Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the Old

Wow, last day of 2008 already! Where does the time go?
We had a very quiet and enjoyable Christmas; just the four of us. We watched some Christmas movies and played lots of Scrabble over the holidays. It was very cold - down to the -30's (-22f) so we didn't get out much.

Christmas morning (I decided not to include the unflattering photos of me in pajamas)

On Boxing Day it snowed. And snowed and snowed and snowed some more. We did not go out to shovel - we played Scrabble instead and watched it float to earth. The next day Husband took out the tractor and blowed the snow off the driveway and I shovelled the walkways. That is when we realized we had gotten another 30cm (12 inches). I am very thankful that husband convinced me we needed to purchased the snowblower attachment for the tractor. He can get the driveway and way to the compost cleared in about half an hour! It certainly saves a lot of back breaking shovelling.

Once it warmed up a little we got the dog outside to run and play. Being a boxer he is not an outside/cold weather dog.

Kaiser and Husband walking in the woods where the snow is not deep.

Kaiser running(?) in the deep snow. It was over my knees in depth.

Nice photo of husband in his usual winter ensemble - toque, vest, and boots.

In yesterday's newspaper there was a story of a cougar attacking a dog very close to where we live. The cougar was destroyed the next day, luckily the dog survivied. Over the past few years the incident of cougar sighting has grown quite a bit around our city. I can't ever remember cougars being in this area before - they must be slowly moving in after the deer. With the kids and dog, we need to be more vigilant.

We accomplished a lot in 2008...

  • Finished the new house (still some siding, soffits and eavestroughing to put up)
  • Moved in
  • Began fencing
  • Renovated old house
  • Rented old house
  • Landscaping/levelling of yard around the house
  • Brought in sandy loam for the yard
  • Laid some sod in front of house
  • Cleared garden area for spring 2009
  • Set up green house
  • Did some container gardening
  • Did some canning
  • Son made honour roll first year of high school
  • Daughter has made a large amount of babysitting contacts/job
  • Made cheese for the first time
  • Tried to cook most things from scratch
  • Recycled most of our waste - I only take one small bag of garbage to the land fill a week
  • Poured the garage floor and have begun setting up shelving/storage areas in December (yeah! I have some closet space again)
Have a Happy New Year and all the best for 2009!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This and That

It has been bitterly cold the past few days... from -16 down to -28c (3 to -18f) with a wind chill of up to -39c (-38f). Of course on the most windy day I had to get gas for the car and by the time I was finished pumping I could barely feel my fingers. I can easily stand the cold, but such a biting wind is terrible!

I should also mention that the price of gas is continueing to go down! Yeah! This summer it was at it's highest $146.9 for a litre (approx $5.56 a gallon) and today it is 76.9 cents per litre ($2.91 a gallon). The crazy thing is that there is a gas refinery where I live and yet our gas is usually higher than other areas in the province.

On these cold days what should I receive in the mail???? The first seed catalogue for Spring 2009!!! Husband has been pouring over it already and has found grapes that will grow in our climate. He is SO excited! I haven't had a chance to thumb through it yet... but I will soon.
Yesterday I went into town to pick up the last few things for Christmas and even though the shops were not really full, I couldn't wait to get home. I seem to be becoming quite the homebody. Actually, my ears have been bothering me over the past few weeks and the noise and bustle in the shops was very grating on my hearing. I just wanted to get back to some peace and quiet.

I still have one gift to finish making and to do my grocery shopping before Friday. We will be making a quick trip before Christmas to see Husband's family from the 19th to the 23rd. I want to get as much of my groceries before the 24th as I'm sure the stores will be crazy on that day.

We put up the tree last night. The kids and Husband did a good job on decorating it. The tree stands 2.5 metres (8 feet) high and luckily we built the house with a large living room!

I finished knitting and felting my slippers some time ago and they actually did shrink down from the clown size to something that fits. I have to say I'm quite happy with them, and best of all they are really warm.

I was hoping to sew a new apron for Christmas with this really cute fabric. Unfortunately, I think I have run out of time... oh well, I can still sew it up for next year. I like wearing aprons while I work around the house. They keep me clean and give me a sense of purpose.
Oh, I just looked out the window and it has started to snow again.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Letter to Santa

Last night our children wrote their letters for me to pass onto "Santa"... my kids are teenagers, but they still do this. It certainly helps Husband and I.

I was really proud of my son's letter and thought I would post it here. I think he should become a writer!

Dear Santa

It's me.... AGAIN! Yes it's true.... I'm 14 and I'm still writing.

I didn't really know what I wanted for Christmas until the past few days. I have been spectacular this year... except on a few times. And this is what I want for Christmas.
  • I would like a good hunting knife that is about 6 inches long and has a wood handle. I want a folding lock blade.

