral and untouchable while Mochi has ‘allowed’ us to get close and even touch her. This fall, Nellie patiently kept feeding both of them yummy wet cat food and leftover chicken inside the mudroom every day (while the door was propped open for them to leave if they felt uncomfortable). Finally after almost two months, she was able to pet (briefly) BOTH Mochi and Mandu! And I eventually had the privilege of stroking them too.
Some day, we hope that they will feel comfortable spending the night inside the mudroom with the door closed but it’s too much for them now. We tried it one night and Mandu quickly panicked so we had to let them outside again. WE will just have to be patient……

 

If you’re interested in donating to a Kitten Rescue Fund please click on this link.

Reading Farley Mowat

This summer, I’ve been on a bit of a reading spree. I’ve focused on books by one of my favourite authors Farley Mowat (1921-2014) who wrote 42 books (translated into over 26 languages) as a freelance writer over the span of 50 years. Farley Mowat was the most prolific writer in Canada and sold over 10 million books – so why wouldn’t I want to read some of his books that I’ve collected over the years! “Subjective non-fiction” and “cause-oriented” as Farley said of his writings – he was an environmental activist to be sure.

Reading FMwm

Reading The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be

Farley Mowat wrote books about animals (domesticated and wild) like caribou, owls, dogs, wolves, and whales (Owls in the Family; The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be; Never Cry Wolf; Sea of Slaughter; etc.) or books about vanishing people who we knew nothing about like the Inuit (People of the Deer; The Snow Walker; The Desperate People; No Man’s River; etc.); or books about disappearing ways of life as in the outport posts of Newfoundland (The Grey Seas Under; Bay of Spirits; The New Founde Land; etc.) ; or books which tell a tale about a place I’ve never been to like the arctic or Siberia (Walking on the Land; Sibir: My Discovery of Siberia; etc.) > stories unwritten until Farley Mowat wove words together to share his experiences with artistic flare.

I’ve accumulated a number of his books over the years and placed them lovingly on my ‘retirement’ shelf to read ‘later’. Well ‘later’ has come this summer and I’ve been reading all my Farley Mowat books like a person starving for sustenance!

WoFMwmI started off reading The World of Farley Mowat: A Selection from His Works which is a compilation of excerpts from some of his books. I read and read and read until my vision became blurred when I looked out the window! (*Note to self: get eyes examined.) I thought I’d read my favourite piece until I got to the next chapter about another book and I loved it just as much! If I have to pick, I think I liked the story of “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” best. I was intensely interested in the story of the Inuit in “People of the Deer“, too. Farley Mowat is such an amazing writer! He captures the spirit of the setting and translates it with emotion. I laughed until I cried, literally, when I read his excerpt from “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float“. I don’t think Nellie or Taylor heard me sitting there all by myself howling with laughter or they would have thought I’d gone crazy!! I enjoyed this book immensely!

 

I took a break because I recalled seeing on my bookshelves, another book by Claire Mowat, Farley’s wife, called ‘The Outport People‘ about their years living in an isolated village in Newfoundland. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this volume.

VirungawmI scoured my bookshelves for FM book #2 and decided on “Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey“. This biography about the famous Gorilla researcher in Africa was a very compelling read and worth every moment of my life spent devouring it’s pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TDWWBwmSurprisingly, I found “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” deep in the corner at the back of the top shelf of one of my bookcases. I was elated because I thought I didn’t have a copy anymore! THIS is the book I’m reading right now. It’s a small paperback so it won’t take me very long to read it. I also brought upstairs to read a copy of “Tundra“. These books were clearly visible on my bookshelves and I’m wondering what other volumes lie behind other books. I’m going to spend a few hours re-organizing some bookshelves to see what I’ve got……. and make room for more.

Every few years, we enjoy watching the movie made about Mowat’s book “Never Cry Wolf” as well. I want to add that I came across this amazing movie via the National Film Board about a young family who canoes the Farley route: Finding Farley https://www.nfb.ca/film/finding_farley/.

