Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Wilfred Promise

I promised to tell you about our new Wilfred, rather Wilf III.  I'm here to make good on my threat.  A promise is a promise.


Wilfred the First came with the house, and one of the first things we did was to replace him with Wilf the Second.  The original Wilfred always gave us the impression that he was a pyromaniac in training.

Wilfred the Second lasted 15 years.  While that's not an eternity, and we hoped to eke a bit more life out of him, it wasn't to be.  The glass cracked last winter (the door was probably warped), and the refractory bricks were starting to crumble.  I tried calling Rika in Austria, but their customer service leaves much to be desired.  I can understand companies that deal only with distributors, but we learned that even Rika distributors slap their foreheads and say "aaach" with such disdain when asked about replacement parts.  Rika might want to consider revamping their mission statement and their day-to-day business dealings with some solid proactivity, but what can I say?  We won't have to deal with them again.

Ideally, we'd love to have a thermal mass heater made of soapstone, the kind that Tulikivi makes.  One day, when we build a new house, we're going to build that sucker right around a central soapstone heater and live happily ever after.

Our chimney is built along what used to be an outside wall, so the placement isn't ideal for a thermal mass heater.  We'd also need to build a concrete base in the crawlspace to accommodate the few tons of soapstone, and that ain't happening either.  When Eric starts to talk about 3000 psi air-entrained concrete and talk wistfully about his rebar bender, I quickly change the subject.  No real desire to go there, ever again.

So, we knew we wanted something modern with a touch of soapstone.  We checked on-line and narrowed down a few possibilities.  We particularly liked the Bari model, made in Germany by Hase and distributed through Hearthstone in Vermont.  They have dealers in Quebec, and after a visit to the showroom, we took a leap of faith and placed an order.  It's difficult buying a wood stove sight unseen, but we were offered a great price.  We also had confidence in the seller.  Plus, they took a cool thousand off the bottom line if we would pick it up and install it ourselves.  Whoohoo!  What's not to like?  We welcome a good DIY challenge, a chance to use our forklift, and the opportunity to have a shrink-wrapped stove sitting on a skid in the middle of the living room for 2 months.   Where do we sign up for this amazing offer?

What we hadn't considered was the new stove has a CENTRAL chimney and would require either an entirely new chimney, or some interesting calculations regarding elbows and whatnot.  In the end, Eric managed to figure things out, and ordered the parts he needed to adapt our existing chimney.

Time stands still in our house for a variety of reasons.  Installing Wilf III might have taken two months, but the wait was worth it. 
Here's another view.  This model can be turned 180 degrees, so we angled him a bit and found that it does radiate more heat where we want it.  People coming into the front door remark they can "feel the heat from here", which always makes me laugh.  That's the idea.  Welcome to radiant heat, and why we put up with ash dust and splinters and cutting our own wood.  There is nothing like standing in front of a wood stove until you can't stand it anymore.  It's like having the sun right in your living room.

You might have noticed that the wood is placed upright into the firebox.  We weren't too sure about this initially, but I'm convinced it heats better than the traditional stoves where the logs sit flat.  There's more flame in the firebox, coupled with the fact the firebox is circular, it seems to reflect the heat that much better.  It's like a half-pipe rotary incinerator, right in our very own living room.  It's also easier to light than the former, so we're giving it two thumbs up.  Time will tell if we've made the right decision, but as it stands right now, we're toasty warm and that's what counts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

La Poudrerie

So, dear readers, here we are well into the double-digits of January.  Considering that our true winter started unseasonably late, one would think my mental reserves are full.

January 7, 2016

Think again.

My car has been stuck three times already, and in our own driveway to add insult to injury.  Last year, I stranded my car so often that when I took it to the garage for an oil change, my mechanic asked me what river I drove it into.  He kept it on a lift for 2 days to thaw it out.  That's how much snow I had stuck to my undercarriage.  I think my car stopped dripping sometime in April.

Hopefully we'll have a mild spell so that my car can thaw out a bit, but there's nothing in the forecast.  We'll dip down to -24C later this week, so things aren't likely to improve.  We are, dear friends, in the thick of things.

