I Love a Real Christmas Tree!

There’s a lot of debate about Christmas trees.  Some people like an artificial tree for many reasons.  They feel that it’s less messy because there are no pine tree needles from a real Christmas tree falling all over the floor when they put up a fake Christmas tree.  Some say it’s more environmentally sound because no real tree is cut down and they reuse the same Christmas tree year after year.  Others feel that an artificial tree is easier to assemble and take down every year.  I appreciate all those reasons that fit other people’s lives.  BUT I LOVE A REAL LIVE CHRISTMAS TREE!

Searching

Searching for the Perfect Tree

Tradition.  I’ve always had a real Christmas tree for as long as I can remember.  When I was growing up, we used to buy a Pine tree for Christmas – they are the ones with the short needles.  I went with my Dad to the Woolco plaza parking lot and we picked out the perfect tree to bring home.  Later, after I got married, I always bought a Scotch Pine with the longer needles which didn’t seem to fall off as much.   We usually went out to a Christmas Tree Farm to cut our own tree but occasionally we bought one from a lot.  When Marty worked at a garden center once, we picked a gorgeous Balsam Fir from their selection – we hadn’t intended to buy one already cut but we couldn’t resist the urge.   One year when I was 9 months pregnant, we went out to a tree farm and picked the closest tree because I couldn’t walk too far – my poor husband was worried I’d give birth right there in the field!  Hahaha – I waited until 6 days before Christmas.  Some years, we went to a nearby Christmas tree farm where they had horse-drawn wagon rides and hot chocolate, but the commercialism of the entire operation began to nauseate me.  The whole spirit of Christmas was becoming depressing from the beginning of cutting a tree!

Timber2

Timber!

So I scouted out another Tree farm that just sold Christmas trees (and homemade wreaths) – cut and cut-yourself – at a reasonable price.  THIS is what I was searching for – driving into the tree farm fields, walking around (sometimes for a LONG time) to find that perfect tree, and sawing it down ourselves.  Some years, there is no snow while other times, there’s lots of snow to trudge through.  One year it was unusually mild around 0C degrees and another time it was -20C!  You just have to dress for the weather to stay comfortable.  There is plenty of room for everyone and the farm is never crowded like some other ‘wagon rides and hot chocolate’ Christmas tree farms.

I feel that Christmas Tree farms are very ecologically responsible.  The farmers who grow these trees use hands-on, labour-intensive practices to grown and prune their trees –  I remember my oldest son Robin working for a Christmas Tree farmer one summer, when he was a teenager, to prune them by hand.  The farmer’s livelihood depends on the seasonal sales of Christmas trees.  I support Farmers and I try to practice local consumption – Christmas trees are no exception.  After Christmas is over, I take my tree outside for the birds to land on or find shelter in for the rest of the winter.  Then in the spring, I cut off the branches and spread them around my blueberry plants.  I’d say that’s environmentally sustainable.

All my grown children and their families who live around here will drive out to the tree farm this year:  Nellie, Melvin, Sarah, Kristi, Mike, J, Josh, Taylor, Darin, Amanda, Kalia, Livi, Janet, and Frank.  After a fun afternoon searching for our perfect trees, we’ll come back home for a nice warm supper beside the toasty, wood-burning cookstove.  Our tree will have to wait till after supper to be brought into the house.  I just love the pine smell from a freshly cut Christmas tree!  Then we’ll let it warm up overnight before we decorate it.  And again, it will be the best Christmas tree ever!

Tree

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Yukon

 

Our dog Yukon died this week.  He was born in 1999 and joined our family soon afterwards.  Yukon was a pure Siberian Husky – his mother, Nanook, was a family pet from the area and his father  Anori, which means ‘with the wind’, was from the far north.

Yukon

Yukon

Yukon was very much a part of our family.  He was right alongside most of our children as they grew up.  I’ll never forget the first day we got him:  we didn’t tell the children we were getting a puppy.  When they got off the school bus, we were there waiting for them with Yukon.  They were beyond ecstatic!  Yukon loved the snow and cold.  Often he could hear small creatures under the snow or ice in the ditch and would dig furiously to find them.  Right up until the end, he went outside and made ‘doggy snow angels’ in the snow, rolling around like a little puppy.

I have to admit that I didn’t really want another dog.  Our old pup Dusty passed at 15 years old, just a few years before.  I said to Chris that we’d never, ever find another dog as good as Dusty so I didn’t want to get another dog.  I had one other dog growing up, Lady, a beagle- dalmation mix who lived for 12+ years.  My dogs lived a LONG time so it was a big commitment.  Chris told me sadly that he was never allowed a pet while growing up – he never had a dog or a cat to care for.  I caved and we bought Yukon.