  • I would also like some pellets for my pellet rifle

  • I would like an electic guitar and small amp and guitar lessons.

I know that there's only a few items and that I realize I don't need a lot of stuff for Christmas because I have a lot more than other kids have and I don't need more to rot my mind and keep me less active.

From: Son

Our daughter's letter was also good, but being younger her list was quite a bit longer. She wants to donate any cash she receives to the SPCA. She has a very good heart and loves animals. She already donated her birthday money this year to the same organization, as well as raising funds with friends this summer/fall with a lemonade stand (they raised over $100).

Husband and I had already decided to cut back on Christmas gifts this year, for the exact reason that Son gave in his letter - we have SO MUCH and are so very FORTUNATE we don't need anything. I think it must have rubbed off on our kids even though we never discussed it with them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Of Lights and Trees

Well, another 15 cm (6 inches) of snow overnight. I guess winter really has arrived. The power flickered off for a minute, but hasn't gone out totally. Husband called during his drive into town to work and there are neighbourhoods near us that have no power. I filled up some pots of water just in case, as no power means no water because the well pump can not work.

I spoke with Husband last night about our blog. He reads it and is interested that I keep it up, but he has no interest to write anything himself. I asked him what he would like me to add and he said he wanted me to write about the Christmas lights. So here goes...

Two years ago we gave away all our outdoor Christmas lights (thanks freecycle!) and replaced them with LED lights as they are more energy efficient and the bulbs last longer. WRONG! Over the weekend Husband put went to put up the outdoor lights and found that on a few of the strings many of the LED bulbs were not working. He couldn't put the strings up because it would look like a mouth full of missing teeth. He figured that he would just take the bulbs out and replace them. WRONG! LED bulbs don't seem to be replaceable (at least not on our strings). The only way Husband figures that he can fix them is to cut the cord apart, remove the burnt bulb and wire it together again. Considering these strings are outside it make me worry that moisture could get into the cord.

This year we bought four strings of new LED solar outdoor Christmas lights from Canadian Tire. We thought these were a great idea for areas where the extension cords don't reach. Husband charged up the solar power and one set did not work at all. For the life me I was unable to find the receipt, but luckily Canadian Tire let me exchange it for a new set anyway. Husband put two of the strings with the solar panel onto the front fence. One of the strings works fine, but the other one doesn't seem to hold the charge for long. First the blue and green bulbs go out, and then the rest just kind of flicker. Perhaps the panel needs to be charged more, or the rechargeable battery needs to be replaced.
We plan on getting our Christmas tree this afternoon. That makes it 3 days before the full moon, so according to legend(?) the tree should not lose any needles. My parents swear by it, so we will give it a try. Considering where we live we can easily cut down a nice tree on the side of the highway, our acreage, or anywhere really; but we have decided to visit one of the tree farms in town. After discussing it we decided that it would be better to support a local farmer, and to use an agriculturally grown tree rather than to cut down one from nature.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

There's nothing to start that Christmas like feeling than being snowed in. We are under a heavy snowfall warning and received about 30 cm (12 inches) overnight with up to another 30 cm forecast for today.

Son went out to catch the school bus this morning, only to return right away saying there is an abandoned car in the middle of the road right were the school bus stop is. I told to him to nevermind and stay home. I called the school about 10am to tell them that he would not be attending. Apparently there are so few kids in school today, that after 100 phone calls this morning, the office stopped taking names of children that would not be in class today. Daughter didn't have school today, but her shopping trip to the mall has been cancelled (I'm not even going to attempt pulling the car out of the driveway).

So what do you do when snowed in? Listen to Christmas music and bake gingerbread men of course! ... and sit by the fireplace and read!

I have been reading a book that I picked up at the 'swap shed' at the landfill. A $30 book that I swear has never been read. It is extremely interesting and all about Christmas traditions - perfect for today.

The kids have taken Kaiser outside to play. I think he's having fun as the snow is way up past his belly.
Son has also been experimenting with building oil lamps made out of empty rifle shells, cotton batten and olive oil. I made him burn it outside because it had quite an acrid smell. It burned for about 10 minutes which is not bad considering how small it is.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Need Another Freezer

We just purchased and filled a freezer. Yesterday I received a call from a neighbour asking if I'm still interested in purchasing her lamb.

I drive by their farm everyday when I go to work and it always admire it because looks so peaceful and bucolic. Everthing in order and clean with sheep roaming the fields. I have never seen the owners, until one day this past summer. Of course I had to stop and tell them how much I love driving by and looking at their place (I'm just too friendly sometimes). It turns out they are an older Finnish couple and they actually know a friend of mine as the Finnish community here is not very big.