This morning I ordered “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float; Owls in the Family; Born Naked, and Bay of Spirits from my local public library. I just HAVE to read as many of Farley Mowat’s books as possible!! I’m looking forward to the annual Book Fair in town at the end of August – I’ll be scouring the tables for more second-hand Farley Mowat books to buy! I just love reading books about the Canadian way of life – for good or for bad! I guess it’s my way of paying recognition to Canada’s 150th Birth day by learning more about my country and the people and places in it. I do believe that I’ll be reading Farley Mowat’s books for years to come……

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Flood Warning ….. Again!

Repeat. Do-over. Redux. The past month has seen a variety of spring weather. It’s been very warm with temperatures in the high 20’s or below normal cold, and more rain than I’ve ever seen. Since I wrote my Spring Flood blog post (here) on April 9th, we’ve had an additional 107.8 mm (4.24 inches) of rain in April PLUS another 125.1 mm (almost 5 inches) of rain in the first week of May alone! That’s a month’s worth of rain in a week! It’s been raining now for 4 days straight prompting another Flood Warning for the second time in a month. This is the first time in my 36 years living here that a flood warning has been issued twice in the spring.

May8,2017WM

 
The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, who manages the watershed, has been releasing statements regularly – I subscribe to email alerts and updates. The last one said that the rain will taper off tonight or tomorrow although we might get freezing rain or snow flurries:  “Flows in the Rideau system are now not expected to reach flows experienced in the spring freshet (flood). The rate of rise in the Rideau and its tributaries is slowing …….. Levels on the Long Reach will decline through the coming week.” The “Long Reach” is the area along the Rideau River where I live.

I’m grateful that my house is safe from the flood waters at this time unlike other poor souls who are experiencing devastating and complete loss of their homes. Most of these areas are along the Ottawa River and the Gatineau River. The Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River along with countless other rivers and small tributaries.   Almost 1,000 people have had to evacuate their homes. 😦   Many area have declared a State of Emergency.  It’s heartbreaking.

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My pond on April 8th

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My pond the way it should look in May

 

It will still be a few days before the flood level peaks. The military has now been called in to help in the flooded areas – much needed (and maybe a little belated) by exhausted homeowners. Federal government offices are closed in Gatineau, elective surgeries have now been cancelled at Gatineau Hospitals, schools closed, community centers closed, and libraries shut down on Monday because of the flooding

My house is set back about 300 feet from the river and up on a 3 foot ‘berm’ of earth. I’m glad that 40 years after this house began construction that it still holds the test of time thanks to Mr. Jones (original owner) and our old neighbour Mr. Mitchell who advised Mr. Jones to built the house a bit higher. Thank you gentlemen!

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Lettuce in my raised Kitchen Garden bed

 

Luckily, I only planted my spring garden a few weeks ago in my ‘kitchen garden’ area in the raised beds up by the house. I planted spinach, peas, carrots, and lettuce. The garlic in the main garden, which is saturated with water, was up and had healthy 6″ greens. It occurred to me today that the mole/vole problem I had in the lawn down by the river last year might be ‘remedied’ by the floods this year. The grass is growing too fast with all this rain but it will be a week, at the very least, before the water has dissipated and the ground isn’t soaking wet like a sponge. Only after it’s all dried up, I can cut the grass – and the grass will continue to grow in the meantime. Oh well, more mulch for my garden!

Now that I’ve finished writing this post, the rain has finally stopped! For now?  And a beaver is swimming around my fire pit down by the river …….  But now it’s snowing!

Summer BackyardWM

Looking forward to summer in my backyard

Spring Flood

It’s that time of year when the Rideau River’s ice is melting – it begins in the channel with a sliver of water peaking through. I always notice the melted ice in the channel first down by the bridge to town. Over the next few days, it slowly makes it’s way up to our place and beyond. Then usually the ice at the edge of the riverbank begins to melt and leaves a small ribbon of water. Huge ice flows shift from one side of the river to the other depending on which way the wind is blowing them.