When Yukon was a puppy, he was really a free spirit.  He had difficulty listening to us and would wander off and ignore us when we called him back.  It took us almost 3 years to get him to listen to us.  Overnight, we would keep him in the kitchen, blocked off with our coffee table turned on its side – we still have the teeth marks where Yukon chewed on the leg.  I don’t recall him chewing shoes or boots though.  We thought that our new dog would eat all the leftovers from the children just like Dusty but Yukon could not digest human food well at all.  After about 8-9 years, he began to eat small amounts of leftover meat and then almost anything eventually.

puppy Yukon and Marty

puppy Yukon and Marty

Yukon loved other dogs and cats too.  He was a mentor to the neighbourhood dogs like Oreo, Rusty, Lucy, Cody, and cousin Skye.  When Oreo and Skye were puppies, Yukon laid down and let them climb over him and nip his nose and paws like a good big brother.  When we had neighbourhood parties, the dogs would all play together as much as the children and adults.  We bought a hand crafted Dog Sled assuming that he would gladly pull the children in the snow but Yukon was not a sled dog and he’d rather have been ON the sled with the kids rather than pulling it.  Chris would have to lead him and run with him while he was pulling each child – what a site!

He loved to go for walks.  When he was younger, we walked every night at 6 p.m. down the road, past the farm and fields to the turn-around.  We would let Yukon off his leash after the farm so he could sniff till his heart’s content.  Once he spotted deer in the field and took off after them but amazingly came back when we called him.  He loved those walks.

Yukon did not like water.  When he was only a few years old, he met up with a skunk and had to be washed with tomato juice and hosed off.  His fur was very unique because it never soaked up water – liquid just rolled off.  I think Huskies have fur with little air pockets in each strand to keep them warm in the far north and they have some kind of water-repelling coating on them.  He never went playing in the river like other dogs – he’d just go up to his knees, that’s it.  He used to try to sneak away to visit his friends down the pebbled edge of the river when the water level was lowered in the fall.

He always looked clean too.  Yukon would grow a winter coat of soft fuzzy fur.  This would come out in the spring – all over the mudroom floor!  We bought a horse brush to use on him since dog brushes were ineffective.  It took until June or July for him to lose all his winter coat and he’d look half his size.  I would use the brushed fur as mulch in my garden because it matted down thickly and never decomposed.

together again

Chris and Yukon together again

The past few years have been tough for Yukon.  He couldn’t tolerate the heat and humidity like he use to so we’d make him stay in the house or garage where it was cooler.  Only this winter, was the cold too much for him.  We’ve have weeks and weeks of Extreme Cold Warnings and Frostbite Advisories.  Yukon still wanted to go out back to his ‘spot’ and lay down like he always used to love doing.  But he didn’t grow his warm winter coat this year.  On these really cold days, I would only let him stay outside for 15 minutes up to 2 hours depending on how cold it was.  He must have been getting deaf too because he wouldn’t hear me call him in or maybe he just didn’t want to come inside.  I’d have to get all my winter gear on and walk down his path and make him slowly stand up and come up to the house with me – every single time this winter.  He’s been sleeping on his bed out in the mudroom where it’s cooler for years but this winter we brought him into the kitchen.  I think he liked being closer to us anyway even though we had a glass door to the mudroom that he could look through.   After Taylor moved back to the city, I took him for walks along our road several times a day.  On his last morning, he walked as normally as he always did, sniffing other doggy smells and marking his spots.  In the afternoon, he suddenly started to stagger and collapsed.

We’ve been pretty shaken by his passing.  Yukon was a treasured member of our family.  Today I went outside to empty the woodstove ash bucket and saw his footprints in his path in the back yard.  I started to cry and took a photo before the wind obliterates it with snow forever.

Yukon's backyard path

Yukon’s backyard path

Rest in peace Yukon.  You will be missed.

 

 

 

Cutting Our Christmas Tree

I want to share some pictures with you of our adventure to our favourite Christmas tree farm to cut our Christmas tree.

Livi, Sarah, Melvin, Nellie, baby Josh, Skylar, & Krisit

Some of my children and grandchildren:  Livi, Sarah, Melvin, Nellie, baby Josh, Skylar, & Kristi

 

This year, we were looking for a small tree under 5 feet.  I decided after last year that I didn’t want to move any large furniture to accommodate the tree in the corner.   After wandering around the field for a while, we found the perfect tree and Melvin skillfully cut it down.

