The Channel

It was the geese that I heard first. A few days ago, I could hear the Canada geese after dark ……. somewhere close. Lots of them, probably hundreds of them. And I knew that the middle channel of the river would soon be open!

It always starts upstream when small creeks and tributary rivers melt and the water current flows wildly towards the larger Rideau River. About a month ago or so, I noticed the Kemptville Creek, a.k.a. the South Branch of the Rideau River, completely melted and rushing through town towards the Rideau River. The temperatures spiked slightly above normal ~ around 5 degrees celsius (41F) ~ about three weeks ago and that started the big melt. Then it got colder, much colder, below normal colder and stayed that way for a couple of weeks – actually until now – slowing down the melt quite a bit.

When I drove to town, I noticed that the middle of the river ~ the Channel ~ was open at the bridge at Beckett’s Landing!  Hurray!!  I knew it would only be a matter of time before I saw that little sliver of water at my place. Each time that I went into town, the channel was open further and further towards my place. A few days ago, I noticed that it was within eyesight of my house! Yeah!  The anticipation of this ‘right of spring’ was so exciting!

Channel

 

This morning when I awoke to the sounds of hundreds of Geese and other spring birds, I was delighted to see the open water, even through the fog and rain! Canada Geese rested along the edges of the ice after their long journey from the south. Some of them were swimming delightfully in the water.

The Channel being open is THE sign that spring has REALLY arrived! It’s the promise that winter is behind us even if we do get more snow. It means that the ice at the edges of the river are melting and letting go and embracing spring. Buds on the trees are waiting to burst; spring tulips, daffodils, and crocuses are poking their leaves out from under the slushy snow. Red-winged Blackbirds are arriving back to their homeland and Bluejays are coming out of the forests.  Yesterday, Nellie thought she heard a bullfrog.

Today, it’s only a sliver of water that’s open. But within a few days, the rest of the ice will let go and my Lake of Shining Waters (read about it here) will be exposed until the end of the year!

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River

Ahhhh, spring!

 

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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.

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.

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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.

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

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My TV

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

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Home made antenna

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

A Day in A Life that Was

It’s been 8 years today since Chris died.  This year, I salute his life in a series of unpublished pictures to try to show what our life with him was like.

1.1992 Teaching Nellie Mini-putt

Chris was a patient person, even trying to teach baby Nellie Mini-putt!  We always tried to find mini-putt whenever we went on vacation since the kids loved it so much.  Chris would do anything for the kids and me.

2. Carving Pumpkins

2b.Pumpkinmobile

At Halloween, every kid had their own pumpkin to carve…..after Chris scooped out most the seeds!  One year, he created the “Pumpkinmobile” for Halloween night by strapping onto the top of the van, a large carved pumpkin with a blue flashing light inside.  We drove the kids around our neighbourhood and nearby homes so the kids could trick-or-treat.

3.BuildingGarden

Chris was always building something around the house:  the front garden or the playhouse or the pond.

4.Patio

One of our favourite summer pastimes was ‘Patio’ where neighbours (human and canine) would gather at our house to visit and sing.

5.Rink

Chris prided himself in his skating rink out on the river.  This one had a rink plus a skating oval around it.  He’d spend hours cleaning it off after a snowstorm and flooding it on -20C days.  He hung lights for nighttime skating too.  Every winter, we hosted our annual skating parting for neighbours and friends.  We skated on the river, keeping warm at a bonfire at the beach then shared a potluck supper in our garage/party room.  Every Saturday night during the hockey season, we would host a ‘hockey party’ where we would watch NHL games while playing darts or pool with our friends and neighbours.

6.WhaleWatchingTadoussac.png

Chris would always take us anywhere we wanted to go at any time.  This picture shows us at Tadoussac, Quebec where we went whale watching and stayed at a cottage overlooking the St. Lawrence River.  We were on our way down home.

7.TorontoZoo

One year, we took the whole family to the Toronto Zoo and Wonderland for the weekend.

8.Waterskiing

At home, he loved boating on the river in the summertime.  He patiently taught our kids and friends to water ski.

9.JoeyVisit

He loved it when our brother-in-law Joey came up for his annual visit.  This picture shows their favourite spot to sit and talk and enjoy a cold ‘beverage’.

12.HardatWork

He loved working with Mark and Simon, travelling at times to Niagara and British Columbia on jobs.

