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!

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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.

 

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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.

Cancer Free!

*Note: Graphic pictures in this blog post might be disturbing to some readers.

I am cancer free now.

A few months ago, after waiting nearly 9 months, I finally had my Mohs cancer surgery at the hospital.

My cancer journey began on February 2, 2016 when I met with a dermatologist who diagnosed basal cell carcinoma – skin cancer – on my upper lip. The surgery she recommended was called Mohs surgery after the Doctor who developed it in the 1930s and is the single most effective technique for removing Basal Cell Carcinoma. My research confirmed that Mohs surgery has the lowest recurrence rates, highest cure rates, and best cosmetic results of any skin cancer treatment. Okay, sold.

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February biopsy

I waited several weeks beyond the expected surgery date of three months without hearing a word from the hospital so I phoned the surgeon’s office, who told me to phone the Mohs clinic at the hospital. The kind receptionist assured me that the wait time wasn’t three months but more like 6 months! After 6 months had come and gone, I went to my family doctor and asked her office to call the clinic and find out what’s going on – did they forget about me? We were informed that the wait time was now 8-9 months! Then one sunny day in late September, I received a letter in the mail from the hospital notifying me of my surgery appointment – on the only day that I was scheduled to fly to Moncton for a weekend meeting! After all this waiting and waiting! But it was easy enough to change my appointment to the next week.

The day arrived and I had to be at the hospital, with an ‘escort’, by 7 a.m.. My daughter Nellie and I drove into the city to my other daughter Kristi’s house near the hospital and parked there. Then Kristi drove us to the hospital and was on-call all day in case Nellie needed a break. I was informed, in the letter, that I must bring someone with me or my surgery would be cancelled.

By 7:30 a.m., the staff started trickling in for the day – I have no idea why they made the six of us patients come at 7 a.m.! The nurse explained the process: one-by-one, each patient would be called in for their first surgery, wait for lab results, then maybe more surgery, and this would go on all day until the last patient was treated. I went in for my first surgery at 9:30 a.m.

The staff was SO young! My Mohs surgeon and the plastic surgeon were as young as my own kids! Extremely pleasant and happy people. Everyone was positive and outgoing. I was invited to participate in cancer research which was studying the effects of viruses to kill cancer cells. I signed up immediately – if my cancer cells can help cure cancer, well it was a no-brainer – why wouldn’t I! Sadly, only 2 of the 6 patients that day agreed to participate in this research. My surgeon was almost giddy about my cancer because the procedure she was about to perform was uncommon. She asked if she could take pictures for teaching medical students and I agreed with the condition that she show me and email them to me.

When all the permissions were done, I laid back in the ‘dentist-like’ chair and she froze the area with local anesthetic with about 9 needles. Okay, you can stop shivering now. After the first one, I barely felt the others. Then the cutting began. The doctor, Jillian, chatted about her upcoming trip to New Zealand and her love of photography. I was able to talk in between excising layers of cancer – it was actually a pleasant experience. The wound was cauterized and a wad of gauze placed over it – I was asked to press firmly and sent out to the waiting room. My cancer was then sent to the hospital lab for immediate examination. Mohs surgery is done in stages while the patient waits for lab results.

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Cancer cut out

I waited for 3 hours. I tried to eat lunch that we brought and even tried to drink with a straw but found it difficult with a part of my upper lip missing! Finally, I was called in for Part 2. There was still more cancer in my face. I guess the small spot I could see was more like an iceberg with more cancer under the skin. Another 7 or 8 needles to freeze the area again and more cancer and skin was removed and sent to the lab. Out I went, covered by a bigger piece of gauze, this time with a very droopy lip because half of the right side of my upper lip was also removed and went to the lab.

After another couple of hours of waiting and reading Readers Digest cover-to-cover, my lab results were back and I was called back in. Almost all the other patients were done for the day and had left. I felt bad for Nellie who loyally waited for me and even chatted with the other patients and their family members. This time the news was good – Kate got all the cancer! It was time for reconstruction of my face. There was a hole the size of a loonie or silver dollar and I had absolutely no idea how the plastic surgeon was EVER going to patch me back together again. I asked to see it and was handed a mirror. Wow. Oh well, I thought, at least I don’t have cancer anymore even though I’m going to have one mother of a scar.

The surgeon, Jill, and the plastic surgeon, Kate, and I discussed how to patch me up. The two doctors talked like they were decorating a birthday cake with all kinds of creative ideas using my current smile lines and face characteristics. Then I was given another 10 or so needles of freezing.