Timber!

Timber!

 

Darin and Amanda and the girls were off in another direction looking for their perfect Christmas tree.

Aunt Nellie carried baby Josh around in his baby carrier – even Josh enjoyed himself!

Baby Josh and Aunt Nellie

Baby Josh and Aunt Nellie

 

While we were tying down our trees to the top of our cars, the kids enjoyed horsing around in the snow.

Skylar, Kalia, and Livi

Grandkids Skylar, Kalia, and Livi

 

Then we were off to Darin and Amanda’s house for hot chocolate, chili, and board games (of course!).

Loading up the tree

Loading up the tree

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Garden of Eatin’

 

Today I picked my first garden produce: rhubarb. My daughter Nellie and I enjoyed a stick of rhubarb dipped in sugar just like when I was a youngster. Eating that sweetened sour rhubarb reminded me of what heavenly delights I have to look forward to in the next few months from my garden of eatin’ :

Fresh rhubarb and sugar

Fresh rhubarb and sugar

I received my first clump of rhubarb from my elderly neighbour when I moved here 33 years ago.  I went on to give clumps to other new neighbours over the years as well.  My friend Farmgal gifted me a new clump of rhubarb a few years ago and I planted it up by my kitchen garden close to the house – today’s rhubarb was from this plant.

Mint

Mint

Who can resist mint!  In teas or just about anything else, mint is wonderful.  Drying mint for storing and winter use is easy-peasy.

Day Lillie

Day Lillie

Just days after the snow melts, day lillies begin to poke through the ground.  Within a few weeks they grow a foot tall adding lime green colour to the yard.  These bright orange flowers can be added to salads or even stir-fried.

Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger

I dug this wild ginger from the forest near my house.  I just adore the velvety green leaves and the delicate little flowers.  I’m sure I could eat the root if they weren’t too pretty to dig up.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm

Isn’t the flower beautiful?  At one time, I had six different colours but red is my favourite – my sister Faye gave me the original plant years ago.  Bee Balm or Bergamot is is that flowery smell of Earl Grey Tea.  It’s nice to just rub the leaves and smell it for hours.

Ginko Biloba

Ginko Biloba

I planted my ‘Ginko’ tree in honour of my first grandchild Kalia’s birth 10 years ago.   Ginko is reported to have memory-enhancing properties so I’d better start drying and using for a tea any time now.

Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme

I planted this creeping thyme in the pathway under the arbour.  Every time I walk through that arbour, I smell that sweet smell of thyme.  I use this thyme in my soups and other recipes, even when I have to brush the new-fallen snow off.

Hops

Hops

I have several areas where Hops vines grow.  They are versatile and forgiving and create wonderful shade.  Last year, I clipped all the ripe hops off, dried them, and mailed them to my son Robin who used them in his beer making.

Apple

Apple

One of the first things I planted when we moved to this place were apple trees.   I have three remaining apple trees but only one produces apples that I love.  They make great Apple Crisp.

It’s hard to believe that only a few short weeks ago, the ground was covered in 2 feet of snow followed by 3 feet of flood water.  I can’t wait to be eating from my garden of eatin’.

 

*most pictures were taken last year

 

Enough Winter!!

 

This is what I woke up to this morning……….. again…. -32C (-26F)! This has been going on for weeks …… and weeks and ……… and weeks and, quite frankly, I’m sick of it!

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I realize that winter isn’t officially over for another 2 weeks but it unofficially began halfway through autumn! We’ve had snow storm after winter snow storm since the end of October. Temperatures well below normal have persisted for weeks and weeks. Our normal high should be just above 0 degrees celsius (32F) and overnight lows around -8C (17.6F)  so you can understand my frustration. Yesterday it warmed up to -15C (5F). Big whoopee 😦
We did have a few short days of ‘warmer’ weather (a.k.a. zero degrees C/32F) and the snow slid off the solar panels back in January, but we usually have a ‘January thaw’ for a bit longer. I’ve been waiting for a warmer day to clean out my wood cookstove. It has to be just above zero degrees for me to let the stove go out completely to enable me to empty the ash bucket and clean the soot off inside around the oven. Well, that hasn’t happened yet.

cookstove
I’m beginning to believe that I need a winter vacation – not a trip somewhere south where it is warmer (well, okay maybe that would be nice) but just a break from this brutal cold and bringing in firewood every day and a cold car that doesn’t warm up until I’m already in town. I’m grateful that the sun is much stronger now and actually feels warm on your face ……. and that my solar hot water panels are producing plenty of hot water …… and that I still have lots of firewood …… and that my hip/thigh is healing (thanks to my Chiropractor) so I’m not in as much pain when I carry my firewood into the house.
The only one who seems to be enjoying these extremely cold, snowy days is my 14 year old puppy dog Yukon. He can’t wait to get outside every morning to roll in the snow and often lay there in the sun – the colder the better for him.