On Sunday night it snowed.  Environment CaCanada (as we call them in this household) told us we'd get 2 to 4 cm, which is nothing to get worried about.  We consider that white drizzle.  Come Monday morning, our cars were nothing but white blobs.  So much for "two to four".  Later that day, a cold front pulled through and with it the winds, which brings me to our french lesson.

Poudrerie is blowing snow, and right now, the poudrerie is driving me all shades of wild.  The plow drives by regularly, depositing yet another strata on the glacier that clogs the end of our driveway.  When I'm alone at home, I'm not even driving down the length of our driveway and parking near the house anymore.  No, I'm parking within 20' of the road, so our snow removal cowboy can just give a quick trim around the edges.  This morning, he came at 7:15 and cleared the snow right up to my bumper.  By 8:30, there were already 2 feet of snow at the road.  I had to call him and have him clear it again.  I'm staking out driveways down the street where there is no blowing snow, just so I can park in peace and know that I can leave the house and get to where I'm going without military-like planning.

Those of you who aren't familiar with blowing snow might wonder why I just don't shovel the white crap myself.  Well, the fact the windchill was -22C this morning was one factor.   The fact we pay our snow removal cowboy handsomely is another.  I also need to qualify blowing snow as the most obscene molecule nature has ever created.  I'm thinking of killing it with fire, that's how precarious my mental state is.  I'm sure I can pick up a second-hand Zamboni (google it, fer chrissakes) and we can simply run over it again and again and again until we have a high-quality skating rink.  Or maybe a steamroller?  Or if we win the big prize, we can get a heated driveway!  We'd probably need to win a Powerball billion to be able to afford that.  I digress, but blowing snow is packed and heavy.  You need power tools to slice it, that's how dense it is.

At this point, I think I'm going to come up for air in April.  Or maybe build an igloo.  It was fun when we were kids, I'm sure it could be fun again.

January 19, 2016
The above photo was tonight's sunset.  You can see the blowing snow over the fields.  We'll see just how much gets deposited by tomorrow morning.

As as added bonus, here's a photo of Jeep, or Flip-Flop as Eric has dubbed him:

Opposable Thumbs
And as an added-bonus-to-the-added-bonus (call now, operators are standing by!), here is my ravioli mould.  I made ricotta spinach ravioli the other day.  It's quite the production, and I attempt it once a decade.  Served with a nice tomato sauce, this was a meal that needed to be followed up with copious amounts of Poire William.  So so good!

Ravioli-Schablone von Betti Bossi
Tomorrow I'll show you our new Wilfred, aka wood stove!  Promises are promises.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Flotsam and Jetsam 2015

Well, the glacier receded and spring sprang sometime in May.  It goes without saying that I was a terrible blogger in 2015, and won't make any resolutions to do any better in 2016.

There is no simple way to write a compte-rendu of 2015, so I'm not even going to try.  What we'll have to settle for is an iPad photo dump.

Ah, the modified Comet by Kim Hargreaves, make in Schulana Kid-Paillettes.  An awesome accessory, more like a piece of jewelry than knitting.  Here, unceremoniously thrown on dandelions, a spring feature all over our so-called lawn.
When the lilacs finally start blooming, it's a sure sign that spring has sprung, and the worst is behind us.
Ditto for the crabapple trees.  My favorite blooms.

I was happy with my planters this year, but something kept eating my ipomoea.  I suspect earworms since they're a common feature hanging around the dracaenas.  This year they decided to chow down.  Then again, they spared my lobelia, a plant I try and grow year after year.  This year I finally had success.  I think the weather might have had something to do with their bounty because they bloomed non-stop.
Oh no.  A new cat.  This is Mitaine, french for Mittens.  She's got big paws with a extra claw on each front paw.  Mitaine was pregnant when she arrived on our doorstep, which is my way of gently breaking it to you.  In 2015, I became the dreaded cat-lady.  We now have 6 cats, which is about 3 beyond my comfort zone.  Mitaine is part Siamese and has lovely light blue eyes, and is very, very smart.  (She picked our house, didn't she?)  We haven't adored a cat like we've adored Mitaine.
 