I asked what they do with the sheep - do they raise them for meat or fibre? It turned out that they butcher and sell the lambs in the fall. Well, we love to eat lamb! I gave them my business card and said we would be interested in buying one when they butcher. So, I got the call yesterday as I said. I will be getting 35lbs of lamb cut and wrapped for $3.70 a pound. Now I'm in a panic because our freezer is already full to the top! We stocked with a meat pack from the butcher because I hadn't heard from the couple and I thought they had already butchered as they said they would be doing it in the fall (I guess technically it is still fall). But we definately want their lamb because we can see they have been well cared for, are local and from what my friend tells me, organically raised.

Husband says not to worry that we will buy another small freezer. That way we can use it for our future meat rabbits, chicken and garden bounty. If we it's not full we will just unplug it until we need it again.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Could You Survive Another Great Depression?

I took a quiz just for fun and we are 74% likley to survive...

You Are 74% Likely to Survive Another Great Depression

Even though you may not be expecting the worst, you're the type of person who prepares for the worst.

You live a relatively modest life. You don't overspend, and you aren't very materialistic.

You are also quite self sufficient and independent. You have many useful skills.

You can take care of yourself and those you love... which is crucial to surviving another Great Depression.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What Are We Eating?

Our family has made a very conscious effort to improve our eating habits once we moved to Carpe Diem Acreage. We are trying to eat locally produced foods, grow our own, purchase organic and free trade, and make things from scratch.

I thought we did fairly well before, as we were never huge consumers of prepackaged foods. I remember one shopping trip with Husband and the cashier (a high school friend) exclaimed "I can't believe how healthy you guys eat!" as she rung our items through. After she mentioned this, I began looking at what other consumers had in their carts.... and I was, and still am, truly shocked!!!! Even Husband began noticing and whispering to me "Oh my God, the only fresh foods those people have in their cart is prepackaged salad", "Look at the crap she's buying", etc, etc, etc.

This past week we have decided that since we haven't stepped inside a McDonald's since we saw Supersize Me in 2004 (the kids refuse to go), we will now cut out all other fast food as well.

So what does it mean to eat prepackaged, ready made and fast food meals all the time? Well, I happened to see the article below at the Organic Consumers Association and I find the outcome rather frightening.

"Before the Appleton Wisconsin high school replaced their cafeteria's processed foods with wholesome, nutritious food, the school was described as out-of-control. There were weapons violations, student disruptions, and a cop on duty full-time. After the change in school meals, the students were calm, focused, and orderly. There were no more weapons violations, and no suicides, expulsions, dropouts, or drug violations. The new diet and improved behavior has lasted for seven years, and now other schools are changing their meal programs with similar results.

Years ago, a science class at Appleton found support for their new diet by conducting a cruel and unusual experiment with three mice. They fed them the junk food that kids in other high schools eat everyday. The mice freaked out. Their behavior was totally different than the three mice in the neighboring cage. The neighboring mice had good karma; they were fed nutritious whole foods and behaved like mice. They slept during the day inside their cardboard tube, played with each other, and acted very mouse-like.

The junk food mice, on the other hand, destroyed their cardboard tube, were no longer nocturnal, stopped playing with each other, fought often, and two mice eventually killed the third and ate it. After the three month experiment, the students rehabilitated the two surviving junk food mice with a diet of whole foods. After about three weeks, the mice came around.

Sister Luigi Frigo repeats this experiment every year in her second grade class in Cudahy, Wisconsin, but mercifully, for only four days. Even on the first day of junk food, the mice's behavior "changes drastically." They become lazy, antisocial, and nervous. And it still takes the mice about two to three weeks on unprocessed foods to return to normal. One year, the second graders tried to do the experiment again a few months later with the same mice, but this time the animals refused to eat the junk food.

Across the ocean in Holland, a student fed one group of mice genetically modified (GM) corn and soy, and another group the non-GM variety. The GM mice stopped playing with each other and withdrew into their own parts of the cage. When the student tried to pick them up, unlike their well-behaved neighbors, the GM mice scampered around in apparent fear and tried to climb the walls. One mouse in the GM group was found dead at the end of the experiment.

It's interesting to note that the junk food fed to the mice in the Wisconsin experiments also contained genetically modified ingredients. And although the Appleton school lunch program did not specifically attempt to remove GM foods, it happened anyway. That's because GM foods such as soy and corn and their derivatives are largely found in processed foods. So when the school switched to unprocessed alternatives, almost all ingredients derived from GM crops were taken out automatically.

Does this mean that GM foods negatively affect the behavior of humans or animals? It would certainly be irresponsible to say so on the basis of a single student mice experiment and the results at Appleton. On the other hand, it is equally irresponsible to say that it doesn't.

You can read the rest of the interview here. By Jeffrey M. Smith
Comanche County Chronicle, Elgin, OK, September, 2008