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There is still 2 feet of snow in my yard with drifts of 4 feet. Unless it melts somewhat, I won’t be able to read the hydro meter on the other side of the house this month because the snow is almost impossible to walk in as it’s up the full length of my legs. Hard crusty, snow.
A couple of years ago at this time, I wrote about how I was tired of winter even though it had been mild with less snow. Is it just ‘cabin fever’? Or is it just the weather (another blog post)?
Yup, I’m ready for spring.

 

 

 

I’m Hibernating!

 

It’s cold outside. Bloody cold. For the last few days, the thermometer on my porch has recorded minus 30+ celsius (-22F) or colder at daybreak. Add a north wind to that and it feels like -40+C (-40F)! We had a few ‘warmer days’ of around -10C 14F) but now it’s gone back to frigid temperatures which has stimulated Environment Canada to issue a Windchill Warning and the local health department to issue a Frostbite Warning.

Cold
The Weather Network claims that it’s going to warm up to ‘normal’, whatever that is…… It seems that winter should be wrapping up because we’ve had snow since November. In fact, by the time winter officially began on Dec. 21st, we had half the amount of snow we normally have for THE ENTIRE WINTER. These freezing cold temperatures usually sweep through at the end of January for a few days but this year it has been long and brutal.  My two wood stoves have been burning non-stop all day long.
The last time I drove to town was on December 23, 2013 – twelve days ago! I started the car after a week and let it run just to keep the battery charged up. Later that evening, I was glad I had because we ended up ‘rescuing’ a friend of Nellie’s who took a wrong turn and ended up stuck in a snow bank at the end of a nearby dark, deserted country road in record-breaking frigid temperatures.

Cardinal and Bluejay

Cardinal and Bluejay

It’s really important to me to keep my bird feeders full on such cold days. The wild birds around here are accustomed to being fed and depend on it. I buy beef fat from the local butcher to put in my suet feeders because the fat is really what they need, not the ‘bird seed filler’ in commercial suet. I only use local black-oiled sunflower seeds for my bird feeders – all types of birds love it: blue jays, cardinals, mourning doves, chickadees, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, goldfinches………and even the squirrels.

One consolation of enduring extrememly cold temperatures is that it means that we don’t get any snow. So when it ‘warms’ up to -7C this weekend, we’ll be getting the gift of 20+ cms (8 inches) of snow! Oh well, a white, clean-looking landscape is pretty.

map

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Day!

 

Last night, we went from green grass to this:
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Overnight we received 23 cms (9.5 inches) of heavy snow that clings to branches, weighing them down…… but also makes the best packing snow for making snowmen!

One of the best benefits of a large snowfall is the probability of a ‘snow day’ for school children.  Most children in our area take the school bus to school so when we get a lot of snow, the school board cancels the buses for safety reasons.  Many rural roads don’t get plowed by 6:30 a.m. when the buses begin picking up kids.

Today, I was lucky to have my 2 granddaughters, Kalia and Livi, spend their ‘snow day’ with us.  Snow always puts us in the Christmas spirit so we chose a few videos to watch:  The Santa Clause and Home Alone.

100_3547

Halfway through the first movie, Uncle Taylor suggested that they go outside and make a snowman.  By the time the girls got their snowsuits on, Taylor had rolled a huge ball of snow for the base.  Two more big snow balls, 2 branch-arms, a carrot nose, and stones for eyes and a mouth and 6 foot ‘Albert Einstein’ was complete.  Then they built a ‘snow couch’ to sit on and admire him ……. and just in case Auntie Nellie wanted to come outdoors.

100_3552

Last week, I phoned my plow man and asked him to drop off a quote for this winter’s snowplowing of my driveway.  He didn’t get around to it and I haven’t even paid him yet, but he came this morning anyway to plow out my driveway.  That’s country courtesy for you!

100_3541

So now the outside fun is done and we’re indoors drinking hot cocoa and watching the other movie while the wet snowsuits dry by the wood cookstove.

And we still might get another 10 cms of snow in the next day……

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