My dock begins to rise with the water and bob in eager anticipation!

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2017

This year, it became cold and winter-like after spring ice break-up commenced and the whole river froze over again. We’ve had a bit more than the average total snowfall this winter (around 235 cms). It didn’t take long, though, for the thin ice in the middle channel to begin to thaw and water flowed once again.

A few weeks ago, it looked like this spring would be an average melt considering we had a very slow warm-up and the snow was melting a bit every day. Then the rain started. And it rained for several days. One day alone, we had 36 mm of rain added to the 30+ mm we had the day before (2.5+ inches).

The trouble with so much rain here on the river, is that the ground is still frozen and the river still has ice along the shoreline this year. When we get that much rain in the region, it all flows to the rivers and creeks. These waterways have no choice but to overflow. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority issued a Flood Warning for our area a few days ago. The river is 2 meters (6.5+ feet) above normal level.

The other day when I woke up, the river’s banks had overflowed about 15 feet and the river was considerably higher – I could see my dock floating way above winter levels. My riverside flagpole and flag were gone, likely knocked over by the sheet of ice. The next day, the water had come a third of the way up my yard. A few hours later, it crept halfway up. It ended up 3/4 of the way up my yard.

We’ve always been spared from any river flood damage because our house was built on a one meter (3 feet) pad of earth. During the great 100 year flood of 1976, all the roads around our place were under water and our place stood out like an island (this was before we moved here in 1981). One old timer said Reeve Craig Road used to be called ‘Puddle Alley’ for obvious reasons.

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2008

In 2008, we had another ‘hundred year flood’ after a record-breaking winter snowfall – they might want to correct that phrase to reflect the fact that these floods are happening way more often than every 100 years. In 2014, it happened again. My grandkids thought it was great to canoe ‘on the grass’ in Gramma’s backyard!

My sump pump has been working overtime! What the heck is a sump pump you ask? Well, it’s a water pump inside a 3 foot pit in my basement where the ground water around my house flows into a perforated tube buried around the perimeter and drains into the sump pit. My basement has always been dry other than the time the sump pump failed to turn on…….

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Great Blue Heron on dock

The water has finally started to recede now! This is monumental in ‘flood warning’ mode. All the ice seems to be gone from ‘the long reach’, which is the term given to my neck of the woods (it’s the longest stretch between locks – read more here). This morning, I was treated to one of my top 5 sights: my ‘lake of shining waters’ where the water sparkles like a million diamonds in the sun. Oh, I just LOVE seeing this! (I wrote about it here) I watched a beaver sitting on a small ice flow as it made it’s way down the river; several Great Blue Herons flying along the shoreline likely looking for a nesting place; and lots of ducks.

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My Lake of Shining Waters

Spring has literally sprung!

It’s The Little Things

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. There was never more truth as that phrase.
Recently I experienced losing some basic ‘necessities’ of life – well, not really necessary to live, like air and food. I’m very blessed to have been born in a country like Canada where basic necessities of life are taken for granted and provided. Even though half the year is cold and even covered in snow, I’m warm …….. most of the time. And that’s what brings me to this topic – heat.

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Last month, the heat went in my car. I don’t drive a fancy, late model SUV because my 26 year old Honda Civic is still chugging along and doing just fine. But sometimes it needs new parts. Like a thermostat. I knew it had to be the thermostat because I had some heat briefly but then as I drove along the highway, I froze. I couldn’t get it fixed right away because I had to go to my daughter’s house to take care of her and the children the week before Christmas. I just wore double pants, double wool socks, double sweaters, hat, mitts, scarf, winter boots, and a coat when I drove in the -25 C weather. You don’t know how much you appreciate heat in your car until it’s gone! My daughter Nellie and I drove into the city to a family get-together at Perry and Debbie’s when my sister-in-law Penny & brother-in-law Mike came up from Brantford, Ontario for a visit. We were frozen! Perry, bless his heart, put a piece of cardboard in front of the car’s radiator to help block the cold air on the drive home in the -30C degree night. Finally, after all the holidays, I took it to my mechanic to replace the thermostat: a $20 part and another $100 to put it in. It was worth every penny to be warm again when I drive in -30C degrees!! Such a little thing for such a huge impact!