 

9b. SantaGrampie

Chris was such a good sport:  he played Santa to all the kids in the neighbourhood at our annual Christmas Party.  Here he is with Kalia as Santa Grampie.

10.Camping

What an incredible man.  Even though he was in the middle of daily radiation treatments for cancer, Chris insisted we didn’t cancel our family camping plans.  We camped on the St. Lawrence River and him and I just drove up to the Ottawa Hospital for his treatment then back to the campground.  Pain and the side-effects from radiation treatments didn’t stop him from sleeping on the ground in a tent so the kids would still have a holiday.  He was adamant that he would try to make the kids feel like life was as normal as possible, until it wasn’t.

13.LastFamilyPhoto

Our last family photo when everyone came home in 2007.

 

 

 

Candied Squash

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

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Organic Homegrown Squash

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

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Candied Squash Recipe

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

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

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

4WM

Woodstove Surprise

Yesterday, I did my mid-winter cleaning out of my wood cookstove. I had planned it for then because the outside temperatures were predicted to be about +5C (41F). The stove and ashes need to be cold when I clean it out – the last log went in around 4 p.m. the night before. This mid-winter cleaning means that I scrape off the soot and ash that has accumulates under the burner plates and around the oven box inside the stove. Let me explain how a wood cookstove works: when the stove damper is open, the smoke goes out of the firebox straight up the chimney. When I close the damper, the smoke circulates around the oven box, which sits below the cast iron burners ,and exits the stove at the bottom/back and up the chimney thereby warming the oven and in fact the entire stove.
All this burning season, I’ve had trouble with smoke escaping through the loading door when the damper was closed. I’ve had to resolve this problem by only half closing the damper. I had planned on replacing the door gasket to hopefully tighten the seal. Everything began normally: I was dressed in my ‘work’ clothes ready for this usual black sooty chore. This time I decided to wear vinyl gloves to help keep my hands from getting black.

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Soot under the burner plate

 

I scraped the backsides of each burner as I removed them and placed them on newspaper on the table. Then I began the ritual of scraping off the oven accessible via the burner holes. When I got to the side, I thought something was amiss. I scraped dutifully and began to remove the soot through the clean-out ‘nameplate’ access but not as much was coming out as I thought there should be. I grabbed my flashlight and took a look – it looked like soot as far as my poor vision could see and I couldn’t understand why. It was time for an investigation! I placed my portable barbaque light to see down the 2 inch side of the oven. This BBQ light is awesome! I keep it on top of the warming oven of my cookstove – it has a magnetic bottom so it sticks to the steel and cast iron surfaces of my stove. The light is connected to a flexible neck that I can position however I like. I often use it to quickly check how something is cooking on the stove. Anyway, when I had it positioned to shine down the side of the oven box, I took a look through the bottom clean-out expecting to see light shining through – but only darkness. Hmmm, it’s plugged. I wasn’t sure why but I was determined to find out. It certainly explained all the smoke leaking out of the loading door when the damper was closed. For the next hour, I scraped and stabbed at the soot at the bottom side of the oven box. I even went out to the garage to get reinforcements: a giant screwdriver that was about 30 inches long! Thanks Chris.

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I discovered that rock-hard ash and soot had compressed to form solid chunks all along the bottom of this side of the oven box. It was an impossible (almost) space to work in but I kept at it until finally a chunk broke loose! I used the scraper to carefully pull it up to where I could reach it, dropping in many times before I could grab it and force it out through the burner hole. I had to use the giant screwdriver to break them into smaller pieces that would fit up the side to be removed. It was extremely hard. I used the shopvac to suck up some of the stoney soot too. After 2 hours, I was done!

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Soot chunks

I put the burners back in and wiped them down with olive oil on a cloth. To give it one final sparkle, I washed the rest of the cookstove and dried it. Voila! It looked like new. Unlike myself, who was black from head to toe! It’s a good thing I have two tanks of solar-heated hot water. I vacuumed up the floor and washed the four feel around it until tomorrow when I can wash the pine floors in the whole room.
Heating with wood is not for the faint of heart. Oh sure, visions of a nice, warm, cozy fire dance through your head. But you need to know that any wood stove requires regular, messy maintenance to burn efficiently and safely. Wood heat might be for tree-hugging (carbon neutral) lovers of the environment …….. ah, like me I guess.

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Clean and ready to burn

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