I had the option of having a skin graft from another area of my face or neck to patch the open wound but I opted for only one place to heal (thank you very much). The doctor suggested that she do a bit more cutting along my ‘smile line’ to enable her to pull up my skin and make a kind of flap to cover the gaping hole in my face. The inside of the lip is very stretchy, so she made me a new upper right lip by pulling up some of that skin. I had around 48 stitches, almost half of them inside.

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48 Stitches

I was given instructions for care of my wound and we had to stop at the store on the way home to pick up supplies. I wish they had given us this list so I could purchase them ahead of time and go straight home after a long day in the hospital. The pain wasn’t too bad. Even after all the freezing came out, it was manageable but I took a tylenol anyway for good measure. Two days after surgery, I had to remove the bandage. I wasn’t looking forward to this but it went very well. I had to change my bandages every day for the next week until I went back to have my outside stitches removed. I was told to apply vaseline with a Qtip to slow the healing of the stitches which results in a less visible scar.

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Post surgery day

I was treated like a rock star when I arrived at the clinic for my stitches removal – the doctors called other doctors and nurses in to see the fantastic surgery and reconstructive repair. They were very pleased how well it was healing and took more pictures for medical education. I was told that I wouldn’t need to return but that my scars would take a year to heal. I’m supposed to massage the scar tissue every day and wear sunscreen faithfully because the sun will change the colour of my scar.

The other day, I went to lunch with friends that I hadn’t seen for 6 months and they had trouble finding the scar. So I guess, all is good.

I’m cancer free!

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3 Months after surgery

What a Year!

 

2016 has been quite a year for me. It began with a shocking diagnosis of cancer and is ending with family game nights and Star Wars movies.

But l shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Let’s review 2016.

Winter was quite mild with very little snow compared to other years. Taylor was home for the winter, staying here and in the city. We celebrated birthdays in January & February which brightened up the cold days. In early February, I was diagnosed with cancer – basal cell carcinoma – and was told I’d need surgery in ‘two or three months’. I thought, oh great, I’ll get it over with before summer so I can get outdoors and garden. Ah, nope, it didn’t go as planned. I waited for nearly 9 long months before I had surgery at the end of October.

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Little snow at the end of February

In March, we sadly observed 8 years since Chris‘ passing – eight years. It seems like time has just flown by but at other times, time seems to stand still. I still miss him more than you can imagine.

Taylor and I made the two hour trek to the site of the Holleford Crater in March – we had talked about it for a few years and he wanted to drive there in his car before he left for work in Northern Canada in April. It was a great experience and I had a really nice time spending the day with my son.

When spring arrived, I was all gung-ho about getting outside and getting everything done all at once. I guess that’s what happens when you’re cooped up all winter long! I had some reservations about being in the sun since my diagnosis of skin cancer in February but I started slathering on SPF 60 sunscreen recommended by the dermatologist. I was glad to get out and tap my maple trees to gather maple sap for boiling down to maple syrup again this year. It was late March before all the ice melted off the river. There was no chance of flooding this year because the amount of snow was so minimal that there was very little run-off. In fact, the river was down about 3 feet and remained that way for months during the summer drought.

In my enthusiasm to work outside every day, I got my annual dose of poison ivy! But that didn’t stop me since I love the outdoors too much. My 20+ year old lawn tractor faithfully helped cut my large lawn again this year – a task that I thoroughly enjoy! My big project was to plant in the steep ditch that I’m unable to maintain any longer. I spent weeks transplanting and mulching and watering the new plants only to have a distracted city mower come down the road and completely shear off my entire month’s work. It was unexpected since they’ve only mowed the ditches three times in 35 years! And just when the plants started to grow again and near bloom, they slashed it down again! Unbelievable, twice in one year! I give up and I’ll just hope these plants come back next year…..

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Bumper crop of wild raspberries

During the wintertime, I researched the Little Free Libraries which were popping up all over North America. I thought to myself that I’d like to offer a Little Free Library too! So I worked on this project for weeks and placed my Library at the end of my dock for boaters and snowmobilers alike to use freely.

We were blessed with lots of new babies this year! First and foremost, my little granddaughter Elsie was born in British Columbia! Our whole family is ecstatic for Robin and Nici as they venture into parenthood (of a human being, in addition to their other ‘kids’ > goats, that is). I finally got to meet Elsie in September when I traveled to B.C. to visit – she’s absolutely perfect!