http://www.autogaleria.hu -

My car…….new

 

Hot water. In our developed society, we take hot water for granted. We simply turn on the tap and voila, hot water spews out! I have several other ways to make hot water in my home like a solar hot water system (which is currently covered with snow and taking a break) and a hot water reservoir on the side of my wood cookstove. But I depend on my electric hot water heater the most I think. Last week, we noticed that the hot water coming out of the tap only lasted for a few minutes before it started to turn cold. When my grandchildren and daughter Kristi were here for a week and a half, there was barely enough hot water for a very, very small bath with a couple inches of water. And only one of us could have a bath or shower at a time until more water heated up in 5 or 6 hours. Nellie even offered to heat up kettles and pots of water on the stove.

 

Stockings Hung

My wood cookstove

 

We knew that one the two heating elements in the 40 gallon electric hot water tank was likely broken – there is one element at the top and one at the bottom of the tank. Every few years, these elements break down because of our hard, sulfur well water and we know about it when we have a shower and run out of hot water half way through! You don’t know how much you miss instant hot water until you don’t have any. I went into the Canadian Tire store and picked up the right elements – there are various sizes and models (who knew a hot water heater was so complex!). We needed a 240 volt 3,000 watt element model with a screw in base. I found the old one on top of the hot water heater so I brought it with me to make sure I picked up the right one.

One big thing that I’m grateful for is that my son Darin always comes down any time I need him to help. Yesterday, the whole family came down and waited (and waited) while Darin did a not-so-quick change out of 3 of Nellie’s electrical plugs in her newly painted & furnished bedroom and tried to fix the hot water heater. Somehow, we didn’t have the appropriate tool to remove the old elements – we didn’t remember how we ever did this the last few times. So Darin and the family went into town and bought the special wrench and came back to replace the elements. Thanks Dar! I was elated when I turned on the tap an hour later and hot water streamed out!!

I’m forever grateful when one of my kids does something for me that’s no big deal for them but means a lot to me. For instance, bringing in a 40 lb. bag (or two) of wood pellets. Or carrying a box of firewood in from the woodshed. Or shoveling the freshly fallen snow away from the front mudroom door and garage. Or cleaning the bathroom.

It’s the little things that make life a bit more enjoyable rather than struggling.

New Deck

When we moved into this house in 1981, there was a small deck out back overlooking the river. In 1990, we enlarged it considerably (17 feet by 32 feet) to accommodate our growing family and friends. About 10 years later, we replaced the top deck boards with spruce 2×6’s as they were beginning to rot but kept the framing. That was over 15 years ago and the deck boards were now in bad shape > so bad in spots, that my daughter Nellie thought I might fall through and break a leg any time! So she texted her brother Darin and told him that they had to do something! Then she told me that Darin and her were going to build me a new deck.

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old deck

 

Okay, I thought, yes they are right – that deck is in bad shape when I have to tiptoe on the nails to avoid stepping on the rotten spots! Yup, I had to admit it: I needed a new deck. We began with a deck planning session where we finalized the design and some of the materials. I wanted an area right outside the mudroom door, big enough to open up the screen door and be able to pass through before going straight down any stairs. We also needed a big deck area for sitting out or eating but not as big as the current deck which could accommodate our neighbourhood. And I also needed to access my clothesline and have stairs on the other side as well. This time, I wanted to use the new, eco-responsible treated lumber so it would outlast me.  Then Darin and I went to Home Depot to pick up some of the deck blocks and materials for the framing to get things started. Over the months of construction, I purchased material from both of our small town lumber companies to support the local economy.