Capucine isn't too convinced. Here she is, playing camo-cat with an orchid fascinator.  Always the coquette, Capu hasn't exactly taken to Mitaine with as much abandon as we have.
My lovely gazanias (Transvaal daisy).  They bloomed until the end of September.  Again, this plant is hit-or-miss.  2015 was a total score!
Sometime at the end of June, we finally broke down and bought a new patio set.  Made out of ipe wood, this set by Jensen Leisure is built to last.  The chairs are so heavy, you need both hands to move them.  Just what we need with our violent winds.  This set isn't going to take off like the last one.
Tessie enjoying a fine summer day on her new chair.  Thankfully, she's not interested in clawing it either.  Can't say the same thing for the molding around the kitchen door.
I broke down and knit Eric a pair of socks to go with his uniform ("Regulation Black" dontchaknow?)  If you're a knitter, you probably shuddered at this thought.  These were a slog-fest, but I persevered.  Knit with indestructible Regia sock wool, it should be a while before I have to break down and knit another pair.



























Sorry about the formatting.  Blogger is giving me cramps tonight.  I'm also stuck into the prosecco and don't really give a crap about parsing HTML anymore.  So...pretty clouds.  We really lucked out with the weather this summer and fall. We even had a dreaded Green Christmas and survived to tell the tale.  A few days after Christmas, we were graced with a 40cm dumping of snow.

And yet another photo of my planters.  It's so nice to see a bit of colour on the horizon.  I'm not sure what 2016 will hold, but 2015 will be hard to beat.  The local fields were being plowed in December, something only the oldtimers remember happening.  We had a bumper crop as well, soya if memory serves correctly.
A glorious sunset.  I never, ever tire from our view.  Sorry about the hydro wire, which you probably didn't even notice until I pointed it out.  Mea culpa.
This is Gee Pee.  We call him Jeep, because he has massive 4x4 action going on with his paws.  On top of having 3 extra claws on his front feet, he has a bonus on each back paw too.  He's absolutely adorable and has joined the Kitten Club of Shim Farm.
Here he is, waving at Tessie.  Lookit those mitts and his cute belly.  He has such nice markings.  When he was tiny, I could always make out Jeep from the rest of the kittens.  He was the one tripping over his paws as he ran.  The little black munchkin looking on is Minky.  She was the runt of the litter, and bonded with Jeep like nobody's business.  We tried to place them as a pair because it would have been a shame to split them up, but we had no takers.  (I admit, we didn't try too hard).  Keeping them was the only option.  Minky is stuck to me like misery to the world, and Eric thinks that Jeep is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Win/win all around.
Yet another sunset.  The iPad app and the blogger dashboard from my dying laptop hate each other.  There is no way to make any of this post cohesive.  Just work with me.  I promise it will even out in the end.  These are many of the random sunset photos I send to Eric when he's flying, just so he can see what he missed.
Another glorious evening.

And to prove to you that none of this makes sense, here is a photo of Jeep and Minky.  They lie like this all the time, day in, day out.  How could we have parted with them?  I rest my case...

In other undocumented news, 2015 finally saw our overpass reopen to traffic.  We had to make a massive detour for months (let's be honest - it was a year and a half) while our overpass was being rebuilt, and then 2 weeks before completion, it was condemned.  The fact there were groundhogs and raccoons living inside the structure has been a dead giveaway to us locals for years.  (Sometimes I think it's Quebec's way of keeping us pious.  We said a prayer every time we crossed it and many of the other crumbling overpasses in this province.  Chicken wire IS apparently a replacement for rebar, if you're an engineer working at the MTQ).  Summer came and went without any activity, and finally sometime in August, the Ministry of Transport must have gotten the memo, because the reconstruction finally got under way.  Just before Halloween, our overpass was reopened.  We did many happy dances.  I was so happy it was opened, I drove over it, and backed up and drove over it again, just because I could.  Damned infrastructure.