We also discovered baby kittens – 4 of them born to a feral cat who lived in our woodshed. This mother cat was just a kitten herself! Nellie and I knew that we needed to ‘rescue’ this wild litter and get them used to humans so we could get them spayed/neutered to end this insanity of feral cats in the neighbourhood. Mission accomplished …………. and we now have 4 new fixed, indoor kittens. The mother cat, Mochi, was also spayed and continues to live outside with her brother. Nellie constructed little ‘outdoor cat shelters’ for each of them to protect them from the cold winter.

While I was hanging my laundry outside, Nellie worried that I was going to fall through our rotting back deck. She sent Darin a text and said that they must do something before I fall through and break something! The hot summer weekends of deck building began. Melvin and Cassidy came to help when they could and grandgirls Kalia and Olivia chipped in too, to work with Darin, Nellie, and I in dismantling the old deck and rebuilding a new one. It’s beautiful and solid!

My cousin Maureen from down east came for a brief visit in August. We shopped till we dropped and enjoyed a tour of the Rideau Canal.

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Goose Spit, Comox, B.C.

At the end of August, I flew out west to British Columbia to visit my sisters Betty and Faye and my son Robin, Nici, and new granddaughter Elsie. I spent three glorious weeks with my sisters shopping at every thrift store for miles around and as many garage sales as we could find within a 50 mile radius! We visited Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria (where we had an amazing fish & chips lunch), Cathedral Grove, and Goats On The Roof in Coombs. Then we took the ferry over to spend a few days with Robin, Nici, and Elsie and enjoyed a relaxing time on their farm while getting to know adorable little Elsie. It was hard to leave…….

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Grammom & baby Elsie

I arrived back home to a surprise bathroom renovation by Nellie: she sanded, then white-washed the darkened pine boards and painted the doors and cabinets with the sea blue paint we’d chosen and purchased a few years ago. It looks so bright and awesome! We went to IKEA and bought a new mirrored medicine cabinet and another storage cabinet. Then we upgraded the faucet and cabinet hardware.

In October, I traveled to Moncton, New Brunswick for the Annual General Meeting of La Leche League Canada. The week after, I finally had my cancer surgery that I had been waiting for since February 2nd. Nellie came with me for the day in the hospital while Kristi drove us from her house nearby and picked us up, being on standby. It was a very long day involving 3 surgeries and 45 stitches to repair the loonie-size hole in my face. Recovery took longer than I anticipated and healing will continue for a full year.

Marty arrived for a visit at the end of October after driving with Taylor, Darin, and Carly from the Yukon down to visit Robin, Nici, and Elsie on the sunshine coast of B.C. then driving clear across Canada! It was great having him home but we missed seeing Jeanette, who stayed at home in the far north.

Another big announcement this year is that I’m going to be a Grammom again! Kristi and Mike are expecting a baby in April 2017. There have been challenges with this pregnancy though, as Kristi has been put on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. Jasmine turned 3 in January and Joshua turned 2 in September so they are pretty active children. They still have their 9 yr. old former foster child visit nearly every weekend too.

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Grandchildren Josh, Kalia, Livi, & Jasmine

Melvin comes home to visit whenever he can – he works hard, full time now and lives in Ottawa. His girlfriend Cassidy is a lovely girl who fits right in to our family. My ‘baby’ just celebrated his 22nd birthday.

Nellie continues to work hard with her online business, The Black Lory, successfully selling crocheted toys and items to people around the world. She received dozens of orders this Christmas and got them all made and sent in record time.

Darin got a promotion at work in the fall and is working harder than ever. Teenager Kalia grew taller than both Darin and I.  Eleven year old Livi continues to excel at gymnastics and has the most beautiful smile ever! Amanda keeps the ‘ship’ running smoothly.

I continue to volunteer for La Leche League Canada supporting breastfeeding families here locally and across the country. There have been additional challenges in the organization this year which have taxed me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nuff said about that.

So 2017 is just around the corner. It’s hard to believe we are on the backside of this decade already! The more things change, the more they remain the same.

I wonder what 2017 will bring …….

Best wishes to everyone for a Happy New Year!

Grammom

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Autumn Sunset – ‘prime time’

Banana Bread

 

A few days ago, I bought a large bag of very ripe bananas at the insanely reduced price of $1 at my local store. There were TEN ripe, medium sized bananas in the bag! Wow, I thought, it looks like I’ll be making some banana bread!

When I peeled the bananas this morning, all but two were perfect inside – no bruises. Amazing that they’d want to get ride of a perfect product just because it ‘looks’ bad on the outside. I guess this is my commentary of how the world is in general: just because someone or something appears less than perfect on the outside doesn’t mean that they are imperfect on the inside. And so what if someone or something isn’t perfect anyway! My sweet Mother used to always say “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” – a mantra I’ve always embraced.