We began one beautiful sunny weekend with ‘Deck Demolition Day’: Nellie, Darin, my 12 year old granddaughter Kalia, and I worked ALL day! Darin cut the 16 foot deck boards into three pieces with while Nellie and Kalia diligently removed all the old nails. We had the old deck down and the old deck boards stacked neatly beside the firepit at the river by suppertime.

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During demolition, we discovered that some of the ledger board (the 2″x10″ board attached to the house which the deck is attached to) under the mudroom door was rotten. So we spent another entire day repairing this and the adjoining mudroom walls. There is still more work to do in that area but we had to focus on the deck knowing that it’s a project for next year.

During the week, I spent every day moving the composted leaves that had been under the old deck down to my garden – 19 wheelbarrow loads!

 

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The next weekend my son Melvin and and his girlfriend Cassidy joined Darin, 11 year old granddaughter Livi, Nellie, and I to begin the process of rebuilding. We had to measure everything out and place the cement deck blocks in place. We decided to go with free-standing deck blocks instead of digging down 4 feet through large tree roots. Each three foot deck post and all the framing had to be precisely measured and leveled. The kids worked well together like a well-oiled machine on the new deck while Livi and I did things around the yard like pick raspberries for lunch (I think we actually ate more on the spot); made lunch; made another little bridge for the back of the pond because the other one had rotted (we used two of the old deck boards that were in good shape); set up the badminton net; and played badminton for hours. And the girls played with the new kittens.

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Livi multitasking

 

Darin set up the table saw out front of the garage for cutting all the wood that was sitting in the driveway. Cassidy even got a lesson and an opportunity to use the table saw. Livi also took time out to be the painter who coated the end cuts of the deck wood with special paint to protect them. Darin, Melvin, and Nellie attached all the deck hangers and supporting cross pieces which took a LOT of time. But finally, the framing was all done and we were ready to begin applying the deck boards next time.

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The next weekend we stated the decking. Each piece had to measured twice and cut once (as my FIL used to say). Livi applied the paint to the end cuts then I carried each deck board through the garage to the backyard. Finally, I was able to do something besides play badminton, eat raspberries, and make lunch!! Darin and Nellie steadily screwed down all the deck boards – boy, there were a bunch of them! We worked all day over two Saturdays and got almost all of them in place so we were actually able to stand on the new deck! And I was able to hang out my laundry for the first time all summer! And the best part was that I didn’t almost fall off the deck while putting clothes on the line because of the rotten board and the fact that the I had to lean out to reach the line before.

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always time for playing around

 

All that was left were the two staircases. Darin has a special tool to measure out the angle which we penciled on to the board. Then he cut out the risers with Nellie and I holding the board. Three per staircase, so 6 risers. And two deck boards per stair. Finally, the whole deck was done! I have to thank my DIL Amanda who brought down supper a few weekends. Darin and Nellie rocked! They worked long days each weekend to “get ‘er done”. My granddaughters worked hard too, and best separately and away from each other ;). Melvin’s strength was a bonus as he carried all those heavy deck blocks from the front of the house to the backyard.

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One of the first things I did, was sit outside on the deck with a cup of tea looking at the water, birds, and my back yard. I love that I can walk right around the deck now because it’s two feet shorter – I don’t have to go all around the chimnea fireplace to get to the other side of the house.  Nellie helped me move my big planters of spider plants outside to the edge of the deck and I took out the small outdoor table and a couple of chairs.

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Initially, I had planned to put lattice screens up along the base of the deck to hide the framing underneath but I changed my mind because it really looks nice, considering there’s a lot of money in that frame. So I’ve decided to transplant some garden plants underneath and along the edge. The other day, I planted some perennial geraniums and I have some real nice hydrangeas, hostas, and day lillies to add next spring. I also have some extra walkway ‘stones’ that my husband made years ago to put at the bottom of the stairs.

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That deck is so solid, if we ever had an earthquake, the house might fall down but the deck will be left standing!

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