2015 also saw the opening our our very own local Costco.  Those who know me know I swear by my Costco, but having to make the trek to Montreal island proper was always frustrating.  The parking situation is bad at best even if you arrive before opening, to say nothing of the crowds once you get inside the hallowed establishment.  We've been promised a Costco for the past 5 years, and it finally became a reality.  Now I can shop at Costco like it's a grocery store, versus shopping at Costco like it was a Hudson Bay Outpost every quarter.  Urban sprawl, score 1!

We replaced Wilfred, (our trusty wood stove for those who haven't paid attention) this month.  After nearly 15 years service it was time for a new wood stove.  I promise (!) to dedicate an entire post to the new Wilfie, because he's a beaut!

On that note, my venerable BBQ crock pot ribs are calling my name, and Eric is making homemade fries from our own bumper-crop of special potatoes in the kitchen.  We're not going to turn the page on 2015 on a low-calorie note, but that's what January and its resolutions are for.  New Year's Eve is a celebration of the bounty of our past year.  While none of it was particularly noteworthy, we made it through another year with only First World Problems, which is saying something.

So, dear friends, from our nuthouse to yours, all the best in 2016.  May it be filled with health and happiness, may you see the beauty around you and remain thankful for every small victory.

We are blessed in the best ways possible, and hope the same for you and yours.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sublimate Already


Once again, I find myself under the gun, trying to post something for March.  The digital camera holds no clues, but the iPad does.  The above photo was taken March 16th.  We've had warmer temperatures during the day, but no serious thaw.  Snow sublimates slowly.  (That alliteration is music to my ears, for so many reasons).  Sublimation is the transition of a solid changing to gas without passing through a liquid phase.  Kudos to Wiki for helping me explain that.  Basically, anyone who has hung something wet outside during freezing temperatures can attest to it (eventually) drying, thanks to sublimation.  That's the best analogy my gray matter can come up with, and I'm running with it.

Sublimation is our best friend during the spring.  With the ground still frozen, we'd rather see the snow disappear slowly than melt in a furious rush causing flooding.  We're on track for a great maple syrup season, which means plus temps in the day, and freezing temps at night.  That's when the sap flows best.
Good ol' Tessie.  She never misses an opportunity to help me block my knitting.  Here, my Swingboat in Rowan's Tumble is being unceremoniously flattened by Tessie's heft.  I forgot this scarf at my LYS, and when I returned to pick it up, someone approached me and offered me a tidy sum of money for it.  Since this was Christmas wool, I had to buy more and knit a replacement.  A fun project even the second time around.
Odin is the biggest pain in the ass, ever.  He's pure hound (there's not a stitch of Labrador in him), and always, always, always goes after the cats which makes me crazy.  BobCat is the main object of his affections, as evidenced here once again.  Poor Bob.  Sometimes, he claws Din's collar and clobbers him good.  Serves you right, Odie.
Here I am, installed at the kitchen table trying to finish my Longing.  Thanks to my dear friend Elaine who again sewed my sleeves in, I now need to hunker down and finish a few seams and sew in a few ends.  I will never attempt a dark sweater in the depths of winter, ever again.  I'll still get some mileage out of this sweater this spring though, have no fear.
Can you see Moby Dick?  Well...I thought it looked like Moby Dick.  We spend a lot of time looking at the fire.  Probably some time in May, we'll stop using our wood stove, and I'll get used to the hearth around the wood stove being clean again.  This year, we need to look at getting a replacement, since this stove has seen finer days.  We've got a few models in mind, so I'll keep you posted on our findings.

Eric is going to be furious at me for posting the above photo.  I called this colour "Divorce Court Green", because if he actually thought of using this colour, I'd high-tail it outta here so fast his head would spin.  I have never had such a violent and instantaneous visceral reaction to a colour - ever - in my life.  I hated this colour so much and was so furious that even now, just thinking of it gets my hackles up.

Of course I needed to take a photo for posterity.  Eric is going to defend himself by saying it was just a test - ha!  Stay tuned for the final approved colour.  It's going to be bold!
And just to prove my point that we are still working upstairs, here's a photo of our unfinished knee-wall.  The joints have been done and the wall has been primed, and now we're waiting for the pine boards to be delivered so we can finish the angled part of the wall/ceiling.