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Mashing Ripe Bananas

Back to banana bread.

So first thing this morning, after my breakfast, I got busy making banana bread. I got out my loaf pans and prepared them by oiling all the inside and lightly dusting the bottom with flour.

I assembled all my bowls, measuring cups (one for dry ingredients and one for wet), measuring spoons, and ingredients. Then I began mashing the bananas one at a time on a plate with a fork – it’s really quite easy. I added each banana to the measuring cup after mashing it but I know from past experience that I’ll need 5-6 bananas for this recipe. This recipe is for 2 loaves – which freeze nicely if you want to save one for later. With the rest of the leftover bananas, I mashed up another 2 cups of banana to store in the freezer for later use. You can also simply put a very overripe whole banana in the freezer to use later.

Once baked, this banana bread should cool on a wire rack in their pans for about a half an hour. Then it’s ready for taste-testing. A slice of warm banana bread, with butter spread generously on top, and a cup of tea is to die for.

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Banana Bread Recipe (2 loaves)

2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5-6 bananas)
2/3 cup oil or melted butter (please don’t use margarine)
1 cup honey or brown sugar
4 eggs (I use local free-run eggs where the chickens aren’t caged)
3 1/2 cups of flour, preferably whole wheat
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup hot water

Beat the oil and honey/sugar together. I like to use as few dishes as possible so I crack the eggs, one at a time, in the measuring cup I just used for the oil. I beat each egg, then add it to the mixture before going on to the next egg. Mix well after all the eggs have been added. Add the mashed bananas. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) together. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the hot water, to the banana mixture and mix until smooth. Pour equally into 2 greased loaf pans.
Bake at 325F degrees for 55 – 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for half an hour. Slice and enjoy!

 

from my family cookbook Mom’s Recipes

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Made In China

I went looking for a new toothbrush the other day. As with everything else I buy, I always read the label to see where it’s made. A simple toothbrush is no exception.

I prefer not to purchase anything made in China. Sadly, a lot of items are made in China these days – things from food to cosmetics to …… well, toothbrushes. How hard can it be to find a toothbrush made even in North America? Apparently, impossible, I found out. After spending my valuable time in three different stores reading the labels of every single toothbrush sold, I finally found one that was not made in China. It wasn’t made in North America either, but in Switzerland. I just shook my head at the thought of little children brushing their teeth with plastic toothbrushes made in China where the standards of food grade plastic are questionable and quite frankly, not up to Canadian expectations.

How are toothbrushes made in China actually made, I wonder? Mass production factories by people paid a fraction of a percent of what the toothbrush is sold for? ‘Slave labour’ by inmates? It’s an ethical thing for me I think.

I’m not ‘holier than thou’ because I do have products in my home that are made in China. Most of these products I bought second hand but some I purchased brand new. It’s not that I didn’t search for items made on this continent. They are just not manufactured here any longer. Factories closed years ago and production sent overseas.

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Car packed with electronics to be recycled

 

I remember when one of my sons loved to take one of those individual fruit cups to school in his lunch. His favourite was the Delmonte mixed fruit with extra cherries which was made in U.S.A..  I was shopping once and I happened to notice that they changed the packaging to a glossy cardboard so I studied it suspiciously. Yup, low and behold, it said “Made in China”! I refuse to buy food from China.

Other items can be made in China using raw materials from North America – then shipped back to us. Other times, products are made in China with materials produced or grown in China – body products, jewelry, food, and make-up come to mind. There have been ‘recalls’ or bans from our government on kid’s jewelry from China which contained unacceptable amounts of lead. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How many more products are there that haven’t been tested or meet our country’s standards.

You CAN find products made in Canada or even the northern hemisphere but you HAVE to read labels. Reading labels has been a practice of mine for decades since I began reading food labels. I wouldn’t buy any food products with sugar as one of the first three ingredients. I looked for whole grain ingredients and less sugar – back in the day, ingredients were barely listed on products and with little detail. Hence, why I moved away from packaged products to homemade.

I’m not prejudice against Chinese people, honest.

All I can say, is that it’s a continual job to read labels every time I buy something even if it’s a product that I’ve bought for years. Well, at least I have a new toothbrush.

 

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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!

Kittens

When our kids were growing up, we seemed to have kittens around every few years. It all started because our neighbour Ed’s cat had kittens and we obligingly said we’d take the cute furry, white one who we named Princess (as in Princess Leia from Star Wars > she also had a brother named Chewy, who my other neighbour Nicky adopted).
Princess was a lovely, cuddly, furry lap cat. Soon, she became a mother to Obi and Rainbow, both pure white, furry male kittens. We became a family. Before we could get Princess spayed, she gave birth to 4 more pure white, furry kittens! Sadly, Princess got hit by a car when the kittens were 4 weeks old so we started them on softened kitten food. We found homes for three of the kittens but decided to keep the ‘runt’ called Dali, who had a rough start. Life went on and soon some of our white cats began to disappear and we were left with just Obi who lived until he was 12.

Nellie&Rainbow&DaddyWM

Daddy reading Nellie and Rainbow a story 1994

 

Fast forward to this past January. A feral cat who has lived in our neighbourhood for a number of years showed up in our backyard……. with 3 kittens in tow. I figured the kitties were about 6 weeks old. They were SO cute and it was SO cold outside (January!)…….. so I couldn’t resist feeding them to give them sustenance in order to survive a brutal winter. Wouldn’t you? I couldn’t be so heartless as to turn my back on them.
Nellie gave them all names: Mother Cat, Mochi (a cute ginger cat), Mandu (striped tabby), and Dimsum (striped/slightly mottled tabby) – we called the latter two, the twins. They remained alive and feral all winter.
One day in the spring, I made a discovery: Mother Cat was a mother again to a litter of 4 more kittens who lived in the woodpile at the side of the garage! These kittens seem to be about 4-6 weeks old.  That very same day, I accidentally left the garage door open and found out the Mochi was a mother to newborn kittens when I caught her bringing several kittens into the garage! She was real fast and had two of them behind all the junk before I could stop her. I left the door open that night as she’d never been inside before and I didn’t want her freaking out – and I didn’t know how many kittens there were. But I had my car parked in there and I had to figure out another plan for her.

Mochi's babiesWM

Our ‘little sausages’

 

The wood shed. I wasn’t using the wood shed at this time of year so I hoped she would move them there (she was moving them from place to place in the garage). I opened up the back doors to the wood shed and left them open, giving her a chance to bring them inside – I even put down a little piece of foam and tiny hunk of carpet. I wasn’t disappointed because the next morning after I fed the ‘outside cats’ I snuck into the wood shed and found 4 little baby kittens who looked like sausages all lined up in a row: 2 ginger and two blackish coloured.

pettingWM

 

Mother Cat’s kittens remained beside the garage and were spooked every time we went over there to try to civilize them. They remained ‘untouchable’ and feral. But we didn’t want that to happen to these new kittens. We knew we had to get them used to humans in order to catch them to get them all spayed/neutered when the time comes. So every time Mochi was eating, we’d go into the woodshed and ‘handle’ them, getting them used to us. And, of course, we gave them names: the two ginger males are Haru and Gogooma; and the two mottled black females and Jin and Min. Slowly, they became friendly and were unafraid of us. When they began to venture outside, they would come up to us for petting. But Mochi was still staying far away from us. Mandu ran like hell any time we went outside and Dimsum had gone to live somewhere else (we’ve only seen him once since the spring). Mother Cat must have figured it was getting crowded around here so one evening she led her 4 new kittens trotting down the driveway and left! She’d come around to eat every day at first but hasn’t shown up lately.

outside playingWM

 

The worse thing is that Mochi brings home dead moles for the kittens to snack on almost every morinng! They are getting plenty of cat food but she insists on providing for her young with fresh kill. It’s disgusting to have to pick up these dead rodents with a plastic bag over my hand, put them in another plastic bag, and take them across the road and throw them into the forest. I don’t want them to eat them because it will likely give them worms or something else.
Now that we’re on the other side of summer, we knew that we’d have to make inside accommodations for these ‘outside’ kittens especially if we’re going to get them fixed in a few months. We already have an inside cat, Dante, and I’m not interested in a houseful of new cats. But they are welcome to stay in the mudroom where they will be safe from winter storms and predators. We began this week leaving the back screen door propped open and moved their food inside. They spent one day going in but mostly out and since then are quite comfortable with being indoors. Nellie even bought them a couple of kitty beds and a litter box – which they now know how to use (important for their post surgery recovery). They’ve even spent the past few nights in there quite comfortably! Even Mochi! We tease her inside with kitty-treats because we know she would freak out and rip the screen door to shreds if she was separated and left outside.

MudroomWM

 

And this morning I found scaredy-cat Mandu inside the mudroom eating too.
So now we have a whole bunch of kitties! We love watching them play and wrestle with each other then suddenly flop down for a nap. They especially love to play ‘jungle kitty’ around my spider plants out on the deck.

nappingWM
Nellie has claimed responsibility for their care, food, and vet bills.
They ARE adorable though 😉

cutiesWM

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