Slowly but surely, we're plugging away.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

50 Shades of White

I don't want to turn the page to March without posting at least one post to remind me just how interesting this February has been.  Most everything coming out of my mouth these days is a semi-rant or semi-whine, so apologies in advance to those with sensibilities where their love for winter is concerned.

Oh February!  The shortest, longest, cruelest month.  It's been viciously cold since what feels like forever.   It was -22C (-6F) this morning, again.  I never thought I'd say it, but this year I actually find myself getting used to the cold.  I made my quarterly trek to Costco today and picked up another 100 lbs of cat litter, and I might or might not have been vocal about my discontent as I pushed my cart to my car.

You haven't lived until you've pushed a full shopping cart through snow or slush.  To those people who say, "oh, look, pretty snow", I have news for you.   Pretty wore off sometime in January.  Pretty wore off when we opened our latest Hydro bill ($493 for 63 days of bitter cold hell, in case you're interested).  Remember, we don't even heat with hydro, we heat primarily with wood.  Pretty wore off when I got my car stuck in a snowbank during a whiteout with a -30C windchill in the fiercest, coldest windstorm I have ever experienced.  Pretty wore off when I needed air in a front tire.  It was -26C that morning, and you haven't had winter fun until you've fumbled with a tire and air hose at -26C and watched the innards of your tire pressure gauge fly out over the vast frozen tundra of the parking lot, just because it was TOO COLD for even the gauge to function normally.

Cold is the common denominator of every equation these days.  It takes forever to get dressed in the morning, adding layer after layer after layer.  We have different hats, gloves, coats and boots for different snow conditions and temperatures.  We even have a selection of different shovels to chose from, depending on what version of the white crap has fallen.  The car seats - they've been frozen for months now, and they're hard as rock.  Cold has permeated the house, and the novelty of winter and fond memories of the first snow has been filed deep into the recesses of our gray matter.

Oh, it's all just so much fun, fun, fun!  I know, I know, let's do this FOR A FEW MONTHS MORE!  WHEEEE!!!  Cue the sound of crazy spinning wheels!

Let's just say we're due for a nice, long thaw, preferably one that lasts all summer.  We know Mother Nature isn't done messing with us until at least some time in April, if we're lucky.  The cats are stir-crazy,  housebound and clingy, Odin poops balancing on two alternating legs (he's getting quite agile at it), and we're both board-certified lunatics as well, weather notwithstanding.

I've been knitting on two interminable black projects (why oh why do I do this to myself?) and just the other day, my prime February occupation of playing Freecell (I swear I need therapy) kicked in.  I was good until last week, when I told myself I'll play one game, just for old time's sake.  Well, my serotonin levels must have gone up a few notches, because I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time shuffling virtual cards from one column to another.  Thus Seasonal Affective Disorder has been officially diagnosed.  This year, I think there are millions and millions of us suffering from it.  It's been a hard one, and we're all in the same boat.

Eric flew to Vancouver and London for close to a week this month, and I asked him what impressed him the most about the sudden change in climate, and his answer surprised me.  He said it was the colour of the surroundings.  I'd never thought about it until he mentioned it, but everything outside is drab and gray and dirty.  Snow doesn't stay white for very long.  Everything on the horizon is bare and lifeless.  I haven't even heard a bird chirp in months now.  It's little things like that we take for granted the rest of the year, the greenery and life and sounds of seasons that aren't winter.

On a different note, we have quite a few Snowy Owls around.  They are fabulous birds, huge as anything, and love to sit on light standards and hydro poles, so they are easy to observe if you're looking out for them.  I had one fly alongside my car the other day, and their little heads are round and their wingspans huge.  A formidable bird and a pleasure to watch.

Eric is also busy tackling the drywall upstairs.  We might actually end up with a finished house after all...

And a 12-year dream has finally been fulfilled.  We installed a central vacuum the other day, and little Miss Whiny February actually has a smile on her face as she pushes the vacuum around the house.  (Have I mentioned just how much cats and dogs shed in winter?)

So, with February counting down, I wish everyone warmth and patience and pretty sunsets.






Thursday, January 1, 2015

Two-Oh-One-Five

Here's to a new year!   While 2014 held its challenges (don't they all?) here are a few things that caught my attention.

While this isn't a year in review per se, I am posting some of my favorite iPad photos of 2014.  The blogger app is horrendous, so I'm uploading these photos from the iPad and adding commentary from my trusty laptop.  Here's to hoping this is seamless, unlike most things iPad and blogger related:

My old orchids -  they never let me down.  Right now, my three orchids in the kitchen window have grown four flower shoots.  Hopefully in a few weeks, we'll have abundant blooms.  Did you know orchids like cold windowsills?  This is proof.
A pretty snowy early late March morning.  (I checked the date stamp on this photo, and it was March 28).  At this point in the game, it was like winter will never end.  Never End.  But it did, sometime in April...
Ah yes, proof that spring sprang.  Lovely apple blooms.  Photo taken May 20.
A summer sunset.
I knit a lot in 2014.  This is my Rowan Kidsilk Haze Reversible Cabled-Rib Shawl.  I don't think we could throw another descriptor in that sentence if we tried.  I have wanted to knit this scarf since 1999.  To think that was 15 years ago scares the hell out of me!
Another pretty sunset.
And a view over the barn.  The sky was so beautiful with pastel clouds and sky.
A double rainbow for your viewing pleasure.
And the other half.  Maybe one day, I'll figure out if my digital camera has a wide-angle feature.  Or maybe not.  I'll just keep taking potato-quality pictures with the iPad.

More scenery.  Enough already!  Been there, done that!
Big Tessie and Big BobCat.  Odin is afraid of Tessie, so BobCat has learned if he takes the bottom bunk, Odin leaves him alone.  He's a smart cat...
I called this my Halloween Face sunset.
Odin shows poor Bob undying affection, much to BobCat's dismay.  Here, he's resigned to his fate.  And Odin doesn't even want to look me in the face...la la la la...pretend she's not there...la la la la...
Ohhh, pretty fuzzy mohair wool, with matching alpaca skeins.  I think this is going to be vacation wool.  I plan on making my version of Purl Soho's Amazing Seed Stitch Wrap, but at a fraction of the cost.  I'm pretty sure this is going to end up in my suitcase.  I don't know if I'm looking forward to a vacation, or looking forward to knitting this up.  I hoarded a lot of wool in 2014.  It's almost shameful.  I have a huge Rubbermaid bin full of future projects.  I won't even make any knitting resolutions for 2015, because my 2014 resolutions crashed and burned, just like 2013, and 2012 and...forget about it...I'm just going to knit, and that will be that.
Odin's first selfie!  I found this on the iPad and had a good laugh.
We went to a Christmas fair and I picked up these mitts because I couldn't resist them.  Sewn by a local craftswoman, these gloves are made from a beautiful felted fair-isle Shetland sweater found in a thrift shop.  They have a polar fleece liner, and are super-warm.  My favorite mitts.  The chopping board likewise is made by a local woodworker.  Apparently this is Eric's chopping board.

Eric surprised me this year by returning from an overseas trip and proudly proclaiming that he learned how to make risotto.  (Eric doesn't even know how I take my tea, which should give you an inkling about Eric's cooking abilities.)  One of our Swiss friends is a Cordon Bleu master-chef, and a remarkable pedagogue.  He taught Eric how to make a mushroom risotto that is out of this world.  Eric now goes into Italian grocery stores and compares bottles of truffle oil, and could probably write a treatise on carnaroli versus arborio rice.  Yes, Eric has turned into a foodie!  A man after my own heart!  Last night, he made a lobster tail risotto with saffron and asparagus that was my most memorable meal of 2014. Wow.  We ended 2014 on a culinary high note.
We had little snow in December 2014.  In fact, the above field was completely bare as of this morning, but since then, we've had a little "snow event" as Environment Canada now conveniently calls anything from a flurry to a freeze-the-balls-off-a-brass-monkey blizzard.  I'm good with the milder temps compared to last year, and fine with the fact that we have a dusting of snow as opposed to snow banks that are metres high.

On that note, we turn the page on 2014, and welcome 2015 with open arms.
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